Sloppy Seconds: Stream of Consciousness Sunday

Take a gander at my new lunch box!

Isn't it cute? It even has my last name embroidered on the other side. In big letters! How it came to be my new lunch box is kind of a funny story.

The kids spent a few hours with their dad on Christmas Day. That's how it's been for the past few years. In the early days post-divorce, we adhered to the decree pretty faithfully (which goes to show it's never too late to start being faithful!). Holidays were divvied up on an odd/even year schedule. After a while, though, the holiday visits went the way of the weekends and two-dinners a week: kaput. So, overnights at Christmas became 11-5. Fine, though...they're spending time with him, with their stepmom and their half-brother. That's all that matters, right?

So a day or two after Christmas, I was standing in the doorway of Molly's bedroom. She was showing me the gifts she'd received from her dad. She got a pair of Uggs! I was secretly relieved about this one. I'd been searching the world over (okay, mostly on Amazon) and had decided that Uggs were out of my price range. So, yay for Molly, right? And might I say, good call, Big Daddy and Secretary. Actually, let's be honest here and say good call Secretary. I was married to him for 13 years, people. I know who does the shopping.

I noticed the black and white lunch box then, and picked it up. Our last name was stitched on the side, so big and proud. "This is cute!" I said to my daughter, as I examined the tote. "Yeah" she said. "Secretary gave it to me. She said she never used it and asked if I wanted it. I just said yes to be nice. You want it?"

Now, had this exchange happened a few years ago, this is how it would have panned out: I'd have picked up the bag with two fingers, like it was a stiff, smushed squirrel corpse my dog had deposited on the deck. I would have made some sort of comment, maybe along the lines of 'oh how sweet of her! She's such a generous soul' and then I'd have thrown it away.

But time heals all wounds, and it also mellows angry ex-wives. I did let myself delve into a moment of snark, and envisioned Secretary getting this lunch tote as a gift. "Oh for cute!" I imagined her saying, holding the tote up for all of the other people at this imaginary gift opening event, "Look, it has my new last name on it! To die for! Thank you so much, Kassidy!". Because I imagine her talking like an aging Valley Girl and also hanging out with women who are named Kassidy.

After that moment passed, I took my new lunch box into the kitchen and plopped it into the pantry with the other insulated bags. I mentally patted myself on the back for having grown up so much, for becoming a bigger and better person who doesn't let past hurts and insults bleed through into today.

Molly came into the kitchen then, holding a little box in her hand. "Here" she said, handing it over to me, "she gave me this candle, too. I don't want it." I inspected the box, and found a lovely little Thymes candle inside. I'm a candle junkie, and although this wasn't a Fresh Linen scented one, I took it.

Later that day I lit the candle, and let the fragrance of "Kimono Rose" fill the living room. I think, though, that there was an underlying note. Kinda smelled like "Questionable Morals". Or maybe it was "Marriage Built on Lies". Whatever it was, it was pretty and helped mask the smell of big dog and bigger teenagers. Win/win.

Baby steps, folks.

Thanks a bunch to one of my favorite blogger friends, Nicole of "Sisters From Another Mister" for the heads-up. Join another one of my blogging idols, Fadra Nally, for these Sunday Stream of Consciousness posts. Five minutes, and no editing? Gah. Good times, ladies!


How Dare You Call Yourself A Single Parent!

Are you a single parent?

Careful how you answer. Some people are very protective of the term "single parent" and take great offense to those who throw that particular parenting label around all willy nilly.

Little known fact about me: although I loathe reading the comments on articles I've written, I love reading them everywhere else. And if I'm in a funk, or PMSing? I will sometimes take out my passive aggressions in these comment sections. Many times I'll type out my snarky comeback and then go back and delete it. Sometimes I let it stay.

A few weeks ago I was perusing the comment section on a post that appeared on Scary Mommy. You know how much I love me some Scary Mommy, right? Well, her corner of the internet is one of my most favorite places to perch when I'm feeling bitchy. I don't know why, but aside from HuffPost Women, her site draws some of the most wonderfully whackadoo people right outta the woodwork. And when they decide to let their opinions be known, I'm right there with a spoon ready to eat it up.

