Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's New Year's Eve . . .

For as long as I've been writing this blog, I think I share Barry Manilow's song every year at this time.  I've never been much for a big New Year's Eve celebration.  It's not my thing.  What is my thing is thinking on what I have accomplished and experienced in the year gone by, and looking a bit toward the future and what the new year might hold . . .

I managed to get my office cleaned up early on in the year . . . but just like water seeking its own level, my desk is currently a nightmare  :-D

I made it through THREE Polar Vortexes - a term I never even heard before.

I gained a lot of weight again earlier this year . . . the Strict Program for Three Months and being an ovo-pescetarian proved to not be sustainable over the long haul . . . but here is probably the best thing I did for myself this year:  I went back to Weight Watchers on November 1st, and have since dropped more than 20 pounds.  This is a good thing and since I was all about the balance this year, I feel like the pendulum has swung back to a much more reasonable way to live - and eat.

I reconnected with a childhood friend who, once again, lives just down the street from me  :-)

I only made it halfway through the year in my 365 Project.

A Year With My Yarn - well, it was moderately successful.  I did buy a little yarn, but not very much  :-)

I competed for the first time as a solo bagpiper in 2014.  It was, for the most part, a train wreck - at least where the marches were concerned.  I did pretty well with classical pipe music (Piobaireachd). On the whole, though, it wasn't very much fun.  If you're not in a band, you don't really have anyone to hang out with, and my teacher lives in SoCal, so I was pretty much by myself most of the time.  Still, there were some great moments - like medaling in Piobaireachd right out of the box  (second place in my grade at the Springfield, Illinois games) :-)     I'm still trying to make a decision about competing again in 2015. 

I struggled with the same things I have struggled with nearly every year - letting things go, eating less, practicing more, exercising more - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose  :-)

A few injuries - well, who doesn't have those now and then?  Oh, and I found out that I have sleep apnea - and what a difference it's made to have my dental device and be really sleeping again.  Can't even tell you!

Lots of fiber events - and this looks like it will really change in 2015.  The Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair will not happen in 2015, but even more importantly, a number of people/vendors who have been staples at various events are retiring from them and the travel, or retiring altogether.  I think the fiber landscape is going to look a lot different in 2015.  I'm still "limiting my collection" in yarn and fiber, as well as my African violets.

So - I'm not sure I had any focused goals for 2014, but I made it through and I'm looking forward to 2015, but can you ever know what might be headed your way?  I'm not sure you can - I think there are some who are gifted in this way, but for the average bear, I don't think it's something we can know - nor should we really.  I mean, I love talking to the psychic at the Ren Faire when I go most years, but truthfully, I can't really member any predictions coming true from her.  That's OK.

I do have something I would like to accomplish in the beautiful New Year of 2015 . . .

1)  Continue with Weight Watchers and reach my goal weight and reclaim my Lifetime Member at Goal status  :-)

2)  Practice my pipes more.  This is something I have not done very well really all year.  I would play my practice chanter all day long, but you don't compete on a practice chanter, and you don't play at church on a practice chanter.  So, this is the year to get my actual piping up to the same place my practice is.  That means more practice on my pipes.  And it probably means a schedule of practice.  

3)  Get my steps back up to 10,000 or more at least five days a week.  This will take some time, but exercise is definitely on the radar for me in 2015.

I think three things is enough to focus on, don't you?  

Happy New Year's Eve  :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

WW Week 8

Wow - well, I'm definitely better now.  Not 100%, but definitely better, and for that I am very, very grateful.  I took the last of the antibiotic yesterday, and this morning I took the last prednisone.  So glad to be done with both of them.  I also stopped the cough perls as of last night and will rely now on my asthma inhaler.  Hopefully I won't have to use it too much.  If I do, I'll get the cough perls back on board.  Their name is actually tessalon perls.  Of course I have the generic version, though.

I had no idea what to expect on the scale this morning.  I've been on a major antibiotic since Monday, and also on prednisone since Monday, and one of the things that prednisone usually does to me, is make my body a human swimming pool full of water.  I could tell that as the dose started to lessen (the short-course of prednisone goes 6-5-4-3-2-1 over the course of six days), my body started to release fluid.  I had no exercise whatsoever this past week, and in fact spent most of it propped up so I could sleep while attempting to recover from a nasty case of bronchitis.  I went one over my Weekly Points, so seeing a pretty substantial loss this morning was very welcome.

I have gone every week to WW since I started again on November 1st.  Sometimes I didn't stay for the meeting, but I went and I weighed.  I've worked with the weekly reader question(s) every week.  I slacked off on the Success Handbook, but picked it up again today because  I was up to the chapter about exercising, and my exercise has been off for most of the past two months.  I'm really happy to have done as well as I have without consistent exercise, and that's an area that I'm looking at as we move into the new year. 

I still have my two sessions a week scheduled with my trainer - those are early morning (5:30 a.m.) at the club on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  In the past, I was getting up and walking on the treadmill in my basement on the other days.  I have fallen out of that habit in the past year.  I had started up again but found that the treadmill aggravated the plantar fascia of my feet.  Since I want to avoid ever having plantar fasciitis again, I stopped and did as much of my walking outside as I could.  Now, it's getting colder here in Chicagoland, and snow will be on its way again soon.  I'm going to start very slowly on the treadmill again - and I'm not going to increase my speed much - that seemed to be the trigger last time.  Faster equals more pounding and that gave me a scare with foot pain.

So, I'll be crafting a plan this next week to see how I can do.  I'm not ready to start today only because I'm still recovering from bronchitis and I'm not willing to push myself too hard at the moment.  My ultimate goal, however, is to eventually get back up to 10,000 steps a day.  Some days I can do that (usually my workout days because we do a lot of walking there), but some days I don't get close.  I know that I feel better when I can exercise regularly, and I also sleep better.

Here's the Check In:

Weight:  -4.4
Daily Points:  32
Weekly Points:  49 (ate 50)
Activity Points:  Earned 0 (ate none)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's Christmas Eve . . .

 . . . and I'm at home, missing another day of work.  I have been down for the count since Friday with the cold from hell which turned out to be bronchitis, and which so far has entailed an extremely horrid weekend, a trip to Urgent Care very early Monday morning, a chest x-ray to be sure it wasn't pneumonia, a flu test to be sure it wasn't flu, massive drugs including a brutal antibiotic and prednisone, and three days of work missed (with no pay because I'm out of annual leave).  Oh, and I won't be singing at church tonight.  I won't even be going to church tonight.  :-S  And it's Christmas Eve.

When you have asthma, anything that affects or settles in your lungs is always way worse than it is for a human whose lungs work like normal.  My asthma is very well-controlled.  I manage it really well - I had to learn how to do that.  But the fact that I have asthma is why I was given prednisone.  I hate it, but geez, it really works - in this case it reduced the massive swelling in my throat and neck and is keeping me from having a bad asthma attack as I continue to recover.  It's just the short course, so I'm thankful for that. 

After five days of a Kathleen Turner voice, my own voice sort of seems to be back today, and I sort of felt like I was on the upswing yesterday - but last night was another rough night, and since actually lying down is out of the question if I want to keep breathing and not cough to death, I've been sleeping propped up.  It doesn't make for the best night's sleep, let me tell you, and I still cannot draw a full deep breath without a massive coughing attack. I am tired to the point that hoofing it the block down to the train might as well be a frickin marathon in the Himalayas.

I've been too sick to knit, daytime telly sucks, and dammit, I washed my Fitbit.

What a whiner, huh?

Thankfully my Fitbit seems to still be working this time (so far),  and thankfully I was able to go to Urgent Care, and thankfully I have drugs that are helping me get well, and thankfully I don't have the flu, and I don't have pneumonia.  I don't get sick very often, but when I do, it always seems to be such a production - thank you, asthma.  Oh well . . .

Last night I had occasion to look over my blog posts from two years ago - and I realized that not much has changed in my life in a pretty long time.  I was talking about the same things then that I'm talking about now - and that got me wondering about a lot of things, but coming to the conclusion that perhaps there is nothing at all wrong with having a happy and stable life doing the things that I love. 

Time to put the kettle on for my millionth cup of green tea, and see if I can figure out the pay per view movies on DirecTV . . . wish me luck.

I hope that your life is happy and stable.  And I hope that you are not sick for Christmas. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

WW Week 7

OMG I have the worst cold.  It started as a sore throat - but there aren't any white patches, so I don't think it's strep.  Nor do I think an antibiotic would help.  It's likely just a virus that is going to have to run its course.  I'm bummed, though.  It's like a week before Christmas, and I sound like a bullfrog and feel like hammered dog poop. 


