Chiari be Damned

Yesterday was the end of September and the end of Chiari awareness month. If you know me, you know what that is, if you don’t, I encourage you to take a look at the “My Chiari Story” page for more information. Chiari is a condition that is not that rare, but it’s rarely diagnosed. There is no cure, only some treatments to help with the symptoms. There are several sister conditions that come with it, and yes, you can die from it. I will always be subjected to Chiari’s whims, but there has been some good that has come from it too. I have met some amazing people than I cherish and proudly call my friends. I know my strength, and know that am able to pull myself together without most people even noticing that I’m hurting. I also know the value of life and good days how how both should be treated with joy and respect. This year for Chiari awareness month, I took a different approach. I focused on me. On my health. I dropped the excuses and embraced the fact that I can still take care of me. I started working out. If you follow me, then you’ve been following my journey thus far, and if not, welcome. I turn 40 one month from today. 40. I’m having a harder time with this one because in my head I’m only 26 and and 2003 was only a couple years ago, not more than a decade ago. By 40, I was supposed to be fit, successful, beautiful, and married to a rock star, traveling the world. I never dreamed that my success would be shown in my children, or that my rock star would be a computer guy who works his tail off to provide for his family. I think I won the lottery in both of those scenarios. That still leaves fit and beautiful. I know I know, beauty is on the inside and I shouldn’t need external validation, BUT I DO! I used to turn heads. I was the hot girl people noticed, and now I’m working my way back. I’m in the gym every day, whether I want to or not. And some days my head is killing me, but I go. I’m working with Stephanie on a meal plan to get the weight off because fitness starts at the gym, but weight loss comes from the kitchen. I owe it to my children to be the healthy mom they deserve. I owe it to my rock star to take an effort in my appearance, and I owe it to myself to work hard and get fit again.

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Frustration is Good.

In culinary school, they taught that frustration is what happens right before a breakthrough. If you persist, you will learn. So I changed my paradigm and started to look at frustration as a stepping stone.

Yesterday was a big frustration. I felt terrible, had crazy heart palpitations all day and night, only to get worse with my workout and I got worn out faster than I should have. I was frustrated. If ever there was a day where I would quit, it was yesterday.

Today, I went, I felt good, and I stepped off my frustration point to hopefully move on to the next one.

Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I get frustrated and think I should quit, but I’m trying not to give myself that option. I’m trying to remember that it is only a stepping stone for self improvement.

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Excuses and Determination

I wanted to call this post “Excuses Excuses” but that’s not really what this is about.

I was once the queen of excuses. “I have asthma”, “I have a weak knee from getting hit by a car”, “I have a cold”, “I had brain surgery and can’t lift anything heavy”, “it’s Tuesday.” I’ve used them all and look where it got me.

I’ve stuck my heels in and won’t give myself the chance to make an excuse or give into them. I get up, I get dressed for the gym, (this reduces my chances of sitting on my butt procrastinating getting my workout clothes on) then I take my kiddo to school, come home, have a quick breakfast, and go to the gym. Now, am I walking up to the school in spandex pants in front of all the neighbors’ houses? Yep. Unapologetically too.

Do many other moms do this? Yes. Do they all look like me? No, they look like they’ve been hitting the gym for years, and that’s ok. In a few years, I’ll have been hitting the gym for years. Until then, I’m not giving myself any excuse to delay going.

So here is my fear: any time I get into a good groove, keeping the house clean, staying on top of the laundry, whatever…. I get sick, real sick, and it all goes to hell. I don’t want that. I’m too scared to take two rest days in a row for fear that I’ll give up on the third. I need to go. I HAVE to go.

So I safeguard as much as I can, my resolve. After 39 and 11/12 years (not 40 yet damnit!) I know myself. I know how to trick myself for good.

I have a gym buddy now too. A mom that I know from PTA and around the neighborhood, who is really nice and her husband went to OSU, so of course they’re cool. She just started, and I’m hoping she stays with it too. On the days we don’t see each other there, we can still hold each other accountable.

