Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Oh, Coffee...

I've resisted taking this step for a while now, but, on Sunday, I finally decided to quit coffee.

Coffee is one of the foods that I should be avoiding on a low residue diet. I wanted to see if I could "get away with" drinking my single morning cup each day, and, for a while, it seemed that I could. But I started paying more attention to how drinking coffee made me feel. And while on the weekdays it seemed to be treating me alright, on the weekends, I did not enjoy it.

If I drank coffee before working out, then I had to deal with a lot of needing to pee. Plus I would get some lightheadedness and just generally not feel that great. And my weekend workouts run late enough that drinking coffee after them can keep me up at night. My husband can drink coffee whenever he wants and still be sound asleep five minutes later. I can't drink coffee within about 6 hours of bedtime without feeling the effects.

The other factor that made this a difficult choice was that I am one of those people who have a hard time stopping coffee. I get physical withdrawal effects, including an incredibly nasty headache that can last a week if I go cold turkey. I'm trying to ease the withdrawal by not completely cutting out caffeine, but instead greatly reducing it by switching from a morning coffee to a morning green tea.

Well, I did go all day Sunday without any caffeine, so I had a headache most of Monday even with the tea. But then on Tuesday, I woke up feeling more awake and alert, even at 4:30 in the morning. The headache did come on Tuesday, but it didn't come on as quickly as Monday's or as strongly, so I think this method will prove better than cold turkey for me. I've gotten off coffee before, and I know that I don't need it to function. In some ways, I function better without it. I'm hoping to discover whether my tummy functions better without it.

I'd hate to say goodbye to coffee for good. I never liked the taste of it as a kid, but I've always loved the smell of it. It's a nice morning ritual. But if I can prove to myself that it adversely affects my tummy, then I'll stop. That can't be any harder than getting up at 4:30 in the morning to go to CrossFit, right? And I do that all the time now, even though there was definitely a time in my life when if I was awake at 4:30 in the morning, it was because I never went to sleep.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Improving

My tummy seems to be calming down. Health-wise, I'm feeling pretty good this week. I mean, I'm really tired, but I'm pretty sure that's entirely due to the ramping up of exercise that I've been engaged in for the last couple weeks. 

I had a beer last weekend - just one. It was a bit of an experiment, to see how I would feel, and if it would affect my stomach adversely in an obvious fashion. I probably should have waited until I felt 100 percent better in the tummy before doing that, but there was a social occasion, so I took advantage of it. 

The beer was good; I think if I had been more diligent in drinking water, and maybe if I hadn't sat in the sun for an hour, that I wouldn't have noticed any effects at all. As it was, I felt a bit dehydrated and hungover in the evening, and my stomach was quite unsettled the next morning. I felt a bit dizzy and lightheaded as well, especially as I set out on my hike. 

See, on Sunday, I did a CrossFit workout, then my Spartan prep workout, came home and ate a meal, then headed right back out for a hike up to Table Rock wearing my new hiking shoes and my zpacks Arc Blast. It was the first time I hiked with that pack with weight - not much of it, but some. A good 14 pounds or so. And at the start of the hike I felt sick. I had to stop and pee at the first two opportunities. But then I started climbing up the trail and I felt better. Not great, but better. 

My bowel movements haven't quite evened out to the point where I want them to be, but my stomach is overall feeling much better. The main problem I'm having lately is that feeling of lightheadedness, especially when I work out. I try snacking and I try drinking more water and I try drinking more sports drinks... None of it seems to have any effect. Though snacking can help, especially while I'm working out. 

Ambrose and I are generally trying to address the stomach blip by mostly bland foods with a slow reintroduction of more spiced foods. Well, I should write that Ambrose is. I only hear about the plan after it's been in effect for a while, because he's the cook. 

I do feel good about staying the course and trying to address the stomach issue. I still am not feeling that panicky feeling I had before that made me feel like I had no control whatsoever over the pain going on in my abdominal area. We're figuring it out. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Health Spike

I was doing just fine, but something set me off. I suppose it's possible I do have IBS as well as mild gastroparesis. The nausea is back, and I feel like I'm not passing my poop in a timely fashion. There's abdominal pain, in a variety of flavors, from a general ache to a needle prick poke to a cold burning and the feeling that something just isn't right.

I have suspicions on two items that might have triggered this. I'm looking at salsa con queso and iron supplements.

In the past, I've had issues with taking multivitamins. Some brands would give me a stomach ache, so I bought name brands. And then I stopped spending money on vitamins because I was tired of having expensive pee. But, I donated blood for the first time in April, and I was feeling pretty tired and rundown afterwards, so my husband and I decided it might not be a bad idea to take some extra iron.

