CD1, again.

January 31, 2008

Hi there! Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I TOLD you the beginning of the semester was going to bring my blog posting to a screeching halt. 

Not much to report, though, in a no-news-is-good-news way; firstly, my classes are going well so far, and I really love my students this semester. My undergrads are, as usual, a very diverse racial, ethnic, and gender mix, and, for once, so are my graduate students. Everyone seems very smart and engaged, and I have several “repeat offenders” in both classes, which is always nice. The topic, contemporary African American literature, is a lot of fun to teach, too, and I’ve taught the course once before, making preparation much easier because I already have all the notes and handouts ready. So, overall, I’m downright thrilled with my teaching this semester. Now, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the other professional stuff on my plate–two book reviews due, a big article revision that I am behind on, plus two public talks on my new book, one coming up next week, ack!–but I’m trying just to keep plugging away and making it happen.

As far as weight and exercise, and the challenge I extended to myself last post, I have indeed been keeping up with my workouts, although I certainly haven’t been going out daily like I was before. Classes started on Monday, and I went for a jog on Monday morning, followed by some all-over weight training. No working out on Tuesday or Wednesday, although I did get a bunch of incidental walking in on Wednesday. And then I went out for another longish jog this morning (Thursday), but skipped the follow-up weight training. I do plan to do some weights tomorrow, though, especially since it’ll be too rainy here to go out for a jog. And Saturday and Sunday, I hope G and I can get in more exercise of some sort, since it’s supposed to be 50 degrees and sunny both days!

My weight has fluctuated around a bit, but this morning was back to 158, so I’m still maintaining my 40 pound loss. I have to say, though, that even while the numbers on the scale stay static, my body does seem continually to be changing shape. The first day of class, I went to put on some pants that I had JUST worn at my conference at the end of December, and guess what? They were too big. In December they’d been just a smidge loose, but on Monday they were so loose as to be almost unwearable. I know, I know, tough problem to have, but I wish I’d realized that I’d lost a few more inches sometime before I was getting dressed on the first day of class. At least if I ever do get pregnant, I’ll have pants in various waist sizes to transition through before I’m actually in maternity-wear.

(Side note on that: I’ve always been apprehensive about pregnancy at work, and being “on display” physically to colleagues and students as my body changed, but having lost 40 pounds has given me a real taste of what that might be like. My students haven’t said anything, but my colleagues bring up my weight an awful lot. And even though it’s usually in complimentary ways, it’s still sort of weird to feel like “work people,” who in my estimation are only supposed to see me as a walking brain, are looking at my body and noticing its shape. Also, I can forget trying to pass as not-pregnant once I start to show, since everyone seems so aware of how trim I’ve become. I feel like my waistline is being watched like a hawk now!)

Apropos of that, as you can tell from the title of this post, my period started today. Even though that means this month I’m back to a 24-day cycle (oh, and per usual, as un-pregnant as ever), I’m still glad that Aunt Flo showed up early–we’re having brunch with friends on Saturday, and are looking forward to watching the Super Bowl on Sunday (go Giants!), and I’m glad I’ll be done with the worst of the bleeding and cramps for both events. Not to mention, license to drink copiously. Sweet.

This month, though, I’m feeling less ambivalent about ART, and more like I’m ready to get this Clomid + IUI show on the road. Well, you know, a couple of cycles from now. (:eyeroll:) Okay, maybe even next cycle if we can get our ducks in a row fast enough. We’ll see. My smaller goals for this month are to get G’s SA scheduled, finally, hopefully for this very week, and to get myself to the injections class at my clinic, which only happens on Tuesdays, I think. Or Thursdays. I have to check my Big Brown Envelope Full ‘o Infertility Stuff to be sure.

I’m too sleepy to wrap this post up properly, so instead I’ll leave you with one last interesting TTC-related tidbit: my college actually sent out a survey about parental leave policies this week! They were trying to assess how much faculty know about current leave policies, how much those (dismal) policies have affected people’s family planning, and what kinds of changes faculty might like to see. As you can imagine, in the comments section I went to town, explaining that I resented, as an infertile person, the subtle expectation at our institution (and all over academia, really) that all women can schedule their pregnancies around the academic calendar, and that our current policy was inadequate and even discriminatory towards those who could not, for whatever reason, time their infants’ arrivals precisely to the moment following that last final exam in the Spring. I hope it gets through, because if I do end up pregnant in 2008, I’d rather not have to take a semester completely unpaid, and with NO BENEFITS in 2009. Sigh.

