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Tuesday, August 30, 2016


After all that I posted yesterday, I had a "moment" today, which unfortunately fell during my birthday dinner, and which ended up making my husband feel like he'd not properly feted me, which isn't the case at all. I guess that's what he gets for having married a woman?

Anyway, I wanted to follow up because I want to be honest and real, and I sincerely felt and meant what all I said yesterday, but today... Well, today was another day. Fiddle dee dee.

Please excuse this admission: I got something for my birthday that I didn't want. It's something I get every single month, if you catch my drift. So that's not helping. Today, we received the copy of "All the World" that I ordered for Mal last week, and I wept reading it three different times. So that's where we are.

Another thing you should know is that last week, I installed sparkpeople on my phone because I need to track my calories. When I was pregnant, of course my appetite grew and I ate more. After I had Mal, that kind of continued; you burn lots of calories breastfeeding, so no biggie. But as he gets bigger, it's more and more difficult for me to lug him around, so I try not to as much. I encourage him to walk, so my exercise level is going down. He still nurses a lot, but I'm not sure how much he actually drinks, and he'll wean at some point... so we have to reign this in.

So I'm still in the two-week "calorie modulation" period where I'm just hungry a lot of the time. I really hate that. And I feel stupid for lining this up the week I'm on my period, too, because what kind of crazy person does that? Oh well. We're almost a week into it now, so we're plugging on...

Tonight, James got home and wanted to show me the Prisma app he'd downloaded. Unfortunately, the picture he snapped was of me turning around after having cut D a piece of my birthday cake. It was a very unflattering picture, and I told him, "That's revolting. I don't want to look at it." He was trying to show me the filters, but I said, "Seriously. I'll look when you take a different picture."

Because I'm nice.

Anyway, that was bad enough.

Soon after, I hounded D into letting me take a picture with her FOR MY BIRTHDAY. We squeezed into the chair in my bedroom, and James took a picture with my camera. I didn't look at it until a bit later, but, lort, it was awful. I just wanted our faces, in general, but the picture was at a weird angle like your shadow looks when it's late evening: giant freaking feet, big legs, smaller torso, itty bitty heads. I barely glanced at the pictures before deleting them, saying aloud that they wouldn't work.

At that exact moment, I'd been cutting a piece of cake for myself. Instead, I teared up and had to leave the room. My self-talk was seriously, "When you're this disgusting, you don't get to eat cake."

And I couldn't. Like it didn't sound good, and I knew it'd be dry in my mouth, and I just could not.

But James can't read my mind, and all he knows is that I've bitched at him for two different pictures, and now I'm not eating the cake he picked out for me.

It was on that note that he and Mal both went to bed super early tonight. So when my mom asked me if I'd enjoyed my birthday evening, I wasn't sure how to respond.


I did talk to James before he went to sleep. He said he feels like he never gets it "right" on days he tries to make me feel special. But he did everything right! He did stuff in advance. He got me what I asked for (See's Candy). He even picked out a cake and some cake pops (one of which I did have for breakfast this morning). AND he got me the awesome tablet on which I am writing this blog post right now. He would have done any of these things any day of the year, too, just because he loves me. This was actually kind of over the top for him.

But it's not about what he got me. It's that despite my ugliness, physical or emotional, actual or perceived, he loves me. He loves me and wants to be with me and wants to make me happy. And he does. But sometimes, it's just hard, you know? So I thought I'd share that with you.

Good night.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Early-Mid-40s

Holla! Tomorrow is my first day in my early-mid-40s.

I have this system, see: When you turn, say 40, you're 40. Then 41-43 is the early 40s, 44-46 is the mid-40s, and 47-49 is the late 40s. 41 is the early-early-40s, 42 is the mid-early-40s, 43 is the late-early-40s, and so on. Anyhoo. Now you know.

I'm in my early-mid-40s.

I'm hitting the middle of the decade of official Middle Age.

And stuff is changing, man.

Old folks say things all of the time. Stuff like, "I still feel like a teenager inside; it's only when I see myself in the mirror that I realize..." And you think, "Sure you do, oldie." It just doesn't sink in. Until it does.

There have been several things I've noticed over the past few weeks and months that have really sneaked up on me (yes, that's grammatically correct), and it's shocking how freaking typical I am in this whole thing. I don't love being "average." Yet here I am.

In no particular order:

#1) Number One. This is likely a mixture of age and having recently had a kid. Gosh, I hope. Anyway, the thing is this: I have to sneak to the restroom without letting my body know that's where I'm headed. I can't even think, "Oh, good! It looks like I have a moment to go to the --- WHOOPS! NO! NOT NOW!!" Seriously. My eyeballs register the outside of a stall door and before I've even reached out to open it, it's like, "Release the Kraken!" Good gravy, Mabel! We still have a good six or seven seconds before it will be safe! So I can't share this information with my body, really; unfortunately, I don't know how to get my brain to cooperate with me on this one.

#2) Close-in Vision. I've been myopic enough to require corrective lenses since 1977 (which was 2nd grade, for those of you who, like I, hate unnecessary maths). This has rarely been a blast, especially as a small child and awkward teen, when glasses were either strictly utilitarian or just purposefully ugly. That's the only thing that makes sense.

However, my close-in vision has always been incredible. Without my contacts in, I can read the microprint on checks. I can read tiny print on anything, including pictures of stuff. And as long as my vision is uncorrected, I can still do this. However, if I'm trying to read anything smaller than regular book print, it's becoming more difficult to do so in less than perfect light, or with writing on a less-than-strictly-contrasting-colored background. It's frustrating because I could read this stuff with my contacts in/glasses on like FOUR SHORT MONTHS AGO. So what the heck?

James said it's because our lenses thicken as we age, rendering us less able to focus with the acuity we once had. I'm sure he's right, but that's just plain dumb. I exercise my eyes. They should repay me by staying fit. Jerks.

#3) Post-Baby Spread. I am not sure how much of this is strictly age and how much has to do with that plus having a baby. I'm going to blame it all on my little kid, because it's not a deal-breaker, and it makes me feel like less of a senior citizen to think I had some help.

Anyway, after I had Daphne, I just gained a bunch of weight and was generally fat. Then I lost the weight. That makes it all sound a lot simpler than it was. There was drama, there was work. Sure, all of that. But my weight gain was all-around and my weight loss took a bit of time and discipline, but it happened within less than a year of my deciding to fix things.

