Tag

Balance

It’s What is on the Outside That Counts

My mood is determined approximately 93% by what I’m wearing at a given time.

It started from infancy, with comfort being a priority. Think: soft cotton onesies and dry diapers. As I grew into toddlerhood and through my early years of schooling, comfort flew by the wayside in favor of glamor (at least what was considered “glamor” in the 80s).

When I was in 4th grade, my parents received a call from the teacher asking if they were aware that I was sporting high heels at school each day.

Apparently my mother’s adult-sized shoes on my kid-sized feet clued Mrs. Smith in that these were not my pre-arranged footwear.

This was not the first contact from school regarding my fashion choices, however. A few years prior, the teacher had asked during a conference if any changes were going on at home. After mulling this over for a while, my mom couldn’t come up with anything:

“I-I was on a business trip last week. Why? Is everything okay?”

“Aha! That must’ve been it, then!” the teacher proclaimed. “Academically she’s been fine, but wore velvet and taffeta dresses with dirty running sneakers to class all week. It was just rather strange.”

Apparently my dad was indifferent about the “homeless-chic” ensemble choices that his child determined were appropriate for kindergarten.

I was lucky enough to have a mom who didn’t fret over the details of my get-ups, unless it compromised the integrity of my family. For the most part 90s-fashion was pretty low-key, anyway, though I sometimes looked with envy on the kids who identified themselves as goth.

Long black dresses and capes, pale faces with dark lipstick;

I wanted to try it, but didn’t think I’d be able to pull off the “too-cool” countenance that seemed so effortless to that crowd.

So I decidedly blended in through high school and college. I kept up with the trends (platform foam flip-flops, tank tops atop other tank tops, risqué mini-skirts, wool sweaters from J. Crew), but didn’t really try anything new during that period of my life.

Upon leaving school and joining the work force, I needed to maintain a sense of decorum, so I dressed preppy and older. My glasses and “teacher-bun” (complete with writing implement jabbed through the center) rounded out the “she’s such a professional” look.

As long as my job was as a professional hot mess, I realize when I look back.

The only thing that set my wardrobe apart were my shoes:

My collection was vast; enviable. Every color and shade was represented, from fuchsia to forest green. But what they all had in common? Height. Towering peep-toes and the tallest wedges took me from pocket-sized to altitudinous amazonian. I was able to walk long stretches, run a marathon if needed, and- most importantly- stand sternly eye-to-eye with my eighth-grade students who had hit growth spurts over the winter break.

I stood straighter and more confidently in my heels, but the moment I switched to flat shoes, I rolled my shoulders forward and waddled like a mallard. Every footfall brought a sense of woe. It’s fascinating how an item of clothing can influence temperament to such a degree.

When I was more than 7 months pregnant with my daughter, I recall slipping my feet into a pair of 4-inch pumps before a night out. I specifically remember that feeling of pleasure I had, to be able to put something on my body that actually fit- that felt GOOD even- was so satisfying. Though it was only 8 years ago, it feels like a lifetime has passed.

I actually can’t pinpoint when I began wobbling.

Looking back I can remember starting to lack confidence in my ability to get up from the table in a restaurant and walk to the restroom. I felt like all eyes were on me: had I drank too much wine with dinner? I could never remember.

During my second pregnancy, I kept falling, especially as my belly grew bigger and threw off my center of gravity. I took precautions to help me balance for the little guy’s safety. After all, I was supposed to be his protector, and it was only a few months that remained. I sat for longer stretches, I gave up exercise, and I stopped wearing heels. I remember that time of my life as being very dark.

After he was born, I was (perhaps a bit selfishly) excited to get my body back.

Falling was more infrequent, but my balance issues were still there. All of a sudden putting on taller shoes was difficult- not because they hurt or didn’t fit, but I genuinely began tottering and weaving awkwardly, as though I was heavily intoxicated. It was a slow progression, but eventually I had to phase out my beautiful high-heeled shoes.

I got rid of most, because I couldn’t bear to let my beautiful shoes see me like this, a shell of my former self, but I presently have a couple of pairs that I’ll slip on- if just for a moment- and let them electrify my soul and uplift my mood.