Closely coincident with the taking of the iron, I returned from a workout and suggested that we put salsa con queso on our shrimp and rice dinner. Salsa con queso is kind of cheese, but not exactly the same as cheese. And it has little bits of peppers, which include skin, aka residue. And I'm supposed to avoid residue and limit milk.

Given that, I'll be limiting my dairy intake a bit more closely, sticking mostly to kefir and yogurt drinks.

I'll be avoiding both iron supplements and salsa con queso until this tummy upset passes, but I do feel more confident now that it will pass. And I'm a bit excited to have found that something triggers the pain instead of it feeling completely random. Looking at the whole thing more as a puzzle or a system problem that needs troubleshooting is a lot better for my state of mind.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Getting Over It


When I was in junior high, I got bullied by my brother. He was being bullied at high school, and, being a teenager, didn't handle it very well. He passed his anger to me, and I turned that anger and the taunts inward. I accepted that I would never be athletic, and that trying to change that was pointless.
Even when I did Tae Kwon Do for a while, I knew I wasn't an athlete. I could memorize forms alright, but when it came to actually doing things, I fell short. 

In college, I explored some athletic things, but I always held myself back. I always believed that I couldn't run, couldn't get much stronger. That wasn't me. I scorned runners while secretly admiring that thing they could do that I knew I couldn't. 

When I did start running, and then backpacking, I began to get a new understanding of myself. Not quite an athlete, perhaps, but athletic. I could move my body and what it needed to survive across miles of mountains, through forests and across streams. What I looked like to others didn't matter, because I could DO these things. 

For several years, I lived within half a mile of a CrossFit box. I would drive by, even walk by, but I never got the nerve up to go in. I blamed the fact that the website didn't have any pricing information, but the real reason was that I was scared. I believed that I didn't belong there. 

After a move across town, another CrossFit box opened near my new location, within a quarter of a mile. As if the universe were giving me a hint, pushing me closer to a kind of exercise that I imagined was far beyond my reach. 

Just to get my foot in the door at Arbor CrossFit, I've had to overcome a harsher critic than anyone external can ever be. To convince myself that I was worthwhile, able, took years. So if anyone there were to imply or outright state that I didn't belong, I would shrug it off. Maybe even laugh and agree and keep on doing my work. Because I've already stepped over a much higher barrier than anyone else could ever generate.

There's nothing anyone else could tell me that I didn't tell myself for years. Not good enough, doesn't belong, not an athlete. I don't think anyone would, but if someone did try to tell me any of those things, I might cry. But I'd also burn with a desire to prove them wrong. I proved myself wrong, after all.

I haven't done much writing lately. Fiction writing, that is. I wrote a few stories, then did some submissions, and then stopped when the rejections came back. Because there is this voice inside me that tells me that I'm not good enough. That my writing doesn't work. That I'm never going to sell a story anyway, so why bother?

Writing has been something that I've been "good" at. To get to the point where I'm writing and submitting stories hasn't been the same kind of difficult journey that exercise has been for me. Writing was my escape from everything when I was in high school. I'm well practiced at it, and yet, I meet with "failure" again and again and can't seem to get myself in the mindset of working past it.

Sure, I've self published a number of stories, and I'm rather proud of my nonfiction offerings. But I'm not getting into a habit of writing fiction, which is the only way to really improve (practice). When I recently articulated to a friend the way I feel about my athleticism, I realized that I need to put that same kind of doggedness into my fiction writing. I have it in me to ignore the critical and just enjoy the workout.

Time to do the same for stories.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Diet Progress

It's been about a month since I started on the low residue diet to treat my delayed gastric emptying issue. At first, I didn't notice much of a change. I was on antibiotics and just generally not feeling especially great. But as the days have gone by, I've realized that I am seeing improvement.

For one, I'm not nauseous every morning. This shouldn't be an accomplishment, and yet, for about the last two years before I started on this diet, I've gone to work and wondered if I was going to vomit all over the entrance to my workplace. It was always a burp, but it always felt like it was going to be more. I got used to that. It was my normal. And it sucked.

And now it's gone.

There's also a lot less general tummy pain. Still some, especially from gas, which I've gotten pretty good at discerning from other kinds of pains. I haven't had any sustained pain in the last few weeks, and I definitely haven't had any high level pain. Mostly, I get little needle prick type sensations that are very brief, or kind of a roll of pain in the tummy, but again, brief.

I guess since I'm not feeling quite so sucky anymore, that means it's time to start reintroducing some fiber. I'm hesitant, because I don't want to ruin the good thing I've got going, but I also seriously miss eating berries. And a lot of my backpacking food has seeds or nuts, so I'm going to have to get used to those things again or seriously adjust my backpacking diet.

