Thursday, February 23, 2012

purging the past

This post isn't what you might think. I have spent the past few months trying to go through our stuff. mostly because I am trying to downsize our clutter. One of the things that I seem to have collected is cookbooks. I am not talking about your latest and greatest fad things from today. I am speaking of the latest and greatest from the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's, etc…there seems to be an incredible amount from that casserole age.

I have been making my own bread exclusively for the past 2 weeks or so. It came out of the desire to have a whole grain product that had a lot of flavor with zero salt and only needed fat. So far I have made oatmeal bread, a dark rye, and this afternoon a whole wheat polenta bread. While I started to think about culling cookbooks I decided to make some recipes from them first. I wanted to "test" things out before I dismissed the "old". The CIA cookbook is my latest keeper. Published in 1969 it has some interesting recipes. One thing I decided was that I would also pay close attention to serving sizes. I learned that we have expanded our portions greatly. Actually that revelation was not a new one but the actual portion sizes when I stuck to them were about 1/3 of what we are accustomed to now.

I made some meatballs tonight- it called for 3/4 of a pound of ground beef, 2 eggs and breadcrumbs along with a range of spices. The recipe served 7-9 people (and made between 28-32 meatballs). Think about that  for a minute, less that a pound of meat to feed 8 people. I encountered this thought in Korea a few years ago- the average serving size of meat per person was about 70- 90grams, about 2 oz per person. What was surprising to me is the calorie count for this recipe, nothing special in it, each meatball was about 150 calories so my serving actually was limited to 300 calories, not the 450 for the average called for serving.

These vintage books are fascinating though, less Americanized than I would have suspected too considering they were from that "wonder bread age". So as I work my way through them eliminating the salt, halving the butter and sugar and keeping to the suggested serving I am learning a great deal about both my mother and grandmother and Kenny's mother and grandmother(s) from the notes that they have left behind.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Conquering mountains! OK molehills is a better description.

Yesterday Kenny and I decided to go out for a ride, only his road bike had a mechanical issue so in the interest of time we decided to head out on the mtn bikes. Neither of us could decide where to go, Stewart Boundary Lands, Fahnstock, the Horse Farm, Blue Mtn Lake, Huntington State Park, Wilton Woods, Mianus Gorge, Ninham, Taconic Hareford, do you get my point, too much to choose from and one of us really hates mountain biking. In the interest of making a decision that did not involve too much preparation or thought I decided to just tour the dirt roads that are inhabited by most of this country's 1%. I admit that I uttered WTF under my breath a few times, but other than trying not to feel less than by gawking atmulti-million dollar real-estate I was just enjoying the sunshine and being out with the coolest guy on the planet!

Today, Kenny bagged the bike for the gym so I was on my own. I decided to do the same as yesterday but making it a much longer ride with even more challenging hills. Who knows maybe I will be trail ready by the end of the muddy season. the thing about riding on a dirt road with a mountain bike is that I am far less likely to hop off at the sight of a steep incline. In other words I ride much more. When it comes to the paved links in-between proves more difficult too.

What can I say, it was a gorgeous day for a ride. Tomorrow? Maybe I will actually get into the woods!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is your head screwed on right?

Apparently my new chiropractor has just informed me that mine was not. Kenny wants to know why I had to pay money to hear that as he has known that for years. All I can say is what a difference an adjustment makes. Other than that, its been one of those really slow days. I spent most of it trying to get caught up on school work so that next week registers low on the stress scale. I hope it was a good decision.

So the chiropractor asked me if I was aware that I hold my breath a lot? Hmm, never really focused on it. I guess its another thing to add to my mindfulness quest. She suggested I learn to meditate. Its funny, our friend Joey tried to encourage the same thing this past summer. I have been thinking about his reasons more than hers. His were stress reduction thoughts, hers were more technical.

I think about this. Joey is just younger than Justin and such a balanced young man. A speedskater and member of the US Sprint Team he has been quite the inspiration to me. This past summer he was a wonderful influence on Chris while we were out in Salt Lake. Joey started his season with wonderful results only to be taken out with an injury in December which has been heartbreaking to many I am sure. (Joey, if you read this, which I hope you will, know that we are thinking about you and remember, as you would most likely say to me "positive energy only for the next few weeks no matter what you are going through". You can do this. You are strong! There will be an ax and a big log waiting for you when you recover!)

I am off to focus on my breathing among other things...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

being mindful is exhausting

Mindfulness: the Buddhist practice of pouring 100% of your focus into the activity you are engaging in.

My health has been on a roller-coaster ride lately. I have seen my doctor more times in the past 14 days than I have in all the years I have been going to him, well almost. I have to say that despite doing all that I am supposed to do, I am getting mediocre returns. It is certainly teaching me about patience. So where do I go from here?

