Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Clean Eating

It was just an ordinary day. Shortly after the new year had begun, I was watching my daily dose of "Live with Kelly & Michael" when I saw something. Something that I had no idea would change my life and the way I relate to food. It was a special section devoted to a New Year/New You. There was this doctor and he was talking about a 2 week food cleanse. Well, automatically, my ears perked up because I had heard of all-liquid cleanses - heck, I'd even tried a few before - but, this sounded intriguing. A 2 week cleanse designed to reset the vicious cycle of my poor eating/drinking/excerise habits. And it involved actual food. I was on board!

The name of the doctor was Dr. Ian K. Smith and the cleanse was the Shred Power Cleanse. I ran right out and bought the book. I read it while on an airplane to visit my sister. I wasn't ready to start it just yet, after all I had a weekend of wining & dining ahead of me...but, I wanted to read all about it and be ready for it when I returned home.

Now, to be fair, I did do my annual 3-day juice cleans upon returning home. I thought it would be a good way to jump start my weight loss. And boy was it ever! I lost 6.6 lbs in 3 days. This time around, I had added in fresh fruits and veggies so it wasn't a strict juice only cleanse. The body does amazing things when it doesn't have to process alcohol, refined sugar, meat or dairy. I immediately felt lighter, clearer-minded and had a sense of peace and contentment that was difficult to explain. 

Well, if I had done just the 3-day cleanse as I had in the past, that feeling would have been short-lived and I would have packed back on the pounds and returned to my old habits in no time. But, this year was different. Different because I had discovered Dr. Ian K. Smith. 

Now, I am a person who loves structure and routine in an eating plan. I am "all or nothing" so, I would rather give up ALL of my bad habits, than just one. For some odd reason, that works for me. I've always said that I just want someone to tell me what to eat and when to eat it. And this program did just that!

This program also taught me the proper way to exercise. It introduced to me the concept of HIIT workouts. Higher intensity in a shorter amount of time. I had heard of these before, but it wasn't until I read this book and began doing them, that it finally made sense. I felt like I had unlocked the secret to weight loss.

Let me back up for just a minute. I am a 50 year old woman, in the midst of menopause and I have been living with MS for 17 years. I honestly thought I could not lose weight at this point in my life. I had sort of resolved myself to the fact that my skinny jeans would never fit properly and my belly would always hang over the top of my waistband. The term "happy belly" was just the name of a healthy juice from my cleanse, not something I thought I could ever actually attain. Oh, how wrong I had been!

Once I started to eat healthy - and by that I don't just mean changing the quality of my food - but also the quantity - good things started to happen. In the past, my problem was not eating too MUCH food, it was eating too LITTLE food. Eating too little actually sabotages weight loss and metabolism more than you realize. 

I cannot tell you how much this program of clean eating has improved my life. It has changed the way I look at food, it has changed the way I exercise and it has given me a sense of well-being that is beyond explanation.  I just want to shout from the mountain tops how exciting and easy this way of life really is.  For those of you who have ever struggled with making good food choices or seeing results from all your hard work at the gym...this is the plan for you! Give it two weeks! I promise it will change your life. And those skinny jeans? Well, you may just have to go out and buy them a couple sizes smaller!

Don't miss my next blog: 10 Things I've learned from a Month of Clean Eating

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dear Running,

I've decided it's time to take you back. I can no longer drive into my garage and pretend that I don't see the wall of bibs and smiling photos staring back at me. Or see the facebook memories on my daily feed and not feel a tinge of regret.  I don't even really know where things went wrong - it was like I turned 50 and decided I was too old for you. Well, now I know that was silly. Because you don't stop running because you're old, you get old because you stop running. I needed this break to be able to see how much you truly mean to me and appreciate you more. You know, the whole absence makes the heart grow fonder bit.

Now, before you get too excited, we need to lay down a few relationship ground rules:

1. We have to start slow. I don't want to hear any mention of training runs, tempos, fartleks or tapering. It's just too soon. If you want this to work, you have to be patient with me. You have to let me go at my own pace. Last time, I got way too obsessed way too soon and it wasn't good for either one of us.

2. This will NOT be an exclusive relationship. If I want to share you with walking (a ménage au troi, let's say) then you have to be okay with that. If I decide to hop on the elliptical or ride the stationary bike, you gotta embrace it and be like "you go girl - variety is the spice of life" without a smidge of jealousy. 

