The Vice

One of my summer rituals is going to the gyno for my yearly check-up, and then following up with a mammogram. About a month ago, the day had finally arrived for the annual event. There are so many things to worry about on this day. What do I wear that is easy to get on and off? I almost wore a dress, but then realized I would be unnecessarily naked for my mammogram. Shorts – I need shorts. What shoes should I wear so my feet don’t stink. Seriously, that’s a thing. How long will I have to sit there covered only by a sheet before the doctor wanders in?

I won’t go into the details about the gyno visit because that’s just gross. Who really wants to hear about the stirrups, rubber gloves, and the cold, metal devices? I will only say that when I am in that very humiliating position, I always wonder what makes someone choose to become a gyno? As my doctor is examining me, I am suspiciously  looking at him thinking What kind of person are you to want to do this every day?

Next, it is time to go across the road for my mammogram. Since many of you haven’t experienced this, I thought you should know what it’s like. First of all, I am certain that as a petite person, my experience varies from that of a  normal-sized woman. This particular breast center has tried to create a spa-like atmosphere, and I appreciate the soothing colors, comfy furniture, and trickling fountains. Once we are called back, we are ushered into a nice dressing room to undress from the waist up and put on a pink, fluffy robe. No paper vests here. We then move on to the “Robe Room.” It’s quite nice really. All of us just sitting around in our pink fluffy robes looking through out-dated magazines.. Occasionally I say a little prayer that everyone has secured their robes so nothing falls out.

And then I hear my name. The mammo lady guides me back to the semi-dark room with the imposing machine, the vice if you will. It is about to get real. She maneuvers me up to the vice, asks me to take one arm out of the robe, and proceeds to manhandle me. Seriously, her arms are everywhere; I don’t know how to stand because it’s awkward as hell; and she is trying to get my little boob in that vice. This is tricky. Mammo lady begins, “Turn your toes that way, but your shoulders this way, put your chin up, and your arm over there.” What? And I am petite. This is no lie, in order to get the required goods into that vice, I swear she pulls skin from my belly and neck. My entire midsection is trapped in that damn vice. And then she begins cranking it closed. Tighter and tighter it pulls all my skin. It is so tight my knees no longer sag. Then she looks me in the eye, gives me a little smile, and gives one more turn. Crap! I am now hanging from this machine by my boob. I am certain the vice is cutting off circulation, and soon my boob will fall off.

She casually walks over to her computer area as I am on my tippy toes trying not to fall because, really, if I did fall, I’d rip my boob off. And then she says, “When I count to three, stop breathing until I tell you you can breathe again.” Shit. I stopped breathing five minutes ago. I have one arm on top of the machine, the other dangling at my side, I am twisted up like a contortionist, and now I have to continue to hold my breath.

The machine begins to make a whirring noise. It oh so slowly makes a revolution while capturing pictures of my neck and belly skin. My neck is pulled so tightly I begin to feel like I am suffocating. And then she says to relax. Sure. Relax. Until you grab up all the skin from the other side. She releases me, and starts over on the left side. One would think I’d have it down by now, but it is no better. The arms. The toes. The neck skin. The twisting and turning and smashing. This is not the spa experience they make it appear to be. This is a medieval torture device. It’s 2017; there has to be a better way.

Mammo lady finally gets the left side of my body into her vice. Crank. Crank. And just one more…crank. I am now secured in the machine, again on my tippy toes. Deep breaths; now hold my breath. I can do this. I’ve survived childbirth three times, and the teenage years with three daughters. I can survive this machine. Just hang on to that machine, keep my balance, and do not think about all the skin clamped in. And…we’re done. Mammo lady releases me, and although smashed, everything appears to be in place. My skin slowly begins to return to its intended position as I do neck stretches and arm circles. Until next year, Mammo Lady!

Early detection is so very important in the fight against breast cancer. Men and young people, though necessary, mammograms are not something the women in your lives look forward to. To make it more pleasant, you could have chocolate and wine waiting for us upon our return. And, husbands, please keep your hands to yourselves on mammo day.

