It’s All In My Head.

I started using the LoseIt app again last week.

This seems completely unfair to me, that I need to count my calories, because I run nearly every day. I should get to eat whatever I want!! Anytime I want!!

But alas. That is the kind of logic that makes one need to get back to LoseIt.

Because exercise is stupid.

It is stupid because it doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as it feels like it should. I burn barely over 100 calories a mile, which is officially the biggest rip-off in the history of humanity. A mile should be worth a giant hamburger and a milkshake – not a piece of watermelon or a slice of cheese.

But my real reason for going back to LoseIt is that I haven’t been feeling great this summer. My brain has been functioning at approximately 10% of its normal processing speed – you might have noticed by the quality and quantity of my writing and interactions. I can’t process stuff, I can’t remember stuff, I can’t accomplish stuff, and I have trouble staying on task – something I’ve always excelled at. I’ve been trying to narrow down the causes to this breach of health, and my eating habits are on the list of possible causes that I sincerely hope I can rule out. Ultimately, it’s most likely another symptom of my Dysautonomia, but if I can find anything that helps me locate my brain, I’ll do it.

(Just picture me as Carmen Sandiego, searching desperately in Moscow, Brisbane, and Beijing for my missing brain. Because that’s totally how I picture myself.)

I’ve been to the doctor and they’ve run all the tests and they even gave me a new drug to (maybe) help me on my quest, but I know the mantra – the three main things that help Dysautonomia are regular exercise, outrageous water consumption, and eating healthy.

Two out of three should be good enough – haven’t I already changed my life enough? But NO. Dysautonomia is the worst. It is a master that demands everything be attended to. And so I am finally facing my diet – which has, admittedly, actually gotten worse since I started running. Because after all, every mile feels like a hamburger and a milkshake.

So I even tried the Gluten-Free Lifestyle – for a full twelve hours, y’all.

(It didn’t help.)

(Yeah, yeah I know they say you’re supposed to give it six months to start seeing a difference, but six months whimpering every time the basket of hot, buttery rolls is passed cannot be worth having better cognitive performance.)

After I discarded my Gluten-Free self, I moved on to a Caffeine-Free lifestyle. That lasted significantly longer – 38 freaking hours.

This second experiment in futility was my Mom’s fault. On the same day I adopted my Gluten-Free Life, I had been at my parent’s house and was feeling especially awful. Mom noticed I’d been drinking Starbucks Cold Brew Coffee, and after I left, she did a little research – turns out, Cold-brewed coffee has twice as much caffeine as normal coffee – 240mg in a Venti.

(They really should advertise this fact. I told Chris in horror of its insane amount of caffeine and he said “I gotta go get me some of that!”)

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The Cold Brew, combined with the 5 Hour Energy that I’d had before my run that morning (200 mg of caffeine), led me (and my mother) to believe that I had severely overdosed myself in the caffeine department, and that perhaps all my problems were from an inability to metabolize caffeine and that maybe I should quit that mess.

Personally I was thrilled for a reason to put a pause on my Gluten-Free diet – that twelve hours had been rough – and I was starving.

(Things without gluten have about as much filling power as a single M&M has chocolate-craving-curbing power.)

My thrill left me the next morning. When I was desperately in need of a pick-me-up. And I also realized that I had not actually been gluten-free the day before because I had inadvertently snacked on Noah’s pancakes to collect my Mommy Tax, as I do every morning. So yeah. GF for twelve hours is IMPOSSIBLE, y’all.

But decaffeination isn’t any easier.

And what did I learn in those 38 painful hours?

– I cannot converse without caffeine.
– I cannot run without caffeine.
– I do not feel nice without caffeine.
– I am not nice without caffeine.
– A lack of caffeine makes me feel depressed. And gives me caffeine-lusting thoughts.
– Caffeine makes me a better person.

So, after trying to function without the nectar of life for 38 hours, I threw my caffeine-free lifestyle in the dumpster right next to my gluten-free lifestyle and decided that maybe caffeine in moderation is necessary for a healthy life, but caffeine overdoses are bad. “Because moderation is always the answer, right??”, I thought, as I sipped my first Iced Caramel Macchiato after what felt like half a lifetime of agony and pain.

As soon as that caffeine hit the back of my throat I started feeling better. I felt happy. I felt chipper. I once again had words to share with other humans.

And so, I decided to go back to what I knew wouldn’t kill me – a calorie counting lifestyle. It would keep me from eating crap (and also quickly made me realize how much crap I had been eating when I began to remember what types of foods maintain a 1,500 calorie diet), it would force me to eat more good-for-me stuff, and I could have my gluten AND caffeine. In moderation.

I’ll let you know if and when this is the clue I needed to track down that missing brain, gumshoe.

