Wednesday, December 26, 2018

IBS Treatment Update

Tomorrow, I'll hit the six week mark with the Prozac treatment for my Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I'm not sure how I managed to make it through all those weeks, because the drugs have, if anything, increased the amount of pain I'm in day to day.

When I did some more searching online about the use of Prozac with IBS, I found one study that estimated they would have a 15% dropout rate, but actually had a 68% dropout rate because of "intolerable side effects" among other reasons. They were pretty much not left with sufficient numbers of people in the study to draw any real conclusions.

I'm in a study of one, essentially. And I came very close to dropping out, because I've had an increase in bloating and the pain that that brings. And no reduction, thus far, in the other types of pain that I get. (I classify them as burning pain, sharp pain, extreme pain and stitch-like pain, along with bloaty pain.)

I've been doing my best to track my bowel movements during this time so that I have some data to look at with the doctor when I have my follow-up appointment. I track pain, but only whether I experienced a certain kind of pain that day, not the specifics of when or how long. I've been pooping fairly regularly, which is good, but I still feel like I'm retaining too much.

I have no idea whether this is a thing or something I'm imagining, but I feel like the poop I'm retaining is affecting my bladder. I'll go to the bathroom before bed, having been sitting up for most of the evening, and then I'll go to bed and lay down and within five minutes I'll have to pee again. It's like the shift of position causes my bladder to feel full. Or the other position simply didn't allow it to empty.

My doctor told me that if I started feeling relief from the IBS at a 20mg dose, then I could try tapering back to 10mg to see if the relief persists at a lower dose. I'm really hoping that something magically happens at the six week mark and I start feeling relief, but I don't honestly see that happening. So far it's done nothing but make everything worse. I'm only still taking it out of sheer cussedness.

At least the strangeness I felt when I started taking it has faded. I felt, as the doctor warned, more "activated" at first, but that's gone. Now I just have the IBS pain and the bloating, and an occasional twitchiness that seems new, but may not be.

I've made it this far; I'm going to keep on going and see what happens.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Publishing Progress

Well, I'm somewhat staying on track with the publishing. I got the Olympic National Park book complete and published last weekend. If I can do a book a weekend for the rest of the year, then I'll meet my arbitrary publishing goal for the year. It's possible, but I'll need to make sure I don't spend too much time goofing off.

Have a sunset.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Back on Track

Getting sick really threw me off schedule for my writing, but I think I can still get all the books I wanted to publish done before the end of the year. I'll just need to focus and make sure that I kick my husband off the computer as often as I need to.

I've got everything I need to finish and publish the Hike with Me on the most recent trip to the Olympic Coast, and I've done all the workouts that I wanted to do for the CrossFit book. Those I plan to get published this weekend. Then I just need to finally finish writing the September ICT segment that I did and pick photos and get that all put together.

That last one will take some serious time, but I'm going to have a whole week off of work over the holidays, so there's no reason I can't get it all done before the new year. And then I'll have published six books in one year which would be a new record for me. I can't believe I have so many Hike with Me books now, but doing three in one year will really bump up the overall total.

As my cold is fading away, I'm starting to feel my stomach again. I kind of hoped that I would just be sick through the adjustment period and the Prozac would be working by the time I felt better, but it was not to be. I'm back to feeling painfully bloated and gassy. But I'm not feeling the side effects as much, so that's something. Tomorrow will be four weeks, and I'm supposed to give it four to six to start working, so I really hope it starts working soon.

Even with being sick, I've been keeping up with my Spartan training workouts. I'll have to take a week off of those when my gym is closed for the holidays, but other than that, I want to keep steady on it. I know that it takes time and consistent effort to get results, which is why I started training in November for a June race. If I could be half as disciplined with my writing, I'd have dozens of novels by now...

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


I haven't been sick like this in a while. I've got that awful rattling cough and I'm exhausted and all I want is to feel normal again. I mean, on the bright side, I'm not thinking about getting used to the Prozac anymore, because the crud has taken all of my attention.

So that's something.

But the big thing is I haven't been working on my writing. I still need to finish the write up for my latest ICT segment, and I'm needing to do final proofing on the Olympic Coast book.

However! I did get my other ICT book out and published. Yay! That's three books published so far in 2018, and I'm actually going to try for three more before the end of the year, which seems kind of nuts, but it will just take some focused concentration.

And not being sick anymore would be very helpful, please, thank you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Well, my blogs are late this week. I'm not adjusting well to the current medication scheme. I can only hope that things start to improve soon. In the meantime, I've got work to do.

Ambrose has finished his read-through of both proofs, which means I have some editing to do. I've already fixed the pictures for the solo trip; I just need to place them, which I'll do as I do the text editing he has recommended. Well, some of it. We disagree, in some instances, as to the proper place of the comma. Since I have a degree in English, I win those arguments.

I've sent the proof of the ONP trip to Bill (who went on that hike with us), who has already reviewed the text but deserves a chance to review the captions as well, especially since some of them are his pictures which I want to make sure I've attributed to his satisfaction.

Once I get all my editing done, then I'll need to create the ebook versions. I sometimes do that before I finish editing, but then I have to edit two documents with the same corrections and that's not really very efficient.

I still need to finish writing up the account of the September solo trip; I've fallen off of writing regularly again. No excuses really. I just need to bear down and get that last bit written. I think I will be able to publish all of these in 2018. Plus the CrossFit book, for which I've redone the first CrossFit workout that I ever did. I want to redo a few more, but I might not, depending on timing. I'd like to release that book on the 5 year anniversary of my starting, but we'll see. That's 12/17.

I have plenty to do, I just need to figure out a way to do it while I'm experiencing constant stomach pain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Rocky Start

Taking anti-depressants while not depressed is a strange sensation. In my experience taking anti-depressants in the past, I never noticed any kind of effects until I tried to get off the medication. Well, there were a couple different ones. On the Effexor, I never noticed much until the head zap withdrawal symptoms. On Wellbutrin, I noticed that I no longer wanted to smoke cigarettes and I actually quit while on it. And then the withdrawal from that was just needing to take a nap for about a day every time I decreased the dose. Not bad.

But with this Prozac that I'm taking to try and treat the IBS (an off label use my doctor has prescribed), I noticed effects really soon after I took the first dose. My doc said that I might feel "activated" and I didn't know what that meant until I felt it. I wasn't feeling hyper, but I just felt a little more... active. In my thoughts and also somewhat in my body. A lightheadedness. And my stomach went from feeling bloated to feeling super bloated.

Now, I'm taking this to try and fix my IBS, and one of the side effects is, essentially, upset stomach and constipation, the exact things I'm trying to avoid. My doc told me to look at any GI symptoms in a positive light, in that if the drug was affecting that area, that meant it might help it later on once I reached an effective dose. Which is not very comforting when I feel like I'm going to burst. I even dreamed that I was pregnant, which I completely blame on the feeling of largeness in my tummy (I'm not pregnant).

I won't really know if the medication is helping until I've been on it for 4 to 6 weeks. I really hope I start getting used to these side effects soon.

Or at least that the tummy issues subside, because right now I feel like I'm making the problem worse instead of fixing it.

On the brighter side, I'm getting well on with the books I want to publish before the year is out. Amazon switched its paper copies from CreateSpace to the Kindle Direct interface, and I wasn't sure how those would look, so I ordered a proof copy for the May ICT section book to be sure the new service translated my files correctly. It looks good, and I'm just waiting on Ambrose to do a proofread before I go in, fix things and publish.

I'm working on captions for Return to the Wild Coast, and I hope to have the proof for that ready to go by the end of this long weekend. Then I just need to finish up writing the September ICT trip and my CrossFit book. I just might get them all published in 2018!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

IBS Alternatives

At my annual wellness exam, my provider suggested that I might consider trying low dose anti-depressants to treat my irritable bowel syndrome issues. She said that using about a quarter or less of what was considered a therapeutic dose for depression had been shown to help with IBS. I said I would do some research and get back to her.

I'm not entirely convinced that the issues I have are caused by IBS and not, say, chronic appendicitis or something else that is difficult to diagnose. Partly because no matter what I try, nothing seems to help.

I've done elimination diets to try to find triggers. Nothing. Sometimes, my stomach will just protest when I eat something for seemingly no reason. It could be a food that I've eaten before, the day before even, without issues, but suddenly it hurts me.

I workout a good amount. I try to keep my stress levels in check - and the exercise definitely helps there. I get 8 hours of sleep or more per night - except when my stomach pain keeps me up, or makes my sleep more restless than restful.