The post in question was a lovely piece written by a woman who shares 50/50 custody of her kids with her ex. It was a well-written essay, straightforward and blissfully to-the-point. The comment section was pretty even-keeled, almost completely full of support and sympathy. Lots of support from women who are in this same custody situation, others who are about to be, and some from people who grew up as 50/50 kids.

And then, there was this one:

Now, I get this person's point...to a point. If there were such a thing as a Parent Label Police, they might get twitchy if someone who shares custody of their angels calls what they're doing "single parenting". But can you still call yourself a single parent? You're single, right? And you're a parent, correct? Then it seems to be perfectly legit to call yourself a Single Parent.

Not so fast, people. Not just any average Joe or Jody gets to call themselves a Single Parent. Just ask this person:

Ahhh. Okay. So those who have 100% custody are the only ones allowed to call themselves Single Parents. Got it. (at this point I removed the tiny silver hoops from my ears, handed them to my dog and said, 'Shit is about to get real, Walter. Hold these.')

Only, no.

Nope. I don't agree. And I had some company in the NOPE DON'T AGREE camp:

I might have been PMSing. And I might also love a good 16 Candles reference.

So, Jamie and I both felt the same way, along with a couple others. And then, this:

This is where I had to leave the conversation. Not only because she'd already used two of my least favorite interweb phrases, "just sayin" and "sorry not sorry", and I was concerned that her next move would be telling someone they'd "won the internet". Because I wanted to reply to Alison, and really lay it out there for her. I knew my reply would be defensive and bitchy, and I'd already used up my one Long Duck Dong quote.

I wanted to let Alison, and anyone else who gets possessive and pissy about what someone else chooses to call themselves know, that I wasn't about to suck anything up. Sorry not sorry? Please.

I understand where people who think like this are coming from. They are most likely calling in from Planet Literal and think that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it's most likely a duck. They believe that unless you are really, truly a SINGLE parent, meaning that your child has no other parent who exists on the earth, you cannot claim that title. My friends Rachael and Nancy, both widows? Yes. They are single parents.

But guess what? So am I. And I will continue to call myself a single parent until the day comes when I'm no longer single (please, nobody hold your breath). Why? You know I'm going to tell you why, right?

I'm a single parent because when I am actively participating in this thing called Parenting, I do it alone. Oh, I have a village, no doubt. There are friends and teachers and bosses and extended family involved from time to time. But the nitty gritty of it? The sometimes mind-numbing, emotionally taxing, daily-grind things? I do those all by myself. And have done so, all by myself, since the father of my children went out for coffee and signed a lease on an apartment ten years ago.

Even back in the days when the kids were with him during his allotted parenting time (every other weekend and two nights per week) , I was a single parent. Yes, he was somewhat active and involved, but I WAS A SINGLE PARENT. When his interest in parenting our kids began to wane, and their visits with him dwindled down to what they are now (six hours on Christmas, with a few random outings here and there throughout the year), there was no question about it. I was a single parent.

My situation is different from some of yours. Some of you do the 50/50 split. Some of you see your kids on the weekends. Some of you see them even less than that, for a myriad of reasons. But here's the deal: all of you, whether you're surrounded by kids on the daily or you Skype with them before bedtime a few nights a week...if you're single, and you're a parent, YOU ARE A SINGLE PARENT.

I don't understand why someone would get all territorial and nutty about something as silly as a label, to the extent that they make a public proclamation about who has the rights to it. It's not like the Single Parent Commission is going door to door, checking out the hours you've logged solo parenting and getting verification that the person you procreated with is either dead and buried or off the grid. What's next? The Single Parent Olympics, wherein we all try to prove that we are the singlest parent of all? I can see it now:

And here we have Jenny from the United States. She's been down with the flu for the past three days when BOOM young William announces that his backpack broke and he needs a new one by tomorrow. She's been training her whole life for this moment, folks, and we get to witness her in all of her single parenting glory. There she goes, bathed in fever-sweat and the funk of sickness, stumbling into Dick's Sporting Goods at 8:00 p.m. on a school night. OOOOH did you see that? That indifferent employee sent Jenny and her son to the wrong area of the store to find the elusive drawstring backpack. Folks, we apologize for the salty language you may have heard. This is a live event.