With Mal, my body is actually changing. The distribution is not typical for my body, and I don't know how to handle it.

First, I've never been very busty, and this nursing thing is keeping me plenty filled in up top. Next, apparently breastfeeding melts gluteal fat, so my posterior, in addition to getting a lot of use during frequent floor play and nursing sessions, is actually flatter because some of the fat is outta there. So that's weird. Mom butt. And THEN there's the tone I lost (YES, I HAD SOME) during the pregnancy, what with the stretching of the belly area, and its shrinking back down. There is also some left-over layering that is still there and I've read doesn't want to go away as long as I'm still nursing. I PROMISE YOU, BODY, I'M NOT IN DANGER OF STARVING.

Le sigh.

With this stuff, though, I know it's just a matter of making good choices and waiting it out. I have zero desire to do sit-ups or go to the gym at all. I love walking with my people, and I'll love riding my bike again once we get into a neighborhood where that's feasible... and I replace my stolen bike (grumble grumble grumble).

Still, it's weird not to know your body. It's expected during pregnancy, but now...

#4) The Sweating. PEOPLE. I have never been a big sweater. Austin is certainly hot and muggy, but even the first summer we were here wasn't that bad. Now, I sweat most of the time. I don't necessarily feel overly-warm. But my face is almost always shiny (and we'll get to the face thing in a minute), and especially when I get super stressed (which is several times daily due to my precious little boy), I find the flop sweat to be present in rather alarming quantities.

Also, the area under my eyes... sweats. A friend teased me about whether I had eye bags so this was the facial equivalent of under-boob sweat. It's not. And it seems to be "a thing." Seriously. I just Googled it. Don't, by the way. The recommendations are ridiculous. I don't use regular antiperspirant. Why would I use under-eye antiperspirant?

If it's this bad now, I shudder to think about the lake of steam I'm going to be when I actually start having hot flashes.

#5) My Complexion. Oh, goodness, this one hurts the baddest of all. My skin has always been pretty dang fabulous, and it's something I mostly took for granted except when I was in high school and realized I was fortunate only to have a few major zits rather than constant full-facial flare-ups. Even now, I'll get the cycle-related blemish every now and then, so that's not a huge problem. But, heaven help me, the discoloring! My skin isn't the same uniform color anymore. Some of the skin on my left cheek is, well, I guess there's nothing to call it but a giant age spot.

This is to say nothing of the status of my pores, of random facial hairs, and of the colorless permanent bumps that are cropping up across my forehead. Oh, and did I mention that many of my freckles are becoming three-dimensional? Yeah. Skin tags. Never had those before. Mal appreciates these, though. They give him something to play with when nursing. He's actually excised one of them and is working on two other ones. And, yes, it hurts like the Dickens.

#6) My Flexibility. I always swore that I'd be able to do a cartwheel and the splits forever. And I could. Until my ruptured disc. I can still cartwheel (though I get more dizzy now than I enjoy) and can mostly do the splits. I am working on those, trying to get a full split complete with my laying down flat on the floor, which I could do until four years ago. I blame this on my injury, and a lot of my loss of flexibility is due to this, but I didn't injure my back ever until I was just a couple of weeks shy of my 40th birthday, so this, too, is probably age-related.

I can get some of this back, but some is permanently gone. For example, I can bend over and touch my right toes without bending my right knee. I cannot do this with my left leg; the injury and sciatica messed that stuff up forever. So it's official: I'm past my prime, people.

#7) The Upside. I'm writing this blog post. Do you know how self-conscious I might have been about all of this stuff in the past? Do you know how little I wanted to expose any vulnerability?

Also, this stuff? It doesn't make me feel worthless or "less" anything. It's just reality. And I think that sort of emotional maturity is worth the price of admission.

Last week, my mom took a picture of me that I absolutely hated. She posted it on Facebook. At one time, I might have been tempted to ask her to take it down. I wasn't. I have too little time left to worry about petty crap like that.

Back to what the "old people" say: I have asked around recently, just to see how many of my contemporaries feel like they're actually truly responsible adults maneuvering through their lives, and most of them agree that they don't. I feel most like a grown-up when I'm actively parenting. Otherwise, I sincerely feel like a 16-year-old kid driving around town, just wanting to be happy and hang out with the people I love, and hoping not to do anything too stupid.

What's the cut-off age for stupid kiddy hairstyles?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Thinking About Food (one of my favorite subjects!)

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a story on NPR about Leanne Brown. That story is here (though since it's been written, the download count has more than doubled). I immediately bought the book on Amazon and downloaded it from the website.

Since it came in the mail, I've read through it twice. I honestly think that every high school student or recent graduate should receive a copy, as it contains some awesome home economics at the beginning, especially, and throughout the book.

It's not strict "you must use exactly this much and to exactly this" kind of recipes. It's a thought-provoking book, with the idea of teaching readers to cook intuitively by getting comfortable with a method and experimenting. I love doing this, and I love anything that helps expand my imagination in this regard.

It has me thinking (and rethinking) a lot about how we cook. We are getting ready to move and are looking forward to having a bit more room to store things. Our pantry here has wire shelving, and it stinks because things get off-balance, and smaller items fall through.

We have been thinking about food storage and emergency preparation, anyway, and one of the things James said is that he read you should eat the kind of food you have in your emergency prep provisions, so that if you ever need to use it, 1) you've rotated it out so you're not stuck with old, rotten food and 2) you're used to eating that stuff so it doesn't feel like a huge change.

I'm not saying we're swearing off of fresh produce, but I think I want to purposefully implement some more dried stuff (beans, lentils, etc.) and canned stuff (modern canning makes many canned vegetables as nutritious as "fresh" out of season items, and much cheaper).

We've been doing eMeals for several years, and I love it. But sometimes the "buy it all for a week" thing doesn't work for us very well. Inevitably, we end up having left-overs or eating out one or two days during the week, and that cilantro I bought eight days ago... sad. Fortunately, now their app lets you pick as many or few meals as you want with their customizable meal plan, so I only get 4 of each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and that usually does us for at least 7 days.

But one of the things we're also thinking about as we prepare to move within the next year is proximity to a smaller shopping center (like we used to live fairly close to Fresh Plus in Clarksville) so that I could ideally ride a cargo bike to the store two or three times a week, This would allow us to buy only a bit of produce at a time, so it would have less of a chance of going south -- and, by the way, thanks to my Facebook friends for the vinegar soak idea -- but it would also allow us to take advantage of specials and sales.