I'm going to try this solution. Supposedly there are similar neuro-transmitters in the gut as there are in the brain, so it makes sense to me that this might work. I haven't been able to find many studies backing this up, but I don't really trust that the studies would be good proof - of safety, sure, but not efficacy for my particular issues. So I'll try this out, and if it works, great. If it doesn't, then maybe my practitioner will be willing to consider that maybe what's been diagnosed as IBS isn't.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Holding the Streak

I finished my write-up of the coast trip, keeping to my 1000 words per day even when I really didn't feel like it. The last day I went over that since I could feel the end and wanted to go ahead and finish. Ambrose has done his preliminary read. After I go over his suggestions, I'll be sharing it with Bill, since he was on the trip, too.

I almost let go of the streak when I finished the coast story; I figured I would have other things to do and could write the story for the Stanley Lake to Dagger Falls section of the ICT after I caught up on production work. But I changed my mind at the last minute and snuck 1000 words into my evening to get started on my the writing for the 6th book I'm planning to publish this year.

I mean, I did finish the initial captions for the Hammett to Willow Creek book, so I was moving pretty well on production even with 1000 words per day of writing.

In 2018, I've already published two small guidebooks. And I'm planning on two ICT books, the coast book and a CrossFit book.

That seemed like a crazy idea when I first thought of publishing that many books in a year. But now that I'm closer to realizing it, I think I can do it. I'll need to be focused, because the Hike with Me books take a lot of time at the end, but I can get there.

Even if it means pausing on the writing streak once I finish the last write-up.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Progress Amid Madness

Last week at work was one of the craziest weeks I've had there. In a normal year, a busy week would have been loading 1000 applications in a single week. Last week, we loaded over 4000. It felt like madness, and I'm so glad it's over.

I'm also glad that I was able to keep up my writing in the face of that work time madness, even on days when I had to do some work from home in the evenings because of the madness. There was one day that I missed my production work goal, but that was more from my computer crashing than anything else. I really need a new computer, and so does my husband, but we just can't bring ourselves to budget for them. Not when there's so much backpacking gear to buy.

I've picked the pictures for the solo trip book, and I'm working my way through captioning. I'm also doing some more culling as I go through, because when I try to come up with captions, and they're redundant, that emphasizes where I have too many pictures of the same thing. In this case, the gravel roads that make up the ICT in the section I was hiking. Still working on day 1, but I think I'll get a good push in next weekend.

Another recent point of madness relates to my recent annual checkup, wherein my cholesterol levels turned out to be just a bit higher than my provider preferred. So I got a call telling me to avoid fatty meats and increase exercise. I wanted to laugh over the phone at that one, but I refrained. Because I already exercise a lot. I've gone to at least 20 CrossFit classes per month for the last 14 months. I bike commute to work. I hike long distances on a regular basis. Increasing exercise would leave little room in my life for anything else.

But, by the BMI scale, I'm "overweight", so I'm sure that was simply the standard talking point. Because that message didn't come directly from my provider, and I did tell her just how much I exercise. I had really good cholesterol when I was eating oatmeal on a regular 5 day a week basis, but then I got diagnosed with IBS and oatmeal was one of the things that I got triggered by, so bye bye oats. Maybe I'll try oats again and see how they do, but I'll probably wait until a month or two before my next annual check up for that trial.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep up my "normal" level of exercise and focus on the things I can control.

Like finishing these books!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Streak Building

Well, my streak is growing. I've had 1000 words a day every day since I started last Monday. It's funny how I can get 1000 words or more per day when I'm focused on writing a particular project, but once the project ends, my writing dries right up. Of course, part of that is because I have the habit of moving on to the next part of the work for these particular projects.

Or it's because I'm focused on backpacking during the season. That's what ended my streak after writing up the solo hike in June.

But right now, I'm moving forward with production work for the next ICT book, which I still haven't named, as well as writing up the coast. Plus, I've started to implement my Spartan plan. I had personal training over the last weekend and yesterday I started my first day of accessory work at the rec center.

So I've been busy... And I haven't been as diligent in getting back to keeping track of symptoms as I'd hoped. Maybe because that's not for public consumption, so I don't have as much incentive. Or maybe I'm just a bit depressed about the whole thing. Drinking more milk has made some changes in how my digestive system is working. Overall, there's more movement, which is good. But some of the of the movement is more urgent, which is not as good.

In conclusion, on Monday night, Boise was treated to some wonderful rainbows.

Taken while waiting for the light to change, so more hurried than I would have preferred.

It's almost like you can reach out and touch the pot of gold. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Movement and Motivation

Sometimes writing down a goal can be motivation enough to start getting moving on it. I use this blog to motivate myself at times. When I know I need to start, but I don't want to start. See, because if I say I'm going to start here, if I give myself a deadline here, then I'm accountable.

Not really to anyone but myself, but it's enough to move the motivation meter from apathy to work.

I'm making progress on the coast write up. Over 1000 words on Monday during my lunch hour, because that's a good time for typing. Another 1000 on Tuesday, after work because I wanted to be able to type that I did over 1000 words two days in a row here.

I've started on the production work for the solo hike book from May, which gets easier once I start, like so many other things. So far I've made initial picture selections for the first two days of the trip. After I've made initial selections, I'll drag Ambrose into it to try and cull some out, and then I'll start the captioning process.

I've fallen off the bandwagon on keeping track of my symptoms too. For some reason, that's a harder one. I was doing really well on tracking for a while, and then I just got fed up with counting how many bowel movements I had per day and whether I had a headache or what I had to eat that day. But that stuff is important if I'm ever going to get a good handle on the whole IBS thing, so I guess I'll challenge myself here for that, too.

Got to get back to tracking and keep on with the writing and production work. And with exercise; even though I've been doing CrossFit on the regular, I haven't been taking my exercise release on a regular basis for nearly a month now. But by next week, I should have a new strength plan to help me get Spartan ready for next June.

It was kind of funny, the personal trainer asked me whether I was going to try doing a longer Spartan race. I had to explain that before I go beyond a sprint, I'd like to do a smaller proportion of penalty burpees. Having completed 210 of a possible 240 penalty burpees, I can see plenty of room for improvement on that front.

So I'm making progress now, if only so that I can say that I'm making progress here. A positive feedback loop.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Back to Writing

On my last backpacking trip up to Spangle Lake with Ambrose, I had some good and serious thoughts about getting back to writing. I have goals for this year, books that I want to publish before the end of the year, and for that to happen, I need to get my nose to the grindstone a bit.

I have the write up to finish on the Olympic Coast trip. And when I say finish, I almost more mean start, because I've hardly started that. I do have the writing part of the first solo trip down, so I need to work on pictures for that - production work. And then there's the CrossFit book, which needs commentary and review to be completed. Plus I want to do a few workouts over again for comparison's sake. So I need to choose those.

Now, the trip on which I had all these plans was finished over Labor Day weekend. And I'm sad to report that I did not get my nose to the grindstone in the month of September. I've got excuses, of course. I went to a work conference for a week. I had a mini-solo hike to take care of at the end of the month. And work was particularly busy for good reasons I won't discuss here.

But in the last week, I've started to run the grind stone up. I haven't gotten my nose to it quite, because I'm not yet committing to specific word counts, though I'm thinking about it. For now, I'm just trying to get some writing each day. And I'll try for some production work each week, though each day would be better.

I know my process by this point. If I can get started on the pictures, I'll have a hard time stopping. And then it's just putting the book together and I'll be done with one. And three more to go before the end of the year. Plus a little update to the Chamberlain guide book.

I believe I can do these things. I just need to get back into disciplined habits.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Then I Got Sick

Before last weekend, I had a few times where I thought to myself, gosh, it's been a long time since I've vomited. Despite all the nausea from the IBS, it never turns into anything.

I can't say that anymore.

Though I can't entirely blame the IBS for whatever stomach bug I got since my husband got it too.

At least I finished as much of my hike as the Prospect Fire would allow.

Here are some pictures taken driving above Lowman of the Prospect Fire in the distance:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

La Leche Life

Content Warning: frank writing about Irritable Bowel Syndrome and symptoms

I've been neglecting my symptom tracker. I tried to keep up with it when I was at a conference a couple weeks ago, but I didn't do a very good job and then I just stopped. No reason, really. I just got tired of it. And I'll be doing one more backpacking trip so I won't be keeping close track then either. I still haven't been having pain free days, but I think, overall, there's been less pain since the conference, and I think I know why.

