12.16.2012

Diagnoses

It seems that two phrases keep popping up everywhere following Friday's massacre — gun control, and mental illness.  Across the country, people are demanding we examine our gun laws (yes! we must!) and pleading for some sort of something to help those who are mentally ill.

A lot has been made of the gunman's mental status.  That's the way it usually is following these mass tragedies we humans inflict upon one another.  In our hurt, scared minds, we try desperately to figure out WHY a person could do such a thing.  He must be mentally ill, we say.  There's got to be something wrong with him.

I'm not arguing with that.  Actually, I strongly believe that any person who purposefully harms another creature (human, animal, whatever) has something wrong in his or her brain, regardless of whether or not that person has a diagnosis.

What makes me sad is that the only times we really bring up the topic of mental illness on a national scale is most often following a tragedy.  Yes, that's absolutely a good time to talk about it, because honestly?  The system we have in our country to assist people with mental illnesses is shitty, underfunded, and inherently stigmatized.  We DO need to change these things.

But these things only shed light on the relatively small percentage of people with mental illnesses who commit large acts of terror.  We talk of destigmatizing the name of mental illness, and encouraging people to seek help if they need it.  But by continuing to only show examples of the sickest among us who do terrible things as poster children of mental illness, we are contributing to said stigma.

Mental illness comes in a range of symptoms, behaviors, and diagnoses.  People like the gunman are on a very, very sick, extreme part of that spectrum, and they certainly do not represent everyone with diagnoses of schizophrenia, or manic depression, or severe anxiety disorders.  There are hundreds of thousands of people with various diagnoses of mental illnesses who walk among us and function well in every day society.

Who are those people?  Well, me, for starters.  My diagnoses of anxiety, depression, and bulimia land me squarely in the "mental illness" category.  And my best friend.  What about you?  Your friends?  Your co-workers?

I vote that we begin the discussion of destigmatizing and overhauling the mental health system in our country by highlighting people who have been helped by medication and therapy and other forms of treatment.  People who are just as sick as a gunman, but who by the grace of god have had access to care and support and who are able to live relatively stable lives.  The Bloggess comes to mind.  (You guys know how much I respect and am grateful for her presence on the internet.)

If we highlight the good that can come from treatment, and the glorious, beautiful lives people can lead (again, I'm thinking of The Bloggess) with their mental illnesses, perhaps then we can start to remove the stigma.  We can change how we equate people with mental illnesses = GUNMAN to people with mental illnesses = JENNY LAWSON (The Bloggess.  Because who else would I talk about).  Or people with mental illnesses = other cool awesome people who lead pretty fucking amazing lives with/despite/because of/in spite of their diagnoses.  Because that means that a diagnosis is nothing to shy away from, and if we're not ashamed of saying we have mental illnesses it's a hell of a lot easier for us to accept treatment.

I'm not one for math, but that seems pretty simple, right?  Now. Let's start talking.

Note: I am purposefully not using the gunman's name.  He does not deserve that attention.  If we remember any names from this awful situation, let it be those of the victims and their families.

12.15.2012

Mourning

Yesterday, getting the children to sleep at naptime was a breeze. One teacher led our class of twelve two-year-olds in a few deep breaths to ready their bodies for rest, and the other two of us helped get the children settled on their little cots. Blankets pulled up to chins, loveys tucked into chubby arms.

A few of our children can put themselves to sleep on their cots. The rest need some help -- which means we teachers move from cot to cot, patting backs and soothing them while soft music plays in the background. We usually have a few children who are more difficult to get to sleep than others, but for some reason, yesterday was blessedly easy.

At 1 o'clock, I went next door into the toddlers classroom so that the toddler teachers could go on their breaks. Seven peaceful toddlers (miraculously) slept on their cots, so I sat down to check my phone. At that moment, our director walked into the classroom. She was white as a sheet, and reached out to hug me immediately.

"Something awful has happened," she said. "I need to come hug everybody."

She proceeded to tell me about the soul-crushing events that happened just a few hours earlier in Newtown, a small city about 45 minutes from our little school.

I was in shock. She went to tell the other teachers, and I frantically googled for information on my phone. One of the toddlers woke up, and I immediately picked her up and held her to me. Normally, if a child wakes up early from nap, we try to pat them back to sleep on their cots. Not yesterday. I gathered her in my arms and rocked her back and forth. Then I went from cot to cot, hugging and kissing each sleeping child, knowing their parents were likely aching to do the same.

The rest of naptime was a blur. I sat and held the little girl, and my mind raced -- this happened 45 short minutes from us. That school required people to be "buzzed" in, and so does ours. Someone had to let that gunman into that school. Can you imagine being that person?

I also was acutely (and perhaps irrationally) aware that these instances sometimes inspire copycat actions. I looked at the seven kids I was currently responsible for, and I looked at our little classroom with its multiple large windows and three glass doors, and I tried to think what I'd do if something happened at my school. Where would I hide those babies? How would I be able to move them all to a safe place?

We teachers received a flurry of emails yesterday about our emergency protocol procedures. I know we'll be having meetings next week to discuss this as well. I (and my fellow staff, I'm sure) am acutely aware that my first priority is the well-being of the children in my care. I would do anything, including give up my life, to save them.

But in a more immediate sense yesterday afternoon, as it pushed toward 2pm and kids were waking up from nap, we all had to set aside our emotions and keep the afternoon "normal" for the children. One by one, their little heads popped up on their cots, and they'd grin when they saw us. Thank god, thank god, our kids wouldn't know anything about what happened just 45 minutes from us. To them, it was a Friday afternoon at school, and they were safe and they were loved. So loved.

The rest of the day passed quickly. Parents were emotional at pick-up, and I was so glad to pass children along to their parents' outstretched arms. I know the 20 parents who weren't able to bring their children home yesterday were on everybody's minds. In our small school alone, there were three families who had friends or loved ones affected at Sandy Hook Elementary.

We cannot let this happen again.

Please, let this horrific event be a catalyst for change in this country. Please do not let those 20 children and six teachers have died in vain. Please, let's stop being intimidated by the NRA and actually do something with gun control. Please. 

12.09.2012

Cabernet or merlot?