(In the meantime, I hope you can abide my meandering and sometimes sparse posts.)

Lessons Out of Appleton.

Guest post by my Dad. To see all of his previous guest posts, click here.

I was angry.  But then, I had a right to be! As I arrived at the airport and turned in my rental car, I received a text message that my 10:15 flight was delayed until 2:30. Why couldn’t they have sent the text 15 minutes earlier? At least then I could have kept the car and seen the sights that were to be seen in beautiful Appleton, Wisconsin.

As I approached the ticket counter, there were several other travelers in line in front of me. All seemed to have the weariness on their face that I was feeling. When I finally got to an agent, she was quite helpful, seemingly not affected by the other travelers that were as angry as I. She informed me that there was a mechanical issue on my original flight and that they were bringing in another airplane for us, causing the delay. She dutifully checked other possible flights and connections, through different airports that would get me home at some hour more palatable than the 9:48pm now scheduled (instead of the 3:15 I was originally scheduled to be home.) No dice. I was to sit in Appleton for the next four hours, then sit in Detroit for FIVE hours, because the delay would cause me to miss my connection.  I could feel my anger rising.

About an hour in to my wait, I got another text from the airline. My delayed flight had been rescheduled now to 12:30. Good news. I could now make my connection in Detroit and all would be well. I gathered my possessions and trudged toward the gate.  Boarding seemed to take an extra long time and I wondered for the thousandth time why they load airplanes front seats first. Although we were the only plane leaving Appleton, we sat interminably at the end of the runway. The pilot finally came on the intercom and explained that Detroit Central was trying to work us in to the landing queue, so we would have to wait.

COME ON!

Finally airborne, the flight attendant barely had enough time to get down the aisle with the drink cart before we were on final into Detroit. The weather was bad and it was a bumpy ride. Our gate must have been at the other end of the airport because we taxied for at least 20 minutes. As we got off the plane, I realized that unloading is only slightly more efficient that loading. I checked with the gate agent for my next gate – B-15. We had arrived in A terminal. Good thing I had carried on my bags and not checked anything – if I hurried, I could still make the flight. Rushing from the end of the A terminal to the center, down the escalator and through the quarter mile long tunnel to the B terminal, turn left and hustle down to gate 15.

Something wasn’t right.

No one was around.

No airplane was at the gate.

I went across the concourse to gate 14. After waiting for two other passengers to ask their questions, I finally got to the agent. No, the Birmingham flight at B-15 had left four hours ago. The 3:10 flight is at A-43. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!

Back through the B concourse, through the now half mile long tunnel, up the escalators turn right and run to the gate. Just in time to see the gate agent close the door to the jet way. “I’m sorry sir, you weren’t here, we allowed a standby passenger in your place.”

HOW COULD YOU DO THAT? YOU KNEW I WAS ON MY WAY HERE! I WANT TO SEE A SUPERVISOR!

I tried to calm down, and succeeded, but only a little. When the supervisor arrived I calmly explained the events of my morning, although through clenched teeth. He listened carefully, repeated back the story to me in order to let me know he understood then apologized for inconvenience.

INCONVENIENCE! This was going to go down in memory as one of the worst travel days in memory!  And I’ve had quite a number of bad travel days – MOSTLY ON HIS AIRLINE!

He did offer a food voucher so that I could at least have a decent meal while I waited the FIVE HOURS for my flight. I went to my new gate (in Concourse C no less) and settled in to wait. And wait. All the time fuming about my “inconvenience.”

When we finally boarded I settled into an aisle seat, calmer now and beginning to realize that I was only an hour and a half from home. It’s going to be okay.

Then she came in.

She looked to be about 25. She had a baby strapped to her chest and a toddler in tow. They, of course sat in the seats directly across from me. She was struggling with her carry-on bag, a diaper bag, a booster seat, and the toddler. I helped her get settled, putting her carry on in the overhead as she dealt with the toddler. The baby was fussy and I was beginning to think that my bad day was about to continue. Sometimes babies don’t react well to cabin pressurization and scream the whole flight. Great.

Luckily, all three of them were sound asleep by the time we had taxied out and headed for Birmingham. It was a quiet flight and I had a little time to reflect on the day – trying to put my anger behind me and focus on the fact that I would soon be home and I could sleep in my own bed. I mused about the marvel of modern air travel in general and how you could wake up in Appleton, Wisconsin or San Francisco and sleep in your own bed that night 2500 miles away.

I also began to think about the times that things hadn’t gone the way I planned, but somehow God had worked things out in the end. Things I could never imagine. Things for His purposes, not mine. But in the end, looking back, His hand was undeniable. This seemed to be a lesson I had to learn over and over again.

