Asking for Help

Iblue stars really liked this article on GoKaleo about weight loss and self compassion: Self-compassion: an Excuse to be Fat? No. It fits in with some things I’ve been thinking about myself. I’ve mentioned a few times over the past couple of months that I’ve been under some stress. After a gentle nudge from my boyfriend, I think it is time to do something about it. I set up an appointment with my doctor. I am hoping to get a referral to a therapist so I can work some of this stuff out.

I’m a pretty introspective gal. I’m not afraid of the long look inward, but sometimes it is good to have a guide. I was in therapy once before and it was incredibly helpful. I am good at asking myself tough questions, but the beauty of a great therapist is that they ask the questions you never think to ask. They challenge your beliefs, sometimes in ways that seem so obvious (in retrospect) that it is annoying, but usually really helpful.

I’m feeling a bit stuck in my life, like certain parts are in a rut. I know what I have to do to change those parts… and yet I don’t do them. Something is holding me back. I feel weighted down, and this weight is keeping me from moving forward. (Or moving forward at a glacial pace.) It’s causing anxiety and frustration.

I’ve been trying to get back to my healthy eating and exercising, and that does really help. As I type this, I am munching on a simple salad made from organic lettuce and greens plucked straight from my garden. I spritzed on some lemon juice and it takes like summer. These simple pleasures feed my heart, belly and soul. Lifting weights (hit a new personal record last week!) gives me added confidence and assurance. I’m not running off the rails, I just need a hand with my map.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Sick Pup

Hermes loves bunnies.

Hermes has a thing for bunnies.

Hermes, my little buddy, is sick. He had a tumor, roughly the size of my hand, in his spleen. We had an amazing, fun weekend up at Julian’s parent’s place last weekend, but on the last day he stopped acting like himself. I thought it was a reoccurrence of the back problems he had a few months ago, but the vet did an x-ray and we found the tumor.

They did surgery and removed his spleen. The surgery itself went well, but when they went in, they found the tumor had ruptured. He ended up losing a lot of blood. Last night he spent the night at the Emergency Pet Hospital and they had to give him a transfusion. Despite all of this, things looked pretty good. Julian and I picked him up from the hospital and brought him to the vet. He seemed drugged up, but he looked good.

However, he is having complications. He’s having problems with his heart. They are working to balance everything out, but he is going to have another night at the Emergency Pet Hospital. I don’t know how this is going to all play out. Basically, it is up to him and how he does over the next 24 hours or so. If you have some spare good thoughts, please send them my pooch’s way. He could use them.

In the meantime, if things are a little quiet over here, this is why. I’m a wreck. He’s my little buddy. I hate that he is hurting.

Hermes

The Recap

Horizon Blue Skies by Andre EleazerSorry I have been a bit MIA as of late. Last week I was traveling for work, and while on the road, I received some news that broke my heart. Being out-of-town and getting bad news is a special kind of salt in the wound. I grant you, there probably wasn’t a dang thing I could have done if I was here, but being hundreds of miles away from people you love at times like that sucks. It just does.

Anyway, between travel and work waiting for me when I got back, I’ve been a bit off my game. It doesn’t mean things haven’t been going on, I just haven’t had time to write about them. I thought I would write a quick “catch up” post on a handful of things and then over the next few days fill you in on some of the bigger things I’ve been musing on while driving state to state.

Work Outs

workout-motivation

Working out on the road brings a special set of challenges. I was lucky the hotel that my trade show was at had both a pool and a fitness center. The pool was lovely, and one glorious night, I had it to myself for over a half of an hour. I love to swim, so it was a special treat, and chlorinated water does a good job of masking tears.

Unfortunately, the fitness center sucked. It was tiny… and hot… and smelled like other people. It only had five pieces of equipment and only one of them was a treadmill. I’m not a big fan of treadmills, but they aren’t bad in a pinch. The only good thing was that it was open 24 hours, so as the other guests and I scheduled our treadmill time around each other, we could work out at 3:00am if needed. (No, I didn’t end up working out at 3:00am – but I could have!)

The fitness center did not have a weight set, however, and that was a bit disappointing. I brought my resistance bands (which are easy to throw in a suitcase) but as hard as I try, I just don’t like them as much as good old-fashioned weights.