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Thoughts on jogging…

January 22, 2008

So, for the past two days I have been going jogging in the park, which, lucky me, is five minutes from our apartment. I know I mentioned a few posts ago that I’ve taken up jogging, but these past couple of sessions seem like a whole new animal. Why? Because when I went jogging last week, it was never any colder than 45 degrees out; in fact, on the first day I hit the trail, it was actually 65 degrees and sunny (global warming much?).

Yesterday and today when I went out, it was 25 degrees.

I’m not sure I can even capture the sensory difference between jogging in 45+ degree weather and jogging in 25 degree weather. When it was 45 degrees, I went out wearing three-quarter-length leggings, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a windbreaker, and did not feel cold in the least. By the end of my jog I even took off the windbreaker and tied it around my waist, because I was too hot.

On Sunday morning when I went out, I wore full-length leggings tucked into lined socks, and a long-sleeved fitted poly undershirt–that was layer number one. Then I added a pair of looser athletic pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt (layer number two), and on top of that, a thin fleece top. Three layers, sounds good, right? This was my outfit at first, before going outside. Once I got outside and felt the January wind slice through me like a prison shank, I went back upstairs for my windbreaker, plus gloves and a wide fleece headband to protect my ears/face. Because, um, holy hell. The cold!

But interestingly enough, once I got on the trail I didn’t really mind how bitterly cold it was. Not only because, well, it could have been worse, but because the jogging itself was so lovely. Yes, that’s right, folks, I just used “jogging” and “lovely” in the same sentence. I’ve officially become one of those lunatics who LIKES to exercise. You know the ones: inevitably arriving on the scene just back from some kind of workout, toting some sort of fitness paraphernalia–racquet, yoga mat, well-worn gym bag–and wearing annoyingly beatific smiles on their smug, glowy faces. That’s totally me now. Well, except for the fitness paraphernalia part, as I don’t really do exercise (yet) that requires equipment. I wouldn’t mind taking up some of those things eventually, though (on my list: skiing, golf, and trapeze–yeah, that’s right, trapeze).

Anyway, so I really enjoyed both bitterly cold jogs. Not only because of the winter sunlight filtering through the tree branches along the path in the park, and the incredible taste of the fresh air, but because it felt so good to move. Seriously, when did I become that person, the one who takes pleasure in physical exertion? Today’s jog, especially, was just fantastic–I warmed up alternating between jogging and walking every two minutes or so for about ten minutes, until I got over to the new track (one of my local park’s many excellent features). Then I did twenty minutes of jogging around the track, then another two minutes of walking, then another fifteen minutes of jogging, a few on the track, most on the trail back home. And then maybe five minutes of cooldown walking. The two minutes of walking in the middle of the two longer jog sessions were actually pretty unnecessary; I could have gone straight through for thirty or thirty-five minutes, I think, but actually I had to stop and take off my windbreaker!

I would say that this athleticism is completely unprecedented for me, except it’s really not–when I was much younger, in high school and college, I periodically went through pro-exercise phases, usually tied to some kind of (unnecessary, in retrospect) weight-loss scheme. Of course, these were short-lived, mostly because vanity historically has been a really bad motivator for me. When I was in graduate school, on the other hand, I was really active almost in spite of myself, mostly in practical ways. I biked to class several times a week, and to the grocery store, and occasionally went running–not jogging, running–along the gorgeous road that ran between the two main campuses. Now I guess I’m back to being that person, only new and improved, because back then I still sort of hated exercise (even though I did it fairly often). Man, did I used to resent those bike rides to the grocery store!

