This will (hopefully) be the last time I broach the Vampire subject, but I actually enjoyed the Twilight movie. A lot. On Friday, I excitedly made plans to see it on Sunday with Rhiannon, but when I went to tell Dave that he was off the hook, he got bummed out. Apparently, he actually WANTED to see the movie, both to experience something with me that he knew I would enjoy and also because he was just curious to see what all the talk was about. I had quite mistakenly assumed the only reason he was going was so he could mock me, but I was wrong. So like a bad friend, I bailed on RhiRhi and Dave took me to the 10:00 showing on Friday night.
I know, I know, y'all wish I would go ahead and post the Cashew Chicken recipe next and I promise the next time I make it, I'll take the pictures and show you how I do it, even though it's not my recipe and I'll probably be violating some international copyright law or something. But I'll do it, for you.
So I'm typing this entry from my shiny! new! laptop! which I just this morning actually opened and powered on. So far? Pretty easy. Definitely cool. I'm still getting used to where the delete key is and I already have a few questions:
It appears I've taken a bit of a break from ye old blog. I swear it was unintentional! Not even my fault!
I mentioned that I received all four of Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series books in the mail Wednesday, right? Well, if you've read them, then it's no surprise where I've been. READING. If you HAVEN'T read them, what are you waiting for? This bandwagon is quickly getting staler than The Volturi. (ha!) (I am such a nerd).
It's been a long time since I've read something so utterly compelling. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that Twilight is LITERATURE because it's simply not, but DAYEM, it is some good reading. I could NOT put the books down to save my life; the story was just that engrossing. Dave feels like I've taken a vacation from my real life for the past week and it's true, I've been here but MIA. If you want to know how good these books are I have a few pieces of evidence. 1) Carpal tunnel syndrome. FROM READING. (The books are big and heavy and I never put them down long enough to give my wrists a break). 2) Twice during the past 7 days, I've gone more than 24 hours without opening my laptop. At all. That hasn't happened in, oh, SEVEN YEARS. And 3) My new MacBook came YESTERDAY and it's still in the box. I haven't even peeled the tape yet. I couldn't break away from Edward and Bella long enough to open it.
A few notes (SPOILERS AHEAD).
This was the first time I've read YA (Young Adult) fiction since I was a young adult myself. I've never even read Harry Potter, so the idea of reading outside my genre was what initially kept me from picking up these books, but I'm SO glad I finally did. Once you get over the fact that these are books about teenagers and vampires and are basically just another star-crossed lovers high school drama, they're actually quite good.
The best measure of good writing in my humble opinion is that the words never get in the way of the story. This is why I prefer a good Hemingway to anything ever written by the evil doctor of description, Stephen King. I HATE HATE HATE his books, but love his movies since you don't actually have to READ all that tedious description. I find it obnoxious when writers micro-manage my imagination, forcing me to see their subjects in only the EXACT way that they do. I prefer having the freedom to picture things my own way and never has an author made that easier for me than Stephenie Meyer. Simplicity of style is one of the things I like most about blogs, so it's no wonder I enjoyed these books. Maybe I've found a new genre?
I think it was important for me NOT to see the movie before finishing the books. I saw a brief glimpse of the trailer and that was all it took for me to finally buck up and read the series. Because I'm a grown up, I never really pictured Edward or Bella (or any of the other characters) as TEENAGERS. Even when I was a teenager myself, few things were grosser to me than teenage boys. (Have you ever walked into a teenage boy's bedroom after they've had the windows closed for a few hours? I REST MY CASE.) So in my 32 year old mind, Edward is a DUDE, not a kid. I think that helped me get over the teenager aspect of the books and Bella is one of those kids who's basically already an adult before she's ever actually legal (and guess who related well to that?). I think I'm going to HATE the movie because it will ruin all the pretty grown ups I've created in my head and replace them with scrawny teenagers. We'll see.