You know why I dragged my sweaty, feverish, aching body into a sporting goods store that night? Because I do this parenting thing on my own. Because my kid's backpack finally broke (we'd made do by tying one broken strap for a while because that's just how we do here) and he needed a new one. Because I couldn't stay wrapped up in my smelly cocoon of blankets, taking shots of Delsym and having weird, acid-trippy dreams. There was no other parent at home to pick up the slack, no husband or partner to pat my moist forehead and coo to me, "You stay here and sleep. I'll take him to the store for a new backpack." (well, actually there was, and it was Mayhem from the Allstate commercials. But that might have been one of those aforementioned trippy dreams.)

I did it because I'm William's mom. I'm his parent. Does he have another parent? Yes, he does. In fact, his other parent lives about 2 miles away. I actually asked William to call this other parent and ask if he'd pick up the slack this time, but William protested and since it was getting late I just did as I have done for all these years...I parented. He took advantage of my fever-fog and managed to wrangle a $30.00 pair of Nike shorts out of the deal too. Young William has learned a thing or two, it appears. I hope they're edible, boy.

I'm going to put a cap on my rant now. I don't care what you call yourself. JazzHands McGee Mom? Perfect. PeterPickledPepper Parent? Yay! Solo parent, co-parent, parallel parent, partnered parent, Netflix parent, yada yada yada. It's not like we're going to have this crap engraved on our tombstones. Feeling threatened and trying to out-single other parents who are in this same boat does nothing for our so-called cause.

No matter what your status as a parent is: whether you're happily married, kinda-happily married, partnered up without the paperwork, or like me, doing it on your own, there is really just one simple objective. To do the best you can. I think that's something we can all agree on, right?

"A parent by any other name would smell as tired." William Shakespeare (sort of)


My Prayers For The Single Parent

I'm not a religious person. I was born into the Methodist church, married into the Lutheran one and spent over a decade teaching Sunday school and leading Confirmation groups. At the moment, we are in between churches. In between religions, maybe. The older I get, the more I wonder about higher powers and God and heaven. I question things of a spiritual ilk, but always keep an open mind. Because one thing I've learned in my 48 years on this planet? A closed mind gets stale and stuffy like a windowless room on a baking hot day.

It's my open mind that tells me it's okay to pray. Who am I praying to? God? Maybe. Maybe I'm praying to the ocean or the stars or the spirit of Nora Ephron. Who knows. But I do pray, and quite often. I pray for my children, for my family and for my friends. I pray for the people who live in parts of the world that are being torn apart by war and hate. I pray for animals and ignorant people and the environment. I pray that I get the green lights on the way home and I pray that cancer gets cured and I pray for the strength to avoid eating all of the leftover cheesy bread on pizza night.

Today, I'm praying for single parents. I've been on my own with my kids for over 8 years and I know just how hard it is. I also know that there are moments of intense beauty and happiness and that finding these moments can be difficult at first. I know that at times it seems like you're the only one feeling these emotions, the only one strapped into this insane roller-coaster of a life. And I want to let other single parents know...they aren't alone.

I pray that you, my fellow single parents, find the reserves in your wells of patience and humor. These two resources will be key in your life from now on. When you find yourself at the end of the day, exhausted and frustrated and overwhelmed with nobody to discuss Bobby's acne or Janie's speech delay or the fact that the damn washing machine is making that weird noise again...you will need to draw upon these two things.

I pray that you learn to like, maybe even love, the many hats you're going to be wearing on this journey. You are the breadwinner, the head-of-household, the rule enforcer and the privilege-taker. You're the appointment maker and prescription-filler, the laundress and the chef, the mechanic and the handyman. It's going to suck at first, honestly. Not gonna lie. Your list of to-do's is going to outnumber the hours in your day. But guess what? Somehow, you figure it out. I don't know how it happens, but you just do. You find the extra thirty minutes you need, you scrape up an additional $100 at the end of the month and you create a whole new realm of time management and you get stuff done.

I pray that you come to know the love of good friends. Supportive friends. Friends who may or may not know what you're going through, but are there when you need them. Friends who circle the wagons around you, friends who have your back. Friends who are there with a shoulder to cry on or a pitcher of margaritas when you get one of those rare free nights.

I pray, too, that when you find yourself being judged or stereotyped or shunned (all of which might happen, unfortunately), you remember exactly how strong and how brave and how flexible you've become. Whether you're facing a teacher who thinks kids of single parents are inherently troubled or a fellow baseball mom who looks at you with a weird mixture of fear and loathing, I pray you are able to let it roll off your back.

