Monday, December 31, 2012

December Can Go Now

To sum up the last month or so since my last post:
3 major car repairs/ maintenance done
2 visits to the urgent care for me
1 ADHD assessment/diagnosis for my son
2 kids with flu
1 ear infection
1 Child Protective Service case
2 final exams
1 blizzard
1 stupid holiday sale at work
3 chaotic holiday celebrations
2 birthdays
And a partridge in a pear tree!
I have been a bit up to my eyeballs to say the least.
My Shingles healed quickly, but before that was even gone my knee became very swollen, to the point that it made my quad muscle and toes numb. I did not injure it, there was no pain. The doctor said it is bursitis, a fat-old-lady problem (my words, not his) and told me to return for a cortisone shot if not better in a week. It is now more than a month later, and the pain that eluded me in the beginning has caught up. At times, it feels as though the bones in my knee are rubbing together. I feel like a cripple, barely able to tackle stairs, walking with a limp as though I've been through a major incident. I haven't been able to even fathom the thought of cardio, and have had no control over my eating whatsoever. I am a bit of a mess right now. But the thought of a fresh year is very welcome to me. My office will quiet down, my car's ills will be fixed soon, the days will start getting longer, my knee will eventually heal, my son will get on medicine to help ease his ADHD symptoms, the demands of the holidays have finally subsided, and I won't be running back and forth to school. And my favorite thing to look forward to is NO MORE STATISTICS CLASS!!! I got a BC grade, I'll take it. Now I have nearly a full month before my online classes begin, I plan to enjoy every minute of "down time".
I'm not the biggest fan of New Years resolutions but I can't say that I haven't given thought to changes I not only want to make but NEED to make for my health's sake.
The first change I want to make revolves around real and perceived judgements/guilt/ and obligations. I spend so much time worrying about obligations, and how not fulfilling them will lead to a horrible amount of judgement and guilt, that I run myself ragged, and allow myself to become my last priority. A good example is what happened two weeks ago. My son was sick with the flu, stomach stuff and horrible head cold to go along. I called in sick to work so I could stay home with him. My boss was inconvenienced because she had given our other optician the day off, and there was no one to cover my office. My other son had been sick with the same thing the whole weekend and i was feeling pretty aweful myself after caring/cleaning up after him. But when she called back that morning, and asked if I could somehow come in later, I agreed to go to work once my husband got home. I went in feeling guilty, irritated, nauseous and tired. I felt simultaneously guilty for not being at work part of the day, and for leaving my husband to care for two sick boys who wanted their mom. I sipped 7up and prayed I wouldn't get any of my customers sick. I shouldn't have been at work, but the guilt and obligation drove me to put my own and my customers' health on the back burner. I have this horrible, inherited fear of being an inconvenience to others. The problem with that is, many times there are too many people to try and please at once. And I also have a tendency to assume that my husband is judging me negatively because of things he says about others, and many times I am inclined to act on things I assume my husband wants. The first problem is we all know the saying about assumptions. The second problem with that is my husband often changes his view on things. I need to stop worrying about everyone else. I think in order to be truly prosperous, you have to let a few people down along the way. It's the only way to put yourself first sometimes.
I don't have much figured out about this journey, but I do know that I need to keep trying because I am on the fast track to needing to be back on blood pressure medicine if I don't take better care of myself. I celebrated my 40th birthday exactly how I wanted, a quiet evening in with my three favorite guys, eating pizza for the first time in months, and watching my guys play video games, laughing and shouting out in joy. Another year passes, the next one is all cued up. I am ready for 2013. I hope you all have a safe New Year's Eve and a great start to the new year ahead!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Late Night Catharsis

It's one of those nights where I am laying awake in bed, going over and over the day in my head, phrases and scenes crossing like a busy intersection, and I'm waiting for the green light that doesn't come.
The events of my day were what some would consider fairly ordinary, but some powerful things were going on behind the scenes.
Since I've come down with Shingles, I've been thinking more about my definition of health. It isn't the same for everyone. My husband, for instance, is on the extreme side of nutrition, reaching the point where every macro-nutrient is accounted for. He kills himself in the gym and has a fantastic physique to show for it. But his joints bother him. And he's only 33. I don't personally know anyone else who takes nutrition and training to the level my husband does. I know there are body builders and world athletes that have such a strong vision of their dream that they will not rest until it comes to fruition, or they completely destroy themselves in the pursuit. Their drive is admirable, but to my (albeit, untrained) eye, when you get to that level, you actually compromise some of your health. Some of the things athletes have to do to be competitive at a certain level are not healthy. I'm not just referring to performance-enhancing drugs, but more so to the destructive mentality behind the drive. The inability to take a day off from training, even when you have pneumonia and can't catch your breath (my husband). It turns into a dangerous obsession for some. I'm not advocating eating junk and being lazy, and I don't have answers for anyone else, but I think as I look toward turning 40 next month, I am trying to define what healthy is to me. This bout of Shingles showed me how disastrous stress is to my body, and it has made me realize that simply reading inspirational weight loss quotes and getting to the gym isn't addressing the part of my health I have overlooked for far too long, my mental health. I have made more of an effort to recognize my stress and try to make on-the-spot judgments about whether or not a situation really needs to be stressed over. I amazed at how much more relaxed I am. It goes back to not sweating the small stuff, something I thought was a cool idea when I first heard about it, but gave little thought to thereafter. Life is full of small stuff. There are bound to be disappointments but so little of it we have control over, and stress never fixes the problem. The Prednisone I am taking for my virus has had quite an effect on my energy and mood, but my intentional focus on my stress level is making me feel like I can handle whatever life throws at me. One task at a time, then on to the next. I have felt a lot more organized, grateful, content and even joyful. So two things I have identified with my ideal of health; less stress and more joy. I have been trying some new recipes and doing more stretching. It feels good to not be stressed about my weight or my body image, I'm healing the inside a little bit for now. And I'm staying on track easily.
So that brings me to today. It started like normal, getting myself and my kids ready, and rushing off to the bus stop. It was only twelve bone-chilling degrees and the bus was 15 minutes late, which threatened to make me late to work. My kids were complaining about how miserable they were standing in the cold for so long. My thoughts turned to California, and I smiled in anticipation of the day I never have to stand on iced-over ground and watch my sons' complaints come at me through chattering teeth. When they boarded the bus, I headed to work. Here is where I would normally stress out about the likelihood of being late. But today, I thought to myself, I am either going to be on time or I'm not. No need to stress about it, there's little I an do to change the outcome at this point. And I punched in 2 seconds before I would have been late. The patients I worked with were all pleasant today, no one complaining that their glasses don't work for them, so I considered myself lucky. Then the wife of Donald Driver came in to pick up her glasses. She had to be very discreet so as not to draw a crowd. In Green Bay, if you are lucky enough to encounter a Packer player or their family, it is a story you tell the rest of your life. People take it that seriously over here. And Packer fans are overly emotional. I found myself feeling a little sorry for her in that aspect, but she got on just fine without anyone recognizing or bothering her. To me, she was just a lovely woman in to pick up glasses. Had she not told me who she was (in near whispers) I wouldn't have known.
Tonight in my social work class, I had to give a presentation. It am quite a mess speaking in front of people, and especially a room of college kids half my age, but I had really strong information to give. I think I've blogged about the interview I conducted in preparation for the presentation, and that it was what made me realize what I want to do with my degree, work with special needs children and adults. So I waited to go last, because I dread public speaking that much. Someone else had done my same agency (the cerebral palsy center) as well, but she was horribly unprepared, with no visuals and a handful of misinformation. I wasn't prepared for the flood of feelings that washes over me as I gave my presentation. Nerves took me first, and my voice began to quiver as I presented slides that portrayed the work this wonderful agency does. I shared how much it means to me to see the services they have for autistic children, because of my own sons, and when I rounded the finish line, my last slide was about my reaction to the organization. The slide started out with a quote that is painted on the wall upon entry," you can't light the way for others without brightening your heart." I immediately felt a rush of tears spring to me, and had to pause to regain my composure, barely finishing without a scene. I told them that the reason I was so moved and impressed by the center is because they help without discounting the person. As I quickly started away from the podium, my instructor said that it sounds as though it had really touched my heart and I was choking back tears as I headed back to my seat, feeling foolish. But it did touch my heart, and more. It had a profound effect on me, but until I tonight I couldn't quite put my finger in what it was. When I interviewed the agency rep, she asked my reasons for wanting to get into the human services field, and I told her about my sons and our many challenges with autism. And I talked about my bestie, who's been with me through thick and thin, she has Cerebral Palsy, and had always been more resilient, brave and tough than I will ever be, what a positive role model! Then I right about the CP center and how they accept all abilities. The idea of everyone being accepted has so much impact on me, not just because of the struggles of what my kids deal with, or my bestie has had to deal with, but because so many times in my life I have felt not accepted/ not welcomed. And I realized that, standing in front of the classroom, my fear of speaking was stemming from being judged negatively. And everyone else was nervous too, I'm sure for the same reason. One young man confessed to having battled anorexia, and one girl cried about a family friend, a little boy fighting for his life from a rare skin disease. It was a heavy, heavy night, and I think even more good will come of it after we've all had time to process it all.
I started talking about my ideas of what health is to me, and I'm certain it will be a perpetually-changing list. For now, I think I've had just enough catharsis to get some much- needed sleep. Tomorrow is another day, filled with menial tasks and a heap of Statistics homework/class. Which might very well bring about a different sort of weeping altogether.
Hope you are all well. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Painful Lesson