I feel like I need to take my blog out on a date — a reconnecting, catching up, getting-to-re-know-you kind of date. Maybe I should even offer to buy it a makeover, since it always patiently waits for me to come back to it and let's face it, T(O)ND could use a facelift. Except hi, I haz no monies. So, blog...have a virtual glass of merlot on me, okay? Let's catch up.

This post-grad life is a weird existence. Everything in my younger life was geared toward getting me to college, even if I didn't want to go. (Remember that phase in my life, mom and dad?) That was the goal. Gimme a diploma on my wall and I've made it in life.

But now I have my diploma (though it's not on my wall. I think it's in storage somewhere. Maybe in the basement?), and I've got a neat check mark in the box labeled "bachelor's degree" on my life list. Now what? If I'm completely honest, right now I want nothing more than to be a wife and a mother. I'm 23 — nearly 24, egads — and I ache to be settled down with (a) baby(ies) on my hip(s). I don't want to be plugging away at more school, trying to achieve a more advanced degree. Not right now, at least. I'd rather be raising babies.

I always feel somewhat embarrassed when I tell people that. Yes, I want to become a midwife, someday. I can do that at any point in life. But right now I truly have no career ambitions, no drive to the finish line of another degree. I've finished college, so isn't it time for a family?

I wrote this back in February, and it's still what I want more than about anything in this world. I'm still yearning and eager to have a little village of my own. But that's not in the cards for me right now. Not with the pitiful salary I'm earning at a nursery school, at least!

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with the amount of schooling I have left to do to become a midwife. And sometimes I get so sad thinking I'm no closer to settling down and having children than I was five years ago. It's difficult, trying to tame this wild desire to become a mother with the knowledge that it'd be nothing short of selfish to start a family right now. I'm not financially, emotionally, or physically in a position to do that.

So where does that leave me now? It leaves me in a weird limbo state, with one life goal checked off and a whole lot more work to do before another gets finished. It leaves me trying to focus on the joys of the every day: seeing the kids' faces at work when teachers wore pajamas to school, the Christmas tree we have in our living room, the gigantic new wooden drying rack Cait's mom gave us, the wonderful friends I've made in my coworkers, the boy in Boston who makes me smile, living with my best friend despite our ups and downs, a therapist who I'm pretty sure the universe handpicked just for me, and the underlying feeling of hope that I can usually seek out when I need it.

That's a whole lot of good, right there.

I'm pretty sure the only way to get through this limbo state is just to live through it. I know I'm certainly not alone in it. I trust whoever overlooks us all on this path of life will lead me to children of my own, however that happens. And in that same way, I trust that this new schooling I'm doing now and this job I'm working at will sustain and even nourish me until then.

So. I may not know what the hell I'm doing most of the time, but what I do know is that I'm just going to keep going.

10.18.2012

Working

This may sound bizarre, but I feel like people can't really know me unless they know my demons. I mean, it's not like if a random person catches my eye in line at Starbucks I feel the need to blurt out, "I EAT AND PUKE!" But rather...if I'm going to get to know people, like really get to know them, I feel this weird compulsive need to warn them of my diagnoses and neuroses as if to give them the chance to run away from me while they still can.

Case in point: some of my co-workers at the nursery school. I love my job. I absolutely love, love, love my job. It's my sanity, my 6.5 hours a day where I'm outside my own head, my excuse to hug and kiss sweet toddlers and to run and play and be silly. It's my time to practice my patience (deep. breaths. GOOD LORD.), to learn from others how best to handle tantrums, biting, and hitting. It's my time to get served sand-pancakes by eager two-year-olds expecting dramatic YUMMY reactions every time. I love sand-pancakes! Just look away, kids, while I secretly dash the sand out onto the ground while you think I'm eating it!

My co-workers are amazing too. I feel so lucky to work with a group of young, talented, passionate women. And lord help me, it's SO NICE to interact with adults during the day while taking care of kids!!!

But as I've gotten to know to a few of my co-workers, I feel like I'm hitting an invisible wall, an invisible barrier, that I have to break down before I can get any closer to them. I feel like they need to know that I sometimes eat huge amounts of food and then throw it up because it makes me feel numb. Or that sometimes I don't eat for a really long time because it makes me feel in control. Or that sometimes my anxiety takes over so much that I become a really, really shitty friend. Or that my depression was so bad when I first started my job that for the first, oh, month or so, I cried in my car during my break every day. Or left and threw up.

See? See, co-workers? I have mental illnesses. Yes I can do my job, yes I can be great with the kids, yes I can still function as a human being. But look at me! Before you become friends with me, you should know I'm fucked up!

If my wonderful therapist were reading this, this would be the point at which she would look me straight in the eye and say in no uncertain terms that everybody is fucked up and I need to stop making such a big deal about myself.

And I know she's right. 

Sometimes my anxiety makes me a shitty friend. (Cait knows all about this and for some reason, she still loves me.) Sometimes I use unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms. Sometimes I can't push away the depression while I'm at work.

But you know what? Often, I'm a good friend. I'm fiercely loyal, and I will make terrible jokes to make people laugh, and I'm a hard worker. I know I have demons, I own up to them, and I'm getting through them with the help of my therapist, medication, Cait, and the sheer benevolence of the universe. Often, I feel like I can be a pretty good person to get to know.

So, to my co-workers: Hi. I'm fucked up, but probably so are you. Want to be friends?

9.11.2012

Eating

I haven't posted in a while how food/eating/eating disorder/bingeing/purging/restricting are going. And that's because, for the most part, they've been (I can't believe I'm going to say this) a non-issue.

A non-issue.

If you had asked me two years ago if I thought that would be possible, I would have laughed in your face. And then cried.

But somehow, it happened, it was true, and I've been enjoying food and eating and BEING NORMAL for a few months now. I thank god and the heavens and the mountains and the oceans. And I'll credit my therapist, Prozac, my best friend, and the mercy of the universe for that.

But when I tripped and fell into a pit of anxiety and depression a week and a half ago, I was shocked at how quickly my eating disorder came roaring back following a few days of being unable to eat due to anxiety.

LOOK AT ME! it screamed. LOOK! You can binge and purge and get numb! You can restrict and get hunger highs! YOU CAN GET SKINNIER AGAIN! Do you see how fat you've gotten?!

