Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cutting the Watermelons From the Vine

Initially I thought I wouldn't write on this subject, feeling like it was too private/personal to put out there. Now, after giving it some consideration, I'm finding I'm completely okay with others knowing what I did for myself. For such a long time I tried to camouflage/hide/create a sleight of hand kind of appearance, and I'm sure I'm not the only woman to do so out of poor self-image. So, here goes.

I am obsessed with . . . wait for it . . . breasts. Specifically, my own. No need to back up and re-read. You read it right the first time, and now you're sitting there with your mouth hanging open and WTF!?!? going through your mind. Want to know more? HA! Of course you do.

It all began way back when, when I was a mere 13 years old. That summer, my body changed. I went from being flat-chested to having quite a pair in what seemed like just a few weeks. Along with the dramatic increase to what I disdainfully refer to as my "two watermelons on a downhill race" came despair. The constant teasing (though I'm sure this wasn't a daily occurrence but sure seemed like it was) from family members and friends put me on a quest to hide beneath baggy t-shirts and sweatshirts. The unwanted and embarrassing attention from boys made me want to figure out a way to smash the emerging melons as flat as possible. While I never went so far as to wrap myself with an ace bandage, I came close to trying it before deciding to go with minimizer bras instead, and for the past 37 years, I've been minimizing what many (mostly men--go figure) refer to as my assets as much as I possibly could. Though the minimizing helped me come to terms (honestly, that's a lie; I've never come to terms with being well-endowed) with my figure, I always dreamed of having smaller breasts. Pretty breasts. Perky breasts.

My kids will tell you that yes, their mom has talked of having breast reduction surgery for as long as they can remember. They will also tell you that their mom had a "Titty" jar (actually it was just a savings account) for any extra money to go into to help pay for the procedure. Finally, in February, there was more than enough money in the savings account to cover the cost. At that point, I made the appointment for the consultation, and let me tell you, the excitement I was feeling the day of the consult was overwhelming. I managed to get through my classes though I can't remember what lesson plan actually happened that day. Let's just say my mind wasn't into student writing. All I could think about was when I could actually schedule the surgery. I was hoping the doc would do it that afternoon, sort of like when I had gone to him to remove the super freckle on my cheek. I went in thinking I was going to have a consult then schedule the day to have the freckle removed. Huh-uh. No sooner had he looked at the freckle that he then said, "Lie back. I'm going to take that off right now." Two minutes later, the freckle was gone and my face was sporting a nice bandage. That's what I wanted to happen at my breast reduction consult. I wanted to hear, "Lie back. Let's do this" (which would probably be one of the one and only times I would unequivocally and enthusiastically agree to a man telling me to lie back!). Yeah. That's not exactly what happened.

At the consult, the doc examined the melons: measuring (the left melon came in at EE, the right melon came in at DD/E--yes, I had one melon very visibly larger than the other), lifting, prodding, and every now and then turning to engage in argument with Hubby over the benefits or lack thereof of mammograms, as I sat there bare-chested. Once the doc had taken down all his notes, I dressed and proceeded to his office to discuss options. There, the doc walked me through what he believed would be the best course of action by showing me images of the procedure, what the incisions would look like, how he would shape the breasts, and what size I would end up as afterwards. When he said C cup, I shook my head. I was determined to go B cup. Doc assured me the C was as small as I really wanted to go with my build (I'm pretty sure that's a standard line no matter what build a woman has; I mean, come on, have you ever heard a man say, "Yeah, C cup or larger is just too darned big?). No. You haven't. Hubby suggested I take Doc's advice as he was the professional in the room. My head was telling me to stand my ground as I was the one who had lived for 37 years with breasts I truly hated. I was the one who had saved for years for this moment. The doc and I came to a grudging agreement of small C.

A week later, after thinking about the procedure and discussing it with Hubby, I called and made the appointment for the surgery. When the day came for me to go in and get marked up for the procedure that would follow the next day, I asked Doc to please go B cup. He said he would as he went to work measuring and drawing purple lines all over my breasts to mark where the incisions would go (and again turning every now and then to engage in argument with Hubby over how much the doc was going to make doing this procedure, leaving me standing there bare-chested with purple marks while they hashed out the cost). When I returned home from being marked, I went into my undergarments drawer and threw out every single bra I owned. Then I went to the department store and bought a new one in the size I would be after the surgery. The rest of that day was simply waiting in anticipation for the surgery the next morning.