Last weekend I was really looking forward to getting back in the gym and starting my Maintain, Don't Gain challenge.  In preparation for cleaning up my lifestyle, I also spent several hours doing some heavy cleaning around the house.  Along with the regular duties of shopping, cooking, and tending to my kids' every whim, I ended up spending about 13 hours on my feet with very few breaks.  At that point, I had the energy and figured I wasn't going to let it go to waste.  Plus, cleaning is an acceptable excuse to procrastinate on doing statistics homework.  By the time I went to bed last Sunday evening, my back and hip was bothering me so much that I started scolding myself for my lack of discipline where my health is concerned, but knowing I was going to get things turned around helped me sleep soundly.  I naturally assumed the pain in my lower back and hip would hang around for a day or two and then everything would just go back to normal.
Monday morning I got up and hit the gym.  Oh, it took me longer than it should have to get out of bed at 4:30 am, but I did it, and once I hit the treadmill and had my songs pumping in my ears, I felt so good.  My joints were all so irritated, my knees, hips, even my ankles seemed to be protesting.  I told myself it was just my lack of rest lately, and the weather creeping ever slowly toward winter.  As Monday progressed, my back pain got nearly intolerable, and I tried several different stretches throughout the day to try to help it.  Beside the sore muscle feel, and the stiffness, I started to get a shooting pain up my spine, starting from way down in the tailbone.  I figured I either had a pinched nerve or an issue with my disc.  Then my hip got really swollen.  Later that night, a small rash appeared on my right thigh, just above the knee, and my skin on the entire leg became very sensitive to touch, even to my clothes or wind brushing against the skin felt like someone was shocking me or shooting needles into my skin, and there was an underlying bruised feeling.  I assumed it was from all the dust from cleaning, but noted that it was on the same side of my body as my now severely swollen hip.  By Tuesday, shooting back pains got a little heightened, but the hip was back to normal.  I was starting to get migraine headaches, the kind you get when you are coming down with the flu and you feel so much pressure that your eyes hurt to move.  The back pain was tremendous.  I still hit the treadmill that morning, but my body was protesting it by amping up the joint pain.  I was taking a continuous flow of Tylenol and ibuprofen just to make it through work.  I knew by Tuesday night, that there was no way I could go to the gym on Wednesday.  Then the massive outbreak began, a full-blown rash on my leg, blistering, itching and burning, complete with shooting nerve pain.  I went to the Urgent Care on Thursday and was diagnosed with Shingles.  I was prescribed a corticosteriod and an antiviral and sent about my way.  I spent Thanksgiving Thursday on the couch, my back pain nearly bringing me to tears.  Whenever I moved my leg, it felt as if the skin were made of paper, and that it was about to rip wide open.  The itching at night is one I can only compare to having hives, incessant, deeply distracting itching that makes you want to tear your skin off.  I tried every household thing I could think of for itch, and there was hardly anything that could touch it.  There has been very little sleep for me.  Finally, last night I took an antihistamine last night and slathered my leg with baking soda and I got some broken but good sleep.  My back pain, is completely gone.  The steroids are giving me back some energy, and making me realize just how low my energy has been for the last few weeks.
Shingles are brought on by periods of extreme stress and/or some sort of trauma.  Either or both could have been the cause, my stress has been severely cranked up lately with my car repair issues and my son's behavior issues at school, and the trauma of spending more time on my feet and making my hip swell could have also been the culprit.  But I am slowly feeling better.
I believe that there is something positive to be learned from every situation, and their are several positives I take away from this, are the fact that these could have been anywhere on my body, mouth, eyes, back, scalp, face...the leg is probably the most sufferable place to get this virus.  Also, it has made me very aware that I do not EVER want to have back issues, and I will concentrate more on training my core to help protect my back, something I haven't given much thought to in the past.  Another thing I learned from this, is that I keep talking about finding better ways to relieve my stress, but I never actually carry through with the research.  Now I can't keep ignoring it, I need to have a better handle on my stress levels.  And maybe the most important lesson I've learned from this, is you need to sit down sometimes, or life will have a way of MAKING you sit down.
There!  My sob story is all done.  I really want to get  back to the gym this week, but I'm thinking that will be a bad idea, as the only way for the rash to clear is to let the blisters open and dry out, which means I have to keep the leg cool and dry.  I may need to take a little time off, but I am keeping my diet clean, and supplementing with L-Lysine (an amino acid) and apple cider vinegar to help balance out my natural acidity and heal from the inside.  Right now, the best way I can care for myself is to take things a little easier, but keep my mind on the future.  I plan on wiping out this nasty little virus and getting back to business shortly.    I can't stress out about time lost, I can only focus on how great I will feel once I am back to normal.
Right now, I am grateful to have my energy and focus back.  The rest will come in due time.
We had our first snow overnight, and woke to an inch on the ground.  My kids were so adorable as they marveled at the wonder of the stuff as though they'd never seen it before.  I think part of my stress-reduction plan will be trying to see things as innocently as my kids.
Hope those of you who celebrate, had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope all of you are well!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Healthy Thought for the Day

Today was my first day back in the gym in quite a while, and as I finished my cardio session and hit the bright orange locker room I thought to myself, missed opportunities and regrets feel way worse than getting out of bed early. I almost didn't. I'm really glad I did, and that's not something I often say about sleeping in and being lazy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Watching the Wheels

In starting this blogpost, I feel a parallel to how I begin most of my correspondence to family and friends: "Sorry it's been so long, things have been absolutely crazy around here!" But whose life is drama- free?
It could be the extra cup(s) of coffee I had this morning, or the winding down of the hormonal disaster, or maybe the fact that some of my stressful triggers have an end-point in sight, I am in a great mood and mindset right now.
Oh, I have stress, don't get me wrong, but right now I feel like I can focus on my future and things look positive there. It would have been another story if I'd been posting this last Tuesday. On that day, my kids were already on their third combined trip to the principal's office for inappropriate behavior, my older son seemingly shifting into cocky teenager mode a few years too early, and I was missing class to sit in an auto repair shop and wait for the bad news to be dropped on me. And boy did it drop! No sooner did I spend a small fortune on new tires last weekend, to find a few days later, that I have to have my wheel bearing replaced, which will cost as much as $1,000! And, of course, it is quite unsafe to be driving around with this issue, so it's something that requires immediate attention. This vehicle is turning into a money pit! Anyway, my stress had been building, and as I drove to work yesterday, I noticed that my steering felt sloppy, looser. So I decided not to go to statistics lab and lecture. At first, it bothered me to skip, I've missed a few lectures already but I've never missed a lab. But I sent my homework via email and my professor is allowing me to do the lab work at home. For once, I had the chance to use my lunch beak for what it was designed, to get out of my office. I got some exam prep done and am feeling good about my stats test tomorrow. Tonight I will have my vehicle looked at for a second opinion, and chose a mechanic to do the work. I'll feel much better when my car is fixed. I already have enough anxiety around driving, knowing that my wheel could seize or fall off, or make my brakes fail is completely nerve-racking!
But today, I feel good. Friday is almost here, I have new tires, there's no snow on the ground yet, my kids didn't have to go to the principal's office all day yesterday, I don't have class to worry about today, I am all set up and registered for my online classes next semester, and I just feel good.
My switch to a meatless diet the past two weeks has been all positive. I actually like what I'm eating and find that I'm eating on time and not really even thinking about other foods. That is more a product of breaking the sugar addiction, not necessarily from going meatless. I am not vegetarian, but I'm not a meat- lover by any means. This week I made my egg wrap with a little coconut oil instead of the light mayonnaise I would normally use. It's much healthier and tastes awesome. And this morning I got creative with breakfast, because I'm getting sick of oatmeal with protein powder, so I threw together a multiple grain tortilla topped with apples, natural peanut butter, cinnamon and Splenda. That was surely a treat, and the change was welcome. I have been getting in the mindset of getting back to the gym, and I think I will certainly do that as soon as my car gets fixed. I'm hoping it can be fixed this weekend, but that might be wishful thinking.
The health clinic I work for rewards it's employees for doing healthy things like exercising and getting medical check ups, etc. For each healthy thing you do, you earn points, and once you earn a certain amount of points, you get cash. Pretty nice incentive to do healthy things, right? The current event we can participate in is a contest they call "Maintain, don't Gain". I tried to do this last year and failed miserably. The rules are that you weigh in before the holidays, participate in a weekly goal like limiting tv time or a set amount of cardio, etc, and if you gain no more than 2 pounds between now and the first week in January, you earn a considerable amount of points toward that monitory reward. I was getting emails about the program and immediately deleted them, racked with stress and feeling out of control, but I am feeling so good today that I decided to weigh in and give it a go. 170.4 is what the official health clinic scale read. I was prepared for that. I know where I'm at and I know where I want to be. The goals are easy enough, next week is 150 minutes of cardio during the week. Easy. And, it will be a nice way for me to get back in the habit of working out. My body needs it, and not because of the way it looks, but because of how it feels.
So that's where I'm at, in a nutshell. A couple weeks ago, I came across a poetry journal my older son made at school last year, and I wasn't in a good place then, but now I'm ready to post it. Of course it's the last line that rules! It's interesting to see yourself through the honest and unfiltered eyes of your child.
Have a great end to the week and a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thinking About Thinking