Suddenly, I wasn't just at the bottom of a pit of anxiety and depression. I was teetering on the edge of the eating disorder well. And when you're faced with falling down a well, it's a hell of a lot scarier and more pressing than just being at the bottom of a pit.

(Am I losing you here? Are my metaphors getting too out there? Sorry.)

I am ever grateful for my best friend, who told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to stop. restricting. NOW. That I needed to stop purging the few things I was eating. That I could not allow the eating disorder to take over again, masking the roots of depression and anxiety that had been rearing their heads.

Because, you see, it's far easier to channel all of my mental energy into hating and starving my body than it is to face the causes of anxiety and depression head-on.

But last night, I ate a good dinner and kept it down. I felt like absolute shit, but I did it.

Today I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Small portions, but I had them, and I kept them down.

And tomorrow I will try again, for two reasons. One, because I'm not allowing these root issues of anxiety and depression to be covered up again. I want to expose them once and for all. And two, because after eating normally for a few months, I realized how incredible it felt. I'm not going back to my eating disorder.

9.10.2012

Fall-ing

Today was the first day it's been chilly. I don't think the thermometer dipped below 65 degrees, but still, all day, I couldn't get warm enough. When I went outside to play with the children at work, the wind ate at me and I started shivering.

It's turning toward fall now, and with that comes a myriad of emotions. I always get a bit melancholy with the changing of the seasons — particularly happy summer into cooler fall. Add that to the lump of anxiety and depression I've been struggling under since moving here and let's just say I wanted to burrow into myself and hide in bed all day today.

I've started seeing a new therapist here in New Haven, and I have hope that I'll dig out of this period of anxiety and depression. And even when I lose sight of that hope, I have classes to go to on Mondays and Fridays, and work to be done every day. I've grown to love my twelve sweet kids at work, and I look forward to seeing them every day. If nothing else, it's seven hours a day where I can't focus solely on myself.

On the playground this afternoon, instead of burrowing into myself I stretched out and grabbed one of my sweet little ones for a quick game of tag. And then I pumped my legs on the tiny kid-sized swings while three of my toddler "helpers" pushed me. I felt a bit warmer then.

And now that I'm home, I'm going to make a cup of tea, put on warmer clothes, and snuggle down on the couch with a blanket to do biology homework (oh boy). The season will change whether I want it to or not, huh? The best I can do is embrace it, and my favorite parts of fall (scarves, boots, and delicious warm drinks at Starbucks that I can't afford). Because before I know it, summer will be here again.

What happy things can you think of about fall? I need some help finding positive things.

(On a semi-related note, today is World Suicide Prevention day. If you're struggling with any thoughts of self-harm, no matter how small or seemingly impossible, I urge you to speak up and get help. You can call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit The Bloggess to know you're not alone.)

8.30.2012

The Cat Tour

Lucy and Tucker wanted to show off (some of) the new house. So...here is (some of) the new house, from Tucker and Lucy's perspectives.


The first day we moved in. Tucker's checking out the new neighbors. Lucy is checking out Cait's toes.


Here's a snippet of our office/study — focused on the most important part, Tucker's red cat cube. Duh.


Lucy's favorite part of the house, the bathtub. Though she DOES NOT LIKE IT WHEN IT IS FULL AT ALL. AT ALL.


The room with Tucker's throne (aka the living room).


Lucy's other favorite room — the kitchen. She would like for you to know that her favorite food is butter. Followed closely by pasta. Followed closely by anything else. Please send Lucy food.

More pictures to come!

8.28.2012

Newness

It was heartbreaking saying goodbye to Clara and Lulu when I moved from Boston. I was crying, hard, and Clara, in her sweet 22-month-old attempt to figure out what was going on, pulled back from my tight hug, pointed her finger at the tears dripping down my cheek, and said, "Nass." Nass means 'wet' in German.

"Yes," I told her, nodding. "Nass. Nass because Hallie is so sad to leave you."

I was. I went back to my apartment and reunited with Cait, who'd said goodbye to her sweet girls that same day. We cried and cried that night, devastated to leave "our" babies.

Nannying is like that. You love these babies so, so incredibly much. But they're never yours — you always have to give them back. And, at some point, you always have to move on. As much as it hurts, you always have to say goodbye.

In this case, though, this goodbye was also a hello: I left one job and one life, and began a journey toward another. Cait and I traveled in July — first to Texas, than to New York — and then at the very end of the month packed up all our stuff, the two cats and Severus the beta fish, and drove to our new life in New Haven, CT.

Cait arrived here to go to Yale. I arrived here on a leap of faith. I had my bachelor's degree in hand, no job, rent to pay, and tuition for the two classes I'd signed up to go to at a community college. I sent out a flurry of resumes, landed myself a job a few weeks later, and here I am, the week before both my classes and my new job start, in my new home.

This semester I'm taking a basic biology class and an intermediate algebra class. I'm stretching myself back to my high school roots (though lord help me to do better now than I did when I was 15), and knocking a few pre-reqs for nursing school out of the way. Biology. Math. Lord help me lord help me lord help me.

My new job is at a nursery school a town over. I'm a co-teacher in a class of 12 toddlers. It's exciting, scary, radically different than nannying, but also very much the same. I have twelve kids to love on, but I also have lots of new rules to get used to (hello, I have to put on a pair of gloves every time I wipe a kid's nose. Which is constantly). But it's a wonderful school, very play-focused, and especially passionate about sensory and art experiences for the kids. I feel so lucky to be given the chance to teach there...but oy lordy, I'm skeered!

We've been in New Haven for 27 days now. Nearly a month. We've set up a cozy house, and I love being able to stretch out a bit in a bigger place. Our neighborhood is adorable, the cats love it here, the fish is doing swimmingly (lolol), and I'm happier and more relaxed than I have been in a long time. So life? It's pretty good.

Or at least it will be for another 10 days...at which point I go to my first math class. HELP.

8.21.2012

Popping in

I'm not quite sure why I never blog anymore. I think about it often — and always feel a tug of guilt for not posting as often (or, let's be honest, really at all). But as I'm approaching my 5-year blog anniversary, I wanted to dust things off once again.