My weight has also been fairly constant since starting the diet. It's not doing dramatic or even daily shifts, but kind of sticking to a single weight for a while, then changing to another weight and sticking there. I'm neither losing nor gaining very much at this point, which I think is pretty good. I do want to lose some weight to make body weight exercises easier, but I want to do it healthily and without impacting the equilibrium I've managed to find with my tummy issues.

I've been using an app to keep track of my intake and my output. Anything I eat or drink gets recorded, and all of my bowel movements. One of the risks of a low residue diet is constipation, but I've managed to avoid that for the most part. I'm going every day, and that's pretty much exactly what I want.

I'll admit, the one thing I haven't cut completely out on the diet is coffee. For one, I love how coffee tastes. For another, getting off of my daily caffeine habit is not easy for me, and I do not wish, as this time, to go through the intense headaches that the process causes. I figured if I wasn't seeing improvement, then I'd try cutting off caffeine. But I am! So I get to keep drinking coffee. Yay!


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Burn the Bras?

I'm not sure exactly why, but I've been growing more and more frustrated with bras. I had a bunch that I got from a clearance sale at a department store, and they worked alright but were no longer fitting (and wearing out). So I got some more at an outlet store. And they fit fine in the store, but less fine after being worn for two to four hours.

At this point in my life, if it weren't for work, where I feel that wearing a bra is part of a professional outfit, and working out, where I need some compression to keep from bouncing too much, I probably wouldn't wear bras at all. I don't like how they feel - not the support, which is fine, but the straps on the shoulders and the band in the back, the foundation of the support.

I wear a sports bra for backpacking because without one I get too sweaty. But none of them are very comfortable, and I've had to work hard to find one that works. Unfortunately, the ones that I've been using, some front zip triathlon bras, are all worn out. Not only are the seams coming apart but the zippers are no longer locking in place. So now the hunt is on for a new backpacking bra, and the most important thing in a backpacking bra, for me, is the ability to dry quickly. Somehow, that never gets included on reviews.

Backpacking is the one time that I want to be wearing a bra all the time, because if I don't, then my piercings will get irritated by being pulled around against my shirt. So it needs to be the most comfortable of bras, and it has to dry on my body at the end of the day so I can sleep in it.

For both backpacking and everyday, I'm interested in trying out some shelf bra tank tops. I swear I used to have some that worked pretty well, but they are long gone by now. I thought Costco might have some, but they did not. Instead, I bought a 2 pack of "bra-lettes" that are at least free from hooks, underwire and tags (amazing how many bras have itchy tags - are they not aware fabric can be printed on?).

The bralettes are working well enough that I might buy another 2 pack, but I really want to find those shelf bra tank tops, because the version in my mind has wide straps, like 2 inches. The one new bra I bought for backpacking has extra wide straps and when I put it on it hardly feels like I'm wearing anything. Perfect really, but that just makes me want to save it for backpacking and not "use it up" on every day wear. Because now that I like it, the manufacturer will surely discontinue it, which is why I dare not type its name.

I'm not opposed to bras in general, but I am heartily frustrated with them at the moment. Not enough to burn them, but enough that I'm actively looking for bra alternatives.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Health Bits

I've been feeling frustrated because while the low residue diet has made me feel better in general, I'm still having mysterious abdominal pains. But I need to look on the bright side. Because there have been improvements, even if I've been focused on the not-improving parts.

So. I haven't had daily nausea. I've actually had very little nausea since starting the low residue diet and when I do have it, it's fleeting rather than a constant sensation that leaves me woozy and desperate to get it to stop.

I'm not in constant tummy pain. I've still got some pains that crop up, though I don't think it's all gastrointestinal pain. I can recognize when I've got gas pain, and, to me, it's a particular type of pain. It feels like a balloon blowing up inside, pressure and squeezing. I also get these sharper pains, and sometimes a prickling, but those feel like they are more in my skin than my insides - like above the layer of my muscles.

There's still frustration that I'm not losing weight. I kind of hoped that after the antibiotics I might see some weight loss. But - on the bright side - I'm no longer gaining weight. I'll take a leveling off over a steady creep upwards. Part of that frustration is that the heavier I get, the harder body weight movements become and I don't want to lose my pull ups. And some of my pants are getting tight to the point where I don't want to wear them or wear them with the button undone.

I am doing overall much better than before starting the low residue diet. I just need to keep being patient and focus on the improvements.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Tidbits

Well, I got another cold/flu/crud thing last week. I'm choosing to blame my boss, who stayed home some days last week to take care of sick family and also when he (inevitably) also fell sick. And my husband caught whatever it was from me. So instead of starting to evaluate how I felt based on the low residue diet once the antibiotics should have had some effect, I was just ... sick.

