Thursday, December 29, 2011

Catching Up With Nana

TH has been successfully avoiding tilting at Nana windmills. We did not go there for Thanksgiving – we simply said that we were working and that we hoped that they would be able to come here again sometime soon. That engendered only a small drama.

And here is this year’s Hanukkah email exchange:
From: Nana
Date: December 13, 2011 9:45:54 AM
To: TrophyHusband

Presents have been sent and will be arriving different, could you please put them away until Chanukah?!

When would be good for us to visit? When does HB's vacation start? Maybe we could come mid week to help you out?

TH and I agreed that HB has enough resilience and judgment at this point that we shouldn’t have to hover if they’re only here a couple of days. I said that the one thing I cared about was that we give her very firm dates – she often changes plans at the last minute and ends up visiting on days that we were not prepared to have her.

So TH replied:
From: TH
Date: December 13, 2011 12:16:07 PM

In fact the window we have that you could come is midweek: coming on/after Monday 12/19 - leaving sometime Wed 12/21. Note that that includes the first night of Chanukah the evening of Tues 12/20, so that will be a special event. If coming within that window doesn't work either in advance or if something comes up at the last minute in your schedule, we can look at weekends after the holiday.

We will be at work those days for at least parts of the day (he'd be in vacation care otherwise) so you can do some things on your own with him. Staying in our spare bedroom is an option, though you may be more comfortable in the hotel...either option is OK.
Three days of silence. Then:
On Dec 16, 2011, at 9:01 AM, Nana wrote:

We're going to [HB’s cousin]’s birthday party this weekend, so not sure if we can do the drive the next day we get home.... I'll let you know, if that's OK!

TH replied:
Date: December 16, 2011 10:38:37 AM
To: Nana

Sure see how it goes...vacation care is there for us whether he uses it or not...OK either way.
Three more days of silence. Then, on the evening of the day we’d invited them to come:
On Dec 19, 2011, at 7:00 PM, Nana wrote:

Hi TH:
Sorry that we're not able to come. Our car has been in the repair shop for a week already and we actually are driving to [another state] tomorrow (otherwise wait until Thursday for our car) to pick up parts to install a new alternator finally! We've gotten the run around from a local repair shop, who is supposed to specialize in foreign cars....we should have just had it towed to the Porsche dealer when it broke down last Monday night!!!
We had a rental car this past weekend to drive to [cousin]’s and would like to get our car back :(
We'll make it another time that's good for you..
Have a very happy holiday with DM’s parents - give them our best! And DM too.....
And please kiss HB for us!
Seems like being straightforward and firm is working pretty well at the moment. We knew better than to tell HB that they might come, so the delay in responding did not affect him – nor is he aware that their stated reason for not coming is that they wanted to pick up parts for their Porsche so they could get it back two days early.

(And I sent a picture of HB to her of him wearing pajamas she gave him. I swear I am trying.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

We've Got Some Catching Up to Do

This is the first day in months and months and months that I have nothing on my desk that was due yesterday. (Plenty that needs doing, just nothing horribly overdue.)
So, work catch-up time? Screw that. Blog catch-up time!
I was not wrong to think that this was going to be one of my toughest stretches since being an intern in the ICU before duty hours restrictions. (War story alert! I once worked 108 hours in one week. Okay, 107, if you don’t count the hour that I was asleep in the call room.) It reminded me of the hurricane scene in The Cay, you know, that Young Adult book about how Racism Is Bad, where this prejudiced boy is stranded on a desert island with a black man and a huge hurricane comes and the man ties the two of them to a palm tree with the boy sandwiched in the middle, and the storm rages for what seems like forever, and there is howling wind and deadly flotsam and the wet and the cold etc., and when it is over the man is dead and the boy survives … I sort of feel like that, except without the sacrificial stereotype protecting me. Also no one has died.
No, actually, someone did die. My cousin died in October, for lack of national health care. For real. He was a pianist. Restaurants, kids’ lessons, church organist. Had he seen a doctor in the past year, he’d still be alive. But although he made a living, he couldn’t afford health insurance. The government will now pick up his huge ICU and surgery bill — now that it's too late. I was not close to him but I am to his mother and sister, so that added some intensity to these past few months — as well as perspective.
Work. Falling into place. I have excised some of my clinical duties already, and starting in January, I will have no direct patient hours and no weekends. This should give my brain the critical peace and space needed to come up with bright ideas for my new roles — which terrifies me, I’ll admit. (I will still be doing some clinical stuff — mainly precepting — so I don’t have to cut my old patients entirely loose and so I don’t lose my edge.) I am trying to shake the feeling I get when I spend fewer than ten hours a day at work. It’s not guilt exactly; more like feeling not virtuous.
House. I hired someone to cook and keep house for us two afternoons a week, and I have no feelings of lost virtue over that. She is from Nepal, and she is amazing. We’re never quite sure what it is we’re eating, but it’s always awesome. We have a cupboard stocked with stuff from the Indian market — we can’t even read many of the labels.
Marriage. I had a big Hash It Out with my husband, which is another post altogether, but it was related to him being grumpy all the time. This was mainly job-related, and I finally said if you don’t turn that frown upside down and work on fixing this instead of moping and whining, I will … actually I wasn’t sure what I would do. Be really mad or something. I also said while you’re at it start doing more around the house. Things had slid into imbalance, partly because I was trying to cheer him up by relieving his stress and partly because one of his old duties was to get HB off of my back (literally off of my back in many cases), and that duty has mercifully become obsolete, but TH hadn’t quite noticed that. And he said okay, and now he’s a lot more fun to be around. (He is still on his bike many hours a week, but I’m used to that by now.)
Child. HB is rarely hellish anymore. Intense, always, but I no longer feel like I have to be on point every second to avoid nuclear meltdown, and that’s one beautiful feeling right there. He says he hates school but he is clearly happier than he’s ever been. He is growing his hair out (until he’s twelve, he says) and does not mind being called a girl. He also is developing crushes … on girls. He gives them fashion tips — e.g., where to buy the tight velvet pants (girls’ size 5) he wears every day. He is taking guitar lessons, so in the future he can be the boy who pisses off the other guys because he will make all the girls moon over him even if he’s totally jerky to them.
Running. Running is actually going better than it has in the past couple of years. Honestly, I had been wondering whether my stamina was fading. Then I went to visit my folks and got to run in beautiful woodlands and realized that I had just fallen into a rut of a route. So when I got home I mapped out a gorgeous loop from my front door that I never realized was a possibility. It features hills, fields, woods, streams, and even a tiny waterfall. I half expect to see a fox and hounds bounding towards me some days. (I was startled one day by some very urban-looking youths riding bareback on horses. Also a guy with a full drum kit by the side of the road, practicing without another soul in sight.) Depending on how I cut it, it can be anywhere from five to eight miles. (Here’s an interview with Matthew Inman about running that my husband found. Did you know that the author of the Oatmeal is an endurance runner? I did not.)
How’s it going with you all? Hello? Hello? Still there?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sex! Infertility! Running! Betrayal! Love! (The Smuggled Interview)