Runs

This is where I screwed up. Instead of using the lone treadmill in the sweatbox, I should have gone for a run. I brought my shoes. The problem was that I was fooled by the geography. A lot of the convention center/hotels that I go to for trade shows are located for convenience, not sightseeing. So, most of them are right off the expressway and usually located in an area that isn’t pedestrian friendly. Sure enough, this one looked like it was the same way – on a busy street right at the intersection of a couple of expressways. What I didn’t realize until the last day (when I took a client to dinner,) was that a short hop over was a beautiful area for walking or running! I’ve decided that next time I am in a new area I am going to do some pre-scouting on Google maps followed up by chatting with the locals. In this case, either of those two things would have done the trick.

On the upside, back in my hometown I did find a new park to run in before I left. That is to say, it isn’t a “new” park, just a new one to me. We’ll call this one Big River Park.  Big River is a great place to run! I had been there before a couple times before for various functions, but never walked the length of it. It has wide trails that are long and is perfect for running. It’s away from traffic and well shaded, two other features that I liked. I’ve run there twice recently, and I will be back again.

Other Fitness-y Kind of Stuff

Sunday I was lucky enough to be able to sneak away for a day and head up to my cabin. I went up with one thing on my mind – getting out the kayak. It was a breezy day, making it a bit more of a work out than either of the other times I have had it out, but still marvelous! I got to see a little water snake and some fish on their beds. I love that.

I’ve also started on my boxing DVD, but that will be a post of its own. All I have to say for right now is that it is so. much. fun! I actually find myself hoping I can get home a little early tonight so I can keep at it. How great is that?

 

Photo credit: Andre Eleazer

Eating Well While Stressing Out

I love this idea! Dance your errands indeed.

I love this idea! Dance your errands indeed.

I did it! I hit the big 3-oh in weight loss! I am officially down 30 pounds. I am incredibly happy and I love the way I feel and the way I look. Now onto the hard part – maintenance.

And of course, this week is crazy. I do some freelance work, and this week is the culmination of a big project. The good thing is that I have an amazing partner in all this, Red. Red and I have been friends forever. We both do the same kind of work, and have helped each other and paired up on projects in the past. Now she and I are working together as a team. It’s been great to split the work, but it has still kept me hopping. My lunch hours are spent in meetings or in running around taking care of last-minute details, and immediately after my day job, I am running errands or heading to the freelance location to work. Which means that, basically, all my meals are all kind of up in the air and I’ve had to get very creative. I don’t eat fast food, and I want to stay on the healthy side of things, so here’s how I’ve been able to swing it so far:

Plan Ahead. I use the calendar function on my phone to track where I have to go and what I have to do. That helps me keep on top of my schedule so I can plan accordingly. The more planning I can do, the less stressed I am – which is better for me all the way around.

Pack Snacks. I have started carrying multiple snacks with me. I have a couple of cute lunch bags that people have bought me that are insulated and even a small soft sided mini cooler. I keep them filled with things I can eat on the fly: string cheese, rice cakes, crackers, almonds, easy to eat fruit and veggies (like Mineolas, strawberries, carrots and celery) and even a small amount of chocolate. Everything is measured out ahead of time, so it is easy to track. This keeps me from crashing from hunger… and from eating all the unhealthy snacks that are lying around the workplace.

Indulge in Beverages. We’re getting some beautiful weather here in the Midwest, and its making me crave iced tea and coffee. I try to not have caffeine after 7pm, but before that, these are two easy indulgences for me. I also love La Croix for some fizz and keep a plain old water bottle handy as well. At the freelance location there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” and those wait times are prime munching hours. Having a tasty beverage nearby helps me fight those urges.

Eat at Work. I am lucky, I can eat at my desk at my day job. So another way I have been regulating my meals is by bringing both lunch and dinner to work. I eat lunch while I am working (and then use my lunch hour to run around getting things done,) and then eat dinner during my last hour at work. It’s a little early, but it is better than feeling compelled to grab something and eat it on the way.

Track Everything. I am so busy that it would be super easy to slack on the tracking. Now is exactly when I have to track. The other day I was out at a lunch meeting and ate way more than I should. I didn’t mean to, I thought I was making a healthy choice, but when I put it into My Fitness Pal I realized how wrong I was! That happens, it isn’t a big deal – as long as I know about it. I ended up just going lighter the rest of the day, but without tracking it, I wouldn’t have known to do that. I’m still new at all this and restaurants are fairly complicated to negotiate. Tracking helps me so much.

