Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

Coming Up For Air, or Finding Balance in 2017 Update

You’ll remember that I headed into 2017 hoping for a better experience than what I had going on at the end of 2016 (read the original post HERE if you missed it…) and armed with a plan to make it happen. Either I did a really good job of implementing the plan or I’m getting really good at juggling all the things in my life now. (Jury is still out on that one…) Things do feel better and I’m seeing positive results in my stress levels. I’m here to share some insights if you want all my secrets. Why are you reading my blog if it isn’t to get my secrets, right? *wink*

My powers of saying NO and delegating everything I can are becoming well-honed skills. This is still not always easy for me. I always wish I was doing the things that I am missing out on when I know others are enjoying them without me, thanks to my raging case of “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out). But practice makes everything easier. When I didn’t die after not participating in every author event that was available to me the last six months, I realized I could survive. I also realized that when a person is found with the right skills to hand off something successfully, they are an invaluable find. I have so many people around me who are rocking things that I’ve given them, and making my life easier in the process. If you’re one of these – you know who you are – thank you!

My efforts to break the constant draw of being connected to social media is still a daily struggle. However, limiting the times and ways I get notified of things on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter has been amazing. We all know I’m addicted so it isn’t like I’m not going to check in on social media whenever I have down time (like the end of the day, whenever I’m on public transit, at lunch, etc.) so I’m not missing things. The difference now is that I’m not distracted by notifications that pop up and interrupt whatever else I’m focused on. Seriously, if you are getting these kinds of notifications outside of the social media site itself you may not even realize how disruptive they are until you turn them off.

The best part of all of these efforts is the amount of writing I’m doing again – even while maintaining a 3.9 GPA and consistently hitting the President’s List at SNHU. I’ve written two short stories that I’m extremely proud of, POETRY that I’ve never been inspired to write but now do, and I’m working on my novel consistently. It’s funny how everything I do looks the same to observers – me, sitting in front of a laptop in various places around the house. Is she doing homework? Working on League business? Messing around on social media? I didn’t realize this until I was sharing with my hubby how great it was to be almost to the 70K mark on the novel and getting toward the ending. He was surprised to hear that I was even writing. His assumption that I was always swamped with coursework (or distracted by Facebook) was eye-opening. Nope, I’m doing ALL the things now that I have arranged my life for better effectiveness.

None of these things are new insights, I was already seeing some success by the time I originally blogged about them. What is fabulous to know is that now they are habits rather than merely new and promising. Sustainable behaviors are always more effective for long-term results. What steps are you taking to increase your success?


Living vs. Surviving

Survival is one of those instinctual things. Most people find a way to do it every day without thinking about it. Some are more resilient than others and some take more effort to grab at the bootstraps before pulling themselves up by them. My most recent epiphany is that there is a difference between living and merely surviving day to day. Sometimes, you don’t realize you’ve slipped into survival mode and assume you’re still in the land of the living.

For safety reasons, I’ve been intentionally quiet in the public domain about how for years Hubby has worked a night shift job. Eight years, in fact. The first four years it was only every other month, which made it seem far less invasive on our everyday living arrangements. Shift work being what it is, we’d get completely fed up with being ships crossing twice a day to hand off parenting responsibilities. Usually right about that time he’d rotate and get a month of reprieve on the day shift. Four years ago, when the economy took a downward plunge for the entire country, his company had layoffs. We felt lucky – even grateful – at the time. Even though he had the least seniority, they chose to keep him on. But part of that meant there wasn’t an extra day shift to switch off the schedule with and he had to be on dedicated night shift. Six PM to six AM, four days a week.

We had a baby, but we had an amazing nanny with a flexible schedule which made it easy to roll with the punches. We had an older kid with a full dance card, pun intended, but we could still manage. I took on the role of single parent during the week and was grateful that Daddy was home all afternoon for quality one-on-one time with the kids after he woke up. We all had to figure out how to be extremely quiet inside the house at all hours of the day because “Daddy is sleeping”. As the years wore on, slowly our nerves started fraying. We didn’t notice, it was just how life was. And one day we knew it would get better. It had to.

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We combated the separation of schedules by setting aside one night a week devoted, without fail, to family night. Vacations became about reconnecting with each other rather than just relaxing and seeing new places. Night shift and the accompanied sleep deprivation ate away at all the normalcy of life as we knew it. Did you know there are studies about nurses who work the night shift that prove it takes years off of your life? As you might expect, the stress of attempting to maintain a normal life started to eat away at both of us. One day, I realized this wasn’t a life we were living but one we were merely surviving; and immediately started planning for a way out.

Planning, after all, is what I do.

Those plans have paid off with a switch to day shift and a new job. The results were immediate in the level of happiness and relief that washed over the entire family. Having Daddy home at night, instead of kissing him goodbye just as Mommy got home from work, is so much better for the girls. Getting to sleep at the same time all week long without one of us either having to stay up super late or go to bed super early is a novelty I didn’t realize I’d taken so for granted before. A full night of sleep, at night, when the rest of the world is asleep, and your body is programmed to do it, makes a huge difference for health and happiness that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of surviving instead of living. Even me, the girl who is so focused on making every day count, found myself there. Another cautionary tale about how important it is to stop once in a while and take stock of your life. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”


Baby steps to achieving goals

My health has settled down a bit lately – still in remission from kidney disease, manageable medications with minimal side effects, still working on clearing my lungs of the last of the blood clots that are holding on for dear life. Most days, life is good and I almost forget that I have a chronic illness that will never be cured. But there is this one reminder that, by stark contrast, shows me daily how my fitness has suffered in light of these struggles. I can’t run a mile anymore, let alone thirteen of them. Hell, it’s hard to walk briskly for long periods of time right now. It is frustrating to look back on where I was – running Ragnars and half marathons and averaging twenty miles a week – and compare it with where I am now.