As I mentioned before, one of my best friends, Christina Shea, just published her second novel, a work that you – my readers – helped bring to fruition. And as promised, here is my interview with the author. I came to blogging via the infertility community; Christina is a fellow IVF veteran as well as an adoptive mother (she has a balanced translocation, the same problem that Julia faced). Christina was also my first running partner. Not surprisingly, my questions concern both.

DM: I do a lot of my writing in my head while I run. How does your running affect your writing?

CS: Hugely, I’m less creative when I’m not exercising. I don’t do a lot of writing in my head, though, unless you mean pre-writing. I think the two are maybe the same for you but that is because you are so organized in your thinking, brainy. (All your readers know that.) But I start with a very big mess or get into one as soon as I begin writing. Writing is stimulating for me and I really need the outlet of a run just to keep me in control. I also swim and do Bikram yoga, which is a deep workout the way a ten mile run is. A couple of weeks ago I ran around the lake in Greensboro, VT with two of my sisters. That was seven miles on a hot day and I hadn’t been running more than three miles and only about twice a week and there were a couple of big hills, so I’m proud to report, DoctorMama, I found it not so difficult and I felt great the next day. The more I exercise the better I feel and this of course makes it possible to stop procrastinating and produce. What I find when I’m running is that the solutions to the plot problems that my brain was gripping at the beginning of a run are somewhat lost and forgotten by the time I finish my run and instead I feel at peace with the challenge before me.

DM: There is a theme running through Smuggled: how women are affected by wanting children but not being able to have them or by becoming pregnant when they don’t want to. I know I’m very attuned to these issues from my own history. Is this theme in Smuggled deliberate, or is it something that just naturally comes out in your writing given the struggles you have faced?

CS: Yes, this theme was deliberate. I think that both of my novels are about motherhood basically. I was deeply aware of this focus while writing Smuggled, not only because Éva’s story is a quest for self. I had this weird vision of Ceaușescu as an infant that I kept going back to in my head even though I also thought it was stupid and hackneyed. It is possible to give birth to monsters is what I was thinking and this of course led me to Mary Shelley, who had miscarriages, apparently, and was pregnant while writing Frankenstein, the story of a creature denied by his creator. And I thought this all fit metaphorically with what was going on in history in Éva’s lifetime. I also knew that the only way she could find herself again was through mothering because this was the hole or whole that needed filling. My own hole from infertility I filled through adoption and IVF. There are a couple forces at work within this central theme, one personal and the other based on hearing the stories of women friends in Hungary. The oppression that women suffered was deeply personal and dehumanizing. I can’t let this question go without also mentioning that I am the fourth of eight children (my mother had 12 pregnancies). I grew up a bit lonely amidst the crowd, I think it’s fair to say.

DM: To follow up on some of that: there is also a theme of how the importance of “blood” in the book. Éva’s initial troubles are due to having Jewish blood; then she is suspected of being part Gypsy. Initially she seems to believe that she should be with someone who is her “twin” - half Hungarian, half Jewish. Yet the people who actually help her are not of either of her tribes, and by the end she seems to reject the notion that blood matters: she mothers a boy who looks startlingly different (and is the offspring of what could be seen as monsters). You addressed your infertility with adoption and IVF; the son you adopted is obviously of a different race. Was Éva’s changing attitude on the importance of racial identity also a conscious process on your part?

CS: The son I adopted is Haitian American. He was two weeks old when he came into my arms for the first time. Ten years later, I can see he is the most significant thing that ever happened to me, not to take anything away from his beloved brothers, my birth children. My love for M is unique. I have had to learn how to parent him, which was not necessary with my birth children. This is hard to explain, and it is subtle, but his needs are different and not only because he is adopted and black. (To say nothing of musically gifted in a rather tone deaf family.) His needs are unique to his birth, the loss he has suffered and can never resolve, even if he someday reconnects with his birth parents. Adopting M opened my mind forever. I do not want to downplay the issue of race, in fact I want to highlight it. I am reminded daily that there is nothing harder in this country than being black and male.

In Smuggled, I am questioning the nature of identity, whether one’s notions of self are rational or irrational. Whether blood matters. I wanted to challenge the importance of blood while admitting to it. I observed so much racism in Hungary and Romania, much more overt than in the USA and among educated and uneducated people alike, although certainly not in everyone. I appreciated the lack of political correctness I encountered in Central Europe, I have to say. It seemed much more honest to me to express prejudice than subvert it. Despite this prejudice, Hungary’s Jews were so assimilated they didn’t really believe that they would be turned over to the Nazis — and they weren’t, until the Germans occupied. Then they were sent to Auschwitz. The prisoners were bewildered by the new arrivals — so many Jews still alive, and what a strange language, were they actually Jews? Well, many of them were no more Jewish than Éva, the love child of a Jewish mother and Hungarian father. So, yes again, my exploration of this theme through Anca/Éva was intentional.

