Monday, December 14, 2009


This weekend was a pleasant mix of achievement, domesticity and fun.

On Saturday morning Daisy got her first H1N1 shot. (For those of you who follow my status updates on Facebook, you'll know that this was the "achievement" part of this post.) Then went to swimming lessons and came home so that Mummy could... a new car!

Or, more specifically, a used SUV - a 2008 Kia Sorrento EX.

If you've known me for a while know, you'll know that is quite a leap. If you haven't, then let me summarize to bring you up to speed: I like to drive (fast); I like fast cars; I like stick shifts; I frown on automatics because it's like driving a go-kart; my previous car (Altima 3.5SE) was my baby and took my breath away when I drove it for the first time; I vowed never to change any of these preferences and purchase an SUV or an automatic just because I had become a mommy.

Shoot, well, so much for that.

In all honesty, I didn't buy this car because I'm a mommy and/or because I have somehow abandoned everything fun and exciting that I was before. I purchased it as part 1 of my New Year's Resolution - get my financial house in order. I'm going to sell my old car private party (it's paid-up) and use the money to pay off credit card debt. So, you can sort of look upon it as refinancing my unsecured credit card debt for a secured loan at a lower APR (4.7%).

This year has, understandably, been a bit of an expensive year. In addition to Daisy and our vacations (which is what I view my credit cards as being for and which I refused to negotiate for my own mental health), I put other large purchases on my card this year - my Gym, Daisy's Viacord service, to name just two. Now, with credit cards playing hanky-panky with your interest rates and no doubt trying to find new ways to gouge money out of you now that the new laws are coming into effect in 2010, I have decided that it's time to do the responsible thing and move my debt elsewhere

Unfortunately, a new Altima 3.5SE did not fit well into those plans, unless I leased, which I consider to be pretty much on-par with renting a house - good money thrown away. Hence, I needed something different. I've been researching for a while and boiled it down to several vehicles that met my space criteria (room for a car seat and two people in the back seat, a large trunk for strollers and groceries), as well as my own personal preferences (sunroof, power seats, an automatically dimming rear mirror, a compass, and an engine that wouldn't leave me poodling away from a light like a granny.) The Sorrento was on that list and so I visited the local Kia dealer last week for a test drive.

Originally I test-drove a brand new LX 4x4 - the last new Sorrento they had in stock. It felt clunky, too high-up, and, quite frankly, a little cheap and plastic inside. Plus it didn't check a lot of my personal boxes re: features. I wasn't impressed. Then the salesman mentioned a loaded 2008 EX that a Priest had just returned. (Yes, I said Priest - my car has been blessed!)

Aparently said Priest had been recently reassigned to the foothills, just above the snow level, but was told by his boss (? who the heck manages Priest relocations?) that it really never snowed there. So, he purchased a 2 wheel drive vehicle new. Then, this past weekend, a foot or so of snow dropped on him and he freaked out. It seems that he wasn't willing to leave his safety on the snow to prayer alone and returned the loaded EX for a 4-wheel drive LX. His loss was my gain because his $26k new vehicle is now mine for just over $19k. Woot!

Ms. Sorrento is black, has leather, heated seats, power seat adjustment, a sunroof, a 6 CD changer with in-wheel controls, towing package, dual climate control... plus lots more that I've probably forgotten. As a 2-wheel drive it's lower and way less clunky than the 4x4 I originally test-drove and, with it's 3.8L engine, it's not too shabby in the acceleration department either - yay, no granny driving for moi! In fact, the more I've driven it this weekend, the more I've come to love it. I have to say that the heated seats came in really handy this wintery weekend: nothing like having a warm ass

So, all in all, not too much of a sacrifice, although one day in the future I WILL purchase another ridiculously fast car with manual transmission again. This is a temporary, if not entirely terrible, compromise.

As you've probably experienced with car purchases yourself, this took up my Saturday afternoon.

Saturday evening we had a Christmas party to attend and, after Daisy was safely in bed, handed the monitor to Mum and Dad to head-out for a few hours of adult merriment. That's the pic of us all dressed up with somewhere to go, at the top of this post. The best part of the party for me (although the party itself was good) was putting on a dress, looking in the mirror, and actually liking what I saw! Ok, so I still have 8lbs to go but, if I say so myself, I did not look too shabby at all. In fact, I'd venture to say that a good 50% of my pre-pregnancy clothes are now fitting me again! This, obviously, put me in a wonderful mood.

