Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Saturday 31 January 2009

Working mothers

Okay, so neither the running nor the dieting are going very well. I just finishing a two and a half hour run when I heard a snap near my butt. No turtlehead this time. Just a tendon that had gotten so tight it had to move. Now I've got sciatic pain so badly that I can barely walk. Since the marathon, I've had nothing but a slew of injuries.

And the scale said 51.0 this morning. So, those of you who guessed 2 weeks were (unfortunately) wrong.

So, I've decided to talk about something I'm a little bit more excited about. That's being a mommy returning to work. I started my "praktik" (or unpaid doctor work) last week in the Ophthalmology department. There are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to get paid here as a doctor, but I should start getting an income in March. Yes, the kind of "surgical resident" I was in the US was an eye surgeon (not an optometrist, grrrrr).

Anyway, a small part of me wants to just hang out with the Lorax and be one of those stay-at-home moms. Then I could run and swim and do as I please. Perhaps an easy and comfortable life. But I just could never do it; it is not how I was brought up. And being back in an ophthalmology department reminded me why I got a good education and how excited I am to start again.

But, according to SR, being a stay-at-home mom in the United States is just "normal." I remember him infamously saying to me before we started dating that he thought women should be stay-at-home moms (of course he just wanted to see my reaction). But can it possibly be true that it is "normal" to just stay home? Is America still so far from equality between the sexes? Or is his perspective biased?

I had to do some research (of course). It turns out that over 90% of Danish mothers work. While in the US, 58 % of mothers with children under the age of six work, and about 75% of those with children between the ages of 6 and 18 work. The percentage of working mother peaked in he US in the 1990's and plateaud since then.

Why the discrepency between the countries? For one, employees of daycares in Denmark have a long, formal training before they can begin to work. The public institutions are extremely successful in the social, emotional and intellectual development of children (so much so that in the paper today it was annouced that daycare will be compulsory for immigrant children). But in the US, there is no consistency in the quality of daycare. An NICHD study of early childcare showed that children who were placed in high-quality childcare settings had better language skills and social/emotional development than those who were placed in centers with poorly trained adults or a high number of children per adult caregiver.

Despite those findings, the US has not started following the Danish model. And the inequality between men and women in the workplace will thus persist.

Is the high percentage of working mothers in Denmark one of the reasons it's considered the "happiest" country in the world? I tend to think there's a correlation.

Running song of the day: We are Blind and Riding of the Merry-Go-Round byAlaska in Winter

Saturday 24 January 2009

I've stalled

This morning the scale once again said 50.8.

Perhaps those of you who said I'll never lose the weight are feeling good in your skin.

There's nothing more motivating than announcing your diet on the internet. But Thursday night I only got 3 hours of sleep (partly because I was starving, partly because The Lorax just woudn't sleep). I've never know sleep deprivation like I've experienced the last few weeks (now that I'm starting formal Danish lessons and work) and it is hard to lose weight while sleep-deprived. At least that's been my experience. (Happily I slept a solid 9 hours last night!)

Plus it takes a long time to recover from a road marathon. I still can't run with any sort of speed. I have developed a strange quadriceps tendinitis over my left knee. It didn't show up until a week after the race.

Well, I'm just rambling now.
Enjoy the weekend!

Running song of the day: Furr by Blitzen Trapper

Wednesday 21 January 2009

The Bois and Music

First a weight update.

Weight on 1/17 - 51.7
Weight on 1/21 - 50.8

Yes! I'm over half way there. Perhaps those of you who guessed 2 weeks on the poll were right (but then again, I may stall). The secret has not been giving up chocolate. The secret has just been eating fewer calories overall.

Now, as for the part about music.

When I think back to the historic inaguration of Barak Obama, I will remember it with happiness. Partly because the USA inaugurated its first black president and partly because The Lorax had a baby orgasm as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Anthony McGill performed the John Williams version of 'Tis a Gift to be Simple. He was standing in front of the tv, grabbing onto Yo-Yo's cello, with body convulsing, smiling and screaming in excitement.

This is not strange behavior for The Lorax. Starting two months ago, we noticed he was dancing along to the music at a Mexican restaurant. Around that same time, we put a flower music box with a pull-string in his crib. The first night the flower was in there, he just kept pulling the string to hear the song over and over and over until his little corpus was so tired that he finally fell asleep.

He has, since that time, danced to all the music we have on. He has even been attempting to play our keyboard. Today for the first time, he actually sang along to "Groove is In the Heart" by Deee-Lite. Okay, he didn't sing the words, but he immitated that background wind instrument that slides up and down.