As for going forward, I don’t exactly have a maintenance plan yet. I know I will keep tracking and eating well – those are lifestyle choices. I’m planning on doing them for the rest of my life. I know I want to keep learning how to run. As for the rest, I don’t know yet – we’ll just see how it all goes!

Photo credit: theslowlane

Variety is the Spice of Life

Weight Loss Update:

Yes, even these started to look good.

Yes, even these started to look good.

I haven’t written about my weight loss in a while, so I thought I would spend a few moments getting caught up. Overall, things are going very, very well. I started at 171.5 on Jan. 15 and am down around 143 (the actual number fluctuates a bit, but I’m right in there.) I am looking forward to hitting the big 3-0, but I am not in a rush, either. Everything will happen at its own pace.

I say that because things have slowed down a lot. For awhile I could count on pretty consistent losses, but lately I have been fluttering back and forth with the same 2-3 pounds. I won’t lie, it is a little frustrating. My sister suggested that my body is finding its ideal weight, which makes sense to me. I’ve also been fairly rough on myself the last couple of months – a lot of travel, a lot of stress – those don’t help. Here’s the thing – while it would be fun to see what I look like under 140, I love the way I look now. If I don’t ever lose another pound, I am okay with that.

As for what I am doing – none of that has changed. I use My Fitness Pal to track calories. I shoot to hit a bit below the goal they give me, while making sure that it doesn’t yell at me for not eating enough. No food is off-limits, but I do concentrate on eating mostly plants and lean proteins.

Lately though, I have had to deal with cravings. I hear people talk about having cravings all the time, but until recently, they haven’t been a problem for me. Usually if I have a specific craving, I figure my body is telling me something – sometimes it is a needed nutrient, (Craving steak? Maybe I am low on iron.) and sometimes it is a symptom of something emotional. (Craving chocolate? How are the stress levels?) I normally just have a bit of whatever it is and the problem is solved. Typical cravings for me are: olives, chocolate, garlic, wine, steak, potatoes, cheese and sushi. What’s been happening lately is very different. Instead of honing in on something specific, I want, well, everything. My brain goes something like this:

I could go for a burrito right now. No, fried chicken, no… fried fish. Yep, fish. Or maybe a steak, or surf and turf, or you know, I could really just use a brownie. Actually, a latte with lots of caramel would do the trick, or maybe a malt. Ice cream. Or a smoothie, or maybe a hamburger with some French fries. Or chips and cheese. Or sushi. Chocolate chip cookie? Any of those would be good…

It’s like my brain is driving through America’s strip malls and going nuts! At first I blamed it on the travel – walking through an airport is kind of like walking through my mind right now, but it’s been more than a week since I have flown, so that doesn’t feel right. It was like what I was craving was… variety.

And laying in my bed, in the middle of the night, it hit me – that was exactly what was going on. While nothing is off limits, I didn’t have a lot of variety in the house. I cleared out the cupboards pretty good before my first business trip, and then cleaned them out yet again before the second. I’ve been back over a week, but I haven’t done a lot of shopping. I have food in the house, but there isn’t a lot of different foods. I grabbed a pen and a pad of paper and by flashlight, I made a list of all the things I was eating before I started traveling. It was quite a list. For example: I love having prepackaged cheese in the house. It makes a great snack. My favorite is the little Babybel cheeses, and I had a whole Costco sized pack of them, but before, I had Babybels, plus two different kinds of string cheese. I love apples and had some, but before I had oranges, Mineolas, strawberries, and grapefruits, plus lots of veggies like carrots and celery. I finally figured it out – I was just bored!

So, the next day, I went shopping. I stocked my cupboards and fridge with things I love plus I added a few new things to try. Having a whole stock of things to choose from did the trick – cravings are pretty much gone.

…well, I still want a burrito.

 

Photo credit: Thoth, God of Knowledge

Smiling The Stress Away

Smile by the_momentI found this article on the Huffington Post. It came out last August so it’s a little older, but the information is still valid. It talks about how smiling, real smiling, can help lower your heart rate when you are stressed.

Here’s an excerpt:

Smiling Could Help with Stress: Study

New research shows that smiling — and especially genuine smiling (where your eyes and mouth muscles are engaged) — may play a part in lowering heart rate after you’ve done something stressful. The study will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

“The next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment,” study researcher Sarah Pressman, of the University of Kansas, said in a statement. “Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well!”