My surgery happened Wednesday morning of last week, and while I'm only six days past the surgery, and the bruising and swelling are still quite evident, I already know undergoing breast reduction is one of the best decisions I've ever made. When I put on a v-neck t-shirt sans bra two days after the surgery and looked at my image in the mirror, I wanted to cry. The watermelons on a downhill race had been cut from the vine. In their place are smaller, firmer, in the beginning stages of development cantaloupes. For the first time in a very long time, I didn't turn away from my reflection because I felt so ugly. Instead, I felt attractive. I just wanted to stare, amazed at the difference, and even today, I continue to be amazed by what my breasts now look like. So yeah, I'm a bit obsessed. I know I won't be flaunting my new "cantaloupes." That's just not who I am. But I also know I won't go to the great lengths I used to to minimize them, to hide them. Not anymore.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Under a Very Rare Cloudless Midwestern Sky

Finally, finally, I was able to get out on Sweetness and enjoy a ride. This after wrestling with the trainer tire that is so stiff it takes two people pushing and prying to get it free of the rim. This after blowing the hose on the tire pump because it was jerry-rigged. And this after searching the shelves in my closet, the basket on top of the washing machine, and again the shelves in my closet for my leggings, only to find them on the floor in front of the washing machine though I was certain I had washed them weeks ago. Hmmmmm. But I finally rolled out of the driveway and settled in.

I'm always pleasantly surprised by just how smooth Sweetness is. My cruiser and the Raleigh are heavy and take much more effort, which I think is probably good conditioning, so when I switch to the road bike, it's lightness and handling fill me with happiness. Even the brisk breeze blowing from the south couldn't take away the charm of rolling along easily under a much-longed for blue Midwestern sky. A very rare cloudless Midwestern sky. Even the crass, "Get on the sidewalk!" yelled at me near the end of the ride couldn't diminish the joy of having just completed nearly 25 miles of cycling.

My joy was further compounded when I arrived home and checked my email. My essay that was recently accepted for publication went live today and can be found here. Having my ideas, my words, and my vision of something that means so much to me out there for others to read scares me but also fills me with happiness. I do hope those who read the essay get some enjoyment from it.

Wind turbines under blue sky

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Perfectly Sweet Kind of Day

You know things are right with the world when:

  • your friend welcomes a much-wanted, much-hoped-for beautiful addition into his family;
  • your face freezes while cycling to work but you don't care because, well, you're cycling to work;
  • you get a thank you from a stranger for the work you're doing for a cause you believe in;
  • you get a note from a sister-in-law, telling you she read a book you recommended and loved it (Driftless: one of the best books I've ever read);
  • your significant other goes out during the middle of watching his favorite hockey team play to get you a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing because one cupcake a day just isn't enough.
Yeah, it's been a perfectly sweet kind of day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Feeling Conflicted

The last week of March is upon us. Already. Whew. Someone slow this train down. Please. The days are just zipping by too quickly. On the other hand, being this far into the semester puts me closer to the end of it, which is a mere 6 weeks away. I feel like I'm saying, "Slow down! Yay, speed up! Slow down! Yay, speed up!" first looking to my right then looking to my left. I really need to just breathe.

While I may seem conflicted over this whole not liking how quickly time is passing by/wanting time to pass by more quickly, if I had to honestly choose which side I actually fall on, I'd have to say wanting time to pass by more quickly. My mind is already way in out in front of me, in June, where I'm on my bike out in the countryside. Thinking back to last summer, I remember how I rode every now and then, but mostly just hung out around the house, piddling with my projects in my new shop and my garden. I was very content playing with my welder and swinging in my hammock in the loft. But now I feel the need to get back out and ride, seeing how much I can push myself again.

My desire to get out is definitely fueled by the music I listen to. When I rode for BTUSFMS in 2012, Lovely Beautiful Daughter put all her music on an mp3 player and sent it to me. I clearly remember the day I received it. We had arrived in Haswell, CO after a long day cycling. I opened the box addressed to me. Inside was the mp3 player and three cards, one from each of my kids. They each had taken the time to write me something. Reading their notes filled me with such joy that day. I read them several times before putting them away in my cubby in the van. Then I went to stretch out on one of the picnic tables, put the earbuds in, and listened to the music on the mp3 player. As I drifted into that kind of foggy state of dozing, a song played that became a part of who I am to even this day. I remember hearing, "What can I do? The river's overun./We're swimming in a flood, you know?/I thought I felt your touch/But the water's rising up." I never tire of this song by Passion Pit. If anything, hearing it puts me right back in that moment on the picnic table and every day after, as I rode my bike and listened to the music on that mp3 player. That song (and so many others on that mp3 player) is a prod to get back out and pick up where I left off in San Francisco.

I might not be as nervous about riding for BTUSFMS this go round, but I'm every bit as excited, hence my wish for time to speed up, so I can get out there and explore right here in my own backyard.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Finding My Balance

Yesterday when I left the house to go to work, it was a balmy 30 degrees. I knew I had to ride my bike. I really had no choice as a pull to bring the blue cruiser down from it's spot in the bike barn propelled me off the sidewalk, across the short path to the barn. Today dawned sunny and even warmer, giving me day two of finally being able to ride without freezing. About half way to work, I realized just how much I had been missing the daily commute. A happiness I'd not been feeling for awhile washed over me as I watched the ROTC members undertaking a drill at the park alongside the bike path, as I saw robins flitting about the hedge apple trees, and as I heard the trill of the red-winged black birds near Birky pond.