Now, I'm done with the antibiotics and mostly over the illness. Not entirely pain free, but it's a pain that is much more manageable than what I'd had before taking the antibiotics. And it's intermittent rather than constant. So there is improvement, but I don't have a verdict yet as to whether I've truly benefited or not.

I started to track my foods so that I could get an idea of what worked, but when I got sick I kind of fell off the tracking bandwagon. I even stopped tracking bowel movements, though I know I did have at least one per day. It just wasn't as important to track. Now, I really should get back to tracking both of those, along with pain symptoms again so I can get a good sense of how I'm doing. My next doctor appointment will be in June and I really hope that I can be in a good place by then.

It makes so much sense that I would have felt better while backpacking, because unless we really work at it, most of our backpacking food is low fiber. And rather than three large meals a day with a few snacks, we snack a lot and have smaller "big" meals three times a day. Kind of. I mean, breakfast is now tending towards being a bar and some jerky on the move, and lunch isn't all that big. Dinners are relatively big, but not huge. I'm looking forward to backpacking season now, because I feel like I'll be able to handle my body better, knowing what I know now.

Work is slower this time of year, and I'm working on handing off projects I would normally do myself to one of my direct reports. He is supposed to be learning how to do the things that I do, so even though I want to do all the things, I have to learn to let go and allow him to learn. It's a process that I'm trying to embrace.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

New Diagnosis!

So, my new gastro person decided that we should do one more test, just to make sure that my issue was not being caused by something, even though I didn't fit the typical profile for that condition. I did the test last Tuesday, and on Wednesday, I got a call from the gastro office telling me that I needed to schedule a follow-up appointment.

I was expecting, after all these tests with non-abnormal results, another call with a message about how the results were fine. The call for an appointment kind of freaked me out. And the appointment I scheduled wasn't until April 12, so I had no idea what was going on with the test, but I wasn't reassured.

Technically, though, I would have access to my imaging results through an online service in a week, so I wasn't all that freaked out. I had patience enough to wait a week to know the results.

And then, on Saturday, I got a letter in the mail from the gastro office. I thought it would be a bill, so I wasn't very excited to open it. Instead, I unpacked groceries first, and put everything away, and then I got around to reading what turned out to be a very short letter from the physician's assistant I had been seeing.

Turns out, I have mild delayed gastric emptying, a diagnosis that not only explains the nausea and abdominal pain, but that also explains why I've been getting worse. (Delayed gastric emptying means that food doesn't leave my stomach at a normal rate; my stomach is slow to empty.) Because it turns out that for IBS, they recommend increasing fiber and avoiding high "fodmap" foods. But when there's delayed gastric emptying, the diet plan is low fiber to reduce what my stomach needs to process.

My diagnosis of IBS was making things worse, and it took me two and a half years to get the test that showed what the actual problem is. This test was not complicated or difficult. It did involve not eating or drinking for long stretches of time, not the most comfortable, but not anywhere near as uncomfortable as colonoscopy prep. I have to ask myself why this test didn't come sooner, but I have a feeling it's because I'm not underweight, and gastroenterologists in general don't believe that delayed gastric emptying can happen without malnutrition. 

I'm still taking the antibiotics I was prescribed by the PA for possible small intestinal bacterial overflow; this is a condition that can happen with both IBS and delayed gastric emptying. I'm not feeling very well on the antibiotics, but I'm committed to finishing the course. Even though my husband is getting frustrated because I'm not eating very much. And I'm frustrated because my stomach hurts.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a plan of action to deal with what my actual problem is.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Writing Habits

I did go ahead and submit the story I finished recently for publication, but I got a pretty quick rejection. Which means I should just submit it again somewhere else, but I'm not really sure where that story might fit, so I have to research places to submit since I haven't been submitting stories very much at all in the last couple years. Mostly because I haven't been writing them.

I haven't been writing much in the last couple weeks either. After all that energy on the one story, I fell off, even though I've got one more to finish and another that I just barely started. I need to figure out a better way to get myself sitting and writing. It isn't that writing is difficult, it's more the getting myself in the position to actually do it.

If I didn't have this blog streak alive, I probably wouldn't get much writing done at all. I mean, it's good that I'm at least getting blogs written, that keeps me going. But I need to figure out a way to leverage that habit into writing stories.

And I need to figure out the best way to set myself up for success. My home desk isn't very ergonomic, so I end up getting pretty sore trying to float my wrists in space over the keyboard. I think if I get a little bit of a lift under the keyboard I could do it standing pretty comfortably. I'll experiment.