I have to say I am amazed by this. Have other parents have similar experiences? Has your baby become very musical right before becoming verbal (he only says "mama", "dada", "dahtin" (who knows what that means) so far)?

I have to wonder if he's experiencing synesthesia. Is that why he has these baby orgasms?

I'll leave you with his favorite dancing song:

Man. I'm a man machine.
Check out my style 'cause I'm goin' real wild.
I'm pluggin' in keyboards one at a time.
And then I've got a song got a song in no time.

My Secret Lover by Private

Saturday 17 January 2009


It is a well-known phenomenon: people put on weight around the holidays. This has previously not been the case for me; I become so extremely neurotic about not gaining weight at this time, that I usually lose a pound or two. This year, unfortunately, has been different.

Living in Denmark has not proven to be easy for a vegetarian. There is meat in most of the main courses here. (SR's mom has been nice enough to cook fish for me when she cooks). To make up for all of the missed main courses, I started eating more chocolate. This was probably not the best choice in retrospect. Although, if one is going to gain weight, chocolate (specifically Anthon Berg Royal Danish chocolate) is probably a good way to do it.

When we moved into our apartment nearly 4 weeks ago, I weighed 50.1 kg. This morning, I weighed 51.7. Yes, I weighed myself at the same time of day and with the same clothes on. A 3 lb weight gain may not sound like much, but I can see where I'm headed: Last year: real baby. This year: chocolate baby.

The reasons for my weight gain are multifactorial:

-giving up gum for my New Year's resolution
- tapering for the marathon and not being able to run much afterwards due to a strange foot cramp resulting from a heal blister
-lack of sleep (my coughing and The Lorax waking up about 15 times a night)
-stress about trying to get my medical degree approved in Denmark
-stress about money. SR recently informed me that we are responsible for paying his ex-wife's $20,000 in student debt, which she apparently accumulated taking Danish courses (I could launch into a tyrade about the absurdity of this, but that would just be a waste of your and my time)

The plan:

Well, first of all, the stress is less now. My medical degree was approved yesterday, so I can start working whenever I want. And I've made the executive decision that one cannot worry about money. Life is too short and there are too many other important things to worry about and to enjoy. (as we all know, the more stress hormone (ie. cortisol) circulting in your body, the easier it is to gain weight)

Second, the only reliable way I know to lose weight is to eat less and less, until I realize I'm eating little enough to lose weight each day and then continue eating that exact thing until I'm at my goal weight. And increasing my exercise will, of course, help me achieve this.

To reach a diet where I lose weight every day, I may need to start chewing gum again. And I may need to consider eating less chocolate.

How long do you think it will take me to get back to 50.1? (You will find a poll in the right-hand column)

Running song of the day: Monster Hospital by Metric

Sunday 11 January 2009

Kalundborg Marathon

As I've mentioned before, races in Denmark don't start painfully early. Today, the half and full marathon started at 10 am.

We drove a little over an hour from Næstved to a seaside town in the northern part of the island of Sjælland called Kalundborg.

Never have the many windmills of Denmark produced as much energy as today. Normally, I'd be happy about that, but not today. SR (in his incredibly generous and sweet way) offered to run the half marathon with The Lorax in the babyjogger, while I ran the full marathon. I felt terrible for SR because of the wind and was hoping that The Lorax wouldn't start crying in the middle of his race.

As always, I sized up the competition at the starting line. There was a very thin, strong looking woman who had a marathon number on. She did a bit of a double take when she saw I also had a marathon number. She was lined up right at the front. I'm sure she figured I had nothing, though, what with my baggy pants and big, turquoise mittens.

And really, I didn't feel like a had much competitive fire in me today. I had actually been out of class on Friday because of a terrible brochitits that had kept me up most of Thursday night. Plus, my previous marathon PR (the only marathon I've run, now almost 3 years ago) was 3:44.

The route was two out and backs (the first with the half marathoners). We started in a stadium in the city and ran up rather enormous hills (for Denmark) into the blustery wind of the countryside.

At the start, I was the leading marathon woman. About 1km into the race, a guy with the best looking behind I've ever seen sped by me with a baby jogger.

At 5km, we started to ascend the hills. And a young woman with a marathon jersey on caught up to me. I then sped ahead, just to create cushion. I figured she was too young to know how fast to start, anyway. Time would tell.

I actually felt great and was doing between 4 and 5 minute kms, just as planned. I was smiling and listening to my music and enjoying the sun when I realized that the terrible wind was, of course, at our backs. I hate that feeling.