My quiet reflection was interrupted by the pilot. He informed us that there were severe storms right over the Birmingham airport and we were going to circle for a while over Huntsville and see if they would clear out in time.  He said that we had about a thirty minute window, then we might have to land in Huntsville, refuel and wait out the storms.

Instead of anger or a feeling of inconvenience, I felt a reassurance. Reassurance in the fact that the airline was making judgments made on safety concerns, not flight schedules. Reassurance that God was in control, even of this. We circled for a while and every circle when the plane turned north, I was treated to a beautiful sunset in the west. And when the plane went west, I could see the thunderstorm over Birmingham lighting up the sky.  I reflected on the beauty and precision that is creation.

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(Meanwhile, Rachel was on a mountaintop photographing the same sunset and storm over Birmingham.)

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The fuel window closed and we began to descend into Huntsville. The flight attendant informed us that we would deplane into the terminal and would would be given further information there.

The young mother woke up and asked me what was going on. I explained. She didn’t seem too surprised. She began to rouse the toddler and try to position the sleeping infant back into his carrier. I asked if I could help in any way. She looked at me and asked if I could hold her baby. I was glad to. He snuggled up on my chest and continued to sleep soundly. Mom began to try to get everything organized and I made a casual remark about her bravery, traveling with two kids and all. Three actually, she corrected me. Her husband was in the back of the plane with their five year old. They were a military family, headed home to a small town outside of Birmingham for the first time in two years. From Germany. For her husband’s fathers funeral. They had been traveling for about 36 hours, she thought – she had lost track. Still she had a smile, a weary smile, but a smile.

I helped her with the toddler and her carry-on bag to get down the stairs (no jet way, we deplaned onto the tarmac) and her husband and other son came off the plane a few minutes later.  The Dad had his arm in a sling, having had shoulder surgery a few days before.

The gate agent informed us that the flight crew were at their max hours, and so there would be a bus arriving to drive us the rest of the way to Birmingham (two hours by road), and that we needed to gather all our belongings and wait at the curb. I went to baggage claim with the young family. They had four bags, three car seats and several other items.

“You need help,” I said to the Dad.

“No, no, we have it,” was his reply.

“That wasn’t a question,” I told him. “That was a statement.”

I gathered what I could and we made our way to the curb. I could see what appeared to be some moisture well up in his eyes. “You are the first person to offer us any help since this trip began. Thank you.”

I felt some moisture in my eyes, too.

The bus trip to Birmingham was thankfully uneventful. As we arrived at the Birmingham airport around midnight, I saw a woman on the sidewalk begin to run along beside the bus. When we came to a stop, she was waiting on the young family. When they got off the bus, she hugged everyone, but scooped up the toddler and infant. It was then I realized that she was a Grandmother meeting two of her grandkids for the first time.

I helped Dad unload their bags and car seats from the belly of the bus.  When all were piled on the curb, he stuck out his hand and thanked me profusely. Mom introduced me to the Grandmother, who was still clinging to her grandkids. She thanked me too.

They were thanking ME. I felt ashamed. Here they were, away from family, serving our country and returning home under these circumstances, and still were able to manage a smile.

And then I realized that possibly God had orchestrated my whole inconvenient day to be here to help this young family.

But as I sit here, writing these words, I realize I was not the blessing to them. They were a blessing to me.

God had used my whole day not (only) for me to be there to offer my meager help, but to teach me something. I too often get wrapped up in my own world, outraged at seeming inconveniences, angry when things don’t go as I plan or envision. My plans are so short sighted. My vision is so limited. God grant me wisdom.

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.”
-Isaiah 55:2

The Convenient Truth.

I have a major problem with all hotels.

They think we’re stupid.

Like, super stupid.

Like, don’t-understand-that-when-a-Mom-says you need to take a nap because you’re sleepy actually-means I need you to take a nap because I’m temporarily tired of you stupid.

My main beef with hotels is this ever-present piece of literature – a variation on which every hotel now gallantly leaves behind for its guests.

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This one is especially good because it has the two takeaway phrases in all caps. The rest of it really drives home the point but they wanted to make sure that just in case you skimmed it, you received the guilt trip they’re trying to carve into your soul.

WASH THE TOWEL, KILL THE PLANET.

But no. See, we’re NOT stupid, hotels. You do not have top level executives that have bleeding hearts for the worthy cause of the conservation of the planet. Your top level executives are only interested in a different kind of green. And we all know it.

You want to buy less laundry detergent. And hire less launderers (is that a job?). And wear out less towels and sheets. This is what you are interested in.

But environmentalism is such a convenient excuse for you. Just like the pleather industry was saved by the growing trendiness of veganism and the resulting term “vegan leather”, your own industry was prevented from becoming washed up by blaming it on the planet.