And I will try to use this blog to push myself. I'm going to finish one story by next week.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

New IBS Plan

I finally saw a provider about the abdominal pain that made me feel like I was being taken seriously. The nurse practitioner at the other place and the doctor at this place both made me feel like they thought I was being a hysterical female, allowing my emotions to cause me pain. And if I would just relax, then all this pain would go away because all my organs are just perfectly fine.

Right.

So, this new woman wants me to start from the beginning, so I do. I go over the whole thing and explain my objective of not being in pain all the time. She thinks this is a reasonable thing to want, glory be!

I had read about small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) on an IBS forum, and I asked her if it was a real thing and if there were tests and such. She said it was a real thing associated with IBS, and that the tests for it weren't all that reliable. So we're just going to treat for it and see if that improves things. But first, one more test to make sure my stomach isn't holding onto food for longer than it should be. That would be gastroparesis, which I'm familiar with because I work with someone who was diagnosed with that condition. That also means I know what to expect from the test; it isn't a big deal, and I won't have to do the kind of prep that the colonoscopy entailed, thank goodness.

After that test, I can start on the antibiotics that are specific to SIBO, and if they have an effect, I should notice about halfway through the two week course. After that, if I'm still feeling bad, then we try something else. She's got a plan of different things to try, and I was so happy to hear that. It wasn't like the other provider who essentially said I should get more exercise and do yoga, and that I was too fat to be really sick (in so many words).

Part of why I am so eager to figure this out is because the pain is starting to affect my exercise. I have been doing Commitment Crew at Arbor CrossFit for 18 months straight now (that's at least 20 classes a month), plus backpacking in the summer and additional weightlifting accessory work in the off season. And in the last few months, I can feel my tummy swelling and I can feel pain whenever I do something that compresses my abdomen, especially rowing. I want to be able to continue exercising, because I love it. So it frustrates me when a medical type person looks at my weight and height on the chart and assumes I need to exercise more.

But I didn't get that vibe from the new provider. I'm feeling more hopeful, even though Monday, the day I had the appointment, was a pretty bad pain day. I think I'll blame daylight saving time for that one.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Story!

Well, it's the start of the third month of the year, and I've finally gotten around to starting and finishing a new short story. Although, to be fair, this story really feels like it could, maybe should, be a much larger work. There's definitely more to the world that wants to come out, but I think I got a beginning middle and end to it.

Now the question is am I going to submit it anywhere? I should. But whether I will or not depends on whether I can convince myself it has a market. It isn't quite fantasy or scifi, which are my typical go-tos when it comes to magazines. And I know one that I've tried to submit to in the past is shuttering soon (Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show - and, to be honest, I'm kind of glad it's shutting down, because I never felt entirely comfortable submitting to it because of his politics).

Ambrose has read through it and concluded that it's actually a pretty okay story in the post-apocalyptic genre. Now I have to figure out which markets might want such a story, starting with the ones that I received personalized feedback from. Although one of those is straight out because of word limits. So I'll start with the other one, and see what happens.

And while that's on submission, I'm close to finishing a story I started last year and the idea for another short one is percolating in my brain. I found myself taking a bit of a cooling off period on writing at the beginning of the year. I was focusing on my health perhaps a bit too much. But now I'm back into the mindset of wanting to write, which means I'll hopefully start getting my butt in the chair and be able to finish my modest challenge of 12 works this year.

I've also wrapped around to getting all of my works published out wide, which means I can update my About page a bit with some new links for Kobo readers. I did end up putting the latest Hike with Me to Amazon exclusively for the first 90 days, but I've got a calendar item all set to put it wide as soon as that term is up. I'm also looking at putting out normal sized print editions of all the Hike with Me books to lower costs for the print editions, but I haven't quite decided if that's worth the effort.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Oh, Sing

I can't remember a time when I didn't sing. Somewhere, maybe, there's a cassette tape recording of my dad, brother and I singing "La Bamba" while my dad plays guitar. I don't know how old we were, but we were little. And I don't remember the recording, I only remember hearing it years later. But singing while my dad played guitar is something that was a part of my life when I was younger. Mostly Beatles, because that's what he liked, but also some other songs from the same era.

Those sing-a-longs stopped at some point. My dad was working longer hours, or I was too teenaged embarrassed to continue doing it. I do remember being kind of mortified when he learned to play one of the hit songs I liked at that age, "Save Tonight" by Eagle Eye Cherry.