I know everything is relative. I do. I acknowledge every day that I get to live is a day I may not have had at one point and I’m happy. But that’s on a very basic level rooted in survival. I’m talking about the stuff of living.

How did I get here? On a viscous cycle of cause and effect. I survived the pulmonary embolism because I was a runner and had excellent lung and cardiac capacity. But once I couldn’t run, I lost that all very quickly. Now that I’m in remission, I’m carrying around extra weight – both from the water retention associated with kidneys that don’t work all that perfectly and the lack of running I’ve been capable of for the past year. Because I haven’t been able to run, my cardio and lung capacity has dwindled to where I can barely walk a quarter mile quickly before I’m sucking wind and my chest and lungs hurt from the blood clots.

Not going to lie, this cycle has had me frustrated and down the past few months. Which does not help motivate me to change anything about it.

This week I decided it was time to stop living in the past and lamenting all that I’ve lost in the fitness aspect of my life. Sure I have to start from the beginning as if none of the hard work I put in to get where I was at the peak of my game ever happened, but that’s not the end of the world. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. There are different hurdles this time around. I have two kids who are active with extra curricular activities, my job is insane, I’m writing like never before and I’m older (and have a kidney disease) with dwindling energy and endurance. I could wallow at how hard all that makes it to work out on a consistent basis or I can get creative.

Today showed me the possibilities of the creative path with several baby steps toward new habits. I still practice yoga twice a week – most weeks – and I’ve committed to challenging myself more to get out of my comfort zone. I am still sore from my practice two days ago so that has proven a positive step. At work, where I used to work out religiously for an hour in the afternoons, I barely have time for a lunch break that doesn’t involve grabbing food and snarfing it down at my desk while I multitask sometimes multiple meetings. Today my counterpart and I ended up having a meeting on the treadmills. It wasn’t planned that way, but we decided to go for a quick break and ended up brainstorming issues while we walked. In the end, it was a meeting rather than a break and I still got to be active. She pushed me to staying on the treadmill for twenty minutes – her minimum. From now on, I’ll suggest a treadmill meeting any time possible. After work, Baby Sister had her tennis lesson where, instead of sitting on the grass with her BFF’s mom chatting for an hour, we both brought our rackets and played tennis in an adjoining court. Both of us used to play but hadn’t held a racket for years – almost twenty for me. We sucked but by the end of the hour we were successfully returning. She played competitively, me recreationally. She got her skills back quickly – including a serve. Mine will take some time but my body is remembering how it feels to play and how fun it was.

I felt energized and fulfilled at the end of the day. It hadn’t taken any effort to increase my activity level almost double (as measured by my fitness tracker in the form of daily steps). The momentum of taking small steps toward a goal, however lofty, should not be taken for granted.


Back on the roller coaster – why my kidneys can kiss my a$$

It was December 2014 and I was looking forward to getting off all of my medications after a year of remission under my belt. I gleefully said goodbye to immuno-suppression drugs mid January and hoped never to look back. But the Universe is a nasty bitch and it appears I do not get my wish. Within two weeks my symptoms returned and I had to start back on maintenance drugs. Drugs which I have had to increase the dose of already hoping it works. Today my doctor laid the ground work for the potential of going back on immuno-suppression if the higher dose doesn’t keep things at bay.

I know it could be so much worse. I could be looking at chemotherapy (which she still has on the back burner just waiting for me, I fear!). I could be in renal failure looking for a transplant or facing dialysis. Instead, I’m taking a drug that has only one side effect of lowered blood pressure and won’t damage anything if I take it forever. But I’m back to living with the roller coaster of sodium restrictions, fluid restrictions (bye bye proper hydration, it felt amazing while it lasted!) and daily water weight insanity where I gain a pound a day of water until my clothes don’t fit and then take damaging diuretics for a couple of days and start the cycle all over again. I love roller coasters but this one I could do without, thanks.

People, do not take your kidneys for granted. While I’d like to tell mine to kiss my ass on a daily basis, I really would be happy if they just worked the right way every day. Can’t we all just get along inside this body of mine? It’s been two years since I’ve eaten meat (well, there was that one indulgence, but it was only a bite!), I’m a pseudo vegan who just eats cheese and butter occasionally, and I don’t eat eggs or shellfish except on extremely rare occasions. Why is that not enough? Because I’d probably have nothing to bitch about if everything worked fine, right? I can’t imagine the shape I’d be in if I wasn’t willing to go to such extremes to take care of my body the best way possible. And I can’t help but be envious of others in my gene pool who couldn’t care less about what they eat or drink and still have perfect numbers in their blood work. You know who you are. And yes, I secretly loathe you for your perfectly working kidneys that I’d give almost anything for.

