Category Archives: Healthy Lifestyle

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!

The proof is in the blood work

I did a little experiment this past month. There is something so appealing to testing a hypothesis that I find impossible to resist. After the initial scare of “I almost died” and it’s close cousin “I have kidney disease” were over and I’d settled into treatment, there was apparently not enough excitement in my life.

Here’s some background… My blood work has consistently been getting better and better and with standing orders for testing every two weeks, I could keep a very close eye on things. Last month when I saw my specialist she said I was doing well enough that I didn’t need such careful monitoring and changed my lab orders to once a month instead of every two weeks. Plus, I didn’t need to see her every month but every other month. Remember those essential oils I mentioned that I’d been taking? Well, they are really expensive – not all of them but the ones I needed, lucky me. And the more I researched the oils and supplements the more I wondered if just taking the company’s recommended daily supplements – which included basically the same oils I was taking individually everyday – would work just as well. Not only was there potential cost benefits if they did, but the convenience of pre-packaged supplements was far more appealing than the mess associated with putting drops of oil in a tiny little gelcap twice a day.

So, last month instead of reordering the Clove oil I was out of, I ordered the supplements instead and decided to test the theory that they were just as beneficial as what I’d been doing.

A month later, my skin is clearer, my colon is cleaner and my energy levels are back up into the normal range. I’m super happy with the supplements and will continue taking them for sure because of the benefits to my overall health. But what about my specific health concern?

Yesterday was my monthly lab work. And this morning I saw my test results. Disappointingly, my steady decline in the proteinuria I’ve been enjoying was not there. Instead it was up – almost double – from the level it was last month.

I’m not sure how I feel about this…

On the one hand, I am now determined to start taking the individual oils again like before and see if my hypothesis is correct next month when I expect to see a better result than this month. The excitement of a provable theory exhilarates me. On the other hand, I’m kind of irritated that my idea to save money and get the same benefits from the essential oils through the supplements rather than individual oils is out the window. Now I either have to give up taking the daily supplements or be okay with spending even more money than I was before to do both. Talk about a backfire!

My brain is also trying to compute what else was different this month that could have contributed to the reverse in my trend. I’ve been eating healthier and basking daily in the joy of leafy green veggies that I can eat whenever I want again. I’ve ramped up my exercise with 4 days of regular yoga practice and just added lap swimming thanks to a brush-up-on-your-strokes-and-learn-how-to-kick-turn lesson from my daughter’s swim teacher.

Because I started out taking a half dose of the supplements which is recommended at first, my thirty-day supply has lasted me longer. So I’m going to continue taking the supplements and start back on the daily protocol of individual oils as before for the next 30 days. And then we’ll see what the lab work reveals next month.

Any bets on the results? And is anyone else as turned on by ACTUAL MEASURABLE DATA as I am?

If you want something done, do it yourself

I’m not sure if my overachiever tendencies stem from my OCD or if it’s the other way around (what came first, the chicken or the egg?) Regardless of how I came to be the way I am, I’ve always agreed with the statement that if you want something done right you should do it yourself.

I work for a healthcare organization and this year they have launched multiple programs to get us, the employees, to live healthier. They gave us all pedometers as part of our yearly employee gift. They have multiple contests and incentives to track your fitness activities. And they haven’t let up even though the year is more than half over which tells me they are really serious about getting us all healthier. We have a fitness center on site that hundreds of us pay monthly fees to use. I’ve heard other facilities within the organization have gotten permission to use part of those funds to pay for regular yoga instruction as a benefit to the fitness center users. And we all know how addicted I’ve become to yoga since I had to take a hiatus from running. So I started pushing for that to happen here. Months later I’m still getting the run around about how there’s no budget for that and blah blah blah.

Meanwhile, I do yoga in my cubicle every time my back hurts and sometimes that spills over into the aisle. A couple of weeks ago two of my co workers started talking about how they want to do yoga at work and how come we can’t have classes, etc. while I did a warrior series in the aisle and they marveled at how I could just do yoga wherever. The conversation came full circle to end with “Terra, why don’t you teach us?”

Hmmm.  Why don’t I?

Other than that very obvious reason that I’m not a certified yoga instructor aside, why couldn’t I? I practice yoga twice a week minimum and on occasion have even led my group practice when there are newer yogis in attendance.

So, in very overachiever fashion, I booked an auditorium that would hold us all and taught my first class yesterday. Everyone loved it so much that they begged and pleaded for it to be a weekly happening. My boss said okay and now I’m looking online at ways to get certified to teach yoga.

What an amazing journey life is when you open yourself up to wherever your whims take you without limiting your possibilities. If I hadn’t taken matters into my own hands we’d still be waiting around for other people to make regular yoga classes happen for us. Instead I’ve gotten a whole new group of people excited about yoga who talked all day about how sore they are and who can’t wait for next week. I love life and am still so glad I didn’t die!

Operation: Back to Fit

The last couple of weeks have been sort of an emotional roller coaster. I’m feeling back to normal day to day other than being tired and ready for bed by early evening yet now I am feeling the effects of my out of shape body and hating where I am currently with my fitness.

This morning I stepped on my Wii Fit. Although I haven’t been on it in almost two years, that little bastard hadn’t forgotten how much I used to weigh and took great pleasure in proclaiming that I now weigh thirty three more pounds than I did the last time I checked in. Thirty three. That’s a tough number to swallow for anyone I’m guessing. Because of my water retention side effect and it’s accompanying “diuretic dance” as I like to call it, I’ve been tracking my weight daily and have stabilized here for the last couple of weeks. Now that I can eat all the veggies and salad I want, it’s time to get back to my normal healthy eating which I know is one of the biggest pieces of my fitness that will be easy to see results with.

And then there is my exercise. I’ve been struggling to run again – or rather to find the will to run again. So much so that I kind of decided that maybe I wasn’t really going to be a runner anymore or at least for a little while until I can drop some of this extra weight. Running while you’re packing around an extra forty or fifty pounds is pretty painful and discouraging. But that left the question of what to do instead. I already know that whatever I’m doing I have to enjoy or else I won’t stick with it. Running and yoga are the only things I’ve ever tried that I loved and stuck with long term. After lots of brainstorming, I decided on swimming and cycling. I hear tons of people all around me touting the low-impact yet extreme cardio benefits of cycling but have never tried it and I have always loved to swim but never went to the gym to actually swim laps. It was worth a try…

I thought the Universe and the stars were aligning to point me in a solid direction toward cycling. I’ve got a friend who is selling a road bike who is the same height as me – apparently that determines the size of the bike that’s right for you. And, I’ve got another friend who is recommitting to fitness after a year of injury setbacks who is a cyclist. Knowing everything is better with a buddy, I thought it was a perfect fit to team up with her.