(AGAIN SPOILER ALERT!) I spent the first two and half books waiting for them to finally address the sex issue. I kept laughing because while, like Bella, I was a teenager well ahead of my years, I wasn't spending my romances fantasizing about my boyfriends EYES. I kept waiting for the author to answer all my burning sex questions and she waits almost until the last book to reveal that vampires even HAVE sex. Man, that was a long time to wait. The fact that Edward and Bella wait until their married is sweet, particularly considering that this was YA and something I wouldn't mind my own daughter reading some day, but still. Stephenie Meyers' Mormon was REALLY showing when it came to the naughty bits. She makes True Blood look like something you can only rent from the back of the video store.
[Did anyone else notice the True Blood/Twilight plot overlap? Where Bella = Sookie, Edward = Bill and Jacob = Sam? Shapeshifters! That made me laugh and now we can all safely assume that Sookie and Bill end up together, can't we?]
So if you've made it this far still reading, I can safely assume that you also liked the books (or you're having a good laugh at my dorky vampire-loving expense). Care to share your thoughts?
In the same week as some pretty offensive comments on my blog, the Internet has totally redeemed itself in the following ways:
1. A month ago I mentioned on the Naked Ledger that I had decided to go ahead and buy a MacBook with my share of Dave's bonus money. A long-term reader and always nice commenter (who shall remain nameless per her request) (but hey girl, THANKS!) offered to let me use her husband's Apple friends and family discount to buy it. I'm ordering it today for a $200 discount. How sweet is that?!
2. A week ago I finally decided I was ready to start reading the Twilight series (mostly because I saw the movie trailer and decided it was a must-see, but I have to read the book first). (Also? VAMPIRES!) I checked and our local library system has something like 60 copies of Twilight. When I went put my name on the hold list, there were 315 people on it before me. But we're not buying stuff this month (and I generally never buy books), so I tweeted that I was ready to read it if anyone had the books lying around and I got a huge response. By Wednesday afternoon, a big box arrived with ALL FOUR of Stephenie Meyer's books from another excellent and sweet long-time blog reader. (Thanks, Becca!)
My friend Carissa ALSO sent me the first book too, so now I'll have TWO copies.
[And OH. EM. GEE. is this ever a good book! It's like True Blood minus all the campy porn.]
3. A couple weeks ago, Stefania wrote a post about salt, a subject near and dear to my heart because I love salt and Dave HATES salt. In fact, Dave NEVER complains about my cooking except when he thinks I've over-salted something, so I have completely stopped salting anything I cook until I get it on my plate. She mentioned that she never uses two kinds of salt: table salt and kosher salt, which, as it turns out, are the ONLY kinds of salt I've ever purchased. I left her a comment saying as much and she sent me a bag of beautiful red Hawaiian sea salt. I bought some New York steaks for tonight and my mouth is already watering.
So basically? Even though the Internet can be mean and cruel? We're still totally passing notes to each other during Geometry.
It's always interesting to see the fallout that occurs when I write about a topic that I usually keep to myself. I'm not sure what it IS about ME, but I sure seem to really piss people off when I stray away from the mommy blogger track and write about something OTHER than my kids. Like my awesome fellow-blogger Emily said, it's a good thing I have a thick skin!
(Also? I banned my first non-stalker, non-spam IP address yesterday. I feel like I'm very OPEN to disagreement on my website. I like hearing opposing viewpoints since it often gives me a new perspective on things, but GOOD GRIEF when you consistently leave nothing but thinly-veiled spiteful negativity? No thanks! Go find a day job.)
I don't really want to focus too much more on this topic, but I've been living with Dave for almost TWELVE YEARS! Don't you think if he was EVER going to pick up his socks, he'd be doing it by now? Seriously? THIS is what women get their panties in a twist about? About SOMEONE ELSE'S husband being a slob? I think most of yesterday's (sane) commenters have been reading long enough to know that I have at least HALF a brain in my head, so CLEARLY the man has other redeeming qualities. Marriage is about trade-offs. Picking up after my husband is a SMALL thing and something I mostly gave up on YEARS ago.
One of the most bittersweet aspects to blogging is that when you read about someone's life every day, you start to feel like you KNOW that person. I know this because I do it too. Having met many fellow bloggers in real life, I think I can say with authority that yes, we actually ARE this awesome in real life, BUT it can be difficult to get a FULL picture of who a person is just based on what they write on their public blog. Our lives are INFINITELY more complex than whatever slice we choose to share on the Internet on a given day.