If you need me, I’ll probably be asking a million questions at every meal that I don’t prepare myself to insure I’m meeting with all my dietary restrictions, or doing yoga so I don’t lose what’s left of my mind. Oh, and writing. I’ll still be writing!


The Reluctant Vegan and Her Sweet Rewards

Three months ago my doctor dropped her latest dietary restriction bombshell: no more animal products at all. Yep, after a year of vegetarianism I had to shift to being vegan. I fought it – tooth and nail – because: dairy. I’d already cut out most of the eggs I ate and all of the shellfish because of their high cholesterol content. But can you fathom a life without butter, or yogurt, or cottage cheese? Or baked goods made with eggs? Yeah, me neither.

As is my nature, I argued with her about why this extreme measure was necessary. My timid, soft-spoken doctor threw the most solid argument there was right back at me. “Your cholesterol is too high and you’re the one who tells me you want to do things naturally without drugs. This is the only way.” Our relationship over the last couple of years has been one filled with negotiation and partnership – aspects I feel necessary for proper treatment but which I fear are rare to find. Over the course of the appointment we came to the following negotiated deal: if I changed my diet and improved my cholesterol numbers she would consider a faster weaning process for the immunosuppression drugs that I can’t wait to stop taking. I’d been focusing on getting through every day of that drug with the mantra “December” repeated over and over. To hear in September that the long-anticipated December didn’t mean what I thought it meant but rather the start of a six month process of lower doses, I was ready to explode with frustration.

I was a woman on a mission. A vegan mission. I read the book she recommended and felt a little better prepared for this difficult and extreme lifestyle. And was happy that it wasn’t what I think of as nazi vegan that she was ordering – where if there is even a hint of butter or eggs involved in the making of a dish you have to reject it – but rather 90% of total calories from plant sources.

And so began the three hardest months ever in terms of eating. I gained weight because more often it was easier to eat nothing at all than try and figure out something that worked, which resulted in the evolutionary response of retaining everything because we’re in a famine. When I did find something that was allowed, it usually was an overabundance of carbs with a side of more carbs. It was hard not to be dejected about food every day. Eating out was a chore and even my patient and supportive husband got frustrated with my attitude on many occasions of attempting to eat out together when I’d pour over the menu only to declare “there’s nothing I can eat here”.

The last month has been like the last stretch of the longest race in history forcing myself to eat within guidelines until I could get my blood work done. Frankly I was convinced I wouldn’t see enough of an improvement to justify this insanity and was willing to succumb to the dreaded addition of cholesterol medication so I could go back to “just” being a vegetarian. God what I wouldn’t give to be able to eat fish again!

And then I saw my numbers…

Triglycerides down 100 points! Total cholesterol down 50 points! An improvement in every category – even when I didn’t eat anywhere near the pristine goals I had been given. (Have you tried to eat every single meal of vegetables when you only shop for groceries once a week? You have to buy in such large quantities and then they spoil before you can eat them so you end up wasting far too much. First-world problems, I know.) Staring at the data that didn’t lie, I couldn’t decide if I was happy or mad. I was beyond ecstatic that my efforts had produced such drastic changes in my blood work. But that also cemented the need and the validity of this damn vegan lifestyle that I don’t want to maintain.

This morning was my appointment with my doctor. Given the success of my efforts from the last three months, I had spent the last two days gearing up for my latest negotiation – being done with immunosuppression. I even skipped taking my morning dose in hopes she would agree and I’d never have to take the damn thing ever again. As it usually happens, I didn’t get exactly what I wanted but somewhere in the middle. We talked about how hard it is to eat well-rounded meals and the drawbacks of being vegan. To my surprise she said she agreed that fish once in a while if I maintained the lack of milk and eggs would be okay. As for the immunosuppressant, instead of a lower dose for three months and then more blood work that she wanted, or the stop taking any of it today that I wanted, we compromised on a half dose for one month and then bi-weekly blood tests for two months to monitor closely whether I stay in remission. It means I don’t have to refill that prescription ever again. What it will cost me out of pocket for lab work after my high deductible resets next month will be more than worth it.

So, I remain a reluctant vegan who does eat fish on occasion and dairy only rarely. Things could definitely be worse! It is hard to believe I’m nearing the very end of this crazy bout of kidney disease. *knock on wood* I hope my kidneys have been fooled into forgetting they have anything wrong with them and remain forgetful long after I stop taking the drugs that created the forgetfulness in the first place. Four more weeks and the real question of what my life looks like long-term can be answered. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some tuna to eat!


Life without judgement

It has been almost two years since my brush with death changed everything about how I live my life. The difference in myself was very stark this past weekend at the annual family reunion with my mom’s extended family. All the cousins who were my best friends growing up – and still are – plus their spouses and kids all gather at a resort with a water park and spend the weekend playing in the sun together. It is always a blast and I always have a fabulous time but usually it is accompanied with lots of internal stress and dialogue about having to be in a bathing suit around others who are more “-er” than me… younger, thinner, prettier. You get the picture.

This year was different. This year I never once looked in the mirror with a critical eye – or at all come to think about it. Nor did I constantly look for strategic ways of sitting so I looked better (as if that way even exists since your body is your body regardless of how you sit). I just had fun with my kids without a care in the world. No cover-up included!