I have been thinking about this exercise thing a lot lately as I think about being pregnant sometime soon, because I really don’t want the physical and personal upheaval that pregnancy creates to derail this healthy place I’m in. It’s a big part of why I don’t really want to pursue Clomid + IUI (which is what the RE recommends for us next, due to my blocked tube) until a little later this spring. There are other reasons, too, of course–I may be on sabbatical in the fall, for instance, so I’d really rather not have a due date earlier than January 2009–but I definitely would like more time to get in really great shape so I’ll have an easier time bouncing back after pregnancy. And staying fit during pregnancy, too, since all the research seems to indicate that exercise while pregnant is safest if you are already in shape. I’m also hoping that making exercise an honest-to-God habit now, while I have all the time in the world, will make it easier for me to get back to prioritizing it once I have no time at all as the bewildered parent of an infant.

Of course, before I get to that point I have to survive the first few weeks of classes–let’s see how well my exercise frequency holds up starting next Monday, when I’m back to the teaching grind. That’ll really be proof that I’ve become one of those healthy people, making time for working out in spite of a work schedule from hell. I intend to do it, and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes when we get to that point!

Wow, seems I’m updating this blog daily right now! Don’t get used to it, fair readers. Soon enough, school is going to start again and then you’re going to say, “What happened to that Cityprof character, anyway? Is she still alive?” And I will be. But I will be dealing with the various and sundry stresses and stupidities that are the first week or two of a semester. Oh, how I dread the first day of class. And I am speaking as someone who, overall, loves her job.

That fateful day has not yet come, though. And so I am here again to share some pictures of myself with you all, the first a before picture, from June 2007, when I weighed 198 lbs, the second from January 2008 (taken today, actually), weight 158 lbs. Both pics can be enlarged by clicking on the thumbnails:

June 2008Jan 2008 

I am kind of shocked at how striking the difference is in the pictures, because I didn’t see myself as “big” when I was heavier, and I don’t really see myself as “small” now that I am lighter. On a daily basis, no matter what I weigh, I just feel like my normal self, although these days I do tend to feel a little more fit as I walk through the world. But I would not have believed the change had been so dramatic if I didn’t have visual proof in the form of these photographs. Holy crap!

Yeah, so, Cloverfield.

January 19, 2008

We went to see J.J. Abrams’ new flick, Cloverfield, tonight. My basic response is “not deep, but thoroughly entertaining,” but there are some other things I’d add to that. First, though, two points of backstory:

1. I am a ridiculously huge Lost fan. If I weren’t already barren I would totally have Lost‘s baby. (By the way, the new season premieres January 31st! I can hardly stand it. T-minus thirteen days and counting). So naturally I was intrigued by a movie created by the guy who co-created my favorite TV show. In fact, I have to say that the Lost connection is the main reason that I was interested in Cloverfield, although the strikingly original trailers helped.

2. Remember my pretend boyfriend R? (Update on that: still friends! And still kind of flirtatious. But all above-board, thankfully.) Well, R’s exact words when I mentioned how psyched I was to go see Cloverfield were, “That looks really dumb.” (Damn, how harsh is that? See why he is only my pretend boyfriend?) R pretentiously recommends, instead, There Will Be Blood.

Now of COURSE I want to see There Will Be Blood. Who wouldn’t? It’s critically acclaimed, widely regarded as possibly the best film of the year. I find the premise fascinating, especially since I am both amazed and repelled by the fantastic power of capitalism, and I am always a fan of Daniel Day-Lewis. But I didn’t feel like I had to rush out and see There Will Be Blood on opening weekend, as if it were some sort of featherweight summer blockbuster. Indeed, according to one source, TWBB is an “American masterpiece.” I’m guessing it’ll be around for a while, especially after the Oscar noms are announced next week.

…And then it’ll be on DVD within minutes of departing theaters. Did I mention we have a 42-inch HDTV and a great surround-sound set up, perfect for watching those kinds of movies at home? Between this and the two great indie theaters in our neighborhood, I am more than sure that I will see TWBB eventually. In fact, I am sure that it will be thought-provoking, and poignant, and visually and emotionally powerful, and that I will leave the theater (or peel myself off of my living room sofa and wander to bed) feeling that I have just seen something profound, and will wallow in deep rumination about American corruption and wealth for days afterward.

But before I get down to all of that heavy crap, I would like to gasp, and clutch G’s hand, and yell “holy hell!” at the same time as a lot of other people are yelling and clutching and gasping, and see pretty actors that I don’t much care about get chased by a gigantic monster.

