Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Few Photos

Just a few photos this week. My brain is being consumed with the write up of my solo trip :)

This wall is actually blue, but in the early light of the morning that color has disappeared. The shadow is cast by my succulents.

We drove into a storm.

It was a bit scary, but we passed through quickly.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Writing Progresses

The writing is going quite well. Whenever I have a big gap of time between when I take a trip and when I start writing about said trip, I always worry a bit that I'm going to forget everything and have nothing to write about. That never actually turns out to be the case, but it doesn't stop the niggling concern. And it does, sometimes, motivate me to get writing sooner than I would otherwise, like when I knew I was going to write about both my solo trip and a coast trip, I got to writing on my solo trip in June (since I'd done the trip in May). And I finished well before the coast trip in July, so I didn't have to worry about forgetting two trips.

This year, I ended up waiting quite a while before I wrote about my solo trip. It's not uncommon for me to put the write-up off, but waiting until November is pushing it a bit. I think the reason that I waited so long was because I felt so conflicted about not finishing the exact trip that I planned out. But as I write about the trip, I'm finding so much joy. It was a really great trip.

I'm doing a couple things differently this year with my write up. First, I'm waiting to transcribe the notes that I took on the trip until after I write up that particular day. I find that this allows me to do my best to remember what happened (assisted only by the photos that I took), and then I can transcribe my notes and go back and add in anything that I forgot. I find that working the other way around constrains my mind to only think about the incidents that I wrote down at the time.

Second, instead of sticking to a 1000 words a day type schedule, I've been letting myself do what I can during the work week and then really putting the hammer down over the weekends. I know that I can write 1000 words a day and get through the writing portion of one of these books in pretty short order, but my brain doesn't always want to settle in to doing more work after I've worked all day. Especially when I've got projects at work that are eating up my brain capacity.

So I decided to experiment one weekend and ended up with over 6000 words for the weekend, and the next weekend I topped 8000. And I didn't spend the whole weekend writing, either. This system allows me to be flexible about how much I write during the week, and then really get things moving come Saturday and Sunday.

I'm hoping to finish up the writing portion of the solo trip by the end of next weekend, which will give my husband some time to read it over and make suggestions. While he's doing that, I'll be selecting photos, and, depending on how long he takes, starting to process and caption the photos. If everything goes according to my fantasy timeline, I'll be putting the book together over Thanksgiving.

Here's hoping that plan works out better than the one for the trip did :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Stop Trying to Save Daylight

I don't know why exactly, but the time change hit me harder this year than it had in the past. Perhaps it was because I forgot to set my alarm clock ahead and ended up winning up at 4:30 am on Sunday. Perhaps I'm just getting older. Or perhaps I've been cursed by a witch.

At any rate, it's been three days and I have managed to feel worse each day. Possibly because my body thinks I'm getting up at 3:30 in the morning to work out at 4 (because getting up at 4:30 to work out at 5 is so much more natural??). Or possibly I'm having a tummy issues flare up. Or it could be that my period is due soon and I'm PMSing on top of the time change madness.

I voted in my local elections last night, and if I could have voted time changes away, I would have. Unfortunately, that wasn't on the ballot. Maybe next year...

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Book Focus Time!

I didn't start writing my solo book until late September this year, and I wish that I had gotten started sooner and could be finished now. Unfortunately, I can't go back in time and change this, so I'm just going to set myself some word goals and strive to hit 500 to 1000 words a day on weekdays and 2000 a day on weekends. That should allow me to finish by the end of November at the latest and then get the book formatted and ready for release in time for Christmas, as usual.

I think I was reluctant to start this one because a part of me was so disappointed in not finishing what I set out to accomplish. But I did make progress on my goal of finishing the Idaho Centennial Trail. Every step is another step closer to Upper Priest Lake Falls. I made some mistakes in my training and preparation last summer that I won't soon repeat.

The experience was incredible, and I learned a lot. Can I really ask more out of an 87 mile hike through the wilderness?

My husband helped me work through an introductory section that will hopefully be a good hook for readers. And I'm trying to think more in terms of hooks in each section of the book as well, so the goal is to have this book be the best written one yet. With every book, I learn more with the practice of writing it. Hard to believe I have eight of these things already, and plans for several more as I continue on the ICT.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Autumn Cleaning

Even before we got a notice that our apartment was to be inspected, Ambrose had been on a bit of purging kick. Time to get rid of the old things that we no longer use, he said. No matter how attached we are to them.

This is hard for me. I grew up as a bit of a packrat. If not for periodic forced cleansings, my mom would have created a hoarder house for us to live in. Ambrose sees a table with a layer of week old mail on it as something nearly sacrilege. I see it as needing no action, because there aren't years old magazines at the bottom of the pile, no rotting food or crusty dishes - and you can see most of the table!

There are some things that each of us own that we are able to decide on for ourselves. For example, I have a broken CD player that's been sitting on my dresser for years. After the CD part broke, I still used it for radio in the mornings. But then the antenna broke, and the improvisation involving a coat hanger didn't really work either. So I only kept it because it still had a working cassette player and I still own some cassettes. If I ever want to play them again, then I'll have to find some other way to do it, because that CD player is now trash. Yay me.