DM: As a protagonist, Éva/Anca at first comes across as distant. She keeps her emotions secret not just from others, but from herself. It makes sense — the whole book revolves around her needing to keep her true self hidden. I also noticed that almost no one is explicitly punished for their betrayals. Then it occurred to me is that what she is mostly hiding is not hatred, but love. This is the true currency of the book. Without her love the betrayers perish. I guess my question is, while writing, did you have to fight an impulse to make the “bad guys” overtly suffer for their crimes? It some ways that would have been satisfying, yet it would not have made sense for Éva (nor would it have been historically accurate, unfortunately).

CS: I love what you say about the “true currency of the book” being love. Éva must hide her love in order to be Anca. It requires extreme self control and it’s not always possible for her, for instance she does fall in love with Aron, but she is also emotionally traumatized as a very young child and is thus unknowable to a certain degree, even to herself. As an American, it blew my mind to learn of the suffering that people endured behind the Iron Curtain. In Romania, the situation was particularly twisted. You had to be tough, you had to not care so much, you had to protect yourself, you had to build your own little wall. I’m not really fictionalizing in portraying betrayal after betrayal. It was the way political dictatorship “worked.” But your question is an interesting one because I thought often about the bad guys in my novel. It would have been satisfying to make the bad guys suffer, but it would not have been realistic and I felt this was too important an issue to fictionalize. The question of blame was still on everyone’s mind fifty years after the Holocaust and issues of race remain central to the socio-politics of the region. I couldn’t move outside Anca’s perspective on any of this, so in fact the execution of the Ceaușescus was just what her story needed. And I also think that an act of betrayal can be a crime of self hatred, in addition to having an innocent victim, and that part of Anca’s appeal is that she is not seeking revenge.

DM: Sex is addressed in a refreshingly candid yet nuanced way in the novel. There are lovers, rapists, sex workers, and people who use sex to get what they need, and all of it is presented in a matter-of-fact way — it’s never lurid, and it definitely doesn’t seem American. Is this attitude something you encountered in your time in Eastern Europe? The female characters' attitudes toward sex do not seem ruined by, as you say, the personal, dehumanizing oppression they suffered.

CS: Yes, I wanted to convey the attitude towards sex that I learned about in intimate conversation with women friends in Eastern Europe. There are two things I am trying to do in writing the sex scenes in the novel. The first is to convey the level of comfort with their own bodies that everyone I met in Eastern Europe possessed. There is nothing prudish, puritanical, or American about sex for the Eastern European. Second, the sexual revolution was not just for Westerners, and yet this was the East. Sex was a necessary escape. This reality made the oppression under Ceaușescu all the more personal. Abortion rates that reflected a complete breakdown of society after birth control was outlawed. I was fortunate to have dear friends with whom I could talk about all of this, who wanted to share so that I would understand. Often, what we talked about around the table was our cultural differences, but all the women I knew enjoyed sex the same as me. I heard about women like Irini and the “dentist’s wife.” Also, Éva is from a young age such a physical person, and her mother saves her by sacrificing her own body, and although communism subverts Anca, she knows instinctively how to survive. She generally feels no conflict of motive, and is fortunate to have been born a passionate spirit.

DM: So buy this book, everybody!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Maggot Zero: How Not to Run

Big Changes are afoot in my professional life, and they are sucking up all of my time. Not a move but a major redirection, and I’ve been struggling with a) do I want this opportunity (that was a big yes) and b) how do I make it happen without disappointing too many people and killing myself in the transition (that was a big HAHAHA, good luck with that!).

I have a couple of balls in the air here at the blog, and they will have to stay suspended for the time being. Instead, I am bringing you a real treat: A special guest post from the best blogger who doesn’t blog, Maggot Zero! She was the person who inspired my very first Maggot post, and she has been running ever since — while ignoring half of my advice. I present her to you as a combination precautionary/inspiring success story (her whole life is kind of like that, in fact).

How Not to Run
by Maggot Zero
You know the scene in every war movie where the hard-nosed drill sergeant informs his recruits that they’re “the worst goddamned group of sorry-ass maggots I’ve ever seen”? I usually roll my eyes and think, “Dude, you probably say that to EVERY group of recruits. Statistically speaking, most new recruits are probably of a comparable level of sorry-ass-itude!” (Yes, I can suck the fun out of a movie like the last few drops of Dr Pepper from an $8 soda.)
When it comes to running, though, I AM the worst goddamned sorry-ass maggot that Sarge has ever seen. I am the sneaker-clad equivalent of the guy who somehow manages to discharge an M16 into the base commander’s Jeep during the second week of basic training. But if my long, colorful history of running mishaps is good for anything — other than delighting my friends, family and people who happen to be driving by as I accidentally inhale gnats and stagger into shrubs — it is as a cautionary tale for YOU, dear Maggots. For the benefit of freshly-minted runners throughout the blogosphere, I present: How NOT to Run.
  • Go Too Fast. Completely ignore DoctorMama’s wise, oft-stated advice to begin running at an embarrassingly slow pace — surely that maxim does not apply to YOU! (Spoiler alert: oh, yes it does.) Despite having no prior athletic experience, rip up and down the streets like a rocket-propelled blancmange. Develop excruciating shin splints. Treat said shin splints by alternating between sprinting and hobbling. Surely THAT is every bit as valid a running technique as “slow and steady,” right? ... right?