I took a day off yesterday, a break from all the daily chaos and "noise" that usually floods my life. And the day went really fast, but at several points I realized how relaxed I was and it felt great.
I have been neglecting this blog! I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that I my inappropriate use of the company computer was addressed, and I was told I need to keep busy doing "optically-related things". To be fair, I got busted on Facebook, the mother of all workplace evils. But to my credit, I was on an optical page. It just happened to be for my former employer and all I did was say that the optical cartoon they had posted was funny. But my proverbial wrist-slapping led to me feeling like I am being constantly monitored, so blogging at work is likely going to be a thing of the past, even though I can go hours and hours without a customer. Sigh. And I can type posts from my iPhone, but they don't always transmit and I'm not always aware that they didn't until I go back a couple weeks later and discover it.
As usual, I have been doing a lot of soul searching and thinking about my journey. Was it really a year ago that I was celebrating a year of trying??! There hasn't been much productive output in the past year. College has really interfered with my life so much, and I don't really give it all the effort that I should. In fact, I think I got to a point with the stress of it overwhelming me so much that I had no choice but to go the opposite direction, and now have become a little too lax in some ways. For instance, right now I am not caught up with my reading in statistics, and I have always been at least half a chapter ahead. And for my other class, Intro to Social Work, I haven't read several chapters because the instructor gives us a study guide of what we need to know before the exams, and she even made our last test a take-home test. I know I should be putting more effort into this class, but I know I'll get an A with very little effort, so my energy will be used elsewhere. So as I was contemplating the past two years this morning, I realized the pattern of jumping into things with both feet when I feel strong, then feeling completely overwhelmed and out of control once the change of routine hits me. It is constantly a balancing act. My house has not been satisfactorily cleaned since the end of August. When I get free time I have way too many things vying for my time, my husband, my kids, my poor house, my homework, outside of class projects like conducting surveys and agency interviews/preparing presentations, and planning for an eventual move. This semester has been extra complicated because of all the extra driving back and forth to school during my work day, and trying to research and implement the switch to online schooling. I have done my research and have decided to switch to an online degree through the same university, now the tough part is getting the person who coordinates the program to stop playing phone tag with me and tell me what to do next. I am really welcoming the idea of not having to do all that extra driving when the roads are bad.
I haven't been to the gym in nearly two weeks, and I don't have any good excuse other than its cold and dark out there at that time of morning. But the snow will be here before I know it, and my own anxiety of driving in it will be a huge enough obstacle for me. I'm grateful that my gym is only a few miles from home, but the city doesn't keep up with overnight snowfall as nicely as I wish it would. But even as I think ahead to cleaning off my car at 4:45 am and slipping off to the gym full of determination and persistence, it feels good to know that I can make it work, I can make ANYTHING work, if I believe I can, and don't react too irrationally or emotionally. Last week when it looked like we were going to get some slippery rain/snow/freezing rain mess, I started reacting to it by complaining and being dramatically grumpy, but it turned out to be nothing, and once again reminded me that some things don't need to be stressed over until there's a reason to stress. I will trying to remember that this winter, but I have also started researching affordable places to live in California. Turns out there are many, and it has me dreaming about a spring 2014 move to a palm tree-laden, sunny and snowless paradise!
My diet has been really on-track this week, even though I've had several opportunities to "cheat". Last night my kids begged me to stop and get them something from McDonalds and I did, it crossed my mind that I could eat something and hide the evidence. But when it came down to it, the only thing that sounded good to me was a Diet Coke, and that's what I got. It helped tremendously that I'd eaten some cottage cheese shortly before that and it tasted awesome to me. Sometimes it is so effortless to eat clean, and other times I struggle with every bite I take. My major change right now is that I've cut out meat this week. I was finding that part of my problem is that I make turkey or chicken based meals for at work, but I'm so certain they'll taste aweful or have mysteriously hard to chew bits that I opt for a protein bar as I dash off to class. Sure, it could be worse, but I've been using protein bars as meal replacements simply because in disgusted at the thought of eating what I'd prepared. So this week for lunch I'm eating egg salad wraps and I have no problem eating that, even look forward to lunch. Dinner this week has been cottage cheese. Not going to break any nutrition records but healthier than what I've been eating since school started. After not having any McDonalds last night I was in a fantastic mood. I hadn't made a serious effort to "start over", that seems oh so very dramatic, but right now I have one thing in order, and it feels good to feel in control again. Perhaps it is stemming from the vacation from stress I get when I research a move to California, a long-time dream of mine. Maybe it's due to my being fed up with how I feel, so old and tired and constantly stressed out. Maybe I'm realizing the shift in priorities is absolutely paramount to sustaining any kind of worthwhile life. I don't want to always be broken, brow always wrinkled with stress, always ALWAYS worried about the multitude of obligations, real or imagined. All of those things will be meaningless if I am too feeble or handicapped to address them. And being obese does handicap me, mentally and physically. I'm not ready to make some grand, dramatic statement about starting over or jumping in with my dukes up. Just thinking about longevity and the pathway to being happier. Less stress, less junk, less noise. The silence of that mental image is really inviting. The figuring out how to achieve it is not unobtainable. I know good things are in store for me and that, in my opinion, is the best way to start moving forward.
Happiest of Thursdays to any of my dear readers who are still with me!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Stress Prevails

My overnight visit to my hometown went smoothly, and provided the relaxing escape I needed. We had sushi, Thai, and steakhouse food. Interestingly enough, the meal that was the least diet-conscious was the continental breakfast at the hotel, which was one serious carb-fest. Not that I was intentionally trying to keep it clean, but I've been eating so much junk the past couple months that I don't even enjoy it anymore. But my visit wasn't about food, it was about fun, and releasing some compounded stress, and that it did. I even had a few hours visit with my dad before heading back home.
Even though I had a pleasant time, I found myself feeling guilty as I drove home. I always feel so conflicted, like there are so many demands on my time. I felt guilty for not staying longer to see my sister, and I felt guilty for being away from my own husband and kids, as I told them I wouldn't be fine all day Saturday, but ended up not getting home until evening, and they were already at the zoo without me and we had only enough time to have a late dinner before getting to bed. Sigh. These things can't be helped. I haven't seen my dad in more than a year, so when he made the impromptu call Thursday night I couldn't say no.
Yesterday was nice and relaxing, the weather was nice and we spent some time at the skate park, as my kids are practicing their skateboarding skills. I completed my tasks with ease and had some time to watch an autism benefit that was really enjoyable.
This morning I got back on track with the gym, getting in a great back/bicep workout. It felt good to be back in the gym, and thinking about my goals.
Then at work, my stress returned as a message from my over-dramatic boss indicated that the doctors staff was complaining about the optical about really petty things. When did I go back to high school? Out of stress and anger over the stupidness of all of this, I thought about giving up in college altogether. If people are complaining that I am doing things not related to work, that means I can't do homework at work, and I really don't have too much other time. But, if I quit college, I'll be stuck working this same kind of job forever. BAH! My stress seriously needs to take a vacation!!!
For today, I'm controlling the things I can control. I worked out. I'm eating things that make my body feel better. I will handle the rest as it comes. I guess that's all I can really do.
Hope you are all well. Happy Monday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Underdog

Yesterday as I was leaving the gym, I felt so alive.  I was thinking of the lyrics of a song I used to fire me up when I was doing my final 5k.  The lyrics were from a FloRida song, Good Feeling:
/Giving up's not an option, gotta get it in
witness I got the heart of 20 men
no fear, go to sleep in the lion's den/
And I realized that I felt strong because I was doing something that was contributing to my strength. 
This morning when my alarm went off at 4:30 am I felt exactly opposite as I did yesterday.  The strength training I did yesterday made me sleep so deep that I was disoriented when the alarm went off, and I made the decision to go back to sleep.  I was still exceptionally tired when I woke, and I beat myself up a little for not taking the opportunity to get some work done, especially since the food side of yesterday challenged me every step of the way, but I prevailed over it.  I thought, what was yesterday for, if I'm just going to be lazy today?  I wondered why I keep knocking myself down, why I keep standing in my own way of making my dream happen. 
I started thinking about food, and how it has been such a hindrance for me, such a horribly misused drug.  I think I will always fall into the same vicious cycles of ups and downs until I spend some time examining my relationship with food.  Sounds absurd to call it a relationship, but it is filling an emotional place in me, so it's fitting I guess.  I need to get to the root of why I turn to food, and impliment some healthier (and more effective, to be honest) ways to handle my emotions.  On-track vs not on track, food is a very different entity in my mind.  When I'm on track, food is a tool, a way to keep my muscles vital and to keep my stomach from getting the dreaded nausea-hunger it gets when I am eating clean.  When I am off track, it is all about pleasure.  I want to eat as much as I want of the very thing that (at the moment) will make me feel the most pleasure.  It is a guilty, taboo, rebellious feeling and like food itself, I have a love-hate relationship with it. 
I think in the end, it comes down to focus.  When I am so burnt-out from the rest of my life, I don't have the energy or the drive to focus on what often feels like deprivation.  I like the idea of being on target most of the time, but giving into small temptations when they arise, but my problem is stopping at one serving, or two servings.  In my house, if we have a bag of candy, we generally eat it in one sitting until it's gone.  That is how I grew up too.  My parents were far too young when they started our family, with my older sister being born when my mother was 17, and I just before my mom turned 19, so to say they were poor is a dramatic understatement.   Treats and goodies were really rare in my household, but when we did have them, we ate until we were sick.  I know some of my food issues go way back to those days, maybe in an attempt to cover up or sweeten some of the very dark thoughts I had about my life back then.  And maybe some of it is just assuring myself that we have what we need to get by, that we are not going to starve, even when things are the most bleak.  I have even given thought to the popular theories about fat being a protective, warm blanket that shelters us from the cruel world.  I can't take that argument at face value, I do think there is a protective factor of the actions behind what makes us fat (ie, the freedom we afford ourselves when we are not holding ourselves accountable for our health), but I don't believe for a second that being fat makes us feel comfortable.  What it does is set us up for more failure because we figure, I'm already a fat blob, I might as well eat whatever I want.  At least, that's how it works in my little world.
As I said, I have food issues that I need to start focusing on.  I ate totatlly on-plan for two days now, the sugar addiction is broken again.  I know I will eat whatever I want this weekend when I am away, and that is already in the plan so I don't count it as a failure, but I still have plenty of work to do. 
I liken myself to a boxer, the underdog who keeps losing.  But you know what underdogs do when they lose?  They take time to heal their wounds, and they step back into the ring, because underdogs always have something to prove to the world.  I know in myself that I am a bulldog, a fighter, both passionate and a brute.  I have something left to prove, and I'm almost done licking my wounds and getting ready to go.  I don't care how many rounds, how many fights it takes, one day I'll get my feel-good ending.
Happy Wednesday Champs!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whoops! Did I do that?

