Monday, September 26, 2011

Someone has a case of the Mondays and it ain't me.

I send out all the wellness-related emails to my department. When we're running a program (like "Biggest Loser") that the whole county is participating in, those are sent out by me, too. There are approximately 2-3 emails a week. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but never more than 4. I also write the bi-monthly "Wellness Newsletter," which includes a quiz, with prizes to the winners. This is in addition to any prizes that are available to participants in the programs run by our healthcare providers. So not only are we giving good information related to wellness, there are opportunities to win prizes (the prizes that I give out are modest, like pens, or lunch boxes. I have some cool Kaiser-donated baseball caps, too. The other prizes are better, like Subway gift cards, bicycles, and even an iPad). Where's the bad in all this? There isn't any.

This morning I got the following message in my in-box.

To: Irene P.
Subject: sick

Sick and tired of all the e mails when tring to do my job

With the blessing of my supervisor, I sent the following response:
Good morning, [Mr/Ms Anti-Proofreading],

Which emails are you referring to? If you are referring to Wellness Program emails, which are sent on my behalf via ------, please be aware that all messages are sent with the knowledge of the Department’s Wellness Manager, Xxx Xxxxx. These messages are sent out in accordance with the County’s wellness programs. Participation in wellness programs is voluntary. You are always free to delete any messages you consider excessive; however, you should understand that if you do so, you will be missing out on important information related to your health and wellness, as well as opportunities to win prizes.

 If you have any other questions or comments regarding the wellness programs, you or your supervisor may contact Xxx Xxxxx at (213) 837-5309.

My supervisor thought my response was too nice; then I asked if I could Cc the person's Division Manager, the HR Manager (my supervisor's boss), and our Division Manager (my supervisor's boss's boss). Who's too nice now?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stay on target!

So, hey, I'd been talking about this with some friends of mine (don't worry, you shall remain nameless) for awhile now, and on Sunday, I got up and took the baby with me to... a Weight Watchers meeting.

I first did WW about 10 years ago, when I got my first County job. After I don't know how many years (I usually say "15" but how can that be accurate? Am I that old?) of working in retail, after one year having a desk job, I gained 20 pounds. All that running around (and fooling around, god retail was fun) at the bookstores (and parking a mile from work) had apparently kept me trim, in spite of the crazy eating habits I had in my late teens and early 20s (when I worked at Crown Books in the 90s, I used to have for lunch, depending on which city I was in: Backstop Pizza, a diet coke and Reese's peanut butter cups, or a grilled cheese sandwich from Ships if I was in Culver City; a hot dog from Malibu Mutt, a giant iced blended mocha from Coffee Bean, or - if I was really lucky, Patrick would bring me a sandwich from Bay Cities when I was in Malibu. When I worked at Rizzoli in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, my meals were even worse! Let's just say ice cream played heavily in my decision-making). When I hit 30 and started working in an office, where people love to eat, I was helpless. My bosses at the time were both stress-inducing and lovers of food, and we would go to lunch, where we usually had incredibly fattening food, all the time. Now my office is full of incredibly generous people who love to bring food to share (donuts, pastries, etc.). So yeah, hello 20 pounds!

So 10 years ago, I realized that I had gained so I sucked it up and joined Weight Watchers. I needed help making healthier decisions, and I had a couple of friends (again: they-who-shall-not-be-named!) doing it, so it was fun and easier than I thought. Losing 20 pounds was pretty easy back then, though over time I did gain about half of it back.

Then I had a baby, and here I am, back at that highest number ever, not too happy about it. Maybe I could be more complacent about it except for the weekly swimming lessons I've been taking with JP. Getting into a swimsuit for the first time did not make me a happy camper (buying two pretty new swimsuits in a bigger size helped, though). I knew I had to do something, but for six months I put it off because I'm breastfeeding, and yes, I used that as an excuse even though it's really not. "I'm eating for the baby!" stopped sounding legitimate quite some time ago. So, after learning that a couple of other friends were doing it again, I decided it was time for me too.

I started Sunday, so this is my second day at work, tracking. They've changed the program a little but it's pretty simple. Yesterday my co-workers had a going away party for a guy who is transferring to another department, and though the food looked good (and I could've looked up the points plus amounts of all the items they had), I had planned out my lunch ahead of time and decided I'd better stick with it. My Subway sandwich, with just a little tweaking, works just fine for me (it makes it so much easier that WW has made all fruits and vegetables "0" points foods!). Later they had cheesecake, which was tempting until I actually saw it (a flat little cheesecake with tired looking fruit on top? No thanks!).