3. We have GOT to learn to have a little more fun together. Last time we tried this, things got way too serious! It became more about the RUN and not enough about the FUN. We got all caught up in race times and splits and PRs and shit...and somehow forgot to stop and take selfies and smell the roses. I do not want to make that mistake again. 

4. Last, but definitely not least, promise me that you WILL NOT HURT me! I've had enough bruised shins, skinned knees, swollen hands and chafing to last a lifetime. I'm over it. If you want me back, this is non-negotiable. I'm tired of getting hurt. And quite frankly, too old.

So, what do you think? Do we have a deal? Can we make this work again? If not...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

How running saved my life

After a long run this morning, I casually mentioned to my running buddy that I really think if I hadn't started running at the age of 45, I may not have made it to see my 50th (which is just a little over 3 weeks away!) She chuckled and even I had to stop and think if that was really a true statement but, truth be told, running has saved my life.

Not to mention my sanity, my health, my marriage, my mood, my faith, ...Uh, you get the idea.

The thing about running is that it affects your entire life, encompassing everything you do and everyone you come in contact with. You may not even realize it at the time but, running plays a key role in every decision you make. Wether that decision is to finish off the entire bottle of wine or change your perspective on a situation, running usually helps making that decision a little easier.

I have often joked that running is my therapy. But, truly that is no laughing matter. I cringe to think what I would have spent these past 5 years in psycho-analytical counseling sessions if it had not been for running. I can't even imagine how much weight I would have put on over the course of 5 years if it hadn't been for running. Or how high my already high cholesterol would be. And God knows, my almost 25 year marriage would not be what it is today if I did not have running in my life.

Even though my zest for running has slowed down a bit since I ran my first half marathon back in 2011, the benefits are still ever-present in my life. If I was to conduct a scientific study and chart my daily moods as well as my daily runs, I know that I would find a direct correlation between the days that I am on top of the world to the days that I was down in the dumps simply by wether I ran or not.  Believe me, my co-workers can tell from my first "hello" wether I ran that morning or not. Recently, I saw a T-shirt that said "I run because pinching people is socially unacceptable". Case in point.

Running is the cherry on top of the sundae, it's the rainbow in the storm and it's the secret to my happiness. To stop running would be to stop breathing. Sure, the rate at which the race bibs go up on my garage wall may slow down, I will not stop lacin' it up and hittin' the road until they carry me off!

"You don't stop running because you get old.
You get old because you stop running."

I have no intentions of getting old so, for now, I've got no choice but to keep on running!!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Who you calling passive aggressive?

I love the fact that as I approach the ripe ol' age of 50, I can learn new things and more importantly, I can actually put them into action!

My latest project is overcoming Passive Aggressive behavior.  Now, let's be honest, everybody has a little of this behavior unless maybe you are Mother Theresa or Pioneer Woman but...chances are if you are reading my blog, you have a little "PA" in you!

Lately, I've done a little research on the subject and I'm happy to report that I come by this trait honestly! What I've learned is that if you grew up in a traditional family where one parent was dominant and conflict was usually avoided, well then, you may have inherited a little more than the family rear end! (And for the record, yes I got that too!) Lucky Me!

Passive Aggressiveness is described as "sugar coated hostility" and boy, does that hit the nail on the head! Anytime you say something other than what you'd like to actually say, that is "PA". Anytime you respond with a sarcastic remark, you are being "PA". Anytime you post a status or photo with a slight intention to piss someone off...yep, you got it: "PA"! Give your hubby the silent treatment much? Yup! (They say the worst "F" word to come out of a woman's mouth is "Fine!") This little gem takes on all kinds of forms but any way you slice it, it's sour puss pie!

The real problem with sour puss pie is that the more you eat it, the more it harms you. The person you are mad at continues along their road in life without a care in the world, while you are seething with anger, frustration and resentment.  Nothing will ever get better if you continue to eat from this "not so humble" pie, because the very thing that is causing you pain is the thing that you can't let go of. It's like continuing to down a fifth of whiskey and wondering why you have such a killer headache! You can't conquer your demons if you aren't willing to acknowledge them.  Plain and simple. Face the demon. Free yourself from it's grasp. It really is that easy.