So yesterday? When people were all but accusing me of being a subservient man-pleasing shell of a wife? All the people who know me in real life were LAUGHING THEIR BUTTS OFF. Because seriously? Me? Subservient? Or even more hilariously, my Mother? Teaching me that my place is in the kitchen? Ha. Ha. Ha. and also? HA. My mother and I are both NOTHING if not completely and totally equal to our husbands. My grandmother is no exception to that either. I come from a long line of women with extremely well heard voices.
I also want to quickly address the idea of all work being equal. It's just...not. I know this is a big feminist hot button that everyone likes to throw around, but can't we just be honest here? My husband's job is RIDICULOUSLY stressful. The reason he got crabby with me the other day was because his mind was ELSEWHERE, wrapped up in a big nasty mediation he was preparing for in which he was defending an 86 year old man from an aggressive lawsuit. (And again he IMMEDIATELY apologized when he remembered what he said.) I think if we all step back and think rationally about it, we can agree, in theory at least, that that isn't even remotely the same level of stress or difficulty as, say, cleaning my house before a play date or teaching my kids how to write the number eight.
No one is saying that my job as a MOTHER is not equally as important as my husband's job as a lawyer. Not at all. What I am saying, though, is that I would NOT want to trade places with my husband. We are each uniquely suited to our respective jobs, only the job I happen to have right now is A LOT less painful than my husband's job is.
Do you think Michelle Obama is ever going to complain that her husband doesn't help her out enough? I'm not saying Dave's job is as stressful as being the president, but I am saying that not all jobs are created equal when it comes to stress. Part of MY job as the keeper of the home front is to lessen that stress as much as I can so that Dave can enjoy the time he does get to spend with the family. This is what MY mother did and I've told her on multiple occasions that I think it was the right thing to do.
I could write VOLUMES about my own father (I'm actually starting to think I want to write a book about him, maybe with some help from my siblings), but for much of my early childhood he was gone working. He would spend weeks at a time in Japan and even when he was around, he was either working or thinking about work or I was under his secretary's desk playing with office supplies while he worked. My mother, meanwhile, busted her butt to make sure we never noticed.
Because of her, I had no reason to ever believe there was anything WRONG with that. Much like my military wife example from yesterday, my mother has always been my father's number one supporter. Even when he couldn't be there for her and she was home alone for long stretches of time with four unruly children, my mother rarely if ever complained. You know why? Because she had NOTHING to complain about. That was the life she HAPPILY chose. Just like THIS is the life I've chosen. By not complaining and by happily and enthusiastically keeping the home front under control, my mother preserved my relationship with my father. Instead of feeling like I grew up with an absent, never-there, workaholic father, I grew up respecting a great man whose work ethic and ingenuity will be the benchmark of my family for generations to come. My father has only my mother to thank for that.
Eventually my father was able to work fewer hours and become a huge presence in my life, particularly during my later teenage years. I think Dave and I both share the same hope for our family, that right now he's paying his dues and eventually things will get easier. I'll go back to work, the kids will be in school, we'll somehow find a more reasonable family balance. But if I keep complaining about this situation, which, aside from the socks (which, honestly, barely bother me anymore) is mostly out of our control, I'm going to sew some pretty nasty seeds of resentment over the next few years. I don't want to live like that. I also don't want that for my kids. If my mom had spent my early years complaining about my father being away too much or not helping her out, that would've poisoned any chance we had of becoming closer once his situation changed and we finally got to spend more time together.
[Also? THANKS MOM! I know I don't say it often enough!]
Behind (or in my case and my mother's case BESIDE) every great man there is a great woman. Well, yesterday's post was just a little brain exercise I needed to remind myself that I need to work on being THAT woman. Complaining about insignificant household chores is exactly that: insignificant. I resolve to stop doing it.
I spent much of yesterday afternoon pissed off at Dave. He dropped by the house at around 3:00 to change out of his suit and finally eat his lunch and while he was home, he saw my Cook's Country magazine open to a recipe for cashew chicken and confirmed that was what I planned to make for dinner. He was very much looking forward to it.