Ambrose has gotten rid of some of his own things, most of which I don't particularly notice. But he also got overzealous early in this process. See, we have a system for laundry. He runs the washer and dryer, and then piles the clothes on a shelf or hangs them up near the shelf if they are work clothes that need to be hung up. On a semi-regular basis, I go through the pile and put everything away. That, by itself, would be fine, but every now and then Ambrose will put some of his own stuff away while he's doing the pile.

This has resulted, on occasion, in a situation where I get to the bottom of the pile and am left with Ambrose's unmatched socks. If we've just come from backpacking, then I will leave the socks on the shelf until the next load comes through. If it's been a while and no match has come through, then I go to his sock drawer and usually find that he put them away at some point.

So when I came to find that I had two right-footed toe socks in the pile, I left them on the shelf for the next load. Only to find, a couple days later, that Ambrose had discovered he had two left-footed toe socks in his drawer. And, having no match for them, he threw them away.

I made a bee-line for the trash can, but he told me he had already put it in the dumpster. I shook my head and handed him the two right-footed toe socks, which we then threw away, having no other choice that didn't involve dumpster diving.

All the little things are really in preparation for getting rid of our old car camping tent. That tent has been with Ambrose a long time, and it's got a lot of memories for both of us. It served us well, but it now leaks. And we have a new car camping tent. It is time and more to be rid of the old one. It will live on in our memories and lots of pictures. We just have to let it go.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Dancing Lights

My husband has been doing various computer projects for a while now. He has a little robot he's working on (Chappie, after the movie), and he's been working on a color changing light for my bike that would turn red when a car got close. I don't know how to do most of what he's doing, but I still think it's pretty darn cool.

For example, he's got a strip of LEDs set up to react to sound. It can be a bit annoying when watching television shows, but it's really nice when we're listening to music. Automatic dance party lighting!



Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Best Pranks Come to Those Who Wait

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I went car camping. We both took our Enlightened Equipment quilts to sleep in, and I was in charge of packing up the tent when it was time to leave the Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground. I giggled in the tent as I packed those quilts, because while Ambrose was busy packing the stuff outside the tent, and carrying things to the car from the tent, I stuck his quilt into a sleeping bag sack, and then stuffed my own quilt inside on top of it.

To casual eyes, mine would be the only thing inside. Only my orange and gray, shiny-silky fabric would show from the drawstring's hole. I imagined that this would stymie Ambrose for a few minutes when he unpacked the quilts to air them out on the porch. That's our standard operating procedure - go backpacking or camping, and then air out the gear that can't go in the washing machine, like the tent and the sleeping pads - and the quilts!

Imagine, now, my complete and total shock to find out on October 5th that my husband had spent several days in the last week contemplating how to tell me that he had lost his quilt and that we would need to find the budget to replace the $500 piece of extremely warm, extremely lightweight, professional backpacking gear.

Days. Days he had been mulling this difficult topic over.

And he didn't say a word to me about it.

Until October 5th, when he told me that he had found his quilt.

I laughed, until he told me how worried he had been. Okay, I also laughed after that. But I did feel a little bad that he was so worried.

I also felt a little bit in awe of myself. I tend to spoil the joke by giving it away. But this time, I laid down a solid little joke, and let it be. I hadn't thought about it much since the day I packed the two quilts away like that. When he didn't say anything about it, maybe I had a thought or two that he didn't notice. But I didn't really consider it.

This time, I had let my trap lay without paying it any overt attention, and I had completely tricked my dear, older and wiser, husband.

He really needs to be more careful about teaching me his tricks.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Spiders!

The other day, I was walking on a bridge and realized that it was the home for a whole lot of large spiders. Orb-weavers, mostly, I'm told. It was really neat that once I started noticing one, suddenly there were so many more. I paused to get pictures, while my companion urged us on, because she was less of a tolerance for spiders than I do. I think being afraid of spiders is one of those things that I thought was the appropriate thing to do, so I did it. 

I mean normal North American spiders, not scary movie spiders (or Australian spiders). I've stopped jumping and screaming whenever I see a spider in the house, and I usually either let them live (and eat bugs) or put them outside alive. 

I still don't think I'll be watching the movie Arachnophobia anytime soon though. It might still give my nightmares.








Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Saturday's Are for Sing-a-longs

Usually, in our apartment, Ambrose is in charge of the media. I get to make suggestions or pick the show, but only when he decides to give up the remote. Most Saturday mornings, we get a selection of electronic music from YouTube, because that's what he prefers to listen to.

But a few Saturdays ago, I managed to do a little takeover.

I had heard about the whole Tool vs Taylor Swift thing, and I decided I wanted to listen to some Tool. Rather than using YouTube, which would have required me to sign in, potentially wasting enough time to allow Ambrose to usurp the controls, I went to the Vevo app on the Roku player.  But for some reason, every time I tried to select a Tool video, the app crashed me back to the Roku homescreen.

So I listened to some other music, rock mostly, mostly from the late 90's. And then, when the groceries were all put up and it was clear that Ambrose was not going to steal the remote back, I did sign onto YouTube and finally listened to some Tool.

But I also listened to a bunch of other songs, and sang along. It was relaxing for me, and I'm thinking of making Saturday morning sing-a-longs a thing.