I pray that if you find yourself in a bind, and need to ask for help, that you are able to do so without shame or embarrassment. I pray that you are able to get the assistance you need, and I also pray that someday, when you're able? You get to know how good it feels to be able to give back.

I pray that if your kids have another parent who is still around, they are involved in their lives. And if the other parent isn't around, or doesn't want to be involved and there is animosity or anger or grief in your heart? I pray that you're able to find peace and forgiveness and acceptance. Parenting is hard when you're doing it solo, even more difficult when you're dragging a grudge behind you as well. (please note that this one can take a while...be patient)

I pray that you figure out whether or not you want or need another partner in life. I pray that if you do decide to join forces with another, that it's good and kind and loving, not only for you but for your children as well. I pray that if you've chosen to stay single for the time being, you learn the difference between being alone and being lonely. Sometimes it's hard to differentiate between the two, but they are as opposite as night and day. I also pray that if you discover all you need is someone to scratch that itch every once in a while, you find someone who is on the same page and that it's a mutually beneficial thing. Hey, we're single. Not dead.

And most of all, I pray that you get some good sleep, stay in good health and experience good things. I pray that you remember to take care of yourself while taking care of your kids. You make sure to change the oil in your car, right? Do the same for your body and mind. I pray, too, that you show yourself the same grace you show others, that you are able to forgive yourself for screwing up once in a while. That you love yourself as hard and as tenderly as your kids love you.

I pray the same thing for you as I do for myself: that our kids end up as happy, productive people. People who had a parent who loved them, a parent who did the best they could.


Fat Shame Update

When I wrote "Fat Shame On Me", I was in a foul mood. I was pissed at myself. I was mad at my body and even more so at my mind. Only someone who has fought the battle of the bulge knows how it feels to be so tied up in that sticky web of feelings: so much anger at yourself, sadness about what a deep hole you've dug, embarrassment about the fact that unlike a smoker or drinker, your bad habits are on display for the world to see:

Step right up, folks, and take a gander at my Fat Suit! Yep, my once fit body is now encased in five year's worth of financial stress, relationship angst and parenting insanity. All those days I decided getting to the gym or out for a walk sounded like too much work? Behold my belly fat. The two or five tubs of artichoke dip from Costco that just happened to fall in the cart, along with the 500 oz. bag of pita chips? Let the wonder of my behemoth butt sink in.

Okay, I know. Harsh, right? But that's how I was feeling after stepping on the scale that night. I did a lot of moaning, even more weeping, and had some intense conversations with friends who have been down this path.

And then, I did something about it.

I made an appointment for a physical. I needed someone else to see what I was seeing, both on the scale and in the flesh. I needed numbers and advice and reassurance that it's not too late to do something to change. I needed a follow-up appointment so there's a date in the future that I can look forward to. I needed someone to hold me accountable.

I got all of that. Plus some.

Since I wrote that post, exactly three weeks ago, I've made efforts big and small. I've decided to become kinder to myself, to show my body the same consideration I show my children and my friends. I LOVE YOU, NO MATTER WHAT. I saw this quote making the rounds on facebook and instagram:

I decided that the fight I was having with my body was a lot like the ages-long fight I've been in with my ex-husband. My body, like my ex, could do no right. It was oafish and lame and despicable. It wasn't worthy of my time nor was it worthy of my love.

I'm not saying I love my ex-husband. What I'm saying is that I no longer hate him. And once that hate lifted, I noticed his existence was no longer like a rock in my shoe. I wasn't reminded of him every time I took a step. Even though he truly done me wrong, I decided to mentally forgive him so I could mentally move on.

My body deserves that, too. In fact, since I am stuck with this body, I think it deserves even more forgiveness, more grace and way more love than my ex-husband does. Bodies don't leave, you know. They tend to stick around.

For the past three weeks, I've been working hard. Walter (my dog) and I have been out every single day, for our beloved long walks. Between 3 and 5 miles at a time, these walks have done wonders for both of us. He no longer has the "I give up" look about him, and I am feeling the mental and physical benefits. I consider these walks the warm-up I need to get me ready to face the gym again. Yes, I am one of those people who are worried that I'm too fat to go to the gym (they've never seen overweight people at the YMCA, ya know).