Then I remembered that Alex has Karate on Monday nights from 5:30 to 6:00, which is the worst possible timing for me to make a decent dinner, much less a complicated Asian recipe I've never tried before (and with some ingredients I'd never even HEARD of before, much less used) (Mirin? I had to google it from the Asian aisle at Wal-Mart before I even knew if I was looking for a liquid or a solid). So I asked Dave if he would be home early enough to take Alex to karate for me and his answer, well, it was far from kind. He said something like, "No. I have to WORK. I'm WORKING. It's not like I'm home reading magazines like you."
Technically, I was sitting on the couch trying to get Genoa to take a nap while opening the mail. I was not reading a magazine, but perusing the OMSI catalog we'd just received and looking for Christmas present ideas (Christmas shopping = 100% my responsibility). At first I made a mental note to just IGNORE him, but I found myself getting increasingly pissed off as the day wore on. I decided to make a pot of chili instead of the cashew chicken mostly out of spite (although I really didn't have the time to make the fancy chicken recipe). Chili is NOT Dave's favorite thing to eat since he dislikes cumin and I can't find chili powder without it. (I know I said I was done with chili, but right after I hit publish on that post, I started craving chili again.)
Anyway what I'm trying to get to here is the issue of resentment.
We haz it.
I'm writing about it NOT because I wish to vilify my husband, I really don't, but because I'm pretty certain we're not alone. As much as Dave WANTS me to be home with the kids and is happy that he is able to provide in such a way that we can afford it, it isn't all shits and giggles.
We have a very old-fashioned division of labor. I would say we're living in an episode of Mad Men only without the alcoholism, infidelity, pretty horses and clean-aproned household help, but really, I'm more like a typical 1950's housewife than anything else. The house and kids are basically 100% my responsibility. Dave takes out the trash, is supposed to empty the dishwasher every day (but forgets at least half the time) and is in charge of the yard, which we pay Franscisco to do and that's it. Virtually EVERYTHING ELSE falls on my shoulders, from bill paying and investing to laundry, dishes, house cleaning and 99% of the food that passes our lips. I don't have ANY help.
Dave works. That's his job. And I'll be the first to tell you that his job is NO FUN. The only fun part about being a lawyer is getting to SAY you're a lawyer and even then half the time people just hate you even more. He works hard and has a hard time separating work from home. I think with any stressful job like that you can't just drive home and expect to stop thinking and worrying about all the work you still need to do and all the responsibilities that lay on your shoulders. They don't go away just because you're at home. I get that.
But the fact that I GET that, that I understand how stressful his job is , doesn't make it any easier on me that I don't get help from him. I could write another whole post about how he also makes my job harder by being a slob and not picking up after himself, but that's not what this is about. (Yesterday I witnessed FIRST HAND the act of him grabbing a paper towel from the roll, using it to wipe the sweat off his brow and then tossing it ON THE COUNTER, which is three feet from the TRASH CAN.) (I also just picked up his dirty socks of the floor of our FAMILY ROOM). (I should also note for the record that he had NO IDEA he did either of those things, his slovenliness is completely unintentional). Anyway, this is not a new problem for us and not a problem with an easy solution.
If I complain AT ALL about my day, it falls on deaf ears because I wasn't WORKING. I was home doing something I enjoy, something that also happens to be MY JOB. The fact that I enjoy my job is a bit of a source of frustration for me because it doesn't necessarily mean that my job is NOT HARD. In fact, I know very few stay-at-home moms who do as much as I do without help (EDITED TO ADD: FROM THEIR HUSBANDS!) Please see my response in the comments section).
You'd think the obvious solution would be for me to go back to work, but even when I WAS working after Alex was born, I was still basically responsible for the home front as well because according to Dave, my job "wasn't stressful." Which is a half-truth. Being a financial planner CAN BE very stressful if you let it, I just chose not to let it be and instead enjoyed my job. But it often seems unfair to me. But it's also unfair to Dave who basically gets the short stick of having both a stressful job AND a wife at home who constantly bitches and moans about how he isn't helpful enough.