  • Refuse to Accept Constructive Criticism. Let’s say you’re a bit ... ungainly. You fall up stairs. You walk into parked cars. You may be the master of your fate and the captain of your soul, but someone ELSE is the captain of your body, and they have a drinking problem and/or some neurological issues. Nonetheless, assume that you know EXACTLY how you should be running. When your friends and family attempt to provide feedback (“I never realized that running looked like ... that”), become extremely hurt and offended. Reschedule your runs for 11:00 PM, when there are fewer souls present to witness your spastic lurching. Several years later, realize that everyone was right. Accept that you have spent years not “running,” per se, but “doing a rapid, horizontally-mobile version of The Robot.” Cry.

  • Don’t Watch Where You’re Going. Run when it’s dark out. On cracked and buckled sidewalks. Adjust your MP3 player constantly. Get distracted by interesting [foliage/constellations/toads]. At least once per week, snag your toe on something, lose your balance and find yourself in a sudden, bloody embrace with the concrete.

  • Don’t Dress Appropriately. Wear all-cotton clothing ... as the commercials say, Cotton is the Fabric of Our Lives. The hot, thick, chafing, poorly-breathable, sweat-accumulating, non-drying fabric. Spend your entire run tugging various folds of sweat-soaked cotton off and/or out of your body’s various nooks and crannies. Between that, the spastic lurching and your impressive collection of road rash scabs, you are TOTALLY HAWT.

  • Don’t Stay Hydrated. Drink nothing the day of your run. Fifteen minutes prior to the run itself, chug a can of warm diet root beer, or possibly a spoonful of icing from the half-empty can in the fridge if no root beer is available.

  • You Know What Might Make a Good Pre-Run Snack? A Dozen Spicy Chicken Wings! Because while there are many reasons to run — for fun, for sport, for your physical and/or mental health — none of them are quite as compelling as “because you’re one agonizing gut-cramp away from accidentally fertilizing your neighbor’s hyacinths.”
The morals I draw from this story?
  1. Listen to me, damn it.
  2. If Maggot Zero is still running after five years of this nonsense, you can run too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Buy This Book!

More than two years ago, one of my dearest friends was at a critical point in the writing of her second novel: she needed readers to critique it. Do I have some articulate readers for you! I said. I put up a request here, got an avalanche of offers, hooked her up with many of them, and now:

Buy this book, not least because you helped write it (the “anonymous readers at” are acknowledged in it!).
It’s also a fantastic book.
Christina was my very first running partner. We have over the years shared spectacular runs in Eastern Europe, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, the Catskills — and many runs that were unremarkable except in that they gave us a precious chance to talk. Christina is the sort of friend who can say exactly the right thing at exactly the right time. When I was fretting over whether I should be seeing TH — was I supposed to fool around with someone six years younger who was not looking for marriage? She said, “Forget about what other people think you should do. Have fun.” So if not for her … And Christina is another battle-scarred veteran of the infertility wars; she helped me through that process. Then when HB was a newborn, I recall sitting in bed sobbing, failing miserably at nursing this wailing alien, and Christina called. She efficiently diagnosed the problem and gently reassured me that I was neither insane nor a failure. She was and is a lifeline.
Children and work, and my dislike of the phone, have kept us from hanging out in recent years, and one of my post-small-child fantasies is that I will spend a lot more time sitting in her kitchen drinking one of her ubiquitous cups of tea.
Coming up: an interview with the author! Anything in particular you’d like me to ask her?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Running FAQs 2011

I recruited two! fresh maggots just yesterday (don’t let me down, J and S, and to S in particular: SLOW DOWN), and that and Kylie and procrastination have inspired me to open the floor for your running questions. I’ll take them from the comments and put them up here. Ask away.

Q: I’ve been running the same 5k distance for several years now, about 3 times a week. It takes me 30 minutes. I have recently started adding some weight training on non-running days, which is (I think) helping the running. I’m going a little faster, I think, or feeling a bit stronger when I run, at least. So my question is, what should I do to break out of the same plodding 5k rut? Add distance or try picking up the pace? Or a mixture?

A: I think you mean add time, not distance. Picking up the pace and adding time both will add distance. A mixture, but only one thing at a time. You can add about 10 percent to either per week if you have a good solid base (i.e., months of steady running, not weeks.) I recommend focusing on extending your running time first. More about this here.
Q: S here! Today was Day 2 of Camp Cut-It-Up, in which I transform from a squishy, weak maggot to a shiny, fast, hard-shelled house fly. Today I went more slowly than yesterday, only “running“ half a block at a time, then walking for a few minutes so I wouldn’t die. My question: why do I have to spit every couple blocks, and where the f- is all this saliva/phlegm coming from? My other question: my lower back hurts. Am I running wrong?

A: Dammit, S, I just KNEW you were going to be trouble. Yes, you're running wrong. #1: you are trying to run every day, violating Rule 3, run every OTHER day; #2, you are going too fast, which I know because your salivary glands are rebelling. That happens when you overexert. Parasympathetic/sympathetic balance, mumble mumble. As for your back, you need to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Do that on the days you're not running, and while you're running, suck it in.
Q: I get migraines after running. It happens more often in warm weather. I would really like to increase the amount of exercise I do but the headaches are so frustrating! Especially since I feel fine while running. Going longer than 25 minutes pretty much guarantees the migraine. I have a prescription that works but I don't want to have to take it every time I work out.

A: Exercise-induced migraines are thought to be related to two things: water/electrolyte balance, and that during exercise, your blood vessels expand, and when you stop, they contract, and blood vessel expansion and constriction in the brain are what goes on during a migraine. Try these four things: 1) start your run especially slowly, so as to ease your blood vessels into the activity; 2) drink a sports drink BEFORE you run (generally not useful, but for this it may be) and DON’T drink a lot of water immediately after; 3) take or drink some caffeine before you run; and 4) take a good solid dose of ibuprofen or naproxen at least half an hour before you run. Eventually you may find that the exercise gets your cerebral vessels into shape and decreases the headaches. (It’s ok to use your migraine meds up to twice a week, but yeah, sucks to have to do it every time.)
Q: My heart rate stays high after a run (130) and then drops to 90 in one beat. Massaging my neck fixes it so I do this immediately after my run. I figure better to be fit with an arrhythmia than be unfit. Is that a good attitude or should I stop and see “someone”? Last doctor I mentioned it to just said “stop running.”