I noticed that I was having fairly good and regular bowel movements at the conference, despite not staying nearly hydrated enough. And the biggest thing that I was doing differently when it came to eating was consuming milk products. I typically try to avoid dairy because I've got a history of issues with it. I never liked drinking milk as a child, and eating large amounts of cheese or ice cream tended to send me to the bathroom in pain, so I called it lactose intolerance and started avoiding, though I never really eliminated it. I like ice cream too much for that.

But now I'm consciously trying to consume dairy on a daily basis. The theory is that IBS makes me constipated and dairy makes me go - therefore consuming dairy should combat the constipation and allow me to be somewhat regular.

Of course, ideally, the daily pain would also become not so daily. That hasn't happened yet, but I want to give this experiment some time to work. And I have experienced less pain overall. In fact, the most encouraging thing I'm experiencing is that there is a noticeable change.

So many things that I've tried to manage my IBS have had absolutely no effect that I could determine. The same pains continued as they pleased and I had no sense of being able to control my body's responses. That lead to a sense of helpless frustration, along with the depressing certainty that no pain I had in my abdomen would ever be taken seriously now that I have this IBS diagnosis.

But adding more milk to my diet has changed things, and for the better. I'm not feeling completely pain free, but the pain is different and I feel an agency with that difference.

I'll be giving the milk experiment a few more weeks and then reassessing where I want to go from there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Welcome

When my husband comes off the trail, he comes off hungry. And when he is hungry, he is irritable.

I know this. And yet, knowing this, I could not support a business that hung a sign I found problematic. I'm a consumer, and I have a right to choose with my wallet. Even if that means my husband is cranky for several hours in the car while we drive to the next nearest town with services.

See, this particular establishment, in an Idaho town small enough that there aren't other dining options, found it necessary to hang on their outside wall a sign. It's a simple sign, with a background of an American flag and the phrase, "Deplorables Welcome!" emblazoned upon it.

We ate there once, and it wasn't bad. The service wasn't great, and they did try to give my food to someone else, but I don't think it was intentional. They were busier than they had staff for at the time. But I got to thinking after that.

In a county that went over 68% for Trump, this establishment, the sole establishment selling eat and drink in this unincorporated community, feels the need to call out the fact that "deplorables" aka Trump voters, aka mostly white republicans, are welcome.

Honestly, I can't think of a single place in the entire state of Idaho where a so-called deplorable would be unwelcome. Idaho is a majority republican state and a majority white state. Perhaps these deplorables would feel uncomfortable in a gay bar in Boise. But they wouldn't necessarily be unwelcome by the establishment itself.

Why the call out, here, of all places? I mean, aren't these the kind of people that like to respond to the "Black Lives Matter" movement with "All Lives Matter? And if all lives matter, then why not a sign reading, "Everyone Welcome!"? Are there so many radical leftists controlling this community that the downtrodden deplorables need a "safe space"?

Of course! As someone who completely supports safe spaces for those who feel they need them, it seems that I have no choice but not to support this establishment with my dollars, because I would be disturbing their safe space. Sure, my husband was hungry and cranky, but some people need their safe spaces, especially deplorables in Idaho.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


On trails, and waking paths, I will, on occasion, come across dogs and their owners. Most often, especially when said dogs are not on leashes, the owners will hasten to assure me that their dog is friendly.

I usually stand still and stiff, hunching away from the curious sniffing and snuffling of said friendly dogs. I don't reach out to pet. I don't try to run away only because I don't want to incite the friendly dog to a friendly game of chase.

Sometimes I consider replying to these dog owners that I'm not friendly.

But that would be a lie.

The truth is, I'd love to pet their friendly dogs.

I'd love to give them a hug and snuggle. play a quick game of fetch if they are so inclined. It doesn't look like it from my posture, but I really do like dogs.

The problem is that I'm allergic to dogs. I can touch them, but it comes with a price. I might break out in hives or have an asthma attack.

So I honestly don't care how friendly your off leash dog is. I don't want your dog to touch me, period. Maybe next time I'll just say that. And see how that goes.

But I really wish I didn't have to.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

IBS Flare

Warning. Frank discussion of IBS symptoms and bowel movements ahead.

I didn't poop for five days around the start of my backpacking trip in the Frank Church Wilderness. The two days before and the first three days, basically, no poop. Then I had some movements, but they were all pellets, so I was still constipated, technically. I thought it would clear up once I got home and started drinking a whole lot, but the trend continued and when I ate, I felt like the food was sticking around in my throat instead of going down. So I'm going back to the liquid breakfast experiment, since that seems to help when the IBS flares up.

I started a few weeks ago, and, well, at least I have a little less pain in the mornings. But it still hurts a lot. During the day. At night it's especially bad when I first lie down. I try to quiet my mind for sleep and all of my awareness is drawn to the burning in my abdomen, highlighted by irregular stabs of additional pain mostly in the same area, but also in my head.

Although it could be something else, I've also been getting a lot of moodiness since switching to liquid breakfast. The whole idea makes me feel like a sick person, an invalid. Really gets my "woe-is-me" juices flowing, even though I'm not really sick. I think. I mean. Am I? Is IBS a sickness or a chronic condition? Is someone with a chronic condition not sick?

Anywho. Ambrose wants me to see the doctor again. I'm skeptical, because I've already got a diagnosis and they've said there's nothing they can do. Pretty much, if I'm in pain because of IBS, then I'm not "managing" my condition. Basically, I'm screwed. There's pain and oh yes the doctors believe it is real, but there's nothing they can do.

And even if there is something else wrong, I feel like having the diagnosis of IBS screws me even more, because I don't believe any doctors will try to find something else wrong when my symptoms mostly fit with IBS. But I'm not sure they really do. Because I've been obsessively tracking my symptoms and I'm not getting relief after a movement. Relief just isn't frequent.

I'm supposed to managed my symptoms. That's the treatment plan. Figure it out. Well. Figuring it out is hard. But I'm working on it. I started cutting back on coffee in addition to the liquid breakfasts. Which gives me caffeine headaches, but I'm not going cold turkey this time, so it isn't quite as bad. When the headaches get too much I just drink a bit of caffeine in non-coffee form to get through.

Every change takes time to evaluate, so I'm going to be doing a lot of wait-and-see and hope-and-wish.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


I take a shake to work most mornings as a morning snack. It's a healthy snack that's portion controlled and fairly tasty. The specific brand is Aloha; it's vegan and organic and all sorts of other good things. The key factors for my tastes are that they do not include artificial sweeteners or too much sugar. My husband mixes the shake up for me using an almond/coconut milk blend. He rotates through the flavors pretty randomly.

And the other day, he decided to "mix" things up by combining the chocolate flavor with the banana flavor.

This is the review that I gave him:

The theory behind chocolate banana is a sound one. Chocolate is good. Banana is good. Chocolate and banana together typically form a harmonious whole - though I've never been fond of the frozen chocolate covered banana personally, since everything just gets so hard.

With this chocolate banana shake, we have an added complicating factor of the almond/coconut milk, which has its own delicate flavor to contribute.

Overall, the flavor combination certainly exceeds the palatability of the vanilla, which I consider the worst of the Aloha flavors. It even exceeds the pleasant flavor of chocolate alone, and also the disappointment of the banana flavor mixed with water.

However, it falls short of the delight of pure banana mixed with almond/coconut milk, which remains the champion of the Aloha flavors.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Bug Blessing

The other day I saw a leaf bug (katydid) on a bicycle seat at my apartment complex. Not my bicycle seat, but one that I pass by on the way to the parking lot. I was enchanted and took a couple of pictures. I don't know that I've ever seen one before or at least one so big.

And then, on Monday, I saw another one (or perhaps the same one), perched on the wall above the door to my apartment.

It is as if the insect noticed my fascination and picture taking and decided to grace my threshold with its presence. A blessing, if you will. A benediction.

Not sure how it figured out which door was mine, but if I'm going to ascribe such intentions to an insect, I suppose I can hand-wave that part.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

State of Mind

I was hoping to get more writing done than I did after getting back from the Olympic Coast. I wanted to start writing the trip up and get a good start on the next Hike with Me book.

At first, I was recovering. Absorbing the experience of having backpacked for 9 straight days. And then, I started to feel ill. My head felt fuzzy and muzzy and I just didn't feel like writing. Never quite sick enough to miss work, and I kept up with exercising because I often find that makes me feel better. But I neglected the writing.

It was easy to neglect. Get home from a long day of focusing on work stuff and just relax. Or go to bed early. Or do some more exercise. Just nothing that required too much thought, please. Or sitting at the writing desk, which isn't set up as ideally as I'd prefer but until I come into some money that's earmarked for a new computer, that won't change.

