Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

Respecting the Struggle

I’ve been blogging on and off since 2005 when I did a figure and fitness competition in Las Vegas. As a stay-at-home suburban wife and mom, training for the event was unlike anything I’d ever done, and I thought maybe my friends would be interested in what I was doing. So I sent out a group email when I could. Then I heard about web logs and decided to start a blog.

What started as a fitness blog became, over time, a more heart-felt creation. I started to write about riskier topics like depression (a lifelong challenge for me so far) and loss (when we experienced the deaths of loved ones) and emotional vulnerability. It’s both easier and harder to write about topics that are more personal. The ease comes because it’s what’s foremost in my mind and heart. The difficulty is that it’s scary to write about what’s not working or what I haven’t figured out.

So I’ve been self-cathing for a week now. I still feel nervous going out in public for more than an hour or two, and when I do go out I’m thirsty all the time because I try to limit my input to also limit my output. 🙂 But it’s way better than having the permanent catheter. And I should be grateful, right? Some part of me *is* grateful. However, I get frustrated with how down I can feel about something so small. I mean, if Viktor Frankel could write about the freedom he experienced while he was in a concentration camp, surely I can deal with a minor inconvenience, right? And then I feel worse about myself and the cycle continues.

At a session with my counselor where I was explaining this, she said, “It’s interesting that although many people use Viktor Frankel as an inspiration, you see it as a way to beat up on yourself.” She went on to say that what I’m dealing with *is* difficult to deal with. That’s when the lightbulb came on and I realized that what I need to do is to respect the struggle. Rather than seeing the difficulty as an indicator that I’m not coping, realizing that struggles are hard and it’s ok for them to feel hard.

So that’s my mantra for now: respect the struggle. And as always, I will remember to put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing, with love.


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Post Op

Disclaimer — if you don’t want to read stuff about the human body or if you get grossed out easily, you might want to wait for when I write about cosmetics or food or other vital topics in the future.

So it’s been 2-1/2 weeks since the surgery. The operation went fine. Recovery is going well according to my doctor. I thought that the physical limitations post-surgery would be hard, and I was right: it’s tough being so limited physically, but I’m dealing with that.  What I didn’t count on was the emotional impact of my bladder not working after surgery.

I left the hospital with a catheter. I’d thought this was a remote possibility. I’ve since learned that 90% of people who have the surgery I had leave with one. And the surgery I had is no joke. The specifics are: hysterectomy, 2 internal hernias repaired, bladder repositioned and supported with mesh. So it makes sense that my bladder could take some time to heal. And after a day of having the catheter, and with the help of my amazingly supportive and not grossed out husband, I came to see it as interesting and unusual. I carried around the big bag in a Lululemon shopping bag, but I also had a sporty leg bag for more discretion. The downsides to the sporty model are: 1) it has to be emptied every 30 to 45 minutes, and b) having a bag of hot pee on your leg takes some getting used to. But things were going along ok, and I was super tired so I just stayed home a lot and focused on healing.

Last Monday, I went to have the catheter removed. They warned me that if I wasn’t able to pee on my own, or could just pee a little bit, that was a BIG DEAL and I needed to return to the drs office. Well, that’s what happened, so after a few short hours of freedom, I went back to have the catheter re-inserted. This was hard to take. My inner 3-year-old wanted to have a huge tantrum about it. But it is what it is, right? So I had the catheter for another week. This became an emotional issue when I went to a housewarming party. I wanted to go to the party because I love the people who’ve moved, but I felt vulnerable and exposed showing up with a bag on my leg, even though nobody could see it. We didn’t stay long.

Three days ago I went to have the catheter removed again. And yes, they removed it. But then they delivered the bad news: I would have to catheterize myself every time I pee. And I need to measure and record what comes out naturally and what comes out via catheter. I’m a Fear The Walking Dead fan, and as a character said on Sunday’s night’s episode, “What new fresh level of hell is this?” I know that’s dramatic, and awful things are happening to people all over, and this is a byproduct of a surgery I chose to do. But it’s still tough.

I didn’t know you could catheterize yourself, but indeed you can, and that’s what I’ve been doing. If you want to know how it’s done, you’ll have to find that for yourself, but here are a few things I can tell you:

  • It is not painful.
  • It requires some repetition to do it with ease.
  • I have not done it enough to do it with ease.
  • Start to finish the process, including measuring output, takes between 3 and 10 minutes.