A: Whoa. MAJOR issue here. Not the high heart rate itself, but that it sounds like you have an SVT (supraventricular arrhythmia) that resolves with carotid massage, a “vagal maneuver.” Can be a very minor thing, but this is something you DO need to see a cardiologist about. Just stopping running is definitely not the answer, since you could have this with any exertion, and if it’s a dangerous arrhythmia, you need to find that out.
Q: I so long to be a maggot! I started out fit, but after a 7 year hiatus I am fighting my way back at 47. What’s a good strategy for managing your heart rate? I run with a heart rate monitor so I can avoid overdoing it, but 60 seconds into what I perceive to be a very slow run my heart rate kicks it up to the high 160’s. So I drop back to a fast walk until I hit 130 and then run for 30 seconds … and then, bing — 160’s again. Maybe I need a freshly laid fly egg program before I graduate to maggothood!

A: Ditch the heart rate monitor. There is no point in “managing” your heart rate. As in the answer above, it’s not the number that matters but the way you feel. If you are breathless, you are running too fast, whatever your heart rate or your speed. As you SLOWLY get back into shape, your heart rate is likely to drift down, but who cares? It’s like measuring your speed, which maggots are not allowed to do until they’ve been running a good long time. (And you ARE a maggot!)
Q: I have a sore spot on the back of my hip where the muscle attaches to my ilia. I noticed it while walking to work a few weeks ago. I started my running program this week, and because of the sore spot, have just walked instead. It’s still not better! Must I lay off it altogether or just keep walking or what? Should I stretch it? Ice it? Take a nap and have another beer? New Maggot J

A: General rule: if it was not caused by running you can run through it, provided that it does not hurt MORE while running. In fact, sounds like yours was caused by walking, so even more reason to run instead. You will probably find that it will hurt at first, then as you get into your run will ease off, then it will be sore after. That’s ok. There are many, many weird little muscle pains that happen, and you will not permanently damage anything by running through them, and they make take weeks to go away. As for stretching/icing/etc., there’s no very good evidence to suggest that these make a real difference, but if it makes you feel better, go ahead. And, why not have all three? Run, then beer, then nap.
Q: I have plantar fasciitis / heel pain, and I can run through it but it’s just no fun. What’s the best approach: keep running on the theory that it will hurt anyway, or take time off?

A: Plantar fasciitis is a bitch, but it does not have to derail your running life, no matter what your doctor says. I don’t have instant cures, but I do have useful knowledge. 1) You do not have to stop running completely, though softer surfaces, less distance, and no hills are not a bad idea. 2) Stretching and foot exercises do help. 3) It almost always lasts for a long, long time (months) no matter what you do, but it WILL go away. 4) I advise staying away from injections, because the complications from them outweigh the benefit (if any) for most people. 5) NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) help. 6) Cushioning/orthotics can help. Wikipedia has a pretty good page on it.
Q: I am running every day and I have injured myself. What to do?
A: This isn’t an actual question, but it lies beneath several of them. If you write to me that you are having problems of some kind and you are running every day (or even just two days in a row), I want to slap you upside your head, because you have disobeyed instructions and I cannot help you now. Run every OTHER day. It works, people. Exercise causes tiny tears within muscle, and the repair thereof is how you get into shape. It takes approximately 2 days for this cycle to complete, so if you run too soon, you just tear and tear and then you’re hurt and then you’re a Maggot down. (I’m cyber-slapping S, Feral, Scr, and a few others – you know who you are.)
Q: Do you eat before you run? I worry about being lightheaded if I don’t eat or cramps if I do. And can I drink coffee before a run?
A: Eating is tricky, because each person is different. I have an iron stomach, so I can eat a small meal and run half an hour later. Others need a couple of hours to avoid nausea. The other tricky part about eating is what to eat. I cannot have simple sugars at all the days that I run; unless I have a reasonable amount of protein and fat in my system I “bonk,” even on a short run. I can’t be hungry either, for the same reason. You’ll have to learn what you need via trial and error (though avoid simple sugars for sure; they’re not good for you anyway). And you don’t want to eat anything you don’t mind resampling via eructation the duration of your run. Caffeine: yes! It is a potent performance enhancer (a good thing!) and its dehydration danger rep is a myth. (You may need to find a bathroom along the way—it can make you have to pee.) As for when, whenever feels good. On morning runs, I slug coffee just before going out the door, but again, iron stomach.
Q: You’ve written about running not being much of a risk factor for arthritis, but I’m a little worried about it. Last summer I was determined to get my 5K time below 30 minutes, but I noticed that my hips started aching between runs. One day I just walked briskly. The result was the worst hip pain ever. Also, is it true that people with benign ligamentous laxity have a harder time running? I would feel better about my poky pace if I could blame it on my loosely knit joints.
A: I stick by my statements re: running and arthritis. And listen to yourself: your hips started to hurt after you tried to force yourself to go faster, AND they hurt more when you WALKED. You are running proof of the excellence of my advice. As for laxity, I don’t think there is good data, but I noticed a while ago that we avid runners tend to be a stiff lot even before we start. Perhaps having tight connective tissue IS protective against injury. (Bad for childbearing, but I only had to do that once and I run every other day.)
Q: Any advice on running with a dog or a fetus?
A: If anyone has good advice, put it in the comments below, would you? I don’t have much experience with either. I couldn’t run pregnant for a variety of reasons, but I know of many who have. It’s not dangerous if you’re healthy. (Oh and: some veterinarians will tell you that your dog shouldn’t run far. This is silly if you have a healthy dog.)