We spent hours – literally – walking back up the hill and the stairs to the top of the water slides, all the adults taking turns sliding with all the different kids – my own, my nieces and nephews and my cousin’s kids whatever they would be called in the genealogical sense. Several times I thought with gratitude about how far I’d come in a year – from being physically incapable of it to rocking all the cardio without losing my breath in the process.

It made me think about all the people I’d ever compared myself to in the past to make myself feel better and wonder what things they could say they had overcome to just be where they were. Kind of humbling when you think about it…

A month ago I had my yoga world rocked to the very foundation. Weeks later, I’m still discovering things in my practice that are transforming and growing from that one ah-ha moment when I realized that I don’t use my entire foot for anything. It occurred to me this morning, while my 147 pound yoga instructor sat on my sacrum to illustrate how to stretch my straddle deeper, that if you’d told me three years ago that yoga could still be fresh and new every week that I wouldn’t have believed a word. And that the old Terra might have given up after that ah-ha moment because the inner voice would have convinced me that I was no good at yoga. Instead I’ve left all expectations of everything at the door and find joy in the newness of re-learning every pose differently. As I always say, yoga is a journey not a destination. I’m consciously having to take my own advice not to judge myself against anything – including myself from four weeks ago when I never used my heels. Now I know how people can practice yoga for a lifetime and I love how every trip to the mat brings new insights about myself – all because I leave the judgement out of it.

The biggest hope I have is that my girls will see me just as their mom and remember only how much fun they had doing things with me. I already know they don’t see me as I see myself. Once I called myself fat and my oldest looked at me funny and said “you’re not fat, Mom.” Which stopped me in my tracks. If you haven’t read this article about When Your Mother Says She’s Fat , or watched this ad about doing things “like a girl”, check them out. They both helped me see where I was my own worst enemy in putting myself down because I didn’t measure up in the areas society focuses on.

In the grand scheme of things it is more important to live every moment regardless of how we feel about ourselves – especially when faced with the reality that every day might be your last. If you wait to enjoy life until you’ve lost that last 20 pounds (or fill in the blank with your own demons) it might be too late to make the memories you are putting off. Your kids could be too old, you could be too old, or the opportunities could have passed you by. Make every moment of every day count, no matter what. And leave the judgement out of it!


Hamstrings: my blessing and now my curse

One of my favorite sayings when it comes to yoga is “you do yoga with the body you brought, not the body you want”. It really sums up the mindset of there is only now and you shouldn’t put off doing yoga (or anything) until some future date when you {insert your personal demon to overcome here}. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they ‘need to lose weight’ before they start yoga or that they can’t do yoga ‘because they aren’t flexible’. It’s like saying I’ll start living my life when I think I’m good enough to do everything I might ever want to do. I love saying that yoga is a journey not a destination because you start on a journey and end up someplace different. You don’t do yoga because you’re flexible, you do yoga to gain flexibility. Anyway, stepping of my yoga soapbox and getting back on topic…

Another truth about yoga that most people don’t know is that everyone has something they are naturally good at and it’s different for everyone. From flexible shoulders, innate upper body strength, open hips to stretchy hamstrings, we all have something we are good at without having to work for it. My blessing is super flexible hamstrings. I can bend over and lay my palms flat on the mat without having to warm up or bend my knees. My first down dog of every practice is all it takes to get my heels flat on the mat. My tall and lanky yoga instructor still can’t ever get her heels flat in down dog after more than ten years of teaching. It is just how I’m made. Some might argue it is because I’m short and squat. I’m okay with that being the reason since I like the side effect regardless of how or why it happened.

Two weeks ago, I was blissfully enjoying a seated straddle stretch… picture sitting on your butt with your legs straight and both spread wide, bent over at the waist trying to lay your head on the mat between them. And yes, blissful for me since I always feel accomplished when I can go a little further toward the mat thanks to my hamstrings. And all of a sudden I heard and felt a pop in my upper left leg right under my butt. I ignored it as I have a habit of doing and two days later did my epic one hundred and eight sun salutations to celebrate the solstice. I haven’t been the same since.

I took it easy for a week when it was clear I had actually done something to myself. How did I know? I could barely bend at the waist without pain, forget about touching the floor. I even went in for some therapy a week ago with my amazing sister in law. It helped so much that I assumed I was all better. But, this morning I was back to being limited in what I could do.

This is where most people would be disappointed and unhappy that they can’t do whatever they want but I saw things differently this morning. Subconsiously I must have known I wasn’t one hundred percent because when it was time to set our intention for the morning’s practice I decided to focus on just being on the mat and okay with whatever showed up there without judgement. When I had to step out of a pose because it hurt, I just listened and did what my body was telling me rather than pushing through it. When I could have gotten all up in my head about how I could barely bend over in standing straddle stretch when I can usually put my head on the mat, I just did what I could and didn’t push it.

Here’s the bottom line since I’ve been thinking about it all day… I’m injured, yes, and will have to take it easy for a while. But that means I’ve come full circle with my health and fitness and am capable of doing things full out where there is always risk of injury. A year ago yoga was something I did to keep myself sane while dealing with lots of stress associated with a new chronic disease. Now, it is a lifestyle and a way to challenge myself physically as well as emotionally.  I’m choosing to look at this injury as a new challenge and a positive indication of how far I’ve come in my quest back to fit. What a wild journey it has been. And even injured, I still love my hamstrings!