The cough is really rough - whatever is in my lungs is only just starting to break up a bit.  I've got some cough drugs, and some Robitussin DM, which doesn't really work for stopping the cough, but it does coat the throat, which makes things easier, and it has the gunk in it that will break up the solid mass that appears to be in my lungs . . .  And if I should start coughing up stuff in dayglo green and yellow, I'll be on the blower to my doctor to get that antibiotic after all.

I woke up around 3 struggling to breath through all the gunk in the way.  I never did get back to sleep all the way.  I see a nap in my near future. In fact, I think the majority of today will be spent on the sofa in the sunroom, hopefully napping. I've kicked the heat up to 70 and am about to put on a fleecy.  The tea should be just cool enough to drink now.  I'm hoping it will take the chill off.

I did run over to WW this morning - and warned everyone to use hand sanitizer after they touched my weigh-in book and materials.  I did not stay for the meeting though.  I don't like to miss.  I would rather stay.  But subjecting a bunch of people to this would not be kind six days before Christmas.  In that same vein, I'm not going to church tomorrow - and I'm doubtful now to be able to sing on Christmas Eve.

Blech.  Two times.

Yesterday I used my last few hours of annual leave to come home early, and I have resigned myself to the distinct possibility of a day or two of unpaid leave if this doesn't clear up by Monday.  I did do all the errands I had to do yesterday, which was smart of me.  And I have to tell you that the bar code reader that comes with WW's eTools is awesome beyond belief.  O.M.G.  Seriously!!!  Never again will I end up with 6 point tortillas when I really wanted 2 point ones.

After three weeks or so of small shrinkage, I was down 3.2 today.  I'll take that!

Here's the Check In:

Weight:  -3.2
Daily Points:  32
Weekly Points:  49 (ate 48)
Activity Points:  Earned 4 (ate 0)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

WW Week 6

Still moving forward here - albeit slowly.  This can be a challenging time of year, I think.  There seems to be food everywhere.  I was supposed to attend two luncheons this week.  I ended up only attending one, and the food wasn't great, so it was easy to do pretty well.  But I mean really - why would you choose the most bitter vegetable to serve (broccoli rabe - I think it was that, I nearly choked on it), and what restaurant worth its salt serves margarine instead of butter????  I should have realized that last part immediately, but it took me a bit.  I did realize right away that something was off with the taste, but initially I thought it was just unsalted butter.  I had a little more on the bread I was having, and a distinctly synthetic taste came through.  And then I was irritated with myself for not recognizing it sooner and saving myself a few points  :-D

Mrs. Field's Cookies arrived in the mail.  Thankfully they are packaged two together.  All the ones with chocolate in them will go to my cousins, but there are still six types (that's 12 cookies altogether) that I could eat.  If I choose to.  And they send a nutritional information sheet!!  :-D  Most of these cookies are already in the WW database, and the cheapest in points for any of them is 5 and many are quite a few more.  That would mean if you ate both of the cookies in the little pack, it would be 10 points or more.  Yeah, that makes you think twice for sure.  Still, I'll save that nutritional information sheet - just in case I decide I would like to have one.

A friend sent me a small seasonal bag of Lindt Peppermint White Chocolate Truffles.  Those are those little single wrap balls you see in stores, but they only come in peppermint at Christmas time.  And I love peppermint.  My friend thought they might be a good thing to put in the freezer for when I might want something sweet.  At 2 points each, they would be a better choice.  The problem there, is only having one - still, I think these will go into the freezer . . .  she suggested I put them in a frozen vegetable bag   :-D

One thing I didn't do as well on this week as I was doing when Linda was here, is vegetables.  They are just never my first choice of something to put in my mouth.  I had a piece of fruit today, and plan to have another this afternoon.  And I did pick up some Brussels Sprouts which I plan to roast tonight as part of dinner.  I do have a luncheon today and I'm hoping there will be a good greens choice for me to have.  Somehow I find it's always easier to eat salads and veggies when I'm in a restaurant.

I had two good workouts this week - and a wonderful massage.  I booked massages for the next two Mondays, as well.  I really needed them.

I did go over on points this week, by one.  I realize that's not that much.  But I can see that on the weeks when I do eat every single point, my loss is not as much as I might like.

I have moved over to a meeting location that's closer to my house.  I really like the leader at the farther location, and I know I'll continue to go there from time to time, but I think I'm going to stay mostly at the location that is closer to home.  The group of people there is very nice and I already feel at home there.  Plus they seem to have more stuff for sale in the meeting room.  Stuff I'm interested in.  Plus, I like the leader there, too. 

I'm finding that I'm liking my food week switch from Thursday-Wednesday to Saturday-Friday very much.  I often use the majority of my Weekly Points on Saturday and Sunday, but I usually use fewer during the work week, so this has been working out well for me.  Actually far better than I thought it would.  Yay!!

And now, I had best get these truffles in the freezer and out of my sight . . .   ;-D

Here's the Check In:

Weight:  -0.8
Daily Points:  32
Weekly Points:  49 (ate 50)
Activity Points:  Earned 7 (ate 7)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

WW Week 5

For a variety of reasons everything has been at sixes and sevens here for the past few weeks - I'm sorry about no real updates.

I continue to feel that returning to WW on November 1st was one of the best decisions I've made in a very long time.  Last week's loss was very small, but it was still a loss - and no real surprise after three weeks of substantial losses.  This week's loss was quite satisfactory and puts me just over 13 pounds gone (again :-) ).  I'm happy about that!

One of the things I have been doing is re-evaluating a lot of things in my life and trying to make some decisions about how I might want to move forward.  I know that piping is still very important to me, and I know that while I will always grow African violets, I don't need to grow as many as I have been the past few years.  Additionally, and I need to simplify their care.

To that end, today I decided to put all the violets back on reservoirs.  I have downsized substantially throughout the last few months, but I'm still finding that I'm having a little trouble keeping up with things.  So - back on reservoirs they go - it's not good for them to wilt from dryness too many times.

Christmas is in full swing - I managed to get to church last Sunday for the first Sunday of Advent.  It's my plan to attend throughout Advent, which means I'll be getting up and getting cracking early tomorrow.  Also for tomorrow my cousin and I have plans to go to the club and get a workout in.  I'm looking forward to that - after a few weeks of no exercise, I was able to get back on my schedule this week and got my two normal morning workouts in.  A third one will be a great addition for me.

Linda the Chicken Lady is safely across the country, and the house is really quiet without her and Hannah.  She's getting settled out in California.  I wonder if she's going to rename her blog!

Here's the Check In:

Weight:  -1.4
Daily Points:  32
Weekly Points:  49 (ate 49)
Activity Points:  Earned 5 (ate 5)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

WW Week 4

Here's the Check In:

Weight:  -0.2
Daily Points:  32
Weekly Points:  49 (ate 48)
Activity Points:  Earned 1 (ate none)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

WW Week 3

The next few weeks will be just quick check-ins.

Here's the Check In:

Weight:  -3.4
Daily Points:  33
Weekly Points:  49 (ate 25)
Activity Points:  Earned 0 (ate none)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

WW Week 2

I'm hanging in.

I've made it through two weeks of being back on program.  I continue to feel like this is one of the best things I could have done for myself.

I missed my yoga last weekend.  I'd like to blame that on out of town company, but that's really no excuse.  I could have done it on Sunday afternoon and I just didn't.  I didn't get much pipe practice in either this week - and it certainly showed in my lesson on Wednesday night  :-S

My steps were down a bit, and I didn't log as many Activity Points as I did the first week, but it's not often that I get a 15,000 step day in like I did in Week 1.

I had an "Aha" moment last weekend at my meeting that I have taken to heart this week.  Every week there is what I call - for lack of a better term - a Weekly Reader (remember those?!).  I used to get the meeting room weekly reader and look through it, read the exercise, look at the recipe, check out the tips, and then put it away - or toss it.  Last Saturday, a woman in my meeting said that she had really worked with the exercise and answered the questions - and from what I could tell, it pretty much informed her whole week and kept her on task.

Well, isn't that interesting?  She actually used one of the tools that WW gives us every week in the meeting room  . . .  I made a decision there and then that I was going to use every tool that WW gives me to be successful.  I'm not going to just read it, or think about it, I'm going to do/use/practice it.