(Note: I will try to answer at least a question a day, and I’ll try to answer all of them eventually, but not in order. Some are really hard!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pretty Ugly

(Started to put the following in the comments after Jess’s, but it got too long.)

Part of the reason I doubt I’ll ever give up this blog – despite a common view that FaceBook punctured the blogosphere (which I don’t think is true; it mainly pulled out the non-anonymous folks, though it did decrease blog comments, maybe because blog commenting is harder) – is how much I learn and grow from it, because of you all. Thoughtful disagreement is invaluable to me.

Answers to some questions: I was comfortable in what I wore to the party; other mothers were more covered up; and, a friend reported, Nana was wearing underwear. Nana did comment on FaceBook, “Why did I wear such a short skirt?” Suggesting there is some insight/struggle/insecurity there too, making me feel a little more ashamed. (A friend from the Pacific Northwest commented back that, well, it is hotter where we are ... )

I realized after my last post that I dress at opposite points on the spectrum for work and non-work. I am practically Amish at work. No bare legs! Errant necklines get the stapler treatment! Bare arms are covered before any patient contact! Occasionally if it’s really, really hot I’ll show toes, but I feel self-conscious about it all day. So for a recent dress-up event involving residents, I pulled the Ugly Pretty Girl move (you know, like in all those movies where the Plain Jane takes off her glasses and baggy clothes and appears at the school dance looking like Halle Berry and OMG, she’s pretty! WHO KNEW?). I wore a sequined silk fuschia halter dress that showed leg (below the knee), and heels, and put on contacts and eye makeup and pinned my hair up. And people seemed astonished. Comments included, “Wow, look at Dr. M, making it happen!” For days afterward residents were coming up to me saying, “You looked good. Like, really good.” Which felt nice.

Clearly I have a hard time with the middle ground, and I still haven’t seen a rule of thumb I can apply to myself. I agree in theory with the idea that everyone should be wearing exactly what they want to wear, and I mostly follow this at home and don’t care much what people think – although honestly? I’d like to be a nudist, and remember this post? Well, I have finally started wearing a shirt – but at work I don’t like wondering if I’m upsetting my patients. The distraction quotient does exist; there is one physician where I work who shows SO MUCH skin every single day that many, many people have asked many other people to “speak to her about it.” I partly like that she dresses that way, but I partly find it insensitive, not least because she is conventionally gorgeous and it seems like she’s showing off rather than being comfortable in her own skin.

I don’t mind being the Pretty Ugly Girl, but I don’t want to be the Mean Girl. Jacq, I think I won’t post her outfit next year.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Five More

[Nanaphiles, take heart: soon I will describe my delicately finessed cease-fire.]

TH and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. Also, a new college class report arrived. This is what I had to say about those anniversaries five years ago. In another post back then I mentioned the most appalling entry of all in the last report. I quoted (again, this is NOT ME):
[2006] I'm in a very happy marriage to P___, whom I met while traveling through France. We have two beautiful, brilliant children. They are trilingual, top of their classes, and are both natural athletes, excelling at virtually every sport they try. We live in a rambling bungalow on an acre of garden and forest in [expensive suburb]. After spending seven years as a management consultant, I felt my career was incompatible with being the mother of two small children. So we moved to France, where I studied for my MBA. After weighing the various opportunities that emerged, I settled on asset management. Now, eight years into my career, I feel as if I've found the perfect fit. My international background and languages, along with my analytical nature, common sense, and natural skepticism, have all contributed toward a successful track record as an international investor. I can attest to the fact that success breeds happiness.
When the most recent edition came, I feverishly flipped to her page, wondering what heights of braggadocio she could possibly have reached. But instead I was amazed and delighted to find this:
[2011] One of the ways we seem to deal with impending mortality is to justify our place in the world, crediting predestination or cleverness or both, while ignoring the serendipitous nature of life. But in my case, I recognize more and more the role pure luck has played in getting me to where I am today, so I feel the need to be more open-minded and empathetic as I age, more liberal in my attitude. Churchill is quoted as saying, “If you’re not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you’re not conservative at forty you have no brain.“ Either Churchill had it backwards or I am brainless.
From the rest of her entry, it does not appear that anything bad happened to her in the meantime, so I am claiming this as proof that people change, and it makes me happy.

As for our anniversary, for the first time ever (!!!), HB stayed at his grandparents’ (the “good” ones) while TH and I got a hotel room. HB had decided on his own that it was time he tried being away from a parent overnight, and when he has bought into a project, he usually does well.

What did we do with our time? Simply the things we haven’t been able to: talk for longer than 5 minutes at a time while strolling, going to a coffee shop, seeing a movie, eating dinner, and … no, not that, that we’ve been able to achieve … cuddling. Poor TH is a cuddler. I am not. I can tolerate a certain amount, but I overspend it on HB. I know, I know, the tragedy of the modern parent.
We talked about how we would not be together had we not been running partners. We agreed that we would do it all again. And we talked about the 3 biggest challenges our marriage has faced:
  1. HB
  2. HB
  3. A tie between cycling and HB
I added a fourth [TMI ALERT!!]: lady parts problems. I am too shy/prudish (believe it or not) to elaborate, but I would feel guilty if I left it out.

I never have good advice on marriage or romance. (I am an INTJ, you know.) I do have advice for people who don’t want marriage: don’t let anyone make you feel like a freak. I love my husband, and I can easily imagine a happy life had he not appeared. Whenever a celebrity says something like that in an interview, it’s like, **JUICY BREAKUP ALERT** — and that’s too bad. It can make single people feel like something is really wrong with them if everyone is always all, “Marriage and parenthood complete me!” My mother says that someone who talks a lot about sex probably isn’t getting any, and I wonder if the same holds true here: people who go on and on about how great it is maybe protest too much? In other words: would people please lay off Jennifer Aniston? Sheesh. Her life seems pretty cool.