Last week was a fabulous week of torture and July 17th marked the inception of my current mindset which I like to think of as “Operation: Back to Fit”. Workout Buddy and I sat down Tuesday night and discussed our schedule and options and I mapped out a plan for the week:

     Monday: Yoga
     Tuesday: spin class/walking
     Wednesday: walking
     Thursday: Yoga
     Friday: lap swimming/spin class
     Saturday: cycling
     Sunday: rest

It all looks great on paper until I plug in the reality of when all of these activities were going to occur. Mornings. Now granted I’ve been getting up early for yoga at six o’clock in the morning every Monday since December and willingly agreed to add another class on Thursday morning at six thirty when summer started, but I always have several days of “sleeping late” in between to recover. The plan now is to get up early to do all of my exercise during the week. I know how amazing I feel when I start my day with physical activity but it still isn’t easy for me to drag myself out of my comfy bed when it is still dark outside. Now I’m deciding to do that every day of the week? Good lord I hope I can do it and survive the rest of my life without turning into yelling sleep-deprived mommy with my girls after work. One thing I’ve had to admit to myself is that my life is far different than it was even a year ago and fitting in my daily workouts has becoming more and more difficult. Getting up early and claiming the time before everyone else wakes up and starts demanding my time is the only way. Sigh.

Wednesday morning hadn’t yet dawned when Workout Buddy and I set out for a very brisk morning walk. Walking seemed like the easiest part of my plan before that morning and then the reality of exactly how out of shape I am became disturbingly clear. Three miles in an hour and I could barely carry on a conversation the entire way. Then there was how sore my hips and back were the rest of the day and most of the next. It was then that I really accepted that I was starting over at square one. No wonder I had been so frustrated with my efforts at running the past couple of months. It’s like starting in the middle instead of at the beginning and then wondering why you can’t finish. DUH. I guess another example of how far my head has been in the sand. But, it also motivated me to work hard so I can see the results I know will come with starting at the beginning and building my cardio endurance.

Alas, Woman cannot run on yoga alone…

I was so exhausted by Friday that when Hubby called to tell me plans were changing and he was not staying at the gym with the kids until I could get there after work to swim my laps, I was more than happy to just go home and rest up. Don’t judge. It’s my first week… (I’ll have to thank Baby Sister for her full-fledged whiny-butt show with Daddy somehow.)

Saturday morning was my first cycling adventure. I have a mountain bike that I’ve had for twenty years and probably ridden a total of under three hundred miles so it isn’t like I don’t know how to ride a bike but I’m also far from experienced. I have no gear – not even a bike helmet. And when Hubby got the bike down out of the rafters of the garage we found the shifter was broken and I had only one gear. Luckily Workout Buddy had an extra mountain bike and an extra helmet so the plan wasn’t completely derailed. I strapped on my gloves for lifting weights, dressed in my yoga gear and strapped on a pair of running shoes wondering if there were special shoes for cycling and what else I was going to need if I decided I was going to like cycling and headed out.

A quarter of a mile into the ride I was fighting the urge to throw up after struggling up a horrific hill. I knew about this hill going out, had indeed psyched myself up for it knowing it was the hardest part of the planned course. But oh my god it was worse than I ever dreamed it could be. Thinking, naively, that since that was the worst part and the rest of the course was “flat”, I pictured the next six and a half miles to be easy to moderate exertion. I was quickly disappointed in the rolling hills with very little down slopping which translated meant I had to actually pedal the whole way. I was unable to keep up with my friend’s road bike and her ten times as many gears OR catch my breath. Hard core cardio is an understatement when it comes to cycling. Overall the ride was enjoyable but only because the last half was downhill or truly flat as advertised. The chauffeured ride home after we arrived at our pickup for Bountiful Baskets helped immensely I’m sure. Workout Buddy’s husband took me and all the fruits and veggies and jam-making ingredients home while she headed out for the rest of her twenty mile planned ride.

That ride was both more fun and harder than I had ever anticipated and served to bring my thinking full circle when it comes to my fitness plans. I realized that I truly love running and have all the gear and then some to be a runner. What I don’t love is being where I am now feeling like I’m back where I first started. However, I’m not really and truly back at the beginning when I know I’m still able to run for more than thirty seconds at a time because when I did start that’s all I could do. Plus, if had lost all my cardio base I wouldn’t have had so much fun after the hill or been able to pedal for an hour without stopping. If I switch to cycling, I would be starting at the very beginning on a road I’ve never traveled before. With running, it is a road I’ve traveled successfully to three Ragnar Relays and a half marathon with countless other 5Ks and 10Ks along the way. I just need to put on my big girl panties and get going already!

This week will be even easier knowing I survived last week and have a solid plan of attack. I’ll add in swimming to see if I like it and go from there. Every journey has a beginning but that beginning isn’t a neon sign flashing in the middle of the road, it lives in our commitment to start living the way we say we want to live and celebrating the triumphs and setbacks along the way. It is a journey so here’s to the beginning of this one. Again.

Evolution of Fitness

Last week I realized that my personal fitness has evolved, in part because of my irritating pulmonary embolism which still isn’t gone as much as I wanted to will it behind me. (More on all that later.) Like all evolution, little things got me to this current place where yoga has replaced running as my mainstay.

I’ve loved yoga since I first did it by myself in my basement about 5 years ago. At the time I was super self-conscious about “doing it right” and thus didn’t do it very often and never in public. Then a couple of years ago I started occasionally doing yoga classes at the gym when it fit into my schedule. I loved it just as much in a class with others as I did alone in my basement so I stuck with it. Remember my friend who I dragged to yoga last summer when I discovered how much I like hydro training? (You can read about it here) Well, she loves yoga – like LOVES it – and does it faithfully at the gym. It turns out she and I have a neighbor who is a yoga instructor and agreed to teach a class in our neighborhood once a week. A class I have faithfully been attending since December even though it happens at the ungodly hour of SIX AM on Monday mornings. Me, the worlds biggest night owl awake and somewhere by six a.m.on purpose and before coffee. It’s insane! Last week, this same friend who I introduced to yoga a mere eight months ago agreed to lead the class because our instructor was going to be out of town. She said something at the beginning of that practice that has really stuck with me. “There’s just you, your breath and your mat.” I think that’s why I love yoga so much. Even though you do it in a group it is such an internal and personal thing where you can push yourself to new limits and every time you do it something different happens.

