Squish Your Ladies, Ladies!

My first mammogram was so much different than what I envisioned. I have been told tales of nightmarish incidents. This? This is what countless women have warned me of? Really?

I made my dreaded appointment months ago thinking the far-off date would allow me time to prepare. I am turning 40 this year and have always been a bit over-informed medically speaking, but it’s served me well thus far. I knew that a mammogram was something I had to do, but I was beyond nervous. I was actually fearful.

I can take pain, quite well actually. The thought of my girls being smooshed on a cold surface between two equally cold plates, however ignited in me a fire of fear. Irrational for sure, but the seed of worry had been planted by the numerous women I have discussed this with over the last several years.

I was told I wouldn’t be able to breathe, that the squishing, if you will, would be painful and nearly unbearable. I have heard women speak of the ridiculously cold surface and the dreaded closing of the press.

I arrived to my appointment early, I am habitually early. I checked in and took a seat. My face flushed, my feet were fidgeting, and my sight started to close in. Anxiety, hello there! While sitting in the waiting room I watched the people come and go, wondering how much longer I must wait before I find my fate. Heather? I look up to see an attractive younger (than me, sigh) woman in scrubs scanning the room. I rise from my seat, offer a smile and say that’s me.

She brings me into the mammo room, as I’m calling it, and I see the big intriguing machine. Not so scary at first look, let’s see what this is all about. She continues explaining what she will do and how results work. She closes the little curtain for me to undress and put on a top that covers little and I wonder why not just have me stand topless? It would be easier for both of us it seems… She then tells me we’re going to first do one this way, then that way (that way is simply at an angle). She lifts my right breast, lays it on the plate, not that cold honestly. The other plate comes down and I’m certain I’ll pass out momentarily. Suddenly I realize that I have reached full-squish. I look to the technician and say that’s it? She informs me for that angle and breast, yes that was it.

She continues the other angle, switches to the other breast and finishes me up. Again, I say to her that’s it? we’re done? She confirms this and I go into explaining my fears before I had arrived to her. I tell her that this was so beyond easy-peasy that I couldn’t believe the tales of horror I’d been described before now. She encourages me to tell others how I feel and I tell her I’m going to blog about it. Women need this lifesaving test done, and we women need to not create fear in our peers about doing it. I would rather have a mammogram than an IV. I’d prefer a boob-squish to a throat culture. Sure a little discomfort, but an overeager young man could cause a lady more boob pain than a mammo.

So, I urge you ladies approaching the big 4-0, and those that are like me and are certain it will be more painful than bearing a child get your girls checked. Be brave and take initiative. I assure you that you will be grateful you did when you get a clean bill of boob-health, and if you don’t, all the more grateful you will be.

 

Let the Light Shine

I failed. I failed at being patient. I failed at being understanding. I failed at controlling my temper. I reacted to a comment and before I knew it, was neck-deep in a war of words with my husband.

Twenty years we’ve been together. Twenty years and we still have moments in which we act like spoiled kids and throw insults at each other. I should have taken just one second to evaluate what it was he said to me, how he said it, and whether it was frustration directed at me or just frustration in his voice, directed at no one in particular.

In hindsight I saw clearly that he was not directing any animosity toward me, nor was his frustration because of me. He simply made a comment and I flew into a rage. I was convinced he was attacking my character.

What had begun as a beautiful, fun day, full of hope and love, was at once turned to darkness. I singlehandedly darkened the entire world around me.

If only I had controlled my temper. If only I had taken just one moment to be sure I was reacting appropriately. It’s so difficult for me to admit when I’m wrong. It’s paralyzing. To have this one person in my life that sees me at my worst, best and all the adjectives in between and loves me all the while is really something, isn’t it? To know without question that someone in this world will accept us when we aren’t lovable to say anything about likeable, this is the fabric of life.

To be loved means you must love. To find acceptance you must be accepting. To be seen at your most vulnerable allows a loved one to see you authentically. We race through each day and show our smiles to passerby’s, maybe we gaze downward to avoid eye contact in an attempt to keep to ourselves. We tell those who ask that we are well even if we are crumbling inside. We as humans lie daily in our quest to be accepted.