Small Steps

One of the things I’ve learned on my fitness journey is: you can’t change everything all at once and hope to be successful. You can try, but usually all the changes are so overwhelming that you’re left with frustration and disappointment when you can’t meet all your goals. And when that happens you just give up. Instead, deciding to change one thing or committing to add one thing at a time to your routine until it is a habit yields far better and lasting results.  Struggle with making poor food choices? Take it a meal at a time. Want to exercise more? Add one thing at a time with small goals that increase over time. Never worked out before? Just start moving more and then try a lot of different things until you find what you like to do.

Personally, I love looking back at where I’ve been and where I am now and seeing a huge difference. My own journey was more of an evolution than a radical change in my daily activities. Remember three years ago when I decided I liked running and then I had run a half marathon and three Ragnar relays within the span of two years? It all started with getting off the couch and walking until I could run and then systematically increasing how much running I did until I was capable of whatever I wanted. The same has been true of yoga. A year ago I “liked” yoga but didn’t practice more than once or twice a year. Sure I loved it when I did it but it wasn’t a weekly or even monthly habit. Now I practice four times a week – sometimes more – and am capable of so many things that I thought I would never be able to do like back bends, splits, arm balances and (almost) a headstand.

As much as I have loved my journey, until now I have not had the best of both worlds. I started my weekly yoga practice only a few months before I had to completely give up running because of my health issues. Yoga kept me sane and grounded (and active) while I couldn’t run and in the process I realized I loved yoga more than I ever had loved running. Or so I thought. Now my health is pretty much back to normal and I have been talking about adding running back in purely for the cardiovascular benefits. After a year of not running, I’ve completely gotten out of the habit; not to mention lost all my cardio capacity I had developed. Plus I have two kids with dance schedules now so juggling WHEN to run has gotten harder. I let that hard part stop me for a few weeks and finally decided that I just needed to do it. After all, the longer I waited the harder it was going to be to get back to where I was before I had to quit.

Yesterday, I went for a 3-mile walk/run (which was way more walking than anything) like I used to do every Sunday. I took my trusty running companion with me – my beloved elkhound – and picked a familiar route I used to run regularly. It starts with a challenging uphill and finishes with a rewarding downhill. It was amazing to be outside in the sunshine in my favorite running temperature (between 36-40 degrees). But what I didn’t expect was the emotional response when I rounded the bend to start the downhill. The vista of the Salt Lake valley and the Rocky Mountains rising in the distance hit me – almost physically. I have trained with that view of my mountains for every long-distance race I’ve ever run. I was home again whether I was running or walking. Most surprisingly, I hadn’t realized just how much I missed it until I was back. Not going to lie, I cried most of the way down the hill – almost a mile – but they were truly tears of joy.

Whether I can fit more than a Sunday run into my fitness routine right now doesn’t matter. Sundays are again run days. And once that has become a habit, I’ll tackle finding another established time for an additional run. Will it be the gym, at work, during the evenings or early mornings? I don’t know yet. I just know that small steps will eventually get me to my goal like every other time before. Maybe someday soon my personal label of “Writer, Runner, Overachiever” will be completely true once again.


Big Joy in a Small Package

It’s no secret I’m obsessed with yoga. And as is my standard operating procedure when it comes to addictions, I have jumped full in. Teaching yoga once a week at work was not enough – just like running wasn’t enough and I had to run a half marathon six months after I started running. I’ve added a second class every week now. For Christmas, Hubby asked me what I wanted. Sheepishly I told him that I really only wanted one thing – to selfishly spend more than my fair share of our extra money to get certified as a yoga instructor. Because he is an amazing man, he agreed.

So, January first I embarked on the next big adventure and started an online course. I had insane expectations that just because it was an affordable and self-paced option that it would be easy. I was wrong. I thought it would take me a few days – weeks at most – to read through the course material and then easily pass a test. Guess what, it is hard core with Sanskrit names instead of the “common” English names I am used to using for all the poses. On top of that, because you can use this certification to get hired to teach yoga in a gym environment, it also comes with lots of things like how to calculate fitness stuff – some of which I had never even heard of more than in passing and certainly never used. Arterio-venous oxygen difference? Calculating heart rate ranges? I’m studying muscles and bones and parts of the body I never considered important to my yoga practice that are hugely important as an instructor when you’re responsible for other people’s yoga practice. The part of me that wanted to skip ahead through the fitness stuff and the muscle stuff to “the good yoga stuff” was getting frustrated… until yesterday.

First some background…

Most of the people who attend my classes at work regularly are new to yoga and have only taken my class. But there are a couple of exceptions. One of which is a cute lady who does Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is an entirely crazy (to me anyway) form of yoga. They do the exact same sequence of twenty six poses in a room heated to one hundred nine degrees and it lasts an hour and a half. It is like hot yoga at my gym on steroids. My Bikram Girl (as I thought of her in my head until I cemented her name in my brain) was doing her form of yoga multiple times a week for years. Of course I felt intimidated because she knew what she was doing and would definitely know how unprofessional and not like a “real” yoga instructor I was merely by comparison. After a few weeks I got over that and we are friends now who chat about yoga all the time. She is a prime example of my favorite yoga saying that “everyone does yoga with the body they brought, not the body they want”. Everyone has their own things they are good at. Some people (like me) have super stretchy hamstrings and have no problem touching their toes. Others have super stretchy backs and shoulders, others hips, others have great cores and others have great upper body. The point being that there is never a pose that someone doesn’t either love or hate when we do it based on what things come easy to everyone. My Bikram Girl is tiny and lean but struggles with her hips that are not flexible and thus can’t touch her toes.