One of the greatest things I’ve learned practicing yoga with my close friends is the realization that everyone is different and everyone has their own strengths. I tend to be so judgmental toward myself in comparing where I am with where everyone else is and this class spent with the same people week after week has become a full expression of each of us as individuals. Not in a negative sense but in a very positive one. I’m short and have super flexible hamstrings so I’m really good at down dog and I adore flip dog while there are other poses that I can’t even begin to get into like crow and hero that others of us excel at. I get to secretly gloat when we are in down dog and my heels are flat on the mat and everyone else is crying out in pain. Then they get to gloat when they do what they are good at and I’m struggling. This morning we had a conversation about finding “our” poses which also keep evolving the more we practice.

Last week I was on cloud nine after I did my first major inversion. It’s called shoulder stand and basically you lie on your back with your chin tucked into your chest with your torso and your feet pointing straight in the air. The first time I couldn’t even begin to get my torso off the mat let alone perpendicular. I was dejected but did the modified version instead while vowing that I’d keep trying and “someday” I’d be able to do it. Who knew that someday would only take a couple of months when I finally did it a week ago. It was visible and measurable proof of how much my body and all the muscles have changed. My posture has improved, my walking gait, everything.

Our instructor sometimes asks the question “where do you go when it gets hard?” and I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I think the answer also evolves over time. I used to say I wanted my health and my weight to improve but wasn’t willing to do any hard work that took me out of my comfort zone. Now I have to keep reminding myself not to push too hard because I’m still healing from that whole almost dying thing. I used to get dejected and simply give up when I couldn’t do something, now I keep trying until I’m finally successful. One thing I’ve learned is that it really is important to find something you love to do to stay active. It doesn’t have to be the same thing as the next person as long as it keep you motivated to keep working hard. I may love yoga even more than running since I never considered waking up early to run but am considering adding another couple of early mornings for yoga. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up running, but right now I get more joy and less frustration with my limitations with yoga. Perhaps when all the blood clots in my lungs are completely gone things will change yet again. That’s the beauty of evolution – you never know where things will end up. Some days you just hold on for the ride…

Everything changes

One of my favorite sayings is “Change is the only constant in the Universe”.  And recently it’s been particularly true for my life.  Fundamental things I thought would never – I mean NEVER – change, are changing.

Monday morning I got up at five o’clock.  That’s a time people usually have to remind me happens more than once in a day because I’m guaranteed to be sleeping through the AM version.  Why did I ON PURPOSE drag myself out of bed that early?  On a Monday?  For yoga.  YOGA!  And guess what… I found out how much I like to work out in the morning.  I felt so amazing all day.  Yes, part of that was because I did yoga which always leaves me feeling amazing.  But there was more.  I had no anxiety about when I was going to fit exercise into my crazy day.  No lamenting about the day having slipped by, taking my best laid plans with it, and falling into bed without having worked out.  Nope.  Instead, I’d already done it before I would normally have been out of bed.  Brilliant! And the best part: I had so much energy all day that I didn’t even feel sleep deprived.  Monday mornings now mean yoga at six o’clock AM.

Today I realized that subconsciously I’ve been changing my night owl activities all week.  I’m slowly training myself to go to bed a tad bit earlier so I can eventually wake up early and run before work.  Because, let’s face it, my days of working out during work have been gone for at least eight months with no promise of returning.  And that half marathon is just getting closer by the day…

Then there’s my writing…  No, no, I’m still doing it.  BUT, I think I’ve been writing in the completely wrong genre.  My first novel, poised for completion of the first draft after five long, grueling, frustrating, learning years is an urban fantasy.  Its the genre I have typically read the most so it must be the one I will write in, too.  Right?  Except that both of those stories I’ve got brewing in my head are NOT urban fantasy.  They are mainstream fiction, character-driven stories.  And I’m so much more excited about them!  So much so that I haven’t forced myself to write the conclusion of the first one yet because every time I sit down to do it, I find myself thinking more about the next ones and the writing is crap.  I refuse to abandon my first baby until I’ve written “The End” and have at least the rough story down on paper.  THEN I can put it away in a drawer to pull out and re-work someday when I’ve got several more under my belt and could truly make an urban fantasy work.

On the home front, Hubby found out he has off-the-chart cholesterol so the entire family is now eating healthier.  My carnivorous husband hasn’t eaten a cheeseburger in almost three weeks.  Even Big Sister has embraced wheat bread, although I’m certain her BFF who always thanks me prolifically for having white bread when she eats over will be sad.  The best part:  I’m no longer the odd one out when fixing meals because now I just fix what I’m eating for everyone.

So while I still can’t completely explain it, man am I loving this cycle of change…

Two weeks later

Let me start by stating that unprovoked clots in your lungs – meaning there is no cause that can explain their presence – is truly a shitty deal.  I am the girl who wants answers to everything.  The girl who disassembled my curling iron in high school because I wanted to know how it worked.  The girl who needs to know everything about everything so I can project plan the shit out of it then make appropriate entries into my calendar like marching orders to follow precisely.  How else can I accomplish everything I ever want to in life? Not knowing where we go from here is truly fucking with my brain.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Immediately following my diagnosis I was focused on getting from day to day.  The shock of almost dying was surreal and I still don’t really know how I feel about how close I could have been.  My first goal was getting my anti-coagulation established.  Those super expensive injections I had to give myself twice a day hurt like hell and my first personal aspiration was to quit having to take them.  Which meant my INR test had to be above a 2.0.  Three times a week I stop in at my doctors for a finger prick to test this.  The day after diagnosis, I was .9.  A week and a half later I was above two after once having to increase my daily dose of Coumadin.  Finally no more shots!  That same week and a half had me feeling better with a bit more spring in my step every day.  Two days post diagnosis I couldn’t walk through Scheels without needing a bench to rest.  But, two weeks later, I went for my first run.  I could only run a couple of minutes at a time with stretches of walking in between but it felt like I was running my first race and accomplishing a personal record.  The smile on my face was ear to ear.  This was irrefutable evidence that the clots in my lungs are disappearing and I’m almost all better.