It's incredible to see how different my life is than it was back in September 2007. I was a full-time nanny for my sweet girls A and E, and living at home. I'd graduated high school, but hadn't decided whether or not I wanted to go to college (though I'd applied and been accepted to my dream school).

Fast forward to today, and I'm living in the first floor of a sweet little house in Connecticut with my best friend, two crazy cats, and Severus the betta fish. (Can we just talk about how Connecticut was high on the list of places I NEVER thought I'd live?!) I have a bachelor's degree in journalism from the aforementioned dream school, and I'm starting to take pre-reqs for nursing school in just a few weeks.

I mean. What?

I truly never could have imagined being here five years ago. And it makes me wonder where I'll be five years from now — hopefully an RN on my way to midwifery school. Hopefully a mom, somehow. Hopefully still with my best friend, two crazy cats, and Severus the betta fish. (Um, well, perhaps Sev will have swum on to bluer waters by then...)

In the meantime, I'm happy, healthy, and wishing you all the same. Hopefully I'll be back on here writing sooner rather than later, but...you never know. :)

7.20.2012

Cartersville

I'm writing this from a pale yellow room inside a rehab facility in Cartersville, Georgia. It's been just over two years since I was last here with my granddad, and now I'm back again, visiting him.

Granddad has had several strokes over the past few years, and almost two weeks ago he had a series of seizures. He spent a week in the hospital and was released to the rehab facility this past Tuesday. I talked to my mom on the phone Tuesday night, and made the decision to fly to see him on Wednesday.

I'll be honest: I was terrified of this trip. The last time I saw him, things were hard. I mean, really, really hard. I hadn't seen Granddad since that last trip, and I was scared to see him again two days ago.

But this trip has been wonderful.

Yes, it's hard — Granddad suffers from depression and dementia, and he's physically very weak. But we're pushing him to work hard and get better so he can move into his assisted living facility. That means he's got to stay out of bed and in his wheelchair as much as possible. I'm having to use a lot of nanny tactics to distract/bribe/entice him to stay in his wheelchair :)

It's surreal, but also really lovely being here to take care of my granddad. My mom's been here too (she left today) and it's been really nice having the three of us together. Granddad has a great roommate, too — a 93-year-old man named Nick with Alzheimer's who's here getting rehab from a hip replacement surgery. Nick has the most wonderful smile, even when he's confused. It's been a delight being here with them.

I haven't written about it for work reasons, but there are a LOT of changes that have gone on/are going on in my life right now. On August 1st, Cait and I are moving into the first floor of a small house in New Haven. She'll be starting Yale, and I'll be taking pre-reqs for nursing school at a community college nearby. I gave my notice with Clara's family in mid-June, and left at the beginning of July. Then Cait and I went down to Texas for 10 days, then back to Boston, then drove up to upstate New York to see Cait's parents for the rest of July. That's where I was when I flew down to see Granddad.

So it's been a whirlwind. Lots of changes, lots of good things, lots of scary things. I can't even begin to think about what it'll be like leaving Boston, which has been my home for the past four years. But that's all for another post.

What I want to write about for now, just so that I have the record of it to look back on some day, is how grateful I am to be here with Granddad (and his roommate Nick). It's not easy. But, and this may sound strange, I truly love being here to be in a care-taking role. While I'm here, I'm Granddad's advocate, his friend, his poker playing buddy, and his companion. I'm grateful I spent the past several years nannying for small children, because I have so much more patience now than I did when I visited Granddad two years ago. When you talk to him, sometimes it takes 10 or 20 or 30 seconds for him to get the words processed to reply to you. But that's okay. When he's here and present and lucid, I love hearing what he has to say. He's still got his wry sense of humor.

I need to go for now, but I'll write more later. Granddad's coming back from his lunch now, and I need to get him settled for an afternoon nap. And while I'm at it, I need to give him a big hug, because he's an amazing granddad.

6.23.2012

Redefining "normal"

For so long, I've had skewed definitions of so many words I've associated with food. Words like healthy, good, safe, and phrases like back on track.

Cait and I were talking a few weeks ago, in a continuation of what we'd talked about in my last post. We'd just walked to a great pizza place near our apartments and had a yummy dinner, but the entire time we ate, I couldn't stop saying things like, "I have to get back on track. I have to get back on track. I have to get back on track."

Which, in my mind, means going back to severe restricting during the day (coffee, a yogurt, maybe a piece of fruit) followed by a "safe" dinner that evening (low-calorie, low-fat, low-flavor). And that also meant that any time I broke those rigid rules, I'd need to purge. Without question.

But Cait, in the patience and wisdom she's gleaned from fighting her own demons, said something that's stuck with me. As we walked down the sidewalk, each of us carrying half-full pizza boxes, me panicking about what I'd just eaten, she said:

"Here's the thing, though, Hal. You want to get back on track, but all that means is that you're getting back on track to scary, dangerous eating patterns. You're not getting back on track to health, you're getting back on track to the eating disorder."

She's right, of course. And in retrospect, I can't believe that concept hadn't come to me. But it hadn't. I was so blinded by the desperation to lose this weight that I've gained that I was willing to do anything — anything — to get there.

But.

I'm also so tired of puking.

I'm so tired of chugging coffee all day trying to give myself a little bit of energy because I haven't eaten enough.

I'm so tired of being a slave to this eating disorder — unable to relax and just enjoy life and food and good times.

After that talk, I realized for the first time that I was finally ready to give up my eating disorder. It's not going to be easy, no, but for the first time, the thought of not having my eating disorder as a crutch and a coping mechanism doesn't fill me with panic. I want to do this. I want to get past this.

I can, and I will. And I'm trying, again, for the millionth time, but this time is different. This time, I'm not secretly (or not-so-secretly) holding onto the paralyzing fear of what I would be (or how much I would weigh) without my eating disorder. This time, I'm done. I want it gone. I want it out of me, out of my head, out of my body.

So I'm trying again to eat. And then stop eating. And then eat. And then stop eating. Normal eating patterns, normal healthy food...I'm trying.

I can do this.

6.12.2012

Gaining

There are lots and lots of changes going on in my life right now. Good, hard, sad, exciting...lots. I mean, it's typical, right? I'm now a college graduate (still — cannot believe that), and I've got my life in front of me. And, given that it's me we're talking about, I'm all nostalgic and melancholy and oh, y'all, there's so much running through my mind.

