Author: Michele LaFollette

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

No Regrets

Natalie LaFollette Creative Portrait_00

Dear Reader:

The woman at the Clinique counter turned out to be right. The day I visited her, I was 7 months pregnant…feeling a bit fat and looking for a “feel good” purchase. Lipstick is always fun! She rather ceremoniously uncapped a long, thin silver tube and twisted the base so that I might see the color. “Perfect,” she effused. I was not initially impressed, but, at her urging, I applied it and checked myself out in the mirror. Fabulous! Almost Lipstick in Black Honey has been a staple in my cosmetic bag ever since.

“So, are you going back to work after the baby?” she asked. I replied affirmatively to which she responded, “Ah, too bad.”

When I left her counter, I’m sure my lovely, shimmery lips were parted in an “um, what?!” expression.  That was some opinionated salesperson. I was working in high-tech marketing and had received a promotion and stock options the year before. Not to mention the fact that I was, and remain,  a staunch feminist. Of course,  I was going back.

I did return from maternity leave, but lasted only six months… and that was a stretch! Everything had changed. The 30-50 minute drive to and from work was never enjoyable, but now it was a lost hour that could have been shared with my daughter.  The early morning calls with the European sales force that I had once so enthusiastically anticipated created a logistical nightmare. The high level meetings that I had felt proud to attend seemed unimportant; I was no longer impressed with myself or anyone else in attendance. I  did not feel the zeal for advancement or the thrill of competition that was fostered in the company.  I found myself wondering who would be there to see my daughter’s first steps: me or the day care workers.

Home life was difficult, too. It was a mad dash every evening to retrieve my daughter within the approved pick-up time.  My husband’s work in high-tech finance was demanding and he usually arrived a couple of hours later than us between 7 and 8 p.m. When he got home, he needed the same things that our baby and I needed: rest, relaxation, dinner, understanding, attention. We were all simultaneously extremely needy! And, very tired. We had only each other. There was no household help or familial assistance. It was just the three of us.

My husband supported my decision to quit working.  We took a leap of faith together knowing that the budget was going to be extremely tight. And, it worked out just fine! Our daughter is a 20-year-old college student today and the three of us are very close.

In the two decades since I made my decision, technology has changed things so much. I see so many women who successfully combine work and family life. Neither my husband nor I had any flexibility in our jobs. It seems ironic that we were both working in the high-tech industry that has revolutionized life for so many, and yet our employers offered no allowances to accommodate family life.

Today, I have an empty nest and time to pursue my interests,  but I don’t think I could fully enjoy myself if I didn’t feel that I’d completely embraced my role as a mother. I feel grateful that I had a choice; I know many women don’t. I have never regretted my decision to be a stay at home mom.

Sincerely,

Michele

P.S. I wouldn’t recommend seeking life advice at the Clinique counter, but that saleswoman was wise!  I recently read that the lipstick she sold me more than 20 years ago has become a cult-classic.  Clinique now ships one Black Honey lipstick every two  minutes.

http://www.glamour.com/story/most-popular-lipstick-colors-review

 

Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

In Praise of Prozac

Dear Reader:

I knew this was a post I’d write someday, and I wanted it to be sooner rather than later! I truly don’t know how much of a stigma still attaches to those who benefit from counseling and antidepressants, but there was every reason to share my experience with you and no reason to keep it secret. I believe Prozac has allowed me to live a better life, and that’s certainly worth sharing!

Let me start with the day I first felt the impact of my new prescription. Three days after I took that first pill, I had the energy to move the refrigerator so that I could clean every square inch of my kitchen, including the floor under the frig!  My 4-year-old daughter was at pre-school, but  Tom Jones kept me company. He provided the background music. I sang along loudly, energetically. “It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone. It’s not unusual….”

What had become usual were the panic attacks I’d been having whenever I left the house. The first attack came in an unlikely place: a bookstore with my daughter. I was in my happy place with my happy girl and yet I couldn’t wait to get out. My heart was racing and I felt completely out of control. The next day the toaster broke and I found Amazon. You can get anything on Amazon, and yet I knew I’d have to leave the house eventually.

I had the toaster delivered, but by the end of the following week, I’d made it to my first counseling appointment and my doctor’s office. I described the event at the bookstore, my brother’s diagnosis and the general “heaviness” I felt. I was taking care of my daughter’s needs, but not much more than that. I was self-medicating with Starbuck’s mocha Frappuccinos, but I had little energy and had to will myself out of bed and into the shower each morning.   Both my psychologist and general practitioner agreed that I could benefit from counseling and an anti-depressant.