A byproduct of this new way of peeing has been a self-imposed isolation. Why? Because having to do this feels humiliating. And the idea of dealing with this anywhere but at home? Oh hell no! When looked at with logic this makes no sense. This is a physical limitation brought on by surgery. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. But knowing that hasn’t changed how I feel when I think of having to do this (self catheterizing) out in the world.

Yesterday a friend called to see how I was doing. Poor friend. She got to hear the whole saga. She said she understood not wanting to do this in public and she understood how emotionally tough this could be, but she didn’t understand the humiliation. (This friend is a therapist so she has a way of getting right to the essence of things. I’m grateful for this.) I said, “If our situations were reversed I would have only love and compassion for you, so I’m not sure I understand it either.” But after we talked I considered the situation from that vantage point again: what would I think about somebody who had surgery and then ended up where I am? And I realized not only would I have no judgement, but I would have tremendous respect for someone who could, despite all the very real feelings and fears, continue to live her life and not let this stop her.

So today I’m going to live my life. Even though I will probably have to deal with this outside of my home. Even though I’m frightened. Even though just thinking about it makes me a little short of breath. I’ll let you know how it goes. But right now I have to get ready for the day.


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Getting surgery

Today I am having surgery to I can control and enjoy my peeing as I once used to. This has been a problem for more than 10 years, and it keeps getting worse. I no longer: jump on trampolines, do high impact activities, lock bathroom doors (because there’s no time when you absolutely positively have to go!). The actual surgery part seems like NBD as far as operations go: spinal block will work (no general anesthesia, although they assured me I will NOT remember the surgery), no external incisions, and just 1 night in the hospital. The recovery? Until last week it had me thinking “my life as I know it ends on October 2nd.” Here’s the list of instructions post-surgery:

  • No exercise for 8 weeks
  • Ditto for no sex
  • No squatting lower than the toilet
  • No picking things up from the ground
  • Gentle walking on level surfaces is ok
  • Stairs are to be avoided and taken slowly if I must use them
  • No lifting anything heavier than 10 to 15 pounds
  • No driving for 2 weeks

Have they met me? These instructions felt impossibly awful, and fueled some panicky “I have to do all the things!” behavior over the last week or so.

On Wednesday rather than being held hostage to my shitty attitude, I started thinking *about* my shitty attitude. (Thank you “The Untethered Soul” for helping me to separate the two.) And as I was thinking about my bad attitude, this thought (which I think might have been God-inspired) showed up: You are not the only one having surgery on Monday. In a flash I a) recognized the truth of this, and b) was flooded with gratitude for all the great things about MY surgery. The truth is that many people will have surgery today. Some of them will pray that the surgery gets all the cancer. Some will be having open heart surgery after a heart attack. Some will be put back together, God willing, after a car accident. Me? There’s all sorts of stuff to be grateful for:

  • I chose to have the surgery to make my life better
  • I picked the timing (AFTER our Grand Canyon rafting trip)
  • The doctor is one of the best in the area
  • I have insurance to cover most of the cost
  • I don’t have to get back to work or risk not having shelter, food, a car, etc.
  • I have a cute nurse who says he will take very good care of me!
  • I get to recover in a beautiful home.

See you on the other side. Love, Leslie

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Stuff I love, July edition

Sometimes list posts are the easiest to write. A list creates a framework for the words. In the spirit of making things easy (which truly is the spirit of summertime, right?), here’s a list of some stuff I love.

  • Not wearing a fitbit. When I wear my fitbit, my daily step goal is 15,000 steps, and I try to stay above 100,000 steps per week. In my normal life, I’m pretty active so it’s more doable than you might think. But I started at a new job (more on this in a minute) and now I’m lucky to have 4,000 steps by dinnertime. The leads to insane behavior on my part, where even though I’m exhausted, I’m marching in place to get to my daily goal. I know I’ll carry my fitbit again, because the little things (like moving more) do matter. But for now there’s freedom in just moving and not being concerned about the number.
  • Murad’s Invisiblur Perfecting Shield. I got this stuff because it promised to help any makeup (foundation or tinted moisturizer) go on more smoothly. And it works for that purpose. But just today I realized it has SPF 30 in it. Bonus! It’s not cheap, but I’ve used mine for a little over a month and it’s about 1/3 gone. Something that makes my makeup look better, and protects my skin without feeling like sunscreen? Yes, please!
  • Glennon Doyle Melton. I fell in love with G (that’s how she signs off) maybe 3 or 4 years ago. But I didn’t keep reading her stuff. Recently a girlfriend got an advance copy of G’s new book “Love Warrior” and lent it to me. (Note to self: figure out how aforementioned girlfriend found her way into the inner circle of Momastery, G’s blog.) And reading it has started up the love affair all over again. G describes herself as a truth teller and hope spreader. How can you not love that??? Here are a few of her posts that really resonate with me:

Don’t Carpe Diem

A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On — oh how I wish I could have written this to my kids

The Lie and the Truth About Marriage

Gonna have to continue this later. It’s a short list, but it’s a start.

