I quit

Mmmm, donuts. When I was 13, my friend and I would ride our bikes around the corner to the back door of a little house-turned-bakery that dispensed these delectables warm and slathered with chocolate. In high school, all giggles and schemes, I started a Friday rotation in my German class so that nary a week went by without these cakey treats. College in New England meant there was always a Dunkin’ D in any given sight line, and the corporate world wouldn’t survive without a sleek white bakery box to prop up the coffee pot.

I loved the jelly filled sort most, airy cake plumped full of raspberry goo and so liberally dusted with powdered sugar that it left a trail down my shirt. Later I discovered the sour cream cake version, so heavy with secret fatty goodness that you could see its footprint on any surface it touched. Mmmm, donuts.

But I don’t eat them any more.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that after my eyes rolled back into their proper positions, the rest of my body did not share the euphoria of my taste buds. Five minutes after my last bite, these little goodies would make me feel miserable. I’m pretty sure that their delicious goodness frolicked on my taste buds solely to create a diversion, allowing their more nefarious companions to sneak past my tongue and turn my insides to sludge.

It took me thirty years to discover the ruse, but once I caught on, I quit cold turkey–and I have never regretted it. It wasn’t even hard to do. I just planted my flag in the sand and declared, “I don’t eat donuts.” It was like flipping a switch in my head; I can walk by the most beautiful display of eclairs with nary a flutter of temptation.

Lest you think that my point rests solely in the hollow space of a Krispy Kreme, I challenge you  (and myself) to wipe the glaze from your glasses and look for your donut. What tastes good but feels bad? I’ll bet we can all make a long list of items that have nothing to do with food. The trick is learning how to say no.

(Check out this terrific post from marcandangel.com if you need some inspiration.)

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Make a difference

For most of the week, my posts have conveyed stories about things that didn’t work. Although they’ve taught some valuable lessons, I don’t want brooding clouds of negativity to gather into an overcast outlook; the sun is going to break through in this post–just like the real one outside on this gorgeous Friday.

Today’s sunshine is named Stacy.

Stacy works for my daughter’s foot doctor, managing the office, the patients, and (I’m pretty sure) the doctor himself. Stacy makes things happen, and she does it in a way that exudes a rare combination competence and cheerfulness. She’s the kind of person you search for reasons to talk to. She’s the kind of person who keeps you coming back.

Even on my very first phone call to set up an appointment, I was impressed. I had never even met Stacy, but I hung up the phone feeling relieved and comforted that someone had listened. And understood. Since then, she has solved every administrative issue we never got a chance to have because she preempted it. She’s one of those people who can do ten things at once and still make you feel as if you are the center of her universe. She looks for ways to help.

Here’s a story that tells it all:

On my daughter’s first follow-up visit to the doctor after surgery, the door to the office suite swung open just as she hobbled up to it. At first I thought someone was coming out, so I started to tell my daughter to make sure there was room to pass. Before the first words passed my lips, however, there was Stacy with a huge smile, saying, “I can hear crutches a mile away. Come on in!” Even without considering that the desk she left was two doors and a corner away from the door she had opened–not an uncomplicated maneuver–she put a huge smile on my face. Really, who does that stuff anymore? Who jumps up to help?

We need more Stacys in the world. Stacys make a difference.

Stop making sense

To preface this post, let me say that I understand how we got to this point. I really do. I understand liability issues and the litigious nature of our society that brought us to this point. I understand the importance of covering your you-know-what. But there’s got to be a balance. It’s got to make sense

After I wrote yesterday’s post, Process Server, I realized that a story I had been carrying around for a couple of weeks offered a prime example. My daughter recently had minor surgery and, trooper that she is, was ready to go back to school at the first opportunity. Although the doctor had proscribed some stronger pain meds–the kind I had to show my driver’s license and sign my life away to get–three days after the surgery she was pretty comfortable on plain, over-the-counter Tylenol.

I took her to school Monday morning, doing what I thought were all the right things. We arrived early to avoid the dangers of maneuvering with crutches among munchkin hallway crowds. I settled her into her classroom, went over the high points with her teacher, and gave her a quick hug as she shooed me out the door so she could begin her adventure. (That’s pretty much how she views everything.)

On my way out of the school, I stopped by the office to drop off her pain meds (Tylenol) and to set up and sign off her dosage schedule. Easy stuff, so I thought.

The school nurse, however, blanched when she saw the bottle of Tylenol in my hand. “Oh no,” she said. “It has to be Children’s Tylenol. We can’t give her that.”

With mother bear hackles immediately up, I responded, “Oh, yes you can!”

After a tense and emphatic discussion, the nurse ended up agreeing to dispense the Tylenol, as long as my daughter’s doctor would fill out a form approving it. I left the school fuming and headed to the doctor’s office.

This is a case where The Process overruled good judgment. My points are these:

  1. The medicine could be purchased over the counter by anyone, my daughter included.
  2. 72 hours earlier, someone was digging around in my daughter’s foot, sawing bones and inserting pins. Although she was doing really well, it stands to reason that something a bit more potent than Children’s Tylenol would be required to manage her pain.
  3. At 5 feet tall and 113 pounds, my daughter is the size of a small adult.
  4. We were following the doctor’s recommendation, though I’m not sure that should matter as much as #5, below.
  5. I am her mother. I gave written permission for the school to dispense an over-the-counter medication. We’re not talking prescription drugs here.

This is a case of serving the process rather than letting the process serve. It made no sense and left me feeling vilified as a parent. Following the process became more important than exercising sound judgment–judgment that made more sense, in this case, than the process itself. And I had followed the process. I took the medicine to the office, filled out forms, and sign permission slips.

I wonder what would have happened if I had brought my daughter’s Vicodin instead.

Comfort zone

When I run, I have a tendency to constantly assess how I feel. If I don’t otherwise occupy my brain, I will spend the entire time I’m pounding pavement registering each twinge, ache, and burn. How’s my breathing? Is my knee okay? Why does my calf feel stiff? Am I tensing my shoulders? When something hurts, even a little, my willingness to continue plummets.

In general, I think that pain serves as an indicator, a warning signal. Pain means, Stop! Something’s wrong! But what if–WHAT IF–there’s a difference between pain and discomfort?

This idea came to me during my run yesterday morning. The day before, I had done a long run that taxed my body more than I wanted to admit. I had some sore muscles–but no real injuries–as I hit the pavement. Every step seemed arduous, and my calf muscles made themselves known each time they flexed. More than once, I had the thought that I should cut the run short, that I wasn’t up to it.

Thankfully, I started to consider the logic. The route/distance I had planned for the day was a normal one for me; I’ve done it countless times. My muscles were sore, but that was because I had given them a pretty good workout the day before. There was no pain signal to stop, just reminders of my earlier activity. I might have been uncomfortable, but I wasn’t risking injury. If I stuck with it, not only would I feel better about myself afterward, but I would also likely work out much of the lactic acid plaguing my muscles in the first place. Instead of killing me, this run might actually help me. Though it was far from my best ever, I finished it. And I’m glad I did.

I’ve been thinking about the difference between pain and discomfort ever since. True pain should be an indicator to stop what I’m doing in order to avoid injury. Discomfort, however, is usually just a signal that making progress isn’t always easy. To realize success, I plow ahead.

I wonder how many times I’ve confused discomfort for pain. I wonder how many times I’ve given up on a project when I should have muscled through it.