But that wasn't the only singing I did. I went to Catholic school, and, before high school, Sunday mass every week. To me, the best part of mass was the singing. I had favorite hymns and ones that I didn't favor so much, but I loved the singing. I joined the choir at school and even got to be cantor a few times for weekday masses.

For a couple of years, I was in a children's choir, the Young Naperville Singers. We gave main two concerts per year, in winter and in spring. I got to travel to Milwaukee for one performance and we sang four songs for a holiday broadcast on Naperville cable access. I quit that choir because of a disagreement over whether I had to love the song that everyone else loved. I may have been somewhat of a difficult child...

In high school, I tried some choir things, but I didn't end up liking the groups available. Looking back, I really should have tried out for gospel choir, but I never did. Instead, I sang along on the radio on my long commutes either to school or to and from friend's houses (I lived 30 miles from my high school and most of my friends were scattered in other directions).

In college, after my ex-boyfriend killed himself, I wrote some songs to help me process. And I even got to perform those a couple of times in public, though not around very many people who I would ever see again.

I've never had much success with karaoke. I've done it maybe twice, and both times I was so nervous that I couldn't stay on key. Plus, my excuse is that they don't tend to offer the songs that I know and love best.

These days, there are times when I feel like I can't make enough time in the day to get some singing in. I sing in the shower, but I can't sing at my desk at work. I sing in the car, but my commute is about 10 minutes, so it's not very therapeutic. And once the weather's nice again, I'll be back to riding my bike.

Singing relieves stress for me and I need to make an effort to let myself have that time and space to jam out to music I can sing to. I might not get the lyrics just right, but I can belt out the tune and support the long holds. I can play with adjusting my voice to different songs, or different singers if I start singing along to the Avenue Q soundtrack.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Health Update

After getting a clean bill of colon health, I was still in pain. So I decided to try something else. I stopped taking oral contraceptives, and, for about a week, I had a halcyon time of not being in constant pain. It was delightful, and I hoped it would last.

But it didn't.

I'm not having the exact same pain that I was before, but on Monday night the pain was bad enough to keep from sleeping well. And on Tuesday, I kept getting this painful throbbing thing going on. So, I'm moving forward with next steps. My doctor has agreed to have an ultrasound done to check out my abdomen.

I'm not going to worry about what the steps after that are. I'm still focused on my action plan. I will trust in the medical professionals, and I will move forward.

I've also been having some interesting dreams lately. One, in particular, makes me want to write a story, but I'm a little afraid because it was really dark. I haven't been doing any fiction writing, really, any writing other than my blogs. There's a fear I need to get over so I can start writing stories again. Or I just need to get my butt in the chair.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Manipulation

I've started to read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People for work. I haven't gotten very far into it yet, but what I've read so far makes sense. Which, to be honest, consists of the foreword, introduction and part of the first chapter. But I think reading this will not only help me with my working relationships, but also with my writing. 

The beginning of the first chapter speaks to the idea that no one thinks they are "the bad guy" in their own lives. Villains in fiction are so much more interesting when their villainous plots have a rationale that makes sense to them. Well, except maybe the Joker, whose entire point is that there is no rationale. We are all the authors of our lives' narratives, and rarely do any of us consider ourselves in the role of the villain. We are the protagonist. 

Even if we have to edit and revise to make ourselves feel that way. 

Of course, as a person with a long history of overthinking things, I do have a tendency to see myself as, if not the bad guy, then the one at fault. And I'm not alone in that. Some people blame themselves for everything negative in their own lives, even when that isn't the case. The editing and revision in those cases is not to whitewash away actions that do not conform to our perceived sense of self, but rather a coating of soot to convince us that we are the authors of our own miseries. 

And, in a way, we are. 

What's better? To see yourself as a hero, ignoring the actions and flaws that don't fit that narrative, or to see yourself as a villain, ignoring the actions and virtues that don't fit that narrative? 

No one is objective when it comes to self perception. There is no mirror that can reflect back the impact of your actions. Self interpretation is inherently subjective, which is why the folks who argue on the internet claiming to be rational often come off just as emotional as those they claim are irrational. 

So, I suppose, once a person understands this on a deep level, that knowledge can be used to win friends and influence people? 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Plan of Action

I had a colonoscopy last week. They found that I have a healthy colon and etc... That news was a bit mixed for me, because that means I still have mystery pain. So, I have been meditating and focusing on not freaking out just because I don't know what's causing the pain. I have come up with an action plan to help keep myself from spiraling out of control with the what-if game.

First, focus on facts in evidence:
Focusing on facts in evidence means that feeling a pulse in my tummy is proof of nothing more than I'm thinner than I used to be. It means that I will rejoice at the certainty that I don't have colon cancer or ulcerative colitis or chronic appendicitis or Crohn's or anything else that a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy can detect. It means that I keep working out because I can - I know I can because I have been.