So, yeah, I got cracking right away with the exercise in last week's weekly reader as soon as I got home from my meeting.  I actually wrote out my answers to the questions.  It was all about what my choice (lose or maintain) was going to be for the holiday season and how I was going to achieve it - and OMG we are IN the Holiday Season, my friends.  It's in full swing already.

And then, I happened to re-watch Dr. Brene Brown's two Oprah Master Class episodes last Sunday, and she said something that that really resonated with me and completely dovetailed with the choice I had made the day before.  She was talking about gratitude and how one had to make it a practice.  Not just thinking about it, but actually practicing it, meaning actually writing out the three (or however many you want) things you are grateful for every day/night, not just thinking about them.  Practicing in the truest sense of the word, which Webster's defines thus (as a noun):  "the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use."

I'm actually using the tools I have from WW.

So, a wakeup call in the meeting room, and Brene Brown.  Hard to argue with either one. And BTW, if you have never seen her June 2010 TED talk called The Power of Vulnerability, click that link.  It takes about 20 minutes to watch.  It's life-altering.  I'm not kidding.

My friend, C, left on Sunday, and my friend, Linda the Chicken Lady, arrived on Wednesday with her dog, Hannah.  She's staying with me for a few weeks, and it's very nice to have her and Hannah Dog at the house.  Plus, she telecommutes pretty much all the time, which means she's home a lot.  She offered to cook dinners!!  And she's well aware of the journey I'm on, so she's totally down with weighing and measuring things for me so I can track points easily.  How awesome is that?!

Here's the Check In:

Weight:  -5.2
Daily Points:  34
Weekly Points:  49 (ate 47)
Activity Points:  Earned 11 (ate none)

Oh, and in case your wondering, my choice for the Holida Season was to continue losing. :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Open Your Hands . . .

A friend of mine unfriended me on Facebook sometime in the last couple of days.  It's not someone I am particularly close to any longer, but it was someone I have known for more than 35 years.  I guess this person didn't appreciate my positive focus and ability to disagree clearly but respectfully.

Truth be told, this person has always been an Eeyore kind of a person - a glass half empty kind of a person - a stick in the mud kind of a person - and a person who needs to be right at all costs.  So, really, no great loss.  I mean, who needs that, right?  Right?  And yet . . .

Did they not know that they could remain friends with me but "unfollow" me if they didn't want to read what I have to to say and share?  Did they know that my feelings would be hurt?  Did they care?  Or did they just say "cram it clownie" and walk away.  I'll probably never know, and really, it's that not knowing that's the hardest part.

Ah, closure.  Or in this case, no closure.  Yeah, not having that makes it kinda hard to let go of stuff.  And yet, we have to let go of stuff in order to be able to move forward - and there's the rub.  It's a life lesson that has presented itself to me over and over again, I mean, I've certainly written about this more than once here.  Here is what it boils down to:  I can sit and stew in my righteous anger and let everything else pass me by, or I can let go and keep moving forward.

Yeah - I can only stew for so long. So, I learned how to do it - I don't always do it brilliantly, and it's often a little messy. I don't always do it immediately, and sometimes (OK, a lot of times) I have to do it more than once (hey, practice makes perfect ;-) ).  But I learned how to keep moving forward.

I bet you want to know how.  :-)

I will tell you!

Many years ago at Fourth Presbyterian Church, where I used to sing in the Evening Choir, I heard a sermon.  There are a lot of ministers at that church because it's a really large congregation.  One was a woman.  Her name was Linda Loving (and isn't that just the best name ever for a minister?!  :-) ). The upshot of what she said, lo these many years ago, was that in order to move forward, we had to stop clutching at and holding on to the past - we had to open our hands and release what we were holding on to, so that our hands would be open and free to catch all the good stuff that was coming to us.  It was so powerful and so important for me at that time in my life that I have never, ever forgotten it.

Do this:  hold your hands out in front of you, palms up, and make tight fists.  Look at them.  Then release and open your hands.  Look at them again.  Really look at them.  I'm telling you - it's powerful.

When I pop up in my own mind's eye in a baseball hat and a mitt, I know there's something I need to release.  I'm wearing one of my baseball hats, and I have a catcher's mitt on, and there is amazing and wonderful stuff falling like snow from the sky.  Like little post-it notes fluttering down from on high.  But they aren't sticking to me, and I can't catch them because my hands are not open - they are filled with the past. All I have to do is open my mitt to release what I've been holding on to . . .

It's not always as easy, but it's always profound, and there is always a great sense of relief.  And along with the relief comes a feeling of joy, because now my hands are open and I'm free to decide which of those amazing things floating down from the sky to catch first.

Holding on to pain/grudges/anger/fear/loss/betrayal/control . . .  Wishing the other person would get their comeuppance . . . These things don't serve me, and even though I sometimes fantasize about said comeuppance (who doesn't?) or the perfect retort hours after the fact (why on earth am I so fricking slow on the uptake?!), I feel my feelings.  And when I've wallowed long enough, I put my baseball hat on . . . and open my hands. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

WW Week 1

It's been an interesting week.

One of my best friends told me that I seemed much happier almost immediately this week.  I guess I really do need structure to feel safe.  I know what I'm doing -  I can count the points.  Tracking has always been something that makes me feel safe somehow - like I'm following the rules, I guess  :-)  I do know that everything seems much easier somehow, and the fact that I'm not eating added sugar again for the most part means that almost nothing is hurting.  That's a great relief.

I did not do Simple Start, which is the new name for what was, essentially, what us old-timers called CORE.  WW is still stuck in the low-fat/non-fat dairy rut, and other than skim milk (which I might consider getting again because they don't count almond milk as a dairy), I'm not willing to eat such heavily processed stuff.  Also - many of the meals were poultry-based, which is a no-go for me at this time.  So, I dropped right back in to counting points, which gave me a framework.   It really made everything much easier.

I definitely upped my steps this week.  I've always striven for 10,000/day for at least five of the seven days, and I've logged more than 62,000 this week (I had one really high day of more than 15,000).

Oh, and I FINALLY did yoga last Sunday.  Probably not the kind of yoga you might do - it's a really great DVD from a woman named Peggy Cappy.  It's called Yoga for the Rest of Us.  I can actually do it (except for the major spine twists), and I like it a lot.  It's only a 1 Activity Point workout, and I actually feel like that's a little high because I'm not sweating at all, but it's still a little challenging for me. 

I'm entering my exercise manually into eTools.  I entered my two trainer workouts - I went low on the number of minutes and I always choose the "low" activity level.  I earned 2 activity points for each of them.  My old pedometer used to count total steps and active steps, and that's how I used to track for activity points - by active steps.  The Fitbit doesn't do that, though, so although I could link my Fitbit with the eTools tracker, I'm choosing not to. I'm using anything OVER 10,000 steps and counting only those over steps as active steps.  On the days I've gone over, it's been about 2,000 steps and I've never gotten more than 1 activity point (except for one day when it was 5,000 and I got 3 APs, but that's an anamoly :-) ), so that seems like a pretty safe bet.  Apparently most people tend to over-estimate their exercise.  I don't, so I don't think there is much chance of my earning too many APs. 

I experimented with some different foods this week - and can I just tell you that Campbell's hearty beef noodle soup is disgusting.  OMG.  Blech!  Ptui!  Really glad I bought only one can of it.  That was an eye opener for sure.  But, it's heavily processed, so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.  On the positive side, I'm enjoying English muffins with a little bit of butter, and a little more cheese each day than before.

I didn't have a lot of time to cook this week, and now the month of November is a bit wild, with assorted house guests all month long.  Still, I'm moving forward and looking at recipes and seeing what I think is possible for me to make.  As mentioned, I'm eating some things I wasn't allowed on The Strict Program for Three Months, and this, too, is making my life a LOT easier.

Happened to visit my asthma doc this week and my BP was 120/70, which although a little elevated (for me) on the top, is still pretty darn good.

I ate all my daily points and all my weekly points - I didn't think I would, but I did eat some snack type foods this week, so I will be more mindful of that in the coming weeks  :-)  I need to eat more fruit and vegetables.  This has always been a challenge for me.  I certainly ate more this week than at any time in the recent past, but I know I will do better if I can eat more of them on a daily basis.

Here's the check-in:

Weight:  -3
Daily Points:  34
Weekly Points:  49 (ate all)
Activity Points:  Earned 11 (ate 1)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Weight Watcher Redux - It Begins . . . Again . . .

I went back to Weight Watchers yesterday.