Now let’s talk about Coumadin and what it means to be anti-coagulated.  It sucks hairy-ass monkey balls.  I’m a bleeder now who bruises easily.  That hangnail I absently picked at during a meeting?  Oh, don’t mind me with blood dripping off my finger.  No, officer, my husband doesn’t beat me, I just ran into the bar stool someone left pulled halfway out and I’m anti-coagulated.  All those other bruises?  Yeah, I have no idea how they got there but I swear no one is beating me. Worse than all that is the dietary restrictions.  I can’t eat leafy green vegetables?  No spinach?  No lettuce?  No broccoli? No asparagus?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Do you know how hard it is to take a brain that is wired for nutrition and real food and then suddenly you can’t eat it?  At least three times in the last week I’ve gone to bite into a delicious meal only to realize it had something in it I can’t eat.  Thank god I didn’t have to alter anything about my coffee habits.  Had that happened on top of everything else I might be murderous rather than just bitchy.

Which brings us to the shitty deal I’m facing now that I’m out of the woods and getting back to my normal activity levels:  There is no end in sight for the Coumadin.  When I tried to nail down my doctor with a time frame to expect this to continue he said “at least six months but more likely longer.”  So now I’ll be a runner who can’t eat her veggies and who might bleed out if she doesn’t check her clotting factor twice a week and gets a bruise.  Ain’t that just grand.  And why?  Because no one knows exactly what caused my blood clots in the first place.  Even though I was taking birth control after the age of 35 which actually states it can increase the risk for exactly this to happen.  On the bright side, I can run again.  Oh, and I hit my deductible on my high deductible healthcare plan so now I can get that IUD that I couldn’t afford to pay for out of pocket and which started this whole fucking mess for free.  At least I can still run…

I have a what?

I’m not a sappy person so it won’t surprise you that not only am I not participating in the ‘thankful challenge’ that it seems half my Facebook friend list is doing but that I tend to scan over those posts as they come across my news feed.  Not that I’m heartless but that it is all the same thing: family, friends, other loved ones, etc.  In my world being thankful for those things happen and are expressed all year, not just the month of November in some new gimmick to twist the whole Thanksgiving holiday into something other than commemorating how we gained the trust of the Native American indians and then savagely stole their lands.  But I digress and that’s a rant for another day.

However, today I’m actually thankful to be alive because I literally almost died.  Here’s what happened so all the people expressing well wishes on my Facebook feed can have the entire story…

Like all stories, I have to start at the beginning which I didn’t know at the time was the beginning.  On October 20th, I ran a 5K with my friends who had both been training hard.  He for a third Ragnar this year, she as a new and committed runner with a set workout plan that this race was a milestone in.  I had been slacking hard and actually hadn’t run since the last race we had run together as a relay team the month before.  I figured the last time I’d run it had been six miles so a little three mile 5K shouldn’t be too hard since it was only a few weeks between races.  I knew she wasn’t planning on running the entire time because at that distance she still does a little walking so I could just stick with her and run at her pace and be fine.  We took off at the starting line and about thirty seconds later I thought I was going to die.  My heart rate was through the roof, I couldn’t catch my breath and my friend who I was supposed to be encouraging started pulling away.  Because running is a mental sport, I started lamenting about what a loser I was that this 5K was kicking my ass and thinking back about all the times when I had time to squeeze in a run and instead decided I was too tired or prioritized something else in my life ahead of my fitness.  Oh, and trying not to hate my friend who was a new runner and yet was running circles around me.  It was the single hardest three miles I have EVER run both in terms of physical and mental toughness.  I pushed myself to keep up, more or less, with my friend because I didn’t want to hold her back and impact her goals after she had worked so hard actually preparing for this race.  The whole way trying to ignore or not look at my heart rate monitor that said I was in the anaerobic training zone even though I was running slower than my normal pace and walking probably more than half the time.  *Hello, red flag number 1*  We finished together and laughed when we both – plus her twenty-something daughter who left us all in the dust at the start line – all placed in our divisions and got medals.  I left the race vowing to get a race goal on the horizon so I’d have something specific to train for and didn’t slip even further behind in my running performance since clearly you lose your base far quicker than I thought. I wheezed and coughed the rest of the day which isn’t abnormal since I’d just pushed myself super hard, right?.  *Hello, red flag number 2*

I felt fine after a normal recovery time after a hard race and didn’t think anything else about it.  Until about a week later when I was working in the garden and ran up the stairs into the kitchen to break up a fight between the kids or some other such emergency.  The little exertion had me out of breath.  I stood at the counter trying to catch my breath when this weird pain started in the center of my chest.  *Hello, red flag number 3 but the first one I paid attention to*  I stood there realizing I was experiencing “shortness of breath with chest pain”.  I panicked and quickly passed that heading straight for denial.  You see, my Dad has coronary artery disease as did my grandfather before him.  Dad had a quadruple bypass as a direct result of shortness of breath and chest pain that his doctor luckily investigated aggressively because of his family medical history before he had a heart attack.  I am a runner obsessed with making better than average food choices as a direct result of my insane fear that that shit is going to happen to me, too.  I stood there, taking deep breaths, collecting data and rationalizing that the pain was not on the right side of my chest but in the center and also kind of in the back.  Totally not my heart and probably just a fluke.  Told you, total denial fueled by panic.  Don’t judge.

While in the front of my mind I was denying that there could be a problem, the analytical side of me was hard at work in the background keeping track of little things that started not to add up.  Like it was harder to walk from my car to the building and vice versa at work, that I couldn’t take the stairs at work without sounding like I was a four hundred pound fat girl ready to puke after my first Biggest Loser workout, that I was lethargic at night and had started to just sit on the couch instead of accomplishing anything every night.  Part of me was still being really hard on myself for having put on a couple of pounds recently and feeling like a total fat girl even though I’m still in my same size clothes.  The inner workings of the female psyche at its worst right there.  When I had a second episode of chest pain a couple of days later *Hello, red flag number 4* I mentioned it to Hubby.  Although the part of me that was still in denial mentioned it offhand with a little joke about “hey, I should probably tell you just in case something happens . . ha ha ha . . . I’m probably making a big deal out of nothing because of Dad . . . blah blah blah”.  But I did tell him I was going to make an appointment with the doctor at some point. 