 In the past two weeks I have been making an effort to try to be mindful about a great deal of my life from eating to work. I have learned a great deal about how this sense of hyper focus works. Its exhausting and quite difficult to mindfully devote your heart, soul and body to one activity at a time. I am a woman after all, I have that extra leg to the second chromosome (x) which demands that I multi-task! I have never thought so much about sipping tea,  eating a bowl of cereal or each step of a run in my life. My head hurts. Mindfulness is exhausting.

Some things I have observed:

I haven't been able to taste anything for years, its an occupational hazard that I have come to accept. What I have learned though is that part of this is also due to my lack of paying attention to my interaction with what I am trying to taste. How often do you even question what you put in your mouth? Is it salty, sweet, sour, bitter, savory, bold, subtle, tart, etc?  My taste buds are still not all that great but I do know that after spending the past 14 days counting every milligram of sodium in my food and limiting it to about 1gram a day that a normal restaurant experience is like chomping on a salt lick from the Dead Sea. Even a piece of commercial bread tastes like it has been bathed in the white stuff. We eat WAY TO MUCH SALT!

I have made is a point to record all my exercise on a GPS, even the hamster routine of the speedskating practice which, by the way, turns out to look like a toddler's refrigerator drawing. My purpose? I wanted to be mindful of not only what I was doing, but how far I was going when I was doing it as well as how long I endured the activity. ACTUALLY, in all honesty, I wanted to be able to PROVE that I am doing what my health care professionals seem to think I am lying about. If I hear one more time that I need to exercise more and eat less!!! (3500 calories a week average burn / 1450 calories a day average intake) This week I even managed to GAIN weight. BTW, I measure and record every morsel too. This mindful act is exhausting.

Now we get to the mental health piece, STRESS! Some things I have been teaching my self to do: laugh more, advocating for myself, saying no and asking for help, then there is the act of rating stress like a samalog system. In other words I am taking the average of the possibility of content and dividing it by the difficulty/awkwardness factor and coming up with a scale. The stress that other people try to infect the world with would score high points, which like calories I try to avoid. I have essentially reduced myself to a rating system. I guess these are my compartments. I am learning that unless my house is burning down, someone I love is gravely ill, or our family finances (even that is a stretch) suddenly careen off the north face of Everest then there is no reason for me to fill a steamer trunk full of cortisol, especially when I am the one that owns that hormone and have to pay the price to harbor it.

Slowing life way down…ALMOST - Red beans are in the oven, cooking 6 hours and I am working around the house getting things done that I have wanted to accomplish for ages but then there is part of me…still racing along!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

getting out of Dodge

I spent a week trying to figure out if I was going to make it through finding the right blood pressure medicine and going through countless tests to be told I had to do three things; reduce stress, exercise more and eat less. I was also told that during my stress test I was only expected to be on the tread mill for 6 minutes or so, but 25 min later the thing was cranking out full speed and full tilt and my HR was still only at 90%, apparently it takes longer for those who exercise regularly,  even longer for those who run on treadmills, and way longer for those who are active outdoors. I apparently caught them profiling, which will tickle my doctor as he understands my frustration to some extent. Someone I know told me that "the financial markets are closed on the weekend so whatever happens with my money will have to wait until Monday". What he was trying to say about my latest bout of work related stress was that "school is closed on the weekends all problems will have to wait until Monday or even school is out around 3PM so all related problems will have to wait until 7AM". I am trying to learn this way of thinking.

I got out of Dodge this weekend. I decided to go to Lake Placid to visit some friends despite not feeling 100%. The reasons? I needed to exercise and the atmosphere in that town is conducive to it. I needed to relax which I always seem to be able to do up there. I needed to laugh and I knew that a combination of Jen keeping me on my toes and the Ottawa Pacers in town, there would be plenty of that. I also needed to be inspired and Kevin Frost was racing.

I am not home yet. Tomorrow I head to Dana Farber with my mom. I won't speculate about that. It is just a fact. I will think of it as an adventure in its own right. Maybe we will see or hear something exciting along the way?

More later!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The people you meet

 I spent last night in Danbury hospital. Some would blame it on the Superbowl excitement or even being a closet (ahmmm) Pats fan. Most of you don't know me well, but I have been a Redskins fan for forever and despite not really following the game, or caring about who wins, when push comes to shove its either DC or NY. Really? To think some silly pigskin is going to rattle my cage?  HA, you missed something that was very elementary, there was no ICE involved, not any bicycle, nor any running shoe, or even some adventurous feat of athleticism. Don't get me wrong football is a very strenuous sport, but its played that way every day of the week, just like any of the above, it just doesn't rival a scramble up K2. In any case, my hospital visit in a nutshell: I went to bed on Sunday night with a headache. I woke Monday morning at 4 AM with a headache and numbness in my left arm, shoulder and back. I took some aspirin and went back to bed. An hour later I woke up with an even bigger headache and even more pressure so I went to the hospital. I had what they call hypertensive urgency. What an ordeal! I guess there is more to that middle age crap than I gave my mother credit for (ha). 