Have you ever been sleeping so good/deep that instead of merely waking you, your alarm goes one better and completely FREAKS YOU OUT? That's what happened to me this morning. I didn't realize that I'd set my alarm for 4:30 am, so when it went off I jolted out of bed, my heart beating fiercely. Once I got my bearings I realized I felt well rested and energetic. It's been too long since I've been able to say that, so I decided to take advantage of it and hit the gym.
I trained chest, shoulders and triceps today. It felt really good to get the blood in the muscles, and I must admit, my mood is much improved today. The best part about it is I had given myself a free pass from the gym for the next few days, but it turns out I didn't need it. Sometimes this journey truly is matter over mind instead of the other way around.
So my goal for this week is to get 1-2 more weight sessions in, and at least one cardio session. In general I am going to aim for 3 of each per week, but this is a special week as I am going out of town Friday to visit my friend, and I intend to relax and enjoy our visit without worrying about diet and getting in exercise. It will be a much-deserved break for both of us.
I don't have any other spectacular news to share, so I'll keep this short and sweet and wish you a great Tuesday!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn Stillness

The rain has been pouring on my little city, stripping the trees of their beautifully colored leaves, only brown, soggy ones left clinging to the branches.  The grey sky mirrors my outlook.  As I watched the wind whipping last week I contemplated those colorful leaves and realized how much they are a metaphor for this those of us struggling to reach our dreams; some cling so tightly to their dream that they will never let go, and some succum to the force of the winds and let go of the resistence.  Me?  I'm the soggy brown one barely clinging on.  I can feel that there is something still worth fighting for, but boy that wind is punishing me with doubt, disillusionment and yes, my dear old familiar friend, apathy.  I can tell whatever I have left in front of me is going to be an uphill battle.
As I began this semester at college, it became very evident where my priorities lay, as I traded in my attention to my diet and exercise for an almost exclusive focus on everything else.  School has taken the foreground, though I have been thinking about my diet daily, it just seems like too much to think about right now.  And getting up at 4:30am?  Wow, that seems like more of a challenge than putting healthy things in my mouth.  I spent the better part of two months sick with sinus infection that led to a thickness in my lungs.  Thankfully, I did not need medication for it, and for now I have just a little sinus irritation and a bit of a sore throat.  But the stress is constantly there, eating eating away at me.  I use food as a drug, but it isn't very effective, and despite being fully aware of that, I continue to stuff food in, to try to numb my stress.  It is to the point that I am sick of food.  Literally.  It has to stop before my heart does. 
Last week, my stress hit an all-time high, as my boss casually said this," What are your plans for next semester?  Because I can't work around your school schedule anymore."  I felt like a bomb had been dropped on me.  Was my boss really saying that I need to make a choice between my job and school?  In my head I was thinking, what am I doing?!  I'm going to school, working toward my dream of helping people with special needs.  I'm continuing on my journey that I have invested blood, tears, and a heap of money into so my family can have a better life.  What came out of my mouth was a jumbled mess about how this semester is stressing me out, and I am going to appeal to try and take some on-line courses at my school or might take a semester off.  And then I rushed off to statistics class, unable to focus on anything else but that lousy conversation.  What did she mean by that, will I lose my job if I enroll at college?  Will she offer someone else my hours?  Am I getting pushed out?  I know we are way over budget on payroll, maybe this is her way of remedying the situation.  Before I even brought myself to get back to her and ask for clarification, I started researching the legality of what I was being presented.  I know there are laws about folks in high school, and that employers have to give them time off for school, but no, no such laws about college.  It's a pretty black and white, the employer's always right kind of situation.  That is the way this country is set up.  I am not blind to the fact that they have a business to run.  But the fact that they could be so cold about it was a slap in the face. 
By the end of my shift, I was sending my boss an e-mail asking for clarification so that I could make the life-changing decisions she was forcing me to make.  Her response was that she would meet with me, and her boss, the following morning, so we could discuss how Prevea does and does not support their employees seeking higher education.  Basically, my bosses boss reiterated that Prevea supports their empolyees in their efforts to better themselves, but only when it does not interfere with their work schedule.  Insert the corporate foot into my proverbial happy place.  Since my university does not offer weekend courses, and only offers on-line courses in a very limited selection of majors, I have some hefty decisions to make.  My choices are these: 1. switch my major and take classes on-line through my current university or 2. enroll in an all-online university and pray that any future employers recognize those degrees as legit.  I have little other choice as the job I work pays far better than anything I could get that would work around my school schedule.  I spent so much time being stressed out about the whole thing this weekend, but once I started to examine how my time would be allocated, I realized that there are a lot of benefits to going to school on-line, including a lot less driving in the wicked Wisconsin snow. And finally, my stress is starting to lift a little just thinking about the change.  So, out of something pretty ugly, a little sunlight sneaked in. 
And because some of my stress has lifted, I am feeling ready to get back into making my health a focus again.  It will be about doing what I can, not trying to live up to some crazy standard.  I know there are days when the weather will impede my desire/ability to get to the gym, and I have found from experience that hardcore weight training more than 3-4 days a week is far too taxing on my already-stressed out system, and makes me sick.  So my goal is just that simple, to do what I can do without making myself sick.  Today that means eating on-plan.  And I spent a good many hours cooking/baking healthy foods yesterday, to ensure that I will have what I need to stay on track this week.  I am in the process of making a system for my weight training, three days a week, mixing up the moves and the type of training (circuit, supersets, active resting sets, etc).  It will be interesting to see what I have lost in the past two months.  I can still see some of those arm muscles I built during my Live Fit program, so hopefully my muscle memory wil be there for me when I do get back in there.  Oh, do I look and feel aweful right now.  And I hate being on this stupid cycle of doing good, doing bad, doing good, doing bad.  I just want consistency.  I need to find better tools to help me stay on track.  But, for now at least, I'm back to focusing on fixing the problem, and that is, at least, a start.
Some of my favorite moments this fall have been time spent with my kids and husband in the parks of Green Bay, watching leaves float down from the trees, and my kids' happy faces frolicing in them with wonderment, as if it were there first time playing in the leaves.  And, when we are all in the car to whatever family destination we have chosen, there is a particular Bob Marley CD we have been taken to listening to, and it is the first time I can recall, we all sing together loudly.  And happily.  And in those precious moments, all the stress leaves me and I realize that I've got a pretty sweet life.
I can't promise I'll be posting to consistently between now and mid-December when my classes end, but I am here, and I'll be back soon.
Autumn Stillness

Preparing for Winter
Hope you are all having a wonderful, colorful fall!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Underneath it