Then I take them off my feet carefully in favor of some sensible tangerine-and-aqua-floral-patterned flats.

 

*******************************************************************************

Story was in response to the prompt:

“What do your clothes say about you?”

From the wonderful podcast Writing Class Radio

What do your clothes say about you
“There’s no better way to understand ourselves and each other than by writing and sharing our stories.”

I Quit

The time has come; I just have to quit.

Drinking has become a chore. Finding the alcohol in every situation…

quit mimosas

There’s no drink service on this plane/in this comedy club/at this tapas joint? How can I possibly deal?
Will I be able to sneak a bottle into that festival/concert/cruise ship?
How will I function without alcohol at this holiday party/high school reunion/completely random social gathering?

 

Perhaps there is a comfort in knowing exactly where to go (the bar!) and what to do (get a drink!) when entering a potentially awkward situation, but hopefully this is something that a mature (kinda) adult can deal with.

I’m not a person who has some amazing blackout-rode-a-llama-home-from-the-bar-and-there-are-3-people-who-I-don’t-know-sleeping-on-my-kitchen-floor-and-how-did-I-end-up-with-MORE-money-in-my-wallet-than-I-started-out-with-? story, but I’ve definitely had periods in my life during which I imbibed a little more than I should: when I was dealing with my diagnosis, coming to terms with my separation, that time(s) that my kids just would NOT STOP (okay, so that’s daily).

And my interest has just not been where it used to be. I truly feel that sometimes I’ll have a cocktail out of habit, not enjoyment.

quit alcohol

And health!
Of course it’s better for your body to stay away from alcohol. As per WebMD, drinking, even moderately, boosts one’s risk for several types of cancer (but, let’s be honest, that site is infamous for diagnosing everyone, even someone with the slightest swollen glands, with the big C).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism discusses the horrific effects of drinking on most of one’s anatomy, including the brain (shocker: it’s harder to think clearly when you’ve been consuming alcohol), the heart (stroke, among other issues), the liver (I think we were all aware of this one), the pancreas (dangerous inflammation and swelling), and the immune system (maybe get 2 flu shots this year?).

Further research discusses how the chronic abuse of ethanol (alcohol) can have permanent effects of brain function.

And of course my health in particular, which has taken a turn for the worse as of late. I know drinking alcohol is disproved of among the medical community in regards to autoimmune diseases, so this is precisely directed toward my goal of taking MS down!

I’m not talking about the dude that has a couple of beers on Saturday night with his buddies then calls it a night, and I’m not implicating that woman who meets her co-worker for a drink after work.

I’m also not talking about that guy who needs a couple of shots of vodka in his orange juice in order to function for the rest of the day or the lady who carries around a flask of rum to work to pour into her coffee. The chemically-dependent individual is on a whole different level.

I’m talking about ME. I am not a binge drinker. I wouldn’t even consider myself an abuser, but I do drink.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of a bordeaux, saying “No thank you.”

I just don’t need another “thing.”

I remember quitting smoking. How it seemed completely impossible in the beginning. I couldn’t even wrap my brain around the concept of going to a bar and NOT smoking.

  • Being in my car and NOT smoking.
  • Eating a meal and afterward NOT smoking.
  • Taking a smoke-break at work and NOT smoking.

Now, however, I feel so completely free of the burden of cigarettes: of buying them, of having them in supply at all times, of smelling like them (in retrospect, eww!), and of having to go outside in the middle of January to have one.

Will I feel more unburdened without having alcohol in my life?

Let’s find out.

Forgetting MS

Sometimes I legitimately forget.

It’s 9 am and the moving truck is coming in an hour. I’ve been up since 5:30 and still haven’t finished packing up my clothes. Or- doh!- the basement. I wish I could just power through, like I had planned.
My legs, though, they’ve quit- they up and decided that they’d had enough.
And now I sit and wait. Wait for my mom to get here. Wait for my ex to get here. Wait for my legs to feel up to the task of walking; a task that I’d taken advantage of for the 30 years before I started to show symptoms of MS.

My message is this: don’t take advantage of the things we all sometimes take for granted. The ability to see, the ability to hear, the ability to walk.

Love to all <3

Forgetting MS
My baby, sleeping on the floor, next to one of the many moving boxes throughout the house.