The other excuse I could have that might get the best of me is fear. Fear of what others might say or think. Fear of not belonging, fear of sticking out like a sore thumb in a gym full of fit people….

to that I say, “to hell with it”. There is nothing someone could say to me or about me up there that I haven’t said to myself. But I’ve also told myself I can do this, and that I owe it to myself and my kids to get healthy. If others talk, (and to be fair, I don’t think they do, people up there seem pretty cool) let them. I don’t know them, so I value my own opinion of me more than theirs. I’m there trying to change myself. Every day I’m there. I may not see anything now, but in a year, I know there will be a different story. I know there will be more.

My doctor told me I have balls to just go into a gym and start lifting free weights. I don’t know if I do or not, but I know I like it.

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When you first start working out, and especially if you are lifting weights, everything you read and hear is about gains. Gains gains gains. I always just assumed that muscle heads were just trying to get bigger muscles and that was the gains they talk about …. and it is…. and it isn’t.

There are other gains, smaller gains that you probably don’t think about. I started week three today, and hopefully at the end of this week, it will be a habit. So two weeks at the gym, and this is what my “gains” are:

My posture has changed. How I carry myself, and how I walk. I noticed this, and then a friend at the gym saw it too.

I FEEL myself getting stronger. I can go up and down the stairs easier, I can get up from sitting or get out of bed without the pain and cracking.

I feel my old personality starting to peek out. I’m still tired, and that could be having small kids, or the chiari, or both, but I am starting to get the fun side of my personality back. And I’m happy about that. I’m tired of this personality, I want to be bubbly again.

Lastly, I’m more comfortable at the gym. I don’t feel quite so out of place anymore. I still feel a little intimidated, but I go. I show up every day and I put in the work and I feel like I belong there.

I still have a long way to go, we are going to talk nutrition on here once I get that all worked out, and I’d like to get brave enough to put some starting measurements up on here. We’ll see.

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Let’s Talk About Weight….

I’m over weight. Like probably 80 lbs over weight. That’s the first time I said it. My whole life, my weight was up and down. When I was thinner, I thought I was fat. I remember being 5’8″ and 135 lbs and all I saw was cellulite on my thighs. I was just never satisfied with my body, and I think one day I just gave up. I went on diets, I read books on metabolism, I took diet pills, and I’ve lots tons of weight. But, ultimately, it goes back on.

I remember I used to go to the gym, get my metabolism revved up for a few weeks and then I’d cut my calories to about 300 a day. I lived off metabolize too, the good stuff, before they outlawed it. I would lose lots of weight, look great, and be too tired to go to the gym (because I wasn’t eating) so I would sleep. A friend in med school at the time, (we were early 20s) and someone I respected very much sat me down on my birthday when I couldn’t finish an enchilada and explained to me what was happening to my body and how I was going to die if I didn’t change. By the way Quentin, thank you.

So back and forth, up and down, unhealthy choice after another, I end up here. And I’m not happy with myself.

Something’s got to give. My clothes don’t fit, and buying new ones would mean going to a size that I just can’t go into. I’ve thinned out my closet, I have seven shirts that fit me. Seven. I’m not buying any more pants that fit me, I’m just going to have to squeeze into the old ones, and wear them until the thighs rub together so much that a hole forms. It’s what I always do.

I need to change. And for good this time. Not just until I get into the size I want. I’m lazy and apathetic, and I need to stop.

So I joined a gym. Ok…. now what? I can swim, I’m a pretty strong swimmer, or I guess I can get back to the machines and the elliptical. I hate the elliptical, I hate all cardio, but the elliptical is by far the worst. But something’s got to give. And it has to be me.

Have I mentioned that my brother is a trainer, and in amazing shape? I don’t want to call him because he’s put a plan together for me before and I quit a few days in. I know he is disappointed and I just don’t want to waste his time, but he reached out to me and gave me a plan. A plan I can do, and it doesn’t involve getting on a hamster wheel.