For now, though, I'm still thinking about things.

In fact, Friday, I decided I should try to do something with some of the lentils we've had in the pantry forever. I'm going to be honest: If we didn't have the Instant Pot (IP), I'd have been a lot less excited about working with them, but with our IP, I can decide to have beans for dinner using the dried beans I found at lunch time.

I ended up making lentil burgers on Friday. They were delicious! The internet rocks. I just thought, "I know you can make lentil burgers," so I Googled it, and there were tons of recipes. The one I used had bread crumbs and oatmeal as well as some carrots, onions, and herbs. The patties were amazing. I made them large and square because we didn't have buns, only regular bread. So, so good.

When I was in the pantry retrieving the lentils, though, I noticed something. We have a lot of stuff in there.

So my new goal is to see how long I can go without buying major groceries. Like, without taking a full-fledged trip to the grocery store. And when I do, I want to see how little I can buy, and how much we can save so we can have more money to put toward our savings, our move, or whatever.

By the way, I have quite a few of the GoPicnic "meals." I adore them for several reasons: They're delicious. They don't have to be refrigerated. They're balanced. Most are non-GMO and some are gluten-free. They are portion-controlled. They are easy. But just to put it in perspective, if you pay full price for them (and I have not yet), they're $4. That's the entire DAY'S allowance for food if we were on SNAP.

I think we can tighten our spending a bit. I'm excited about the neat ideas, mostly meatless, that Leanne Brown has. I am also looking forward to getting more protein in my diet. That's the one thing on which I am consistently low any time I track what I'm eating. I don't adore meat (tonight, James and I had BLTs for dinner, but I just had an LT with cheese), but I do like beans and their versatility, and I love nuts and nut butters.

Oh, one of the things Brown mentions in her book is how shrimp can be a treat, and stretched to make them cost-effective. That's definitely one to buy when they go on sale. I remember back when D was very small and I was trying to lose weight, I'd just heat up cooked frozen shrimp in some chicken broth, then throw in spinach leaves toward the end. It was a LOT of protein in a tiny package, and the soup was so tasty.

Another fish she uses as "flavor" is anchovies. I've never had one before, but I'm willing to try. Here's to new culinary adventures, and budget-friendly ones, at that!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Bedsharing and Illness

I'm going to answer a question literally no one has asked, but I'm sure it's only because people are too polite to ask. Well, or they don't care. Either way, it's my blog, so I'm going to answer this hypothetical question and you can read it or don't, but let me assure you: There are pictures.

Okay, so here we go...

Mal has been sick a very few times in his little life. Since we moved into the apartment, he's gotten ill two or three times where he will be physically ill several times during the night, and otherwise seem fine.

Yesterday was one of those times. He, James, and I were up at the clubhouse when Mal gagged and threw up. We calmed him down, cleaned it up, and came back home. He was fine for a while, but then ended up being sick two more times before he went to sleep (early, for him).

As you know, he still nurses a lot, and we cosleep, specifically bed-sharing. So how do you handle bed-sharing with a barfy kid? We learned some tricks the first time he got sick, and now we have it down to an inelegant science.

First of all, our bed already has a waterproof mattress cover (from the days when he'd drink SO MUCH at night, he'd overfill his diaper; that hasn't happened in months, knock on proverbial wood) and a fitted sheet. On top of that, I put a couple of blankets. Like this:

The blankets are only on one side, because James sleeps on the outside, and he is a HARD sleeper, so it's easier if we can fix things without waking him up. Which we can, for the most part. Except this next step, if it comes to that...

On top of the other stuff, I put ANOTHER fitted sheet, cover the pillows with a towel, and then place a towel where Mal is most likely to lie down.

Finally, we do the halfsies on sheets, too, and have a spare waiting, if necessary. We also have a stack of spare towels waiting.

So, last night, when Mal would wake up, I'd pull the towel up kind of between his legs and hold the end of it to his mouth. I'd catch what I could (it wasn't a lot; he hadn't eaten much and what he had eaten was already gone), and then hope that the towel caught what I missed. Then I'd wipe Mal down with a diaper wipe and hold him while James changed out the towel for a new one. This happened three times.

The fourth time it happened, James didn't wake up, but switching the towel out myself isn't a big deal.

The fifth time it happened, I messed up! Mal woke up asking, for the third time that night, for "deeda... draw" (which is to say "soda, straw"). I'd put him off before, saying, "Okay, we'll get some later." But when I tried to put him off again this time, he repeated his request, and I could hear how dry his mouth was. My mistake was not remembering that he was waking up to be sick, which he had not done yet. Oh, but it was in the works. Had I waited and THEN given him soda, all would have been fine. Instead, I held the straw to his lips, he drank a couple of swallows, then, without warning: EXPLOSION! (I'm letting a soda flatten right now, so if he has the same request tonight, I'll wait him out and then comply.)

So we DID end up having to take off the second fitted sheet, and he slept on the two blankets, which ended the night unscathed.

There are definitely things I don't like about bedsharing. Like, you know, that there's a move-around-y kid in my bed, and I'm a light sleeper. But there are benefits (like not having to get up to resettle him, which is more often than not VERY frequently throughout the night), and, honestly, when they're sick is one time that it's so much easier.

Today, I was reading an article about why kids' fevers spike at night, and it started with: "It started around 1 A.M. My son was 14 months old, and the noises coming from his room didn't seem completely human: There was a sort of honking bark followed by a whistle-y kind of breathing... I ran into his room, my heart racing with worry, and I found him sitting up in his crib, looking scared and tired."

I don't have to do that. The second Mal wakes up, I'm awake. I can't prevent him from being sick, but I can hold him while he's sick. I can reassure him from the instant he's uncomfortable. There's no lag time. Mommy's here. It's not great, but it's going to be okay.

Later in the article was this: "I put him back in his crib, and he slept through the night. I, on the other hand, kept checking in on him every hour or so, but that's what mothers do." Nope, it's not what I do. I sleep. I sleep confidently, knowing that if there's a problem, I'll wake up because he's right there.

James had said, before we went to bed last night, "We'll need to make sure he doesn't sleep on his back." Well, you can't do that with a toddler. But I didn't have to worry about him drowning in his own sick or anything horrid like that that mothers can imagine, because I was able to sit him up literally every time he started that tell-tale cough.