Fast forward to yesterday in class. I had thrown together kind of an intense class full of hamstring opening and stretching and lots of leg work. We were cooling down and stretching and suddenly she exclaims from the back of the room “I can touch my toes!” You could feel the excitement in her voice and I looked up to see her looking wildly from one neighbor to the next showing them that she could touch her toes and saying it had been years since she could do that. The joy radiated from her like a ray of sunshine. It was so awesome that I almost started crying and had to drop my head back down to my knee to compose myself.

I did that – not her Bikram yoga, me. You could argue that it might have been a combination but really, if she was going to make a breakthrough like that with Bikram alone it would have happened a year ago when she was practicing three to five times a week. The difference now is that she only occasionally gets to Bikram and is *also* taking my class doing poses they don’t do in Bikram. See, me!

Is it any wonder that as I left work yesterday I found myself thinking that the vision of my perfect life was not a nine to five job but rather teaching yoga and writing full time? Someday maybe that will be my reality. But first I have to drag myself through my yoga certification. If you need me, I’ll be studying, because that one little moment of joy, which I might have missed if I hadn’t been paying attention, was worth all the anatomy, fitness jargon and Sanskrit I never thought I was going to have to learn.


Celebrating non scale victories

I’ve talked before about how the number on the scale is just that – a number. And my favorite proof of how my fitness level and body are improving is in how my pants fit. I follow a fitness blogger on Facebook who calls these things ‘non scale victories’ and talks about how important they are to celebrate.

I feel like my head was removed from my ass a fog has lifted now that my attitude about my health is back to a normal and healthy one. I’ve returned from the brink where I wallowed in crap I can’t change and am focused again on being fit and healthy; measuring my successes rather than just surviving every day. My routine for years has been to track scale weight as well as measurements so I can go back and compare progress and where I was at each different point in my weight loss and fitness journey. Probably no surprise that I haven’t done measurements in well over a year. I struggled with massive water retention and swelling in the beginning of all my kidney issues and didn’t really want to see the stark numbers of how all my efforts had been negated. I could feel it in the pants and knew how bad it was.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to suck it up and do measurements. If nothing else they could serve as a brand new starting point where I couldn’t go anywhere except up from. Interestingly enough, I’m actually the same size I was right before I ran my last Ragnar over a year and a half ago. Really?! Another reason I love yoga! Without even realizing it I’ve lost all that extra nasty swelling and water weight and kept it off even without running for a year.

Already feeling pretty good about myself, a few days ago I was enjoying the crispness of a fall afternoon and needed a hoodie. I hadn’t done laundry and there weren’t many options available in the closet. Then I noticed this adorable, maroon, lightweight hoodie hanging there, beckoning me. I’d forgotten all about this beauty. I bought it to commemorate my last Ragnar – me and the rest of the thousands since they were out of my size. At the time I was determined not to need the bigger size ever again so I bought the smaller size and told myself it would be great motivation. Because I had so recently been surprised, I pulled it out on a whim and put it on.

Holy shit, it fits!!!

I danced around in my closet jumping in joy and excitement for a good minute – then looked in the mirror to survey just how well it fit. That little bitchy voice in the back of my head was saying ‘just because you can zip it up doesn’t mean it is worthy of leaving this closet’. But it looked great and I wore that thing for two days loving every minute of knowing it was a victory just to feel confident enough to leave the closet.

I’ve decided these non scale victories are even sweeter than the number on the scale getting smaller. After all, no one but me gets to know or see that number but everyone can see how cute I look in my hoodie! Here’s to more victories in the near future. And if you aren’t looking for ways to celebrate progress, start noticing. It is far easier to stay motivated to do the hard work of being healthy when you are seeing positive results no matter how small.


Today in other news

I just had the best weekend! I’m not sure if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy I’m living through or just a random coincidence but I’m feeling so great. Like I-almost-forgot-how-normal-life-feels great. Being present in every moment is a big theme for me now both because my brush with death put a different value on each moment there is and because there is so much about being present in the moment when practicing yoga. When a pose gets hard, you focus on just your breathing and let everything go while your muscles scream and that little voice in your head tells you it is time to be done with this pose thank you very much. Because of my awareness I find it easy to see trends within my own experience especially when they start to shift.

My amazing weekend started Friday night. I’m not sure if it was partly due to the large quantities of coffee I consumed Friday or just how good I felt but we watched two movies late in the evening and I only fell asleep halfway through the last one because it sucked and it was after one in the morning. I had to get up early for a blood draw Saturday so why force it for a lame movie?

Saturday I had some alone time while Hubby took the girls on a little Daddy-Daughter adventure and I filled it with shopping for groceries which morphed into deep cleaning my refrigerator before I could put things away. This was one of those chores that easily has fallen for the last year under the category of ‘beyond the daily necessity’ and therefore largely and very effectively ignored. As a result, I had all these random things that had accumulated on the rear half of most of the shelves with no room for the basics that come and go on a weekly rotation. How many open and half-used taco sauce bottles or jars of jam does one person need? And why can’t they sell plum sauce in single-use size jars since that’s the only size I am ever going to need? It felt so good to do something I know I wouldn’t have had the energy for just a week ago and still feel like I could keep going.