I am still here, but not on as fantastic a journey as I was two weeks ago.  I am completely -COMPLETELY- overwhelmed by my college workload this semester.  Last semester I was complaining about having night classes messing up my evenings.  This semester I thought I was being clever and saving myself a lot of headaches by scheduling day classes.  What that has done is create an unforseeable disaster in my daytime schedule, leaving me very little time to study.  Since I have to leave for school in the middle of my workday 4 out of 5 days a week, that means my boss is usually in my office, covering my absence which means, that is time I am not studying.  Last semester I was able to study at work, but I wouldn't feel comfortable doing that in front of my boss. 
So I am struggling to get a schedule set for myself, not just for studying, but for when and what to eat as I am dashing off to class or during class.  To say that I have not been successful is an understatement, as I have found myself running in and out of convenience stores, rummaging for whatever tidbits constitute food to at least "get me by" until I can actually take time to fix myself something.  UGH.  It is getting to the point that I am losing my appetite for food.  When I am eating clean, I can think of a bunch of indulgences that sound good, but now that I am eating such crap, I don't even want any more of it.  I know I will get things in order soon.  I have to, I hate the way I look and feel right now.  I've only been to the gym 3 times in the past two weeks, my knee feels aweful, my clothes don't fit as well, my self esteem is droopy at best.  There were several reasons why I skipped the gym this week.  My head is healing, it is a multiple-green-shaded entity, but it is a lot less sore.  But the other reasons I had for skipping were valid, and it constituted me actually listening to my body.  Being as overwhelmed with stress as I have been is really caustic to my body. 
But today is a great day, one where I woke with energy and enthusiasm.  At work we have a program called Casual for a Cause, where in lieu of my uniform I get to wear jeans and a casual top in exchange for a small donation to a local charity.  While trying on clothes for this today, I realized that I am so far away from where I want to be with my body.  I keep climbing the same 100 feet of this mountain instead of making true progress and getting closer to the summit.  For me, letting my college schedule catch me off guard was a bad decision that will take a lot of work to reverse.  But I knew it was coming, I just didn't plan properly.  And, because I have to go my separate ways with the Live Fit insanity that is Phase 3, there just isn't that safety net.  It really comes down to simply sitting down and planning things out.  Mobile but healthy things I can eat in the car and at class, and mix-and-matching the workouts from the program that I can do.  I think in the chaos of the stress (some of it self-created) I have allowed myself to make things seem alot more complicated than they truly are. 
Now that I am settling into the routine of my class schedule (at least I know where my classes are and when I need to be in which room in each building) and getting used to the feeling of not having an ounce of free time, I think I will figure a way to make it all work.  There is always a learning curve when I encounter big changes in schedule and stress level.  I am still learning, but more importantly, I'm getting smarter.
Hope you've all been having a good go of it!  Happy Friday!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back

I am back, after a small break for resting my wounded head and pride.  In this, my second week back to school, I am already behind, burried under chapters of work.  What happened to one chapter per week?  I have had to read 3 chapters for each class in my first week of class.  I have some major catching up to do. 
The good news is that I am actually understanding statistics, which is a pleasant surprise. 
And the more good thing is that I was able to get back on track today by getting into the gym for a back/bicep session.  I haven't worked out in nearly a week, as I had my accident(s) on Tuesday, so Wednesday through Sunday were slouch days, and my eating follwed suit.  I was at the end of my stress rope and I let go of the chaos for a few days.  I don't like how quickly my body changed to a huge blob.  I know a tremendous portion of that is water, but YIKES! 
Today's workout wasn't about knocking it out of the park, I did lower weight and higher reps, maxing out around 12 reps.  I made sure to really squeaze the back muscles being worked, so I could feel that warm, wonderful rush of blood in the muscle.  For some reason, the T-bar rows never feel as good as they did the first time I did them.  I guess that's how many things in life are.  I am still feeling pretty wiped out from all the extra activity and from monthly shifts, but I know I'll get my mojo back shortly.  I don't have the fire I had when I began this program, but part of that is due to my recent disillusionment in the plan once I got to week 9 and there was all kind of crazy stuff thrown in.  I like back day to be back day, not train back,and then in between back sets we are going to hit all your other muscle groups in strange, fast-paced ways that are going to make you ache and feel like you are about to throw up.  So, I am in the process of chagning thigs up.  Today I just went on instinct, doing what I felt like my body could handle.  That meant five back movements 3 sets of 12, and 3 sets of barbell 21's for my biceps.  I am planning on keeping my diet on track this week, but it will be a little different, as I have to accomodate for eating in class and in the car.  I am not one to welcome change very freely, but I have great coping skills, and once I get into a routine I'm golden. 
Well, this is going to be an abbreviated post as I need to get back to the books.
Hope your week is off to a great start!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Not Smooth

About a week ago, I started to get an eerie feeling, almost premonition-like images of something horrible happening to me.  I don't know if anyone else ever has this happen, but it happens to me a couple times a year.  I will be driving along and just get a perfectly clear image of myself having a catestrophic accident.  And it's not just the one time, but everytime I'm driving, at every stoplight.  I imagine, what if that car didn't stop?  Or, what if my brakes failed and I drove down that embankment onto the highway?   I usually take it as a sign that something bad (albeit less horrible) is about to happen.  It is so eerie how it is usually pretty accurate.  Last week I had several small incidents that caused me pain, including having my head and forearm slammed in a car door by my son, which I assumed was the accident that my mind's eye kept foreshadowing. 
Yesterday, however, was a horrible day for me.  It was one of those days where nothing, and I mean NOTHING went right for me.  I worked for a short while in the morning before class, and there were a few "problem patients" that had huge issues that will take several people in several departments several days or weeks to solve, but they originated in my department, so I will be involved whether or not I want to be.  When I got to school, the plan was to get a parking pass and spend a little time studying before class started.  The walk to the building is long and I was exceptionally hot, as I had been dressed in my work attire, all black, long-sleeved shirt, and the sun beating on me as I walked to the building was threatening to activate my sun alergy, turning me into an itching maniac.  Once I made it to the correct building, which is actually three buildings joined together via underground tunnel, and made my way through winding hallways to the bursar's office, I filled out my paperwork and stood in the long line.  It was then that I saw the sign, "cash or check only, no debit or credit cards accepted."  ReallyWhat year is this?  How can a major institution like the University of Wisconsin not accept debit cards?  Who carries cash anymore, especially in the ludicrous amounts they want for a parking pass?  Who on earth uses a checkbook anymore?!  Outraged, I made the long trek back through the hallways, but decided to take what I thought would be a shortcut, heading out an unfamiliar door.  It led down a stone pathway toward a different building.  As I approached, I saw a sign on the door, "Not an entry.  Door does not open from outside."  So I turned back toward the building from which I just left.  The building has windows that span all three stories, and inside the windows are study areas filled with people.  They are watching me as I walk around in overly-warm black clothing and grasp for a door handle to re-enter the building.  This door apparntly, only opens from the inside as well, and the next and the next.  By the time I find a set of stairs I am sweating and cursing the itchy sun allergy and swearing about the bursar's office under my breath, and I reach the top of the steps to realize I am in some sort of recieving zone, and am likely not supposed to be there.  But then I see a footpath in the distance, and my anger makes me press on, looking at the recieving staff straight on, asking them to challenge me as I walk toward the path.  Nobody challenges me.  In fact, several people greet me with pleasant hellos and head nods the entire time I am at school.  Can't they see I'm irritated?!  After nearly an hour of walking around campus, I finally get to my car and am gratful that the emergency check I've left in my glovebox is still there.  I wind my way back down the the anals of the earth to pay for a parking pass, my book bag weighing on my tired shoulders and making it feel as though my skin is being ripped apart underneath, and having a few minutes to spare, head to my classroom.  It's statistics, a class I am thoroughly dreading, and the professor is just as I would imagine, a mousy, geeky lady who speaks with such enthusiasm that she needs to catch her breath from time to time.  I am going to be lost the entire semester.  After class, I am more than happy to be returning to my excessively air conditioned office, but as I am pulling out of my parking spot, "CRUNCH!"  I turned a bit too sharp out of my spot, and hit the car parked next to me.  I jump out, in a panic.  I just broke their headlight cover and left a small blue mark on their bumper.  Their car is quite a bit older than mine, even rusting in a few spots.  My car has a long white scrach and dent along the back door, and some of the trim is ripped off.   I left a note with my information on their windshield, and headed back to work, cursing my day.  My husband was extremely understanding, and I still haven't heard from the owner of the car I hit.  No one was hurt and my car is still driveable, I kept reminding myself.  It didn't make me feel better.  I have been so clumsy and careless lately, making so many stupid mistakes.  My stress level was so elevated by the time I left work, seeing my kids made me feel a lot better, but I was in a dark place and I wanted comfort food.  We got some sweets and pizza from the grocery store.  It helped more than I want to admit.  Just as I was ready to put my kids (and my bad day) to bed, my older son decided he didn't want to sleep in his bed, as he is on the top of their bunk beds, and sometimes gets nervous of being up so high.  I was complaining to him about how he should be sleeping in a bed and not on beanbags on the floor as I climbed the ladder to gather his things, when the ceiling fan, on full speed, smashed me clear in the forehead, just above the temple.  I howled for fifteen minutes straight as the lump stood several inches off my head, and created a swollen, bleeding area the size of a tennis ball.  After tending to my wounds and getting the kids settled down, I broke down to my husband.  Why am I so clumsy lately?  What is wrong with me?  I can't do anything right latelyI don't have the energy to be everything life is demading me to be right now.  My husband, who was concerned and supportive, offered gentle, inspiring words to me, and reminded me that the weekend is coming and we will have a nice time.  The last negative thought I allowed into my head before I went to bed, I have to take a gen ed skill assesment test this Saturday, ugh!  Then I put my sorry, swollen head to bed. 
No workout today, my head is still very swollen and I have a large gash.  I am taking the rest of the week and weekend off from everything except work and school.  No gym, no strict diet, no extra duties just to be nice.  I am officially taking a break from unneccesary chaos.  Monday may be another story, but for now I'm going to give my mind and body what it needs/wants. 
Here's hoping this was the "bad thing" I felt coming.  I don't want anything else right now!
I hope your week is going smoother than mine!  Sorry for the bummer post!