In some ways I almost think I should write about the cast of characters I met. There was the PA who was so serious we thought his face would crack BUT he shot me up with morphine the minute I got there, then wanted to give me every other pain killer under the sun. Then there was the PA who kept telling me I had to change my lifestyle the cardiologist who I thought was going to give me the same line but almost broke into tears because he felt my pain, working hard at eating right and exercising and being jealous of those who do nothing and sail through life without these problems. He was Russian, wore these really cool shoes, and made me want to ask him to be my training buddy! Of course, there has to be one, there was the nurses assistant who had no sensitivity. How much do you weigh? I tell her, she corrects me. As she is taking my blood pressure she asks "you have high blood pressure?" I answer yes. She says how high? and then snarks something at me as she walks away. Little did I know that there was a friggen scale on the bed. 

Ok so I am home, now what? Nothing more than I was doing already, low sodium, low caffeine, exercise, loose weight… HELLO, sorry sometimes I feel like I am at the bottom of this hole yelling up CAN YOU HEAR ME? Then I secretly think that the doctors who tell me to do the above should be challenged to spending a week with me! Matter of fact they should pay me for food too as we don't eat food that has been processed, nor do I add salt. As for the exercise piece? I wonder if they could handle it?

For now, every morsel, every step into my log book…Join me 

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Did you ever stop and wonder if someone has been trying to ell you something for a while? My dad's family has high blood pressure, weight and lifestyle don't seem to matter when it comes to this hereditary fact of life. I seem to have inherited it by the time I was 38, despite being at a healthy weight and having an overly healthy lifestyle. I have managed it pretty well for the past 9 years despite the scale crawling up with the calendar. I spent 5 of the last 6 years on a low level medication. A year ago, a severe parasitic infection that I picked up abroad had me wondering if I was preserving my liver. After months of trying to control the infection my doctor and I decided that maybe a drug holiday would be in order. As far as my BP was concerned it was contingent of course on the numbers.
 I managed to keep things in line for a solid year then the creep set in. First time it was a slight rise, I blamed it on caffeine within the 3 hours prior. The next few times, I blamed it on hormones. I was after-all running every day and I haven't eaten processed food in decades and at this point I was really watching what I was eating. Then came the subtle indicators that something was up, the occasional blurry vision that lasted for less than a few minutes, which I just thought was work stress and sinuses. I do suffer from post-concussion syndrome that comes and goes. Then there was the slight nausea that I have felt since November that I attributed to the fact that things will be changing soon, I am female and almost 50 after all. Last week there was the bloating that I attributed to the same thing.
On Jan 31 I started to think about my dad and how much I missed him. He suffered a stroke when he was my age and died a handful of years later. That was my exact thought, no elaboration, just he had a stroke at my age. Why I was dwelling on that I have no clue?  The next day I got an e-mail from a speedskating friend, an early groundhogs day card. My mothers father was a 4th generation CHUCKER, meaning he was from Punxy. My only thought when I opened it was I wished I could have shared it with my "Grampy" because he would have laughed a hearty belly laugh at it. I wrote Bridie and told her of my ancestral connection to groundhogs. She replied with "read your blog…how's the month's exercise going?" That was Thursday, the same day I woke up with a bad ear-ache. The night before I hadn't wanted to skate, I was tired,  felt feverish or at least I had been sweating all day like I had one. I skated anyway, felt a bit out of it, but managed. On Thursday however I was in enough pain to actually want to go to the doctor after half my day teaching. I left work after my last class and arrived at the Dr by 2PM. I was there until almost 6 while they tried to decide if I needed to be hospitalized for a medical emergency. My blood pressure? It was a whopping 167/110 and not coming down that easily. The worst, Kenny didn't even know I was at the doctor. I texted him and told him I was being held hostage by a nurse wielding a cuff. I had been there for 3 hours. I had both sets of keys and the car. I was most likely not leaving on my own power. I was most likely heading to Danbury to spend my weekend in PJ's, eating really bad over-cooked processed food and growing tubes. Then came the text CAN YOU COME HOME? I AM SCARED.
By 6 PM I was allowed to go but with strict instructions. No exercise until at least tomorrow, no salt, no caffeine, no getting off the couch, no stress, no…, coaching in Lake Placid this weekend, absolutely NOT!
I had to take a dose of med before bed and come back to the office at 8 AM. I had to make sure that if I experienced any symptoms of what I was told could be a FATAL situation such as blurry vision, nausea, confusion, headache, or pain I needed to call 911 immediately. WTF had I gotten myself into?
So, I sat home all of that night, all of yesterday and now my pressure is back to normal with the help of a diuretic. I have a new perspective on my life and quite frankly loosing weight and living an even more healthy lifestyle is something that is not even a question, it is mandatory! I'm so convinced someone was trying to tell me something and I am grateful!