Monday, September 30, 2013

F is for Fall Fantasy Football

Fall used to be a simpler time for me - it would bring a simple sadness that winter was coming and my summer clothes would be doomed to darkness in the dresser for the next 9 months. The only bright light during this dim time would be Thanksgiving and the joys of the holiday season. But never fear, fantasy football is here.

This is my third season and I've graduated to participating in two leagues. Two leagues, I had hoped, would equal twice the fun. No. I was wrong. Two leagues = twice the disappointment, anxiety, and bitterness on each and every Sunday and Monday for the 4 months of this terrible and wonderful time of year. Let me explain:

The season starts with the giddy joy of being accepted back to the leagues (as a woman this is quite a feat). The excitement continues with the prospect of the draft - who will make the team? Will it be Drew Brees? Or will I finally believe Howie when he says I over-value quarterbacks and attempt to hoard receivers and runners? And what about my team name? Oh the pain of seeking a brilliant team name that strikes fears into the hearts of others in my league! In actuality, I really just hope my team name gets at least a chuckle for being mildly clever.

Then draft day arrives. With many windows open on my screen, I jump back and forth frazzled trying to look up the players I'm not as familiar with between picks. After all, before fantasy entered my life I only ever paid attention to the Giants - there are a lot of players in the NFL to learn about! The end of the draft brings some relief, but also the onset of nerves. Did I make the right picks? Is my team solid? Week one will tell.

A loss and a win. Okay, I can deal with that, its only week 1.

Week 2: a loss and a win. Alright, being 1:1 in both leagues is not bad... its still early.

Week 3: a loss and a loss. Ughhh. My defense is falling apart in one league... my receivers in the other are getting double covered on every play. My stars are falling to "Questionable" for next week. The players left on free agency are limited. I fear a trade. What to do? What to do? It's still early...

Week 4: Here we are. What started out as a hopeful Sunday in the lead after the 1:00pm games has turned into a nightmare and I'm looking at another 0-2 weekend. How can this happen? My teams were solid...

My options seem to be dwindling and despite the appearances of solidarity on a "stacked" team, my players still can't keep it all together to get me a win. What looks like a solid lead turns into a 30 point deficit just because Tony Gonzalez has a breakout 38-point achievement that never should have happened while my defense dwindles into negative points for the 2nd or 3rd week in a row.

I know this is all of a lot of jargon and for those of you who don't participate in fantasy football, this is probably a nonsense post. I just can't help but reflect how my fall has changed from a time of mourning the seasonal equinox to anticipation over how my 17 players from 10+ different teams will play in their weekend match-ups. I now worry over predictions and averages and rivalries. In some ways, my fall is a lot more exciting, especially when my team wins. Its also brought me closer to a sport I grew up with but did not fully appreciate before. However, it also brings with it the emotional roller coaster of a lifetime. Oh fantasy. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The light at the end of the tunnel

Six weeks post-wedding and here we are! This will be my last wedding related post. I couldn't leave you all hanging at the 2 months-to-go mark so here is a synopsis of the craziness that happened at the end.

{Since this is the last "getting married" post, I just want to remind anyone who is reading who needs some helpful links and vendor recs to see the Wedding Links page under the "More.." tab.}

Where we left off ...
     Engagement photos: We had wanted to do these in April. Then we wanted to do them in May. Then we scheduled them for mid-June. With everything we had going on at the time, we sprung for the extra $200 to have the photographer come to us in NY from his home base outside Philly - which was well worth it. This was one thing I had initially thought I was not going to do at the beginning of my engagement, but boy am I glad I did. Not only do we now have tons of professionally done pictures of the two of us (as opposed to only having a handful of photos taken with smartphones on tipsy nights in poorly lit bars, clubs, or restaurants), but we also got to know our photographer and have a lighthearted "date" of sorts with each other to ease some stress.

     Flowers: Last we chatted flowers were not done at the two month mark. Thankfully all it took was a skype date with a smaller mom & pop florist shop and a bit of chemistry to check this off the list. I showed her a few pictures of flower arrangements I liked based on my likes and dislikes I sorted out from the first shop we almost contracted with.

     Transportation: I ended up feeling frazzled enough that I ended up putting this in the hands of my then-fiance. He contacted my brother who knew of bus companies in the area from his fraternity events-coordinator days and he called up a few limo companies found via google. We calculated the best way to limit the number of vehicles we needed by deciding to transport the bridal party around in shifts using one limo, and likewise scheduling shifts with one school bus for transporting our guests between the hotel and reception venue.

     Favors: We knew we wanted something that was not going to be thrown out when people got home the next day. We didn't want a personalized trinket or "souvenir" to send our guests home with. So my mom suggested we give away Hope's Cookies, a local mini-chain in the Villanova area that baked and packaged the cookies in pairs for us. All we had to do was pick them up. It was perfect.

     Seating Plan: This was tricky. We only had approximately 2 weeks to sit down and do this and its really the type of chore that you just have to buckle down and get it done.