Weekend Wave Watching

Last week was a very tiring week, a lot of extra running around and organizing, my family growing increasingly tired as the weekend approached. My kids were tired from an entire week of adventures and travel with their grandma, and they ended up taking it out on each other. For me, when I am tired, I become more clumsy and accident prone, and all in one day found myself with four different minor injuries, including having my head and arm slammed in a car door by my son.
We remedied our situation with some extra sleep and fun times over the long holiday weekend and by the time the kids and I started back to school yesterday, we were ready to tackle a new, shorter week. All the stress I had about needing time to buy my books and find my classroom faded as I sank into my seat and prepared for the usual dorky introduction, "I'm Amy, I'm a psych major/ human development minor in my junior year, I have two sons on the autism spectrum". Thankfully, other than listening to the instructor go over the syllabus and the first few chapters, I didn't have to be very interactive. My classes this semester are an intro to social work class, and (shudder) statistics.
My Live Fit Trainer program has gone off the deep end! I didn't work put at all over the weekend, and my knee is starting to have less popping/stiffness. But yesterday I got back in the gym, and now that the program is in the final 4 weeks, the workouts are really intense. I went through it move-fo-move yesterday and it made me feel aweful! My stomach was not feeling right, but I shrugged it off as possible hunger and pushed my way through active rests and super sets and plyos. By the time I was through, I was sweaty, weak and nauseous. I really didn't like how the workout was labelled "back and biceps" but truly hit every muscle group via the active rests and plyo stuff. My stomach eventually settled, but that workout made me feel not good when I was done, and I know that means I went where I shouldn't go. Right now, my immune system is at its most vulnerable and yesterday was a red flag for me. This morning I woke with a sore throat, and my stomach felt off again. I knew I couldn't follow the high intensity insanity, so I just made up my own session for what I knew my body could handle this morning. Lighter weights-higher reps, all machines. I only spent a half hour working out, but my chest and shoulders felt good after, and the little extra home time felt needed this morning. I may take tomorrow off completely if I still feel like this. Every time I ignore the signs of weekend immune system I am taught a valuable lesson, I'd rather just do the smart thing, I'll recover much quicker.
Well before I head off to statistics class, I'll leave you with some photos of my favorite part of my weekend, a trip to Lake Michigan. It was simply beautiful there, and I let go of a lot of stress sitting on the beach, watching my kids run from the waves. Hope you had a great weekend too!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bees Knees

Yesterday I spent some time researching knee problems, and none of them look particularily like something you want to have going on with your knee, but mostly all of them recommend seeing a doctor if you are having pain.  I don't really have pain, perse, but it is annoying.  I think I've mentioned before that I am a doctor's nightmare, self-diagnosing by researching on the internet before I step into an office.  I want to be prepared for what things might possibly be before someone strange starts prodding around. 
So my self diagnosis as of last night was Baker's Cyst.  I might add, I am usually right when I self-diagnose, but the knees have so many similar symptoms for a variety of issues.  By the time I looked at a few articles on-line, I was starting to think maybe I should finally have these old knees looked at by a professional.  Then, when I got home last night, I was hanging out with my kids and looked at how swollen my knee was, and when I pushed on a swollen area, it was all squishy inside.  The other knee isn't like that.  So that pretty much sealed the deal.  No leg training and no cardio until I can see a doctor for this.  It is really irritating to me that I am finally in the zone and I will be partially sidelined by some stupid issue that was likely caused by years of obesity.  Now I am only praying that it is a small tear, and not arthritic.  At very least, I am gratful that my legs are already a part of my body that I'm perfectly content with, so not training them won't be as bad a mental trip as not training shoulders or triceps.  My life is never dull!
Now that I am consistently training in the morning instead of the evenings, I am getting familiar with some of the folks who work out with me at the insane hour of 5am.  Today a woman that I have seen a few times, was training in the free weight room next to me.  She looks relatively fit, but she does all of these weird bouncing, really small range of motion moves, and speeds through sets like her underwear is on fire.  Today was the first time she spoke to me, as I was in the middle of a superset of shoulder moves, barely eeking out 8 reps.  This is what she said, "I'm new here, but don't you think they should have more of the lighter weights for women?"  I was a little dumbfounded, as there is a really awesome selection of weights in the lower end, even in 2.5pound incriments( 7.5, 12.5, 17.5, these are dumbbells I never knew existed until I joined this gym) and they go as light as 2.5 pounds.  I wasn't sure just how light she was looking for, so I just said, "I rarely see women in this room, to be honest."  And I went about my business doing rear delt flyes with 20 pound dumbbells.  I can see if someone is just starting out, they might want to get the feel of the movement by using a light weight, but honestly, if you know the move, there is not much you are going to be doing for yourself swinging around a 2.5 pound weight.  I tried not to give too much thought to the comment as I trained my shoulders hard, and happily finished with a little spare time to relax before getting myself and kids ready for our morning.  I love training shoulders, and I like how they are starting to shape up. 
So now, I have to rearrange my workouts a bit, because I have eliminated legs for now.  Instead of tomorrow being a leg day, then, I will train back (was supposed to be Saturday's session) and take an entire weekend off.  And Monday is a holiday so the gym will be closed, I am not sure what, if anything, I will do, maybe some ab work since I haven't been training them, or maybe some yoga stretches. 
I am feeling a little drained today, as is everyone I am meeting so far, so I am going to make an attempt to relax a little over the long holiday weekend.  Then, in a blink of an eye, college will be back in session and the chaos will be cranked up to full blast.  Oh, sweet beautiful summer, where have you gone?
Well, here goes another day!  Hope it's a good one!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ho Hum, Chest Day Again

I woke with ease again this morning, just moments before my alarm.  I am really liking that I don't have to struggle to wake up, it makes the thought of working out that much easier.  Today was chest, and to be honest, it is my least favorite thing to train.  I am actually quite unenthused about chest workout, and on this particular program, she has it designed as a heavily super-setted training, with abs, which I haven't been training.  So today, I was done in a half hour.   I was going to hit the treadmill for some cardio, but after just a few minutes, I knew my knee was not going to allow it.  I could have pushed through the tense, irritated feeling, but I know that would have delayed my healing.   I will do some research in the coming days, to see if I can determine whether or not I should see a physician for this issue, or if it's just a part of getting older. 
I am a little more than halfway through this program, and I'm still having fun.  I think the gym is a huge part of that.  I was thinking about how it'd be if I didn't join and was still trying to do this program with my home gym and 10 pound dumbbells.  I don't think I would have stayed on track as easily, I would have been bored.  But the gym is still an exciting place full of all kinds of interesting equipment to explore.  I have been there a month now, and am still discovering equipment I've never used.  At some point I will try it all.  Today was the first time I tried dips on the bars.  For triceps I have always done dips on a bench, afraid that I wasn't strong enough to do them on the bars.  So today when I was supposed to do them for chest, I tried the bars.  It felt really awkward and the hanging part hurt my knee of all things.  I was able to get a few dips done, but I was feeling it in my triceps, not my chest, so I left those out today.  I will work up to that.  Right now my utmost concern is keeping my knee functional.
Today I will have an abbreviated day at work, as I have a seminar on handling stress in the workplace to attend.  It is a nice way to get paid to be someplace other than work, and it makes my boss look good that I am attending these work-sponsored seminars out of my own free will and interest.  Plus, a fridge full of ice cold diet soda just calling my name?  I think it's going to be a smooth day!
Hope you are in the middle of a smooth week, friends!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Legs Insanity

This morning I was happy to wake just a few moments before my alarm went off, and feelilng well-rested.  I'm hoping that means my body is getting accustomed to waking at 4:30, I won't say it's been easy to reset my natural wake time, but I'm happy it is working out.  Most of my morning workouts actually feel slightly rushed, with me having to improvise in the end in order to get everything in and still make it home in time to get myself and my kids ready for the day.  By the time I get to work, I am already feeling like the chaotic part of my day is over. 
Today I trained legs, and it was a little awkward because I have been having weird joint issues with my left knee, a tightness in the back of the knee, and relief comes after the popping noise.  I'm irritated about it because I haven't done any running or stressful things to my knee (other than training, and I am careful to use proper form) but still this annoying joint thing.  Maybe it's the way I sleep.  Anyway, I know the only way to get the knees in a better place is to train the leg muscles around them to help stabalize the tendons.  So I trained them.  I also had a weird ankle thing going on with my right foot, it needed to pop in a bad way, but wouldn't budge.  So I worked through it.  My legs were so completely trashed by the time I got to my last two moves, that I had to shave one set off each of the moves in order to get through it.  As I walked to the locker room afterword, I felt like my legs were just going to give out from under me, they were so shakey.  But that is what needs to happen in order to build muscle.  The crazy thing is, I was using 80 pounds on leg press, and still cranking out 15 reps, so next time I will have to go heavier, as I was only supposed to be getting 8 reps in.  I know my legs are strong, and the leg press is one of the moves where you will use some of your heaviest weights, but I was suprised to see how easy that weight was for me.  My legs are looking nice after all this work.  By next summer I will have to be showing them off all the time!
While reading a blog this morning, the writer was having a contest and giving away gift cards for a T-shirt company, so I went to browse the shirts.  One has a saying that I love: train insane or stay the same.  It feels so fitting for me.  I was training harder than anyone in the gym this morning, and now that I've seen this shirt, I am thinking I might have to have it.  It is so true.  My husband has been going to this gym for more than 3 years now and he said, with the exception of a select few, all of the people working out there still look the same as they did 3 years ago.  Now I know not everyone works out for the sake of changing their appearance, but if that is your goal, you're going to have to progress past the 10 pound weights at some point.  And that is the weight I see a lot of men using on cable moves.  They do it super fast and do like 20 reps. 
I won't get on my soapbox today.  I just liked and felt that shirt a lot.  It gets me really fired up to get back in the gym tomorrow and prove that I am there to make a change in my body.  And I'm not quitting until I'm satisfied!
Hope your Tuesday's off to a fantastic start!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Indulgence is Contagious