The Great Soft Drink Experiment

Last summer I challenged myself to complete a running streak; it began with a 40 day streak, and then I stretched it out to 80 days. Once I hit 80 days, I decided to make it 100 days. I ended up running at least one mile every day for 100 days. It was a challenge that reminded me I had to stay dedicated to my goal, avoid whining, and run no matter how tired I felt.

This summer I am taking on a somewhat different challenge. My entire adult life, I have drank soft drinks. When I was young and didn’t need to worry about my weight I drank Coke and Mountain Dew. After a couple of babies and some post-baby chub, I began my long-term relationship with diet soft drinks. Diet Mountain Dew has been a favorite for many years, but I also like Diet Pepsi (in a bottle) and McDonald’s Diet Coke. After a great run, I wanted a diet drink. When I needed to wake up, I wanted that caffeine boost. Mealtime? Diet Mountain Dew. I’ve drank as many as six or seven a day, but probably averaged four to five. I would read all of the research about how bad it is for me, but justified my addiction (it truly is an addiction) with the fact that I work out, I drink little alcohol, and I needed that one vice. And I love it. I craved it. And dammit, I needed it.

7-bad-side-effects-of-drinking-diet-soda

I decided that this summer my challenge would be to at least cut back. I tend to drink more water in the summer, so it seemed to be the right time. The first couple of weeks, I would cut down to one or two a few days, and then I’d be back up to three or four. Last week it was time to get serious. I read more articles that stated diet soft drinks can cause me to retain belly fat (who wants that?), causes my teeth to erode (eww!), gives me belly issues (I don’t need help with that). Diet soft drinks are just not good for us. I was ready.

I began by allowing myself only one soft drink per day. That helped me to avoid the caffeine withdrawal and accompanying headaches. I would drink my one treat sometime in the morning, so by that evening a headache would set in. I took Aleve and the headaches were tolerable. Friday I decide to wait until lunch to have my one drink. Guess what! I didn’t want one. So I decided to wait until supper. By dinnertime, I realized that if I’d made it that long, I could make it the rest of the day without my beloved Diet Mountain Dew.

Friday was literally the first day in my adult life that I didn’t drink a soft drink. I was pretty proud – that is a huge accomplishment! I haven’t had a soft drink since; today will be day four. As I was pondering this challenge, I remembered the things I’ve learned through attending AA meetings with my husband. ‘One day at a time’ is one of their mantras, and though my addiction is not as strong as one’s addiction to alcohol or drugs, the mantra surely fits my situation. I can only worry about today. It isn’t easy. Saturday night my husband and I went out for our anniversary, and I craved that fizz and deliciousness of an ice-cold Diet Coke. When I pass the coolers at the grocery store or Walmart, I long to reach in for a Diet Pepsi. As I drive past Circle S, my arms twitch wanting to turn in and purchase my bottle of caffeine.

Besides all of the health benefits this change will provide, I think of the money I will save. Not only do I buy cases of Diet Mountain Dew at the store, but I stop in Circle S once or twice a day to get a Diet Pepsi, which costs $1.74. If I buy 10 a week, that’s $17.40 a week, and over $64 a month! That’s just stupid. I can get two pedicures with that. I can get an outfit with that.

I cannot promise I will be successful with this challenge. My hope is that I can avoid diet drinks long enough that if I do try one, it will taste awful (although I really don’t know if that’s possible). If I can finally begin to lose these few pounds I’ve been at war with, it will certainly give me more incentive to stick with it. If you see me grabbing a soft drink, please feel free to remind me that my teeth will rot and it will add belly fat. Or just rip it out of my hand and throw it far, far away. And then run.