One thing's stayed the same, though, amid all of these changes. I still struggle every day with food, with eating, with bingeing and purging, with restricting, and with enormous hatred of my body and the way it is. I haven't written about that in a while.

For months and months, I tried to pretend I was okay. I was still having unhealthy behaviors, but I had managed to convince myself that I was doing better, that this was just something I was going to live with for the rest of my life. But it was okay, right? Eating massive quantities of food and subsequently sticking my fingers down my throat one day, and the next not eating much of anything at all was okay. Right?

I was consumed with feeling so, so self-absorbed with regards to my eating disorder. I felt so guilty for drowning in thoughts of me, myself, my body, my food, my weight, my my my MY everything. I pushed those thoughts away as best I could, and took comfort in the knowledge that even though my behaviors were still unhealthy, at least my weight was remaining the same — a weight that I didn't love, but was something I could deal with okay. As long as I maintained it.

And then I started gaining.

I've put my body through so many roller coasters over the past few years. And long periods of severe restricting, followed by periods of bingeing and purging, have really caught up with me. I'm seeing it now. If I restrict now, my body goes into hyper-overdrive. It's like a biological pull, a drive, that I have to then eat. Eat. Eat. My body is so afraid that I'll go back into severe restriction for a long time that I just can't anymore. If I don't eat for a bit, then my body slams into the opposite direction — and I can't stop eating. Which leads to puking. Which leads to more eating. And puking. It's an endless cycle of wearing a path between the kitchen and the bathroom that always leads with my head in the toilet.

I've been dealing with this for long enough to know that the best thing for me is to establish a normal, regular pattern of eating. And I try. But that scares the shit out of me. Especially now that I've gained some weight back...I'm just terrified to eat 'normally.' So I plod through the days trying to balance eating enough that I'm not starving, but not eating so much that I can't stop eating (oh hey, compulsive over-eating disorder).

Cait sat me down for a come-to-Jesus talk a few weeks ago. I was in serious denial about my eating habits. And she calmly, firmly made me see what I'd been trying not to see for so long.

It was hard.

I feel enormous. I look in the mirror, and I see fat. Cellulite. Blubber. Every bit of me is just. too. damn. CURVY. On top of this all, I'm going to be in a bathing suit on the beach for the next week — I'm going with Clara's family on vacation. That scares the living shit out of me.

But. I have to keep remembering what's most important to me in life: becoming a mother myself. Sooner rather than later. And if I'm going to do that, I have to get to a point where I'm healthier. Not just so that my body can be physically healthy enough to grow and birth a child, and then nurse that child...but so that my future children grow up with a good role model in regards to food, weight, and our bodies. I want my children to know that our bodies are sacred, they are special, and they should be cherished and treated well.

I need to get there myself, first.

I think of myself with my own children down the road, and I want to be healthy for them. I want to get healthy for them. And so I begin a renewed effort to fight back these demons. If I can't do it for myself, I can do it for my kids.

I have to.

5.25.2012

So this happened!



Summa cum laude, baby! I had the stomach flu, but dammit, somehow I made it across stage and got my diploma.

So...now what?

4.29.2012

The past 8 months

School is wrapping up (what actually does it mean that I'll be graduating in 15 days?!), and I've been busy with school and school and school and, oh yeah, a sweet little new munchkin at work to love on. Clara's baby sister is here! Y'all, meet Lulu:


Ignore the exhausted nanny, focus on the tiny baby!

The other thing that's been occupying 99.7% of my brain space over, wow, nearly 8 months now, is a project that Cait and I have been doing. Here's her post on it: The Project. After 8 months, we're damn near close to being finished. Oh, you guys, I can't believe it.

At my school, we can design a class of our own to work one-on-one with a professor or a professional in a field in which we're interested. I was lucky enough to take a photojournalism class with a photographer from The Boston Globe during my junior year, and he changed my life. I really wanted to work with him again, so after Cait and I came up with the idea for the project, and he agreed to be my professor for the project, and the journalism department at my school signed off on it, and a million i's were dotted and t's were crossed, it became an official class of mine, to work on this project, for the spring semester.

Well, the spring semester ends this Wednesday. Which means for the past month, Cait and I have been working overtime on the project. In the past month, I've professed my undying love for iMovie, divorced it, remarried it, cheated on it with PhotoShop and flirted with Final Cut Pro, and gone back to iMovie again (the devil you know, and all). And together Cait and I have culled through thousands of pictures and hundreds of hours of audio. It's been gigantic. And last night, we finished our working draft.

Holy crap.

What's next? Well, two other photojournalists from the Globe are going to critique it and offer suggestions. We're going to be showing it around to others, looking for perspectives and opinions from different people, in the next few months. After that? Well...

Possibly a museum exhibit. Or exhibits. At the very least, a website devoted to it. And...possibly a book. A book. A book with my name on it, and Cait's name on it, and my pictures and her words and our combined blood, sweat, and tears (and let's be honest, our vomit). A book.

We're hoping to get it up online with The Boston Globe soon. I'm reaching for The New York Times' lens blog. After that? Who knows. We want it spread far and wide.

Our project is 12.5 minutes long. It's untitled, still pretty rough around the edges, but it's ours, and it's incredible. I couldn't be more proud.

And if/when it is available online/in museums/IN A BOOK/etc., you know I will be screaming the news here first. FINGERS CROSSED.

3.24.2012

Let's all suppaht the mathah, okay?

Big changes here in the life of Ye Olde Online Nannye! But really, really good ones. Really good ones.

Nannying with Clara is going great. I'm beyond excited by how much more communicative she's gotten in the past two months! She went through a time period where her sign language exploded, and now her verbal words are too — it's so cool! (Plus, dude, I'm picking up German vocabulary like it's no big deal. Like, I know that "erbsen" means "pea." NBD, y'all.) My favorite thing is that she totally supports my caffeine addiction. Helping me make coffee is her favorite part of the day. When I walk in each morning, she drags me to the kitchen, stands below the coffee pot, and says "UP!" Then she proceeds to pull the grounds and filter out of the cabinet, and instruct me to fill the carafe with water ("AH! AH!"). Then we watch the coffee drip through together. Pure heaven.