In my seemingly never ending quest for fitness, this weekend provided another lesson for me.  The more money I have, the more I want to spend it on eating junk.  I remember when I was still living at home, and my paychecks were pretty much mine to do what I wanted with, I would often spend them on magazines, gum, silly stuff like jounals and pens, and more often than not, junk food.  There may be some deeper issues there, revolving around growing up poor and watching my mother count out the change in her penny jar so we could get a sweet treat on nights when my father was out with friends, or how my mother would eat pure garbage instead of meals, probably in an attempt to drown out whatever emotional stuff she was going through.  We learn from our parents, whether or not they have healthy habits.  But for me, in an attempt to keep it simplified, mo money= mo problems with food.  When I am struggling, I only have money to spend on the clean, practicle stuff that I absolutely need to get by.  No spare money to make a quick stop at the grocery store for a quick snack, or take the kids for ice cream. 
That being said, this weekend was a bit less successful than I would have allowed last weekend, or for that matter, since I began this program.  I found myself feeling rushed straight through the weekend, and many times, I felt like I just wanted a few minutes to relax and enjoy the last little bit of summer.  In retrospect, we should have spent our weekend at the beach, but you know what they say about hindsight!
Friday night we ate dinner at a quaint little Mexican restaurant, where the food is home made, the service is phenomenal, and the atmosphere warm and happy.  My kids haven't been there, so to them it was an amazing adventure.  We all left full and content.  Then we did an errand or two, and went to that frozen custard place I've spoken of, my kids were begging for it.  I was too full to have anything, and I am not fond of frozen custard anyway, so I abstained.  My kids ate about half of their too-creamy desserts.  I shuddered at the thought of that stuff.  Too sweet and rich for me.  In the past I probably could have put away an entire large size without thought.  I'm happy that isn't the case anymore.
Saturday found me at the gym doing that fantastic back workout I love and to my delight, the T-bar rows were as good as I remember.   I didn't get the same pump in my back as I did last week, but I was tired at the end just the same.  I am trying to fight off the next round of soup-nose that is coming via my younger son, but I have been feeling increasingly tired and soupy-nosed.  Saturday night we gave the kids the option of eating anywhere they wanted, and they chose...SUSHI.  We went to our favorite sushi restaurant and indulged in the freshness.  My kids even tried seaweed salad and loved it.  And for all the beautiful artwork they created for us to eat, it was gone in mere minutes!  I love that my kids are so open-minded about food, and are learning about making healthy choices.  That night, I went light on the sushi, so after going to a park to let the kids run off some of their energy, we stopped for a few groceries, and I picked up a small sweet treat.  It was a brownie with walnuts and carmel on top.  To be honest, my nose being in a slightly compromised state, I didn't really taste it as well as I'd like to, so as I was eating it I was thinking what a waste it was, empty calories for no good reason.   
Yesterday, I slept later than I have in years (9 am) and our day was rushed, between getting the kids out and taking care of our errands and cooking for the week, the day seemed to fly by, and I didn't do any cardio.  It wasn't in the plan anyway, but I do enjoy Sunday morning cardio.  While we didn't have a family meal, I did eat some chips and way too many bananas, which I don't usually have in the house, because it is sometimes a trigger food for me.  Last night, as I was craving junk food, flavorful food, anything other than what I should be eating, I made the connection with the money/food thing.  It is about indulgence.  When I have enough money that I can buy whatever I want at the grocery store, I want to buy everything.  And eat everything.  I ate relatively clean after that, but I realized how easily I can let my focus slip when my circumstance changes ever so slightly.  It was a bit alarming.  I started thinking, I don't want to go to the gym tomorrow morning, I want to sleep in.  But I know where that kind of thinking gets me, and now I have a little better glimpse into where it came from.  Indulgence is so dangerous for me, because it quickly spreads from one category to the next.  Food indulgence spreads to sleep indulgence spreads to personal time indulgence to spending indulgence, etc.  I knew I had to stop the cycle somewhere and get things back where they belong. 
So this morning as I headed to the gym, the fog outside was so thick, I could barely see where I was going.  It was so disorienting, as if being in a blinding snowstorm.  It was amazing how quiet it made it felt, like the fog was some invisible force field, filtering out sound. I'll admit, I felt a bit unfocused this morning as I trained biceps and triceps, but I was able to lift as much as last week, and complete my entire workout in just enough time to scoot home and get ready.  The mornings are so chaotic, but at least I've got my weight training in for the day, all I have to worry about is a bit of cardio later.  On the way home from the gym, the fog was lifting as the sun was rising, and I had to snap a quick photo
I thought of everyone who was still sleeping while this remarkable view was just outside their window.  Sometimes when you sleep, you miss the best stuff.  I know I made the right choice.
Happy Monday!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lucky Friday

I was a total rebel this morning, and skipped my workout.  Yep, traded it off for sleep because my body is feeling really tired, and last time I didn't listen to it, I was punished with a nasty headcold.  So, the rest was needed, and made me feel relaxed and good.  Tomorrow I will hit the gym and do my back workout.  Is it strange that I am excited to do T-bar rows?  Well, I am nothing if not strange. 
Yesterday a wonderful surprise came, by way of a gift of money from my mother.   Let me tell you how much of a miracle it felt like.  I was at the point where I was rationing out my food, so that it would last until payday, and riding on fumes and a prayer that the gas in my tank would get me through until I got paid.  My gas light came on as I drove home last night.  And when I arrived home, worried about our finances, there was the letter with a check from my mother.  She usually sends $100 for the combo of back-to-school and my son's September birthday, but this time the check was considerably more.  To the tune of about 3 paychecks for me.  She had been in a car accident a few years ago, and the settlement finally came through.  So we revisited my husband's theory that there is always a balance in life, when things are going bad or are extremely stressful, there is always something good right around the corner.  This will give us a chance to get caught up on some bills and exhale a little bit.  The kids will have new clothes for school, instead of being forced to wear thrift store finds (not that there's anything wrong with that), and I can finally get some new tires!  It feels like Christmas!  I know we would have made it through somehow, we always do, but when something so needed comes in the form of a gift, it feels too good to be true.
Monday I will begin week 8 of my Live Fit Trainer program, it is the last of the muscle-building weeks, then the final phase will be "high intensity" as Jamie Eason puts it.  My husband made a comment about the program the last time we were in the gym, "It's a pretty advanced workout she's got you on" and it made me feel really good that I can keep up.  I have made modifications along the way, but for the most part, I am strong enough, and have enough energy to stay on track.  At certain stages of the program, there are videos of Jamie talking about the program and what is coming up, and for week 8 she says that she is dreading the high intensity phase that is next, but that she is also excited because this is where we start to see the biggest changes with our bodies.  I have already seen some great changes, I can't imagine what I'll look like at the end of September.  I have said it so many times, and I will say it again, I am eternally gratful that I have a resource like my husband to help design a program for/with me, but also, my husband has told me several times, that Jamie's workout is perfectly designed for re-use indeffinitely.  I like recycling.  At least I will know all the moves.  And it will be exciting to see how my strength increases.  Previous weight loss attempts helped me learn alot about my thoughts and emotions, this plan is helping me learn a lot about my body and what I can do.  I think, once I get this all figured out, I am going to be a well-rounded person.  I am already feeling so good.  Weight training is where it's at for me, it makes my metabolism rocket, makes me sleep so phenomenally, makes me feel younger/stronger/more energetic.  The drawback?  I may need some new clothes soon.  Seriously, everything is starting to get loose in the waist, to the point of having to pull things up repeatedly.  And at some point, I will have to stop wearing my wedding ring altogether or go get it resized.  Right now I'm wearing it on my middle finger instead of the ring finger, and it is getting loose again.  Not such bad problems to have compared to the alternative.
Well, one more day of the crazy sale at work and things will quiet down.  This weekend there will be sushi and a trip to the zoo, and I'm sure a lot more adventures that I'm not aware of just yet.  Hope y'all have a fantastic weekend too!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rapido!