Here’s a link to the full article: Smiling Could Help With Stress: Study

I’m thinking about this because I do a lot of trade shows for my company. It’s stressful, really stressful. First there is the travel – even fun travel can be hard on the body and the mind, and this is rarely fun. Then there is the fact that I’m frequently traveling with coworkers. Ten or twelve hours in a car with anyone can be trying, but with a coworker? Doubly so. Plus there is the show itself. It’s hard work standing all day long in a 10′ square selling your products to people who are mostly uninterested.

It isn’t all bad, but it can be easy to slip into a foul mood. Maybe I should give this a try. Smiling is good for sales – if it lowers my heart rate too, that’s a pretty good bonus!

What is Life?

Quote

Dusk Wheat by Dave Hopton“What is life? It is a flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

– Crowfoot, last words, 1890

A quick reminder, for when I am feeling overwhelmed and stress – these things are but fragments of a much greater and richer life. Let them go.

Photo credit: Dave Hopton

Musings on Sleep

sleep quote

Sleep.

I need a lot of sleep. Some of my friends and coworkers claim that they can get by on as little as 6 hours of sleep – even less at times.

But, I am not one of those people.

I need at least 8 hours of sleep (preferably a bit more,) if I am to be a happy, sociable, relatively content person. For the good of the people around me, I strive for those precious 8 hours. When I have a busy schedule or a lot of late nights, I wear down fast. My energy level decreases, I get sick easily and I am very, very grumpy.

I am not a morning person, nor am I a night owl. My best working hours for productivity are roughly between 10:00am and 2:00pm. So, if I could write my own schedule, I would go to bed about 11:00pm and get up about 9:00am. Sadly, I don’t have this option. I have a job. I also have a dog.

hermes profile

What I don’t have is a fenced in backyard. This means that every morning I am up at roughly 6:30am to walk this guy around the neighborhood for a half hour. It doesn’t really matter what time I go to bed, and weekends don’t matter much either – Hermes doesn’t understand what a weekend is, he just knows that at 6:30, it is time to patrol.

Which means I try to get to bed around 10:00pm. I’m not always successful, and even when I am, I don’t always fall asleep right away, but that’s the goal. I also look for ways to improve the quality of the sleep I do get. Just recently I read this article on Lifehacker: How to Need Less Sleep by Getting Better Sleep Every Night. I’ve read similar articles, on Lifehacker and other places, and have put a few of their suggestions in place. Last summer I went through my bedroom and taped over almost all of the little electronic blinking lights in my bedroom. I also closed my curtains to try to get a bit more darkness. I have two sets of curtains in there – a light weight set and a heavy brocade set. I had been leaving the brocade ones open, in an effort to wake with natural lighting, but I’ve discovered the darkness is more important.

The one tip I read all the time, and never seem to actually do, is turning off all computer and television screens an hour or two before bedtime. I am not hooked on electronics, but I admit I like to check email and play a few silly computer games before bed. Last week, however, I had some downtime – actual evenings where I didn’t have any plans or meetings. I decided to take full advantage of them and go to bed early. For several nights in a row, I managed to turn off the computer early and get to bed around 8:30. I took a book and read a few chapters until I felt sleepy enough to turn out the light. I was amazed at the difference it made!

I slept hard, really deep, and I had wild vivid dreams – which is my normal. I have always been someone who has long, intense, colorful dreams with complicated plots and multiple characters, but I haven’t been having them lately. I’ve had dreams, so I didn’t really notice that they weren’t like they used to be – until last week. I don’t think I have been sleeping as deeply, so my dreams were shorter and more washed out. Last week, I realized what I was missing.

I also found myself regularly waking up earlier, and when I did, feeling much more awake than I do normally. I felt great during the day too. I could tell that the quality of sleep was much better. I think turning off the screen an hour before bed made a huge difference!

It’s not something I can do every night. I have all sorts of events that happen in the evening, so even getting in bed before 10:00 during the week can be tricky, but if it makes a difference on my overall mood and attitude, I think it is worth striving for.

Neighborhood Hikes

So, my mother was in the hospital over Christmas Eve, and Christmas… and New Year’s Day. She was finally released on Jan. 2nd. This last hospital stint was a couple of weeks long, but this whole saga has been going on since October. I’m tired. My sister is tired. My mother is really, really tired.