All last semester, I cycled to work. Each day I enjoyed the fresh air, the sunshine, sometimes the cold and snow. Being outside, even for just a short time before having to start work then for a short time on the way home afterwards, helped me find balance. When the holiday break came, so did the bitter cold and lots of snow. My threshold for continuing to ride is around 15 degrees. With no wind. Once break was over, the wind and snow continued, keeping the temps below 15 degrees for a long time. Right up until the last two and a half weeks or so. I didn't ride all of January, February, and now most of March. I could feel the tension inside building over the last couple of months, and when I was cycling to work today, I could feel the wound-too-tight feeling begin to loosen. I could feel balance returning.

Such a simple thing, cycling, but it brings about calm, joy, and balance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mid Semester Sniffles

With a sniff, sniff, I had to bid farewell to spring break Sunday evening. While I mostly got caught up with all the student work for my classes over break, I did take the time to read Divergent and begin Insurgent. I also worked on a new essay, got one outside bike ride in, celebrated Funny Delightful Son's 17th birthday, saw my dad, siblings, and other family for my dad's 80th birthday celebration, and started watching The Following (which just absolutely creeps me out, but it's like a horrible train wreck that I can't tear my gaze from). I even cleaned and organized the front closet. All in all, the week was exactly what I wanted and needed it to be.

And now, here I am in week 9 of a 16 week semester. For the most part, I'm happy with the majority of my students and the work they are producing. I know some of my students don't particularly care for my opinion that to get better at anything--yes, even writing--one must simply practice whatever that anything might be on a regular basis. Like, every single (hahahaha, sorry for the aside, but single actually came out "dingle" the first time I wrote it) day. For most of us, being proficient at writing doesn't just happen. It happens after writing. A lot. And reading. A lot. Some students don't want to have to put in the time it takes to become proficient. They don't care. I try not to let this attitude affect me as I know developing a love for writing isn't on their bucket list. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's on their fuck it list. Which is okay. I most likely will never develop a love for constantly having a cell phone in my hands, texting, checking social networking sites, or looking up how to spell definitely because I continue to misspell it and auto correct keeps putting defiantly instead. Nope. That's definitely not going to happen. I get those students who can't bring themselves to love writing. I really do.

So that leaves me prepping for class, going to class, and trying to be upbeat every class session with the knowledge that I'm going through all of these motions for just a handful of students. Sometimes I just want to sit back, look at all of them, and say, "I'm done with you. Get out. Go do something purposeful. Drop me a postcard to let me know how things are going, but for now, just get out." Maybe this is exactly what I should do, the "this" being me getting out and going to do something purposeful because what I'm doing sure doesn't seem purposeful most of the time.

Okay. Done sniffling. Just 9 weeks left until I can close my office door for two months. Then I can not think about teaching people who don't want to learn. Then I can go do my something purposeful.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Dreaded Scale

One week ago today I stepped onto a scale. I had no choice because if I had, I certainly wouldn't have done something that makes me so incredibly disappointed in myself. I loathe weighing myself. I have ever since I was a kid. Once a person is labeled "chubby," "chunky," "pudgy," "fat," and my personal favorite, "thick," anything directly connected to making that label seem even remotely accurate is avoided. So I began avoiding the scale, at like age eight. When I was 10, we had to be weighed in the classroom, in front of all the others. At the time, I was around five feet one inch (I truly thought I was destined to be six feet tall as I was a head taller than all the other girls in the class), and I distinctly remember weighing in at 106 pounds. I also distinctly remember my teacher, who I thought was absolutely the most beautiful woman I had ever met in my short life, smiling at me and nodding, not saying my weight out loud like she had all the other students who had registered under 100 pounds. I loved her even more for that. But I knew everyone was thinking she's so chubby for a ten-year-old. Thus started my loathing of scales. They are the bane of my existence. So I avoid them.

But I couldn't avoid the scale last week. Nope. The doc said hop on. I hopped while declaring what my weight was before it registered. I was spot on. And my heart sank because what I declared and what the scale showed told the story of my slothfulness, my eating whatever whenever, but probably most importantly my disregard for my physical health as well as my emotional health. At the conclusion of the doc visit, I knew I had to make a change now.

That change has been to chart everything I eat in a day to calculate calories, fat, carbs, etc.(immensely grateful for online programs that help with all of this!). After the first day, I thought back over the last four months, all the things I'd been consuming, and I knew full well why I weighed in where I did. I also got back on the bike, which has been on the trainer next to my bed since January, but I'd only been on it intermittently. In making much more mindful decisions about what I eat, I feel in control. I've seen my sugar consumption become less and less over the last week, even staying under my goal for the last three days. I've seen my carbs consumption lessen, as well. The last two days have been nearly perfect in the carbs, protein, and fats being balanced. When I stepped on the scale this morning, I felt less dread because I know I've been eating for my physical and emotional health. Doing so rewarded me with a 3.1 pounds lost over the last week.

Fist pump!