The night before Halloween I was going through Baby Sister’s night time routine which involves snuggling on the couch while she drinks her chocolate milk before carrying her to bed to tuck her in.  I stood up from the couch, carrying my petite twenty five pound almost three year old, and walked twenty three steps to her room on the same floor of the house.  And when I got there, I was so out of breath it took me almost ten minutes to catch it again.  (Yes, I just recreated the event so I could count exactly how many steps it was, why do you ask?)  *Hello, red flag number 5 which finally made me take action*

On Halloween, I called and made an appointment with Hubby’s doctor since this wasn’t something I could see my gynecologist about and that’s the only doctor I ever go to.  They could get me in the next day at 11:00 which in hind sight was probably because I told them I was having the “shortness of breath with chest pain” kiss of death symptoms.  At lunch, I was telling my same friends I ran the 5K with that I was going to the doctor because I’d been having problems and he said he’d noticed that he’d had more cardiovascular difficulty in his training since we’d all had . . . dun dun duuun . . . THE FLU SHOT.  Holy shit!  I did the math and that was the same time frame I’d been having issues, too!  I breathed a little tiny sigh of relief that there MIGHT be something else at play here than my impending need for a coronary bypass surgery which is what my mind was in full denial about.  I mentioned it to one of my besties while we were strolling the neighborhood trick or treating and was out of breath after having to save the eleven-year olds from a stuffed scarecrow on a porch.  We both laughed that wouldn’t that be the shits that I’d been forced to get a flu shot and then I have these symptoms even though that might get me out of it for next year.

The next day began like any other Thursday.  I’d been on call all night which meant I got to work from home.  I let my team know I was planning on taking a little longer of a lunch break because I had a doctor’s appointment but would be back in time for my afternoon support shift.  I got right in, met the doctor and started answering his barrage of questions.  Told him about my family medical history while I cringed inside because I hate that weakness looming in my gene pool like an unexploded, forgotten artillery round in a rice field of Vietnam waiting to go off at any time with no warning.  I had written out a timeline of all my running milestones and things I’d done that involved significant physical exertion leading up to the 5K which had happened four days after I’d gotten the flu shot and what I’d experienced since the flu shot because surely it wasn’t a coincidence that it all started then, right? 

After the question and answer period was over, the doctor said they were going to do an EKG and a chest x-ray and handed me a gown.  Are you kidding me right now?  With those words, the shit got real and all the denial was replaced with visions of exactly where the path was leading which ended with me lying in an ICU bed with tubes coming out of my chest looking like death already – just like my Dad did after his surgery.  Not going to lie, I was weepy and it took several minutes to pull my shit together before the first nurse came in to take me down the hall to the x-ray room.  The EKG was a trip because it literally takes more time to set up for the test and get all the leads attached than it does to do the test.  The doctor returned and said my xray was clear and the EKG showed that I had not had nor was I in the middle of having a heart attack.  Both very good news and I perked up.  Next steps: some blood work and a referral to a cardiologist for a stress test.  Sorry, but the flu shot wasn’t a factor at  this point.  Just what I knew they were going to say.  Damn my gene pool anyway!  The nurse came back in and drew seven – SEVEN – vials of blood and said they were sending them to the lab via courier so they would have results back today and would call me.  Everything seemed super routine now and I figured my next step would be hearing my blood work was fine – like it always is – and getting a call from the cardiologist to schedule my stress test.  I went home, ate some lunch and started my pager shift at 2:00.

Hubby was off that day so he was chatting with me and catching up on television when my phone rang at 2:30.  I answered it and heard the nurse tell me that I needed to go immediately to the hospital, that they were waiting for me to have a CT scan at 3:00 because one of my blood tests that indicated through chemicals in my blood that I’d had a heart attack came back abnormally high.  And that once I’d finished the test I was to stay there because there was a chance I was going to be admitted.  I didn’t say anything, just listened, and started crying uncontrollably, now certain that my vision of bypass surgery was inevitable regardless of what steps I had taken to eliminate the risk.  Hubby rushed over and was now panicked because clearly there was something wrong and he didn’t know what it was.  I had the sense of mind to repeat what I needed to do so I was sure I’d gotten it right before I hung up with twenty minutes before they were expecting me at the nearest hospital.

Halfway there, as I’m already mentally saying goodbye to my husband and lamenting that I might not be around to see my girls grow up because of my fucking gene pool that even though I tried my damnedest I couldn’t escape, the phone rang again.  The same nurse was on the line apologizing that she’d given me inaccurate information.  The blood test that was abnormal was NOT in fact the one indicating I’d had a heart attack but one that indicated I had a blood clot.  All of a sudden I wasn’t rushing to the hospital for an angioplasty and shunts in my heart and hopefully not but probably emergency surgery but *JUST* to figure out where I had a blood clot.  WHEW!  It was like magic how my mind cleared of KNOWING exactly what was happening based on my deepest darkest fears and I was back to feeling  hopeful that this wasn’t as bad, whatever it turned out to be.

It was kind of fun being a clinical patient in the hospital and seeing the applications that I support every day and the users that use them for their jobs.  I got registered and filled out paperwork attesting that I wasn’t pregnant . . . blah blah blah . . . and went back for my test.  The radiology technician handed me a gown and said “so, you’re the one with the impressive d-dimer test, huh?”  It caught me off guard and it must have shown because he said “oh, wait, they didn’t tell you?”  Uh, no so now you better tell me I think!  He wouldn’t go any further than saying my levels were impressive and played it off that it had to be for me to be spending time with him.  Half an hour later I’d lived through my first CT scan with contrast and hadn’t peed my pants even though that’s exactly what it felt like was happening when that crap got inserted into my blood stream.  Now the waiting and more blood draws to see what happens now.