I think that's going to be the opening line of my memoir.

Getting on the scale was not as hard as I thought it might be.  And the number could have been a lot worse. I'm a Lifetime Member (obviously not at goal).  I reached Lifetime in the late 1980s and I maintained for probably close to 5 years.  I was even a leader (a pretty popular one). I never really learned to maintain, however, and I've tried the program off and on since then, but continued to gain weight and yoyo up and down over the years.

I joined here in Chicagoland back in 2008.  It was in April, three days after my birthday and I was three pounds under my heaviest weight (that I knew of).  I spent a lot of time making excuses.  I only wanted to go to a Wednesday night meeting because I was trying to recreate my initial success where I went to a Wednesday evening meeting and started my food week on Thursdays.  Thursday - my favorite day of the week!  So, yeah, guess what, no Wednesday night 7:30 meeting in my area.  In fact, no evening meeting anywhere that I could get to because I don't even get off the train until around 6 p.m. 

There was a Wednesday noon meeting at the Holiday Inn, just across the river, next to the Merchandise Mart.  Very close to my office.  I went.  The leader was great! I did well for awhile and lost about 55 pounds - and then WW closed my meeting.  I tried going to another office building location and it was OK for awhile - and then that leader (who was also great), left.  I was forced to go to the center in the Loop - a good hike from my office.  The leader was OK - a guy who, you guessed it, left (to pursue his career in theatre).  A new woman took over the meeting - and she had the most horrible voice . . . I realize that sounds petty, but listening to her was like listening to my high school English teacher's clipped, nasal, old-lady voice.  Needless to say, that didn't last very long.

I tried again a few years ago, and was doing pretty well.  I found "my" leader from my original meeting.  I remembered that she said she lived in my general area.  She has the Saturday morning meetings an the center in Orland Park.  Her name is Celia.  She's listed on the WW website, so I think it's OK to share her name here.  I didn't have my heart in the right place for some reason, and then when the dietitian put me on The Strict Program For Three Months she suggested that I stop counting points.  And really, things were going so well with that, that I finally cancelled my monthly pass and went free fall without a net.  And I did great.  I really did.

Until I didn't any more.

And so, here I am.  Again.  And yet - somehow, it's OK.  WW eTools still had my info from my start in 2008, so I'm 18 pounds less than that number (glad about that) and I still have access to all the recipes and data I entered.  I'm going to stop fighting with WW's not-always-great technology and do the best I can.  Switching my food week from Thursday-Wednesday to Saturday-Friday.  No excuses this time.  I'm doing what I can to set myself up for success:
  • Meeting:  Saturday morning meeting.  Early, baby!  7:00 a.m. 
  • Tracking:  eTools. It was difficult to get my existing account relinked to eTools, but thanks to an awesome staffer at the Homewood location, I'm good to go. I'm switching my food week to start on Saturday to match with my meeting.
  • Excercise:  I'm keeping my Fitbit and letting MyFitnessPal go because I don't need another place to track and I wasn't on MFP much anyway.  I understand that Fitbit now links to WW eTools, but after my disastrous go round with ActiveLink, I'm not going to go that route.  I'll track my exercise manually.  I'm like the only person in the world who doesn't over estimate her exercise  :-D  I'm changing my Fitbit week to begin on Sunday - that's as close to Saturday as I can get.  Oh well.  Not something I have any control over - it's a limitation of the Fitbit software.  Still meeting twice a week with my personal trainer.
  • Other Tools: re-downloaded the WW apps for both Apple and Android.  Oh - there's also a Kitchen Companion app for Apple.  I bought a couple of new WW cookbooks for quick meals, and also some vegetarian meals and I have to say that they look better than some of the older cookbooks that I had.
And so it goes.  I'll be checking in every week to chronicle my progress.  Wish me luck  :-)

Once More, With Feeling . . .

It's November.  October is gone.

I've spent the past couple of weeks attempting to figure things out for myself.  Truth be told, I do this a lot.  I always have.

Spring Forward - Fall Back.  I like it when Standard time returns in the fall, and I wish it did it sooner like it used to.  But it happens now in November.  Today. So the clock says a quarter to eight, when it's really now a quarter to seven.

It's kind of like a do-over.

I went back to Weight Watchers yesterday.  I'm a Lifetime Member not at goal.  I know this program works - when I work the program.  When I start to get off on "customizing" stuff, that's when I get in trouble.  And so, since I find myself - once again - in a place of beginning, I figured I might as well begin again with something I know is going to work.

Alrighty then.

I'm going to a meeting early on Saturday morning a couple of towns over.  I'm not attempting to hide from anyone and there is a center much closer to me, but the leader I started with downtown back when I could run across the river to the Holiday Inn at lunchtime on Wednesdays (that meeting's been gone for a very long time . . . ) has the Saturday morning meetings at this center.  

I did Weight Watchers back in the 80s.  I was very successful with it, and I lost 50 pounds.  I became a leader. A very successful one.  My meetings were extremely well attended.  It was a great part-time job and it helped to keep me focused - and very close to my goal weight. 

I never really learned Maintenance, however, nor got it through my head that I could not go backwards with what I was eating, and that has been the crux of my continued struggle for the past 30 years in one form or another.

So this is the path I've chosen - and I'm going to chronicle it here as I do with many things.  On Ravelry there is a Weight Watchers board.  It's a bit quiet now, but years ago there seemed to be a preponderance of people asking for information that the rest of us were paying for by attending meetings, which I found supremely irritating.  There was also a very vocal group of whiners with countless excuses.  But there was one member who chose that board to chronicle her journey.

Every week she posted an update for many, many weeks.  I found them uplifting and very honest.  She is still there off and on.  She has not made it to goal (although she's dropped about 120 pounds), but still keeps going.  I admire that, and because I did find her updates so helpful at that point in my own journey, I'm going to do something similar here in the hope that it will help me, and maybe help someone else in the process.  You know what they say - imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  :-)

So, there will be a weekly update post here, on Saturday or Sunday.

I'll leave you with this - as I do most years around this time.  Pardon me while I go and change the clocks to start my do-over . . .

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's All About the Balance . . .

I've been thinking about my own mortality lately.  I know, sounds morbid.  And yet . . .  there it is.  I'm closer to 60 than I am to 50, and I think that now is when the chickens of one's misspent youth might start to come home to roost.  Granted, I don't have that many, but . . .

About a month ago.  I came in to the office to find that everyone had gotten an email advising that a work colleague had passed away the night before.  She went to bed and didn't wake up.  She was 10 months older than I am.

Last week, my cousin's daughter (also my cousin :-D) had a beautiful baby girl.  I knit a bunch of stuff for her.  I even crocheted stuff for her (not my fiber art of choice).  And I realized that then when she is out of college, I will be an octogenarian.

Four days later, my cousins' dad passed away at the age of 78.  Not unexpected as he was in ill health and on hospice care, but sad nonetheless.

These things happen.  I mean death is a part of life - cue the Disney music.  But the death of my work colleague was sobering - someone I knew, and she was only a few months older than I am, and as far any anyone knew, there was nothing wrong with her.

My 40th high school reunion was about a month ago, and, as you can read below, I didn't go.  One of the few people I remain in touch with from those days did, however.  And she said that all the men looked frighteningly old.  Many of the woman did too, and of course there were those who were massively tan and had had far too much plastic surgery, but it was mainly the men who looked the worse for 40 years of wear.

And this week, one of my best friends has learned that the "heart palpitations" she has had off and on for a number of years have moved on to atrial fibrillation (the precursor to my mom's death).  

And so I've been thinking a lot about life - and death - and a really lot about my health.  Which, if you read this blog regularly generally always includes concern over the size of my ass, which is again looking kind of like Kansas, I'm afraid.

But you were eating so healthily last year, A.  Yeah, I was - but the draconian plan I was following (The Strict Program for Three Months) proved to not be sustainable over the long haul, and the dietitian left the practice before I could meet with her again and work on making the initial program livable for me.  Excuses.  I know.  My pipe teacher hates when I say "I know."  And yet, I do know.  These missteps and choices were my own and have brought me here - and so I have to learn - again - to get smaller and - hopefully this time stay smaller.  For as many times as my weight has gone down, it has always gone back up.  I know how to get smaller, but I haven't learned yet how to stay smaller.

Other than my lifelong struggle with the size of my ass, I've never had anything really wrong with me until all this inflammation crap started a few years ago - then early last year a minor cholesterol issue, which was corrected by diet and exercise (that would be the Strict Program for Three Months).  I have no idea what my cholesterol numbers are like at the moment and I don't want to know.  I did check my BP, though, as I used to do regularly. 