     The Extras: The last week before the wedding there were, of course, a million little extras that needed to get done. At first I was not going to take that entire week off from work, but boy am I glad that I did! I needed the time to finish all the miscellaneous details and feel secure that we did all we could to make it "perfect".

     The Big Day: Surprisingly, the entire occasion went off without a hitch on the day of - except for my own nerves of course. All the details were perfect, the flowers were perfect, the DJ was perfect. We had an amazing time and really enjoyed our celebration. If you are planning your wedding in the greater Philadelphia area please see the wedding links page (under the "Extras" tab) for our vendor suggestions - we LOVED each and every one of them.

     The Honeymoon! YAY! The best part of everything! We booked in June for the end of August. We wanted somewhere non-traditional after our bold original plan of going to Italy fell through. I knew it needed adventure and relaxation to appease both of our interests so we chose Belize! It was absolutely fantastic and we would go again in a heartbeat. Beach, ocean, snorkeling, Mayan ruins exploration, swimming with sharks, zip-lining, fantastic food, we couldn't have asked for more!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What's in a vitamin? (Vitamin B12)

Last summer I started this little segment about vitamins, so here's a lighthearted post about our next special vitamin. How do we really know what vitamins are actually worth the buzz? That's what I'm attempting to discover. We've already discussed the benefits of vitamin D and C, next up: B12.

Vitamin B12
B12, aka cyanocobalamin, is fairly well known as an energy booster and has been on trend for the past several years. Given is ubiquitously known name, lets just jump in and affirm that yes - B12 boosts your energy! This is mostly due to the fact that people with a B12 deficiency suffer from weakness and fatigue as a side effect. So when you replace what you've lost, you feel better! But what else can this little bugger do for you?

B12 is a vitamin only obtained via diet, whether it be fortified foods, OTC or prescription supplements, or naturally occurring in foods. Without it not only will you feel your metabolism slow (two of its by products are active in metabolism.. metabolism = energy), but you can also develop anemia and neurological deficits including abnormal sensations, such as pins and needles, and memory loss, which can contribute to a sense of weakness and fatigue. Deficiency can also lead to constipation, depression, weight loss, and loss of appetite. There are a few factors that put a person at risk for developing a B12 deficiency.

1 - being vegan or vegetarian. B12 is naturally found in the meat, fish, shellfish, chicken, and dairy... therefore if you are not eating any of those foods you put yourself at risk for developing a B12 deficiency, among other things. If you practice vegetarianism, be sure to see a nutritionist to make sure you are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals you might be missing out on. Side note: B12 can also be found in fortified cereals.

2 - being elderly. As you grow older, you GI system gets tired and doesn't absorb the nutrients in the foods you eat as well as it did when you were younger. In fact, many times older people may be misdiagnosed with early dementia if their chief complaint is only memory loss and therefore the practitioner doesn't think to check for B12 deficiency. NY Times wrote an article on Vitamin B12 with this scenario as their back story.

3 - having a gastrointestinal disorder. B12 is absorbed in the small intestine. If you have a GI disorder, such as Crohn's Disease, Celiac's, or another condition that affects the small intestine, it can lead to malabsorbtion of many things, including B12.

4 - having had GI surgery or bariatric surgery. If you are missing some of your pieces, then its fair to guess that your body is going to miss out on whatever it is those pieces do for you. You lose your gallbladder, you can no longer secrete the enzymes needed to break down fatty foods, therefore you can no longer eat those fatty foods you love or else they'll be coming straight out the other end the same way they came in... gross (sorry for the visual, it was the first example that came to mind and I was too lazy slash entertained to change it to something more benign like losing your uterus means no babies). Likewise, if you are missing part of your GI tract, you can bet you're gonna miss out on absorbing some or many of the nutrients your body needs.

So how does this affect you and what can you do about it? For most of the young American population, you probably aren't B12 deficient. If you are tired, its probably because you stayed up too late watching TV or going out with you friends or taking care of your kids all day. However, you should eat a well balanced diet including an appropriate amount of meats, fish and dairy, and you should still get an annual physical in which your doc does routine blood work to check for anemia and vitamin deficiencies. And if you are still worried you might be deficient - a little OTC B12 never hurt nobody (at least not that I can find in the literature...)

Another fun fact: along with folate and vitamin B6, B12 also contributes indirectly to overall cardiovascular health.

Where this information came from: 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Human Race

There was a time when I believed racism did not exist. There was a time when I thought people in my social class, in my town, in my neighborhood, in my family could never possess the capacity to be racist knowingly or unknowingly. There was a time when I thought it was just a non-issue in my life. I'm hesitant to write on this subject, but part of me feels that I need to record these feelings somewhere.

When I was a child, my mother's mission in raising me was to raise me to be perfect. An ambitious task that clearly failed, as no one can obtain perfection. However, her attempts were not fruitless and my parents certainly got a few things right. Somehow they taught me to love people. I was painstakingly encouraged to find the good in everyone, to treat them well, and to love each one. As a child I would befriend anyone, it never mattered if they were small, large, boy, girl, black, brown, "cool," or "weird." I lived in a nearly homogeneous town - approximately 95% white. Race was never a big deal because there wasn't much of it. Of the handful of non-whites in my class, all of them found a crowd to belong to. I never experienced or witnessed discrimination. College was another near-homogneous environment and life continued as it always had. My husband and I met a week before I turned 18 the first full day of orientation at our undergraduate university. We became friends and we shared friends we had in common. He was black and I white, but I never noticed. It was just something seen but not processed - it didn't matter.