All I need to do is distract Ambrose while he's bringing in the groceries...

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why Headache

I've been trying to figure out my headaches for a while now, and I think I might have reached, if not the answer, then an answer that should help me have less of them. I know that I have a lot of tension in my neck, especially on the left side. I know that I tend to have headaches on that side that radiate from my face down my neck, sometimes including the temple, sometimes including the right side, but mostly just a direct line from facial sinuses to neck and shoulder.

What I didn't know, until my husband told me a couple weeks ago, was that I've been grinding my teeth in my sleep. He insisted that I order a mouth guard online as soon as possible, and I did - though I was tempted to just wait until my dentist appointment the next week. Ambrose considers that the best mouth guards are the ones that you heat and mold to your own teeth, and that the ones from the dentist are probably a rip off.

On the other hand, I do have dental insurance so I might as well use it.

I readily believed Ambrose when he told me that he woke up to hear me loudly grinding my teeth. It's not only the headaches, but that for most of my life, my mom has worn a night guard because she grinds her teeth. I guess I get to blame her for it :)

When I did to go the dentist, it was time for a panographic x-ray. And that x-ray revealed that not only have I been grinding my teeth, resulting in some wear on the surfaces, but I've been grinding my jaw, resulting in a visible difference between my right and left side in the bones. As the hygienist pointed out, on the right, the bone was nice and round, while on the left it was narrower and pointier.

The dentist recommended going with a night guard from them because the one I had was chewy, and the tendency people have when something chewy is in their mouth is to chew it. That logic seemed sound to me, so I asked them to check with my insurance to see if I have coverage for a night guard.

Then, of course, I checked my coverage online, and after about 30 minutes of trying to figure out where I could view my actual dental coverage contract and what the technical term for a night guard is (occlusal guard, fancy), I found that I do have coverage for it, and that it will probably come out to paying the same as for a premium one I could buy online. It depends on how much my dentist charges. But it's nice the insurance will cover something.

Ambrose was pretty pleased with himself when I told him that the dentist had confirmed his suspicions about the teeth grinding. He's been calling me gnasher.

Since I've been wearing the mouth guard that the dentist doesn't approve of, I've been feeling better. Only one headache (on the day I went to the dentist). And it feels like the muscles on the left side of my neck are releasing some tension. And though the headaches haven't gone away completely yet, they don't feel quite as severe as before I started wearing the mouth guard overnight. I'm ready to take the plunge on the night guard, even if it means I'm turning out like my mom.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Rain Coming Down

Last week, we had some thunderstorms. On Thursday night, just as Ambrose and I were getting ready for bed, the lights flickered on and off. For a moment, it was an annoyance. Then they flickered again, and finally faded. 

We could still hear the wind outside. The rain hadn't started falling yet, so I'm not sure why the power went out. Inside the apartment, it was eerily quiet and dark. You don't realize just how much electronic noise is going on around you until it is all silenced. No humming from the fridge or the computer. No whirring from the fans. I kind of liked it, though I was concerned about the food in the fridge and the freezer. 

I tried to check and see if Idaho Power had any information on the outage, but although I could pull up their website, it had no reported outages. I thought about making a report, but it was bedtime, so I plugged my phone into Ambrose's power bank and put it on my nightstand with two alarms set - just in case I slept through the 4:30 CrossFit wakeup call. The phone probably had enough battery to last overnight, but it was nice to be able to charge it up with the power bank. 

When I woke up during the night, I saw the power was back on, and although I don't like to wake up enough to check the time during the night, I did look at the phone time and the flashing clock time so I could guess that it had been out for about three hours. 

As I tried to fall back to sleep, I could hear noises. Something from outside. It slowly resolved into singing and drumming that I guess was from my neighbors. I didn't have the energy to get up and yell at them. Well, I wouldn't have yelled. Politely asked? Rudely asked. Yes, that's probably how I would have handled it. Instead, I wrapped my pillow around my ears and went back to sleep. 

The wind tore the cover off of our apartment's lamppost. 


These mushrooms sure liked the moisture.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Diet Confusion

After my solo hike revealed that the bars I bought to have more fiber in my diet made me pretty sick when I abruptly started eating them again, I kind of started to toss my whole diet plan out the window.

What do I mean by kind of? Well, I'm not actively seeking out more fiber in my diet. But I have tossed some of the rules out the window. For example, Ambrose bought some black beans and coconut rice dehydrated meals for our Queens River trip. And I hadn't eaten beans for months because of the whole fiber elimination. But I did alright with them on that trip.

So I decided that I could have myself some blueberries from the farm stand. And I haven't been quite so strict with certain foods. I have found that fresh and frozen pineapple does not sit well with me, though the kind that comes on pizza seemed to do okay. And beer hasn't been giving me stomach problems either.

I am going to move forward with trying to have moderate fiber intake and see how my body does. If I find a food that doesn't sit well, I'll take note and avoid it. I didn't find that the low fiber diet was actually helping all that much. It seems more like I have to work on moderation and pay attention to what I ate recently when I have stomach trouble.