My doctor reasoned it out for me:” People take aspirin when they have an ache and yet they can’t imagine taking a pill to cure another type of ache. Your brother has terminal cancer and you have a young child to take care of. You need help.”

“But what about the end-game?” I asked.  I was afraid to start taking the drug, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop. And yet, I knew I needed help. Children can help clarify many decisions in life.

That was 16 years ago. Since then, my dosage has gone up and down and I’ve tried to wean myself off the drug.  But without it I am surly to my husband, I retreat from my friends, I feel hopeless and listless. I do not still regularly move my refrigerator on cleaning day. It seems that major spurt of energy was just an initial daylong effect of the pill. (I do, however, still accompany Tom Jones in song; it’s not pretty!)

I’ve never had any adverse affects to the medication. It was all good: I even quickly dropped the 10 pounds of Frappuccino weight I’d put on! I remember telling a friend about my treatment plan. She quite innocently asked how it felt to “be happy all the time.” I explained that Prozac was not a “happy pill.” Life was still hard during the year of my brother’s illness and following his death. I was still sad, but the medication and counseling helped. I had both the energy and courage to leave the house; I knew I could manage it.

There is a theory that some people are born with a switch; stressful circumstances or a major life event can trigger that switch and then it’s done. They need the drug and that’s that.  My brother’s cancer diagnosis was the trigger for me. (If you would like to read more about my brother’s death, see my post entitled Happy Birthday, Brother.)

I’ve made peace with myself. I’m a strong woman who must accept that she too needs help. I am grateful that I live at a time when I have the option to help myself. And, I hope that anyone else who needs help will ask for it.

Sincerely,

Michele

Quotations

Monday’s Quote

“I cannot live a life where I’m deprived. I’d much rather be five, 10 pounds heavier. With my luck, I’ll get myself to that perfect goal weight, and I’ll get hit by a bus. Then I’ll be like… looking at myself from some afterlife going…You idiot. You could have had that agnolotti,* dummy.

Drew Barrymore

*Agnolotti is a type of pasta in the ravioli family. The pasta is shaped in the form of semicircles and filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. It’s good!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

I Could Be Slimmer

Dear Reader:

When I enter my height and weight on the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator, I am just inside (and occasionally  just outside!) the healthy range. This really only tells part of the story, though. My doctor could fill you in on the rest.

“Look, I’m not saying you’re fat,” he assured me during my last physical. “But, I knew you when you were 15 pounds lighter.” (So did I…that was a long time ago!) “Let’s just say you’re fluffy.”

Maybe you are hating my doctor about now. But, don’t. We both have a sense of humor and enjoy verbally sparring with each other. He acknowledges that I am in very good health when he sees the results of my blood work and he acknowledges that I don’t want to take any more of his valuable time talking about my weight. (To give you a full picture: he is only a couple of inches taller than me with a small frame and I’d guess we are about the same weight!)

But, I can be honest with you. Truthfully, I know I could be thinner, but I really do not want to do what it would take to be thinner. I was blessed with Italian curves and a small waist and I knew in my teens, twenties, thirties and even forties that I looked good! I’m now pushing 60 and it would take a whole lot of “NO” to look the way I used to.

My husband and I are retired. Our daughter is in college. And, after nearly 33 years of marriage (40 years together), we deserve to eat, drink and be merry. We are past the half-way mark in life and that, in and of itself, gives us every reason to enjoy.  Today we will go to the gym to exercise and tonight we will again pour a glass of vino and enjoy a satisfying meal together. We may even follow our meal with a bit of pastry or chocolate. There will be no guilt!

Cheers,

Michele

 

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Creativity, Family, Friends and Neighbors

From a Scrap of Paper

Dear Reader:

I found a scrap of paper! You must have some, too!

 for my daughter

my prayer is that you know

know that you are loved

and carry that love with you

wherever you go

reach for it when you are glad

call upon it when you are sad

and, in return, that love will

strengthen you when you feel weak

warm you when you feel lonely

celebrate with you when you succeed

and envelop you all your days

Mom

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Dogs

See the Nose?!

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Dear Reader:

I have a cold today, so I decided to hang out on the couch in the main house where I have ready access to hot soup, sympathetic family and lap dogs.  You can’t see me in this photo; I’m reclining on the couch while editing my site. But you can see one of my dogs who does not like to yield his space to the computer! My little editor‘s name is Bart (short for Bartholomew). He’s a mama’s boy and he likes a good book almost as much as I do. You can read about his favorite books here.

Thank goodness for Progresso chicken noodle soup!

Michele