A little back story on my brother, he has always been the coolest and smartest person I know. The kind of person who researches and reads and gathers all the information he can find and then decides what to do. And that’s with anything, not just fitness. He’s compassionate, but not biased, he’s fair, and he doesn’t sugar coat anything. I asked him when I would see results and he answered, “well, you’re big, it’s going to take a while.” And he’s absolutely right. I wasn’t insulted, or hurt, because it was the truth and not meant to be anything more than factual. He’s just the kind of guy that people listen to. So I suppose I will. He also doesn’t buy my BS excuses. He doesn’t care that I’ve had brain surgery or that I stubbed my toe or whatever else I can come up with. It’s like he thinks I’m capable, which is kind of a good feeling. I am extremely grateful for his knowledge and willingness to help me yet again in this life.

He has me on a plan that I can do, and until this becomes a habit, I’m using him as my accountability. I text him every day that I go, and probably annoying the hell out of him, but at least he knows I’m doing it. He didn’t waste his time…. this time. This time is different.

Why is this time different? I didn’t really know the answer to that until tonight. This time I’m not trying to be some skinny girl who looks good in a bikini. This time I’m not listening to other people tell me how my body should look. This time is for me. I said “probably 80” at the beginning of this because I don’t know how much I’m going to lose. At one time I wanted to lose 100 lbs and “get back to my fighting weight” but I don’t want to be that girl. I want to be strong and healthy. If that means I lose 60 lbs and that’s all, well then fine. I turn 40 in a couple months, and as hard as it it for me to comprehend that I’m an adult…. I am. I’m a grown woman and I don’t care what others think. When I’m lifting weights, I am looking out the windows, not facing everyone in there. If they want to make fun of me, so be it. I’m not there to impress them. I’m just THERE. I’m there to build myself up. Both physically and mentally. I’m there to become healthy and to overcome my unhealthy cycle.

So here’s what I’m doing:

I’m going five times a week

I’m changing my diet

I won’t put myself down or anyone else, especially in front of my kids. I think calling myself fat in front of them teaches them to have an unhealthy relationship with food as well as teaches them that there’s something wrong with “fat” people. And I’m not here for that. My focus is on teaching them how to take care of your body and strive for health, and to be an example for that.

I’m doing everything on my list of exercises, and pushing myself even when I don’t want to.

Showing up this time. This time is different.

You are all invited to join me on my journey! Wish me luck!

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2016 can suck it. This is a year we have lost more legends than normal. Bowie, Prince, Ali, Gary Marshall…. these are all heavy hitters, – there’s another we just lost. He didn’t sell a million records and he didn’t win an Oscar, but he was well known among many, and he was loved and respected by all who knew him. 

Mike Mahoney was the son of an Irish immigrant, a sheep herder, who grew up in Casper and he was my grandpa. 

I can’t speak much for his time in the army, growing up during the depression, and herding sheep as a child, though he always told the best stories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. 

I can tell you the strength and the character he exuded was a bar set high. He raised four kids, as a single father, in the 60s. He was a gym teacher, a referee, and a driver’s ed instructor. But to me, he was grandpa. He taught me how to fish, he tried with all his might to teach me to ski, neither of us knowing that I had a brain condition that made balancing on water behind a boat damn near impossible. He did teach me to drive both a car and a boat, but he also bought me my Ken doll because he was tired of me making him walk with my Barbie down the aisle, and he did walk her down the isle many times. He gave me my first taste of beer, and it was awful -Schlitz, so I didn’t go near beer again for a very long time. He is also who my daughter is named after. Something my shy little girl seemed to understand when she last saw him. 

The man never sat still for long. Maybe a few minutes under a tree at the lake smoking his pipe before jumping up to water the grass or mow it or work on some project that needed to be done. He was a master at MacGyvering things. My first fishing pole was a willow branch with fishing line tied to it. I caught quite a few fish with it too. 