Before I could get dressed and walk across the lobby to the lab, my doctor was on the phone to discuss the test I’d just finished.  Good news: you’re not going to need to do that stress test because your heart is fine.  Bad news: you have a pulmonary embolism aka blood clots in your lungs.  Then there was a whole lot of talk about how usually you would be admitted and treated in the hospital but because your other test results came back normal and your blood pressure and blood oxygen levels are normal you’re a low risk of dying so you can have the choice to be treated at home.  Most of this went right over my head because I was still in shock about what I’d been diagnosed with.  Next steps: more blood draw to test the clotting factor in my blood, pick up prescriptions for anti-coagulation meds to start immediately then back at the hospital at SEVEN AM for ultrasound of the veins in my legs and immediately back to the doctor to discuss treatment.

No longer was I stressing about how my life was going to be limited to ten to fifteen years of struggling with coronary artery disease and early death before my children were grown, now my death had barely been missed and I was still in potentially immediate danger of dying right now.  Very staggering to say the least.  I tried to convey the information to Hubby while I got my labs drawn and my IV which I wasn’t going to need further after all removed so we could go to the pharmacy.  If I wasn’t already in enough shock at this point, the co-pay for one med I’d been prescribed which was the equivalent of a heparin IV drip and which makes my outpatient treatment an option came to TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.  Thank god it’s October and I’ve had a full ten months to build up my Health Savings Account so I could just swipe the card and smile like I wasn’t freaking out.  What else could I do, right?

We headed home, I gave myself my first injection of anti-coagulation medication and tried to relax.  Which I couldn’t do so I took my mind off of things by doing a little writing.  I mean, it IS November which means I had a daily word count goal I needed to hit for NaNoWriMo.  I went to bed at eleven even though I had to be up at an ungodly hour to get back to the hospital the next morning for more tests. 

The ultrasound on my legs showed no clots in any of my veins which on one hand is very good news because there are no more clots waiting to break free and head for my lungs to choke my life potentially from me.  However, it means we still don’t have any real indication of how or why I got the ones I already have.

Here’s where I sing the praises of my new, and officially declared as mine, primary care physician.  Dr Zimmerman sat in the exam room with me for an hour and a half explaining what all this meant, what all my lab results showed, what being on anti-coagulation medication meant, what possible factors could have contributed to this “unprovoked” clot, and answered every single question I had.  While all the people he had double booked me on top of waited I’m sure.  If anyone needs a good doctor, I’ve got one I can recommend!  That ‘impressive’ d-dimer test the radiology technician mentioned?  A high is anything over 500, mine came back at 13,000.  Yep, pretty impressive.  During this chat, I heard lots of stories about people who ignored their warning signs and are dead because of it.  People who were hospitalized for treatment and died anyway.  Very staggering stories considering I ignored at least one of my super early warning signs.  I’m choosing to focus on how lucky I am to have coronary artery disease in my immediate family which I live in fear of developing and how glad I am for being very in tune with my body enough to recognize that there were subtle things not quite right that got me to the doctor.

Now I’m living with twice a day injections and twice a week blood testing until my anti-coagulation dosing gets stablized so my body doesn’t make more clots while the clots I have dissolve.  And watching for any signs that I need to go to an ER.  As my amazing doctor said, I’m still a patient in the hospital in his mind even if I’m not physically in the hospital environment.  I hate every minute of having to take things slower because I can’t physically do everyday normal things.  Today I carried a laundry basket from the bedroom to the laundry room and needed to rest.  Stood at the kitchen sink to load the dishwasher of dirty dishes and had to take a three hour nap when I was done.  But, I’m still alive so I won’t bitch too much about any of it.  The clots, which are in both lungs, are basically cutting off half of my air supply so everything I’m going through is expected.

The best news at the end of the day is that once my lungs are clear of clots in the next couple of weeks I can start running again and doc doesn’t think my planned half marathon in the spring is too aggressive a goal to shoot for.  I told him this was a pretty expensive episode of “check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program” but that I was really glad I’d done it.  There are still no answers as to what caused these clots to form in the first place which irritates that part of me that wants clear and definitive answers to file away so I can avoid whatever it is so it doesn’t happen again and eventually quit taking anti-coagulation meds that come with even more risks long term.  Personally, I still suspect that damn flu shot as being a contributor plus the birth control pills I’ve been on for ten months that “increase the risk of blood clots in women over 35”.  But, for now, I’m focusing on taking it easy so my body can heal and life can return to normal.

It’s like riding a bike – only you need to practice

I finished my second race of the year yesterday.  I have a great friend who is a brand new runner and needed a 5K for her first race this weekend to coincide with her chosen training plan.  The only race she could find was a half marathon relay.  So she recruited her daughter and I to run the other two legs leaving her with the final 5K leg into the finish.  It worked out perfectly for me.  We called the team “Two Old Ladies and a Ringer”.  Her daughter – being the ringer at 21 and a serious athlete – ran the first 4 miles all up a canyon.  I ran the next 6 miles down the other side of the canyon.  It was a great run even though I hadn’t trained hard.  Sometimes just getting out there is all that matters.  It was all downhill and a distance I know I am capable of running so I wasn’t stressed that the two weeks before had been a whirlwind and I hadn’t been able to stick completely to my weekly workout schedule.

I was all alone with my thoughts and the tunes on my iPhone, surrounded by the changing leaves of fall in northern Utah and IT WAS SO MUCH FUN.  Did I wish I had more time to devote to running so I could have gone faster? Yes.  Did I revel in the fact that I was still capable of ‘riding’ this particular bike because I had been doing what I can whenever I can to keep in shape?  Yes.  Did I find an analogy to make in order to compare this to my writing?  Of course!

Hubby and I took our girls camping a couple of weeks ago and I persuaded him to trek into the woods alone with the kids and the dog so I could have at least an hour of uninterrupted writing time. He fell for it – further proof that he loves me – and I sat down and dusted off my manuscript that I still haven’t finished from NaNoWriMo last year.  I read the last chapter so I could remember exactly where I’d left my characters and started writing.  Amazingly enough, I was still writing when the hikers returned two hours later.  I’d taken myself from the end of the middle to the climax of the ending.  And there are only a couple of ‘holes’ in the middle where its still a little muddy with placeholder statements of “this is what happens here” left to fill in.  Perhaps I’ll get this draft complete and pick up the editing process where I got mired down before November yet! 

