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Archive for February, 2010

When I was 21, I had my tonsils taken out.

This was a good idea. I’d been plagued with the world’s crappiest immune system my whole childhood, always having strep or tonsillitis on repeat, but finally (FINALLY), the summer of my 21st year, I had an allergic reaction to penicillin and decided I was DONE being sick. So I took my doctor’s advice and decided that my tonsils and I were going to part ways.

(Interesting side note re my immune system: I was CONVINCED that once I got rid of what were surely my disease incubating pustules [ahem, um, I mean tonsils], my immune system would perk right up. Goodbye endless colds and strep throat and the flu and feeling crappy at a moments notice! Suck it, low grade fevers! Be gone! But, interestingly, that was not the case. It wasn’t until years later, when my weight settled around 130 pounds – about ten pounds more than my high school/college weight), that I finally stopped getting sick all the time.  So now I suppose I finally know what people mean about having “a healthy weight.”)

Right, anyway: tonsils. SO, my doctor assured me that having ones tonsils taken out as an adult was significantly suckier than as a kid; a minimum two week recovery period in which you were sure to feel miserable. Kids, for reference, apparently just have a really sore throat for a few days, but as you get older, your tonsils get more ingrained in your body, and removing them sucks more. At least, that is the technical explanation as I understand it, and yes “suckier” is the rate meter commonly used by credible doctors AHEM.

Additionally, there are a bunch of complications that are less rare in adults post-tonsillectomy than in kids post-tonsillectomy, and because I am the most frequent traveler on the path of most resistance, I of course had to take part in these complications.

One ruptured carotid artery later, some more surgeries, and heart rate that your average cocaine addict would find normal, and I’d officially become interesting to medical school students.

(You don’t want to be interesting to medical students.)

Luckily, I was already on an operating table when the artery ruptured, which saved my life. Apparently, however, blood got into my lungs, got infected, gave me pneumonia, and freaked my heart right the fuck out. And while I recovered quickly from pneumonia, throat surgery, and the depression that follows hospitalization, it took many, many more years to fix that heart thing, and if I had twenty hours to write this post I would tell you all about how dealing with my chipmunk heart changed my life in almost every way, but for now I’ll just summarize it as: I used to be sick, and now I am well, and I don’t ever want to feel sick again, which is why I do stupid things like Ironmans or marathons as less than subtle way of reminding myself that I’m not dead.

ANYWAY. The point of all of this (and I do have one), is that my stepdaughter had her tonsils out this week, and it is highlighting one of the many strange things I have noticed since becoming a stepmom:  how much I am reliving my childhood.

It’s terrible.

I mean, there is actually nothing TERRIBLE about being a stepmom – at least, not about being a stepmom to my specific stepdaughter, who I think is one of the best people I know, kid or not. But it’s amazing how quickly I find myself looking at her tweenage years and remembering my own – and wincing.

Being a 13 year old girl is HARD, when I look back, a lot of times I’m not proud of the 13 year girl I remember being.  Whenever my stepdaughter is having a hard time, I want to tell her the easiest way to get through it, I want to give her the proper perspective, I want to have her do right all the things I did wrong. But the work division in the parent/teenager relationship is pretty clearly defined — she’s the one living it, I am just the observer, and, hopefully, the helper. I don’t get to live it for her, no matter how many sense memory flashbacks I have.

So of COURSE her having her tonsils taken out has lead me down this path of remembering my own horrible “routine surgery” experience and made me twitchy and nervous and I’m sure very fun to be around. And of COURSE she is totally fine, munching on ice cream, rocking some pain killers, cheering on the Olympics and, you know, that’s another fun part of step-parenting: no matter how much I want to relate her life to mine, she will remind me, again and again, that it’s her turn to be a kid for the first time, and she’ll do it the best way she can. And I’m happy just to be along for the ride.

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One of the best parts about being a triathlete is the fact that if you do it long enough, most of your social circle becomes triathletes, too. This is great as training no longer becomes something that takes you away from your friends, but something that you are already doing WITH your friends.  You still go to brunch on the weekend, you just all go after your workout. (Appropriately labeled: Sweaty brunches. We never claim to be creative, ok?) There is point at every summer where I realize I have more social interaction BEFORE work – at training rides, runs, or at the pool — than I do after. Sick. But also: awesome.

Anyway, I bring this up because, you know what? I REALLY MISS BEING OUTSIDE ON A BIKE WITH MY FRIENDS.

Ridin' Along...

Just another day on our bikes...

Post Training Run...

Instead, here I am. On my trainer. Inside. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be riding on a sunny day with my friends right now…

Stupid Winter

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I only went to the gym today because it would force me to shower.

We’ve been under snow lock down since last Saturday, and while I have been mostly enjoying this — I mean, let’s be real: I can do a lot of my job from home, so it’s not like getting behind on client work, the dog is LOVING the snow so I’ve been getting a fair amount of outside time, and I can walk to almost everything I need and everyone I want to see — but there really has been NO need to shower. And frankly, I don’t think that is a habit we need let go for too long, right?