Last night I almost didn't get to the gym, but I didn't panic.  Autism is a perpetually shifting thing, some days my kids are more bothered by their senses than others.  Last night was a night that my older son was very ADHD-edgy and my younger son was very overstimulated and sensitive to sights and sounds.  So as my husband and I were getting ready for the gym, I was already starting to feel like we were fighting a losing battle.  My youngest, Zach, was so irritated by sensations that he can't stand even the feel of clothes rubbing against his skin, and was lounging naked on the couch, trying to keep his older brother out of his face for two minutes.  They were fighting and annoying each other, and whining.  I came up with a quick 'plan B' just in case this wasn't going to fly.  To bring already agitated children to a small, noisy room with a bunch of other children is asking for trouble.  But after a bit of my husband trying to guilt him and bribe him into going, Zach finally agreed he would go to the gym.  So we went, and I was worried about their behavior the whole time.  I was completely OK with doing this workout at home, most of it was dumbbell-based anyway.
I trained chest, which for me is not an exciting workout.  Maybe because I can't see the results the way I can when I am training, say triceps.  But I did it with everything I had in me.  It was a short workout, and it felt nice being able to get done and pick up the kids a little earlier than usual.  My husband works harder in the gym than anyone I've ever seen.  To the point he is almost crying, his skin turning bright red under the extreme weight.  I sometimes can't believe the amount of weight he can use, and then he tells me, he is going "lighter" right now.  Yikes!  I guess that's why he looks so great.
My kids did end up fighting in the childcare room, their little bodies needing things that typical kids don't need; jumping, pressure, stimulants, quiet, nakedness.  Sometimes I feel like I don't have the strength to meet all their demands (or even understand them sometimes) but then I think of all they have to deal with that I don't, and my apathy dissipates. 
My husband has a planned rest tonight, so I decided I'd do my shoulder workout this morning so that we can have a relaxing evening together at home.  I got in my shoulder workout and my cardio this morning, but I instead of 30 minutes of medium-intensity cardio I had to cut down to 20 minutes of interval cardio.  They are equally effective, and helped me take care of everything in one workout, instead of having to go to the gym twice.  I am looking forward to a quiet night at home. 
In the cardio section of the gym, there are about 12 giant TV's tuned into to various channels, and you can plug in your earphones and listen.  In the early morning, there is never much of interest on, some news, sports, maybe a do-it-yourself show, but mostly infomercials.  And while I never plug my earphones in, I somehow always get sucked into the infomercials.  Todays was for the Brazilian Butt Lift, something called Bum Bum Rapido.  Let me tell you, I caught myself laughing at the absurdity, I must have looked totally insane.  The moves they do (especially the cardio ones which are fast and jerky) look so ridiculous, I can't believe anyone agreed to do them for the commercial.  And there is a testimonial of a lady with an extraordinarily large backside, at first I thought it was computer generated the image was so disturbing.  Then they showed the "after" photo and I just couldn't help but laugh.  Her butt was still just as wide but she had much shorter shorts on, and some of  the area had moved a bit north.  Why would they use this image to promote their product?  How bizarre!  At any rate, it was an entertaining distraction, and a humorous way to start my morning!
I felt really good after my workout and cardio, and even though time was slipping by, I took a little extra time driving home, really enjoying the moment and feeling how vital my body feels and how happy I am right now.  The sky looked amazing as the sunrise painted the grey clouds pink.  I couldn't help but snap a photo to remember this morning.
The pink clouds taste the best.  And they are calorie-free.  ;)
Today's going to be good, because I said so.  Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Busy but Undeterred

Yesterday was a very busy day, it made me feel exhausted, but I still managed to get in my half hour cardio session before work, and a kick-a** bi/tri workout last night.  By the time I left the gym last night, my arms were so pumped my mind's eye was telling me I must look like Arnold, but the mirror told me the truth.  There is definitely some muscle tone poking its head out from under all the fat, but there is still a lot of work to do.  I did get to learn a few new moves/pieces of equipment and that is always fun for me, it keeps it interesting.
This morning I was so very sleepy when my alarm went off, but I got up and did my half hour of cardio anyway.  I walked outside, the sky just barely shifting to blue from the night's blackness, stars still twinkling brightly.  The crisp air did a nice job of waking me, and by the time I got back home I was actually feeling awake, warm and content.  My exhaustion this week stems from work-related chaos/stress due to a wildly popular employee sale, but it will be ending after this week, and things will return to a nice, normal pace again.  It is making me crazy that it's so busy, and I work alone, somedays I work straight through my lunch and don't get to eat.  So my 3-hour span between meals has been compromised during the day, which in turn compromises my energy level.  But I am doing what I can.  I have conquered stressful times before, and I will again, this time it will not involve shoving food mindlessly into my mouth because to try to drown the stress. 
Since I began the Live Fit Trainer, my take on the weekend has changed.  Instead of looking forward to it because it is an opportunity to binge on junk, now I look forward to the weekend for because of the opportunity to sleep in, rest my sore muscles, and enjoy a slower-paced day or two with my family.  Don't get me wrong, I still love to have a cheat meal on the weekend, and I do so look forward to it, but food isn't the focal point of my weekend anymore.  That is a huge mental victory!  I wish I could pin point how that change came about, but really I think it is simply from putting in so much work all week that my body is more focused on rest than food.  It is a very positive shift that I am not taking for granted!
Tonight I will work my chest.  If this week's workouts are any indication, I will be sore a little longer that in the past.  With the workouts changing bi-weekly and the weight increasing slowly, I am feeling the difference.  I am still a bit sore from Saturday's back workout, that's longer than it usually takes me to recover, but I was doing new movements and heavier weights.  It will lead to great growth.
I like the way lifting weights makes me feel, tough and smart.  I am no longer uncomfortable to be in the gym, weaving my way in and out of men heaving weights around, I'm not afraid to make noise if I am digging down to the deepest depths to get that last rep out, and I'm not afraid of looking at the equipment to see what it is and what it does.  I really don't care about what anyone thinks of me and my workout, I leave everything I have in that gym, and that is me conquering my mountain for the day.  To do any less would be...redundant.  And disappointing. 
Well here I am, actually getting a lunch break today, slightly quieter at work.  I am going to go enjoy the peace while it lasts.
Hope your week is going smoothly!

Monday, August 20, 2012

T-Bars and Sweet Treats

My weekend was the perfect mix of calm and chaos, and it was a great chance to put the worst of my head cold behind me and get back into the gym. 
Friday night, the night we usually have a family dinner out, my husband and I decided we would rather save our cheat meal for Saturday when the kids would be out of town on an adventure with my mom.  Even though I agreed it would be more enjoyable, I am so in the habit of eating my cheat meal on Friday nights that it felt a little disappointing to be staying home and eating boring food.  But, I managed to eat on plan and everything was fine.  I was looking forward to our meal on Saturday. 
After we drove to drop the kids off, we headed back to town and took care of a few errands, I stayed on plan the whole time, which was challenging but not impossible.  Then, we hit the gym.  The program called for legs, but my husband advised against it, saying it is the most taxing on the central nervous system, and since I am still not 100% better, he thought back would be a better place to start.  So I trained back.  Since it is a new set of weeks, the workout was different, and I really had a KILLER workout.  I was introduced to T-bar rows.  I think they are my new favorite move, my back felt so great when I was done with them.  When I work out I do it slow and controlled, and try to concentrate on controlling the weight as I stretch on the negative.  I can really tell that I am hitting the muscles correctly because the blood rushes into them and by the time I am starting to feel the burn, I know I am making progress. 
Feeling that I had completely earned it, we showered and headed off to dinner at a nice Mexican place.  The chips and beans tasted so warm and wonderful, and the meal was spicy and good.  I was too full to finish my plate, so my husband helped.  Afterword, we stopped at our local frozen custard shop for a treat.  I normally don't like frozen custard and choose something lighter, but that night I was feeling like I could handle it, due to the workout.  We hadn't been to this particular shop all summer, which is charming because it is designed like an old fashioned ice cream stand, where you order at the window and eat outside. 
Zesty's Frozen Custard
I had a vanilla custard with Andes mints blended in.  It was good, but I should have ordered a smaller size.  We ate our treat while walking along the Fox River Trail, which has beautiful views of the river.
Dock at Fox River
and we had a nice leisurely stroll and talk about the future, and the past, and how lucky we are and how great our kids are.  Its the kind of thing some parents don't get a lot of opportunity to do, and we have been fortunate to have more than our share of it since we moved back by family.  I will miss these times alone when we move away.  On the walk back to our car, we came upon an old, abandoned house, overgrown with greenery, it was an interesting sight.
Despite the creepy appearance, our moods were too lifted to watch a horror movie that night, we instead opted for a Woody Allen movie from our collection.  And we laughed.  Then I slept so deep and wonderful.
Sunday was supposed to be a rest day, but the morning was too beautiful to let escape, so I went for a morning walk.  The air was brisk and refreshing, the sun peaking through some clouds on occassion.  The animals were scurrying about getting ready for the day, and I found myself smiling while I was walking.  It feels really good to be back. 

This tree is down my street in a field.  I call it Perfect Tree because when it is full, it's shape is simply perfect.  I wonder if anyone else notices it as they drive past.
Once we picked up our kids, the quiet was shattered, but by then I was so happy to see them, that I didn't mind the noise.  We had a pretty mellow day together. 
This morning was a bit more chaotic than I like my mornings.  I was up at 4:30am, heading off to the gym for Leg day.  It took me a full hour for my workout this morning, as the weight was heavier, requiring longer rests between sets.  Also, there were 4 sets of most movements, so it took longer than a simple lighter weight/less sets type of workout.  I used the leg press for the first time in about 25 years!  It actually felt pretty good!  There were squats and double lunges and single leg squats.  Then when I got to the last move, leg extensions, I was simply out of time, so instead of doing the recommended number of sets/reps I just did one giant drop-set.  My legs and glutes were so trashed but I didn't have any time to think about it, as I had to get home, and get myself and my kids ready to leave in less than an hour's time.  The morning was very rushed and chaotic, but it all came together in the end.  Sick babysitter means a little extra stress, but there is little that my family can't tackle.  So here I am at work, geared up for a long shift, wherein my muscles will begin to tighten up and eventually get sore.  I say, bring on the pain, that means I did what I intended to do today!  Man, it feels good to be working out again!!
Tomorrow night I will train arms with my husband, so I will only have to tackle a half hour of cardio in the morning.  That means sleeping in, which makes me happy. 
I hope everyone had a great weekend.  Hey, if you haven't tried T-bar rows, you gotta try them.  You will feel invincible afterword!!  Have a great Monday!