Tomorrow will be challenging, because it's someone's birthday, and we're going to a Mexican restaurant I've never been to. I was looking at the menu and my WW Pocket guide a few minutes ago, trying to figure out what I will eat. It all looks yummy, but I think maybe a couple chicken tacos and some black beans might work out, or maybe veggie fajitas and a chicken quesadilla... I don't know yet. I have options, though, so that feels good.
Is it weird that when I read the words "stay on target,"
I hear the voice of that dude from Star Wars?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This is a long story. I suggest you skim.


Last Saturday, I suited JP up in his swim diaper and Hawiaan-looking Izod swim trunks (bought on eBay!), squeezed myself into my bathing suit, and signed us up for an 8-week baby and me swimming class. Patrick has a friend at work who told us about it. She has a 15 month old baby and they've already done it once.

It was a weird morning - we had to get out of the house by 8 a.m. to register for the class, and while we were getting up and getting dressed, there was quite a bit of thunder. While walking to the car it started to rain, then it poured, and on the way to the pool, there was lightning and thunder too. It's only a 15 minute drive to the pool (during which the baby was fascinated by all the noises outside), and by the time we got there, the rain had stopped.

I put JP in the Ergo Baby carrier and we waited in line with all the other moms, there to sign their kids up for swim lessons or Jr Lifeguards or whatever. There was one woman in front of me with her mom, and a little girl. Man, that grandma was harsh. The woman and her mom were Hispanic, and the little girl, probably around 6 or 7, had sort of frizzy hair, pulled back into a ponytail. The hair around her face was kind of falling out of the elastic band, and it was a little messy. She looked like every other 6 year old, though, and it wasn't a big deal. Also, wasn't she about to go swimming? So who cares what her hair looked like? Grandma kept messing with her, even though the little girl asked her to leave her hair alone. Then, the little girl was standing by a big rack they had in the lobby, with all these local newspapers and magazines in it. I guess she put her foot on the bottom of it, and Grandma told her, "Don't climb on there! That thing could fall on you and cut your head open."

Okay, maybe it could. A cut-open head would be a very bad thing, and avoiding it by whatever means possible seems like a good idea to me, too. Fine. But the warning didn't suit the crime. I didn't see any indication that the little girl had plans on climbing on the rack. She was just placing her foot on the lowest rung. I don't know these people, maybe the little girl is accident prone... or maybe that grandma was just mean. I kept watching that lady and the little girl, and the way the mom didn't really do or say anything, even though the little girl got quieter and quieter (she had been talking animatedly to her mom about swimming when I first saw them) the longer we waited.

Anyway, when they finally opened the office, and it was our turn to sign up, I still hadn't seen Patrick's friend, but there were still 7 spots left in the class. The line was pretty short, but slow. When I was leaving, I saw her at the end of the line with her son, B. I didn't know for sure if it was her but she somehow recognized me. We made plans to meet up later.

I took JP home for a quick feeding (the class was supposed to start at 11, and by the time we registered, it was 9:15), and then at 10:30 we headed back. I had no idea how it was going to work, with the clothes and changing, and afterwards, getting wet and everything. I took the baby into the ladies' locker room, and set him down, surrounded by my diaper bag and a big towel, on the counter where the girls probably dry their hair, and took off the romper I'd dressed him in over his trunks. He wasn't as wiggly as he usually is (he was more interested in looking at himself in the mirror), and then I kept one hand on him and took off my own clothes, which were over my swimsuit. I need to bring a bigger bag next time, because cramming all that stuff in the diaper bag meant I couldn't reach anything I wanted easily. It wasn't ideal - but other than bringing him in in his car seat, there's no good way to do it that I could see.

Then I ignored the "shower before entering pool" sign and went out to the pool.

It's a giant, indoor pool. In fact, there might even be 2: I have no idea. Patrick's friend was already out there, with her little boy. She is skinnier than I am, and he is bigger than JP. The pool's website says the water is between 80-85 degrees. Maybe it is, but it sure felt colder. We got used to it fairly quickly, though.

The girl teaching the class was the same girl who registered us - she has a fruity name (literally fruity, I'm not being insulting). At the registration office, I thought she was kind of unprofessional but in the pool she was sweet. She was very young (in her early 20s), but she had a daughter of her own, maybe 3 or 4 years old, who was in the pool with her and who demonstrated for us. There were about 9 or 10 of us, some moms, some dads. JP wasn't the littlest - there was a little baby girl with her daddy who was probably 6 months. There was a two year old little girl who could totally swim - the mom kept throwing her in the water and she would splash across the pool. Patrick's friend and her baby kept close by - I was clearly nervous, I guess. B really seemed to like the water: he was very vocal, and splashed a lot.