Anyway, thank God the gym has remained open throughout the entire snowpocolypse. I’m quite impressed with them, really: they’re the first to have their sidewalks shoveled, they’re open their regular hours, and it’s not like they needed to be — they’re not losing money by closing, right? Anyway, having a first class gym a 2 minute walk away is nice under any circumstances, but particularly this week.

The Boss, Running The Half Block to the Gym

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I’m getting tired of people telling me Twitter is a waste of time. This past week has demonstrated that Twitter is so much more than random social networking/procrastination. Allow me to share:

Last week I ordered a $25 padded insert to turn a regular bag into a camera bag. I didn’t know the vendor, but I had seen them referenced online, their site was good, and they had what I needed. I ordered, paid, and sat back and waited for delivery.

The next day I received an email from the vendor that was two lines:

The status of your order has changed.

The new order status is: Backordered

Huh. That is..hugely uninformative. I wrote back asking if they could give me more details, even just let me know how long it was backordered, and sat back and waited for reply.

I didn’t get one.

Now I was about 99% sure that this was a legitimate business and that I’d receive my item at some point. But there was 1% of me that felt like, well, I just gave my credit card info to someone, and then they told me my items would come eventually, and I have no idea when that eventually is actually going to be, so… I think maybe I just got screwed.

A quick search on Twitter showed this merchant has a Twitter account. I quickly (and not very thoughtfully, mind you), twittered the following statement:

Within a few hours they had responded with someone’s direct email address and offer to check on my status. I was offline and didn’t get their reply immediately; a few hours later they then emailed me directly (I have to assume they noted my last name from my Twitter account and looked up my email address and order info) indicating that they had located my item and would send it out that day. And 48 hours I had my item.

(I still hadn’t/haven’t received an email back from my initial inquiry.)

What does this tell me?

  1. Tenba Bags is a legit company who cares about customer service, but has a really bad automated email process… and who luckily has at least one employee that understands how to use Twitter
  2. Without Twitter, I’d still be waiting for a response from a customer service representative.
  3. Customer Service is more pressing to companies when they can personally account to their customers, and when their customers can reach out in a very transparent way

It means a lot to me that they worked quickly to resolve my issue and make it right, and because of this interaction (via Twitter,) I have turned from a disgruntled patron of a company to someone who will now go out of her way to purchase from them and recommend them to others. So, sure, Twitter is a nice little procrastination tool, but in this case, it’s also a powerful marketing and customer service agent.

(Next up: How Twitter made the Snowpocolypse in DC more fun than not)

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SnowtoriousBIG

I grew up in Minnesota, which means I am totally that person that rolls their eyes every time it snows in D.C. and mumbles “How cute” in that self-righteous, condescending way that only 15+ years of midwest winter can cultivate.

So, of course, when we starting getting reports of the latest storm to hit D.C., I tsk’ed and clucked my teeth at everyone rushing to the grocery store to stock up on paper towels and eggs and whatever else is needed to get through 24 hours of no road access. And, to be fair, it was a little ridiculous: The Boss called me from Ft. Meyer Thursday night – a full 24 hours before we were even expecting to see a single flake – to tell me that there was Military Police running crowd control at the commissary. Can you imagine the chaos had to have been occurring for the MPs to be called in?

D.C has always been snow-shy, to the point where a prediction of snow is enough for everyone to leave work early (if they come in at all.) I’m fine with this, because while I can drive perfectly fine in snow, I don’t trust my southern brethren even a little. But for all my “snowier than thou” attitude, I have to tell you: this storm is fricken ridiculous. We’ve got two and half feet in about 18 hours. It’s unreal. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it. And while I know everyone in DC is all “OMG, we’re going to die, this city doesn’t DO snow!”, part of me feels like Capitol Hill is the best type of place to live to weather a storm like this. All day I’ve been getting twitter updates of local businesses that are open; businesses I can walk to and meet all my weekend needs: Corner Store for groceries, 8th Street for restaurants (and dry cleaning!), gym half a block away for exercise. Kids are sledding down Capitol Hill. Dogs are playing the parks. The streets aren’t passable for cars, but we’re getting by just fine using our legs.

Living Large in Capitol Hill

Sledding down Capitol Hill

Romping in Marion Park

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and other things I learn from my friend Kim

In case you don’t know many triathletes, let me introduce to a fun little character trait: We’re all bat shit crazy.

Don’t misunderstand me: we’re high functioning crazy, but crazy none the less. Look no further than 5am mornings in the summer, when a bunch of spandex clad middle aged people mill about in the cold before submerging themselves in freezing water. Or last fall, when I did a training ride that consisted of a 112 mile bike ride and a 6 mile mile run. This took well over 7 hours to do, and I was traveling over the weekend, I took a day off work — unpaid –  for the pleasure. Crazy.

