Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tenth Anniversary Trip

At Beatles Love (obviously)
My husband and I recently celebrated our tenth anniversary with a trip to Las Vegas.  Before you congratulate us, I should clarify that we haven’t actually met that 10-year milestone yet.  Our anniversary is in July, during the same week that our baby is due.  Since I would therefore not be able to travel on our real anniversary and would be highly likely to be in labor, which is not the most ideal of anniversary activities, we went ahead and celebrated early.  My parents kindly watched our kids for us. 
Bellagio Conservatory
This living mural was supposed to look like the impressionist
painting next to it.  I could sort of see it...not really.

Leaving Love.  It was crowded.
We traveled to Las Vegas for a family vacation last year and visited almost every kid-friendly attraction the city had to offer, so this time, we focused on more adult activities.  (By “adult” I mean activities that are not child-friendly such as the Bellagio Conservatory where children are not allowed;  I am not referring to the “adult entertainment” of which  Las Vegas has so many offerings.   We do happen to be a couple of goodie-two-shoes Mormons, after all. )
CSI: The Experience
We saw two Cirque shows: Love and Mystere.  For those unfamiliar with Cirque, it produces lavish dance/acrobatics shows with wild costumes and special effects.   I had seen Love before on a trip with my mom and sisters, but my husband hadn’t.  I loved Love, which is entirely based on Beatles music,  and was excited to see it again and introduce my husband to it.  Mystere was new to both of us.  I enjoyed Mystere very much, but not as much as Love.  Mystere is visually stimulating to watch, but it is also very abstract and has very little English text.  I like that the Beatles’ lyrics kindly narrate Love, helping me to better understand what I am seeing.  My husband, on the other hand, preferred Mystere over Love.  He felt that Mystere had more acrobatics while Love was more like a very advanced show choir performance, in his opinion.

We also went to a drive-in movie theater for a double feature, saw a magic show and visited two exhibits, CSI: The Experience and Bodies.  CSI is based on the TV show of the same name.  It was fun and educational;  it reminded me of the sort of exhibit you might find at the Epcot Center, the main difference of course, being that for just a wee bit more money, you see a lot more exhibits at the Epcot Center than just the one we saw at CSI. 
Bodies, however was absolutely amazing and well worth the price.  I had expected this to be a typically overpriced Las Vegas mini-exhibit, but it was fully comprehensive and large enough to be considered a museum rather than an exhibit.  If you ever did cadavers in college, it is nothing like that.  These bodies are posed as if alive so you can see what the inside of our bodies look like in motion.  They have also created a number of dissections for close-up views of different body systems.  As a person who has worked in tobacco prevention, I appreciated the exhibit comparing a healthy lung to a smoker's lung, and the huge vat placed next to it where people were invited to drop off their cigarettes as their first effort to quit smoking.  I didn't see another pretty lung like that in the whole exhibit.  I asked a guide about that, and she verified that only one of the donated bodies came from a non-smoker.  She had that person's other lung available to touch, and I could feel how soft it was in comparison to the rock-hard smoker's lung.   I also only saw one female body in the whole exhibit.  She was in the section on the reproductive system.  After I asked the guides about that, I heard about four or five other people approach them with the same question.  Apparently, everyone noticed the gender imbalance.  The guides confirmed that only one woman was there because fewer women donate their bodies to science.  I especially enjoyed the section on fetal development (from naturally deceased fetuses, the exhibit signs noted) and  seeing what my unborn child looks like now.  (Answer:  like a born child, but slightly smaller.)  However, my husband reminded me that the fetus on display had hair, while ours is likely bald, according to our pattern.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Across the Wide Missouri

Conference Center Sculpture Garden

I make it a point to always check out some site at any place I travel for work.  This was difficult during my recent trip to Omaha.  Omaha does have stuff--there's Boys Town and an acclaimed zoo and pioneer historic sites and art galleries.  Unfortunately, my cramped schedule did not allow me enough time to get to any of these things during daylight hours.  However, in keeping with tradition, I did get a self portrait at the sculpture garden by the conference center.  I tried to get one by the Missouri River but failed to get a good one.  My self portraiture skills must be rusty.