Overall, I feel a lot more in control when it comes to my stomach pain, even though I stopped tracking my food and bowel movements when I went on my solo trip and never really started back up. I'm pooping regularly enough and while I could probably be eating more healthily, I'm not overly concerned at this point with tracking. The tracking itself becomes a stressor and I'm going to try and avoid those as much as I can as the backpacking season has wound down and my opportunities to destress in nature become more limited.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Unexpected Delay

Over the weekend, I volunteered to do trail work with the Idaho Trails Association. That work was fun, and I had a great time. But this post is not about that.

There was an accident on Idaho 21 on Sunday afternoon between Boise and Idaho City.

That's the only paved road that goes from Idaho City to Boise. And it's a crowded road on a summer Sunday afternoon with folks recreating along the Middle Fork of the Boise River and myriad other places. All that traffic got bottled up, and I was in that mess.

I left Idaho City by 4 pm, and I should have been home around 5. Instead, I saw a fire truck stopping traffic around a historical marker on the side of the road. The man who went with it told me that the road would be closed for 4, maybe 5 hours and I could wait or I could try to go around. I asked how to get to Boise and he said I could take Robie Creek Road to Rocky Canyon Road, or backtrack to Idaho City and go around the long way to Horseshoe Bend and then Boise.

I wasn't confident in taking Robie Creek, so I parked instead of turning around. I also parked because I knew another woman from the trail crew was close behind me and I wanted to touch base with her before moving on. After hanging out for a while, we decided to try Robie Creek.

I'd never been on that road before, and I knew that it should get me back to Boise, but my gazette showed me that it would do so by way of Shaw Mountain Road, which I know is not a road I would ordinarily want to take my Ford Focus on. But we took it up on the Magruder Corridor, so I supposed that I could make it work. And there were a lot of people going that way...

We drove by a couple of parks, and then went off pavement, following a dusty line of traffic. the car in front of me tended to drive in the middle of the road, which freaked me out a bit because there was traffic coming the other way.

As it turned out, too much traffic.

It took a while for the truth to come out. First we heard there was a dead end. A professional looking cyclist rode by and I asked him if he knew where he was an if the road went to Boise. He said that it did. So we drove on.

And then I heard that a truck went off a cliff up ahead and everyone was turning around.

But we went on.

Until we heard that two trucks with trailers had tried to pass each other and ended up jack-knifing, thereby completely blocking the road. Then it was time to turn around while we still could.

I spun out a few times trying to get my car to move forward up the incline on the gravel, but I managed not to roll backwards into my friend's car - just barely. And as we drove back towards 21, there was a bit more stopping for reasons unknown. During one of the stops I got out and asked my friend to stop with me at the park instead of going back to 21.

I executed an erratic tactical maneuver to get to an open parking spot, and we went to the park to use the restrooms and get in the water. Because we weren't getting over to Boise any time soon, so why sit in a car when there was a gorgeous park?

And, after what felt like too long of a wait, but wasn't as long as it could have been, we heard someone yelling that the Robie Creek road was clear. We walked over towards the cars, and by the time we got there, someone else said that 21 was open.

I got home by 7:30.

So many times, I've taken 21 home after spending time out in the wilderness or the forest. And I've taken it for granted that it would be open and allow me to go through. I had no cell service out there. No way to tell my husband that it wasn't me in the accident. And then, one day, someone drives across the center line and traffic gets stopped for hours.

And two people died.

So I'll complain about the delay, but I am so grateful to have made it home safely.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Driving in Idaho

After my solo trip, Ambrose and I drove from Big Creek, ID to Elk City, ID by way of McCall, Riggins and Grangeville. I took a few pictures, though I didn't get really into it until we started driving on Idaho route 14. 

We stopped at this rest area to make some lunch and take a break from driving.

I was quite surprised to find a pay phone here.

50 cents for a phone call - I did check for dial tone, but it was really staticky.

We saw a lot of people having fun in the river as we drove on 14.

There's some serious low clearance on this road.

The river kept getting shallower, but still beautiful.

No need to worry about clearance with this rock.

The trees were getting lower - almost to Elk City.

No more river views/ 
Approaching Elk City, ID.


We had to slow down a bit.

They  have a tank.

French Gulch campsite, outside of Elk City on the way to the Magruder Corridor.

I really enjoyed driving around Idaho, and I was glad to see more of the state than just the Boise area. After we made it to Dry Saddle on the Magruder Corridor, we ended up continuing the road trip with a drive to Lewiston, ID, and then on to Clarkston and ended up going home by way of Oregon, stopping to camp at Woodland campsite in that state.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Getting Enough Water

First for weight loss purposes, and then because of the IBS diagnosis, I have spent the last couple years trying to drink large quantities of water each day. A gallon a day, sometimes more. And, during the same period, I've had an increasing number of headaches.

The other day, I forgot my water bottle at home when I went to work. Typically, I'll fill up a quart Nalgene bottle with hot water in the morning and make an herbal tea to drink. I count herbal teas as water since they're pretty much flavored water. I'd usually drink two of those before lunch and at least one after, then another quart after getting home from work. If I exercised, then I'd add a sports drink type thing to try and keep my electrolytes up.

But without the Nalgene bottle, I ended up drinking a lot less altogether. Maybe 16 ounces of tea in the morning. Maybe a quart of water the rest of the day. And, unlike a lot of work days, I didn't get a headache. So I decided to try consciously reducing my water intake as an experiment, and last week was the first week in a long time that I didn't get a single horrible headache at work.