With our set-up, we are able to rid of things and get back to sleep quickly, which is good for all of us. Yay, sleep. Even sleep with a hot ninja ramming a heel into your bladder at 2:30 AM. It's what works for now.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Quick First...

Something happened today that has never ever happened before.

Mal elected not to take a nap today (that's happened plenty) and was sitting in the living room floor watching videos at about five o'clock. He had his orange wooden chair from his room and had put his laptop up on it. Originally, he was lying with his head in my lap but had moved into the floor for a better view, I guess.

Anyway, at some point, he started banging his head against the edge of the chair. I asked, "What are you doing?!" then realized that he was literally nodding off.

It's the first time he's gone to sleep like that in his life! Not in a car, not boobing, just... doing stuff.

I know that's a normal kid thing, but so far, not for this kid!

I felt so bad for him, but let him sleep about an hour, then tonight he went to sleep just before 10, which is the earliest he's been asleep this week. Think I'll go join him. And his dad. We're a sleepy bunch. The rain is helping. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Growing Kids

Hello, Internets!

This pleasingly dichromatic picture brought to you by my letting the boy hang out diaperless on the bed too long.

As you might remember, we have not one, but two children. I wish I could give you loads of updates on both, but one of them is a teenager who is very private, very introverted, and wisely wary of what ends up on the internet in regards to herself (this she did not get from me). I will say that, while she might not recognize this, having her as a child has made me and is making me a better parent and a better person, slowly and painfully, but we're getting there.

One big thing is that it's cured me forever of ever even thinking, "Gosh, if that were my kid, here's what I'd do..." You don't know. You never know. And things might not make sense to anyone looking in, but really, I'm learning that the best support you can be for another parent is to listen, only throwing in tips if they're requested, and even then being very aware of the other family's parenting style, and being totally prepared for them not to take your advice at all. In order to be the best support, though, I think that you have to keep listening and sympathizing without being frustrated that the other parents are not doing it "right" or "different" or "better." I hope I can be this kind of friend to everyone else. Feel free to spill if you need an ear.

Now, the other kid. I try to be cautious of what I put online regarding him, so it's not too intrusive. There are things that crack me up that I won't share here because they cross a line. But I don't think this does, so here.

Because why wouldn't you?
Mal is growing up so much, and parenting him is in many ways so much easier than it was. But his opinions are strengthening, and he is very very determined to make us understand him and to bend us to his will that he will often cry over an issue for an hour or more, over and over, re-upsetting himself after calming down -- and these are things we cannot fix for him, like the fact that it's after 6 PM and the apartment office is closed (they have marshmallows), or that we don't have McDonald's French fries, we only have frozen ones that we have to cook (and, yes, one weekend, James and I each took him through the drive-through at McD's on a Saturday, and this might have ruined him!).

This next thing I'm hesitant to mention, because I truly don't find it important in terms of development or indication of future mental prowess or success, but I'm still going to note it so that I'll remember and because it so well illustrates that unschooling works in that kids learn whether you sit them down and force feed them or not.

Mal knows some letters. Some by name, and some phonetically. He knows "b" and sometimes "d" but also sometimes says "b" for "d." "B" he gets right every time. He knows "i" and "y" (he says "by"). He says "ssss" for "x" and "mum" for "m." Sometimes, he'll just surprise us by pointing to something with a letter on it and saying the letter or its sound. Did we teach him this? Um, no. He has picked it up from watching his favorite videos over and over again.

I reiterate: this is apropos of nothing, but just kind of funny.

Regarding "mum," this is also what he calls the moon. We'll be outside and he'll point up, saying, "Mum! Mum!" He will also point at the Death Star decal on his wall and say, "mum" while shaking his head "no." In other words: "That's no moon."

He will know all of the Star Wars memes before he ever sees the movie. In the book "Epic Yarns: A New Hope" that some friends gave Mal, he does several things: He breathes asthmatically when we see Darth Vader. He points to Greedo on the page introducing Han Solo and says, "Die!" And when we get to the garbage scene, he says, "waycanebeee," which, of course, is translated, "3PO! 3PO! Where can he be??"

Back to his videos: He usually watches compilations that are a half hour to an hour long. Lately, though, he will pick out a particular song and ask for us to "rewind" it so he can watch it over and over and over. Later, we'll often catch him acting out parts of the videos. James is sure when we were on the train that he was doing a cadence from "Walking in the Jungle" by Super Simple Songs.

Thing is, the next day, or even later that day, the video he watched 40 times in a row is repugnant to him, and the one he insisted we skip is the one upon which he lavishes his attention.

I'm going to treat you to something special. It's the freaking weirdest video on the definitely weirdest channel he likes (that I let him watch; Videogyan would be one in the rotation, but I have my limits).

Yeah. Explain that to me, if you will. On second thought, don't. Some things are better left a mystery. (P.S. These are the dudes behind these videos, if you can believe that. Not a bunch of Einstein-baby-moms, huh?)

When I bought Mal's car seat, I didn't realize it had an upper weight limit of 40, something he is approaching rapidly. I went ahead and got him a replacement seat, and yesterday we received it. I had not anticipated how sad this would make him. He cried and cried when he saw it, begging to go see his old car seat. We went down to the van and I put the new seat in the captain's chair beside the old one, asking him if he wanted to get in the new seat. He didn't. He sat in the old one, wanting to be strapped in (we were only going to the mailbox, but I did it). He kept crying and saying, "Bye bye... bye bye." So I guess we'll use the old one until he's definitely 40 pounds. He still has a few pounds to go. I'm going to keep the new seat in the car so he gets used to it and maybe that will help the transition.

Mal continues to be really interested in music and instruments. He has his ukulele as well as an "air piano" (like a recorder, but with keys, so it sounds a lot like a harmonica) and a little novelty keyboard with about 8 notes on it. He will pull out James' guitar and whatever other instruments he wants to use and have us all pitch in to make really horrible music while he strums his ukulele ("la la") and sings happily. He gets really upset with me when he hands me James' guitar and I try to coax something vaguely musical out of it, one string at a time. So I just strum randomly with him and that usually placates him.

James can really play, though. Mal's interest has sort of forced/accommodated James' practice almost every day (some work days are just too long, though). I love hearing him play. He's really good, and classical guitar is just lovely.