We got started just by walking around the pool with our babies, letting them splash and touch the water. I had JP in a pretty tight grip. He was cool - he was looking around very intently (it was noisy in there! Besides us, there was a group of Jr Lifeguards in the other pool). Not super excited, but not freaked out, either. He went along with it all and didn't cry. I showed him how to kick his legs and he splashed the water a little. I kept his face high and he (of course!) never went under. After awhile, the teacher had us all get in a circle in the water, and we sang a couple of songs (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and The Wheels on the Bus), and then she had us place the babies sitting on the edge of the pool, and we sang another little song (I forget the words) and on 1, 2, 3, we jumped them in the water. Again, he didn't get too excited. I was probably annoying the other moms and dads because I sounded excited: "Kick your legs, JP! Whee!!" Still, it was fun. It's only a half hour class but I'm so out of shape and fat, that when we got out, my legs were tired. So I guess it's good exercise for me, too.

The Jr Lifeguards got out around the same time we did. Patrick's friend was faster than I was getting into the changing room, and she was able to rinse off at a shower before the Jr Lifeguards. I was too slow, and I guess they all decided to wash their hair. I didn't want to wait around forever, so I got JP changed out of his wet trunks and swim diaper in the same place I'd gotten him ready. I hadn't even brought dry clothes (bra, panties) for myself, so I just pulled my clothes on over my wet bathing suit. My brother had come to watch the swimming, so I met him outside the pool. He followed us home, and watched TV while I rinsed JP and myself off in the shower. Then we went to lunch!

We go back again this Saturday. I ordered a bigger bathing suit for myself on Saturday night at Lands End (actually, I ordered two - one is a "tankini." It's my first 2 piece in about 35 years, so we'll see how that works out. It's all cute and ruffly: not me at all!). I had orignally planned on wearing a pair of shorts over my bathing suit but the pool rules don't allow any non-swim clothing. I ended up breaking the rules anyway by wearing a sports bra under my suit - I didn't want to flash anybody. I hope the new suits (or just one of them at least) arrive soon, and that they work better. Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I hope JP gets used to it and acts like he's having more fun next time. We'll see.

Here's a screen shot from the video Dan took:

Poor quality photo hides my large ass, right?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Me and my annoying sign

The funky little break room that I use for pumping at work (NOT a designated lactation room... some departments have them; my department actually does have one... but not at this work location. I can't drive 27 miles round trip to use it four times a day) is also used by other employees for naps and whatnot (crap, I hate the word "whatnot," I can't believe I used it here!). When I can't get in this room, I can sometimes use a little private lunchroom in the office next door, but I prefer the funky break room (funky break! Hit it!) because it's next to the bathroom and I can wash my hands more easily. Also, the lock on the door to the lunch room is wonky, and it worries me that somebody might try to open the door ("Hey! What's wrong with this door... Oops! Hello there!"), even though I have permission to go in there, and the guy's secretary sees me every time I come around, so you'd think she would prevent anyone from barging in on me... but you never know, do you.

The funky break room has a sign on the door that you can flip back and forth between "occupied" and "unoccupied." Clearly this sign is there so that people on the outside can know if there's somebody IN THERE. Using it seems like common sense, right? Well, lately people have been not flipping the sign to "occupied," but I don't feel bad about that - if I walk in on your nap because you were too lazy/distracted/tired to flip the sign, hey, that's your own fault, sorry. HOWEVER, if the sign is flipped to "occupied" AND THERE'S NOBODY IN THERE, then I start to get annoyed, especially when this happens more than once a day. It's a big ol' waste of time.

It means that I have been knocking on the door when people are actually in there, which I'm sure is annoying to them... but if everybody just used the sign correctly there would be no question, right? It seems so obvious. And tedious.

I put this sign up this morning (on the inside of the room). I haven't been in there since; I'll keep you posted if it's been defaced or if anyone has written anything snarky on it. I'm not sure my co-workers are up to it, to be honest with you. If they can't be bothered to flip a little sign, whipping out a pen to write something in response seems like asking too much.

Or else I will knock the door down on yo ass!
Gray hairs, puffy red face included for free. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The incredible case of the mystery ingredient: ragweed.