Because he was a teacher for 41 years and because he taught half the state of WY how to drive, everyone knew him. Everyone. We could be eating lunch near the Tetons and you would hear, “Mr. Mahoney!!” Or my favorite: sitting in a boat in the canyon (which I have a fear of btw) after we have just hit a large rock and the boat that was taking on water before (which caused it to sit lower in the water thus hitting said rock) was taking on more water now. We looked at each other and he immediately grabbed the life jackets. There were two good ones and three of us in a boat. And one of us sinks like a bucket of lead in the water. My grandpa was so athletic and so coordinated there was nothing he couldn’t do…. except swim. His body just didn’t float. So while I’m looking around for the nearest spot in the canyon I could get us to, I hear “Mr. Mahoney! Is everything ok?” They threw us a rope and towed us back. This was common though. His former students were always happy to help if needed. Or just happy to see him and catch up. He was loved by so many people, he was respected by everyone, and he deserved respect. He did anything needed to help others. He raised four kids on his own and made sure they knew they were loved and that they had good quality time together, with him, and each other. The kind of man you could always rely on. He filled his kids and grandkids with memories and life lessons that we could fill books with. Above all – he was honest, hard working, he loved his family, and sacrificed whatever needed for those he loved.  Mike Mahoney wasn’t just a great man or a hero, he was a legend. And the fact that we lost him in 2016 proves that. 

“O Fare the Well old Casper Town I am Bedding you adue/For its maney the Windy Day I spent between old Salt Creek and You,” John J. Crowley

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Happy Halloween!

I’ve always really liked Halloween. Maybe it’s because this is the time of year when we can finally get back outside, maybe it’s the fun of it all, maybe it’s because my birthday is the day after…. whatever, I love Halloween. 

The hubs and I have a long tradition of overdoing the costumes for the little guy. 

First, there was McQueen:

Then there was the Bumblebee transformer:

Last year, as we were watching “The Force Awakens”, I knew what he was going to want to be this year, I just had to figure out how. The hubs had done an outstanding job on the cars in years past, but we needed round. A big round ball. 

We thought about a paper lantern, but couldn’t find one big enough, so we settled on paper maché and a yoga ball. 

Neither Doug nor myself had ever paper machéd anything, but what the heck? We went for it. 

We did about 10 layers, though the bottom edge seemed to be a little thinner. We held our breath as we deflated the ball, but it turned out ok. So far so good. 

I taped down the ends to make it a little smoother around the top and bottom. 

Next up was the paint. This is where Doug really shines. He makes sure to get all the details as accurate as possible and takes his time to get it right. Topped with a BB8 helmet and I think we are good to go!

I keep saying we need to reel it in, especially now that there are two and we are potentially looking at a lot of work. The thing is though, when the kids are older, I want them to look back and remember how awesome their parents made their costumes. I want them to not be afraid to go for it, to keep their imaginations going, and to remember the fun. Always remember the fun.  And armholes. We need to remember arm holes….

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Well Blow Me Down!

You and I know I don’t sing the praises of a dr very often, so when I do, it means something. When I was working, I would have friends who wanted to work for the company and I wouldn’t always give them a referral. I would say we could only give so many and I had used them up or something, but the reality was,  I don’t give my seal of approval to just anyone. It doesn’t mean anything if you do. I follow the philosophy that I’m the only one with my opinion, make it valuable. 

So my past with doctors has been sketchy at best. We know I’m not a big fan of most, though I’ve surrounded myself with a pretty good team lately. 

I recently had my gallbladder removed. I was scared to do it, but met with the surgeon anyway to see what he said.  First, I researched him. It was a little too convenient to me that his office was in the same group as my GP, but people I talked to, who know the doctors around here all told me he was good. So I made an apt with Dr Trung Nguyen, General Surgeon in Fort Worth. 

Here was a man who put me at ease and scared me to death at the same time. I had no idea what to expect, but Dr Nguyen talked me through what my gallbladder did, what it should look like, what mine looked like, and what the dangers of not taking it out when it was staging a coup would be. He showed me pictures and talked to me like I was an intelligent human being; he made me feel like we were a team and together we could fix this. He also has a pretty dry sense of humor which always puts me at ease. 