All of these little things were nice but still kind of UN-noteworthy until Sunday morning rolled around. Even though I’d worked hard all day and was up late Saturday night to pick Big Sister up from a late birthday party, I woke up early. The first thought in my head was about going for a run walk and wondering if it was raining or if I had time to squeeze it in with everything planned for the day. I haven’t awoken with thoughts about running in any form since probably January! Unfortunately it was pouring rain so I decided coffee was a better choice. But the fact that the thought was there was noteworthy.

Sunday’s to-do list included two things and two things only: 1) Clean the house; and 2) Big Sister’s Birthday Party. What this translates to is do all the dishes not just the ones that fit into the dishwasher, clear off all the crap that accumulates on the kitchen table over the course of the days and weeks of comings and goings and vacuum the floors if I have the energy so that my family and friends don’t know how truly slacker I am when it comes to housework lately. What actually transpired was iconic. I ended up deep cleaning the kitchen including the dreaded top of the refrigerator and moving, cleaning and de-cluttering half of the place. Things that hadn’t been touched let alone cleaned in months were discarded and others found new homes since they are no longer used regularly. But I didn’t stop there. I had so much energy and felt like I was still on such a roll that I not only vacuumed, I MOPPED the floors. And not just the high traffic areas! I moved all the furniture and rugs and everything out. Something I haven’t done full on in more months than I care to admit in public. When the party started I looked back on the fact that I had gotten up early, hadn’t sat down for more than twenty minutes for that one cup of coffee first thing and still felt like hanging out and chatting with all our family and friends well into the night.

It wasn’t just a fluke either… Today, I got up for my six AM yoga class like normal and then decided to do some upper body work with dumb bells while I was multi-tasking on a conference call this afternoon. That’s two work-outs today before working hours were done. I haven’t felt ambitious or energetic enough for that since before the Las Vegas Ragnar  in 2011 when I was running and lifting weights six days a week!

One could argue that none of these things by themselves are earth-shattering or even truly significant. But for me they add up to proof I’m feeling better and headed back to the land of living, fit people. What kind of things do you do everyday that give you the same sense of being alive and well or do you even notice these kinds of things? If you don’t find yourself present in every moment of your day, you really should try it. You’d be amazed at what you can see when you’re looking…


Being Healthy

First, an update on my pity party pit stop. It is over… so don’t worry that I’m spiraling slowly downward into the depths of despair which my melodramatic last post might have indicated. The lesson I’m choosing to take away from the past two weeks of roller coaster is that I should never never never blog when I start a new drug and am still trying to adjust and find the correct dose. I’m happy to report that this new medication is actually not that bad once my body got adjusted to it and it is already working since my protein loss is down again. We all know I’m not a patient woman – as if anyone needed more proof of it.

My joint pain is basically gone. Yippee! (I even found myself running up the stairs today!)
My headaches are a thing of the past. *knock on wood*
My stomach isn’t upset anymore. Hurray!
And because of all of the above, I’m in super spirits. But that is not enough…

I had a very powerful conversation the other night that got me thinking – ironically the same night I posted about my pity party. For almost a year I’ve focused on entirely the wrong things. I say “at least I didn’t die” as if my life is a bobbie prize to all of my experiences of late. I have been so hung up on all the things that have changed within my current reality instead of embracing all the amazing things I now have the opportunity to experience and accomplish. So I can’t run anymore, who cares! Keep reading, you’ll understand what I mean.

First reality check: I love yoga probably more than I ever loved running and if I were still running I wouldn’t have the yoga practice (or the friends) that I have because I would still be trying to do both. Do I want to add some cardio back into my fitness routine? Sure. But will my life be incomplete if I’m not a full-blown runner anymore? No! Sure I have to start all over with walking before running but I already know exactly how to do that. Bonus!

Second reality check: It was pointed out to me by a niece who I rarely see but interact with on Facebook that all my photos of the last year show me far more glowing and happy than I was before all my current health experiences started. Despite how I feel day to day, my life IS better because I’m focusing on the people and things that matter the most to me rather than doing all the things that I “should” be doing instead. I gained a very healthy way of prioritizing things in my life and embracing spontaneity because I did almost die, I just haven’t been thinking about things in the same way as I’ve been living. Instead I’ve been all up in my head dwelling on all the stuff I want to change which translates into exactly what I’m talking about here. Thoughts becoming actions and actions becoming habits as they say.

Nothing hit me in the face harder than when I ran into an old friend yesterday who I haven’t seen or had contact with for over a year. We hugged and she asked me how I’ve been. The first words out of my mouth were: “I’ve been better. I’ve got kidney disease.” Seriously, Terra? That’s how you want to sum up your life and boil your existence down into one sentence? It kind of hit me like a ton of bricks when I walked away and thought about how saying that changed the entire exchange. You can’t tell by looking at me that I have any issues going on. I have yet to miss work other than for doctor visits and the like. I’ve never been hospitalized except for one weekend afternoon I spent in the ER. And I could have said ‘I’m great!’ and still be telling the truth of my life right now. Why didn’t I? Words are powerful as they say. Especially true when they are the words that little voice is constantly saying inside your own head undermining everything.

