Category Archives: Yoga

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.


The Perspective and Importance of A Moment

Today I gained the perspective of a forty-two year old. Because I now AM a forty-two year old. It is funny to look back on my late thirties when I started to refuse to acknowledge birthdays and dread that the age number kept getting bigger and what it all meant that I was ‘getting old’. Everything shifted when faced with my own mortality but nothing quite so much as this little thing. When the alternative to getting older is being dead, you start to wonder which is really the worst thing that could happen.

An old friend I haven’t seen in years – but thanks to the wonders of Facebook get to talk to and interact with – said today that my face hadn’t changed since we worked together twenty years ago. It was the nicest thing and proves that aging doesn’t have to be a horrible process. Could it be that happiness and joy are the magical facial cream everyone has been looking for to achieve younger looking skin? Could embracing your life and appreciating everything and everyone in it with open arms and without judgement lead to a younger and glowing countenance? Or was he just flattering me?

I’ve been internalizing a lot these last couple of weeks of yoga training, thinking a lot about being present in every moment and every situation. Things like noticing when Baby Sister gets whiny and I get frustrated and realize I have my focus so fractured between multiple things that I ‘think’ need my attention. The reality is that she is the one thing that needs my attention (usually) the very most in that moment. Thirty seconds of eye contact and direct engaged conversation are usually enough for her to restore harmony in herself and run off to sing and play with her babies leaving me to finish all the other unimportant but pressing things I’ve got going on. What if that’s what everyone needs once in a while? What if life were really that easy? What if it is more about being fully present with someone rather than posing for a selfie over and over until you get it just right?

Have you noticed that there are no longer any bad candid pictures out there? Thanks to the wonders of technology you can immediately see what that “snapshot” is going to look like and decide to accept or re-do until you get it just right. And once you capture it just right, there’s always editing software to remove blemishes and brighten the colors and whatever else you think wasn’t perfect about the authentic moment the lens captured. What kind of a legacy are we leaving for our children when they look back and only get to see what we deemed were the ‘best’ photos of us instead of the ‘real’ photos of us? Are we all taking life way too seriously or taking ourselves out of the real moments to capture the perfect portrayal of the same moment for the benefit of everyone else? What if all that matters is being happy and not all the stuff we surround ourselves with?

These are the things I’m thinking about on the second birthday that I might not have ever had. Ultimately I hope I can be the kind of person that ages gracefully and who people look at and wonder “why is she so happy?” regardless of how many wrinkles are on my face or how high the number next to my age gets. I’ll tell you, forty two never felt so wonderful!


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!


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!


My own little challenge

I’ve been looking back on my blog entries and feeling like a broken record. Could I talk about anything besides my health the last few months? Unfortunately I haven’t been writing, or running, or over achieving in any way besides staying on top of my laundry and dishes while dealing with my new crazy reality – even at work. So I decided to challenge myself to find things to blog about that had nothing to do with my health. Instead of coming up with lots of fun and entertaining things to talk about, I didn’t blog for weeks. *Sigh*

So, here’s some random thoughts and things I’m grappling with this week.

1. My lack of motivation to run again. I need a fairy godmother of running to appear and smack me upside the head with her magic wand so I can get my running mojo back. It is apparently really hard to get back into a daily workout regiment mindset after almost a year has gone by. I ran a couple of weeks ago and my calves were super crampy and my lungs have lost a few steps which had me kind of dejected. It’s one thing to assume you are basically starting from ground zero and quite another to actually see proof that you’ve lost basically everything you once had and fought so hard to develop. I’ve committed to a relay race in late August, a 5K in September and a half marathon in October with my running buddy but have yet to start whole-heartedly training. What the hell is my problem? I think part of it is emotional since my bought and paid for half marathon that was supposed to be my triumphant return to running after my pulmonary embolism came and went without me there. I cried that morning which is kind of unlike me and maybe I haven’t completely gotten over the loss. There’s nothing I hate more than admitting I can’t do something and it really got to me. Time to grab the boot straps and get my shit in gear before it’s too late.

2. Yoga. On the flip side, my yoga practice has morphed into amazing levels and makes me so happy. I was on call last night, didn’t get to bed until almost one in the morning and got paged at two, three and four (almost on the hour) but still got up in time to make my six AM class. It’s been seven months of regular practice and I can feel measurable results both in how my body feels and the things I can do. I have a very solid core that I am aware of all day long for the first time in my life. And I can do a back bend, a hand stand (against the wall, but still) and all sorts of poses I never thought possible. The best part is that I now am confident enough to do my own practice instead of having to have someone lead and tell me what to do. It was amazing to wake up in the morning of our book club overnight retreat and bust out a half hour session of yoga by the pool with two of my fellow yogini.

3. Book club pressure. It’s my turn to pick the book for my book club. The last six months flew past and where I usually voraciously read a grip of books in an attempt to find the perfect one, I find myself under the gun with not enough time to pick the way I want. I read forty five books last year and have already read almost half that many this year but when I put together my short list yesterday it was a struggle to find even nine that are remotely worthy of consideration. Of those nine, I’ve narrowed it down to only three that I feel would yield a great discussion. One I eliminated as too long to read in a month because even I balk at a mammoth of eight hundred pages when there’s a deadline to finish. Two were angst ridden young adult novels with little to discuss when I tried to make a list of topics for the group. A couple were science fiction and had great premise but again, not a lot to discuss. One was beautifully written but ultimately just a short story about a very depressing subject with nothing much to discuss beyond the big reveal at the end. What I’m left with is a beach-read romance with a twist that I fear is ultimately filled with cliche that people won’t find enjoyable enough to discuss, a post-apocalypse tale that overall is grim but gives a ton of discussion, and a Pulitzer prize winner that I fear is far too controversial for my group as a whole. This last one I have wanted to pick for several years and still finds its way onto my short list. Going into this year I just KNEW it was going to be the year. And then we’ve read several very controversial books that pushed the envelope of the group already and do I really want to pile on yet another book that people will either hate dragging themselves through or will simply choose not to read because they really want something light and happy? Oh the pressure of picking the book for discussion! No one is arguing that I might put a tad too much thought and analysis into picking but that is kind of the norm for my amazing book club.

Wow, it can be done! Here’s to much more to talk about in the coming months other than my health.


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…