The current lesson here: writing is an ongoing process of getting on the bike but you have to keep getting on it to get any better at it.  It’s not a new lesson, just a different way of looking at it for me.  I’ve also learned that in my own writing process I have to finish getting the story down before I can start editing.  And, much like my exercise plan, I have to squeeze writing into my insanely busy life wherever I can in order to keep myself progressing forward.  Someday when both of my kids are in school (and perhaps Big Sister is driving herself to dance) I’ll still be writing and be better at it than I am now.  And I’ll look back on this part and know how much it was all worth it to stick with it.

The Olympics through new eyes

The Olympic Games happen every four years.  And every four years, since I was a small child sitting on the couch next to my mom cheering for gymnastics and following the swimming with my dad who was a swimmer in high school, nothing much has changed for me whenever they roll around.  Until this year.

I still watch – with my own children sitting next to me now – cheering on the women’s gymnastics team and hoping they win gold; cheering and appreciating amazing performances from top gymnasts from all over the world; cheering on our swimming team; watching the diving; watching volleyball in all its forms; and being fascinated with glimpses of other not-so-popular sports when there is prime time coverage.  But this year something has changed.

This year, I’m also watching track and field events.

Four years ago, I was not a runner.  Four years ago, I was overweight and unhappy with my life.  Four years ago the only thing I didn’t watch in the summer Games was the track and field.  I even remember being irritated with Hubby who ran track in high school wanting to watch.

Now, I’m a runner. And I can’t get enough of watching the amazing athletes.  And I’m answering questions and correcting the misconceptions from my daughter about ‘why they are running so slow’ because it’s fifteen hundred meters instead of one hundred.  I’m appreciating the difference between a sprint, a middle distance and a long distance and am inspired and awed by those who do multiple events.

I guess one could extrapolate from this that it only takes four years to fundamentally change your life.  Thank god I have the Olympics to measure the distance I’ve come from that other girl who ran the corners and walked the straights hoping just to pass the required mile in P.E. class in junior high.  The one who took dance the next year so I wouldn’t have to run.  Who drove aimlessly through parking lots as an adult looking for the closest spot so I wouldn’t have to walk so far.  I like my new life and how I feel and appreciate how much effort it has taken me to get here from there.  I’m strong.  I’m fit.  And that makes me powerful.  And although my body isn’t perfectly chiseled, and there are always setbacks along the way that constantly test my will, I’m still active and I’m still a runner.  That fact alone means I will live longer and feel better than that old girl I used to be.  More Olympics to watch that way, too!

Go with the flow, bitch!

I am a control freak.  It’s no secret nor is it some earth-shattering revelation.  But I’m learning to recognize situations where I can’t control losing control.  Like this week, for example.  I’ve just started a protracted training schedule for a half marathon that I only have ten weeks to prepare for and can’t afford to slack on.  AT ALL.  I’ve finally found a cross-training cardio workout that I enjoy enough that I want to get out of bed for in the morning – on the weekend even.  And what happens?  I come down with a stomach bug. 

It started Monday afternoon and instead of getting to go to my Monday night gym class, I writhed in pain on the couch all night.  I suffered all day Tuesday.  Even more horrid because Tuesday was the Utah Pioneer Day holiday and I had the entire day off to fit my run into at leisure.  I was so sick that I laid around all morning so I could muster the strength to smiled through the pain long enough to hang out with the neighbors for a few hours.  No run for me that day.  I had a full day of meetings in the office on Wednesday and powered through them all, visually suffering enough that my co-workers told me repeatedly that I should go home.  Thank god for work from home Thursdays that I spent on the couch.   I’m almost feeling back to normal today with only a few minor abdominal pains remaining.  I woke up with high hopes that I could run.  Packed my gym back and dragged it with me to work this morning and everything.  But, alas, did not feel up for it still this afternoon. 

The control freak in me is seriously freaking out that I cannot afford to lose an entire week of training. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND – AN ENTIRE WEEK!  The zen girl who is starting to emerge at random times has her by the throat shouting “suck it up, bitch and go with the flow.  It is what it is!”  I like to call that zen girl, my inner runner.  The one who exists now only because I run.  What an oxymoron.  My inner runner telling my inner control freak to quick freaking out that I can’t run…  Wrap your brain around that one!

A pause to reset

What’s the best thing when you’re in a funk with a broken give-a-damn?  A ten-day vacation where most of the time you are off the grid and completely unplugged from everyday life.  Hubby and I took the girls to Montana for the Fourth of July holiday.  It was exactly what I needed and started the process of returning to my old new self.  After four days of river rafting, a day of boating and a whole lot of relaxing I was almost back to feeling normal again.

When we got back, I committed myself to training for a half-marathon in the fall.  My thought process is that if I don’t have anything looming that could kill me without training, I won’t force myself to train.  There are a couple in the Sept/October time frame that look like I could do them fun so I counted the weeks between now and then.  (So I’d know the last possible minute I could hold off training and still have enough time.)  The first one is only 10 weeks away.  That is not a lot of time considering most half-marathon training plans are 12 weeks.  YIKES!  So, I started looking at training programs and getting my mind focused on regular running again.  Since I haven’t run a step – unless you count that sprint in the rain from the store to the car – since Ragnar a month ago.

Meanwhile, I have a good friend who recently joined the same gym I go to.  She has a completely different schedule as me so she goes during the day and I’m an evenings and weekend girl – when I have time to go.  We were talking and comparing gym stories.  She’s a group fitness girl, I’m a loner.  She has a favorite class and I love yoga – which is the only group fitness I do – which both occur on Saturday mornings.  That’s the one day a week we could both go.  I told her I’d try out hydro training if she’d go with me to yoga and try it.  Our schedules finally lined up yesterday to allow a 4-hour trip to the gym so we did it.  I got up at 7:00 – that’s AM! – and was at the gym in the pool by  8:00.  Guess what?  I LOVE Hydro Training.  It is basically hard core aerobic circuit training in the pool.  And according to the instructor will never make me have sore muscles because the lactic acid doesn’t have a chance to build up since the movement of the water massages it away.  Amazing.  I have found my favorite cross-training activity!  After class, we warmed up in the hot tub then dried off in the sauna and changed into regular workout clothes for 75 minutes of yoga.  It was heated yoga, which I’ve never done before, and it was the hardest yoga I’ve ever done.  Nor have I ever sweat that much before.  You know it’s a workout when you have a little puddle of sweat on the floor in front of your mat AND you are sliding around in sweat where your feet go.  I should have paid attention to everyone with towels on the top and bottom of their mats…  Three hours of hard-core exercise later, I had magically started to feel back to myself.