On another completely different note, I’d like to say Happy Father’s Day to my husband and my ex-husband. Together, we three have raised some pretty spectacular kids. I am so blessed that my husband chose to love my daughters when he married me. He has always been there for them, supported them, and helped me with the running, homework, and daily stress. I am also blessed to have a great relationship with their dad. He and I have always made decisions based upon what is best for the girls. We have truly had a successful partnership in parenting. I have witnessed far too many divorced parents who spend so much time hating one another that they forget that at one time they chose to have children together. I have seen the suffering of the kids. My ex-husband and I did not criticize each other in front of the girls, even when others did. We never tried to keep track of time spent with one parent; the girls were free to spend as much time as they chose with each of us. We’ve sat together through matches, graduations, and contests so that the girls didn’t have to decide who’d they would sit with. I know that my girls’ father loves them and I respect that love. Now that our daughters are adults, they have told us how much they appreciate that they’re divorced parents get along so well; after all, they didn’t choose to be in a divorced family. Thank you, Randy, for being a great dad! Thank you, Gary, for loving all of us!

Summer Workout(s)

ImageAs I write this post, I wonder where summer 2012 has gone.  My windows have not been cleaned, my cabinets are still unorganized, I haven’t made that trip to Indy to visit Bethany and Erin, and yet there are only three short weeks left of break.  I spent all day Tuesday at school getting my classroom ready, and have been reading some books at home to prepare for the new batch of inquiring minds that will be walking through my door soon.  I had a total of three weeks that I didn’t go into school this summer.  Addison feels the same as she had six weeks of being at the high school at 7:30 am four days a week for endurance training.  That ended yesterday, and band camps begin Monday.  And what have I done?

I have worked out.  A lot.  Gary is participating in the Biggest Loser competition at Everbody’s, our local gym, so he has a membership for three months while the competition takes place.  Since Addison has been lifting weights and working out, she also wanted a membership so that she doesn’t lose everything she has gained.  So now, we all have memberships.  Since I am supposed to begin teaching Zumba classes there at some point, it makes sense to belong and get to know the members.

Gary has been running, doing the weight machines, riding bikes and walking with me, and even going to a spinning class.  He has lost almost 30 pounds since he started changing his habits in the spring.  His dedication and Addison’s newfound knowledge of working out has rubbed off on me – or just made me feel guilty and lazy!  I have long envied Michelle Obama’s arms, but was never willing to work to get my own set of well-toned biceps.  I am finally taking steps to beef-up my wimpy arms (maybe my next challenge will be bodybuilding!).  I found that I like the machines at the gym.  I am also working on putting together my Zumba class, and have included a great deal of arm work in my choreography.

Because we have all of this going on, I have been working out two or three times a day.  I need to keep up on my running, so I am running in the mornings when I drop Addison off in town.  With this nasty heat we have had, I am running slowly, and taking many walk breaks. After my run, I sometimes head to the gym to do weights.  In the afternoon, I have to work on my Zumba choreography.  I have to have 11 or 12 songs choreographed and ready to go in order to teach a class, and am realizing that memorizing the moves is the toughest part!  I have everything choreographed (at least what I haven’t ‘borrowed’ from my friend and instructor Laura); now I just have to make sure I know each song well enough to teach.  The problem is, working on my class means working out, and Zumba is very high energy.  But it is fun!  I really do love it, and I can’t wait to begin teaching.  I am working to get a class started for the community through the Perry County Wellness program.  I am still attending Zumba class in Hawesville a couple evenings a week, and they have been kind enough to begin letting me lead a song or two so that I can get comfortable before teaching on my own.

Gary and I have also decided to make Friday nights our bike-ride night.  While good exercise, bike-riding is something we enjoy doing together.  It really has been fun working as a family to get fit.  We are trying to eat healthier; Gary has amazing willpower – I do not.  I am doing much better, but good nutrition has always been hard for me.  I cannot say I am not worried about how we will work everything in once I go back to work and we are heavy into band season.  I wish I was dedicated enough to workout at 5 am.  I used to run a couple days a week at that time, but just couldn’t stick with it.  I love to sleep.

As summer winds down – and hopefully takes the temperature with it – I appreciate the time I have had.  My house might not be spotless, and there is always, always sweaty, smelly laundry to do, I am stronger and healthier, and oh, so much happier.  What about you?  What do you do to feel strong?  What small change can you make in your life to live healthier?  Give yourself the gift of 20 minutes a day to become a better you!  You are so worth it!