So maybe my quest to "stay hydrated" has backfired on me. It's definitely an experiment that I'm going to be continuing to try and find out what the right balance of water is for me to drink in a day. I'm going to pay attention and try to figure it out without getting constipated or getting headaches.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Brows

When I was in high school, I didn't like my eyebrows. Too thick, a tendency to grow together, and just so dark. But I also didn't like makeup and other such feminine rituals. My mother never taught me much about such routines, though she wore makeup and used Clinique cleansers and lotions. So I never really had one, but I've been plucking my brows for about the last decade.

When I first got them done to the point that I liked them, a nice little swooping curve, I continued to pluck at that line and never looked back.

But I have started to have trouble with plucking the hairs. The left eyebrow especially gives me problems, with hairs being harder to pull and a tendency towards ingrown hairs. My eyesight is poor enough that I need to be holding a mirror about two inches from my brow with one hand while wielding the tweezers in my right. It's not comfortable.

And so, after a long backpacking trip where I didn't tweeze at all, I decided to see what the heck I look like without plucking. It's not all grown in yet, but I am taking it as a sign that the day after I decided to try this, a white brow hair appeared, as if out of nowhere.

I figure, if I don't like how it looks, then I can spoil myself with a professional waxing or something to get back to the plucked style. Or, I might discover that the brows that I used to consider ungainly and too thick are just... me.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Headaches

I think I've been getting migraines. I've spent a few years calling them sinus headaches, but my husband finally convinced me that sinus headaches come from sinus infections. And I haven't had a sinus infection in a long time, but almost every time it rains I get a "sinus" headache.

And since I started tracking more seriously again, I'm seeing these headaches are not a once or twice a month kind of thing. More like once or twice a week, sometimes more. And that's just not something that I want to have in my life right now. It's extremely difficult to work while these are going on, especially considering most of my working day is spent staring at a computer screen, in an office space that does not have great options for blocking light.

So I'm trying to be scientific about it. I'm tracking not only when I get a headache, but what I do to treat it and whether that treatment works. The fact that over the counter pain medications do not work is part of what leads me to believe this is in fact a migraine and not something else. They do typically go away overnight - if I can fall asleep. Although, sometimes it seems like they go away overnight only to recur the next afternoon. Has it really gone away if it comes back right quick?

At any rate, I'm trying to look for what, other than precipitation, might be triggering these headaches. I'm trying to figure out a way to relax my neck and shoulder muscles. I'm trying a variety of different treatment options to see if I can find something that will knock these headaches out before they grow large enough to be a hindrance to work and life. I know one of the next steps should probably be making an appointment with a doctor, but I'm hesitant to do that. When I did a search for area migraine specialists, most of the results were chiropractors, and I don't particularly like the idea of going to a chiropractor. They strike me as quack medicine, and I had a skeevy experience as a young teen.

The other option would be a neurologist, but I don't feel like the headaches are THAT serious. And yet, I recorded 5 in the first half of July. That's not a small number.

I know I've had at least one for-sure migraine headache in my life. When I was 13, I vividly remember being in gym class in 8th grade and seeing this afterimage at the edge of my vision, like I'd just looked at a bright light and then away from it. But the afterimage didn't fade. It stayed and I found it quite curious. Then I began to feel ill. The headache was intense, and I received permission to go home sick. As soon as I got in the house, I ran up the stairs to the bathroom and vomited. That was a very stressful time in my life; I remember being all bent out of shape about completing a workbook for Confirmation.

I never had another migraine like that, and I compared all other headaches to that experience. None reached anything like that level of symptoms, so I assumed that I wasn't having migraines. Just stress. Tension headaches maybe. But never so frequent that they interfered with my school or work. Not until fairly recently has their frequency increased to the level of bothersome. Maybe 18 months ago it started getting more frequent and irritating. But they've been around, just less frequent, for more than 5 years and less than 10.

They don't have auras or cause me to vomit. No, they're just headaches that won't quit until after a good night's sleep- mostly. They favor the left side with the throbbing agony, but also share the "love" on occasion by involving my entire face in the pain fest (which is why I thought it was sinuses). I do get light sensitivity from them. And while I wouldn't go so far as to say that I get auras, because I'm comparing to that original one, I do get some visual effects. Lingering afterimages, but not persistent ones.

I'll get to a doctor after the backpacking season is over; for the most part, I don't get these headaches when I'm backpacking. So maybe I have to just devote my life to being an itinerant backpacker and forget about the 9 to 5 life.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Me, an Athlete?

Since the Spartan Race, I've been feeling more athletic. It's as if my body, having been extensively trained for more than six years by backpacking and CrossFit and some running, has finally broken through my sedentary childhood and young adulthood to reveal that I can be athletic too.

I'm still a pretty slow runner. But I run. And I'm slow at most of the cardio related things that I do at CrossFit, but I do them as hard as I can. I do them consistently. And I'm making improvements in my cardio, slowly but surely.

And those improvements are noticeable to me, if not really to anyone else. I mean, I'm still the slowest runner in most classes I go to. But I go.