I can’t hide from my husband. He sees and I believe, feels my moods as they change. He can anticipate a good day on the horizon. He can anticipate a storm before the clouds even fill my sky. He can also tolerate all that I am. It’s not easy to see all and still love someone completely, without condition, yet he does just that. He loves me for all I am, and in spite of all I am. In my husband’s eyes I am flawed, damaged and beautiful. His love stabilizes me. He is the glue to the fabric of my soul.

I couldn’t say why I have been blessed with such love. I can’t say that I am to him all he is to me. I hope to be, I try to be, but I know he exceeds and surpasses me at every turn. My husband is everything we should all hope to be. Tolerant, loyal, forgiving and honest.

I failed in a moment, but I triumphed in life. Today I will attempt to be a success in regard to my treatment of others, of my husband, and my children. It isn’t easy loving me. It isn’t simple. I came into the world as a complicated soul and I believe that is how I’ll leave it. I don’t apologize for my misstep, an apology is usually (in my experience) a short-term solution and a way for the assailant to excuse their behavior. Instead, I admit to my wrongs. I own my actions and get up and try again to be a better me.

I thank God and all the energy in this world for finding me the one soul I would need throughout my journey here. I give thanks for being so lucky as to have found this love, this friendship so long ago. My husband is my light and his light shines endlessly.

 

 

The Pets That Own Me

 

Two cats, a miniature dog, a teenaged boy, a husband and an neurotic-perfectionist of a wife all coexisting and learning to share space. I find it infuriating and amusing (depends on the day) that although my spouse and son have learned to avoid my space when I am irritable, my pets would rather ruffle my already rumpled feathers than show me any sort of respect. I feed and water them daily, keep their litter clean, provide veterinary care as needed, and offer my love to them constantly. In spite of all my efforts to provide a decent home, they show me that I am merely a resident in their lair.

Walter my 2-year-old tom cat, to say the least is unique. He likes to hop onto my bed, climb upon my chest and ever so gently outstretch his front legs slowly and land his paws on my face. Right. On. My. Face. I could have a book in hand, no matter, Walter reaches right over it. My husband is not the “cuddle the kitty” type. Often as he lay in bed, up comes Wally and walks over his bare chest and turns about as though plumping a good spot to take a load off. Clearly, no fear has Walter.

Macy, a six-year-old spayed feline with tolerance for no one still rejects the affections offered her by Walter.  She prefers to be left to her napping, eating and lounging regiment. Simplicity is for Macy. Odd is how we describe her. She wishes not to be held, but yearns for petting and responds in kind with the yawl of death. She watches her humans from afar as though to say “distance, keep your distance”.  She has a belly that hangs low, just missing the surface beneath her as she walks to and from feeding place to napping place to excrement place. This is the life of Miss Macy.

Walter has determined his most favored activity of late to be the torturing of Macy. He lurks around corners, sneaks behind inanimate objects and lies in wait for her next excursion through his quarters.  He will pounce her from afar and although she prefer to not engage in physical activity, she comes to life with a vengeance. Hissing and scurrying she fights off his attempts at playful encounter and retreats to a safer space. Walter will then look for entertainment elsewhere for a short time before returning to his quest in tormenting Macy.

Max, the alpha (and only) dog of the Manor, is Walter’s bff. To my amazement, they play and clean each others ears seemingly unaware of the difference in species. Max, or Dinky as we affectionately call him due to his miniature size, is 12 years old and a baby at heart. He is unaware of his senior status and his energy is unending. He is able to leap to my hip in order to grasp my undivided attention. He can still run at hypersonic speeds when called in from his daily out-of-doors excursions. All in all, he’s truly a youngster at heart.

This morning in my rush to get out the door on time, (again, unsuccessful) I smashed my thumb whilst crushing ice for a smoothie, spilled the powdered mix, overfilled the water jugs, and felt composure leaving my body. Max is jumping up to me and with every take he is poking his little paws into my thigh. As I urge Max to stop, I look to my left and there he is, atop the counter fully aware of his wrongdoing. Smug, looking right at me as though to say “whatcha gonna do ’bout it?”  I turn back to the sink, finish the botched job I had begun and see a small juice glass staring at me; taunting me. I filled it and unbeknownst to the offender, walked over nearer him and hurled the water in his face. Walter turned and leapt off the counter with a wet face and neck,  as he hit the floor and looked back at me with disgust and utter astonishment, I say “No Walter, I will not be messed with today”.