After I had Exton and started breastfeeding him, the first six weeks or so were pretty brutal. We got lots of help from the Kaiser lactation consultants but I struggled. Somebody recently said to me, "Dude, it seems like you've had a lot of difficulty." Well, yeah. That comment made me think about what I'm doing, and how and why I'm doing it, but I'm not going to talk about that today. The point is, it was hard but I continued. It was important to me so I didn't give up.
This has not exactly been my approach to most things in the past. Still, I never (obviously) had a baby before, either, so I have a feeling lots of changes like this will occur in the future. Anyway, at the very beginning, it was recommended to me by the lactation consultant I saw at Kaiser that I start taking two supplements: one called More Milk Special Blend, and fenugreek. More Milk Special Blend is just what it says - a formulation of different herbs that are meant to stimulate milk production. Fenugreek is a single herb (it's also in More Milk Special Blend).

At around the six or seven week point, I was pretty stressed. I had a lot of pain and just couldn't get the baby to latch right when it was just me and him (at the Kaiser lactation office, he did it like a pro, but at home we were a mess). He wasn't scrawny and his pediatrician was OK with his weight but I was worried he wasn't getting enough to eat. And oh man, the pain. I kept reading "if it hurts something isn't right" but I didn't know what else I was supposed to do about it. I watched videos and called the La Leche League. I used the nipple cream*. I read my Womanly Art of Breastfeeding book. I emailed Dr. Newman (and "he" responded!). I kept trying. At the advice of a friend, I met with a private lactation consultant (her name was Ellen Steinberg, and she is amazing. I highly recommend her) and she got me all straightened out... but then right after meeting with her, there was the episode of the Stupid Abscess, and though we were now latching perfectly, I had another thing to deal with. The Stupid Abscess made me angry and I'm so glad that's over.

Anyway, all that to say is, through all of this, like a good girl, I continued taking fenugreek and More Milk Special Blend.

For the last three weeks or so, I've had a pretty bad rash all over my body. It's been sort of coming and going, but then on Saturday, it decided to hit my face. It's a red rash kind of like a faint sunburn, but itchy, and slightly raised. Even my eyebrows were itchy. After avoiding it (even though I was told it was safe to take), on Saturday night I finally took a Benadryl so I could get some sleep - so Patrick could get some sleep (I kept asking him to rub my back).

Then I started thinking about this rash, and how I've actually had problems with my skin for longer than 3 weeks: this has been ongoing since Ex's birth. I've just been dealing with it because I've had skin issues (eczema) and allergies my whole life -  at first it didn't feel much different from that. But the face thing bothered me. It felt elevated. There was something else going on other than my usual allergies, or post-partum hormone weirdness.

What were the things that changed? Well, I had a baby. Other than that... OH - what about these herbal supplements? It seems so obvious, doesn't it? Well, what can I say? I'm slow.

Yesterday morning I called up the company that I get my More Milk Special Blend from (Motherlove), and to my surprise, a real person answered ("Hello, Motherlove!"). I wasn't expecting to get someone on the phone that quickly, and that one little thing impressed me so much. I talked to Judith, and she listened to me about my rash. Then we started talking about the ingredients in More Milk Special Blend. Well, one of them is blessed thistle. She identified blessed thistle as a member of the ragweed family.

Well, hey, you know what? I'm allergic to ragweed. And here I've been ingesting it, four times a day, for close to 7 months. No wonder I have a rash. No wonder I have the worst rash I've ever had!**

Judith and I decided that it would be OK for me to discontinue the More Milk Special Blend. I'm going to just take Goat's Rue (one of the ingredients in More Milk Special Blend; "the magic ingredient," as I've heard it called). I'm going to continue taking fenugreek, too. I was worried about quitting both because I have read that if you take these supplements and then stop suddenly, you can see a decrease in milk supply, and I really don't want to risk that.

I had a previously scheduled appointment with the dermatologist (to follow up on another issue I've been having), and I discussed with her my blessed thistle theory. She thought it sounded plausible, and agreed that stopping the More Milk Special Blend would probably clear up my rash in a couple days. God, I hope so.

* People with eczema are advised not to use lanolin products on the skin, as this can cause an outbreak. I just found this out yesterday from my dermatologist.

** The rash doesn't look as bad as you might think it does, from my description. But being itchy and red is no fun, especially when it's your face. Believe me. It kind of sucks. I mean, I'm already feeling fat, my hair is jacked up because the hair that fell out when Ex was three months old is now growing in, and all that baby hair around my hairline makes me look like a little monkey with a mullet; it's not a nice feeling. I can't really do anything about my hair (though I could about feeling fat!) so if I can help my skin out, I'll do it!