I go and I enjoy myself. I might not be able to lift the most, but I enjoy lifting weights and learning how to improve my technique, now more than ever, because now I have this confidence, this faith, that I can improve and that someday I will be lifting the heavier weights. That makes it all that much more important to build a strong foundation. To practice the things that I can do so that they are highly proficient and efficient movements that can be applied to ever cooler things as I continue to gain strength.

It's taken me a long time to get to this point. A lot of self-talk convincing myself to stick with CrossFit. A lot of self-talk convincing myself that doing the workout at my best possible speed was still good enough, even when that speed was slower than everyone else. Okay, I'm still heavily involved with that kind of self-talk. But it has changed from "I'm not athletic so it doesn't matter how fast I go as long as I try hard" to "I'm athletic and doing my best; no need to compare to anyone else."

But that's a big improvement.

I'm at the point now where I can honestly look forward to doing crazy things like muscle-ups, even if it's going to take time and concentrated effort. I've proven that I can put in the time and the effort and get results. I know that I can change my body now. I proved it to myself.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Pack Rat

I am such a damn pack rat. It's not quite as bad at home, because Ambrose balances me out. He lets me hoard some things, but not everything that I would hoard without his influence.

I recently moved offices at work, and that involved a whole heck of a lot of random papers. I tried to do some sorting and throwing away and recycling before I packed, but I ran out of time and ended up dumping things in boxes instead. So, once I moved into my new space, I was determined not to just dump those piles of paper right into new spaces. No, I was going to sort and clean and let it go.

And it feels good, when I finish going through a stack and have maybe a fifth of what I started with. There's a part of me that hesitates, because what if I just happen to need those notes from 2011 in a month or two? But I reassure myself that I will not need them, because I will not remember them, and I probably wouldn't be able to find or read them anyway.

Okay, that's not super reassuring. But it got me through the piles.

Of course, there are some things that I kept. I can't let go of everything, that's just not me. I kept meeting agendas, print outs from trainings that I'd taken and a few other odds and ends that I found interesting. I had to go through every sheet of paper because if there's certain identifying information on them, then they have to go in the burn bin rather than recycling or trash, and in the course of that I did find some funny stuff.

An old print out of staff from another department actually had a picture of someone who recently came back to the office in my own department, and I had to share that with them. Old training agendas, to be compared to new training agendas and then tossed.

It got easier to toss things as I went along. I got into the swing of things. I still have a ton of geegaws that I have a hard time parting with, but they are, at least, discreetly hidden away. For the most part, anyway. Held on to in case of need or want... And yet, somehow, I rarely ever find myself needing or wanting them.

But every now and then... just one of those pieces of saved paper or odds and ends tossed into a drawer turn out to have a use. So I keep on saving... 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Perks of Living in Boise

One thing that I really like about living in Boise is that there is a lot of wildlife. We've got tons of squirrels running around, fighting and squeaking - and sometimes getting smushed by cars :( - and they're fun to watch. My husband and I put out birdseed and we see lots of doves, smaller songbirds, ducks, geese - even a turkey one year.

But there's also the deer that like to hang out at the end of my street. I still get a kick seeing them just casually walking across the street or taking a nap in a little copse of trees on the side of the road. I hope I'm never at the point where I don't feel a bit of delight at that kind of sight.

I like the walk home from CrossFit in the early dark of the morning, or even the walk to, for catching sight of the more nocturnal animals. Mostly raccoons and cats, but in June, I saw not one, but two little owls sitting on a fence as I walked home from CrossFit one morning. They were utterly still, but they weren't statues, because I saw one fly off. But that was only the second coolest sighting I had in June.

When my husband was driving me to work, as he sometimes does, I saw a bird of prey flying overhead with something in its talons. Naturally, I exclaimed to Ambrose about this and he slowed the car so that we could see when it landed on top of a telephone pole that the osprey had a still-wriggling fish in one claw. I wish I had taken a picture, but we were on the move and there really wasn't time to anything but try and impress the image into my memory.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Health Status: Not Hopeless

My stomach issues have calmed down significantly lately. My husband thinks it's because I'm avoiding red meat, but that's really only one of many food categories that I'm avoiding so I'm not sold on the idea that I can just eat whatever else I want now. I think I've figured out that overeating can trigger gas pain, whether that's eating a lot of watermelon or just eating more than I'm used to eating at a time. And I've been able to have small amounts of alcohol without ill effects, so I'll probably continue to be judicious about alcohol intake.

I mean, I had to have my finisher beer at the Spartan Race this time. I earned it! And while I was consciously refraining from alcohol in 2018, this year I'm avoiding but not totally shunning alcohol. If I run into rafters offering beer on my solo hike, I may just have one. Or two. But no more than that because of dehydration.

I've been avoiding full fat dairy products, but not all dairy. So I drink yogurt drinks in the mornings before working out, and have low fat cottage cheese with meals, but no ice cream. It seems like there used to be a lot more frozen yogurt out there, but now that I'm looking for some, the grocery aisles are fairly barren. I've been getting the Yasso frozen yogurt bars. They're pretty good, but I miss ice cream.

And I miss berries. Now, when I first got the diagnosis of mild gastroparesis, my doctor didn't actually give me any guidance other than "a low residue diet" and that meant my husband and I had to look up what that meant and decide what to do for my diet based on internet searches. At my last visit, I did get a handout, but it was really short. So I'm not sure if berries are still off the table or not. They aren't on the "Do eat" or the "Do not eat" sections of the handout.