Don’t think we can’t see that. Just don’t.

(But as a side note, all of the airline’s PR companies should totally copy and paste. “Sorry, we cannot serve meals on this flight because RAIN FORESTS. You must pay for your checked baggage because POLAR BEARS.”)

That particular hangtag was a the hotel we lived in while our house dehumidified. Since we stayed there for five days, it gave the children a chance to explore all the facets of our room, including the above hang tag. With regards to it, I got to overhear a precious moment between my children.

Noah: “Ali, what does this sign say?”

Ali proceeded to read him the entire hang tag, then offered the commentary: “See, it’s our responsibility to save the earth and not get our towels dirty.”

So maybe the hotel is just trying to guilt four and eight-year-olds, which is working. But, as their mother, I do not take lightly my responsibility for their full education in cynicism, so I quickly stepped in and explained the hotel’s actual angle of profitability and staff reductions.

“You love the maids you’ve gotten to know, right? You don’t want them to lose their jobs because YOU decided to reuse a damp towel, DO YOU??”

(But we did reuse our towels, because we’re good earth citizens. And Ali wouldn’t let me place my hatred of hotel propaganda over the saving of the planet. Ugh, firstborns.)

Signage in hotels is often special, though, and that hotel also had a couple of other gems. Such as the no diving sign, warning of the grave consequences of sprouting bright red Guy Fieri hair if attempted.

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And my favorite, the pool sign that blatantly discriminated against my friends with 5+ children. Or told them that they have made unsafe and insecure choices in life. Or both.

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(I checked with said friends, and some of them agreed. It is neither safe nor secure to have more than four children.)

But this past weekend, we stayed in an especially fantastic hotel with regards to signage.

It was a Wingate by Wyndham, which isn’t a brand I’m terribly familiar with. But I was irritated right off by their inconsistent use of the letters Y and I. Couldn’t it be Wyngate by Wyndham? Or Wingate by Windham? They’re just asking for us to be confused.

The first sign I saw was the list, in descending order, of all Wyndham-brand hotels. I find these types of lists both informative and embarrassing – informative because you can quickly find where you fall on the food chain of their brand, and embarrassing for the chain because you find out just how low they’re willing to claim as their own.

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That’s right, Wyndham Resorts. You’re just fifteen steps above a Knights Inn. Which is basically the same staircase. Which means you just paid $500 for a stay at the Knights Inn.

(Also who would have thought that a Super 8 could be four steps above anything? And the HoJo is three steps from the bottom? Remind me to never EVER get within 800 feet of a Knights Inn.)

We arrived in our room to find out that Wingate is excited-like-it’s-2008 about having wi-fi,

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And that they put this thoughtful sticky note on the bathroom mirror, so that when you step out of the shower, you can KNOW that you look like you deserve some magic.

IMG_1294(Hey creepy due with the aviators. Quit staring at me. AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR HAND.)

Even the staff was fantastically special. We desired to sleep in, so we put out our Do Not Disturb sign, as one does. We left our room at 10am for the day and removed the hang tag.

As I was walking down the hall toward the two housekeepers, one was flipping out.

“I cannot POSSIBLY vacuum all of these bleepity-bleep rooms! I just don’t have time for this bleepity bleep! What the bleeping-bleeper-bleepit do they think they’re doing, scheduling us like this?!”

I got within five steps of them when they checked up, smiled, and said, “Hello ma’am!!”

Housekeeper Number Two said, “What room are you in, honey?”

“Room 205.”

“Okay…lemme check my list here…”

Feeling quite fearful of them dragging their negativity into my room and spewing it all over my pillowcase, I said “Oh it’s okay. You don’t have to clean our room.”

But then Chris, who missed the first half of this exchange, walked up behind me. “But if you have a chance, that’d be great.”

Housekeeper Number Two looked up at him and said, “OH – you were the room that had a Do Not Disturb sign on your door this morning. And you see, I marked it right here on this list. So I’m afraid we cannot clean your room today. Because I already marked it. On my list.”

I agreed with her that this made perfect sense and hurried Chris onto the elevator before he asked for toilet paper or some other rage-inducing item.

But when we got back to our room that evening, I unapologetically hung our other hang tag. Yes – the one that has a variation in every hotel – just for funsies.

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That’s right, Wingate. I see your ridiculously unrelated guilt trip and I call your bluff. I don’t mind killing a white fluffy bunny so I can have clean sheets today*. GO KILL ME A BUNNY.


*No superfluous linens were received nor bunnies were harmed in the making of this blog post. The writer does not encourage the death of any bunnies, regardless of the super high threadcount sheets they can be made into.