My mom developed high blood pressure in her 50s - after a life of low blood pressure (like me).  After my recent weight gain (yeah, it's bothersome . . . ) I've taken my BP at the Jewel a couple of times and not been happy with what I saw there.  I know that in my case, those machines are generally substantially higher than when a person takes my BP, but I'm looking at it as an early warning system.

I did contact my doctor about all of this - and I gotta say, I wasn't too happy with his response (or should I say lack of response), and I realized that I know what to do, I just have to do it.  Again.  And so, once more, it's all about the balance . . .

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

40 Years . . .

My 40 year high school reunion is in two weeks. There will be a gathering.  It's highly unlikely that I will attend.  High school . . .   I would not go back to that time for all the tea in China.

I made it through all four years, and I was a good student.  I sang all four years and got into the Concert Choir when I was still a Junior.  I solo'd in the V-Show (annual variety show) Junior and Senior years. I learned to speak French.  And I got to study photography Senior year - I entered two of my photos in a local show, and they were both accepted, winning a third place and an honorable mention (pretty thrilling back in the day - and no one else got two photos in the show  :-) ).  I had one date in high school, so not a popular girl. I never went to a dance or a prom.

When I say I made it through all four years, I mean that I was able to go to the same school.  We moved often as I was growing up.  We even moved once during high school, but it was only a block away, so I stayed in the same school district.

I was bullied in both junior high and high school.  We didn't call it bullying back then - bullies were big cowardly guys who used their fists.  No, it was more being made fun of.  So easy to do to the homely new girl who wore glasses and was not stick insect thin.  I wasn't a jock, I wasn't a nerd, I wasn't a greaser, I wasn't a stoner - I didn't have a clique to fit in with.  I was just an average kid - but a new kid.  I cannot imagine being in high school now - it was hard enough back in the 70s without texting or FaceBook.

The school I went to was huge - there were more than 1,000 people in my graduating class.  I didn't know most of them.  Most of the friends I made were through music, and through the youth group at church.  However, I had very little in common with most of the kids I went to school with, and most of their friendships had been forged in elementary school - kids who had known each other pretty much all their lives.  I think it's pretty telling that I have only one friend from those days with whom I remain in touch.  We are actually very dear friends and it is nice to have a friend who has known me for so long.

My mom was a single parent, and she worked.  This was not common in the affluent suburb in which we lived - where she had moved so I could go to a great school.  I had wanted to be in the annual school musical every year, but I never got in (and one year the school choir director told me not to bother because I was "too fat" for the bare midriff costumes)  - it was also very, very political, and the choir director at church (who was in the know about these things) told my mom that I never would be in the musical because my mom was not wealthy.  So, I had to be content with solos in the V-show.  I liked V-Show.  A lot.  :-)  The Thespian Society did a short play every year, and my Senior year they did Winnie the Pooh - it was presented at local grade schools.  I was Pooh.  That's the closest I ever got to any theater before I majored in it in college.

All told, high school is not something I have any interest in revisiting - no glory days on the athletic field, no wondering about old boyfriends.  I've never gone to a reunion.  I do like seeing photos, though - I confess that I take guilty pleasure in seeing how some of the classmates I recognize have aged . . . most of them didn't get the memo about good sunscreen and a hat  ;-)  Interestingly enough, I got the worst sunburn of my life on a youth group visit to the Michigan Dunes.  It was the 70s.  We were all trying to get tan.  Never mind that I was NEVER going to get tan.  Baby oil was the tanning accelerant of choice back then . . . my friends put a peace sign on my stomach with sunscreen . . . not only did I have second degree burns (with the blisters) over my entire body, I had a white peace sign for a really long time . . .  I'm lucky my face didn't scar.  My entire body peeled - I'm actually surprised I didn't have to go to the hospital.  I did have to spend the rest of the summer in jeans and long sleeved clothing, because just being in sunlight was painful - through my clothes.  I'm sure that little event will come home to roost at some point at a dermatologist visit, but I digress.

There is a small gathering of theatre people the same night as the reunion, in the same location.  I have been personally invited to that, and there is a part of me that is considering going.  But I probably won't.  A combination of wishing I looked better than I do (common, I believe  ;-) ) and the anxiousness of revisiting a time in my life that was supremely difficult. We'll see . . .

In a year that produced some truly awful music ("You're Having My Baby," by Paul Anka.  I rest my case.), 1974 gave us what is probably of my all-time favorites:

Enjoy.  And get up and dance, will you? :-)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cautiously Hopeful . . .

I went back to the special sleep dentist on Wednesday August 20th to pick up my newly adjusted dental appliance.  I was worried that it wasn't going to work.  But it is.

This time around, it was set to 4 instead of 6, and I was to wear it for a week without making any changes in the setting at all.  If you to go this page, you can see what my appliance looks like.  It's the Flex - the first one on the left.  You can see that there is a little metal gear box on the upper jaw piece - that's the part that is adjustable (on both sides).  You slowly move those gears to adjust the device.  Those fangs on the bottom jaw piece rest against the little gear box piece, and that's what keeps your jaw and tongue from falling backwards and obstructing your airway.

Like I said, I was worried that it wouldn't work.  The two weeks without it were worse than ever in terms of quality and quantity of sleep.  I asked the dentist about this and she advised that that was normal.  I'd had a taste of good sleep the first time around, and even though I was in pain, at least I was sleeping well.  Losing the appliance for two weeks was awful. 

Anyway, I was cautious.  The first night went OK.  My SnoreLab score dropped immediately from the 40s-70's down to 12.  That was encouraging.  By Friday morning I was still fine.  No headache.  No earache.  This was the point the first time where I was already in substantial pain, so I was further encouraged.  I made it through the first week without incident, and my SnoreLab score stayed in the 10-12 range.  I did an email check in with the sleep dentist and told her that unless she objected, I was going to make two turns on the device and see how it went.  She said that was fine.

So, I made two turns on each side, and hoped for the best.  Four days later, I made two more.  And with that second set of adjustments, I really began to feel the effects of better sleep.  :-)  I saw my regular dentist on September 3rd for a cleaning, and then had another follow up visit with the special sleep dentist the following day. 

I have not had the headache this time, and although I have had a small amount of sensitivity in my right ear, it's minor and not a patch on what was happening at the initial setting.

To get back to the initial setting I started with on the device, it will take 14-15 turns on each side, and where before she wanted me to make 3-4 turns every 3-4 days, this time we're going for 1 turn every 4 days.  This is much less aggressive, and so far, it's working really well.  I learned a little more about the device and how to take the best daily care of it - there's a lot to learn all at once  :-)  and now I also have a special toothpaste that I have to use at night that helps keep my teeth strong being covered by the appliance all night now. 

So - no headache, only occasional and very minor ear sensitivity, and my lower jaw is moving back into position in the mornings much more easily, which means that the inflammation is at bay.

The only downside to all this is that I felt so much better after a couple of weeks of better sleep that I had enough energy to start walking again in the mornings.  Why is this a bad thing?  Well, I got on the treadmill for 40 minutes.  I know I should have done 15 or 20 at the most.  But I did 40.  And it caused a flare up of plantar fasciitis in my left foot. 


That happened this past Wednesday.  I knew what it was right away this time, and started on my anti-inflammatory and iced it.  I did cancel a trip to Colorado this weekend because I knew I wasn't going to be able to be as mobile as I had planned, so that sucked, but I can tell that I caught it right away this time.  The pain is gone, and the majority of the swelling has gone done, but I can tell it's not 100% so I'm taking it very easy. 

Walking outside or on a track - way better than the treadmill that keeps me at a constant steady pace, forcing a repetitive motion and heel strike that just isn't ok for me.  I'm hoping to find a way around that at some point, but for now, while it's still nice out, I'll be walking in the great outdoors or at the club on the track. 

So, I'm cautiously hopeful about pretty much everything today  :-)

And I'm going to leave you with some Bowie today - one of my favorites of his catalog.  We are our own heroes . . . (and in case you don't know, the wall he refers to was the Berlin Wall . . .)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Festivals and Fairs and Friends . . .

In the Midwest, August appears to be Fiber Month  :-D

This year, due to havng its date yanked, the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair was the first weekend in August instead of the last weekend in June as it has traditionally been.  That meant that Midwest, Stitches, and the Michigan Fiber Festival happened one after the other in quick succession.