(On this note: can we break away from the fat talk to discuss music? I need some song suggestions! Let me know your favorite workout music. It doesn't have to be fast paced or anything, believe it or not I get just as much out of a Natalie Merchant song as I do some of my favorite Public Enemy tunes. Hit me up, people. I have something like 400 songs in iTunes and I still find myself hitting "NEXT" all the time.)

The exercising part, while requiring boat-loads of motivation, is nowhere near the mental struggle that is THE EATING PART. I did decide to cut way, way back on the carby, starchy comfort foods that are my kryptonite. This is really hard, people, because not only am I a descendant of hearty, potato and beer loving Irish people, I live in a land that is cold and gray for six months out of the year. This is Minnesota, and it's February. We crave things like hash browns and Beef Stroganoff with wide noodles and bowls of pasta dripping with pesto. It's the time of year when I want to fill a bathtub with my famous mashed potatoes (secret ingredients: cream cheese and love), put on a scuba mask and eat my way through it.

So it's more protein, less carbs. I still need my vanilla granola on my yogurt, but when I make baked potatoes with dinner I make one less and instead roast up a ton of cauliflower or Brussels sprouts or butternut squash (yeah I'm sure one of those is a starch but BABY STEPS okay?). I am trying to keep grilled chicken on hand to chop up into salads, and have discovered that a bowl full of scrambled eggs with chicken sausage, spinach and extra sharp Vermont cheddar is just as good for dinner as it is for breakfast.

One of my awesome readers passed on some incredible Paleo information and has a blog of her own, Our Paleo Playbook, which I have been perusing in my spare time.

I've tried to stay off the scale because I know that those numbers can be a-holes. My weight can fluctuate 5 pounds from morning to night so those daily weigh-ins aren't the best motivators. What I have been doing is a weekly weight check, not unlike the days of Weight Watchers. I've even been taking pictures of the numbers, not for any sort of public flogging, but to let myself see some tangible proof that what I'm doing is having at least some effect. To give myself a timeline of sorts, to look at when I'm really struggling.

As of this morning, three weeks after that fateful wake-up moment in my bathroom and a little over a week after sitting in my doctor's office and facing my BMI...

There are 9 pounds less of me. It's not a Biggest Loser moment, there were no gasps from the audience and no trainer behind me pumping their fists in the air, but I did smile a little. And then, I looked in the big bathroom mirror and told that woman who was looking back at me two things.

"I'm proud of you" and

"I'm glad we're friends."


There's Something In Your Nose: Lunchroom Life Lessons

Part of my job requires me to supervise the activity in the lunchroom at school. It's not as glamorous as it sounds, believe me. It's loud in there, and there's food on the floor and when kids hug me I usually don't notice the big glob of salad dressing on the front of their shirts until it's too late.

Also? Who's with me on a massive lawsuit against the makers of Gogurt? Because I think they make those mother effing tubes impossible to open just because they can.

One thing I do love about it, though, is the opportunity it gives me to chat with the students. As I walk from table to table, I hear snippets of conversation and am often pulled into discussions. From time to time I will see a less-than-happy kid and to be able to sit down next to them and talk is such a good thing. Of course there are shenanigans happening, and I try my hardest to break things up without breaking kid's spirits.

Our school goes from Kindergarten up to 6th grade. Since I've been at the school in one capacity or another for almost a decade, that means I have known the majority of the kids since they were 5 years old. For some that means we just met this year, for others, I've been part of their school days for half their lives. There's a certain level of comfort that comes with this kind of familiarity, and since I am not their teacher, my relationships with them have more of a "mother hen" tilt than anything else. I am a giver of hugs, a dispenser of advice. Sometimes I whip out my disappointed voice but most of the time I aim to be a source of comfort and reliability. Some kids need this more than you could imagine.

One afternoon, not too long ago, I was chatting with a group of 5th grade girls, who were sitting as they always do, at the end of one of the long tables. I've known this particular gaggle of ladies since they were pig-tailed kindergartners. One of them, I'll call her Susie, has always been one of those outspoken kids. The kind who looks at you with eyes that radiate a maturity beyond their actual years. I've always had a soft spot for her, for some reason the kids who have the sparkly personalities are drawn to me and I don't mind it one bit.

I was standing in front of the girls, and Susie leaned towards me a little. In a not-whispered voice she announced, "Jenny, you have a booger in your nose."