That said, our 24 hours left me longing for more. (The grandparents said they would do it again, but they said it in very, very weak voices.) I adore my child and am fascinated by him, and he is a remora.

Friday, April 15, 2011

(Updated!) I Already Wear My Trousers Rolled (Because I’m Kind of Short)

How did I not notice this? I HAVE GONE SILVER. Or white. Or gray. Or something really old-sounding.

When I look in the mirror, to me it looks more or less the way it has for the past five years or so — that is, light brown faded to dishwater blond in front, white streak across the crown, medium brown in back with a few highlights thrown in to minimize the Belted Galloway look. But I came back from vacation recently and the photos, to my shock, revealed what I show you here:

I’m not sure I can explain how I missed this, except to say that I am not a person who spends a great deal of time on her hair. I learned to use a blow dryer in my thirties, and I still don’t know how to use a curling iron.

My grandmother went snow-white in her early 20’s, and I always hoped that would happen to me. It was so dramatic, and my hair was always so boring. So I was thrilled by the emergence of my white stripe. It awakens! But the rest remained a disappointment.

Oddly enough, I didn’t feel especially attractive until I reached 40. It wasn’t until then that I really settled into my face, and though my body wasn’t significantly different from when I was in my twenties, something changed to make me feel much more comfortable in my own skin. Maybe I got shaken up by the experience of losing and regaining my body with pregnancy? And there is no doubt that much (if not most) of attractiveness lies in how attractive you feel.

But now … I am in my (big reveal!) mid-forties, and I begin to notice the slide. A softening and settling. I’m trying to wrap my mind around it and adjust my self-image. I’m trying to resettle into my skin. And actually I’m starting to enjoy it. Well, the hair, anyway.

And I’m really glad I run.

Update: I am inspired by Anon to say: I would love everyone (especially women, but men too) to be able to brag on themselves, or at least to acknowledge what they have that they think looks good. (I did not actually mention what I like about my body in this post, but I certainly have elsewhere in this blog.) The better you feel about what you have, the more attractive you are, and that spreads happiness in general. So give it up, and don’t be shy: What do YOU rock?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Uncharacteristically Multi-Themed

Do you have any idea how often I have to remind myself to take my own advice? Confession: this winter I am barely hanging on to my running. Happens every winter, but worse this one. I don’t like cold, but even more I don’t like dark, and a lot of my running has to be in the dark in the winter. Then I usually get a chest cold or two, plus somehow my back ends up getting hurt during the winter, and before I know it, it’s days and days between runs. So I chant to myself, “Any run is better than no run,” “If it doesn’t hurt worse when you run on it, run on it,” and, believe it or not, I have to remind myself to slow down.

Thanks for the Nana advice, and TH will be perusing it. And yes, at this point HB understands that she is unreasonable and he is not likely to be permanently scarred by her, but I would like him to have some kind of relationship with her ultimately, and I don’t want that to be made impossible by her behavior now. Also, the aftermath of her visits have always sucked for us, with him having new fears (he’s going to have to go to her house alone, I don’t love him, etc.) and extra tantrums.

My own mother happened to make a connection I hadn’t realized. I was discussing it with her and she became very agitated. It’s unlike her to a) support Nana in anything or b) get very agitated about anything, so I asked her what the deal was, and she confessed that Nana reminds her of her mother, and she’s afraid that I feel like I was scarred because she left me with my grandmother often. And she’s totally right. Now, she had little choice—she was a widow with three difficult kids and no one to pick up any slack except her parents—so I do NOT blame her (and reassured her on this), but actually, my grandmother did scar me. An episode that haunts me to this day was when I was three and threw a tantrum because she made waffles for my brother but not for me (I woke up late and she’d already cleaned up). The tantrum was a typical unreasonable three-year-old tantrum, but for it she gave me the worst spanking of my life. I never liked or trusted her again, and I still flinch when I see anyone even close to smacking their kids.

Book Reviews
I recently read Keith Richards’s enormous autobiography, and since I finished it I actually miss him. I had no particular interest in him or the Rolling Stones before, but I adore him now, despite his drug-addicted parenting, his temper, and his cattiness about Mick Jagger. He is just so open-hearted, in this sense (and that clip is totally worth the 20 minutes, I promise you, and thanks to B for it), and funny, and unapologetic, and unexpectedly respectful of women, and loyal to people who treat others well, and honest about people who don’t (e.g. Brian Jones). And his love of music is enviable. At first the music talk bored me, but then I started pulling up the various songs he mentioned, and I got a great education and new appreciation for the Everly Brothers, Elvis, Chuck Berry, etc. etc. I still don’t like most of the later Stones music, but whatever.

I followed it up with Patti Smith’s book about herself and Mapplethorpe, which I liked well enough, but wished a) it was about her and not about Mapplethorpe and b) she had a sense of humor. Maybe she does in real life, but it didn’t come through in this book, which was earnest earnest earnest.

Music Reviews
I am loving running to The Dog Days Are Over (Florence and the Machine), Shake Me Down (Cage the Elephant), Bloodbuzz Ohio (The Nationals), Not Fade Away (early Stones!), and Tusk (Fleetwood Mac), which makes me laugh every time it pops up and which someone pointed me to because one of my forever favorites is the marching band version of This Too Shall Pass (Ok Go).

Other running, Nana, book and music recommendations welcomed.

Monday, February 07, 2011

More Please

Why, why do I not ask you all for advice more often? You are so wise.

Jul hit it when she said: “So WHY did I waste all that time trying to make you feel secure, you little s__?” Because yes, my distress really is all about me and wanting to believe that none of my sacrifices have been for naught. Even though OF COURSE THEY HAVE. Most of them, anyway.