But I'll probably try them in moderation after the backpacking season is over. Well, after I recover from the backpacking season and feel like my stomach is in equilibrium, then I'll start doing food tests and see what my body likes and what it doesn't like.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to mess my stomach up a bit during the backpacking season, because backpacking food is what it is. I'm not going to change my entire way of backpacking eating this season. Depending on how it goes, I might change for next season, but we buy all our backpacking food pretty well in advance as things go on sale. All the food was bought well before I got this diagnosis, so I'm going to eat it.

I'm going to have Spam and meat sticks and nuts and bars with coffee in them and chews with caffeine in them and I'm going to hope that backpacking all day will help everything move smoothly through my system. And if it doesn't, then next year's backpacking food might look pretty different.

For the most part, I feel like I'm figuring out my stomach issues now. I'm acting instead of reacting, and I feel that I have a modicum of control. That's what's most important right now. I don't feel helpless. I know that certain food choices may (or will) have consequences and I'm prepared to deal with those.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Self Care

Lately, I've been training for the Spartan Race (this Saturday!) with running up hills instead of doing strength focused training. Doing the strength training took a certain discipline and focus, but I find that the running takes more. It's non-stop. Rather than sets of exercises that don't take very long by themselves, I have one long training block with two 100 foot-ish hills. And, particularly in my new shoes, running just kind of hurts. My calves get sore. My legs don't want to continue.

But I've been able to continue. I'm not pushing myself to the point of injury, but I am pushing myself well into discomfort. My breathing is ragged and heavy. My legs feel like lead. The last thing I want to do is keep going. But. I. Keep. Going.

My mind is stronger than my body. My will to complete the work is stronger than my body's desire to stop. I know there's an end in sight, and that I will reach it in time. And until that end, I will keep on pushing.

I push myself like that in training because I know I will need that will and discipline when I backpack. Since backpacking is all day, rather than 30-ish minutes, I approach it differently. I take rests every hour or so, and I don't push the pace any more than is needed to complete the day's miles. There are just so many more miles to do that I will get to the same sort of feeling of wanting to quit that I can reach in 3 miles of hill runs.

Physically, running and hiking are a lot harder than sitting in a desk chair and making up stories. If I can discipline my body to the kind of physical exercise that I've been doing, then I should be able to discipline my mind to sit down and write stories, if that's what I want to do. And I have had success with sitting down to write when I have a backpacking book to write. The stories I've lived are easier for me to write. 

I haven't spent much time writing this spring. I've been very focused on physical activities. And that's good for me. It's not something that I've done before in my life. I'm learning new skills and building new strengths, as well as getting to know more people in my community. Expanding my experiences can only help my writing in the long term. Even if I take a longer break on fiction writing. 

When I was running yesterday, there were times when I could feel myself relax my calves. They were sore and hurting and I was working them, but they had relaxed to the task. It's only in the last few months that I've felt that sensation while running, as if the motion and pace could feel good. I think what I need to do with fiction is to relax for a while. There's no rush. The only one putting any expectation on my writing is me, and letting that go could be just the thing I'm waiting for. 

Or not. I'm not going to worry about it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Health Bits

I had a couple of blips with my diet in the last few weeks. I overate on some watermelon, which, as it turns out, is only okay for me to eat in moderation - who'da thunk it? And then I had some backpacking food that is incredibly delicious, but also includes nuts and veggies with skin. Both instances resulted in 12 to 24 hours of bloating and general discomfort. The positive takeaway being that I'm learning.

At my follow-up appointment for the gastroparesis diagnosis, I received a more comprehensive list of what I should and shouldn't eat. It was a bit different from things that I'd looked up, but now that we have an official doctor's list, my husband is very much on board with me eating those things. He says it will help him eat healthier - though there are some very healthy things on my "do not eat" list, like oatmeal and brown rice.

I'm increasing my exercise in preparation for backpacking season. This has resulted in a good deal of muscle aches, especially as my calves are adjusting to a new type of shoe that has zero heel drop. I'm running up hills during my exercise release time at work, and though I have a hard time starting out, and my body protests for most of the run, I'm liking how I feel when I finish. Accomplished, and capable. I'm not fast, but I can keep moving, even uphill.

I had a couple days in the last two weeks where I accidentally slept in when I meant to get up at 4:30 in the morning for CrossFit. Both times, I went after work instead. In years past, getting myself to CrossFit after work was a mental struggle. By the end of the workday, I just didn't want to do anything but go home and collapse. For whatever reason, I'm much easier about it now. I don't feel that dread of moving when I get home from work. Maybe I'm happier at work than I used to be.

I haven't had coffee for about a month now. No caffeine for a week less. I felt pretty good about my taper this time. The withdrawal headache was manageable with drinking green tea every day for about a week after stopping coffee. It's a bit weird, especially in office culture, not to be a coffee drinker. "Everyone" drinks coffee! We joke about how we aren't really awake or ready to do things until we've drunk our coffee and now I'm operating without that social connection. I feel overall better not drinking it, though I do miss the taste, and the warmth.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Too Much of a Good Thing

I've been feeling much better since focusing on a low residue diet. I'm not able to eat whatever I want, but I do have a lot of options for what I can eat. Most of it is of the less healthy variety, because of the whole low fiber thing, but my weight has been fairly steady so I'm not too worried about that. I do miss nuts though. And beans.