I had a moment when Howie and I both seriously entertained the idea of dating. The thought first crossed my mind: "Oh, he's black... does that matter? What will my parents think? What will my friends think?" To this point I had never met an interracial couple, I had never faced this concept, and while my instincts about befriending people bore no colored glasses, I consciously entertained the idea for a moment. What did this mean? For all my parents hard work to raise me right, to raise me blind to this taboo social constraint, I had a moment in which I hesitated. I consciously took the issue and made a decision about it in that moment. If race never meant anything to me for the first 19 years of my life, I was not going to let it affect me now. It was stupid and superficial, especially when a deep love for that person was already nesting in my soul.

I was 19 when racism first grazed my life.

Our dads were not so keen on our black/white-ness at the beginning. It was a stress that became a part of our first months of dating. It didn't take convincing, per say; I never had to sit down and explain my reasoning for dating this person to my dad, nor he to his dad. But it did take time and encouragement from our mothers for them to identify the fact that they needed a moment. They needed a moment to consciously hold the question in their minds and face the issue. And unsurprisingly with a little time and patience they both embraced each of us as their children. Perhaps its because they are our dads that it was easier for us to not really take this to heart as a personal attack after it all settled down and to move forward along with them.

We continued living in our relative bubble of life, which did not include racism. Surrounded by our peers in age, education, and socioeconomics, we remained a part of a homogenous society.

Sadly, just 15 days before our wedding day racism struck again.

We received a message on our wedding website from an anonymous source criticizing our interracial union. Its unknowable if it was a family member, a friend, or a random passerby to our site who felt it their moral obligation to butt into business that is not their own. But the message was racist and did just what racism is meant to do - incite insecurity and inferiority. The author made a series of points including "a person truly secure with themselves instinctively wants their children to look like them," "you're the beautiful young lady you are because your parents and grandparents respected the fundamental to marry within their own heritages," "sure you and Howie can be friends, but raising a family is serious business and you should marry within your heritage especially since our kind is quickly becoming a minority," and finally ending with the statement that "your friends and family are ready to support you in your decision to cancel this event [meaning my wedding]. Sincerely, A Friend."

I was, needless to say, shocked. Stunned. Speechless. I was reeling with disbelief, anger, and insecurity. My inner monologue was practically on speed with spite and sarcasm... Well clearly, I am so insecure that I would like to hide my genes behind the dominant black genes that are sure to take over. I'm certain my children won't look one bit like me after those genes have done their work. And yes, only white European mutts are beautiful, clearly people like Halle Barry, Alicia Keys, and Mariah Carey are not beautiful. Who talks about "heritages" anyway... and does this person realize I'm a mix of at least 5 different Caucasion "heritages" from across western to eastern Europe all the way up to Russia? Good job, ancestors, for marrying only within your own. Maybe "our kind" becoming extinct isn't so bad if it means narrow minded people like you become extinct with them. Signed a Friend? A Friend? What kind of "Friend" is this. And do they realize the wedding is in 15 days... If you are such a concerned friend, then why now after I've been engaged for almost 3 years. They better not be invited to the wedding, and if they are, they better not be coming. What if they are coming, what if they say something at the mass? What if this "friend" feels the need to make a scene, or say something to my parents or me in person? 

My initial anger gradually changed to anxiety. I promptly removed the post from the website in my wild desire to attempt to make this issue now disappear. But the feelings remained and the words continued to sting my memory. It wouldn't disappear. And I knew that it wouldn't disappear as the anxiety swelled and the fear of hearing someone agree compelled me to keep this quiet and secret from most everybody.

It was troubling and challenging to deal with, partly because it was something I had never dealt with or witnessed (at least to my knowledge I had never witnessed it). I had developed a distrust for my extended family and friends and a sense of resentment toward my own race. In fact, I felt my race had been taken away... or rather that I was giving it up. I didn't want to be seen as white anymore. I didn't want to belong to a race, a group of people that, for all the hurts it caused and supposedly regrets still carries on with the same haughtiness and sense of superiority and entitlement that enabled itself to commit those prior crimes in the first place. Not to say all whites are the same, surely many would never feel those feelings. But in that moment and the following days, I was facing the inferiority and insecurity created by a racist note from and unknown party. I felt like the world was against me and I didn't realize it was a conspiracy until too late - I felt like I was walking into a trap, that my wedding was a set up and all I loved and knew would crumble. I no longer felt like the blissful outsider I once was. My ideals about society and the human race had been stripped from me. I thought we had finally figured out that being part of the human race was enough to unite us, at least here in my American, educated, middle class bubble it should be enough -- it should be enough, right? We should know better. Perhaps I should have known better...