Second, stop searching for symptoms on the internet:
Stop searching for symptoms is pretty self explanatory. It is easy to find patterns; that's the way humans are programmed. But the likelihood of my having any of the various things that could be causes of abdominal pain is low, because most of those things are quite rare. So I will stop looking for trouble; if trouble finds me, then I'll deal with it.

Third, through with watching medical dramas until this is resolved:
Another thing that can cause freaking out is watching medical dramas, because everyone is sick and, of course, they are sick with rare and dramatic things. I don't need that kind of input in my brain right now.

Fourth, forbear with the medical system:
I need to have forbearance with the medical system. I need to be patient and let the doctors work through the possibilities in the way that makes sense to them. I need to trust that they will check for anything that might fit, and trust that they believe me.

Fifth, figure out ways to manage the pain:
While I wait, I will work on ways to manage my pain as best I can. I will let myself cry when I hurt or when I'm frustrated. I will get back to doing yoga. I have stopped my oral contraceptives, since I have been using them more for controlling when I bleed than actual pregnancy prevention - the hope is that going off the hormones might have a salutary effect.

I am going to harness the power of positive thinking and get through this. Nothing horrible is going to happen because the horrible things have already been ruled out.

As the great Arnold Schwarzenegger said in Kindergarten Cop, "It's naht a toomah."

And as the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail said, "I'm not dead yet."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Books!

I completed my book goal for 2018, and now I have to do the work of getting all the links for all my books in one place. Though I still haven't put the latest books on wide release through Smashwords or Draft to Digital. Still, last week I did some vanity shots of my Hike with Me books. I can hardly believe that I'm up to 8.

8 Hike with Me books - mostly proof copies. 
I've got my first one, Stump Lake, with the original cover. I started with the cover creator provided by CreateSpace with that one, and added my own picture. The next year, I wanted to give the books their own particular style. The second in the pile there has a light green strip next to the cover picture because I was trying to just have the spine be dark green. But the spine just wouldn't line up, no matter what I did. So I changed the design to what I've kept for the rest of them. One picture on front, one or two on the back.

I really like these books that I've created. I can see how I've grown in both writing and photography by looking back at these. Having them to create gives me motivation to write more consistently, even if I'm not doing the fiction I still want to do.

Sometimes I think about whether I should have tried to sell this project to a publisher. I like where I've landed with the design of both the exterior and interior, but the costs per unit would be smaller for a publisher that could afford to order in bulk, bringing the overall price into a more reasonable range. I price the paperbacks as low as I can, and that means skipping out on expanded distribution, which would allow my book to be found and purchased by libraries and book stores. That's probably the thing that bugs me most, is that I can't price them to sell - not if I want to stick with full color.

One year, I did an experiment and made a normal print size edition to sell in addition to the large print. The price difference was $10; I should probably do more of those, though the back end setup of Kindle Direct Publishing isn't really designed to have multiple editions like that. It has a one-to-one relationship between each ebook and paperback.

I finally got around to updating the secondary pages on the my blogs to display an up to date reckoning of where my books can be purchased. Next, I've got to set up last year's books to expanded ebook distribution.










Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Moving on with Diagnosis

I went to the doctor last week. Nothing conclusive, again, but we're moving forward with trying to figure out what's wrong. Maybe it isn't IBS, maybe it is, but we're going to continue to try and pin it down instead of giving up and trying to manage it. Because I can't manage it. Nothing I've done has made a lasting difference. And when something seems to work, it only works for a little while and then I'm back where I started, still in pain. 


The pain's actually getting worse lately. Again, I don't know why, since I haven't changed my diet, exercise or routine. I can't take the strong pain killers because they cause constipation, and that's the last thing I need right now. So I have to try to get by with over the counter pain killers, which sometimes help and sometimes don't. Really, I'm working on pushing through it with natural remedies, like melatonin and valerian at bedtime. I'm afraid they'll stop working too. 

Thanks to a cancellation, I'll be getting a colonoscopy next week. I'm not looking forward to the prep that I remember Ambrose going through when he had his preventative screening years ago. But at the same time, I want to take this next step and check out what's going on. And I'll be doing this at a different gastroenterology clinic, because I did not appreciate how I was communicated with at the first one. 

In other fun news, I also get the privilege of collecting some samples for a fecal occult blood test. It's... not the kind of thing that sparks joy. But again, it's a step towards figuring thing out. 