And I instantly recognized that Law’s suggested response would work: “… besides it’s against the law to kill anyway.” I said to him, “Hey HB—you know how you can’t be sure Daddy and I aren’t evil?” “Yeah?” he said nonchalantly. “Well you can at least be sure we won’t kill you. Know why?” “Why?” “Because it’s against the law!” “Oh, right right right!” he said. “I mean, everybody would be a robber if it wasn’t against the law!” I didn’t even try to argue with that one, but he seemed to think the subject was entirely settled.

So thank you.

(Another thing he said recently: “A lot of parents tell their kids everything they do is great because they want them to feel happy. But I don’t want that. I want the truth.”)

To tap into your collective wisdom some more: You were incredibly helpful on the subject of Nana in the past, and we could use a little more advice.

Her last visit was the anticlimactic birthday party eight months ago. TH speaks with her on the phone and emails from time to time, and she rarely brings up the topic. When she starts to, he changes the subject, and she usually follows.

Until recently, when he got an email from her:

From: Nana
Date: December 3, 2010
To: TrophyHusband
Subject: HB’s gift

I’m glad he liked the book. I thought chapter books are fun for his age.  ....

We are really devastated that we aren’t allowed to see him.  It makes me sad whenever I think of him growing up not knowing or seeing us.

Love, Mom

TH freaked out and forwarded to me, and I said, what a way to escalate! You never said anything of the kind. Read the original email you sent her. And he did, and then quoted it back to her, and she let it drop.

But this begs the question: where DO we go from here?

HB has asked when we will go up to their “farm” again, because, he says, there are fun things to do there. But he also has asked me out of the blue, “Why did Nana say she would give me a time out if I cried because I missed you?” (When she was babysitting him two years ago.) Recently, he asked if we were ever going to see her again, and I said, of course. (We haven’t let him in on the whole discussion, just told him that he won’t be left alone with Nana babysitting again.) And then he said, “I know a way it could work: I could just do everything exactly the way she says.” Wellllll …. yeeeesss … in an alternate universe. He won’t even get on the phone with her. (And not just now; he never would—he hates to get on the phone when someone tells him to do it, which she always does.) Clearly he’s not ready to maneuver around her without freaking out. Most adults can’t do it consistently.

Traveling to Nana’s is an ordeal, and it isn’t “on the way” to anyplace. So that’s pretty easy to get around. But do we just wait for her to suggest something doable? They come near us on business from time to time, and I could see meeting them for a couple of hours someplace … but I really don’t know. Do we suggest it?

She hasn’t made even the tiniest of conciliatory moves, if that matters, which it probably doesn’t. E.g., HB asked us to take a photo of himself smiling next to the gift they sent for Chanukah/Christmas and text it to them as a thank you. When TH did so, she called and said, “He should write us a thank you note now too.” (Not that there isn’t any merit to the argument that written thank yous are more proper than texts/emails—just that this isn’t quite the place for that argument, is it?) (And the gifts are far from conciliatory—she has always showered him with presents and then demanded that he show exuberant gratitude in return. Once when we were visiting her, she banished him upstairs when he didn’t like a book she bought him. He found a phone and called TH’s cell, which was pretty funny.)


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Normal or Not?

HB said something to me last night that creeped me out so much I couldn’t fall asleep for a couple of hours. We were cuddling before he went to sleep and he said, “Sometimes I wonder if you and Daddy are actually evil and will kill me.” After I regained my speaking ability and tried to say the appropriate reassuring things, he said, “Yes, but … there’s a chance you could be lying to me right now.” I tried to talk him out of the notion with every argument I could think of, but he said, “I’m not saying there’s a BIG chance that you could be evil. Maybe ten percent. I’m just saying, you can never really know what someone else is truly thinking.” Then he went to sleep.

This morning I tried to bring it up again delicately, asking if it was just one of those scary thoughts that people sometimes have at night, and he said cheerfully, “No, it can occur to me whenever. It’s not that big a deal. And I know that you do want me; if you didn’t, you could have given me up for adoption.”

It reminds me of why I don’t smoke pot.

He’s always had a morbid streak; two years ago he told me that everyone dies alone, and when I tried to give him some platitudes, he just looked at me and shook his head. Last year he asked, “How do you know that this isn’t all a dream, and real life is something else?”

Also we’ve been reading a lot of Roald Dahl.

TH didn’t hear the actual conversation, but he’s not particularly concerned. “I sometimes thought my mom was evil,” he said. “But then, she actually was …”

HB has if anything seemed happier than ever lately; he often laughs and goofs around, something sadly rare for him in prior years.

So, normal or not?

Sunday, January 02, 2011


I’m betting at least a few of you have been directed here because you made a New Year’s resolution to start running. So:

Looking for inspiration? Read this post and the comments following it.

Looking for how to get started? Look here, and then at the other “Running” posts down on the right sidebar.

And then send some encouragement in the direction of Loretta, a once and future Maggot. You may note that she tries to flatter me, I believe in a misguided attempt to get me to go easy on her. Sorry, Loretta, but I must say: you did it wrong before, and I suspect you’re doing it wrong again. Do you recall the time I said you were running too often? It sounds like you’re doing it again. You must run every OTHER day, Maggot. Also remember: while you may very well get skinnier by running, it should not be your focus.

[Re: that flattery. I will cop to being kind (to Loretta I am being cruel to be kind, see), but if I were granted three wishes that could be spent only on entirely frivolous things, one would be to be funnier. (Another, to have thick hair. As for the third—not sure … probably to not have bunions.) Non-frivolous things—I can think of a slew of those. (And come to think of it, making people laugh is not a frivolous thing either.)]

And if you’re here for tips on finding your Happy Place, you can start here, but I warn you it’s not as easy as becoming runner, on which I offer a money-back guarantee. (Now you know why I don’t have any ads here …)

Updates on other stuff—HB’s fashion sense, Nana’s attempts to escalate tensions, etc.—soon, I hope.

What would be your three frivolous wishes? (If I can’t count being funnier, I think I’ll pick being a better singer as a third.)