I got my blogs done and posted, because I've got a streak. It isn't as impressive as a daily blog streak, but I have been doing two blogs per week for something like four years now? I started this blog in 2013, but only averaged 1 post per week for the first year. And it was some time in the middle of that when I started the hiking blog. So, it's hard to tell exactly how long this streak is. It depends on the definition I choose.

But I've been writing, on this blog, on a regular basis for a good long time. I write these blogs even when I don't feel like it because of that darn streak. I don't want to lose it. Even on the rare occasions when I forget to post one by the 8:15 am Wednesday "deadline" I have never gone more than a day without posting something backdated to that correct time.

When I've gone on a streak of writing, I've felt that same urgency to keep it up. But it is incredibly difficult to write to a streak while backpacking. Because usually, it's about getting to a certain number of words, and that means handwriting, then counting, then transcribing when I get home. It's doable, I've done it, I just don't like it.

So I didn't write much after the coast trip. And I might not write much between the Chamberlain trip and the Spangle Lake trip. But after the season is over, I want to push myself to do those hiking write ups at 1000 words per day again and get them done. I want to be prepped for my books by the end of October and start getting them out in November. Three Hike with Me books by December 31st is the challenge, and I have to get in gear to get it done.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Travel to the ONP

Last time my husband and I went to the Olympic National Park for a hike along the coast, we drove to Forks, WA, where we would start the trip from, in one day. The next day, we drove to Port Angeles, WA to pick up our permit and then back. About an hour drive each way. This time, we chose to do things a little differently.

We took two days to travel, even though the drive can be done in one. We spent a night in Yakima, WA. I got a hotel room through Priceline (which actually books hotel rooms through It was a cheap one, and I'm pretty sure that's how my credit card number got stolen.

But it was nice to take our time on the way. We got to drive all in daylight and see the landscape that we were driving through. I'm pretty sure I saw a mountain lion on the side of the road. It looked like it had been hit and was just getting up, but only its front legs were working. We drove by so quickly I can't be completely sure I saw it, but I think I did.

It was nice to stop for the day in the early afternoon. Although, for some reason, the hotel didn't have our confirmation. So the clerk gave me a number to call. But it was the wrong number. The Travelocity guy kindly transferred me to the people, who, after much conversation, finally resent the confirmation to the hotel and we got a room.

It was a horrible room. I mean. It was pretty much what we paid for. It was cheap. So cheap that there were holes in the floor, stains on the walls and the beds were pretty gnarly. But we made do and there was a good restaurant less than a block away where we got a yummy dinner. I slept alright that night, and we left bright and early the next morning and drove to the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles.

At Port Angeles, we got our permit, adding another night to it, because Ambrose had thought we didn't need the permit for camping near Hole in the Wall, but the ranger corrected that assumption. Since we were doing so many nights, we had purchased a yearly pass instead of paying by the night. That allowed us to add another night without paying extra. Totally worth it.

From there, we drove over to Forks and got a campsite at the Riverview RV Park. We got set up there and waited for the third member of our party to arrive. On this trip, we were hiking with a man Ambrose had met through an online backpacking forum. Bill also lives in Idaho, but in the north. This would be his first trip on the coast.

After some packing and repacking of our required bear canisters, we did some driving around the area. We stopped in La Push and took a walk around First Beach. Then dinner and back to the campsite for the night. The next day was really just a matter of waiting for the tide to be right for starting the hike.

Ambrose, Bill and I on First Beach.

First Beach

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

IBS Theory

The events that led me to getting diagnosed with IBS started after my first backpacking trip to the coast of the Olympic National Park. I was so worried about the pain in my abdomen that I cancelled my solo trip that year, because I didn't want to have the pain escalate when I was hiking alone in the wilderness. I got all sorts of tests and finally got a diagnosis the following January.

I've been back from the coast for a about two weeks, and I have noticed an increase in abdominal pain. About a week after we got back, the IBS felt like it started to flare up. And about four days ago, the pain got intense enough to interfere with my getting a good night's sleep. I imagine the next thing will be increasing pain, changing from burning to sharp.

I have to wonder if there's something about the radical change in environment that affects me. Hiking on the coast exposes me to very high humidity. Close to 100%, I'd guess, when the fog is rolling over the beach. And Boise is in a high desert environment. Mostly low humidity - it's kind of amazing how quickly things dry here, especially in the summer heat.

Or maybe there's something in the water that works its way through my system. It probably isn't food related, because I eat what I eat on any backpacking trip there. There is an exception - we've only ever had smoked salmon while backpacking on those trips, but each time we did, the sources were different - and it isn't like I don't eat salmon regularly at home in Boise.

I don't have problems when I'm on the coast. I can get to a point when I'm having less problems while I'm in Boise. But moving from the coast to the high desert causes problems.

Of course, the problem with this theory is that I've also spent some time in South Carolina, not known for a dry climate, and returned without having these same kind of issues. Although I wasn't backpacking in South Carolina. I spent most of my time in air conditioned, climate controlled buildings. I mean, yes, we went out on the lake, but I spent every night inside a house. So there is a difference in exposure level.

I guess if I want to prove this, I'll have to travel to some other humid place and go backpacking. Maybe without any smoked salmon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New Glasses

High-index lenses for nearsightedness are thinner. Thinner lenses are lighter. This should be a good thing, right? 

Lighter glasses means less pressure on the nose and ears to hold them up. When one reaches the point that if one's glasses were made of glass, they'd be inches thick, thinness and lightness are desirable qualities. I do get that. 

I don't get why high-index lenses are so awful. 

For me, at least. 

I've had a hell of a time adjusting to wearing high-index lenses. For the first few weeks, I thought I wouldn't make it. The prescription was supposed to be a small change from my old one, just a tick or two on each eye. But as soon as I put on the new glasses, I felt like I was wearing the wrong ones. I couldn't focus right. Everything seemed too rounded, too bright. I couldn't read words at a distance - like street signs while driving - though everything within about a ten foot radius looked okay. 

After multiple adjustments, I managed to adjust to my new glasses. But this year, my husband and I decided I should get two pairs. 

And the second pair still isn't quite there. For backpacking, they work. Because I don't have to read signs at a distance while backpacking. So I don't notice any blurriness. At least that's how it worked for the coast trip. The glasses were fine while I was on the trail and started to hurt my head as soon as we hit the road again in a car. 

I might go back for more adjustments. Or I might just wear those glasses for backpacking only. I like that they are transitions lenses, because that means I don't have to carry sunglasses - and I know when UV is shining through the clouds (i.e. when to use sunscreen on a cloudy day). 

But considering I got new glasses to try and see if my old glasses were giving me headaches, the entire exercise rates a fail for me. 

Now I'm trying to improve my posture to see if that gets rid of the headaches that I'm still getting (the ones that aren't from trying to adjust to high-index lenses!). 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

IBS Update

To try and get a handle on my irritable bowel syndrome, I've been tracking my symptoms, taking notes where my symptom grid doesn't quite cover every contingency and tracking what (though not how much) I eat for about 6 months now. There are a few gaps where I stopped or was backpacking, but I've got a lot of data at this point.

Overall, I feel like I'm doing better with tracking than I felt like I was doing without tracking. Possibly because I can see patterns. I know I'm not imagining that things have been happening more often or less often, because I can see what I recorded. I know how often I'm getting certain kinds of tummy pain. For example, I have burning pain almost every day, sharp pain most days, but rarely severe pain.

I downloaded an app to try and track symptoms before I came up with my homegrown google spreadsheet, but the app was too difficult to use. I had a hard time opening it up and recording every time I had a bowel movement, especially because it would then ask me to classify it as to kind and I had difficulty deciding how to describe it according to the options the app provided. With my spreadsheet, I'm not being as precise, but I'm making the records. I just mark a box if I have the type and note the total number at the bottom.

In the past, I've panicked when it seemed like I had a new kind of pain, but now I can just look back and see that I've had that pain before. And I can remember better what the result of the pain was. For example, I got a pain that felt like stitches in my side even though I hadn't been exercising. That turned out to be a sign that I was going to have diarrhea soon - nothing to panic about.

Since stress is often cited as a cause of IBS flare-ups, I've also been tracking some stress related symptoms. Just having headaches on the tracker helps me feel less stressed about when I do get those intractable headaches that stay for days. I can see that however bad they feel at the moment, they don't stay forever and they aren't clinically frequent. It's stress and I need to continue trying not to let the stress freak my body out and make things worse.

I might try to get more granular with my tracking, see if I can stand it. If I want to lose weight, tracking food portions along with what I'm eating would be a good step. And I could try to be more specific in my tracking of other symptoms as well, including more about frequency and time of day. But for now, I feel like I'm in a good place. I can recognize when I'm going to have bowel trouble, in a general way. And as long as I keep drinking a good 6 quarts of water/herbal tea per day I feel pretty good.