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Wasted Time

Most people who own a computer have done this at least once or twice. I’ve done it more like three or four times, which makes me above average, right? Here’s the scenario: I go to my computer to do something. Then I see something else. And that leads to something else. And now 45 minutes have passed. And usually at this point I’ve not done what I set out to do, nor am I happy or rejuvenated. I’ve just fallen once again into the black hole of the internet. Damn.

I posted about this on Facebook, hoping to get some answers. Because I have the very best friends, I got lots of interesting feedback, and I know I’m not alone in my struggle to stay away from meaningless activity at the screen.

Holly Block Dillon, a life coach, asked an interesting question: how is it negatively impacting your life? I had no problem answering this: “It’s like junk food — satisfying in the moment, but a bad idea in the long run. It takes time away from things that matter to me and makes me feel lazy and unfocused. I feel anxious when I see projects that I could be working on, but I’m not.” The negative effect is enhanced when I start my day by getting onto the computer and checking email and Facebook.

Knowing the why got me to ask Tim if he could find software that would limit the hours I use the computer. (Love that I have in-house tech support here!) Because I’m a shitty sleeper, middle of the night is especially dangerous for me, so I was hoping to limit internet access from say 11 at night till 6 in the morning. He said one way to do it was with parental control software, but then I had a fit and we didn’t talk about that again. 🙂

He was able to find free software that limits loading new pages, and that’s been on my computer for about a week and a half and it’s helping. I don’t have any answers when it comes to too much time on a smartphone. There are benefits to being older and one of them is that I prefer my desktop to my phone by a lot, so that’s kind of self limiting already.

My nephew, Jackson Miller, recommended RescueTime and I’m going to try that too. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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When a workout is more than a workout

I’ve been living in self-condemnation for a while now. It’s not good. Living under a blanket of shame makes you quieter, smaller, until






Today I remembered a workout I did long ago. It’s from Zuzka Light (who has an amazing story of moving from shame to freedom) and I think it’s called “Get Down, Get Back Up Again.” As she describes it, you set a timer for 12 minutes. (Of course, I did 13, because of the beauty of odd numbers.) Place a chair or an aerobics step in front of you. Lie down on the ground. Start the timer.

Now get up any way you can. Once you’re standing, put one foot on the chair and press up, lifting the knee of your opposite leg. (You end up on top of the chair on one leg, with the other knee raised, which is why doing this near a wall is a helpful thing.) Then step off, and lie back down on the ground. And repeat, switching the knee you lift. Do this for 13 minutes.

If it sounds easy, try it. If it sounds hard, you’re right — it IS hard. While I was doing the workout I was thinking about failure and success and how to get back up. And the song “I’m So Sorry” by Imagine Dragons came on. The words really resonated today:

About time for anyone telling you off for all your deeds
No sign the roaring thunder stopped in cold to read
No time
I get mine and make no excuses; waste of precious breath
No time
The sun shines on everyone, everyone love yourself to death
So you gotta fire up, you gotta let go
You’ll never be loved till you’ve made your own
You gotta face up, you gotta get yours
You never know the top till you get too low
Listen to the song. Try the workout. And make today amazing, friends!
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Bulletproof Coffee update

I’ve been doing portion control and increased exercise for a while now, so maybe it’s more than the coffee, which I’ve been doing for maybe 2-1/2 weeks. But today I got brave and did an InBody weight and body fat test, and the results are good. Like body fat is down 5% good. I may have found my new breakfast normal. Except for on weekends out of town, where French Toast is always a part of the morning meal.

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Mother’s Day again?

I hope I wasn’t the only selfish child who dared to utter the words, “Why isn’t there a kid’s day?” when the topic of Mother’s or Father’s Day came up. For the record, I did celebrate my parents when the time rolled around. And I came to understand the magnitude of what they gave me when I became a parent myself.

I have an uneasy relationship with this “holiday.” It feels manufactured (because it is). I hate the idea of creating an obligation because of who I am. And yet as an adult  I did want to honor my parents each year.

Here are some ideas for ways to honor your parents on the Hallmark-iest days of the year.