The even MORE obvious solution is so simple and stupid it's a wonder I haven't already been doing it for years: allow Dr. Laura to be right about this, accept it and move on. Change my expectations. It kind of kills the feminist in me who would imagines what it would be like to have a more equal distribution of labor than my mother had and my grandmother had, but in many ways, I think they are both a lot happier in their (extremely long-lasting) marriages just accepting that the man's job is to work. (Seriously, no one in my entire family line has EVER been divorced and my parents are pushing their 40th anniversary next year). In fact, I think my mother actually PREFERS it that way. I grew up in a home where my father's only non-work responsibility was to eat whatever my mother put in front of him. My mom has always had a housekeeper, but I've never seen my father so much as cook himself AN EGG. He wouldn't even know how to start.
So, it seems, as usual, that writing this all out has been a fruitful exercise for me, one resulting in a solution. I need to just shut up and be happy. Accept that the house is entirely my responsibility and work on being a nicer, more respectful wife. I should note that when we got home from karate last night, Dave could tell I was upset with him and offered an immediate and enthusiastic apology. He is a decent, hard-working husband, a good father and my best friend. I really don't need more than that.
All I really need to do to remind myself to be grateful is to think of all the women whose husbands are serving in Iraq. I'm sure they don't get resentful and pissed off that they have to take the trash out by themselves. They don't have that luxury and as much as they might not LIKE it that their husbands are off working in perilous conditions for shit pay, my guess is that they RESPECT it. My husband deserves that from me and much, much more.
Two weeks ago, I had some ground beef in the freezer and decided the weather was perfect for making a pot of chili. So I did. And it was good. And I literally ate three bowls of chili every day until it was gone. I would wake up, eat my normal breakfast and then by around 10:00, I'd be starving again and make myself a bowl of chili.
And then I'd have another one for lunch. And another one either for dinner or as an after dinner/pre-bedtime snack. Sometimes both.
Finally I ran out of chili and had to put it on the menu again. I made an even more obscenely-sized pot the second time around and just finished the last of it last night.
A serving of chili for me consists of about 1.5 cups of chili with about a quarter cup of cold sour cream. It's rich, but healthy and I cook the (extra lean) meat separately and drain the fat and always add about a half dozen shredded carrots to the pot with the onions, so it has some veggies in it.
Anyway, now I'm done with chili until next year. I don't even want to LOOK at chili. And this is my regular food pattern. I get a craving for something, I act on it, I eat it until I'm sick to death of it and then I shelve it for a while. The only food I consistently crave is my morning oatmeal; it's been my breakfast of choice for over five years. (I make one packet drowned in milk, cook it for a minute and then dump another dry packet on top of it. I can't finish the bowl without getting sick (so I never finish it), but this is what I eat every. single. day.)
The best thing about having weight loss surgery is the most unexpected thing and the thing I think MOST post-ops get bass-ackwards: I DON'T WATCH WHAT I EAT. I don't pay attention. I don't count calories and I never EVER restrict myself.
I eat WHATEVER I WANT, WHENEVER I WANT IT.
I will never go on another diet again for the rest of my life.
And here's the thing: THIS WORKS ridiculously well. If you ask people who are naturally thin (like Gwyneth Paltrow, who LOVES to eat, but stays thin), this is also how they eat. NOT restricting yourself is the key. Eating until you're full, and not one single bite more, is the way to maintain your weight. My diet is mostly junk. I love junk food. I'm addicted to junk food and I eat it every day. But I only eat it in moderation and I ALSO eat plenty of good stuff, including a delicious, all-natural homemade dinner almost every night (see my sidebar).
So my diet is FAR from perfect, but it works for me.
Halloween is a perfect illustration of the way the surgery has worked for me. I LOVE candy. I eat it every day. Normally, though, I'll eat maybe one or two pieces and then I'm done. I stop. I just... don't want any more. I think this MIGHT be how "normal" people feel about candy. They like it and they eat it in moderation and then they stop thinking about it.
Obese people? HELL TO THE NO. When I was heavy and there was candy in the house, I would eat it until it was gone. And if I wasn't eating it? I was THINKING about eating it. It was THERE and I knew it and I would spend days, natch, WEEKS punishing myself over my inability to control myself. I never EVER felt full and as soon as the candy was gone, I would just buy more. I felt much the same way about cheeseburgers. And Hagen-Daas. And everything else.