One thing that I think adds heavily to the crazy is what I like to call our “interesting relationship with food.” Triathletes don’t diet; they (we) have a “nutrition plan.” It is crafted after reading books and articles and my god there is planning and timing and counting and of course there isn’t a right way but there are many, many wrong ways to eat and by God you average triathlete is going know and tell you. Paelo. Primal. All carb. No Carb. Eating every two hours no wait three no wait protein directly after workout or um, was it bread but only if you can get it within 15 minutes of finishing wait cavemen didn’t eat bread so it must have been protein but are shakes ok wait no–

I’ll stop there, but trust me on this: we’re crazy, and we really, really care about what we eat.

Now, some of this makes sense. Any athletic lifestyle is going to concern food, as that is directly related to energy stores, and, let’s be real, doing races in spandex only adds to the emphasis. But it can get a little over the top, and frankly, it’s really, really time consuming. Because of my recent impatience with this, I’ve watched the growing emphasis on “organic” and “clean eating” and other trends that are becoming more mainstream (thanks to things like Food, Inc and SuperSize Me) with a sense of weariness, because, frankly, I’m ready for eating to be easy again.

However, as this HAS become more mainstream, I’m starting to wonder this hyper sensitivity to clean meat and veggies isn’t just a byproduct of triathlete neurosis, but is instead, in fact, actually a legitimate thing.

To this end, I went to my go-to meat eatin’ knowledge source: My Friend Kim

Kim lives in Montana, and is one of the few people I know who said “I want to remove myself from the grocery store economy” and then actually, like, did it. Not completely, of course, but she is quite literally putting her money where her mouth is: for the most part, she and her husband only eat meat that they themselves have hunted and cured (or purchased from ranchers they know), they saved up for and recently bought a home that has enough land for a 1500 sq ft garden (which, by the way, is bigger than most apartments I’ve lived in), and is really, really knowledgeable about the food we eat and where it comes from. I emailed her asking for some advice on what I need to think about when shopping for meat, and what I should really pay attention to in order to ensure I’m only purchasing and consuming “good for me” foods, and she sent me back a nice little primer, which I like call “Clean Eating for Yuppies.” Enjoy!

1. Buying “Grass Fed” Meat from your grocer is likely OK

If it’s beef, eat grass-fed and you can be relatively confident you’re eating “good” meat.

There are certifications from USDA, American Grassfed Assoc and others, and while I’m really not sure how widespread these are or what they really mean, it doesn’t really seem like it would be very cost-effective to mistreat grassfed cattle. It’s cheaper to just leave them on the pasture rather than stick them in a feedlot and give them hay that you had to harvest. In winter, it’s still easier to just leave them on the pasture and drop off some hay.

2. Nothing will be better than finding farmers

One thing to look into is a meat CSA. I know they’re becoming more common in big metropolitan areas. Check http://www.localharvest.com and http://www.eatwellguide.

Questions to ask:

· How are the animals raised? Is it his farm? Does he sell for others? They may not have the same practices.

· You want to know how much time the animals spend on pasture (not just access to, but how much time they actually spend there)

· What his stance is on hormones and antibiotics? If it’s beef, you want grass fed and grass finished. Both pigs and chickens eat lots of different things, so you just want to know that they access pasture.

Once you start asking those questions, you’ll know. The farmers/ranchers I’ve talked to are either damned excited to spill all the details or rather defensive. I know who I want to buy from! There’s a guy who sells lamb at our farmer’s market. Someone asked him how his lamb tasted/if it was mutton-y and he said, “No, my lambs are perfect. That’s what I tell them every morning. I go out and pet them on their noses and tell them ‘you’re just perfect.'” You could totally tell that even if the guy wasn’t being literal, that was how he felt and treated his animals. That’s who you want to buy from and just a quick chit-chat can more often than not get you there.

3. Buy a Freezer

A chest freezer cuts 90% of the pain-in-the-ass out of finding good meat. You find your rancher, buy your quarter and don’t sweat it for another 6 months to a year.

4. Chickens Are Stupid

When buying chickens, whole chickens are where it’s at (3 meals for 2 adults + broth from the carcass.)

“Free-range” chicken just means that they have access to the outside. Usually it’s a little door to a small outdoor run but chickens are so stupid that since they were born indoors and everybody else is indoors, they never even use it.

In any case, ‘natural’ doesn’t mean shit and ‘free-range’ and ‘cage-free’ are marginally better than the regular stuff. You want ‘pastured’ poultry, but good luck finding it.

For what it’s worth, chicken farming is one of the nastiest, most polluting agricultural endeavors around. Plus, all the processing that’s done to chickens afterward is done by immigrant workers who do so many repetitive movements they end up with debilitating injuries, but then can’t complain because they’re illegals and ugh, it’s all a mess.

Summary:

I wish it was easier to source healthy and ethical meat and I wish it was cheaper. But it never will be unless people start going through the effort to get it and in so doing, create a major market for it. Of course, it’ll never be a decent price until all the stupid regs are removed that give Big Ag a foothold over the little guy. But if we don’t do it, then the vegetarians are right. And dammit, I hate it when vegetarians are right! Which brings me to my last option: take up hunting.

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