  1. If your mom or dad is one who really enjoys a tangible gift, think about something they use or do often, and buy something to elevate the experience. If your mom loves gardening, get her some colorful ergonomic hand tools. If your dad loves his car and washes it often, get him a car squeegee (it’s a real thing and it’s very cool) or something else to make car washing nicer. An avid reader might love a beautiful bookmark. Most parents don’t need a lot of stuff, but something truly special from you will be treasured. This strategy also works if you have one of those “it’s complicated” relationships with your parents.
  2. There are parents (like me) who appreciate gifts but would prefer something more personal. So a card that’s written in really floats my boat. One year I wrote a list of lessons I’d learned from my mom throughout the years. I hope she loved it because a lot of love went into making it.
  3. If you live near your mom or dad, give them a card and write in it that you want to take them out to lunch. (The “and then do it!” goes without saying, right?) Time spent with my kids one on one is invaluable to me, and I’ll bet your parents feel the same.

My belief is nobody escapes childhood unscathed. Even the most well meaning parents will do and say things that hurt their kids. Why? Because we’re imperfect people trying our best to figure it out. I used to feel really awful about all the ways I could have been a better mother. From being a CASA and seeing some really horrible family situations, I can assure you that if your parent or parents loved you and cared about you, you have something to celebrate on Mother’s and Father’s Day.

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The magic? of bulletproof coffee

Several years ago I heard about bulletproof coffee, aka coffee with special fat mixed in a blender. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But it tastes like a latte. There’s a guy who has a website devoted to the bulletproof lifestyle. He says you will do better with special reduced toxin coffee beans and his “brain octane” oil instead of coconut oil. I bought his beans and the oil when I first heard about it. The beans tasted bland. The oil seemed like oil. And my life was kind of chaotic so after about a week I was no longer willing to go through the effort to make the special coffee.

Recently a friend told me that her husband was doing bulletproof coffee and loving it. My life is not a chaotic as it once was. And the idea of steady balanced energy (as opposed to the jittery anxious energy of my morning diet Monster) seemed worth trying. Once again I bought the special oil, because c’mon, if anyone’s brain needs the brain octane oil, it’s mine.

Now three weeks into this adventure I have some good things to report.

  • I *do* have steady balanced energy for many hours after my coffee.
  • I have more self-control when it comes to high carb or sugary snacks.
  • I get full faster when I eat lunch.
  • My waist is more defined and my stomach is flatter.
  • I’ve dropped a few pounds.

One of the real tests of the magic happened last week. I’m working as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate — the best volunteer job in the world!) and had a chance to attend a CEU workshop. The all-day seminar was titled “Trauma-Informed Decision Making.” I thought, “Great. It will be interesting and I can just kick back and listen. Easy day.” Nobody told me that seminars that address trauma can be butt-kickers for people who’ve dealt with trauma themselves. In the morning session I bounced between feeling nauseated and sad. And hey, guess what? There were hundreds of Noah’s Bagels with every flavor of cream cheese spread you can think of. For free! In the back of the room. A bagel could have been just the thing to diminish the bad feelings. And there’s nothing wrong with saying yes or no to a bagel. But I know my brain and body operate better on fewer carbs. And although the temptation to numb out with food was strong, my internal control was stronger. People, this is new territory for me. And it was everything to do with feeling satisfied from my fat coffee!

If anyone has tried bulletproof coffee, I’d love to hear your experience. Oh and if you want a guideline to making it, here goes:

  • However much coffee you want
  • 1 – 3 teaspoons* of coconut oil (or the special oil if you think you need it)
  • 2 teaspoons high-quality butter (like Kerrygold or another fancy schmancy brand)
  • 1 packet Splenda (the bulletproof guy would shriek in horror at this, but I like how it tastes)

Mix all of this on high in a blender. Enjoy. * if you have a sensitive tummy, go slow on the oil at first. It can cause hurry poop if you’re not careful. 🙂

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First poem

Writing a poem

Seems so easy.

I used to think that poems had to rhyme

But now I know that they don’t.

So do words just drip from your brain to the page

Or is there something more to it?

My heart knows there’s something more

Some inexpressible quality like that of pixie dust or butterfly kisses

An intangible essence where the heartstrings are gently strummed

By the words as they unfold.

I long to give words to the quixotic moods of my heart

And to have an unknown someone feel

Really feel

What it’s like to be me.

But my keyboard doesn’t have the right keys

And my mind can’t quite conjure the right turn of phrase

To make it all make sense.

Like much of life, perhaps poetry is defined not by its ending

But by the very fact of beginning, of trying

And if I begin and try, again and again

Perhaps I can write with pixie dust and butterfly kisses

Sprinkled among my words.