Enter Cloverfield, which Manohla Dargis at the Times called “a feature-length gimmick,” and panned, hard. (Small vindication for R: she even used the word “dumb”!) I’m not surprised. I mean, there’s nothing profound there, really. If not for the “from the ground” perspective and shaky camera work, it would be just another monster movie with very impressive special effects.

Well, sort of. And I’m not so sure we can dismiss the “from the ground” perspective so easily. Dargis talks about the “tacky allusions to Sept. 11,” but those moments in the film were very interesting to me. I don’t want to make it deeper than it was. It wasn’t that deep. But it was still really something to feel the huge, rowdy crowd around me (theater was so packed that the only seats we could get were in the front row) respond to these images by falling silent, seeming collectively to hold their breaths. The images I’m talking about, of course, are those of the movie’s central characters covered in white dust, disoriented, terrified, wandering in the streets of lower Manhattan after the first major “attack” of the monster, a monster they hadn’t yet seen more than a glimpse of, a monster that some didn’t even fully realize, yet, was behind the seemingly random devastation surrounding them.

Of course this is an allusion to September 11th, but not just a visual one. It alludes also to the not knowing, the confusion, the way that the people involved in a disaster are the last to know what is actually happening. So one of the ways that the handheld camera conceit was useful was in capturing this in-the-moment human drama from the perspective of those caught up in it, literally “on the ground.” Which has special resonance in New York City, not just because of 9/11 but because of the way one moves through the world in Manhattan; the sheer press of people and busy pace of the day means that unless you are a tourist you are not often taking the time to look up, while on the street, and think about the city’s immense verticality. But that’s exactly what’s at issue when that same city is, or appears to be, crumbling down around your ears. What do you know, for sure, when buildings are falling down and you are there, in the street, trying to escape? Trying to escape, I should add, a menace that seems everywhere at once but also impossible to pin down, one that seems to have come from nowhere, yet acts on the City with real malice.

Yeah, again. I’m making it deeper than it is. And I should also note that although I moved to NYC (Brooklyn, actually) in the summer of 2001 and was right here when 9/11 happened, I was not one of the people who fled through the streets as the towers fell. I was at home in my pajamas, and I watched it on television just like everyone else in America. Maybe that’s what made those moments in the movie so compelling. If I had lived through it on the ground, would I need a silly monster movie to help me think about that kind of fear in a new way?

When I was sitting there seeing these movie images that referenced September 11th so plainly, I also wondered how old the average movie-goer in the room was. 30? 25? 21? The other day, G reminded me that 9/11 happened nearly seven years ago. What does it mean to be, say, in your early 20s, someone who was only a teenager on that day six and a half years ago, possibly a teenager living somewhere else, one of the ones who wasn’t on the ground but who imagines she feels just a little bit of what that experience must have been like because of the way this movie was shot? Is that imagined feeling a good thing, or a kind of perversion of the truth of that day’s horror? Is this whole thing just a really good example of the postmodern “end of history,” in which historical events lose meaning as they are severed from their contexts, and become only a series of empty images reproduced for mass consumption? Are allusions to 9/11 “tacky,” or vital, in a film about how ordinary (young) people respond to a crisis of impossible proportions?

These are not questions I am prepared to answer at 2:00 in the morning. Or possibly ever. But they are some of the things that Cloverfield made me think about, in addition to making me jump, and point at the screen and urge the characters to “RUN,” already. And if you don’t feel like thinking at all, it’s also a great movie for that. Take a Dramamine beforehand if you tend toward motion-sickness, and enjoy.

And I don’t mean that in a Lily Tomlin way. This morning, I woke up and weighed myself, and the scale said 158 lbs.