It will be interesting to see whether Mal ends up playing one or many instruments. I think he'd love a drum set, but we'll probably have to wait until he understands earphones and get him an electric kit or else his big sister, the day sleeper, might just have a conniption. Incidentally, she had a little drum kit when she was 5ish, but there were no other kids to complain about the noise.

I can tell nap time is wrapping up, so until next time... (as they say in that video) Bye byeeeeeee!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

On Boobies and Babies and Bungles, Our Saturday

First, I want to tell you something: I believe in personal choice, parental choice, family freedom, and individual responsibility. A lot. So I'm going to tell you what I did this morning, and some of it is associated with the World Breastfeeding Week, designed to "normalize" breastfeeding. I want you to know what that means to me, then I'll get on with the crazy half day I had.

I've mentioned often that I formula-fed my first child. I'd planned to breastfeed, but it wasn't working and they were threatening to put her back in the hospital, and she took to a bottle so fast, then remained awake and alert for like half an hour, the longest she'd stayed awake in the four or five days since she'd been born, and I was so relieved that I just fed her with bottles from there on out. I was called several times by people I'm sure meant well, but I felt an incredible pressure that I wasn't doing things "right," and it made me angry. The people telling me I could still do it the "breast" way hadn't been there in the panicked hours when I thought I might have to take drastic measures just to make sure my kid thrived. Now she was doing well, and I was not going to change anything. I just wanted to get on with our lives with our healthy kid.

So, please believe me that if I'd exercised my rights to decide and wanted to bottle-feed my second from the get-go (and, believe me, there are days...), I'd totally to go a "Formula's F**ing Fine!" feed-in, too!

Here's the stupid/weird part: Women ARE encouraged to breastfeed, to the point of formula shaming. When their baby is small. But somewhere between 6 months to a year, the pendulum swings swiftly to the other side, and you need to get that kid off of your boob! He's going to need therapy! Freak.

To me, celebrating choices is about just that: celebrating that I have the personal liberty to do a thing, and I appreciate that. I don't assume that any of my choices (in respect to parenting, faith, finances, etc.) are superior to anyone else's. So please don't think that. I support you. Unless you're a jerk to your kids. I don't support that.

So, anyway, on to my morning:

It started by my discovery that the cream I'd had turning magically into clotted cream overnight... hadn't. I don't know whether it was because the cream was ultra-pasteurized (it didn't say so on the label), or because my oven runs cool so it wasn't actually 180 degrees and never scalded the cream. Whatever, I'd wasted 12 hours at 180 and an entire quart of cream. Oh well.

Next. Mal got up and we were getting ready to go downtown to hit Voodoo Doughnut before we went to a toy store for The Global Big Latch On as a part of World Breastfeeding Week. When we went the first time, we got there around 8:30 and the place was dead. Today, we got there around 9, and there was only one parking spot in front of the building. Unfortunately, someone was double parked by the car in front of the spot, so I couldn't line up to parallel park. I tried a couple of times, then angrily realized I'd have to take the block and figure something else out. When I pulled around the vehicle, I saw that there were people in the car waiting! Aargh! I know they saw me (and the person before me) try MULTIPLE times to back into the space even with them in the way. They could have pulled up or driven around the block. Rude.

I found a spot a couple of blocks away, got Mal in the stroller, and we headed over. This time, unlike last time, there was a line. We waited about 15 minutes, and were at the front. Ish. There were two parties in front of us, and one at the register. The one at the register was taking forever. They must have ordered 2 dozen and a bunch of coffees. It was another good 10 minutes, and I was starting to panic that we were going to be late, even though I'd originally given us almost an hour for the doughnut stop!

Finally, they opened two more registers, I strapped Mal back into the stroller before I ordered, explained to him that we were going to have to RUN back to the van and eat our doughnuts there, and even then I forgot to get one of the doughnuts I wanted to bring back to share with James. Oh well.

We trotted back to the car, where my awesome little kiddo climbed up into his car seat and waited for me to buckle him in while I stowed the stroller and then handed him as much of a doughnut as I was willing to trust him with.

We drove over to Enlightened Baby (super snooty name, very awesome store) and got there just a bit before ten. We finished our doughnuts and headed in, as we'd received a couple of reminders to be there by 10 o'clock so we could sign in and be counted. As it turns out, they were just getting set up and we could have waited 15-20 minutes. But whatever. Mal loved looking around the store, and we bought their last set of silicone straws. Mal adores drinking out of whatever we're drinking out of, and he's taken to saying, "traw" and trying to pull random items out of the silverware drawer, so now he has a stash.

There were probably 20-30 moms there with babies ranging in age from pretty new (4 weeks?) to a little older-looking than Mal (but he's so big, it's difficult to tell). We all latched on at around 10:30, and they counted us, and... um, I got a free t-shirt, and I bought another one. So. Yeah.

About 30 moms. I was sitting near two or three. It seemed like there were several groups there, like maybe from birth month mom groups or something? The ones who weren't obviously friends/acquaintances of the store owner were talking to each other in smallish packs, and seemed to know each other's kids. I tried talking to a couple of women while we waited, but it just wasn't happening. I really hate that. It's exhausting, but I try sometimes. I just don't know how to connect with other women, I guess. So my commiseration, light-hearted take on something, or explanation of why I had brought doughnuts in (they were in disguise, but I think a kid smelled them) were all met with polite smiles before looking away and connecting with other people. Pppth.

After the sort of anti-climactic count, we headed right out. Mal was in a good mood, so I decided to press my luck and go to the mall for a quick return. We'd bought James a pair of Crocs online, and those are the first shoes I've gotten from them that are just uncomfortable! They also don't fit right. They're weird. I can mail them back, but they forgot to include the return shipping label, so I was going to have to print one out... and decided just to take my 20% off coupon and enjoy tax-free weekend whilst also returning the shoes.

We got to the mall, and I once again got Mal's stroller out so he could ride in style. We walked through Macy's toward the center of the mall, and I see this "coming soon!" boarded-up store where I expect to see a Crocs store. Well... apparently, the Crocs store at the mall CLOSED and I'm at the mall for no reason. On a Saturday. When the parking lot is full because of a farmer's market. Seriously.

So I tell Mal, "Well, let me go to the bathroom, and then we'll get some soda." He's still being an awesome trooper.