Today Cait and I went to a looooong breastfeeding workshop as a part of our doula certifications. Our instructor was this great RN who had the absolute most stereotypical Boston accent ever. Like, the Pahk Yah Cah In Hahvahd Yahd kind of accent. It took every ounce of control I had not to giggle every time she mentioned "suppahting the mathah."

We had to read Dr. Jack Newman's "The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers" for the class. For the record, it's only slightly awkward to be reading it (and looking at pictures of BOOBS) on a crowded subway. I had really mixed feelings about the book over all. I mean, it had great advice in it in terms of helping babies latch, medication information, the importance of skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible, etc. But...he came off (in my opinion) a bit too fanatically.

I'm totally pro-breastfeeding, and I hope to nurse my kids until they want to stop, no matter how old they are. But I felt like Dr. Newman was merciless in making mothers feel awful if, for some reason, breastfeeding didn't work out for them (for WHATEVER the reason). I got really frustrated reading the book, and I know Cait did too. I really appreciated the workshop we went to today with an RN, because she's an internationally certified lactation consultant as well, and extremely pro-breastfeeding, but much more realistic about what kind of issues come up and how difficult it could/would be to overcome them.

One thing that made me really worried, though, was that we talked about breast surgeries potentially impairing breastfeeding, and our teacher mentioned biopsies. I had a biopsy done on my left breast a few years ago. Now I'm paranoid that the surgeon potentially cut milk ducts, which can cause a myriad of problems/infections. Hypochondriac? Me? NO!

Anyway. Bottom line, I'm even more excited by the idea of breastfeeding and helping mothers and babies have great breastfeeding relationships. I know that won't always work out, but I want to do everything I can to help people.

Can I be annoying and ask questions? Have any of you breastfed? How was your experience? Did it work out for you, or if it didn't, why not? (NO JUDGMENT ZONE HERE, fyi.)

3.14.2012

Technical question

(How do you know when the butter is done?)

(If you get that, YOU ARE MY FAVORITE.)

So I kind of messed up my blog layout EPICALLY. I wanted a new, different look, and even though I *know* I should NEVER EVER play with the layout of my blog, I got all crazy on my birthday and played with the layout of my blog, and now HALP.

The left sidebar and the header need a whitish box behind them. Because now you can't see them. Anybody know how to help me? Please? Bueller?

Also: when Cait and I were recording my birthday video, we had like seven zillion technology fails between our two computers. I won't tell you how many times we had to record that damn video. LIFE FAIL. But we did have fun dancing to Nicki Minaj.

3.11.2012

Confession time: Year V (what?!)

How is this year FIVE of these things? I am getting entirely too old for my own good.

In other news, it was my birthday yesterday! I am now 18 YEARS YOUNG! (Slash...I'm 23. But both my mom and my sister were convinced I was turning 22 yesterday, so now I'm just not sure at all.)

(I was born in 1989. That's all I know for sure. Squeaking by as a child of the '80s fo shizzle!)

Here is the embarrassing birthday video that Cait and I made:



Here are the confession time rules:

1. Post an anonymous comment--of a secret, confession, like, dislike...anything you want. It can be happy and light, it can be deep and depressing. WHATEVER you want.
2. There will be NO judging or cruel comments about anybody else's secrets.

(Year I)
(Year II)
(Year III)
(Year IV)

Happy confessing!

3.02.2012

Cat help please!

First of all, if you guys have been hearing the squealing that has been coming from my apartment the past few days, here's why.

Second of all, this is Lucy:



OMG the cuteness, right? Who knew she could be a gigantic pain in the ass? Good thing she's cute. It's the only thing preventing us from sending her to the onion farm. That, and she's an awesome snuggler when she actually is still.

We're having one problem with Lucy, though — girlfriend is hit-or-miss with the litter box. She pees in there regularly and (we hope) nowhere else. But pooping? Um. In the bathtub, behind the kitchen trash can, and in Cait's bookshelf are favorite places of hers.

The vet advised us to add another litter box — she shares with Cait's cat Tucker, and while we keep it really clean, maybe Lucy is just picky and wants her own? We don't really have space for a second one, so I thought I'd ask Ye Wise Old Intranets if you had any other solutions. When we're home we pop her in the litter box pretty often (she never goes), but we're gone all day long so can't do that very regularly :(

Hellllllllp! We're nannies — we deal with enough poop at our jobs! We don't want to deal with it from our cat too!

2.27.2012

Popping in again

So there have been thousands of posts swirling around in my head (ahem: Lucy-the-cat, Clara-the-nannykid, school project, LIFE) but I've yet to sit down and write them. Cause there's one thing I've been wanting to get out first.

Here it is, yo:

I want to start having children. Soon.

Now, before my mother and father pass out, I don't mean YET. I just mean SOON.

I'm (almost) 23. I graduate from college in May (72 days or so, not that I'm counting). I know what I want to do with my life, and I'm on my way to doing those things. But the thing I want to do most? Is to become a mother.

No, I don't have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/husband/wife/spouse/"roommate." But I DO have a small community of women in my life who want to be young mothers just like me. We want to have our children and raise our children, together, regardless of whether or not we have spouses.

I don't have big, high-shooting, lofty career goals. I want to catch babies, teach breastfeeding classes, and offer support in any way I can to new moms of every age. I'm on my way to becoming doula certified, and am making preparations to become a certified lactation consultant. A midwifery program will, eventually, follow that.

But in the meantime, I want to start my family. I want to raise my children in a warm, loving, nurturing environment with my grown friends and their own children. It takes a village to raise a child — well, I want to be a part of a village. I want a village of mamas and daddies and children everywhere. With plenty of love to go around, no matter who you are.

My children will not lack for strong parental figures in their lives. Cait, my best friend, will be like my kids' second mom and someone who I know will love my children as her own. My sister is an amazing, amazing girl — my kids will have the best aunt in the world. My parents are incredible, and I honestly can't wait to see them as grandparents. If I don't ever get married, that's fine by me.

The thing is? We can do this. We can do this, and soon. I'll be able to work as a doula and an LC while staying home with my kids. All of us want to work in women's health/childbirth — if one of us needs to leave for a birth, other mamas and daddies would be there to stand in. We'll all work together and support each other.