I had plans only to go to Michigan, but ended up hitting all three markets!  (Are you really surprised? :-D)

First was Midwest - it was noticeably smaller this year, and I believe this was very much about the date change.  I am a charter member of The Flock for this event - I think it's really important to support local events of this sort, and it's really the only game in town for the Chicagoland area - as far as I know, there is no other event like this one in this area.  I ended up running up there on Sunday.  I'd never been to the Fair on Sunday before and I loved it!  No crowds, a very relaxed vibe, and I won a door prize!  Plus, I got to spend the morning with my friend, M, and that was great as we hadn't had the chance to catch up in some time.

Here's the haul  :-)  I won the kit in the pink bag.  It's from The Knitting Goddess!  It's a scarf kit and I like it!  The yarn is Classic Elite's Posh, which has been discontinued.  It's 70/30 Silk/Cashmere, and Toni from The Fold had it on sale for half price.  I have no guilt for purchasing it at that price!  The book is Annie Modesitt's new one, and I got a free fingerless mitts pattern with it!

The next weekend was Stitches - again, no plan to go, but I had the opportunity to run up on Sunday and catch up with two of my friends, KniftyRed and Knitterary, who has a new blog called My Empty Wardrobe.  Knitterary has shrunk so much that I didn't recognize her, and KniftyRed is also look very healthy!  Wow - I should be able to get some inspiration back from these two!  Here is the haul from Stitches:

The yarn is Neighborhood Fiber Co., one of my favorites that is now available here in Chicagoland from Windy Knitty!  They are located up in Andersonville - I need to get up there and check out the shop!!  There are buttons for a Baby Surprise Jacket, and a small nostepinne, two spools of trim from the notions lady (she sold her business and is moving to Mexico), some silk top from a new place called Swan Hollow Studio.  They don't have a website up yet, but this silk was pretty amazing and I was thinking to blend it with some merino top to make an Aran weight yarn for the inside of a collar on a sweater jacket I want to knit out of an itchy longwool.  And I bought patterns.  The Rhinebeck Sweater book, which I have been looking for for awhile, a MaggiKnits book (#2) - I like a lot of her wild stuff, and a Raumagarn garter stitch, lightly felted hoodie.

Are you guys proud of me yet?  ;-)

Last but certainly not least - in fact, Michigan Fiber Festival is really my favorite event - I love it and I haven't gone for a couple of years.  I convinced Tammy, of Proverbial Knitter fame, Christa, and a bunch of other friends (six of us in all!) to come for the weekend and we blasted up to Allegan to enjoy the Festival!  For various reasons some old favorites were not there this year (Miss Babs, The Fold and Gale's Art), but some new ones were, and I got to say hello to some folks I only see once a year  :-)  Tammy and Christa  both entered the skein competition and both did very well!  Tammy took two seconds and a third, and Christa took a first!!  Wow!!  And of course, we shopped  :-)  Here's the haul from Michigan:

Well, I FOUND some Aran weight silk and it's a perfect seafoam green for me AND it was 20 or 30% off, so that will be the inside of the sweater collar!  Yay!  You should be able to click to biggify this photo - in the center is an absolutely stunning ceramic button made by Jarita Thompson from A Mystical Farm.  She has an Etsy shop, but she's currently on hiatus there.  Her stuff was really amazing and very unique.  I hope she will be back at Michigan next year because I really liked a lot of her larger pieces, too.  I picked up the first two issues of the new Chicago Knits magazine for less than cover price (they are a new quarterly - I like to support local merchants), a Kate Wright pattern called Greta Cardigan, a little soap/sachet kit from the Raumagarn booth (the last one they had!), and a wooden yarn bowl from Indian Lake Artisans.  I really love it - it looks like a corral and I just see it being used for a lot more than just yarn.  It was the largest purchase of the day for me.  The guy had me try their hexagonal needles, but they were way too pointy for this knitter.  He did offer to sand them down for me, but I don't need any needles right now.  Oh - I also got a jar of raspberry cream honey (which is not pictured).

So.  Three major fiber events, and I came home with a total of 10 skeins of yarn.  Really, I think you should be having a big brass band in my honor!  :-D   I have been doing well in the not buying a ton of stuff that I end up selling later for not as much as I paid for it. . . I've followed through pretty well knitting from stash this year and not buying a lot of yarn.  So, Yay Me!!  :-D

Now we are heading toward fall - we've had a couple of very cool days here, even as this week has been warmer than most all summer so far!  It will be Labor Day soon - and I know I say this every year, but that school year calendar still sticks with me.  Labor Day always feels like the New Year for me.  I got a lot of patterns in August - I'm hoping to start pounding through all the sweater quantities of yarn that I have stashed away.  Wish me luck . . .  :-)

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's Getting Better . . .

Where was I?

Oh yeah, eyeballs popping from the pain . . .  I went back to the special sleep dentist on Wednesday, August 6th.

The first thing she did was to apologize that I had been told to keep wearing the appliance when I first rang on August 1st.  Unfortunately for me and my body's propensity toward inflammation, wearing the appliance in the - for me - extreme position it was in caused all the jaw muscles to become inflamed.  It was really the No-Fun Plan.  My lower jaw was not readily moving back into place in the morning, my head was killing me, my ear hurt, and my eyeballs felt like they were going to explode.

That "extreme position," was apparently not extreme to anyone except me (Delicate Flower that I am . . . ).  The sleep dentist took some more measurements.  Another impression was taken.  She also checked all over my head and neck and even inside my mouth for sore muscles.  I was surprised to realize that I was in pain even inside my mouth -  I mean I don't generally poke my fingers around inside my mouth, so I never would have known that even those muscles were inflamed . . .

 . . . And the appliance went back to the lab to be readjusted from 6 to 4.   Whatever that means - and I was to take three Advil every six hours to help the headache and inflammation dissipate.

I had an earache from July 31st to August 11th, and a headache from July 31st to August 17th.

Yes, really.

They said that it would about two more weeks for the appliance to come back from the lab, and really, it was a rough two weeks in terms of sleep.  In fact it was awful in terms of sleep.  Apparently, getting those few nights of uninterrupted sleep (even though I was in pain) made me truly realize just how tired and sleep deprived I have been.  My SnoreLab score jumped right back up to the high 40's (occasionally up in the high 70s), and I muddled along as best I could.  It helped a lot once the earache was gone.

Last weekend I had a house full of my friends - here to journey to the Michigan Fiber Festival (Big Fun!!) and I had a hard time. My poor friends - I was tired, not able to keep up well with hostessing, not quick on the uptake (although I suppose it could be argued that I'm never very quick on the uptake  ;-)), and I looked like death. It's like these two weeks had magnified all the worst symptoms.  I was falling asleep in the chair, I fell asleep in the minivan both to and from the Festival, and I had to go to bed early every night, not to mention that I "looked tired" all weekend long.  If you watch The Proverbial Knitter podcast, you can actually see how awful I look right now . . . not only exhausted, but large (unfortunately . . . ). 

Lack of sleep is a contributing factor to so many things, including being overweight.  Add that to the micro-arousals shooting adrenalin into my body at regular intervals when I'm supposed to be sleeping - you can already see where this is going, can't you?  It is my sincere hope that once I am sleeping normally again, that it's going to become much easier to get back to a healthier weight and stay there.

On Monday, August 18th, I got the call that my appliance was ready, and made an appointment for Wednesday the 20th to pick it up . . . and start over.

More on that next time, but for now, I can just tell you that it's getting better  ;-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Giving it a Try

I have wanted to do this for awhile.  Crazy Knitting Fool does this, and she said it comes from the Carole Knits blog.  I attempted to sign up for the weekly email, but it wouldn't let me . . . and from what I can tell on the Carole Knits blog, she's on vacation for two weeks.  So, I decided to do last week's this week, and see what happens next time  :-D  Maybe I will be able to get on the list when Carole returns from vacation.