So we set a date and I showed up to the hospital pretty nervous. The nurses made fun of me because I had had brain surgery but was scared of a little ol’ gallbladder surgery. They put my mind at ease though as most of my nurses that morning had gone to Dr Nguyen for their surgeries. This made me feel better because nurses don’t go go bad doctors. They know who to go see. 

That day, I learned more about Dr Nguyen, like he teaches math. If you want to impress me, that’s the way to go. I get along well with science and math brained people. We talked about that for a few minutes, then they took me back. 

My gallbladder was apparently all packed up and heading for the exit in its own. He told his nurses when he saw it and the blockage I had, “she was just talking to me! She didn’t say she had any pain!” Doug told him he didn’t think I would notice if I was in more pain.  Haha  I told him at my post op “I told you I’m a badass……” 

He also took that little nub off my belly button. The one I’ve had a weird relationship with all my life…. He said he thought it looked bad and may have been precancerous, so he took it off. 

Not only was he taking care of my gallbladder, he was keeping an eye out for me. He saw something that looked off, and he took care of it. That speaks volumes. Several days went by, and I had a question so I called up his office. It was after hours so I figured I would get the on call nurse. Nope. I got him. Not a “we will have someone call you back” but an “ok hold the line while we connect you” he answered my questions and fixed the issue I was having right then. 

Cut to several weeks later and we get a bill from the hospital that has a mistake on it. I called his office and they took care of it. Not “ok, here’s what you need to do…” But he went to the hospital himself to straighten everything out, then called me to tell me he talked to them. Is this guy for real?  

It is so refreshing to see a doctor go above and beyond these days. It’s even better when this doctor is also a damn good doctor, respected by the nursing staff, and liked by everyone up there, and he treats me like a person with a brain. I’m taking a good look at myself to see what he can take out next! 

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I lost a very dear friend to cancer yesterday. I knew it was coming, and I knew he was in a bad way, but in my heart I think I wanted him to beat this so badly that I convinced myself he could. He didn’t. 

Harold was one of the first friends I ever remember making. Our last names always put us together in class, in line, where ever. In first grade, anytime we lined up for anything there was this little kid, knee high to a grasshopper, cracking himself up by calling me every “fart” name he could think of. I’d like to say that at a young age I was a lady and didn’t respond to such things, but I did. He cracked me up. I knew his home life was a bit rough, but I didn’t ask, and he didn’t offer anything up. I knew I missed him on the days he was gone. 

Years passed and we remained friends. Always friends no matter what. Eventually he opened up about his family a little and we trusted each other more and more as the time passed. Harold developed a crush on me, and for some reason put me high on a pedestal that I never deserved to be on. We never dated, though he was sure persistent, but instead remained tight in our friendship. I never wanted to lose that friendship we had because I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it. 

Harold was bullied, and  I was always fiercely protective over him, no one dared say anything derogatory about him around me. I had a couple friends that would insinuate that he was inappropriate in the way he would play with my hair when he sat behind me in class, or how he was always around, but I shut them down. My loyalty was always to our friendship and there was nothing inappropriate ever. He was persistent, like I said, but never uncomfortable. When your friendship starts out over fart jokes, can you ever REALLY be appropriate? 

Then he got sick.

 I never believed in treating him different because he was sick, in fact, I think it was comforting to him that I never treated him like he was going to break. There were some jerks who bullied him even more so because of this, which just added to his rough life. I stood up to them when I knew about it, but Harold was proud and much like his rough home life, he never let on. He went into the hospital to get a colostomy bag, not a fun thing for anyone, let alone a teenage boy, but he never let on that anything bothered him. 

I went to visit him in the hospital and he happened to be in the same hospital that my dad had died in and on the same floor. It took every ounce of courage to go see him up there, but I had to. I still missed him on the days he was gone. 

Time went by and we lost touch for a few years. He got married, I got married, and as it turns out our paths nearly crossed many times in those lost years until one day I found him on face book. I searched, I stalked his old high school friends, and one day I found him. It was like nothing had changed except we were both married with kids. 