As per usual, the family bathroom is either in use or just locked out of spite. Since Mal was born, I have never once used a family bathroom because they are always locked. I don't think they really exist. They are just doors put there to give me false hope.

We go into the women's room, and all of the stalls are taken but one. I get Mal's stroller mostly in there, but because I have a big bag with useless Crocs in it hanging off of the back of the stroller, I can't close the door. Also, there's no hook to hang my purse or this giant bag. So I decide just to wedge him in and do my business with the door open. We're all ladies here, right? Stupid bathrooms.

There's a long line at Chick-fil-A, where I could get a free soda because of my calendar card. Instead, we walk out of the noisy food court and over to Auntie Anne's pretzels. Nothing looks good, food-wise, and so I just order a large Diet Coke with very little ice.

Um, it's disgusting. It tastes watered down. I let Mal drink some because he's very thirsty, and I let the next people in line order, then I tell the lady that the soda tastes like maybe they need to switch out the syrup. She tells some dude, and he tests a little of the Diet Coke himself. He then tests the Dr. Pepper. He then tests the Root Beer. He seems to think everything is fine. "Would you like something else to drink?" he asks. NO.

And he gives me back my money with his apologies.


Back out to the car. Have I mentioned that my son was an amazing kid today? I told him as much on the walk back outside. He threatened to drift off to sleep about 2 minutes from home, but it was only 11:30 (as much as it felt like 3 PM!), so I asked, "Mal! Are you going to tell Daddy about that disgusting soda we got?" And Mal said, "Blech!"

Here's where his sensitivities to stimuli come into play: As good as he was when we were out, it overwhelmed him and he was a wreck about every single thing once we got home, until he took his hour long nap which just ended. Hopefully we have a more chill evening!

The best thing about the day: my boy. Hands down.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Product Review: Thinx

Here's a very serious caveat: If you were born with a Y chromosome, this post is not for you. Nope. Move along, friend. Buh-bye.

Okay, just us Double Xes, then?

Hi there! You might remember (but probably don't) a review I did almost exactly four years ago on The Diva Cup. I was not overstating things when I insisted that it changed my life. It seriously did.

So, here we are, now six and a half years after this discovery, and guess what? I made another discovery.

Not an "instead," but an "and also." Why? Because life changes.

It's likely that the convergence of a couple of things have conspired to create an unsatisfactory (even more so than the usual) situation surrounding this here lady's menses.

First, I had a second baby. Shouldn't be surprising that that changes some stuff.

Second, I'm likely in the early stages (middle early?) of perimenopause. I think Perry Manypaws sounds like the name of a Disney character. No? How about Merry Pennypaws? Definitely. Someone get on that.

Anyhoo, since I'm breastfeeding -- yes, still -- I fully expected, based on the voracious nature of my son's desire for "la la" (he calls it) and his nearly-constant sucking reflex, that I'd get a break from my period for a year or so.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. About four months in...

Not only that, it was like high school grade awful. Extremely painful, making me more anemic than usual, and often lasting ten days. Oh, goodness, and the volume.

Since I have a Diva Cup, I know pretty much exactly how much I'm bleeding. It's terrifying.

And so, here is my problem: Even if I empty and clean up every single time I'm in the restroom (which is a lot, because I drink all day long; at least once an hour), I end up with leaks.

Ugh, it's been like a teenage dream... a nightmare: Switching underwear several times a day, STILL having to change pants, being nervous that something might have happened since last time I checked. 

Hope none of the Ys are still here; I warned them!

As has everyone with internet access, I'd seen Thinx and it seemed really neat. Also expensive. But, after nearly a year of this, I was getting desperate. Six months ago or so, I read a very funny review that made me decide, "Eventually, I'm going to do this."

Get it? Thinking about Thinx.

Still. More than $30 a pair. Actually, that's about what a good bra costs. So, finally, after more and more of the same, I went for it. I was going to buy one pair and test it, then decided just to go for it, buy 5 (to save 15%) and hope for the best.

First things first: Sizing. Their website says, "You may have heard to size up, but our sizing now runs true to the size chart!" So I looked at their sizing chart. In real life, I wear a size 14, which would be XL. But I also measured myself, and according to that, I would be an XXXL! I waffled on which to do, and ended up ordering my actual, real-life size, measurements be darned.

I'm glad I did! So order your pant size and you'll be fine. Oh, and yay to them for sizing according to something that makes sense, as opposed to other women's underpants, in which I wear a 7 or 8, which roughly corresponds to... nothing else. Why?

Just Sunday, I had gotten dressed and left for church, ran to the restroom as soon as I got there, and had a disheartening, "Really?! ALREADY?!" reaction. Fortunately, I guess, I'd already gotten my dress dirty on some mystery substance in my car, so it wasn't like I didn't already need to change clothes. Sigh.

A day or two later, in the space of about half an hour, something happened so that a leak made it through the unattractive thick cotton underwear I'd strategically chosen, and through the thick denim seam at the crotch of my shorts! UGH!

Then, like a miracle, this package arrived this week! They didn't send me a notice of shipping, so I wasn't sure when to expect them. I was glad they got here during my period, but was kind of disappointed that it seemed to be on its way out. But silly me! It's only Day 5, and it's returned with a vengeance, so I'm getting a very solid chance to try them out.

Okay, first, here is what they look like lying on the floor and not on a cool model:

These are the "heavy flow" (2 tampon) hip-huggers. I didn't even notice until today that the lining of the nude pair is still black. That's nice. You don't have to see... you know. Stuff. But it's flawless on the outside; you can't see through to the black.

These are my favorite, the lighter day (1 tampon) boy shorts. I am still using my Diva Cup, so only want these as a backup. I pick boy shorts because I am a middle-aged woman who does not enjoy trying to manage wedgies or the roll-down that happens when I wear stuff that hits me under my natural waist. So, it's boy shorts. And there was much rejoicing.

First thing: These are seriously-engineered underpants. They look sturdy, and they're not bulky, but they're substantial. Kind of like I'd expect a girdle to be put together, except that when you put them on, they're very comfortable. I could tell instantly that I was going to enjoy wearing them.

The inner core part goes up fairly high in both the front (pictured) and the back. You can look on the website to see exactly how these are put together, but basically, the inner layer is some moisture-wicking tech (like your running shirts, for those of you who are into that sort of thing), then an anti-microbial, an absorbent layer, and then a leak guard layer.