The topic for last Tuesday was:

10 Things I Only Do Once A Year But I Wish You Could Do Them More Often

  1. Michigan Fiber Festival -  I really like to go, but I suppose going more often would make it not quite so special.
  2. Birthday Lunch with my friend R - we actually do a lunch twice a year, but only one is for our birthdays, which are a week apart.  I guess there's no reason we couldn't do this more often!
  3. A Date - actually, since I haven't had one for a few years, it would be quite nice to have one again.  At least I think it would be :-D
  4. Read a Book - Yeah, that's kinda scary.  I used to be a prolific reader but I rarely seem to find time to read.  I confess I have read a couple of fluff books recently, so obviously I do this more than once a year, but it's something that's very much on my list to do more of.
  5. Finish Knitting a Sweater - Geez . . . I have two on the needles, both of which have been resting for more than a year.  I'd like to finish at least one of them this year.
  6. Sing in the Choir at Christmas - I haven't actually done this for a few years now.  I do miss it, but my life seems to just be so crazy that giving up every Thursday night seems like more than I can stand - so maybe this shouldn't be on the list . . .
  7. Get a Massage - I used to be better at this, but I just don't make the time or spend the money anymore.  :-(
  8. Take a Day Off - yeah, you know, a real day off.  Not for a vacation or because I have to go somewhere or wait for a tradesman or I'm sick.  Just a day off.  
  9. Sleep Well - OK, this just has to happen more than once a year, and I'm hoping it's going to start happening regularly again soon, but right now, it feels like for fricking ever since I have had a good night's sleep.
  10. Have a Goal - again, this one is within my control . . . I've been rudderless for awhile now.  Probably time to be doing some personal work and figuring out my path, which has become muddy and unclear.

Wow, this was definitely harder than I thought it would be, and I'm not sure I did it right because I'm feeling sort of sad about my list.  But is there a right?   I'm not so sure that there is.  In any case, it has made me think, which - I think - is the entire point  ;-)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Sleep . . . Perchance to Dream . . .

So - spendy dental appliance . . .

One other tool that I have been using is an iPad app called SnoreLab.  As mentioned already, I don't really snore, but I breathe out quite loudly, with the occasional snuffly snorty snore.  This is actually a pretty cool app and I think it's relatively accurate.  It's at least interesting to see my score every night, which is usually anywhere from 28 to 50, but most often in the high 40s.

After working with the positional therapies, I realized that I apparently have to sleep on my back for REM sleep.  That meant either a CPAP or a dental appliance, and since I don't need the CPAP, the dental appliance won the draw.  A second visit to the special sleep dentist.  More measurements.  Multiple molds taken of my mouth.  Big money spent . . .

Because Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a medical diagnosis, my medical insurance covers it - and the dentist I went to is considered a preferred provider.  Still, my portion  of the device was in the high three figures.  Oh, joy . . .  But I ponied up the money on June 26th because I was so close to really sleeping again and this was really the only thing that would allow me to sleep on my back but still breath properly.  

My appliance was ready by the last week of July, and I went in on Wednesday, July 30th to pick it up and learn about how to wear it and how to care for it.  It was quite a lengthy process.  

What the appliance does is push my lower jaw forward to help keep my tongue from falling backwards and obstructing my airway.  The dentist said it was set for about halfway to where they eventually wanted to get my jaw while I'm sleeping.  This was our first disagreement.  I feel very strongly that if something works at 50%, there is no reason to move it further.  The dentist disagreed, but since I wasn't supposed to adjust it at all during the first week of wear, I figured we would have another discussion about it at some point.  Plus, I emailed my own doc about it - and he agreed with me and offered to speak to the dentist for me if necessary. 

Anyway - I left the office with a bag with all the molds and the appliance (which I have to bring with me every time I go there), and an exerciser to use every morning to force my jaw back into its normal position - this is important.  I had to wait a half an hour after removing the device, and then use the little exerciser (which is just a small little molded dealy of my natural bite), and clear instructions that if I developed a headache or an earache that required Advil, I was to call the office right away.  I toddled on home with a lighter wallet and dreams of dreaming again dancing in my head.  Oh - that's another symptom of chronic sleep deprivation - not dreaming.  I couldn't really remember the last time I dreamed.  Probably because I never was in REM sleep long enough to actually have a dream . . . 

Alrighty then . . . one of my personal jokes is that I often refer to myself as "a delicate flower."  This is funny because I'm kind of round, pretty tall, and really quite sturdy (you know, sturdy Irish stock :-) ).  So, in essence I crack this joke at my own expense - except that it's true.  I really am a delicate flower!  I'm extremely sensitive and I believe I have a much higher degree of cognizance of my body than most people do.  I'm very aware when something is "off" or out of balance in my body.

By Friday, August 1st, after only two nights, I had both a headache and an earache, so I rang the office and was advised that it was likely just my body taking a little time to get used to the device  . . .   I was to keep wearing it and call back if the pain didn't go away or if it got worse.  My SnoreLab score had been zero since starting with the appliance, so I knew it was working - and even though my head and ear hurt, I realized I was getting better sleep because I had begun to feel better and have more energy after only a few days!  Wow!

I made it four more nights, and rang the office again on Tuesday, August 5th.  This time I was instructed to not wear the appliance and was given an appointment to see the dentist the next day.

By then, I thought my eyeballs were going to pop from the pain in my head, my ear hurt inside all the way down my neck, and Advil wasn't touching it at all.  I hadn't been able to tolerate the positional therapies, and now it was looking like I wasn't going to be able to tolerate this one either . . .

Monday, August 11, 2014

Please Share This . . .

Like the rest of the world this night, I'm very saddened by the death of Robin Williams.  And even more saddened that it appears he might have taken his own life.

Facebook is awash in comments and sadness for the loss of this great talent at the young age of 63.

He will get all the press.  That's as it should be - he was, after all, quite famous.

But there are many families out of the limelight who have lost a loved one in this way.  I am personally acquainted with one such family.  A family who was so important to me during my years in Denver.  They lost their youngest son - a gifted muscian, poet, scholar, and all around amazing human who struggled with depression and lost.

If you are suffering from depression in the U.S., please call 1-800-273-8255 for the
National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To all who read my blog, please share this number far and wide - you never know who might need it.

To Sleep . . .

So - as I was saying:  Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

I mean, really????    Great.

It took more than three weeks to get the result of the sleep study, and when it arrived, it was seven or eight pages long, and full of charts and all kinds of mumbo jumbo that I did not understand.

No matter what it said, I knew that I had a diagnosis, so I figured there was a CPAP machine in my future and I was not happy about it.  I know that plenty of people use these, but I really did not want to have one.  More importantly, however, I truly didn't understand what everything in the report said, so I called my doctor.

He gave me a good overview of the report and answered all my questions (he's awesome like that :-) ), and then the conversation switched to treatments and he said that my case is so mild that I don't need a machine.

Joy in Mudville!!    :-D

The first line of treatment was what is called positional therapy, and as crazy as it sounds, I was to turn the baggy t-shirt I sleep in around so the pocket was on the back, and then I had to put a tennis ball in the pocket.  Yes, really.  Because I only experience an issue when I'm lying on my back, positional therapy was supposed to train me to sleep only on my side.  This is a great idea in theory because you can't roll on to your back if there is a tennis ball in the middle of it.

In practice, however, it was not so great.  I tried it for two nights - what a fricking nightmare.  It worked really well at keeping me on my side. One side.  You cannot roll over on to the other side when there is a tennis ball in the middle of your back.  I was waking from the pain of my entire body weight on one side and from my inability to stretch my legs out completely.  Since the entire point of the therapy was for me to get more and better sleep, this was a miserable fail because I was getting less sleep, and since I appear to only drop into REM sleep when I'm on my back, I was more tired than ever and I hurt everywhere. 

I sourced another positional therapy online, only to find that it's not available in the United States, and so it was time to call the doc again.  The next line of treatment looked like it was going to be a dental appliance.

So I got an appointment with a special sleep dentist.  She is very nice.  It was very interesting.  Special x-rays were taken, as well as many measurements of my mouth.  Lots of discussion and answering of questions.  She mentioned another positional device that sounded similar to the one I had sourced overseas, so I decided to try it first before moving to a dental appliance.  It is called iRollover and was invented by one of the dentists in the practice. 

iRollover arrived and I set it up and started working with it.  You record your own voice telling you to roll over.  Then, you wear an earbud and strap the device to your chest.  If you roll on to your back, it triggers the recorded message to play in your ear and you roll over.  Again, in theory, a great idea.  But in practice - for me - another fail.  The top of my torso, which is where you strap the device to yourself, is. . . um . . . not flat.  And my "girls" move around.  The device would trigger when I was already on my side, and even though I turned the volume WAY down, the combination of white noise and my voice on the recording was like someone screaming in my ear which is kind of terrifying, and of course it woke me up all the way every time it went off.  In addition, it's uncomfortable for me to sleep with an earbud in my ear.