I hope this turns out to be something fixable. Preferably something easy to fix. But even if we do a ton of tests and they decide that it's IBS after all, I think I'll feel better knowing that with more certainty. And I'll definitely be more assertive in getting help with a management plan other than "ignore the pain, because it's just functional." Which is pretty much what the doc from the other gastro place told me to do. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dream Management

Taking as a premise the Four Agreements view of life as a personal dream, I realized that I try to manage other people's dreams.

No one can make anyone else happy; our happiness is determined solely by our own reactions and choices. So when I go tip-toeing around, trying to be pleasing to everyone, trying to play specific, positive, roles in other people's dreams, I am doing a whole bunch of work for nothing.

That's not to say I shouldn't be polite. But it is to say that I should interact with others without overthinking how they are going to take what I'm saying. It is not my job to stage manage their dreams. It is not their job to cast me in a pleasing role in their dreams.

This, I think, is what I realized without consciously realizing it when I listened to Mel Robbins give a speech. What she was talking about, her 5 second rule, was interesting, but not particularly applicable to me. I don't have a problem getting out of bed in the morning, or getting started on other things, necessarily. But after her talk, I found myself talking to strangers with more ease and less anxiety about how I would be perceived.

It felt, at the time, a bit like magic. I wasn't sure why I was feeling more free to interact with other people without worrying about how I would be perceived, but I was. And, because I didn't know why, the effect gradually faded. Lately, I've found myself again trying to come off in certain ways, or nitpicking myself for a perceived failure to say the "right" thing to someone.

Subconsciously, I was taking the advice about getting started and applying it in a different way, by focusing on myself instead of the unknowable thoughts of others. I have no power to force others to think of me in a specific way, so there's no point in wasting my time and energy fretting about it. I can be polite and be kind without worrying about whether the words I use to convey my intentions are taken by the recipients in the exact way I intended.

The only dream I get to manage is my own, so I might as well invest my energies to make it a good one.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Pain

During the night on Monday night, I woke up in pain. It's become common for my stomach to hurt, so if I have stomach pain, then I'll usually just go right back to sleep. This was not stomach pain.

The pain was in my mid to low back, and it burned. I couldn't get comfortable. Every position was uncomfortable, though some were worse than others. Because it was a back issue, I didn't go to my 5 am workout, but because I was in such pain, I also didn't take that opportunity to go back to sleep. Instead, I took Aleve and Alka Seltzer and waited for the pain to subside.

When it didn't, I called in sick to work and tried to find a comfortable position to wait it out.

Nothing that I tried seemed to help the pain go away. An ice pack on my back felt good, but I was still hurting. Eventually, I dozed off on the couch, sitting with my body curled around a pillow. Then I moved to the bed for more dozing.

And at some point, the pain just went away from my back and seemed to migrate to my lower right abdomen. Though that could have been just because the back was no longer hurting that I could feel that the tummy was STILL hurting.

I haven't been running a fever, and there aren't any other "red flag" type symptoms, so at this point I'm just going to hope that it doesn't happen again. It could have been muscular, since I did have a back "ow" moment during Sunday's workout, but I worked out Monday morning without a problem and had a massage Monday evening. Plus, if it were muscular, then the Aleve should have been efficacious and it wasn't. So, I don't really think the issue is exercise.

I mean, I did take a rest day today, just in case, but that's not just because I was worried about aggravating a back injury. It's also because I'm exhausted and can't shake the feeling that something is wrong.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 Publishing Goal Complete

I left it to the last minute, but I finished. 6 books published in the year 2018. Two guidebooks, three Hike with Me books and one blog compilation/reflection book. I'm up to 8 Hike with Me books now, though one of them is very short since I split the two Idaho Centennial Trail trips into separate books rather than make one larger one.

I haven't written much fiction this year, and that's something that I'm going to look at getting back into in 2019. I should only be doing one Hike with Me book this year, on the next section of the ICT through the Frank Church Wilderness. That's going to be an interesting book since it will be around a 10 day trip. It will be big, for sure.

It's been a long while since I tried to sell any fiction. I was getting closer on the last submission with some personal rejections, but I stopped writing fiction. Part of it was the focus on writing all of the nonfiction, but I also felt frustrated with my stories.

This year's goal will be to write one piece of fiction per month for the year. If it's something that can fit a short story market, then I'll submit it. If it's not, then I'll either publish it on my blog or on Amazon. 12 works of fiction. That's an extremely achievable goal, so I'll try to complete it as quickly as I can and when I finish, I'll start another goal.

I know I can write over 1000 words a day when I get my butt in the chair. I did that to finish my write ups for the Hike with Me books this year, and I know I can do it. There's just still this fear and hesitation when I write fiction instead of the account of something that happened.

2019 will be the year of Butt in Chair.