Today I have deliciously sore muscles – I’m sure from the yoga – where every movement comes with a twinge of soreness reminding me of all my hard work.  I basked in the glow of that feeling while mapping out my new workout schedule which hopefully will mesh better with Big Sister’s new dance schedule we got yesterday after try-outs.  Four days of running, two days of cross training hydro style and a day of rest.  Only one day will be a bitch to try and fit this all into but even if one run a week doesn’t happen and the rest does I’ll be ready in twelve weeks for another half.  I do believe my give-a-damn is officially fixed!

Myth busting

Ever heard someone say it is so much harder and more time consuming to cook dinner every night?  Or that eating healthy costs so much more money?  Or that wearing special shoes or taking a miracle pill will help you tone your body and lose weight?  Well today I’m putting on my myth-buster hat and tackling all of these.

We’ll start with “it’s so much easier to pick up fast food on your way home from work rather than cook dinner” with a peek into a day of my life.  This particular day was crazier than most.  I headed off to work in the morning leaving Baby Sister with her nanny after scooting Big Sister out the door to walk to school.  (Yes, my kid walks to school – shouldn’t every kid?)  I worked a typical day except that I had to leave a couple of hours early since Big Sister’s dance studio decided once again to conduct business as if none of the dance moms actually work outside the home.  Meaning specifically that she had to be in full hair and make-up and across town by 4:30 for the annual team photo shoot.  Awesome, since I don’t usually get off work until 5:30.

I left the office at 3:00, rushed home while project managing Big Sister’s efforts from the phone in the car, and did the fastest make-up and hair I think I’ve ever done including ringlets.  Big Sister has stick straight and super thick hair – I love that she did not get my curls except for when she wants curly hair and it becomes a chore.  Thank god for my Chi and my ability to use it for creating curls in addition to it’s straightening properties.  Of course Murphy was alive and well since the shirt I’d bought her the night before was too big through the chest when she put it on.  I had to get creative with safety pins because I didn’t have time to whip out the sewing machine to take in the sides. We left the house only ten minutes behind schedule leaving Baby Sister with Daddy and hoping they were correct that the shoot would only take an hour. Pictures were fabulous and we were headed back across town by 5:30 now hoping traffic wasn’t too bad.

This was also the night of our first neighborhood walk-about which we never miss.  During warm weather months, two or three different families host little block party gatherings so that everyone can wander around and mingle with each other, catch up on gossip and meet any new people who have moved in.  It started at 6:30.

Here’s where the myth comes in.  Considering I only had an hour to drive across town, feed my kids dinner and head out to the next activity,  society would say I had to pick up either burgers or a $5 Hot n’ Ready pizza on my way home.  But NO!  Instead I went straight home, browned up some ground turkey, made it into taco meat and served my kids taco’s.  Well, Big Sister prefers to eat her taco fixin’s atop corn chips instead of in the crunchy shells and Baby Sister prefers little individual piles of cheese and meat, etc to eat as finger foods so basically, I ate tacos.  The point is, it took me no more time than it would have to sit in the long ass line I passed at the Wendy’s as I drove by.  Not to mention how much healthier my choice of meals was by comparison.  Plus, now I have an extra pound of taco meat in my fridge to eat left-overs in the next couple of days when I’m in an even tighter pinch for dinner – say tonight when Big Sister has to be at the dance studio by 6:30.

I cook ninety-five percent of the time at home.  It isn’t always quick and easy but it is always better than anything else I could feed my family.  The extra effort this activity requires is actually on the front end when you’re doing your grocery shopping.  I usually have the basics on hand like spaghetti (I make my own amazing and authentic sauce) or homemade macaroni and cheese (that actually uses cheese and milk instead of powdery blobs of orange chemical concoctions you get in the box).  Then I mix things up with a few preplanned meals in mind for the week.  We always have tons of fresh fruit in the house and the crisper drawer is always full of veggies.  With a little creativity I can throw together many a meal just by opening the refrigerator – even if I don’t know exactly what’s for dinner before I walk in the door from work.

It makes me wonder who exactly “they” are that says it is so much easier to buy crap from a fast-food joint and eat out of a bag every night.  Probably the people marketing the crap in a bag from all those different places who only care about their bottom line.  And let’s talk about cost!  I can feed my family of four for an entire week buying the ingredients to cook my own meals on less than what it would cost to eat out just one meal a day for that same week.  This is based on fact since we had way more money left over at the end of the month once we started eating in versus when we were subscribing to the marketing ploys.  This was also before I’d pulled my head out of my ass about things like processed foods and high fructose corn syrup evils. 

With obesity rates in adults and children alike continually rising, I wonder how long before the general population demands better choices in their food that contribute to better health instead of sacrificing long-term health for the convenience of a packaged dinner or fast food slop.  Most of the food we eat isn’t even real food when you look at the ingredient label.  When was the last time you had to list the ingredients on a head of lettuce or a bundle of bananas?  Even more frightening is how many people I talk to who never even glance at the ingredient list of the ‘food’ they consume every day.  When you cook your own meal, using real whole foods you know exactly what you are eating and feeding to your kids.

There was a story in the Washington Post this week about how Sketchers are settling a lawsuit for $40 million.  Turns out they were lying when they said wearing their funny looking shoes would tone your lower body without stepping foot into a gym.  You can’t tone your lower body by wearing a pair of shoes and sitting on your ass all day any easier than you can lose weight and keep it off by eating some fad diet or taking some pill that causes side effects worse than just keeping the extra weight on.  You have to eat real food to nourish your body and burn more calories than you take in every single day.  Period.  There’s no other way around it.  Trust me, I’ve tried it all (minus surgical measures where I drew the line).  When is society as a whole going to wake up and realize that corporations are only after one thing – to make money by selling us crap we don’t need – and start listening to common sense again?

I challenge you – if you aren’t doing it already – try cooking for a week and see how easy it really is.  You don’t even have to have a recipe box that your mom or grandma handed down to you anymore.  All you need is Google – recipes for everything and anything are right at your fingers.  It’s an amazing world out there!  And if you want a quick, easy to read, common sense book on how to incorporate real food back into your diet, I highly recommend “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan.  That little book was partly what changed my life years ago and should be required reading for every American – in my humble opinion.