I was happy that not all fruits were off the table. I can eat apples if I peel them. Cantaloupe is allowed. And watermelon!

The problem is that I still need to keep below a certain level of fiber at a time. I can have some watermelon, some cantaloupe, some peeled apples or applesauce. A banana. But having a lot of any of those, singly or in combination, well, it turns out that's not so great on my stomach.

Last Saturday, after doing the obstacle course race class and the obstacle course boot camp, I indulgently bought a large quantity of pre-cut watermelon. Now, I did share this bounty with my husband, but I also ate a lot of it myself. And while I avoided eating seeds, turns out I ate plenty of fiber.

The rest of the evening, I was bloated and cranky. The sick feeling carried on a bit into the next day, but it wasn't too bad. But it kind of got worse in the following days. For the first time in a long time, my sleep was interrupted when I woke up at quarter to four on Tuesday morning and couldn't fall back to sleep. It felt like I needed to have a bowel movement, but nothing was moving. And when I was back in bed trying to sleep, I had this awful burning sensation in my tummy no matter which way I turned.

While I'm glad I only woke up 45 minutes before my alarm was going to go off, I'm disappointed with the lingering effects a single over-indulgence carries. I've got an increase in tummy aching going on and pooping is not feeling quite right.

On the other hand, at least I know now what that kind of thing can do. In the future, I can make different choices and be more moderate when it comes to fruits. And maybe, someday, I might be able to eat strawberries and blueberries again, because forget the beans, those are what I really miss.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Succulents

Recently, we had a department retreat at work. Most of it was very work related, but we also had a fun activity at the end. We made succulent arrangements.

People sometimes ask me if I have any pets, and I respond with, "I have a cactus." That's partly for the joke, but also because that's really as much of a pet as I want to have. Well, as much of one as I can allow myself to want to have. Sure, I'd love to have a cat or a dog, but I'm allergic to both of those. Oh, or a ferret! But I'm pretty much allergic to all things furred, so I have a cactus.

I knew this succulent arrangement activity was coming, and so my mind was on cacti. And I finally decided that my cactus at home needed a name.

Leelu Cactus Multipass is now the name of my husband and I's cactus, and a fine name it is.

So, naturally, when we did our arrangements, I was thinking of naming my new cacti as well. I picked two small cacti, and a jade plant that ended up being two separate stalks that I planted apart. The jade plants still don't have names, but the cacti have been christened Mr. and Mrs. Prickles. They are now sitting on my windowsill at work, enjoying partial sun and the company of one of my co-worker's succulent arrangement.

Photo from the planting of Mr. and Mrs. Prickles. 

The new, albeit temporary, home, of Mr. and Mrs. Prickles. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Belief

I haven't gotten around to finishing one of the stories I started this year. If I can get it finished, that would make three for the year. So I'm still behind, even when I finish, but at least I'd be done and able to move on from that one. I keep thinking about it and not getting to an end.

Over the weekend, Ambrose brought up to me a theory, that people know who they are, what they are good at, from a young age, and simply actualize that knowledge as they grow up. His opinion is that is true for both of us, but I'm not sure about me.

I thought about what I've known myself to be good at from a young age. Reading. Schoolwork (especially standardized tests). Maybe writing.

Maybe.

Because a child who is good at writing isn't the same thing as an adult who is good at writing. Writing that is good for a child is not the level one expects at an adult, professional level. I doubt myself. I doubt my skills and abilities when it comes to things that I cannot measure. That, perhaps, no one can truly measure.

Everyone gets to choose their own opinions on books and stories. Liking, not liking, loving, hating. There is no objective measuring stick that can tell you that one book is good and another is bad. Sure, some might be "bad" due to poor grammar or word choices, but if the story is compelling, some readers can and will overlook that. And other books might be "good" because they are proclaimed to be so by the literary canon. But some of those books are not to many people's tastes, and that's just the way it is.

And yet, every time I send a story out on submission and get rejected, it gets to me. I want that validation that having a story purchased would bring. I don't pay attention to any of the stories and books that I've put on Amazon. I know I have trickles of sales each month, because Amazon does send me emails when I'm going to be getting a payment. I'm alright with trickles, because that's not nothing. But I still wish I could see something bigger happen. Validation again.

So I'm not sold on Ambrose's theory. Especially as I look at what my physical habits are now. I'm more physically active now than I've ever been in my life. I backpack, alone in the wilderness, and with company. Those aren't thing I would have imagined I'd ever do, or seen myself as capable of doing.

I'm a manager at work, which is not something I ever saw myself doing. I never liked taking the lead when I was young. It didn't seem like the kind of thing that suited me. And yet, I am doing it and not doing a horrible job.

Perhaps he would argue that those things were always in my subconscious mind, and I've been aiming myself at them without realizing. And I think about how my upbringing, my socialization, involved a lot of suppression. Be quiet. Don't cry. It could very well be that I believed I could not lead, and I believed I could not be physically active, and so it was true until I stopped believing it.


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.