I made it into 10k in 48 minutes (a little under what SR had suggested). And then the run into the wind started. Oh, man. I could barely make forward motion. My baggy clothes acted like a sail and my 50kg did not hold me fast to the ground. Men and women passed me left and right. But somehow all of the women were half marathoners. The terrible wind lasted about 6km and then was at our side. It was at this point I realized I was starving. The next aid station just had fruit... what?!?! Man, I hate fruit. Anyway, I ate an apple slice and felt a bit better.

I came into the half marathon point at 1:45 and first marathon woman.

Somehow SR had survived the wind with the baby jogger and managed to get 4th place in the half marathon! He was right when he said he had "gotten his super powers back." (there was some fear he would lose his "super powers" when he moved back to his native land)

My knees were hurting at this point because I (so stupidly) wore racing flats. WHAT was I thinking? I toyed with the idea of changing shoes at the half way point, but not knowing how far in the lead I was, I didn't want to risk losing the time. Shortly, the pain in my knees went away and after enjoying a little european chocolate, I got a second wind. I managed to do the first 10k of the second half of the race in 50 minutes. At this point, I realized I was going to survive.

There were no women behind me to be seen, so I hunkered down to battle the wind once again, this time a bit more optimistically. I was slowly starting to pass the men around me. I wasn't speeding up, they were just slowing down.

The banging on the asphalt with my racing flats began to take it's toll and I developed the most excruciating neck pain. For the rest of the race, the only thing I enjoyed was my music (Birds by Frida Hyvönen was a favorite) and, of course, the fact that I was the leading woman. The end of the race was eternal. But when I approached the end, Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush came on and I started having fun despite the neck pain.

I came into the stadium area finish and saw SR with the Lorax with a very small crowd (everyone was in the clubhouse because it was so cold and windy). I crossed the finish line in 3:39, thus winning the marathon for the women.

The race directors were very congratulatory and handed me a 300 kr. prize and a medal. Cool!

I had a coughing attack, which I was a little embarrassed about. And then I attempted to speak with the race directors and workers with my accent, which I was even more embarrassed about. They were surprised I had an 11 month old baby (and SR pointed out that this was likely the last time I'd get any kudos for being a new mom runner.

We then enjoyed some warm soup and bread in the hyggelig clubhouse and spoke with a bunch of other runners.

It seems like long distance runners all over the world have the likable, laid back personality and are just the type of people who enjoy talking to and meeting others.

Happily my neck pain promptly went away. But I'm never running another marathon in racing flats.

I owe SR big time for running with The Lorax. Our next marathon is hopefully in March. Then it will be my turn to run the half with the baby jogger.

Running Song of the Day: Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Danish: The Language of of potatoes

Today was my first day in the Danish for Doctors course. Yesterday I took a test (oral, written and reading comprehension) of the Danish language to see if I could skip the introductory level. I talked with a woman in Danish for half an hour, wrote something about myself and read a "History and Physical". The instructor then said I was better at Danish than any of the other students in the school, but she couldn't start someone in advanced Danish who had had no formal training. What is more, they aren't currently offering advanced Danish for Doctors. So, she told me to just start in the intermediate class.

There are nine doctors in my class from eight different counties: Nepal, The Philippines, Germany, Holland, Mexico, The Czech Republic, Egypt, and, of course, The USA. I only know a little about their stories.

The woman from the Phillipines said "I'm in Denmark because my husband wanted adventure. In the Philippines, I was a doctor, here I'm a husmor (housemother) without kids. I'm learning to cook, but otherwise I'm bored out of my mind. So I decided to take this course. I would work in Denmark, but I'm sure my husband will want to move again soon."

Then there was the guy from Egypt: "I'm in Denmark because my daughter lives here. She is 16 months old. Her mother and I are divorced. Her mother has lived here for 20 years."

Despite the course being easy, I learned a lot. It was the longest I'd been away from SR in almost 2 months and the longest I'd ever been away from The Lorax. As you can imagine, after 10 hours of absence, he cried his heart out when I walked in. That was because he could smell my boobs. I'm talking about SR, of course.

As for The Lorax, he keeps turning off the computer as I write because he wants attention. He has lately become quite resourceful. A couple of nights ago, he opened the refrigerator and began to feast on curried tofu and noodles.

That is what you have to do as a 10 month old when your anorexic mother wants you to be just like her. I am kidding, of course.

Running Song of the Day: Senegal Fast Food by Manu Chau avec Amadou et Mariam