So, if it's that easy, why do we continue to do it? Because it's much easier to be angry than to face conflict. There are those who are so afraid of conflict that they will do just about anything to avoid it. Sounds crazy, huh?

The best thing you can do for yourself, for your health and your entire quality of life is to face your fears no matter what they are. One moment of discomfort is worth a thousand moments of bliss. Once you release whatever it is that is bothering you, you will suddenly feel a lightness, a joy that is indescribable. You gotta feel it to really appreciate it but, it is oh so sweet!

And the best way to avoid this thing in the future is to address problems as they arise. Nip it in the bud. Cut it short. Don't let it fester. No good comes from that.

In the end, you will suffer way less if you let it all out than if you hold it all in. And if you let it out little by little, even better! And remember:

"Comfort is the enemy of achievement"

Monday, February 16, 2015

50 things I want my kids to know

As I approach my 50th birthday, I have been doing a lot of thinking and making a lot of lists! I've made "bucket lists", "to do lists" and "already done lists". Just the other day, I thought of another list: "things I want my kids to know." I think it's important to share bits of wisdom with our children - a sort of living legacy if you will - before they go out into the world. I may not know it all in my "almost 50 years"  but, I do know this much:

1. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Yep, the Golden Rule never goes out of style.

2. Celebrate the little things.  Because in the end, that's what really matters.

3. Do what you love and the money will come. Don't ever take a job for the money alone because you will forever be a slave to it. Follow your heart and your job will never feel like work.

4. Work hard. "The way you do anything is the way you do everything" means that you set your own standard of work from the get go so, be sure to give it your all.

5. Eat caviar. Or "be fancy" once in awhile.

6. Go to confession once in awhile.  Nothing feels better than a clean slate.

7.  Climb a mountain. The air really is cleaner up there!

8. Listen to country music. 

9. Learn how to shoot a gun. 

10. Remember where you came from. See #8 & #9.

11. Learn from your mistakes. There's nothing wrong with making mistakes just try not to make the same ones over and over. And over.

12. Travel while you have the chance.

13. Stay in school. Duh.

14. Remember whatever you post on the internet, lives there forever!

15. Some good deeds go unpunished. Contrary to your father and mother's favorite saying, it really is worthwhile to do good.

16. Don't base your self worth on how many "likes" or "friends" you have.

17. Don't call in sick unless you are. #smalltownproblems

18. Remember that true character is who you are when nobody is watching. (aka, who you are when you're not on social media!)

19. People will like you more if they think you like them. This really does work! If there is someone you would like to like you more, simply show an interest in them. Careful what you wish for though, because you will have a friend for life.

20. Do crosswords (and not just the Monday ones!) Strive to constantly sharpen your mind - be it puzzles, podcasts or a paradigm shift!!

21. Don't forget to be awesome. Self explanatory, I hope.

22. Learn to run! Preferably before the age of 45!

23. Practice moderation. Preferably before your 50th bday!

24. Choose your mate wisely. Time only accentuates a person's true character. Think about that

25. Don't sleep your life away. Yes, it's true that the early bird gets the worm -- or atleast a better view of the sunrise!

26. If you get a chance to spend some time on a golf course, do it! The lessons you learn on a golf course will stay with you for life.

27. Take chances. Most of the things you will regret in this life, will be the things you DIDN'T do!

28. Always be kinder than you feel. You know the old adage "everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about"...well, it's true!

29. Volunteer your time. 

30. Excercise most days of the week.

31. Read your bible.

32. Practice what you preach. No one likes a hypocrite or a poser. Be who you say you are and stand your ground.

33. Give something up. Nothing feels better than giving something up that will allow you more freedom or time or money. Try it!

34. Don't keep track of wrongs. It will steal your joy.

35. Don't hang out with buzzkills - or 'hoodlums! 'Nuff said.

36. Help those who cannot repay you. Remember: "The best excersise for your heart is reaching down to help someone up!"

37. Spend time with the very young and the very old.

38. Take care of yourself. You only get one body, treat it well.

39. Stay up and watch the sunrise.

40. Splurge once in awhile. On a bottle of wine, a new pair of shoes or a once in a lifetime trip!

41. Learn how to fish. See #10.

42. Grow something.

43. Always use spell check! And just remember you can always hit the edit button once you have misspelled something.

44. Don't believe everything you read.

45. Have a favorite book.

46. Read a classic. 

47. Listen to your gut.

48. Don't just pray when you need something. Just like you don't like it when a friend calls you only when he's in trouble, neither does God!