Now, the fact that I had something in my nose is not a shocker. For some reason, from about October to March I am plagued with annoying nose stowaways. "Girl Most Likely To Have A Little Sumpin' Sumpin' In Her Nose"? That's me. I have grown accustomed to popping into bathrooms and doing a quick nose check. I blame it on the weather in Minnesota and also the architecture of my nose. It's one of those little noses, the kind that was called "pug" when I was little and now that I'm older has become more "pointy". When I was pregnant it grew to twice its size and took up 3/4 of my face. What I'm saying is that there isn't much room to hide in my proboscis.

So when Susie casually informed me of my snout crusties, I wasn't completely surprised. In fact, I think I said, "Aughh! Which side? Is it big?" as I dug in my pockets for one of my ever-present tissues. Susie, bless her heart, said, "It's not that big. On the right side." I swiped at my nose with the Kleenex and asked if it was gone. She smiled and said, "Yep. You got it."

This is where the life lesson came in. I bent down a little, so I was at the girl's level. And I said to all of them, "You guys, what Susie did may have seemed a little shocking to you, but I want you all to know that I appreciate her telling me." They looked a little surprised. I could tell that a couple of them were embarrassed that Susie had been so personal with an adult, even if it was just me. One of them piped up and asked me, "Don't you think it was rude of Susie to say that to you?".

I smiled, and shook my head. "Nope. Not rude at all. In fact, I'm grateful that she said something." They looked at each other now, probably wondering if I'd finally reached the stage of working in elementary school called "burnout". But I had their rapt attention, so I continued:

"I had been talking to two or three adults just before I came over here to say hi to you girls. Not just adults, but they're my friends! And not one of them told me I was walking around like that." And really, the women I'd been gabbing with just minutes earlier are my friends. We socialize outside of school and are facebook friends and everything! Now, chances are that because of where Susie was sitting she had a better view of my nose (lucky her), and my friends didn't see the offending nostril hitchhikers. But I wanted to tell the girls something that I always made sure to teach my own kids.

"Ladies, if you're with someone and you notice something that you'd want to be told about, whether it's boogers or food on your face or gum on the butt of your pants, the kind thing to do is to tell them." Susie tilted her head a little bit, as if what I had just said was still hanging in the air like dialogue in a comic strip and she was still processing it.

She finally spoke, and when she did, she said this: "That's why I told you. Because I like you and I didn't want you to walk around talking to people with a booger in your nose." I pointed at her, and said to the other girls, "See? That's it exactly. Now there are ways you can say it so you don't embarrass your friends." At this point I crouched down and folded my arms on the table in front of me. "For instance, one of my friends and I have a kind of code for situations like this. When one of us has something in our nose, the other one will say, 'Hey, there's a bat in the cave.' And we know exactly what that means." 

I chose to not discuss how this same friend and I have also sworn to tell each other if we have rogue eyebrow/nose/mustache/chin hair, too. Like the time the two of us were standing outside, having just gone on a walk. We were having a little bit of a gab, when I noticed a black whisker poking from her chin. I told her, and then because we're friends, she asked me to try and grab it. Like, with my fingers. I'll admit right here in front of God, my dog and you guys, that I did indeed get a hold of that wiry sucker and yanked it out. Because that's what friends are for, dammit.

But I figured these 10 and 11 year olds weren't quite ready for the facial hair part of this lesson, so I got up. Before I left their table, I once again thanked Susie for her candor. She leaned over, gave me a half-hug, and said, "You're welcome. I'll always tell you from now on." And as I walked away, I thought to myself, "Unfortunately, Susie, I'm afraid you'll have many more opportunities to do just that." I absentmindedly brushed at my nose with another tissue and went on my merry way.

Now you know how I feel about the whole "Should I tell her??" issue. Where do you stand? Do you appreciate being told that you, too, have a bat in the cave? Or is it way too personal, something that is best left for you to discover on your own, in the rearview mirror of your car or as you wash your hands in the bathroom?

I'll be waiting to hear your opinions on this pressing issue. Over here with a pack of Kleenex at the ready.


Let's Get Physical: My Way, Way Overdue Doctor Visit


When was the last time you went to the doctor? I mean, went in and had the works done...sitting on the exam table, naked as the day you were born, being poked and prodded and jabbed and probed? Was it sometime within the past year? Good for you! You're doing this "being alive" thing right, my friend.