Of course, it was 4 quarts at the beginning of the year. And I tried cutting back at the end of June and it wasn't pleasant. Somehow my body is demanding more and more water to continue to function in the same way. Something to bring up with my doctor at my next annual appointment, I suppose. Unless I start 'needing' more water than I can drink in a day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Do You Take Me For?

"What are you?"
The question never bothered me as a child. I was proud to know my heritage. Proud to answer, "English. Irish. German. French. And Peruvian!"
It was always that last one that they wanted to hear. And then I'd ask them what they were, these little white kids, and they - mostly - wouldn't even know.

It wasn't until a long time later that I realized that sometimes those questions weren't so innocent. And, of course, as an adult I don't hear it so much because it isn't polite.

I had a teacher in high school two years in a row and it took him a year and a half to realize that I wasn't Italian. And it isn't like he "realized" not really. It came up in the course of conversation in class somehow.

My husband thought I was white when we met.

And I am white.

And I'm not white.

It all depends on what you take me for.

I have a precarious white privilege. Straddling the line between the pale generations my mother's family can trace back in time to grand old Europe and the fact that my father was born in South America.

I've been presumed Mexican
cursed as a lesbian
but the privilege my pale skin produces is
utterly dependent on
what I am taken for
day to day
hour to hour
face to face to face
I lucky
am I lucky?
To be able to "pass" on cursory inspection?
With only a hint of the exotic if you're looking for it
A trace of the hot blood, as I've heard it called
not worse. not the worst.
to be able to pass.
but scary in the way that I don't know
which kind of face the face I'm facing will see in me

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Dry 6 Months

The last time I drank an alcoholic beverage was on my husband's last birthday, December 28th of 2017. I was going to have a drink the following Saturday with a friend, but she had to reschedule and I ended up not having another one since. The goal is to a whole year without to determine whether consuming alcohol has had a detrimental effect on my irritable bowel syndrome.

My husband and I figured that a test of long duration would be best for this, because I'd already tried doing it short term. A month off here, several weeks there. And after drinking, sometimes I'd get really sick to my stomach the next day and sometimes I wouldn't - and I'm not talking college level binge drinking here. I'm talking one or two drinks in a social setting.

So the idea for a long term test came about. I haven't so much enjoyed it, but I've stuck to it. I like being able to have a beer after a backpacking trip. I really earned a beer after finishing the Spartan Race, but I had a Gatorade instead.

I'm not sure if not drinking has had an effect on the irritable bowel syndrome or not. I think I've felt better once I started tracking my food and symptoms, though I haven't found any correlations yet. Sometimes I do want to have an adult beverage, but by now, half way through, I'm committed to this goal.

It may or may not be actually helpful, but I won't quit before a year is up. I will argue that since I originally wanted to go the whole of 2018 without a drink, but ended up taking my last drink on 12/28, that I should be allowed, within the goal, to imbibe on my husband's next birthday - but I'll leave the call on that one up to him.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Becoming an Athletic Type

I think the last time I went shoe shopping was more than four years ago. About that time, I found a pair of shoes that worked for me. The Merrell Pace Glove. It fit perfectly, required no break in period, and had plenty of room for the wide spread of the toes of my right foot.

I originally bought them from REI, but then I started buying online, because I knew the shoe I wanted. Whenever a pair wore out, I'd buy another. Same size, same style. Color was irrelevant, which is how I ended up with a lime green pair with purple trim. But mostly I had black ones.

They upgraded the style once, from a 2 to a 3 or something. And I didn't like the changes, but they weren't significant enough to stop me from buying them. Wearing them. Wearing them out.

But this time, when they wore out, I discovered something awful.

Merrell had stopped making that style.

I know women are supposed to enjoy shoe shopping, but my feet have always been an awkward fit. So I have always hated it. And shopping for athletic shoes was a special torture. I consistently felt like I did not belong in specialty shoe stores. I would get nervous and upset and sweat a lot. I'd feel awful that the shoes wouldn't fit and it wasn't unusual for a trip to end in tears.

So I really girded my loins before making a trip to the Nike store to try on CrossFit specific shoes. I tried on several pairs there. None were wide enough, but I didn't panic. I didn't feel guilt at wasting their time. I just left without buying anything. We tried REI and DICK's Sporting Goods. No dice. No shoes that felt right on my feet.

When we went to Costco for our regular grocery shopping trip, I decided to check out what they had. Why not? I ended up buying a pair, because my old Merrell's were worn out to the point of hurting my feet and these were only $25 and felt wide enough.

But the big trip was when I braved the specialty store. A running store that I hoped would carry something close to what I needed; a shoe good for CrossFit that would work for the Spartan Race. I explained that to the clerk, leading with the CrossFit, and I didn't feel like a fraud saying that I do CrossFit. Even to this very fit young woman.

She measured my feet, analyzed my gait and brought out four pairs of shoes for me to try on. One of them was wide enough and Ambrose and I left with a pair of shoes for me to wear. I didn't even get a little upset. No crying.

And I realized that I'm finally not feeling like an impostor athlete. Sure, it's taken about four and a half years of CrossFit, and I know I don't really look that athletic at first glance. But I know what I can do. I'm comfortable and confident that I am a person who needs expensive shoes for my hobby of exercise.

I'm thinking my next boot purchase will go a lot easier.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Well the guide book took a little longer than I wanted it to, but I'm still done before heading out on the coast trip. And I finished the solo trip write up, so that's another bonus. Between the two goals, I'd say I broke even.

I like what I managed to do with the guide book formatting and presentation. It uses the same template as the Chamberlain guide without being identical. The colors are a little different, and of course, the details are changed. For some reason, I especially like the flower borders. The one on the Queens guide has a huckleberry along with the flowers.

I am satisfied with what I've put out, but I haven't been writing any fiction since I started working on the solo trip. Does that writing even count as writing since it isn't fiction? It is story telling though. I am trying to tell a story, and it's a story that I know. It's a story I enjoy sharing.

One of the things that I read a lot on Dean Wesley Smith's blog is about not outlining. And I wonder if I am writing from an "outline" of sorts when I write these hiking books, because I have the "outline" of my experience. I look at the photographs that I took to remind me of the events that took place and the order in which they took place.

Like an outline.

So do I find it easier to write the "story" when I know the ending? Sometimes, I'll think about scenes in stories, imagine them in the shower or while hiking and get a good picture of what I want to write next before I actually write it. But with fiction, I don't usually know where I'm going. And when I think I know, I'm usually wrong.

And with fiction, I find myself staring at that blank screen more often than not, wondering what comes next.

So I'm going to work on the solo trip book next, which will involve choosing photographs, captioning them, and editing the text now that my husband has reviewed it. I'm going to keep plugging away at writing and publishing. I'm going to keep practicing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Not as Much Progress...

I've got the proof copy of the book, and I'm glad I ordered it. It's easier to find typos or mis-phrasings on a paper copy than it is while reading on a computer screen. Also much more satisfying to mark the paper with a pen than to use a computer program to highlight or strikethrough or whatever.

But I'm going a little more slowly on the read through than would be ideal. I'm putting the blame on the fact that I signed myself up for a Spartan race and so I've been focusing more on training. And the training has been wearing me out just a bit. Like to the tune of having to take a three hour nap last Sunday...

I'm also trying to watch what I eat in the hopes of losing a bit of weight before the race. I figure, the less I weigh, the easier it will be to haul my body up and over obstacles. Even a pound or two could help.

But I fully anticipate having to do a lot of burpees due to incomplete obstacles. I mean, I aim to make an attempt at all of them, but I doubt that my upper body strength is truly up to the task. So I'll be doing penalty burpees. I've been advised to wear gloves for those, because the grass has stickers in it.

The new goal for having the book ready for sale is June 18th. I'll make time for it this weekend or during the week. I probably could have done more work on it last week, but I went and had a social lunch at work on Friday instead of working on it. I'd been skipping those social lunches to do the write up of my solo trip, but that's done now, so I went and did the social thing.

Seeing as I hadn't been social in quite a while, that was reasonable, but now I'm going to avoid being social until this book is ready to go. Maybe I"ll get it done sooner than Monday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Progress Is Progress

I wanted to be done with my Queens River Loop guide book by June 4th. I guess whether I succeeded or not depends on the definition of the word done. The writing is complete. All the pictures have been captioned and placed into the template document. The cover has been designed. The files were submitted for review and accepted.