In some small way I won today’s battle, although I am fully aware the war will wage on and I am merely a servant and will never see a true victory so long as I choose to reside in Walter’s abode.

 

 

 

 

An Odyssey of Faith

“You are how you act, not just how you believe”-Mitch Albom, Have a Little Faith

This quote struck a nerve in me. We as a society have awakened and progressed socially in various aspects during my lifetime alone. Still, I must wonder, how many of us truly act in the manner in which we believe

I believe in equality for all. I believe we are all created equal. The strong, weak, intellects, athletes, every creed, race and kind known on earth.  Equality. Then I find myself acting otherwise. I don’t judge based on one’s social status or choices, but I do judge.  I have gossiped, I have found myself engaged in conversation that is unbecoming at best.  I certainly have been judgmental for no warranted reason.  I paint myself in one light and have found that I may be looking at myself through a lens of obscurity.

I set out on a spiritual journey of sorts this year. I find a need, a calling to not only understand my faith, but to adhere it to my daily living. I was not baptized nor was I brought up in a family that attended church regularly. My step-father insisted on Christmas Eve candle-lit service every year and that was the most diligence exemplified regarding the church in my upbringing. I have attended our local churches and sought counsel from a few pastors. I have listened to sermons that touched me and others that have flown over my head with their reference to biblical verse. I have been offered every kindness and acceptance within our local parishes and still have yet to find where I feel I belong. Could it be that I don’t belong in a house of the Lord, or that I simply refuse to adhere to the discipline it would require? I feel it is ostensibly the latter.

I read recently that religion is more than faith, it’s ritual also. Not only weekly worship, but morning prayer, evening prayer, fasting, communion, whatever ones denomination practices. I assuredly do not apply these to my life on a daily, weekly or even yearly basis so how is it that I cast a shadow of judgement on those that do attend worship weekly? I have peered down my nose and labeled others as six-day sinners and a one-day saint, when really those that I am referring to are taking the initiative to be present in their faith, at least weekly.

Society is now inflicted with the information age, we hide behind computer screens, tablets and phones. We check-in with our social media daily but not our God. We make and take time to scan our Facebook and Twitter feeds but not the time to say Grace before a meal. Is it that we no longer have faith, or have we as a society become idle in our conviction of faith?

When did worship become embarrassing? When did we decide it uncool to share our spiritual idealism with others and seek guidance from our neighbors? Did we get so busy in our laziness that we cast God aside? Have we become such an indifferent society that we find our social media a more necessary activity than participating in our faith?

I do not have any of the answers to my own questions, I am just another roving soul seeking security and love from my God. I will continue in my quest for a place of worship, I may have already found it and must simply apply myself in showing up. I will hope for understanding from others and I will practice returning the kindnesses and considerations I have been blessed with.

I urge all to take a moment to acknowledge the correlation between ones beliefs and actions. Our beliefs are what makes us who we want to be, our actions make us who we are.

Chasing Chubby

DISCLAIMER: I in NO way think that a “skinny bitch” is actually a bitch. You (if you are thin and don’t try to be) are called a bitch because you know not the struggle of the scale, the battle of the bulge, the combat of the chunky. We don’t hate you, we merely are not able to comprehend you, therefore we give you a name. It’s more an honor than a slur. We’re jealous. Period.

I have been blessed with the struggle of weight since I was nearly 12 years old. I was teased for being bigger before that age, but looking back at photos (trust me, I’ve scoured looking for that fat girl of 10 years old) I wasn’t an overweight child.  I was not only average, I was taller than all the boys. Although I was bigger than the other girls, I was thin, healthy, normal. I believed that I was chubby before I even was! Isn’t that an indicator of the influence others have on our self-image? My father, God rest his soul, would often say to me when I was eating: “Be careful or that will slip down behind you where you can’t see it”, oh thanks, I hadn’t considered that before! I never was angry or hurt by his comment, as Dad was a member of the chubby club too. A lifer, at that.