Hike

hike

 

Butterflies the color of frothy milk bubbles glided close to my nose and tall grass tickled my ankles.I breathed in the sweet smell of honeysuckle, peering through the tree trunks, so long and slender, like the necks of a hundred giraffes.

On foot, I raced the strong river currents. The sound of the rushing water spilling over abounding rocks competed with the raucous chirping of the blue heron.

A wall of dirt loomed to the left, the gnarled roots of trees jutting out toward me, desperately searching for nutrients. The path became more narrow and I looked down at the rocks and sticks and uneven ground that tried to prevent my endurance on the trail.

Looking back up to the mountains in the distance was all at once exhilarating and calming. My breath felt like it had been cut short, to blame: the enchanting scene before me, the thin mountain air, the strenuous hike. I took a large gulp of oxygen and continued to put one foot in front of the other. I allowed my mind to meander through the cavernous enclaves of thought that paralleled the twisting path.

I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s a fact that those with multiple sclerosis cannot hike on dirt paths through the mountains. But I put that thought out of my mind and concentrated on planting my feet on the ground in a meditative rhythm. A little over an hour had passed and I started to notice that it was becoming harder to lift my feet over the debris on the trail. I was beginning to move at a much slower pace than my mom and my sister, whose bodies became smaller and smaller as they got further away. Don’t look back… don’t look back and see me stumbling.View from our hike

My new soundtrack became the more frequent tapping of my walking stick as it hit the earth, and my breath as it augmented when I tried to speed up. The last few paces of the hiking trail were a struggle. Although I didn’t feel tired, my legs and feet just wouldn’t obey the directives so clearly laid out to them by my brain. I looked up the dirt path, assessing whether I’d be able to make it, or if I’d be spending my remaining years sitting on a rock, only a few feet from the paved road. From around the corner, I saw the dog, pulling my sister down toward where I was standing. She put out her arm without a word and I gratefully grabbed hold, allowing her to be my support up the rocky hill.

I’ve never been more appreciative to see the blacktop of a parking area, and I welcomed the sight of the silver Mazda that my mom had thankfully pulled around closer to where I had emerged. With a huff and a grunt, I fell into the backseat of the vehicle, the dog seated comfortably next to me. I caught my breath and absorbed the coolness of the air conditioning. My mom twisted around to look at me. “So, what did you think?”cloud and sun

I looked over to the magnificence of the mountains, the clear lake below. I thought about the butterflies and the birds. I remembered the trees and the colors so vivid that I actually felt them. “I can’t wait to go again.”

 

An Aspiration for Adequate III

(Read episode 1 here and 2 here)

Episode 3
The Situation on the Airplane

drunk on airplane

There had been a lot of dramatic ‘goings-on’ in my life lately, so I was happy to have gone away, on my own, to visit my sister Maggie in Charleston, South Carolina. I absolutely adore her and had such a wonderful time getting to be there with her and my brother-in-law Josh, as well as my cousins, Kate and Amanda. We laughed and chatted over great local food, did some shopping, beach yoga, the typical touristy stuff that one tends to miss out on when he or she lives in a place for a while. Everything was perfect. Unfortunately, though, the weekend had passed by, and it was time to board the plane to go home.

Though it wasn’t a particularly long journey up the coast, I wasn’t able to get a direct flight. After less than an hour, I got myself off the plane for the quick lay-over in Baltimore. With just enough time to grab a bite to eat, I went over to the restaurant and sat myself at the bar. I tried to choose the healthiest option on the menu, considering I would have to wear four pairs of Spanx to counteract the amount of food that I had already consumed this weekend. When my salad came, I shoveled it down my gullet as quickly as possible, took my pain medication, and chugged my glass of water. I paid. I left. It was as uneventful as it gets.

Anyway, I had a flight to get to.

Continue Reading…

An Aspiration for Adequate II

(Read Episode 1 here)

Episode 2
The Situation at the Festival

Moments after my son causes me to fall down. All smiles.
The kids enjoying themselves, once they had ice-cream.