It occurs to me that maybe I should  network, like you're supposed to do at these conferences, so I can make temporary friends who can take pictures for me so I am not stuck with silly self-portraits.  I do network, as is expected of me, all day long, but by the time the conference closes in the evening I just want a break from all of that.  Networking is exhausting.  I'll keep up the self portrait tradition, instead.  maybe I'll get better at it.
Missouri River

Monday, June 18, 2012

Goodbye to My Grandma-in-Law

With our grandparents at our wedding, almost 10 years ago.
Of them all, only one, my step-Grandma, is still alive today.
My husband's grandmother recently passed away at the age of 92 and I wanted to pay tribute to this good woman.

She lived only about an hour and a half away from us, so I got to visit her more often then many of my husband's other relatives. In spite of her old age, she hosted an annual Easter egg hunt at her home every year without fail and participated in many other family events.  She kept busy sewing and managing a massive garden which, to my city girl eyes, appeared like a small farm.

She was a creative, generous person.  When we were expecting our first child, she brought out about a dozen handmade swaddling blankets and invited me to choose some for our new baby.  Not wanting to be greedy, I selected two blankets.  By her expression, I could tell I had done something wrong.  My husband immediately intervened and added several more blankets to our stack.

My baby seemed to appreciate the gift.  When Great Grandma first held her, at the wee age of one month-old, the baby immediately grinned.  (At that young age, my baby occasionally smiled at me too, but only after performing a complex formula of pleasing feats, like nursing+rocking+singing a song.)  I later learned that Great Grandma had this effect on all babies.  They really liked her.

I did, too.
At the Funeral

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why I Don’t Believe in Diets and Why I’m on a Diet

I'm on a diet.  I don't believe in diets and I resent that I am on one.  I resent it thoroughly.
I have only been on two other diets in my life.  The first time was when I was a freshman in college.  My health professor informed us that he would give all students a skin fold test at the end of the semester and only those who measured as "slim " would get an A on that particular "assignment."  At the beginning of the semester, my measurement was not "slim " but "ideal." I agreed that my body mass was ideal and would have preferred to stay the same, but I was also an academic perfectionist and an ideal body mass was only worth a B grade. 

If I were in that same class today, I would be complaining to the dean, writing letters to the editor, maybe picketing.  Everything about the skin fold test grade was so twisted.  It rewarded underweight, unhealthy, anorexic people and reinforced their eating disorders.  It gave people with ideal body weights cause to develop eating disorders of their own, even if they were previously and correctly comfortable with their body weight. Even for obese students, who really did need to lose weight, the policy was damaging because it encouraged them to lose weight at an unhealthy rate in order to meet the semester-end deadline.

But I was more docile back then, and I really liked A 's, so I decided to accept the challenge to achieve less than ideal body mass. Sort of. I wasn't at all willing to starve myself, even for an A, so I only gave up all sweets and I exercised more often than usual.  At the end of the semester, my body mass was still ideal and I wished I had just eaten dessert when I wanted it.

My next diet was unintentional but more severe.  I was a missionary in a third world country and my stove started shooting flames.  With the stove out of service, I was limited to foods that did not require cooking.  Foods requiring refrigeration were also out because of the frequent power outages in the area.  (When the stove worked, we would buy fresh perishables every day for immediate cooking and consumption.)  So I ate tomato and green pepper sandwiches, without meat or cheese, every day, every meal, for 10 consecutive days.

When I wrote my usual weekly letter to my family, I must have seemed really hungry, because they called the mission president to protest my living conditions.  That happened to be day 11, the day my new stove arrived, so the mission president reassured them that it was all taken care of.  However, he was curious about what I had written to inspire such a reaction from my usually laid back parents.  He called me in and pointed out that he, himself, packed a sack lunch of sandwiches every day as he traveled across the mission area. I was duly ashamed of my weakness, until I related the conversation to other missionaries who pointed out that he ate nice sandwiches, with meat in them, and hot meals for breakfast and dinner. My shame immediately evaporated.