I could have been done by June 4th, but I decided to order a proof copy instead. This is only the second guide book that I've done and I want to make sure it looks good and has minimal typos before I release it into the world. So it's done. Mostly. There's just the final review to complete (and any little fixes to implement).

I feel accomplished.

Not only that, but I finished drafting out my solo trip book. I'm still working on transcribing my handwritten notes, and I might add to the draft if I discover that I forgot something vital, but the bulk of the work is done faster than I thought possible.

While I had been thinking to combine the write up of this trip with the write up of the segment I'm going to complete later in the season that will bring me as close as possible to the Frank Church wilderness, now I'm leaning the other way. Rather than one huge book, why not make one medium and one small? They will be on totally different segments of the ICT. Hiked in different months. Written in different months. 

And if I do a Hike with Me book for our July trip to the Washington Coast, then I could be releasing three Hike with Me books in one year. I kind of like that idea. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Write On

Ambrose and I, as is our tradition, went camping over Memorial Day Weekend. Car camping, because most of the trails we like are still snowed in at this time of year. Plus, it always seems to rain over Memorial Day. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with any production tasks on my guide book, because that depended too much on my at home computer. But I was able to keep up with my writing.

Not the way I originally planned though.

I had hoped to take an old mini laptop out to the campsite and use it to type things up, but when I tried to start the old thing up, I found a problem. The battery wouldn't charge.

At Ambrose's suggestion, I tried shutting it down and taking the battery out and putting it back in. I tried letting it stay plugged in all night. Nope, nope, nope. It just wouldn't charge, and without the battery, it would be useless at the campsite we were planning on occupying.

So I had to go for plan b.

I didn't like plan b as much, because it involved using the cell phone to type my thousand words each day. The type/swipe method in google docs isn't the easiest when it comes to speed. I have to go slow enough to notice when google wants to replace the words I'm trying to type with words it thinks I should be typing. I did warn Ambrose that there would be weird typos, but I did try to catch as many of them as I could.

Probably where the story is flowing best is where he'll find the most errors.

And, plan b was better than plan c, which was writing everything out longhand and then typing it back up when I got back. That option had several major drawbacks. First, I would have to count my words to make sure I was writing to my goal each day. Second, I'd have to write slowly so my handwriting would reach a bare minimum standard of legibility. Most tedious of all, I'd have to actually retype everything at home. A time suck and difficult because of the handwriting thing.

Luckily, using the cell phone worked perfectly. And it made up for the fact that I'd forgotten the camera at home. Overall, it was a fun weekend, though it did rain every day (and hailed on Saturday).

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Writing Proceeds Apace

My plan is working so far. I didn't set a goal in my last blog, but after getting some writing done, I've settled on an informal goal of 1000 words a day for writing up my solo trip. Since I'm holding myself to that standard on week nights when I often don't feel like doing anything after work, that means that I have to get creative with my planning.

When I knew I wouldn't have time to write very much after work, like on the days I was planning going to an evening CrossFit endurance workout, I'd make sure to get my words done during lunch at work, even if that meant skimping on socializing or watching shows during lunch instead. On days when I planned to workout during lunch, I better make that time in the evening to write.

It's been surprisingly easy to make progress this way.

Another way I've departed from my past efforts is that I'm not typing up my handwritten notes first. While I hike on the ICT, I've been using the reverse sides of my maps to write notes about the day. My first step in writing up these trips has typically been to transcribe those notes. But I don't really use them once I do transcribe them. So this time I'm putting that step last. I'll write them up once I finish my draft and, if there's anything they have to contribute, I'll add it in.

I've made some progress on the production side for my guide book. I got an initial batch of photos and renamed them to reflect where they occur on the trail. I think I'll add a few more different views and then start winnowing the field. After that, it will be creating the captioned photos that will actually go in the book, and then I'll start formatting. Last will be the cover, since I won't know the dimensions I'll need until I know how many pages it's going to be. I will be using the same template that I used for my first guide, so that step should go more quickly, but it's still a lot of little details that need to be completed. I feel good about being able to get that done by my goal date of June 4th.

I think I'll finish the write up of the solo trip before my goal date of July 1st, as long as I keep up the pace. And there's no reason not to. It really isn't difficult to write 1000 words telling this story every day. It's still fresh in my mind. Heck, I'm still looking at fading bruises. This might just be the way to write these.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

New Focus

In prior years, no matter how early I got my solo hike done, I didn't really get to writing the book until the fall. Part of that was that I had other trips to write about, and part was that I wanted to let the experience sink in a bit.

That's not what is going to happen this year.

This year, I'm hoping to get out two big hiking books, which means I need to get cooking on this one before I start doing other trips for the summer. So I've already started the write up, and I plan on getting the words completed by July 1. Although I will allow that if I haven't yet done the Stanley Lake to Marsh  Creek section, I won't be able to have that part finished.

The other thing that I'm going to focus on this month is production work on the Queens River guide. Every day, I'm going to do some production work and some writing and I'm just going to keep hammering at this until it is where I want it to be.

What stopped me with the Queens guide was that I was done writing, but I wasn't sure what photos to include. With the Chamberlain, I didn't have quite as many trips to choose from, but I've been going to the Queens River area for 4 years now, often multiple trips per season. On my computer, I've got my photo files all out of order, so I didn't know where to start.

I finally decided to start by changing the names of the folders so they would have dates instead of camera codes. Then, I'll put them into folders based on location. Actually, that's a longer term project. For now, I'm only moving all the Queens River pictures into a folder, and then I'll keep going on production work.

The next step will be choosing which pictures show important areas along the Queens. Junctions, crossings and destinations will be key, but I also want to include a few pictures that are simply beautiful.

All the while, I'll be writing more and more words on the solo trip. The fiction is pretty much dropped for now, but I'll come back to it.

After all, I need to find out how that story ends.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Writing Bits

An advantage to having a writing goal of 100 words per day is that it's really easy to meet the goal. Days when I'm feeling sick, I can convince myself to get to the writing computer and just do those 100 words. I might not have a lot of time, but I can find five minutes to get those words in.

I like that. It helps me to stay on a streak of writing.

But there's a significant disadvantage that I've noticed after doing this kind of goal a few times.

The story loses momentum. I get a good idea and I start running with it and by writing it in tiny chunks I slow myself down. I don't continue writing at the pace that the story wants to go. And then I get neurotic about it and can't get myself to just play with the story again.

That's not a disadvantage when I'm writing a guide book or a hiking book. I know the shapes of those stories already in my head. I lived them. With fiction, I'm discovering the story. It's like I need to pay attention to the story and make it move more quickly if I don't want to lose it.

And somehow, writing just the 100 words has also taken my attention away from production work on my Queens River guidebook. The words are there, but I need to get the pictures squared away and the cover and all the fiddly bits. For the Chamberlain guide, I stopped writing after I finished the words so I could focus on production and I got it done pretty quickly.

After my solo trip, I'm going to have to write that up and work on the story and do production work on the guide. So I guess I'll be doing a bit less TV watching...

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Health Matters

It happened again. The end of the month came and I felt sick again. I ended up going home early from work last week and slept a full 8 hours from noon to 8 pm before getting up for dinner and then sleeping another 8 hours overnight. I'm at my wits end here. I'm half convinced this is punishment for thinking that it had been so long since I'd had a cold about a year ago.

I've been a lot more careful at the gym with wiping down the treadmill before I use it as well as after. I've been exercising regularly, sleeping 8 hours a night regularly (or more), and I drink plenty of water. Like a gallon a day most days, often more (okay, some of it's herbal tea, but that totally counts).

I'm doing the right things, but I'm still getting sick.

And it isn't like it's a bad sick. It's a little sick. It's sniffles and exhaustion. No fever or vomiting or anything that would generally make me stay home from work. Instead, I've been suffering through it for the most part - although I did take a break from working out last week because of those sniffles.

But not too much of a break, because I needed to prep for my solo trip with some pack weight. It's always better if you can get some time under weight before starting the hike. Less of a shock to the system. I guess it's good that I pushed the dates of my trip back a bit or I would have been sick on the trail.

I just need to figure out how not to have this gunk recur for the rest of the summer and I'll be good. I promise not to brag about how long it's been since I've had a cold ever again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Eating Out

A while ago, I'd heard there was a Peruvian restaurant in Kuna, ID (Lima Limón). My father grew up in Peru, so I have a certain interest in the cuisine. In particular, I was hoping to try their lomo saltado, because I haven't had that dish in over ten years. And the last time I had it, I made it, so it wasn't very authentic. I mean, I never actually learned how to make it from my dad. I just remember enjoying it when he made it, so I looked a recipe up online.