It takes a village to raise a child, and I want to raise my children in a village. Sooner, rather than later.

2.05.2012

Happy birthday Cait!

Disclaimer: Cait totally thought I was going to edit a lot out of this video.

Surprise: I'M NOT EDITING ANYTHING!

Happy birthday Cait! And welcome to the family, Lucy-goosey :)

2.03.2012

My best friend

So.

A few years ago, my best friend, Cait, was diagnosed with manic depression (also known as bipolar disorder). Prior to knowing her, I didn’t know much about manic depression. I assumed (incorrectly) that it meant that a person was just hyper-depressed. Or just mentally unstable. Which, in my mind, was a polite way of saying they were just kind of crazy.

I was really, really wrong.

People who are manic depressive experience periods of mania, during which they are flying high, productive, creative, unstoppable…followed by equally severe periods of all-consuming, all-encompassing, paralyzing, debilitating depression. With medication and therapy, these episodes can be lessened, but they’ll never truly go away.

Cait's really been struggling lately with her bipolar disorder. Her moods have been fluctuating wildly and unpredictably, and she (and her doctors) are trying to find the right medicine combinations to better get them under control.

But it's been hard.

I can walk into a room and feel if Cait's crushed with depression. Similarly, I can tell just by looking at her if she's hypomanic. Depending on her moods, I tiptoe carefully around her, or curl up next to her. Once, during an incredibly awful period back in November, I had to physically lift her out of bed — she couldn't get out on her own. And one night, she took a really long shower, and when I went to check on her, I found her curled on the bottom of the bathtub, water raining over her. She couldn't get out. She just couldn't. I pulled the curtain aside, hooked my arms under hers, and pulled her up.

There are also times where she's flying so high she can't stop talking. She talks at lightning speed, jumping from one topic to another. Sometimes she can't sit still, she has to get out of wherever she is — like tonight. Sometimes she has the urge to do potentially harmful and dangerous things. Most of the time, she resists. Sometimes she doesn't.

My best friend has manic depression. But that doesn’t mean she’s crazy. Yes, she goes through period of mania (which is a word with enormously weighted negative associations). Yes, she goes through periods of depression. But she’s also empathetic, loyal, intelligent, and a brilliant writer and photographer. And she produces incredible work because of, and not in spite of, her manic depression.

Sometimes being best friends with Cait feels like I'm on a roller coaster. She goes so high, and I try to fly with her, and then she crashes, and I sink too. It's hard. But it's a part of who she is. Just like I have complete anxiety-ridden breakdowns from time to time (okay, let's be honest, pretty frequently). That, and my own depression, are part of me. And Cait loves me and takes care of me regardless.

That's what we do. We take care of each other, no matter what. My best friend has manic depression, and she's struggling. It's been really hard. But I'd never for one second consider not being by her side.

(FYI — I asked Cait before I posted this. She graciously was completely supportive of my need to just write this out.)

1.25.2012

I now can say "ball" in German!

(For the record, it's pronounced "ball," with a little "eh" at the end. I have no idea how to spell it in German, but I can say it!)

So: I am 1.5 weeks into nannying for Clara, and I've got to say, it's been a really cool experience. She babbles mostly in German, but she's picking up words in English here and there, and it's so amazing to me that she's learning them FROM me! We still communicate a lot via sign language, and I'm using that as much as I can while speaking to her solely in English. (Though yes, I have picked up a few basic German words as well!)

She's a really sweet girl. She has trouble when I first get there in the mornings, because she knows her mom is going to leave. But after initial tears, she LOVES to snuggle up and read books, go for walks, play with her puppies (two white curly dogs that I honestly can't tell apart even after 1.5 weeks), and color.

She seems to understand about 1/4 of what I'm saying when I direct her to do something. I gotta say, though, girlfriend knows how to clean up, and she does it well! After we're done playing, I'll sign and say, "time to clean up, Clara!" and then I'll sing the Barney clean up song (I apologize if that song is now in your head. It's been in mine for the past week in a half.) And she helps pick up -- it's great.

In addition to nannying for Clara, I have a new standing babysitting job on Saturday nights. It's one little girl who just turned two, and who is trilingual. TRILINGUAL. As in, she speaks damn fluently in THREE LANGUAGES.

I'll pause for a minute while all the rest of us non-trilingual people feel bad about ourselves.

But yeah. This little girl speaks German with her dad, Swedish with her mom, and English with her daycare and me. She's able to switch back and forth completely easily depending on who she's talking to. It's incredible, and I'm picking up words from her too...the only problem is I don't know whether they're in German or in Swedish!

I have to say, this is an entirely new experience for me -- working with foreign-born families. It means different cultures, different interpretations, different routines. But I'm really enjoying it so far :)

[EXHALE.]

One question I have for any of you in the greater Boston area -- do any of you attend classes at Isis? Clara does once a week, and I wanted to hear what others thought of it.

1.14.2012

My hormone levels are back to normal!

That sigh of relief you hear? That's me. I NO LONGER FEEL LIKE I HAVE BUBBLES OF ESTROGEN PING-PONGING AROUND INSIDE MY BRAIN! THANK YOU JEEBUS (AND MY THERAPIST!).

So.

Last Tuesday was...rough. Really rough. But as you guys said, the next day would be better. And it was — a lot. And Friday's therapy session kicked ass and took names and reminded me why I need to name my firstborn daughter after my psychologist. People like the name Nicole, right?

(Just kidding. You guys know I've had my baby names picked out for, like, a trillion years. And I'm not budging on them. Baby daddy ain't got no say, y'all.)

So since I left this completely unresolved, I thought I'd update on my job situation! Yahoo! JOBS! Or lack thereof! Please don't remind my roommate I owe her a large rent check in a week that I will be unable to pay!

AKA...yeah, I left my sweet Pius :( You guys, I'm so sad. His mom has texted me a few pictures of him since then and each one makes me about cry. I miss my little guy. I miss his chubby cheeks, his loooong legs (when I wore him in the Moby his feet came down to my knees), and his big smile. I miss how he fell asleep heavy in my arms and just completely sunk into me. I know it was no longer a good work environment...but I'm having a hard time moving on from this one.