I was not surprised at how long she ended up being hospitalized. What I was surprised about was how much it effected me. We’ve been through this before, this was her third time in the hospital in the last couple of months, after all. So, it almost felt routine. I had predicted that she would be in over the holidays, so I didn’t think I would be upset.

I was wrong.

I can’t really say that I am all that close to my mother. I love her and care about her, but we aren’t as tight as some parents are with their children. Still, I have spent every Christmas with her since I was born. I knew we would work something out – and we did – but that whole day, and the days leading up to it, I felt very fragile. I would be fine one minute, and then feeling like I was going to burst into tears the next.

Screen Shot 2012-12-26 at 11.02.05 AM

There is not really a lot you can do in situations like this. I spent time with her when I could, I kept my own holiday traditions going, and I did what I could to alleviate the stress. One of the main things I did was walk. We all know that exercise is good for stress, but the fact is, I hate exercise. Trying to do a bunch of push-ups in my living room was not going to help my mood. There is one thing I enjoy doing, however, that counts as exercising – I like to walk. When I can, I like to walk with someone else. But since my boyfriend was on a temporary walking hiatus for a bit and my best walking gal was in Rome for the holidays, it was me and my pooch, hiking the neighborhoods. I like to walk my dog. He’s happy, I’m happy, and I am never bored. So, that’s what we did: we walked, and walked, and walked.

I had to slow it down once the snow hit. I can walk in snow and ice – I have cold weather gear and ice fishing cleats, but I am walking a hound dog that thinks snowfall is heaven. He loves nothing more than to bury his head in a drift, following tracks and scents. He’s also pure muscle, so even though he is under 40 pounds, he could easily accidentally make me loose my footing on ice. Plus, walking on sidewalks with snow and ice is completely different than clear sidewalks. It is a little like walking on the beach – you find yourself using different muscles in your legs, but unlike the beach, you also have to watch your center of gravity. It’s a little nerve-wracking.

Even still, I managed to break a number of my walking records; and it felt good. My back tends to tighten up when I am under stress, and walking seems to loosen me back up again. Plus, as I have written about before, dog walking is very meditative for me. It was a good solution for a tough situation.

The good news is that Mom is back home and starting to feel a lot better. We all finally feel like things are looking up. We’re even starting to plan a second Christmas in January, so we can at least get together and have a meal together. And, as I look out my window today, the sun is shining and the sky is bright blue – looks like it is going to be a good day for walking.

Hospital Bound, Again

Hospital RoomI had a different post rattling around in my head to put up today, but I just got a call from my mother. She is heading back into the hospital. They said it might be for just overnight, but honestly, I don’t believe that. Her history tells me we are in for another long stay, possibly over Christmas. I am not being pessimistic, I just know how things have gone over the past couple of months.

I don’t know the details yet. I only spoke to her for 30 or 40 seconds by phone. She had a doctor’s appointment this morning, and it seems they had bad news for her. My aunt is going to pick her up and take her in. She said she would call me later when she knew more.

I admit, I’m tired. I try to handle situations, stress, problems with calmness and clarity, but this whole thing is wearing me down. There is so little I can do about it. I can help my Mom by learning how to help her medical issues, I can visit her, bring her prescriptions and other necessities, but I have no power to solve the actual problem. I try to hold onto the idea that things will work out – they always do, somehow – but it is getting harder and harder.

To make it worse, I feel bad about complaining. I’m not the one who is sick. I only talked to my Mom for a few seconds, but I could hear the sadness and pain in her voice. I know going back into the hospital is the last thing she wants. And of her children, I have the least to complain about. My sister was the one who took her in over her convalescence and cared for her through some fairly rough times. Granted, she is a nurse and is best suited for taking care of Mom, but she is also the mother of two small children, one of which is only 6 months old, and a very busy person. So, I end up feeling bad… about feeling bad.

I’m not terribly worried about Christmas. If Mom is in the hospital, we’ll work something out. As my sister said today, we have never been a family of sticklers about celebrating things on a particular date. We’ve been known to celebrate birthdays months after the actual day; we’ll figure out another time to do this. I’m just tired of my Mom hurting and feeling sick. I am tired of the strain it puts on the rest of us. I just want her to heal.

 

Photo credit: Diane Cordell