49. Everyone deserves to be validated. Even the jack asses!!!

50. You can always go home. Preferably just to visit. But, know that the door is always open and your bed will always be unmade.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

the new moms club

I have always been a big fan of mom's groups. When my daughter was little, I was heavily involved with MOPS (mothers of pre schoolers). It is a wonderful organization that emphasizes both the spiritual and emotional nourishment of young mothers. Every week, I looked forward to dropping my daughter off for a couple hours of ME time. I relished the conversation with other moms who were just like me. I went "gaga" over the crafts we did each week. I marveled at the amazing speakers who would come and share their wisdom with us (and one week, I marveled at the fact that it was ME who was up there speaking!) I was a true "Mops Geek" in every sense of the word. I drank up the experience like a grande peppermint mocha with extra whip and still left each week with my cup overflowing. Able to face another week as a "stay at home mom" and tackle any problems that would come my way. Some of my most meaningful friendships were forged within the walls of those MOPS meetings.

Throughout the years, I have belonged to bunco groups, bible studies, training groups and weekly wine nights - all in the name of trying to find that perfect balance between Motherhood and Me. Between changing diapers to wanting to change the world. Trying to stay sane amidst the chaos of raising children. Trying to find my own identity aside from being a mom. It's a constant struggle but, somehow at each stage of my life, I have been able to find comfort and solace in bonding with other moms, wether it is sharing a favorite recipe or a favorite scripture with a friend. Any way you slice it, it truly feeds me!

Nowadays, my kids are older. I have a son in college and my "once pre-school " daughter is now in middle school. I am working full time. I don't get to pick and choose how I spend my days so much anymore. I sort of thought my need for a moms group was a thing of the past. That is, until I experienced "Moms Weekend" for my son's fraternity.

Wow! Talk about an amazing support group. Spending time with other moms and our grown sons has become one of the most awesome and gratifying things I have ever done as a mom. Each year, us moms become more bonded and the friendships a little deeper. We share stories of our boys when they were little and share our hopes and dreams for their future. There is something so very special about quality time spent between a boy and his mama. And unless you are the mother of a boy, it's impossible to understand.

I am so thankful for this newfound "club" that I have found. Just when I thought that life couldn't get any fuller and I didn't need any new friends, it happened. It's funny how that works. But, I am so glad it did!
You know it's "Mom's Weekend" when...
-someone screams "we all gotta get leis" and is honestly referring to the Hawaiian neckware!
-you see a group of twenty-something young men at the grocery store loading Cook's champagne into their cart, rather than PBR
-you introduce yourself as "so and so's mom" instead of your real name
-you revert back to your college self on game day by sneaking in flasks of contraband liquid and dancing and screaming in the stands!
-instead of heading to the bar after dinner, you head to the ice cream shop
-you spot young men walking their mothers back to their hotels in the dark
-you drive home laughing and reminiscing about what an incredible weekend you had...even if you are the only one in the car!

"Bonding through Brotherhood"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

MS, PML and other fun acronyms

Well, the time has come to make a decision. A very important decision. Perhaps, a life and death decision. I have been living with Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years and I would have to say that it has, overall, been a pretty easy journey. I have always been happy, if not thankful, that God chose this cross for me to bear. There are a lot worse things than having MS. Don't think for one minute that I don't know that.

Over the years, I have tried all kinds of treatments and drugs to combat the devastating effects of this (lovely) disease! In the very beginning, I chose positive mental attitude (PMA) and prayer (otherwise known as OYK - or "on your knees"). That was followed up with a dose of better eating, lots of exercise and a bottle of bleach. It was great: I lost weight, I embraced my "inner blonde", I felt like a million bucks! I truly felt like MS had been a wake up call to live a better life! The life that God had intended me to live! Apparently, God thought I looked better as a blonde too!

A few years later, I started experiencing some numbness and balance issues. My doctor wanted me to consider Avonex, an intramuscular injection self-administered once a week. The only caveat was that they don't recommend getting pregnant while on this drug. My husband and I discussed it and decided that we should try for Baby #2. We'd give ourselves 6 months and if I wasn't pregnant by summer's end, we would close that door for good and I would begin my new treatment. Well, as luck would have it (just kidding, I know it was all God!) we were pregnant by Memorial Day! We were thrilled! AJ was going to have a little sister and our lil' party of three was about to become a foursome!