So far, here is my experience: I know I've had a couple of pretty productive days, but they've been flawless. It hasn't even gotten through to the outside layer of the drawers, much less my pants.

But here's where I was really looking forward to a change: Overnight.

Remember that toddler I have? The one who still breastfeeds? He wakes up multiple times a night, and he flails. He also just sits up and starts randomly crawling around, occasionally falling off of the bed.

So at night, I literally wrestle a toddler. And all of that activity, plus usually an eight- to ten-hour time spread during which I can't empty out and start over has led to my having to do emergency sheet washes, and it's been truly embarrassing and stupid and pointless. I AM ALMOST 44 YEARS OLD. I NEED MY DIGNITY.

Anyway, they work! Not a drop.

Finally, I live in Austin, Texas. It is summer. Nothing, and I mean nothing "feel(s) dry!" Not here. Not now. Well, friends, I feel drier than usual. I mean  drier than even when I'm not having my period and an wearing normal underthings.

Also, I've read about the"stank," and maybe you have, too. I think this might only be a deal if you free flow with them. Using the Diva Cup, there has been no discernable odor being what one unfortunately expects.

And now you know. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Why I'll Never Get Into "Direct Marketing" (AKA "MLM")

There are so few things I can't say I'd never do. Honestly, I make it a point pretty much never to say that, because, holy cow, I've done some things in my life that I never would have imagined my doing.


I can promise you, friends and family and all of the internets, I will never get into "sales" with a multi-level marketing format. I just won't. There is literally no life situation in which I could be that would entice me to do direct sales. None. I couldn't. I can't. I would suck at it. And here are some reasons why.

1. "Shamespiration" makes me physically ill. I have friends who post inspirational things on social media, because this is what flows out of them. Some post inspirational things in general. Some about the LGBT community. Some about working out and fitness (to each his own). Some about parenting. Awesome.

But there is a "tone" that comes through certain posts that is a flashing warning signal to me that someone just drank the MLM Kool-Aid and although they're not ready to show their cards yet, they're going to give you a freaking "higher plane" smackdown that's supposed to ripen you for the picking when they're at that place and want to reel you in, if you'll excuse me for mixing metaphors.

Listen, guys, we know this is a thing. A quick Google search, or a look at this cringe-worthy Pinterest page confirms it. Some of those sound great, right? I mean, what's wrong with starting a home-based business? Nothing. But are you really starting a home-based business if you're buying into someone else's business and moving merchandise to your friends and neighbors, really? To me, starting a business means finding a need and meeting it using your own mojo, but I majored in drama, so what do I know?

What's wrong with loving your work? Nothing. But you know who loves his job? My husband. You know what he isn't doing? Shaming people on social media who don't love their jobs as much as he does. Why? Because he's not a douche nugget. No one voted him their personal coach, so he doesn't have to send these malcontent vibes vaguely disguised as "helpful" quotes out into his social circles.

Anyway, this "tactic" is not stealth. We can smell it from a mile away, and if people are at all like me, it just makes us want to run in the other direction.

2. I'm not materialistic. Do you have to be materialistic to get into MLM? Probably not, but, gosh, they sell it like you do.

First, at almost any MLM pep rally, they seem to have a very targeted valet policy, which involves parking all of the Maseratis and Porches and whatnot in front of the venue, lined up nicely, so that "ambassadors" or whatever can take pictures of the amazing wheels, the purchase of which selling Company XYZs whatever facilitated. So they post these pictures to the tune of "See what you could have if you were doing what I'm doing?"

Second, photos of income checks. Seriously, people?! Did your parents not teach you that some things are just gauche? Think about it: There are LOTS of self-employed people. Does your independent insurance agent post his paychecks online? Or talk about how much money he makes? Your doctor? Your kids' teacher? Besides, if someone who provides a product or service to you is bragging about how very VERY much money they're making, wouldn't you be suspicious about what they're charging you?

I know, I know. They're not posting for the customers. They're posting for the down-link. It's really sleazy, if you asked me. It's like taking your privates out in public and bragging about them. If you're the real deal, and you're actually confident, and you have something worth having, you don't need to show it off. It just is what it is.

3. I'm content. Or maybe I should say that I'm not ambitious. My life is not extraordinary. It's pretty low key and I'm sure not many people notice it. I influence my immediate surroundings, but that's about it. And you know what? I'm good with it. A lot of direct marketing people talk about dreaming big, scary dreams. Well, maybe I have some of those in the pipeline, too, but you know what? They have literally zero to do with selling crap, and they have literally zero to do with raking in a bunch of cash at the expense of my relationships, counting on former friends and family either to buy from or sell under me. They have nothing to do with how much money I can make to buy my "freedom" to do what I really want to do. I want nothing but a full night's sleep, and obviously I could have someone manage the kid so I could sleep through, if I REALLY wanted that more than anything else, but apparently, I have different priorities. So even my most basic dreams are tempered by the fact that I'm not willing to do whatever it takes to get what I want.

According to the MLM machine, I'm to be pitied for the small life I'm willing to accept. Whatever. I'm pretty happy. Guess I'm just dumb and ignorant that way. There are worse things.

4. I am not willing to alienate my true friends and family. I'm just going to be honest here: I've noticed that, while it seems like most friends have longtime friends who try to be supportive when they first start with "direct marketing," over time, the only people responding to their tired old posts about their incredible lives with this company are other people involved in the selling. Where did their old friends and family go? It's just exhausting to feel "sold to" all of the time. There are the "informative" social media posts (which are actually touting whatever product it is, and/or bashing alternate products), the aforementioned "shamespiration" posts, the sales notices, the party notices... oh, and speaking of that...

THE "PARTIES," man. Those are the worst! "Free food" and "you don't have to buy anything" have to be the most disingenuous phrases ever. A party should have food, and you shouldn't have to buy anything. Those things aren't parties. They're sales conferences. I've been invited to so many "fun nights with some friends" to "help" a mutual friend with their "business" by acquaintances who have never before and not once since ever tried to get together with me on a personal level. Not one-on-one and not with several friends. It's not a party. It's not a social event. Don't insult us by pretending it is. I would never do that to people I respected and cared about... well, or to anyone, because... ugh. And that's why I can never do this stuff.