The best part of having gastric bypass surgery and why I think it works so much better than dieting is that, if you're doing it right, you lose that internal dialogue. The one that distinguishes between what you "should" be eating and what you WANT to eat. I have these vivid memories of walking into a restaurant when I was heavy and reading the menu and REALLY REALLY wanting something "bad" like a cheeseburger or the fettuccine Alfredo, but also seeing that they had healthier choices that I "should" eat and feeling like being fat was always LOSE-LOSE. You lose if you eat what you WANT and you lose if you eat what you SHOULD.
Now WANT and SHOULD are completely the same for me and that battle is over, literally for the rest of my life. I order what I want and I naturally eat the amount of it that I should. WIN-WIN.
On my body:
The big caveat to everything I just wrote is acceptance. BODY acceptance. This is the hardest part for most post-ops.
After I had Alex, I got back to my starting weight within a week and then I continued to lose weight. My lowest-ever post-gastric-bypass surgery weight was 165 pounds. I was a perfect size ten and it was lovely. I was also only that weight for about three weeks, during which time I was a) nursing b) insanely busy and c) painting our condo from top to bottom for 7 hours a day, every day of the week (I took two weeks paid vacation to do it and my mom continued to watch Alex for me). It was hard to eat during that time because the condo was empty (we hadn't moved in yet) and my hands were always all painty.
I even remember my thinnest day: the day I qualified for life insurance. I weighed 165 pounds when I stepped on the scale with all my clothes on. It was awesome.
But then we moved in and I started to cook more again and by the time Alex was a year old, I stopped pumping breast milk and even though I was still nursing him, my milk production probably dropped by half and I started to gain weight again. By the time Alex was 18 months old, I had gained 20 pounds and weighed 185 pounds. A lot of that was stress weight I had from quitting my job and my entire life changing so drastically.
But as far as post-ops go, it was TOTALLY NORMAL.
Of course at the time I thought it was the end of the world. But I STILL didn't want to diet. I mostly just cut out my See's Candy addiction for a few months and managed to get back down to about 178 pounds.
Then it was time for us to start trying to get pregnant again and I had Genoa. I think I gained around 40 pounds with her pregnancy (none of which happened in the first trimester). It took me several months to lose the weight again, but I'm back to my pre-pregnancy size and have been for over two years.
I weigh 180 pounds.
Now, to a THIN person that probably sounds IMMENSE. I'm 5'7" and it's still a lot to weigh. It's a man weight, not a girl weight. But let me remind you what I USED TO weigh: 309 pounds. To an obese person? Anything under 200 pounds is the fricking HOLY GRAIL of weight loss. I might as well be wearing a size 2.
Of course, I'm NOT in a size two. I'm a happy size 12/14. My body is far from perfect. Far. It's even a far cry from my lowest weight of 165 pounds, but still, I LOVE IT.
Let me repeat that for the people in the back: I LOVE my 180-pound size 14 body. LOVE. IT.
I get to eat whatever I want at this weight and I'm not sure if you've noticed a theme here or not, but I? LOVE TO EAT. I will happily stay a size 14 for the rest of my days if it means I can nosh on mini snickers and eat four bowls of chili with sour cream every day and not have to worry about it. The truth is that I don't want the HASSLE of being any thinner than I am.
I am happy just how I am.
I won the biggest battle I've ever had with myself.
But again, not all post-ops have this attitude. They think they're still fat. They diet (oh god do they diet!), but it rarely works and they end up right back on the train they were on before surgery. The guilt/remorse/emotional eating train that leads right back to being fat again.
If you take one thing from the thousands of words I've written on this subject, take this: Dieting DOES NOT WORK.
Yes, I had to have major surgery to fix my over-eating, but it was the best thing I ever did for myself. It was a CHOICE. Just like a diet, it took WORK and energy and commitment. It was dangerous and risky and definitely NOT the easy way out. It took balls. I know plenty of morbidly obese people who desperately want to lose weight, but will never take the steps to get surgery, even though it would work for them. It would help them lead healthier, happier, more fulfilled LONGER lives. But they are afraid. And for the most part, I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill fear of death or needles or the hospital. I'm talking about fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear of finally finding out what it's like to not have a crutch anymore.