Hmm, I thought. That can’t be right. Wasn’t I just saying that my new weight loss goal was to get to 158 and maintain? And when I said that, wasn’t I at least 4 pounds away from weighing 158? And don’t they say that those last few pounds before goal are the hardest to lose? Surely this is a function of the scale being confused. (And this is on a day when I hadn’t even tried to “game” the scale by stepping on it as lightly as possible, rocking back on my heels, and basically balancing on the outer rims of my feet and the tip of my big toe so that, presumably, I’d weigh less. —P.S. Anyone else out there do this? Anyone? Bueller?— No, today I’d just stepped on the scale flat-footed and prepared to take my lumps)

So I stepped off the scale, waited a few seconds, and got back on. A few numbers flashed as the scale adjusted itself to my presence–and these included the number 157–but then it settled, again, on 158. And, as this digital scale likes to do, then blinked it at me for good measure. 158. 158. What do you want from me, lady? 158.

As you can tell from the tone of this post, I am rather surprised at this turn of events. And possibly even a little alarmed, although a look back at the past little while reveals that I probably shouldn’t be (more on that in a sec). WHY would I be alarmed at losing weight that I wanted to lose, you ask? Well–and here comes another fun generalization about black people–in the world I come from, one is always suspicious of unexpected weight loss. In fact in my family in particular, losing weight when you are not actively trying to lose weight, and even sometimes when you ARE actively trying to lose weight, is sometimes assumed to be the result of things like illness, stress, or even drugs. Don’t get me started on how quickly the “she’s probably on crack” rumors start to fly when any famous black woman loses major weight.

My mom actually has lost a bit of weight since she retired a few years ago, mostly because she doesn’t eat as much as she used to, and she definitely doesn’t cook as much since it’s just her. And to me the reasons she is a bit slimmer (and only a bit! she’s no Nicole Ritchie) are clear, but she is always saying things like, “oh, I hope I’m not sick or something. I guess I could have AIDS.” Yes, my mother who once described sex, with a very disgusted look on her face, as “messy,” and who, as far as I can tell, has not had sex since I was conceived in 1974, is worried that losing 10 or 12 pounds over the course of a few years may be an indication of an extremely late-developing HIV infection. And she’s not fishing for compliments, either, feigning concern so we’ll discuss her weight! The woman is SINCERE.

Naturally, when she was here over Christmas, she was simultaneously pleased at my weight loss and worried that I would “overdo it.” “But don’t lose TOO much weight, Cityprof,” she’d say, in the same breath as telling me how great I look and how she wishes the rest of the family in Texas could see my fabulousness. “You don’t want to get TOO THIN.”

Lest you think that I am extrapolating one woman’s lunacy to the entire black community, I should also say that although I haven’t yet personally gotten too many “girl, don’t lose too much!” responses from others, over the years I have heard many people, friends and family, talking about how so-and-so has really gotten “TOO THIN,” which is always said in a way that implies the person is one step away from death. I have an aunt who lost a bunch of weight about ten years ago, and who even became an aerobics instructor, and seriously, word in the family was basically, “she just looks emaciated!” Trust me, she didn’t. She just looked fit, and slim, albeit much smaller than she had been.

Maybe it’s just my crazy family. Who generally are NOT extremely overweight, I should add. It’s not that they want everyone to weigh 300 pounds along with them. My aunts and female cousins are generally a glamorous and shapely bunch, who care deeply about appearance, and spend a lot of time on (big) hair and (heavy) makeup, and my uncles tend toward the tall and lanky, and only put on a little weight as they get older, but they still are all remarkably sensitive to the “so-and-so is TOO THIN” concern. What is that about? Perhaps a topic for another post. Or an entire dissertation.

Anyway, so maybe I’ve been brainwashed, but of course when these four pounds standing between me and 158 literally seemed to fall off without effort, I was a little alarmed. Am I on my way to becoming “TOO THIN”? The horror!

Then, of course, I thought back. There are a few things I’ve been doing differently in the past 10 days.

1. Skipping dessert most days
2. Not eating out very much
3. Eating a lot of protein, and smaller meals in general
AND, most importantly, and probably the cause of the other 3:
4. Jogging every few days in the park, in addition to my other workouts. I’d say I’ve worked out twice as much as I usually do, because instead of these jogs replacing my regular cardio, they’ve been in addition to it. And since really good cardio workouts tend to suppress my appetite these days (take THAT, Gary Taubes!), I just haven’t been that hungry, or interested in overdoing it.

Hence, I’ve arrived at minus 40 lbs. Seemingly without “trying,” but really by eating less and exercising more. Dammit, isn’t that always the “secret”?