Was it not-so-recently? Like, so long ago you can't really recall who was president when you went?

This post is for you.

I had successfully avoided going to the doctor for years. Like, since my youngest child was in preschool (for reference, he's a freshman in high school now). Oh, I went in for various maladies, and to keep my Adderall prescription going, but those were quickie visits. Trips to Urgent Care for a troubling cough, a dash into the Target Minute Clinic for a strep test, a 10 minute catch up with my family practice doctor to see how my ADD was doing. Prescriptions faxed to my pharmacy, a co-pay paid and done. These visits didn't entail any undressing or blood draws or inspecting the plumbing. Just the kind of visit I was comfortable with.

That's changing in this, the year of change. 2015 is shaping up to be the year I do hard things, and going in to have a complete physical is right up there at the top of THINGS THAT ARE HARD. Why, you ask? Why is it so hard to face the music and have a doctor do their job and look me over?

Because, that's why. Because I am afraid to face the truth. I've spent countless nights hunched over my computer, diagnosing myself with various ailments, typing in symptoms and sitting there in the glow of my monitor convincing myself that I have come down with a whopper case of hypothyroidism or pancreatitis or celiac's disease or GERD. And then, doing absolutely nothing about it.

For a while, I didn't have health insurance. But...I've had it for a few years now. It's good insurance, too. A yearly physical? Covered, 100%. Not even a co-pay. Coming up with an excuse to not take advantage of this offer is difficult, even for a master-excuse-maker like me.

And so I decided it was time. I'd already taken a big step, the step onto the scale in my bathroom. Talk about facing your fears, people! Seeing those numbers was a huge wake up call (pun totally intended). I'm less than two years away from 50. That day, as I stood there in my bathroom, letting the reality of what I'd done to my body sink in, I saw the fork in the road ahead of me.

There are two ways to go: Keep right, keep continuing down the same path I've been on. The one called ignorance, helpless acceptance...the one where I don't do anything other than stumbling forward blinded by naive optimism and foolhardy recklessness.

The other way? Go to the left and take the blinders off. Approach the mid-century mark armed with knowledge instead of fearing the unknown. Get in, get looked at, get tested.

I went left. I looked up doctors in my network, researched them a little, and found a great little clinic about 5 minutes away from my house. The doctor I chose is a woman, and her bio said that she enjoys working with overweight patients. I figured this was a plus: at the very least I wouldn't be the fattest person she'd ever laid eyes on. She also went to the same college as me, the one my daughter now attends. So there was small talk fodder, if needed.

I made the appointment and the woman on the other end put me at ease. When I said my last physical was so long ago I didn't even remember it, she laughed and said she heard people say that every single day. She assured me that the doctor I chose was a kind and compassionate one, and then told me that I'd have to fast for twelve hours before my appointment. "What about coffee?" I asked. "Black is fine." she told me and for a split second I considered cancelling everything. I could not fathom a morning without my coffee/milk/special cream concoction. "Year of change" I muttered and said, "Okay. See you Monday morning!".

Over the past several years I've had some long, scary walks. The walk into my first divorce attorney's office...scared and sad and not really believing my marriage was over. That sucked, but I did it. The walk into a bankruptcy attorney's building. Feeling like a colossal failure, and trembling like a wet puppy. The walk into countless job interviews, armed with a lackluster education and grim determination to make things better for my family. Scary? Hell yes.

The walk into my new doctor's office was just like that. I feared what lay ahead, but knew in my gut that it had to be done. I had to do it for me, for my kids. For us. Just like every other hard thing I've done over the past 8 years.

Guess what? It wasn't too bad. Oh, sure, I groaned when the perky young nurse weighed me. Groaned, and told her, "This sweater weighs at least five pounds. It's mostly cotton." I cringed a tiny bit when the same nurse was doing the intake process and asked me if I "still get my period." Yes! Yes I still get it! Look, I have a period app on my phone!! I just had it on January 6th!!!

She asked me about my last Pap smear and I looked at her dumbly. "Oh, I'll make an appointment with my gynecologist for that" I said. The cute nurse looked surprised and said, "You get that done today, you know. It's part of the physical." I swallowed hard and said, "Oh...sure. Let's do it." There's one more appointment I don't have to put off making, right?