Another beautiful, if a tad sweltering, summer’s day. I decided to take the kiddos to the next town over for their Polish Festival, which was said to be rather popular. I made sure that all of us looked cute, just in case of a run-in with someone I knew. As we pulled up, I could tell this was just one of those gatherings where vendors all assemble with the motive of selling crap to my kids that they’ll just HAVE to own, then never glance at again (that is, until I try to get rid of it in six months, when it’ll become their absolute favorite again). I found my wallet hidden at the bottom of my giant mom-bag and peered inside. No cash. I groaned. “Alright guys, Mommy has to hit an ATM before we do anything, so don’t ask.” We started parading through the crowd, on a mission to find a bank, a drug store, anywhere that housed a machine. Along our travels we passed by plenty of booths with homemade treasures, a temptingly cold frozen yogurt truck, and about eight thousand vestibules where groups of friends congregated to purchase authentic Polish beers. The popularity of this festival now began to make sense. I continued on my search, scanning the area for places to get money for my little crew, who were starting to get restless and whiney. I knew I had mere moments before they turned on me.

“Mom, I’m thiiiiirsty!”

“Mom, I’m hotttttt!”

“Mom, carry meeee!”

We finally reached the end of the sellers’ booths, and as relieved as I was to be free of the congested horde of buffoons waiting in line for face painting (a line which I planned on getting on as soon as my finances allowed), I discovered that I’d stumbled across a town that was remarkably shade-free. Apparently, it was ATM-free as well. The sun’s heat felt heavy on my limbs, but I continued, fighting through the weight that was almost paralyzing on my legs.

Continue Reading…

Something Isn’t Right (Part 2)

“Just be careful. Don’t fall again.”

He was referencing the week before, and the week before that, when, both times, I had tripped, coming down directly on my stomach, landing me in the hospital for test after test. The nurses knew me in the maternity ward now, and I was embarrassed to do it again, unless it was actually go time. I concentrated on my footing as we yelled hearty thank-yous to the elderly couple who stood on their front porch and waved goodbye to us.

“I’m good,” I said to him quietly. Then excitedly, “Ooooh, look! Snickers! Full-size!” It was the little things.

I was looking back, not paying enough attention. Off-balance from my sizable stomach. I fell. Again.

“Oh my God, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, as I brushed the grass and dirt off. What the hell was wrong with me? “I’ll go to a few more houses and then go back,”  I told him. I looked down at the bump that extruded from my purple sweater.

“You’ll be alright,” I whispered. “Hang in there. I promise to be more careful.”

**********

A week later, just a few days before my due date, a regular office visit with my obstetrician turned into a fast-paced walk over to the connecting hospital. Hunter was born unto this world, healthy as an ox, the next day.

I was actually feeling pretty damn good after the whole rigmarole, and I looked forward to getting my body back in working order.

Finally, I’d be able to walk across the room without fear of toppling over!

Unfortunately, my balance didn’t return. I knew something was going on, after all, balance had been my “thing” at gymnastics class as a kid.

Must just be an old-age-hormone cocktail, I lied to myself.

 

Something Isn’t Right (Part 1)

There were many hours that I spent on the computer during my second pregnancy, tirelessly investigating the type of fruit that the fetus inside me compared to in size.

I needed to distract myself from the nausea and disgusting metallic taste in my mouth that was not unlike chewing on a Duracell. I watched Avery play as I absent-mindedly clicked on an advertisement for shoes. Four-inch heels in buttery teal leather that I could not afford, nor could I even wear without teetering over, but still, I had to look.

I waited for my husband to come home from work so that we could take our little girl out for her second Halloween. We’d help her to knock on our neighbors’ doors and say “trick-or-treat!” and add candy into the pumpkin that she gripped firmly in her little hand. She’d sleep soundly after all the day’s excitement, and then I would pick through the container until I got hold of the good stuff. I could almost taste the peanut butter cups already, and the thought of it made me salivate.

Halloween

In the past, before children had altered our ritual, we would sit on the front patio, cursing under our breath as we attempted to carve faces into pumpkins with plastic tools from the drugstore. Our neighborhood would fill with zombies, witches, and princesses, all with outstretched hands, begging for goodies. We’d oblige, and then, as dinnertime approached, the costumed tykes would begin to dissipate in a fog.

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