I've been looking for jobs for a few weeks now, but haven't really been able to find anything that feels "right" and fits with my class hours/pays enough. I've taken a job for a 17-month-old girl named Clara, who is German and doesn't speak a word of English, but who is really sweet. I start with them on Monday, and I really don't know how I feel about it. I just know I need to be able to pay rent this month.

This whole being an adult thing is hard sometimes, yeah?

(Please know I use the term "adult" very, VERY loosely.)

But, because my Prozac seems to be helping tonight, here are good things in my life:
1) I have a job.
2) I have my best friend living upstairs. She's my sanity. I should name my daughter after HER. (Oh wait! I kind of am!)
3) There's a sweet funny boy named Andy who's been hanging around my life lately.
4) I have a great therapist.
5) I'm warm, safe, dry, full, and so loved and supported.

See? There are good things. And those good things help balance out the crazy hormone-driven breakdowns and the anxiety resulting from having to take a really low-paying job out of desperation. Because despite those breakdowns and that anxiety, I still have each of those five things listed above. And that's more than enough.

(I don't want to give the impression that I'm dreading this job I've taken. Clara is lovely, and I adore her parents. It's just the pay is low and the language barriers between all of us can be tricky. Anybody want to teach me German?)

1.10.2012

My hormones are bouncing out my eardrums.

(I apologize in advance for the vagueness of this post...I just kind of need to write.)

You know when you're thisclose to bursting into tears, have a huge lump in your throat, are so anxious you feel nauseated and can't eat, and are just about so depressed you can't function? Hi, you guys, c'est moi right now.

It ain't pretty.

My best friend and my therapist (two different people, btw) have both made the very valid observation that I shy away from my feelings. I'm scared of them. I don't like facing them. (Who does?) And, instead, I resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms (shoutout to the eating disorder!) and/or complete and total freak-outs.

Today the latter happened. I found myself in tears in a coffee shop frantically trying to un-say all the awful things I had just said to my best friend. I got panicked and paranoid and she, who has done absolutely nothing wrong, got the brunt of it. I think it's a combination of anxiety (hi, I'm unemployed), nervousness (I start school next week, my last semester), anxiety and nervousness (I had a job interview tonight), etc. But instead I hurt my sweet friend and for that I just feel awful.

I feel like there's a time about every month where I just lose my shit. Maybe it's my period, yeah, but I'm most inclined to think I'm just damn good at cooping feelings up inside me til I explode. And that's not fair to me or my best friend.

I've got faults. Big ones. I'm an insanely jealous person. I don't deal with my feelings well (another shoutout to the eating disorder). I know I should talk through and write through and process everything but to be completely honest, all I really want to do is puke my brains out so that I can become a bit more numb.

But I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to open up a microsoft word document on my computer, and just write until I (hopefully) feel better.

To Cait: Instead of vomiting, I'm going to word vomit. #wegottalaugh.

P.S. I may or may not be counting down the hours til I see my therapist on Friday.

1.01.2012

New Years 2012

Is this really the fifth time I've done this? Seriously? Is my blog THAT old? (Am I that old?!!)

2011
2010
2009
2008

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Honestly, this one stumped me. I have no idea. YES I AM BORING. Next!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

This is the same answer every year — I don't do new year's resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope?

4. Did anyone close to you die?

I don't think so. Thank you, universe.

5. What countries did you visit?

None! (Seriously, can you stand the excitement here?)

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

I typically say more time to read. But I've been doing really well guarding my reading time lately, so for 2012, I'll say...more time volunteering and giving back.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I'm a bad friend and can't remember the exact date, but meeting Cait is just about the best thing ever. I also loved going to MIchigan with my family.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Honestly, all the love I poured into caring for Pius. He's my sweet angel boy.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not putting myself first when I needed to.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I'm certainly not as healthy as I'd like to be. But I'm working on that! See, people, just call me Pollyanna on Prozac. (Same answer from last year!)

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I bought a few Shel Silverstein books really cheap. I'm pretty psyched about that, not going to lie. (Runny Babbit, anyone?)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Yours did. Let's party!!!

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

[insert name of person HERE]

14. Where did most of your money go?

1) rent in New England (OOF)
2) DreamSchool!
3) laundry (DOUBLE OOF)

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

CAIT MOVED TO BOSTON!

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Florence + The Machine's Dog Days Are Over. Cause y'all, I SURVIVED. (I put that answer last year, and it's still applicable. That, and Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes' Home.)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder?

Happier. Without question.

b) thinner or fatter?

Thinner. But...not for good reasons.

c) richer or poorer?

POORER OH HI BANK ACCOUNT WITH A BALANCE IN THE DOUBLE DIGITS!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

More adventuring!

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Wasted time doing nothing on the computer.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At my parents' house with them & my little sis.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

Yup. With my therapist and my best friend in the entire world.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

My parents will be SO PROUD — Downton Abbey. Has anyone else seen it???

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't think so.

24. What was the best book you read?

Oh, my god, I couldn't even pick. Seriously. It would be painful for me to even try.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I just listen to what Cait and my roommates tell me to listen to. I like their stuff.

26. What did you want and get?

Lots of laughter.

27. What did you want and not get?

Man, the College Tuition Fairy didn't show up to stuff thousands of dollars beneath my pillow. Sigh.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

Uh. Harry Potter 7.2. Did you even have to ask.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 22, and is it completely lame that I can't remember? OH WAIT — I was at work in the admission office. I'm pretty sure that was the day we had to pull and refile 7,000 files. WAS FUN.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Hmmm. Less homework! :)

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

One word, and y'all, you are absolutely allowed to judge me: JEGGINGS.

32. What kept you sane?

Cait, my therapist, my family, and Prozac.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Uh. You. Obvs.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Here's my biggest wish for 2012: making gay marriage legal EVERYWHERE. Can you say rainbow parties everyone?!?!

35. Who did you miss?

It was really hard being away from my family so much.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

Cait. Without question. Followed by my therapist.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

Sometimes I have to say NO. And that I'm worth prioritizing myself.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

The dog days are over!

THE END. Oof. Every year I forget how long this darn thing is. If you made it all the way through, allow me to give you a big kiss. Except not my parents. Because, uh, ew.

Here's to a happy, healthy 2012 for us all!

(AHEM Cait/others. Do this survey too. Please.)