Marlee was born in January and just a few weeks after she was born, I began having exacerbations which would cause me to lose my balance more easily and my limbs to go numb. I remember being thankful that I was in a season of my life where I was almost always sitting on the couch (nursing) or pushing a stroller or grocery cart so, that I could sort of "fake" it if I needed to! But, I knew I needed to get started on my treatment ASAP! I knew that this meant I needed to wean my baby sooner than I had planned and get serious about fighting this fight. (Studies show that the sooner a person with MS starts treatment, the better their prognosis.) It was a tough decision but, time was not on my side and I had to act fast!

For several years, I was happy with the Avonex. Thankful, again that there was a miracle drug on the market and even more thankful for a husband that wasn't afraid to administer it! He will always be my hero for rising to that occasion. Our wedding vows had said "in sickness and in health" and clearly, he had meant every word.

But, like all good things, it came to an end...an MRI showed new lesions in my brain and my doctor wanted me to "amp it up" where my treatment was concerned. So, we switched to Rebif, another shot type drug but this time, instead of intramuscular, it was subcutaneous (which meant just below the skin) and was to be administered not once but, 3x a week. Oh joy!

Rebif worked for quite awhile, probably 5 or so years. But, in early 2011, I started experiencing dizziness and vertigo, rendering me unable to work and drive, limiting my daily functioning greatly. Again, my doctor ordered an MRI, got me started on multiple days of steroid infusions and started talking to me about this new drug called Tysabri. Tysabri was a once a month IV infusion that had seen great successes but, unfortunately had also seen unfortunate outcomes. Several people on the drug had died from a rare brain infection called PML or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy! Phew! Aren't you glad they just call it PML for short?! Anyhoo, the idea of a once a month IV (or as I like to call it "a mommy time out") sounded fabulous! No more shots! No real side effects to speak of, well other than the possibility of that "PM-whatever it was" so, I jumped on that train faster than a sneeze through a screen door!

So, I have been living happily ever after on Tysabri ever since!


If only that was the end of the story.

A few weeks ago, my doctor ordered a few routine blood tests and another MRI. The MRI, thankfully, came back very good - no new lesions! Yay me! However, they also tested me for the antibody that causes the JC Virus, which is a major player in this whole PML Russian Roulette game! And, I tested positive.

So, back to that decision that I have to make. My doctor wants me to consider going off of Tysabri and try a new oral pill (taken twice daily) but, I'm not so keen about the side effects or the stuff that is in the pill. It is made from a chemical that has been used in furniture cleaner! What?

I, on the other hand, am not so ready to jump off the Tysabri Wagon just yet. I actually look forward to my monthly infusions as it is seriously one of the rare times in my busy life that I get to recline in a chair, cover up with a cozy blanket and either close my eyes or do a crossword, read or just chill for 2 hours! It's about the closest thing to a spa day that I get on a regular basis!

Besides that, here is what I do know:

I know that testing positive for the JC Virus puts me at a much higher risk for developing PML (1 in 500 I am told) but, I also know that there are other MS patients who continue to take this drug even after receiving a positive result.  I also know that I feel 100% better since I've been taking Tysabri than I ever have while living with MS. I know that life is unpredictable in and of itself and I am willing to take my chances. I know that the God that I believe in already knows how my life on earth will end, and if PML is part of His plan, then so be it. I know for sure that I would rather live a more quality life right now than to have a life where I wasn't able to enjoy the things I enjoy doing. It's about living in the NOW. Yes, I am worried about the possibility of developing PML but, what scares me more is picturing my life without the strength in my legs to run a 5k or the vision to see things clearly and be able to do the work I love. Tysabri has given me a new lease on life and it would be awfully ironic if the very thing that saved me, ends up killing me. But, then again, God works in mysterious ways and who am I to second guess Him?

*on a side note, I love the book Jesus Calling so much that I have it programmed into my phone under the acronym JC so, every time  I typed in those two letter that is what popped up! Kinda funny! I just hope it doesn't mean "Jesus is Calling me home!" Not just yet anyway!