Then he got even more sick. This time it was cancer and it was bad. Stage three at first and then stage four. We talked a lot, nearly every day, about everything. Well almost everything. There was one subject we never broached.  He always had a good attitude and we joked about how our spouses should lemon law us both. He was so sick, yet always checked on me about my health, to see how I was feeling. We joked about how his friends who always posted uplifting comments and said how much they were praying for him must think I’m the unseemly one this time with my smart assed comments and crude jokes. We talked about his wife and daughter and how familiar their scenario was. I told him how I remember my mother taking care of my dad, my brother and I, and the company they started, but I always stopped short of how she had to pick up the pieces to carry on after he died. 
I had hopes of seeing him this weekend. We were going to be passing through town, but I couldn’t get ahold of him. It had been a few days and I was worried. It was not like him to not respond to me. I knew something was up. 

Right now my heart breaks for his family. You are not supposed to lose your husband while you’re still raising your children. You shouldn’t have to raise a young child alone, and your parents are supposed to be there to shape your formative years. I know better though. I know that as the little girl grows up, she will wonder what her dad thinks of not only her life choices, but the state of the world itself. I know the hole that will always be there and even though she will grow up and go on to have a happy life, in high school, college and eventually have a family of her own he will always be there. Her memories of her dad will fade, but hopefully she will remember who he was as a person, and what values he held dear. She will remember his humor and, like me, she will miss him on these days that he’s gone. 

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A Little Expansion

 When I started this blog it was to be about traveling and food, then it became more about food and a little of my personal opinions on humanity, (sorry about that) and now, because I’m the Madonna of food blogs, I’m reinventing myself again. Only instead of trying to fool myself into believing that I’m still 20, I’m trying to fool myself that I’m a gardener. 

Growing up, my mother always planted flower beds and a few tomato plants but I was never interested. In fact, I was far from it. I could never understand why anyone would want to be outside working up a sweat, when they could be inside watching TV. She always told me it’s her therapy, and I never understood until now. 

I finally get it…. Sort of. My mom makes flowing flower beds and plants native plants to enjoy while sitting outside. I get excited about timing when to plant okra and if I should give strawberries a go this year. She sinks a broken pot to make it look like flowers are tumbling out…. I sink a garbage can with holes drilled into it so I can compost my kitchen scraps. It’s basically the same thing. 

I rely on my farmer to grow most of my produce, and I still will, but now I have a bigger yard and can play more. I’ve tried to grow several things in the past, with no luck and with some luck, but now I can try many things at once! 

Studies show that people who spend time among plants have lower blood pressure …. Unless you get a squash bug infestation. I don’t have high blood pressure, but I do have anxiety, and I’m hopeful that focusing my attention on plants, being outside, and getting some exercise will help me with that. Plus, I’ll get tomatoes….. And zucchini, and bell peppers, and okra, oh and blueberries!  

Lucy is back there stalking my blueberry bush. Not for the berries, but for the fertilizer. I use a nasty bottle of compressed and liquified fish. It’s gross and not something you want to get on you, but she licks it up, then sticks her tongue in the baby’s mouth. …. Excuse me while I hurl. 

You are also seeing the herb garden the hubs made me. 

This has been a joint effort so far with Doug doing the lion’s share so far. He’s built the herb garden, built the beds, hauled the dirt, planted the trees, dug the holes for the compost bins, and it’s all for vegetables that I make him eat against his will. My mom has also helped; I had my gallbladder removed and was not allowed to lift anything. She is obviously a glutton for punishment, and had been over every day for two weeks to help me take care of the kids.  She also spread the dirt in three of the beds, lots of dirt, heavy dirt,  because I can’t lift anything over 10 lbs. 

So as of right now I have tomatoes, bell peppers, zukes, cukes, green beans, herbs, blueberries, plums and some kind of orange tree planted. I have several beds and endless options ahead of me. All I need is good dirt to fill in my other three beds! 

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