So, with my body healing and marching down the road toward remission in the next two months, I’m going to get back to BE-ing. Being present in every moment and every thought rather than dwelling on the past or how things could have been different for me. The only thing constant in the Universe is Change after all. I’ve always lived with no regrets so why start now regretting things way beyond my control? Being healthy by living everyday as a fit person who does yoga all the time and who feels amazing because there are no more excuses to be the vegetarian I always wanted to be yet never had the courage to commit to. Life is a journey full of lessons to learn and experiences to have. No one gets to pick all the things that come along on their path. It is what we make of those experiences and the meaning we attach to everything that defines how life goes for us.

Another friend shared a quote on Facebook this morning: “People wait all week for Friday; all year for summer; all life for happiness.” I don’t know who said it but I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been waiting all year for health instead of celebrating how healthy I already am. I declare NO MORE and am living in the moment committed to loving my life to the fullest, being healthy and happy above all.


Vegetarianism and immunosuppression – oh my!

Lots has happened and I’m kind of torn about how to share it with everyone. Thus the sporadic nature of my blogging lately. If you’re reading solely to follow my journey with kidney disease you might be disappointed. I had an epiphany last week. I’ve always been a believer in positive thinking and that whatever you focus on will happen. It occurred to me that in my focusing on having kidney disease that I was defining myself in the negative light of being sick. That is over. From now on I’ll be focusing on things that I have to be grateful for and things that make me lucky.

With that being said, there are lots of changes lately in my health so here’s a list of bullet point facts that are true:

  1. My proteinuria got worse over the last three months.
  2. I got a second opinion and I didn’t like much about what the other doctor said.
  3. I became a vegetarian a little over a month ago – doctor’s orders.
  4. I started immuno-suppresant drugs a couple of weeks ago.

Its definitely been a month of adjusting but I’m still positive and I still feel great on a day to day basis which makes me super fortunate. Plus, I didn’t die which completely defines how I view my life these days. You only live once and when you almost die you start to live much more for the moment and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t or what you wish for.

Vegetarianism as been both harder and easier than I thought it would be. Easier because I don’t miss meat at all. I miss fish a tiny bit but I haven’t felt deprived or unhappy at all. Harder because it takes a whole lot more planning and strategy just to make regular meals happen. When you’ve always cooked, your habits of what you shop for and what you stock in the cupboard are pretty set and without much planning you know how to throw a meal together. When all your go-to habits include meat – and you have kids and a husband who don’t want to be vegetarian – it isn’t as easy. I found after the first week of cooking what I thought sounded good from recipes online and the kids wouldn’t eat any of it that if I include at least Big Sister in the process of recipe searching that there is a higher probability that she will eat it. And if Big Sister will eat it, Little Sister will likely follow. Another thing that is harder than I thought it would be is that if you are both vegetarian AND have to watch your sodium there are lots of recipes you can’t make. The best part of being vegetarian is how much better I feel. I’m still eating eggs and dairy and most of my protein has been from my favorite green veggies like broccoli and spinach, eggs, and my new favorite portabello mushrooms.

After six months of trying the least-invasive treatment options for my disease, it was clear it wasn’t being effective. It worked for a bit but then it didn’t. I’m super lucky in so many ways. First, that I am smart and live in the computer driven information super age. I Googled the SHIT out of treatment options knowing that a change was imminent after my second opinion. Second, that my doctor is willing to let me be a partner in my treatment decisions. The “recommended” treatment for what I have is a chemotherapy drug and a high dosage of steroids. I’m unsure why this is the recommended treatment when it comes with only a fifty percent success rate and gives you a fifty percent chance of getting bladder cancer or leukemia. Perhaps those odds are acceptable for “normal” kidney patients who are in their golden years but when I am only forty one, ‘later’ still has me in the prime of my life with my kids not even fully grown. No thanks. Together, we decided on a different plan that starts with an immunosuppressant drug with no cancer side-effects and no steroids. Plan B is in the wings as well and is a drug that works super well but is expensive so the insurance companies won’t approve it until you’ve tried something else. I’m not even going to start down that road since it’s an entirely different commentary on our healthcare system and will only piss me off if I get started.

So, there you have it. I’m also seeing positive changes in my body now that I’m doing yoga three to four times a week on a regular basis. The scale doesn’t show much difference by I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the proof is in the pants and mine are fitting better every week. I’ve got a very strong core – something I can honestly say I have NEVER had in my life before yoga. I’m loving the fall weather with cooler temperatures and am looking forward to starting my “Couch to 5K” training program so I can be a runner again. I miss feeling in cardiovascular shape and it is definitely time to get back to it. It’s been a full year since I’ve done any running and I know it will be like starting over rather than being a runner who took a few weeks off. I’ve lowered my expectations on how easy it is going to be. The best part is that I already know I’ve started from an even worse place than here with my fitness before and did a half marathon within six months. I’ve totally got this!

I’m also busy plotting my next novel. November approaches at breakneck speed after all.

In short, I didn’t die a year ago and now I’m busy living life to the fullest in the only way I know how – overachiever fashion where I do everything. Go big or go home, baby!