To be fair, this device apparently works for a lot of people, because the company told me I was the only person who ever sent one back for a refund.   :-D

It looked like a spendy dental appliance was going to be my next line of treatment . . .

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Sleep Anywhere, Any Time Gene . . .

I really don't understand how the time gets away from me, but I'm beginning to suspect that it's something another friend mentioned:  I'm at an age when slowing down is no longer optional - it's mandatory.  I hate to think that  :-D

It's been an interesting couple of weeks that actually started in March  . . .

In early March I had my annual physical.  One of the things I talked to my awesome doc about was how I was tired nearly all the time.  He asked some questions, I answered truthfully, and the upshot was that he wanted me to have a sleep study to see if I had sleep apnea.  Great.

I had the study at the end of March, and yes, was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).  What does that mean?!  It can mean a lot of things.  Most commonly, it means that a person actually stops breathing while they sleep.

I, however, have what I'm told is a relatively unique case.  This won't surprise anyone who knows me.  I have long been a trend-setter among my friends, and often at the forefront of whatever is coming next.  And, for women of a certain age this could very well be what's coming - quite likely in a different form than mine, but coming just the same.

OSA has long been thought of as "a man's condition." Men far outnumber women in OSA diagnoses, UNTIL women reach menopause, when we catch right up.  I learned this from the special sleep dentist I had to go and see.  She explained to me that hormones have a lot to do with the integrity of the muscles in the tongue and mouth - and when the hormone levels change, our tongues don't always seem to stay in the right place any longer during sleep.

How is my case unique?  Well, first, my AHI number (that's Apnea Hypopnea Index) is only 6.  The lowest number you can have and be diagnosed, is 5.  So that makes my case very mild.  Second, I never stop breathing.  I don't have any apneas (but they still call it OSA anyway).  I have what they call hypopneas, which is where my airway becomes partially obstructed - I never stop breathing, but my airway is blocked enough that my oxygen saturation level drops way too low; and third, my case is completely positional.  These hypopneas ONLY happen during REM sleep when I'm sleeping on my back - which, apparently, is the only time I have REM sleep - it doesn't occur when I'm on either side.

Why is this bad?  It's bad because my sleep study showed that I am chronically sleep deprived and probably have been for a pretty long time.  I thought back, and came to the conclusion on my own that I probably haven't had restorative, uninterrupted REM sleep for at least a couple of years.  When I'm in REM sleep, I'm on my back.  When my airway gets occluded by my tongue sliding backwards instead of staying put, my oxygen level drops.  It drops enough for my body to panic and shoot out a blast of adrenalin to get things going again.  It's called a micro-arousal.  It's not enough to wake me up all the way, just enough to punt me out of REM sleep. I could think I slept all night, when I never got more than five or ten MINUTES of REM sleep at any given time.

This diagnosis explains a LOT for me.  Falling asleep in two or three minutes - not normal (and indicative of chronic sleep deprivation - this was already happening to me more than a decade ago).  I thought waking up to pee multiple times a night was normal for a menopausal woman.  It's not.  Having trouble staying awake at 10 o'clock in the morning - not normal.  Drowsy driving at 10 o'clock in the morning - really not normal.  Falling asleep on the train into the city in the morning - not normal.  Feeling like my body is made of lead during a workout - not normal.  Having memory issues - again, not normal (and that one's scary - I mean, in another life I memorized countless plays, musicals, songs, dances - you name it.  That I would struggle horribly with memorization of simple pipe tunes has been really unnerving, to say the least).

ALL those things can be the result of OSA - even a mild case of OSA.  Perhaps more importantly for many, OSA can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and mood problems (thankfully, these things I do not have).

In my family we call it the Sleep Anywhere, Any Time Gene, and I always said I got it from my mom.  Upon reflection, however, I'm reasonably sure now that my mom had sleep apnea, and I'm reasonably sure she had a far more severe case than I have.  She would sit in a chair to read a book, and she would fall asleep.  She was often tired.  She snored life a freight train, a very common symptom of OSA.  I do not snore other than the occasional snuffly snorty kind of mild snore.

Thinking I was condemned to a lifetime of sleeping with a CPAP machine, I was not a happy camper . . .  

Friday, August 1, 2014

I am Calling You . . .

I just wanted to share this with you.

It's stayed with me all these years . . . a brilliant film . . . and this haunting plea . . .

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Running on Empty . . .

It's been a little crazy around here for the last month or so . . .

My first piping competition was May 17th and you read how much fun that was  :-) 

The second competition was May 25 at the Alma, Michigan games.  I had to play both my marches there - and they were both train wrecks.  Again.  And it was hot.  Really hot.  And I had to play for the same judge I flamed out in front of the week before at Springfield.  (Pretty sure he thinks I'm talentless.  Oh well.)  I made a couple of mistakes on my Piobaireachd, but placed fourth in my grade, so was really happy for that, and the judge's comments were really encouraging. 

Once again - mistakes in my tunes were my main downfall - and that all comes back to memorization. 

The next two weekends were taken up with African violet-related events.  First, the national convention, which was held in Nashville this year, and then the next weekend, the Illinois state show, which was held in Urbana.  That event marked the last of my responsibilities with IAVS.  I stepped down as newsletter editor in November of last year, and now am no longer the vice president of the organization.  It's best for me - I really needed a break there.

Then I went to piping school this last week.  The Midwest Pipe Band Association sponsored a school.  Ken "The Captain" Eller was the piping instructor and Doug Stronach was the drumming instructor. I suppose it wasn't the best for the Association because the enrollment was low, but it was wonderful for the students because there were only three pipers and three drummers.  It was amazing - pretty much like getting private tuition for the whole week from Ken Eller. Wow! 

I can't believe how fast the week went.  Interestingly enough, I was the most advanced piper, which is quite a switch for me.  I learned so much from Ken - and interestingly enough, a lot of it was stuff I knew from my teacher, Ian, but hadn't been able to internalize yet for whatever reason.  It clearly seems to make a difference to have in-person face time with your instructor.  I'm looking forward to some of that in July when I attend Ian's school, Piping in Paradise.

I was very tired by the end of the week, and it didn't help that I tripped on Tuesday, going into the parking structure on campus and fell over.  I thought my hand (my dominant hand) was broken - it hurt so terribly, but thankfully it was only a sprain and I'm left with this horrible bruise.  I was still able to compete on Saturday, and it only hurts when I move it a certain way - so I'm not moving it that way  :-D

And speaking of competing yesterday  - I played both my marches the best I have ever played them!  Yay me!!  I can say with confidence that they were NOT train wrecks this time, and my score sheets moved up in level from one to two, so that made me really happy and was a great accomplishment!!

My Piobaireachd has gone pretty well all three times.  Best the first time, in Springfield, where I medalled in 2nd place, but I placed fourth in Alma (made some mistakes I didn't make in Springfield  :-S), and 6th on Saturday at the Chicago Games.  I think I might have placed a little higher on Saturday, except that I lost both my tenor drones.  I have no idea why and will have to ask Ian about it.  I heard the middle tenor pop part way through the Ground, and then the outside tenor went at the First Variation.  I panicked, but I kept playing.  I didn't know if there was a way to get them to cut back in - I tried easing up on the bag, but that was going to cause another problem, so I just kept going with only my bass drone.  If you quit, you're marked as "BD" which means "broke down," and I didn't want to do that - you're supposed to just plow through however you can if something goes wrong, so I did.  I didn't expect to get anything after that, so was quite thrilled to place 6th, bruised hand, no tenors, and all  :-D

It was nice to feel like I am finally making some progress with these marches  :-) 

Today was a total recovery day - in my jams and curled up in the sunroom most of the day - I really felt like I was on empty, that's for sure.  But I'll be ready to go back to work tomorrow and get back into the rhythm of my regular life.  Food-wise, that will be a relief.  We ate in the college cafeteria this past week, and when you're at the Highland Games, it's pretty much the law that you have to eat some Scottish junk food and drink a beer and a cider or two  :-D   Let's just say that the food choices this week were not ideal and I didn't make the best ones . . . My focus for the rest of the summer is getting smaller again.  I can no longer blame the extra pounds on what my friend, Linda the Chicken Lady called the "Soul-Sucking" Winter that we had.  The chill has lingered far into the spring.  And speaking of Linda the Chicken Lady, I'm sure going to miss her when she moves to California later this year.

Alrighty then, time to look for something for a late dinner, and figure out what my Monday is going to look like.  This recovery day went a long way toward recharging my running on empty body :-)