I thank God for being given the gift of fat. Yes, you read that correctly. I am delighted to know that because of my extra pounds, I easily have empathy for others. I don’t judge people based on size, social status, faith or profession. I learned early in life to appreciate kindness wherever it came from, albeit not quite early enough (shout out to those I bullied to feel stronger as a kid, I’m so sorry!).

You know who the kindest people are? Those that have struggled. Poor people, old people, those labeled as nerds, freaks or otherwise. The ones that have experienced torment, judgment and have been blackballed due to no fault of their own.  I am a member of that elite group.  It was through this membership that  I fundamentally learned the importance of offering a smile to strangers, especially those with a sadness in their eyes. If not for my struggle with the bulge, I could never have recognized the faces as easily as I do.
I’ve been called many names as a result of my heft, mostly in high school. The most memorable yet scarring of which has to be Goodyear, as in the blimp. Now I know this name was not warranted by my size in school. Throughout my entire high school career I never went bigger than a size 14. Goodyear. Really? Although I must admit, the originality was off the charts. I could have been called Thunder Thighs or a cow or many other boring, overused names. Thanks go to my tormenters for keeping it spicy.

I have been known as the chubby sister, a big boned girl (which a physician was kind enough to shoot down and inform me I am actually small framed-Awesome), the hefty one, big, heavy, heavy-set and any other adjectives associated with being overweight. I am heavier than some, lighter than others. I do not see myself as obese, although P!nk and I both seem to fall into this category.

I think know that being the heavy one in some ways gave me thicker skin. Quite early in life I was able to put on a tough front and became a tyrant to in order to thwart any subsequent bullying.  For the most part, it worked. The flip side of my tough exterior was the disturbance my image as a tough-girl had on my education and home life. I was an obstinate child.  I learned how to stifle my emotions publically to ensure no one ever knew that they caused me pain. At home I was an emotional, out-of-control, defiant kid. Amongst my peers I appeared indifferent, strong, and in control.  I made damn sure no one could see how I truly felt about anything. I see that this was an entirely thwarted effort on my part, as I developed some serious anxieties related to my self-image.

Cut to adulthood-

I had 2 children by the age of 25. I recall once receiving an anonymous letter that was a full-page Sunday edition, newspaper “fat ad”. Someone actually wanted to hurt me enough that they took the time to cut it out, find my mailing address and send to me. I was astonished and bewildered and clearly very hurt. I was a new mom, I wasn’t some morbidly obese individual in danger of losing my life to obesity. This is the life of the heavy girl. Some time later I decided to try shedding the protective layers I’d been carrying. I found a diet I liked, decided to become active and lost about 80 pounds in just over 8 months. I was thin, young and sexy. I began to get noticed and found the attention humiliating. Yes, humiliating. People I’d known since childhood suddenly found me interesting and this only made me want to punch them in the face. Where was this support when I actually needed it? Why was I only now worthy as a thin person? I learned another lesson here, people can be so very shallow and appearances clearly do matter.

There were many personal victories for me as a new found skinny bitch. I had energy for my young kids and indulged in fashion in ways I’d only dreamt of before. I enjoyed moving and found exercise to be a release for me. I wore a two piece bathing suit publically.  I became obsessed with eating in new and “healthy” ways. I was however, definitely a bit obnoxious in my quest for thin. I recall one family cookout in particular where we were all eating and I heard myself repeatedly announcing how many Weight Watcher points were in this, or that. I was becoming that person. I wanted to tell myself to shut up and eat some chips. I felt bad for putting my new obsession on my family, but yet said nothing to the effect. I was a skinny bitch and that now bothered me.

It took about six years to do, but I found the weight I had lost, and a little extra just for kicks. I had started a new job, a desk job. This led to lack of daily movement, which led to excuses in my head which led to pounds on my ass. Slowly yet surely my weight climbed the ladder to obesity and here I am! I am back to where I once was over 10 years ago, this time no scale is needed, it’s all about the clothes. I flip and flop with a 20 pound flex, at times I’ve lost even more. Stress is a great diet, although not one I recommend!