So those are my only two previous personal experiences with dieting.  I don’t believe in dieting and some health experts agree with me.  Those who espouse the "intuitive eating" philosophy argue that going on and off of diets only destroys your metabolism and causes you to forget how to eat rationally, resulting in even greater weight gain as soon as the diet ends. 

Regardless of whether they happen to be right or not, I like this kind of nutrition expert.  They are saying exactly what I want to hear.  "Enjoy your food! Don 't torture yourself with a diet!"

I do not like “serving size Nazi” nutrition experts.  The powers that be have created a nonsense unit called the “serving.”  From its name, it sounds like it would be the amount of food that you could dig out of a platter with a serving spoon—the amount you would actually put on your plate and eat.  Actually, a serving size is completely different for every possible food out there, but always much smaller than what any rational, hungry person would choose to eat.   Nutrition experts can do entire courses on serving sizes.  “A serving of bagel is about the size of a wedding ring,” they explain.  “And a serving of bread is the size of a crouton and a serving of grapes is the size of one piece of a grape after you cut it into thirds.”

Are these serving size descriptions accurate?  I don’t know.  I always tune out when someone starts talking about serving sizes.  The one thing I do notice is that the serving size Nazis usually forget to mention that you are allowed several of these pathetic servings during one meal.  I think they like to see people starve.

Before anyone becomes too scandalized and tattles on me to any of my coworkers at the health department about my flagrant disregard for portion control, I should mention that I do eat healthy food.  You know, skim milk or water instead of soda pop, turkey or chicken instead of red meat, wheat bread instead of white, lots of vegetables.  It’s just that since I do eat broccoli much more often than I eat brownies, I don’t bother to feel guilty when I eat brownies.  

Or rather, I used to eat brownies without feeling guilty.  Now I don’t eat them at all.  As I mentioned before, I am on a diet.  A real one.  The first real diet of my life.  I hate it.  But it is necessary.  I don’t believe in diets, except under special circumstances, but unfortunately, I am under special circumstances.  After three perfectly healthy previous pregnancies, my luck has run out and this time I have gestational diabetes. I have to be good and figure out correct portion sizes by measuring my food onto my plate with a measuring cup and mathematically choosing meals using the nutrition brochures at restaurants.  Everyone points out that the diabetic diet isn’t the worst diet in the world, and I agree, but I still dislike the diet even more than I dislike bleeding myself several times a day to check my blood sugar.  Poking yourself is generally acknowledged as torturous.  Eating is supposed to be fun but has become work for me.  

I am trying to develop a good attitude.  I work in public health, after all, and this is a great way to practice the stuff we preach about chronic disease management—but lucky me; I only have to do it for a few months instead of my whole life.  And won’t this experience help me to better empathize with the struggles of people who have real, long-term health problems?  If I could only stop whining about it, this could be a great learning experience. I would stop whining, if I could only become less hungry.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Hubby Needs Help Helping MS Society

My husband and some of his colleagues at the hospital where he works are participating  in a bike-athon benefiting the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and would love it if anyone would be willing to make even a tiny donation to the cause with his team.  Here is his message with links for online donations:

Multiple sclerosis has been around for centuries, taking away people's ability to feel, see and even move. Since 1993 (more than 15 years), EIGHT new disease-modifying drugs have been made available and dozens more are in the pipeline. Where there was once no hope, there is now huge momentum towards successful treatments and a cure.

I'm making some momentum of my own for the cause by riding in the 26th Annual Bike MS, and I'd love your help in making a difference.

By clicking on the link below, you can make a secure, tax-deductible donation in any amount for me and my team. You can also send a check in by postal mail to the address below--just put my name in the memo field of the check so it gets credited to my team.

Any amount, great or small, helps to make a difference in the lives of people with MS. I appreciate your support and look forward to letting you know how I do!

P.S. If you would like more information about the National MS Society, how proceeds from Bike MS are used, or the other ways you can get involved in the movement to create a world free of MS, visit curemsutah.org.
Click here to visit my personal page.
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