So when my husband was wrapping up a seven day in a row, 800 or more calories in an hour treadmill challenge on a Saturday, I figured that would be the perfect time to go and check the place out. I could drive him out for a little celebration lunch and then drive out to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area for a little shakedown hike with my new hiking clothes while Ambrose napped in the car.

Ambrose headed to the gym by 8 am on Saturday and I waited for his return at home. I expected him to be home by 10 at the latest, so I prepared myself accordingly. I got ready to go, but not too ready, and watched some TV and waited. 

And waited. 

He got home closer to 11, because he had been sharing exercise knowledge at the gym. And resting and recovering enough to drive. I hurried him into the shower and got us going, because according to the information I'd looked up, the place opened at 11 on Saturdays. 

Well, not this particular Saturday. After all my worry about getting there and finding the place, I managed to navigate the traffic circle near downtown Kuna and arrive at around 11:30 to find the restaurant had a handwritten sign on the door that indicated they would open at noon. And I'm pretty sure google knew that too, and I should have listened when my map app told me the place wouldn't be open. But I was too eager. 

So we waited in the car until just about noon and then stood out front and waited some more, because Peruvians are notoriously late. But it was worth the wait. 

I got to witness Ambrose's first taste of Inca Kola and have an incredibly delicious lomo saltado. Ambrose had a creamy shrimp dish that was also good, I suppose. But it was no lomo. 

If I can ever get my dad to visit, I'll be taking him there. And in the meantime, I definitely intend to go back and try some more of the menu - and next time I'll save room for dessert. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Just Keep Writing

I kept up with the 100 words per day goal, and managed to finish off my first draft of the Queens River guide book over the weekend. Ambrose has been reading it over and adding comments. My next step is to work on the comments and try to finalize the actual wording before putting it into the template.

I'd like to have the wording as finalized as possible, because I discovered with the Chamberlain trail guide that the 6x9 Word document template doesn't allow me to take the easy way with placing pictures. I have to place them in exact spots in the text for them to come out right, which means if I change a word, I pretty much have to move all the pictures that come after that word.

There's also choosing the pictures for the book. I have a wealth of Queens River photos to choose from; it's going to be a matter of picking what best illustrates the trail and its various side paths. I might use a few from my Queens River solo book, but I don't want to overuse those. For one thing, I have more recent pictures to choose from. But there are some rather unique pictures illustrating what the aftermath of a storm looks like.

Last time, when I finished drafting my guide book, I moved right on to book production tasks and didn't keep writing. This time, I decided to keep up the writing, using the same 100 words per day goal. I'm actually working on a story for the first time in many months, and I'm enjoying the process. It helps keep me focused on writing to have that small goal to hit and to meet it each day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Stress Relief

I've been trying to figure out ways to relieve stress, because when I get stressed my shoulders get tight, and when my shoulders get tight I tend to get headaches. The headaches hurt really bad and annoy my husband because he can't do anything to fix them (and also I get cranky).

So I've been getting regular massages. I've been doing yoga, even though I don't really like yoga. I've taken hot baths and spent time using fancy soaps. But yesterday, I found something that I need to keep in mind for next time I'm feeling extra stressed out.

Yesterday, I went to the library, because I thought my card was inactivated. There was a line at the counter when I came in, so I spent some time browsing. I breathed deeply of that lovely old book smell and tension just melted away.

Turns out my library card was fine. The email sent, that I didn't get a reply for, eventually did the trick. The lady at the desk told me I should get the libby app for accessing ebooks from the library. I went back to browsing and checked out a couple books. I could have stayed longer, but I was getting hungry for dinner.

I just need to remember not to underestimate the soothing power of the library.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Queens River Guide Progress

There has been progress on my writing of a Queens River Loop guide book, but not as much as there could be. I've been sick - again! - and there have been some other stresses going on as well. But writing is fun, and I'm working on getting my butt into the writing chair.

I'm going to start the 100 words a day minimum challenge again that got me through the last guide book. It is such a low bar that it's easy to surpass it on days when I'm feeling good and easy to reach on days when I just want to collapse into bed instead of writing anymore.

Plus, I need to start spending a little more time on preparing for my solo hike. The plan is to go at the end of April/beginning of May, but that isn't going to happen unless temperatures start warming up around here. Most of this year's segment will be in the desert, and I don't anticipate any issues with access, but the last 20 or so miles (of 70-ish) will be getting up over 7000 feet and is currently under snow according to the forest service. Plus creek crossings are running high.

My husband and I will be doing a scouting trip later in the month to see if the conditions warrant pushing the trip back. This is a tricky little segment to time.

But even with looking up information on the trail and reviewing the maps and my supplies, I should be able to carve out 100 words per day on the guide until I finish it up. We don't have a Queens River trip scheduled this year, but maybe we can get out for a wham-bam long weekend somewhere in the summer or early fall. Once I get the guide up, I want to keep it up to date.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Conference Crud

I really thought I was done being sick. The weather was getting warmer. Spring had sprung. And I was done getting sick.

But no. It snowed this week, and I've had the worse cold I've had all season since last Thursday.

The worst part is that I haven't been able to call in sick. I had already planned on taking last Friday off because I had to work on Sunday. And I had to work on Sunday because I was going to a conference from Sunday through Wednesday. So on Friday I couldn't call in sick because I was already out. And Sunday through Wednesday, well, I can't exactly call in sick when I'm at a conference for which my department has paid a substantial amount of money.

So I'm pushing through. I'm doing my best to interact socially with other humans while minimizing contact. My default face right now is mouth-breathing exhaustion - not a good look on anyone. Turns out this was extremely bad timing for me not to be consuming caffeine. Sure, it might not actually help, but the fact that I'm not having it makes me feel it would if I could.

I thought about visiting a Crossfit gym while in Salt Lake City, since there was one about a mile from where I was staying, but I am having a hard time walking the two blocks from my hotel to the conference center - I'm in no state to work out, even though I packed workout clothes with high hopes of getting better while napping on the bus.

My husband thinks I need to pre-clean the treadmill at the gym to avoid this kind of illness. I'll try anything, but it makes me sad to have to give up on the idea that the other users of the gym are not filthy beasts who can't figure out how to use a spray bottle.

But that will only help future me. Present me is burning through boxes of kleenex and cold medicine, pushing through and doing her best not to get every other person at the conference sick.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Song and Games

I saw a sign the other day for a story contest. The topic was either song or games. I couldn't tell because the flyer was clearly repurposed from a prior year and indicated both of them as the topic in different places. Song and games made me think of writing a creative non-fiction piece about taking road trips with my family when I was young. It made me realize that I've only ever flown on a plane with my brother once, and I was so young I don't remember it. For our family vacations, we drove. Mostly to either Wisconsin, where my mother's parents had a cabin for family use or to Toronto where my father's parents and sisters lived.

Both drives were long, especially for someone who had and has trouble falling asleep in cars, but the Canada  route was definitely longer. The reason that song and games made me think of those long drives was that my family used to play a game during those drives.

Guess the Song.

First, the person whose turn it was would whistle a tune, and everyone else would try to get it. If no one had a clue, then someone could call, "hum it," and the whistler would switch to humming. Still nothing? "La-la it," was the next step. The next step after that was conceding defeat.

There weren't really winners and losers in the game, per se. But if no one could guess your song, that meant you weren't performing it very well. So I got frustrated when no one could guess correctly what I was trying to convey. I also took a long time to learn to whistle properly, so this game wasn't necessarily in my wheelhouse.

By the time I had learned how to whistle well, we rarely took family vacations. My mom and I had some trips together, including the first plane trip I remember. My brother and my dad, I think. My dad and I traveled once with his mom and sister to visit Italy, but my dad and my aunt left a day before Nonna and I did. We took the bus together, and she insisted on not paying, which ended in us being taken off the bus by police who tried to tell us we should be fined for not paying the bus. Nonna did her best confused tourist act and I maybe cried a bit and they let us off, exasperated, I think.

Now I live far away from my mother, father and brother. My mother can't travel very easily. My ability to whistle has atrophied from lack of use - perhaps also because I no longer regularly play the flute. There are no more road trips and no more games of Guess the Song. And I didn't write any of this before the deadline for the story contest. I let it sit and simmer in my brain, and let the date slide past, in part because I didn't want to pay entry and in part because I feared the inevitable rejection. Inevitable, because I don't think I write the kinds of things they want to read.

And that's okay. But maybe, next year, I should try anyway.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Farewell to the Hair Experiment

I thought about growing my hair out. Not a lot, but just a little. Enough to make cute little pigtails or try and curl it again. Enough to see what it was like again and see if it was something that I wanted to do.