At this point I’ve learned that no one has the power to make me feel anything about my weight. That lies solely on me. I control this. The weight, the feelings of inadequacy due to my weight, and the happiness I lack when I’m feeling too heavy, are all mine. I don’t need judgement from anyone else, I am my own worst critic. I took the power away from others long ago. No one can make me feel less than because I weigh more. I feel so grateful that my husband has never (thin or heavy) made me feel anything less than beautiful. He sees me, the me I’ve always been, the me I had hoped to reveal to the world when I initially peeled away the pounds. He has never judged me, tried to hinder my weight loss, or implied that I should diet. He loves me, and because of him I know I’m good enough, no matter my size.

I hope to lose some of me again soon, and this time I hope my maturity allows that I will maintain without self-sabotage. I will continue to outwardly show no feeling and have decided that I’m okay with that. The world doesn’t need to know my heart or see my weaknesses. I will continue to smile and show courtesy to others and hope for the same in return. And lastly, to all the big girls out there: Embrace your sensual selves, have the cake if you want to and know that you deserve just as much as the next skinny bitch.

 

 

There She Goes…

 

I became a mother just before I turned twenty years old, my  future husband was only eighteen. We had both dropped out of high school in our junior year, and both had little going for us. We came from broken homes, ugly divorces and together vowed to not go the way of our parents. Come what may, we knew together was how we’d remain.

Born 3 weeks early,  in a blinding snowstorm on the first day of February 1997. She came into this world weighing barely 5 pounds. She was pink and perfect. Our beautiful baby girl. Frightened and full of hope we took her home and embarked on our journey together as a family.

We seemingly grew-up alongside our daughter. Learning as we went and following no particular guide. Mothering came so easily to me, my calling had been discovered. My daughter was the missing link I’d been searching for. She and I have been a team since day one. The old adage of “I’m not your friend, I’m your parent” never really applied to us. At times I attempted being just her parent, although time and again I failed. I would lose my temper, I acted childish at times and would even argue as though I were a sibling, with her.

The one constant my husband and I have with our kids has been brutal honesty. We demand it from them and they have come to expect it from us. We use inappropriate language. We don’t always sit down at the table together for meals. We have a sense of humor that many would call indecorous. We don’t entertain, nor do we go out on the town. We live in the foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountains, and are happiest when we are living simply and quietly away from the bustle of life.

Our daughter was and remains our claim to small-town fame. When you reside in a tri-town valley with a population of just over 1,700, people know and remember your every move. There were whispers questioning her paternity, questioning my ability to be a responsible parent. There were loud whispers betting on the collapse of our relationship before we even moved in together. We married when our first-born was two years old and nearly twenty-two years later we are happily, solidly, very much together.

Now we find ourselves faced with coming full circle as parents. We have raised our girl, watched her grow into a young lady and now she is preparing to spread her wings and go her own way. She tried going the way of college and found living on campus to not be a fit for her, she completed a semester on campus and decided to try community college instead. She then lived with her boyfriend for a short while and returned home to save some money and live with ease for a time.

I will watch her pack her room and sort through her childhood deciding what to take and what to pack away. I will once again prepare to choke back the tears as I watch her head out that door knowing I won’t be leaving the porch light on for her. I won’t come home to find her trail of belongings left like breadcrumbs for me. There won’t be peanut butter stuck to the side of a spoon or left beside her bed from a late-night snack. I won’t lose my hairspray, lotions or deodorants to the abyss that is her bedroom. I won’t complain daily to my husband or son of the messes she leaves and wonder aloud why she can’t simply hang her jacket on a hook, instead adorning the back of every chair with different style jacket. I won’t have a team member in the room to have my back on the debates of the sexes. I will once again be the one solitary feminine presence in the household.

With her moving will come newness to our relationship that we tasted for a brief moment once before. We won’t be bickering near as often, we won’t know the ins and outs of each other’s daily life and we will find ourselves feeling renewed in our friendship yet again. This is where our closeness in age will have it’s time to shine. We will have our phone calls and daily check-ins yet again. I will share my excitements and frustrations with her and she with me. We will become closer, no doubt in our distance.

They say having a daughter means having a best friend for life. I say that having a daughter has enhanced my life in ways I never could have foreseen. Being a mother, her mother, has brought my life meaning and purpose. In my daughter I have found the pieces of me that I never knew I longed so deeply to find. Now as she begins to embark upon making her own life; independent of her father, brother and I, we will watch with a wistful excitement and wish her to find all the joys in this life that she has brought to us.

 

 

 

 

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