Once, a lady in Las Vegas invited me to a girls' night at her house. She'd hosted one or two before, but this time, after everyone had RSVPed and signed up for what food to bring, she let us know that she'd told one of the guests she could make her Southern Living Home presentation at the beginning, THEN we'd all party and head out to the pool, and don't worry, you don't have to buy anything, but, hey, let's all spend 40 minutes gushing over the cool stuff while the sign-up sheet goes around, anyway, and some of us are just fuming that we got bait-and-switched. Scummy business practice.

5. I'm too frugal (cheap?). I do not care what anyone says. I just don't. Whether it's Pampered Chef or Jamberry or Scentsy or Avon or anything... I know people have their favorite products from those lines, but I'm going to tell you something: You can get all of that stuff from other stores, usually cheaper and often much, much cheaper. The company line is that somehow, their products really are different enough that the ones at the stores are somehow inferior. There have been tests done. Yeah, I'm sure that there have. Whatever. No. I can't spend $25 on something I could get for $8.50 just because someone would rather push that stuff than work at McDonald's. I couldn't buy it myself as a distributor, either. I'm just way too conscious about what things costs and how much I spend.

6. I don't like being played. Here's the deal, guys. Did you ever go to church camp when you were younger, and you felt very close to God and then came home and after a while, you just felt achingly "normal" again? You learn that these are "mountaintop experiences" and while they're meaningful and all, that kind of emotional enthusiasm can't be sustained; you have to have something deeper. (And if you don't have a faith story like that, it can really be anything: when you won a spelling bee and felt super smart and loved school, or when you finally kissed that guy for the first time after having dreamt about it for twenty-plus years, or whatever.)

The "pep rallies" those companies have are exactly that. They have to keep whipping their distributors into a frenzy, reselling themselves over and over again so people don't get fed up and stop. When friends post pictures from their "awesome" weekend, I don't think, "Gosh, what a great life!" I think, "Gee, how are they getting caught up on their weekend chores, like ever?"

There's a scene from my favorite show, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, when they travel to a franchisee meeting for Marvelous Marvin's Hamburgers, and everyone very heartily sings this really stupid song that goes, "Let’s go to Marvin’s, and bite into a smile… We know you love burgers, so we go that extra mile… With juicy double patties, cheese, tomatoes, onions too. Served any way you like them, ‘cause we make them just for you…" That is what I picture in my head any time anyone goes to one of these things.

And what makes it *worse* is when God is mixed in. When a company leader hires a famous Christian musician to come "lead worship" at their sales convention? I'm sorry, people, but that's disgusting. I'm not judging any one person's experience here, because worship can and does happen anywhere and everywhere and that's fine. But to me, a company calculatingly uses (and abuses, in the Ten Commandment sort of way) God's name when it tries to create a camaraderie based on a common faith. It's wrong. They know what they're doing, even if the attendees don't. Please don't argue with me about this. Just because I'm cynical doesn't mean that I'm wrong. I'm 100% not wrong.

7. I can't play the games. In addition to the social media posts that don't come from the heart (I never ever do throw-backs, or change my profile picture in solidarity, or repost something I've been told to do, or participate in challenges, etc. so you can darn well bet I'm not going to post something my "boss" tells me to post on MY social media account), and the "acting like we're friends, but I really want to be your business associate (read: make money off of you)", and the general smarminess of hitting up friends and family, there's something else lots of MLM people do: Hit up strangers in public places.

I actually was asked in a Walmart to do a makeover for Avon, because of my beautiful skin, back when D was a baby and we lived in Vegas. I knew it was a sales thing, but I wanted to go because it was an excuse to get out of the house and have a few minutes to myself.

First, this lady had a legit cosmetics counter (think Dillard's) in her living room. She had drunk the 10-gallon Coleman cooler, man. Also, everything but that counter and the kitchen table had dust on it. Lots of dust. Even the kitchen cabinet doors. Vertical dust. She asked me if I wanted a drink, but I was too scared.

So she did the facial, then explained that she'd need to do the make-up part at a separate visit. I didn't buy anything that day because I was annoyed by her stupid game. I'd gone fully prepared to make some purchase, but instead told her I'd wait to see how my skin looked later and let her know.

When I went back for the make-up part, that was when the fun really started.

Toward the beginning, she handed me a concealer after putting some under my eyes, and she told me I could put it anywhere I had problem areas. I think I had a zit or something at the time, and I covered it. I handed it back to her, and she seemed disappointed, "That's it?" Well, yeah. Sorry I like my face.

Then she put on the foundation. She turned me away from the mirror to do the rest of it. When she got done, she was like a preschooler at Christmas. She turned me back toward the mirror, and... I thought, "This is too much makeup." But it didn't look bad. She'd given me a couple of tips I was able to use later, in every day wear, as well as a couple of things I used when we had pictures made. So I studied myself, smiled, and said, "It looks nice."

Once again, I apparently crushed her expectations.

"'Nice'?! Most women CRY when they see themselves for the first time."

Again, my obnoxious contentment with the normal, less covered-up state of my face just ruined everything for this woman.

In the end, I bought a couple of things, but I really hated the foundation. I never wear foundation, and the Avon foundation in particular, I could smell all day. I never stopped smelling it. It was not good.

Anyway, I wouldn't invite strangers into my home. I wouldn't approach a stranger under the guise of doing them some solid. I hate it when it's done to me, and maybe that's the thing: I have actual empathy and a desire to see people go about their lives happily instead of that "I know what would make you happy; do what I do, dammit!"

8. This attitude:

So, that's it, then? It's all about getting paid. It's about someone making money, honestly, even if it IS a scam (and pyramids always are, because someone's always at the bottom and gets screwed... which is why I also don't do those "mail one person a book and you'll get 36 books in two months" things, because they break down and someone loses). Even if it alienates friends and family. Even if it's just a flash in the pan and doesn't amount to anything ten years from now but a waste of your time and relationships. Even with all of that, at least for a while, you still get paid. Congratulations. And no thanks.

P.S. If you're in a direct marketing situation and you want to argue with me about how none of this is true, don't bother. It's true in the experiences I've had, so you don't need to defend a specific company, or try to convince me that it's different, better, the ambassadors are happy, etc. If you want to make a difference in the reputation of MLMs, then DO STUFF BETTER. Do it differently. The structure makes me skeptical that that is a possibility, but that's the only way you can change my mind. Words won't. I've experienced this for more than half of my middle-aged life.