Last fall, I had it kind long, almost chin length on the left side and a little shorter on the right. It was cute, but it was also rather boring and safe. I mean, it didn't start that way. The fresh cut was more my style, with the sides being tight and a bit of an undercut. But it grew out horribly boring.

My hair grows really fast. And I just don't end up getting my hair cut very often - possibly out of laziness, I will admit. And so in a couple weeks, my fresh cut became blah and in six weeks it started getting mousy. Not the look I wanted.

So I decided that the experiment was over.

I went to my trusted stylist and told her I wanted to do a pixie cut. She asked some questions about length and I gave her some answers. Then I took my glasses off and let her cut (note: I cannot see a thing she's doing in the mirror with my glasses off).

By the time she was done, there was way more hair on the floor than I'd thought possible.

And way less on my head.

The haircut felt so right.

Often, I need a few days to get used to a haircut; the new way it frames my face or falls over my ears. Not this time. This cut looked perfect right out of the gate. Perfect and comfortable. It was the exact cut I wanted. It makes me happy.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What Happened to the C?

I was diagnosed a couple years ago with IBS-C, which is irritable bowel syndrome with constipation. Irritable bowel syndrome is code for, we don't know why it hurts, but we totally believe you when you say you are in pain. Constipation referred to the way my bowels were stopping up and not letting anything out but pellets for days at a time, which sometimes then all burst out in a quick bout of diarrhea.

I've been focusing really hard in the last few months on getting this whole IBS thing under control. I've been cutting out foods that are supposed to be triggering, like caffeine and alcohol. I've been keeping track of what symptoms I've had and when and even, though I hate it, what I'm eating. Not yet to the point of tracking food quantities, but I am writing down what it is that I am consuming, which is a step.

I've been working especially hard at drinking at least a gallon of liquids every day - mostly water. I will allow myself to count herbal tea as water and coconut water as water, but I typically don't drink more than a quart of either of those in a given day. So I've been drinking a lot, and with consistency. Which seems to have changed the consistency of my bowel movements.

Since I've been tracking things (30 days or so), I've only had a single day when I didn't have a movement, and only three days where I only had dry pellet like ones. Most days, it's multiple movements, with liquid consistency coming multiple times per week. I don't know what the heck is going on, but it doesn't make any sense to me. I mean, it's great not to be constipated, but I'm still getting bloating and pain on a regular basis (including headaches that are driving me slowly insane).

This whole diagnosis is frustrating. I could go back into to see the gastroenterologist, but the I feel like the answer will be, oh, well you must have both IBS C and IBS D so have fun with that. Or, here, try some drugs that won't help. Or, here, have some expensive tests that will show absolutely nothing wrong.

I do think that reducing lactose has been overall good for me. Less pain and bloating. Perhaps it isn't completely gone because I haven't completely given up lactose, but the amounts that I have are minor - an occasional bit of milk chocolate, bread that has milk as an ingredient. Of course, since I decided to cut out cheese, my husband has been craving pizza, and frankly, so have I. Cheese tastes good, and I miss it even though I haven't even been a full 30 days without it.

For now, I'm just going to keep tracking these things and try to figure something out. Or at least be able to bring robust data to the doctor if I do decide to go in and give things another go.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

In Which I Write About Exercise, IBS and Pooping

Lately, I've been experiencing diarrhea fairly regularly on the weekends. Looking at what I typically eat on the weekends, I've made a decision to stop eating cheese. I typically have grits and eggs on Sunday's, and have been adding cheese to it because cheesy grits and eggs are delightful. But having to poop a lot is not delightful, so no more cheese. And a conscious reduction of dairy, though not an elimination - not yet.

With that change in place, I was surprised to be experiencing the weekend diarrhea on Saturday night, and less happy than I usually would have been, because I was going to re-do the CrossFit Open workout on Sunday morning, and I had committed to a specific time to do so, 9 am.

I went to sleep at a reasonable time, before 10 pm, and got up early to make breakfast so I could eat by around 7 am and have plenty of time for my stomach to settle before the workout. The breakfast was good, even without cheese (I added chicken soup base to the grits, which is super tasty). I felt mentally good, but physically, I wasn't feeling so hot.

There was a coldness in my tummy, a rushing and wooshing that I did not trust. I thought about cancelling, about changing my plans, about showing up just to cheer... But I knew I could improve on the score I posted on Friday, so I got my stuff together, visited the toilet one last time in vain, and walked over.

I volunteered to judge someone in the first heat and had to take a bathroom break before it started. Just pee. Then I managed to last the entire twenty minutes of the workout without needing a bathroom break, which was a relief, because on Friday I hadn't lasted (but the person I was judging wasn't in the Open so didn't need to be judged).

During the second heat I started to warm up by getting on the rower, still wearing my sweatpants and sweatshirt over my workout clothes. I felt freezing cold, I even still had a hat on. I planned to row for five minutes, but I only made it two before my bowels informed me that I had about 30 seconds to get to the bathroom or else.

The diarrhea was back. I got out what wanted out and went back to warming up. I went to the bathroom twice more before the workout, but it seemed like the worst of the poop had past. I was worried about having to go during my twenty minutes of working out. I was worried that I would never feel warm again. But I told myself that once I started working, my body would focus on that and not on pooping. It was too late to switch heats with someone, I told myself.

I did the workout, and hardly thought about the chance that I might have an accident during it. I ignored the cold rush in my stomach that fluttered up when I did the row. I got through it even though my stomach felt awful by the end.

I've been having more instances of diarrhea lately, to the point that I don't know if I can really be said to have IBS with constipation anymore. I don't know what's going on with my bowels other than they give me pain and frustrate me. And I'm going to figure this shit out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Breakfast Adjustment

I've been avoiding solid food in the morning for about two months, and I'm finally back to feeling comfortable with reintroducing it. Not exclusively, but as an adjunct to the meal shake I've been drinking. I'm not sure if this change means that I'm experiencing a dip in IBS symptoms or if I've figured something out.

I had good results back in October with doing liquid breakfast for two weeks, and then I went right back to normal food because I was vacationing. And after the vacation, I didn't know what to do. Having a meal shake for breakfast makes me feel like I'm ill. I don't like it. I should be able to eat whatever for breakfast. Cereal. Sausage. Fruit. So drinking a meal shake is like admitting that this IBS stuff is real and something I actually have to deal with.

I really hope the pain I was feeling yesterday in my abdomen was not a result of reintroducing solid food at breakfast. I don't think it was, because I had some of it Monday as well, and I didn't start with the solid food until Tuesday. But the pain seems to get worse when I'm being active. Riding my bike home from work last night gave me little jolts of pain with each cycle of the pedals.

If the pain continues, I'll go back to liquid breakfast just to see if that helps, but I really hope I don't have to. I enjoy having a bit of meat with breakfast. And, yes, okay, I enjoy my morning Spam :)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


My husband has been asking me how I feel on a scale of 1 to 5 every day for over a month now. It's his way of troubleshooting my illness(es). He isn't entirely convinced that IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is the correct diagnosis, and neither am I. We could be in denial, but one way to try and figure it out is to troubleshoot the system.

The system being, in this case, me.

So I've started to track symptoms on two tabs of a google spreadsheet. I tried using an app, but I just couldn't stick with it. I found it very discouraging to open an app and record every time that I had a bowel movement. And to make sure that every time I had a symptom that I open up the app and record what kind of symptom it was and the corresponding intensity. That's like a full time job right there, without getting paid.

So I've got one tab with a list of my common symptoms down one column and dates across the top row and I just mark when I have the symptom on the day. On the other tab, each date has a place for notes. The symptom columns should help me track cycles and patterns and the other tab allows me to get more specific with timing or mood or food.

I do feel like there are some general cycles that I'm experiencing, but having the data will be better. More data is always more better.

I've also signed up for an online forum for people with IBS. I haven't really started using it yet, but I signed up. I figure I can compare what I've experienced with what other people have experienced and see if there is some difference that would point to me not actually having IBS.

I think both my husband and I don't want it to be IBS because there really isn't a fix for it. You adjust your diet, reduce stress and basically deal with the symptoms as they come - and they come no matter how "good" you are at being chill and eating only foods that don't bother you.

I mean, I've cut out alcohol, coffee/tea and carbonated beverages (except for Alka Seltzer). I hardly eat dairy (except for kefir, which is chock full of probiotic goodness and low in lactose). I do yoga at least once a week and I get a massage once a month. I exercise a lot. I drink tons of water. And I still have symptoms. It's frustrating as all get out and I really just want to fix it.