I stripped down to my black socks, which much to my horror were completely covered with dog hair. What was worse? I wondered. Hairy socks or ten Minnesotan toes in January? The socks stayed on. I carefully folded my clothes, being sure to modestly conceal my bra and underwear. Because having a doctor see those things would be terrible.

Oh, the gown. I'm never sure which way it goes. Keeping things private and tying it in the back seemed like the most comfortable option but surely that would make an exam more difficult. Open in the front? I risked having a conversation with another human being with my boobs sticking out. Ties in the back it was. And yes, it did make the exam more difficult as I struggled to free my upper body from the gown while laying on it. Nervous giggles aplenty.

My new doctor is fabulous. She was kind and chatty and not once did she guilt me about my woeful delay in seeking healthcare. She checked my lungs, my ears, my throat, my breasts and my pelvis and everything else. She approved my Adderall prescription renewal and listened as I rambled on about how 2015 is totally going to be my year of change.

Towards the end of our visit, she asked, "Is there anything else you want to discuss?". I decided it was time to acknowledge the (literal) elephant in the room. "I know I'm fat" I began, and she held up a hand. "Jenny...do you see how small this office is?" she began. "There's no room for shame in here. Instead of saying you're fat, let's just say that you are struggling with your weight. Is that okay?". At this point I decided I liked her, a lot, and imagined her caring for me as I grow old.

We talked about my weight and what I wanted to do about it. What she thought I should be doing about it. She asked me if I'd heard of new medications that help with weight management, and I waved a hand. "I know exactly what needs to be done to lose weight" I assured her. She nodded, and said, "What I like to do with my patients who have BMI's like yours is order a full panel of blood tests." This would be the first and only reference to my weight that she'd make. She never mentioned numbers, she didn't throw around words like "obese" or "morbid" or "gross". Just that casual nod to my BMI, which I would later discover is not good. She casually ticked off the tests she was going to request: Diabetes, cholesterol, kidney function, fatty liver, etc. "You appear to be really healthy, Jenny" she said. "Let's just make sure everything is working right." She left me with a thick packet of weight management tips and a worksheet I could fill out and return if I so desired. Also, a new Adderall prescription and a sheet for the lab with the laundry list of tests they needed to run on my blood.

I got dressed, went to the lab and laughed with the tech who took about 2 gallons of my blood. I walked out of the clinic feeling good. Feeling like I'd done the right thing...a few years late, but right.

In the week that's passed, I've kept a few things in mind. My BMI is always right there, front and center. While I think the BMI thing is kind of bullshit (at my very thinnest, post-divorce, I weighed 145 pounds and wore a size 2/4. Still considered overweight, according to the BMI chart...go figure) it does provide one with a cold, hard number to work with. I like numbers. They can be changed.

I'm watching what I eat. Saying no to the carby things in life is hard, but I know that my age and weight and family history make me a candidate for Type 2 Diabetes. Curbing the carbs is tough but I imagine giving myself insulin every day would trump that. So, hello proteins, goodbye to (most) pasta and bread and sugars. I considered giving up the cocktails for a while but decided that allowing myself a couple martinis one night per weekend would be a good enough effort. Because, yum.

I'm moving more. Walking the dog 4 or 5 miles a day keeps us both happy and gives me about an hour of cardio. Win/win, if you ask me. I'm thinking about treating myself to a FitBit, if I get a decent tax refund. Like I said, numbers are fun and competing with myself to increase the steps I take every day might be just the motivation I need. One of my best friends is pushing me, relentlessly, to take Zumba classes with her. I've reminded her, over and over, that I suffer from a rhythm-deficiency and also have directional dyslexia. I once ran out of a step-aerobics class when I couldn't keep up and kept bumping into the women next to me. True story. So we'll see if I succeed in blowing her off or if she wins. I promise video if the latter happens.

All of the things I feared about getting a physical...the imagined judgement, the shame, the news of impending sickness and doom? They were just that: fears.

Fears that I faced. Just like every fear before them, they proved to be way more horrifying in my head than they are in real life.

So if you are one of the many women out there who have been meaning to get into the doctor's office, but like me, keep finding new and creative ways to procrastinate? Follow my lead. Make that appointment.

Just remember...tie the gown in front.

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