With all the excitement of Saturday out of the way, Sunday was our day to chill. I made blueberry muffins for breakfast (which Daisy inhaled), took a quick visit out for some groveries with Daisy and Mum, and then made our favorite rainy-day dish - Winter Pot Roast.

The only bad thing I can say about the whole weekend was that my back and hips were HOWLING at me on Sunday gnith. I'm not exactly sure what the catlyst was here but all I know is that I needed a muscle-relaxer and two painkillers before bed. Unfortunately, this put me into a comatose state until 6am when I woke up with a start to the sound of Daisy kicking the crib bars, realizing I had completely slept-through my supposed gym time. Drats! Such is the price of a great weekend. Today I'll just yoga.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Motivation - Week 12

Kim Baby Shower 07 012
February '07 - Moi and some good friends at a baby shower. Will my stomach EVER be that flat again????

I'm going to get straight to it because progress has not been stellar this week:

LBS TO GOAL: 7.4lbs

So, I'm just over 1/2 way there. Sadly, however, 50% was not the achievement I was looking for.

The only thing I will report is that my body fat percentage (according to my fancy scale) has been decreasing steadily. I started off at almost 41% body fat (I know, isn't that DISGUSTING!?) and this morning the scales reported just over 37%. If my calculations are right, this means that I have lost about 10lbs of fat in as many weeks. Some better news, at least, assuming the fancy scale is worth it's weight in gold (or, in this case, fat.)

Just gotta keep on truckin', I guess.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On trying to get things in point - Christmas Cards

There is so much to do on a regular day or during a regular month, it seems almost impossible to add-in Christmas to the mix during December. In short, I'm having trouble keeping up; I'm sinking quickly under the list of to-dos.

If you have not received your Christmas card from me this year, it's because I haven't sent them yet. Do not fear, you have not somehow horribly offended me and been crossed off my list (at least most of you who read this blog probably haven't) although I would check in with me if you don't get a card by New Year as you may have some apologizing to do! Said cards are on my dining room table and I'm doing a few at a time, here-and-there, where I can guarantee that Daisy will not reach up, grab the box, and start sucking on the edges of the cards with unrestrained glee. (Obviously, if you get a card with a soggy edge, you'll know I got desperate and let her have at it for a while.)

If it was JUST about the cards themselves, it would be an easy task and you would have had them the week after Thanksgiving. But, it's not. It's a multi-step process and without hours and hours of weekend time to spend doing whatever I please any more, the multi-step process is taking place in multi-stages over multi-days.


First, there's the addressing. I go back to my trusty Outlook address book and realize, as usual, that I forgot to update it with all the new addresses of family and friends from the past 12 months plus the addresses of new friends I'm adding to the list whose addresses I do not yet have. So, task #1 is to get in contact with said people and update/obtain addresses.

Then I look again at the list and realize, in horror, that I have forgotten some of the names of my family's kids. I feel absolutely horrible about this, by the way, but in my defense I am 6,000 miles away and they have been pro-creating at a much faster rate than yours truly. And I'm sorry, I just can't do the card without the personalized greeting; it's important to me to send you a card that I have personally written in and I like to demonstrate thought in *remembering* to include your children on the greeting. I remember being a kid in England and getting soooo excited when someone would send a card to my parents and address it to me also. I've never forgotten that and so I refuse to send out a card unless I have all names of everyone in the family on the Dear.... line. Anyway, task two is to somehow (without offending said family or friend and usually through a 3rd party who keeps better track of these things than I do) obtain names of their kids (and sometimes even spouses/partners.)

Task three is to insert the annual picture into the card. Again, I have some things I'm anal about at this time of year and I just won't send a flat card. I have nothing against you sending me a flat card, please understand but I like a card that stands up. The card stands for me and my family and I want it to, well, stand. So, this eliminates those print-and-go things from Target and Walmart that would probably save me oodles of time and effort and money. Not for me; I buy the folding card and insert a 4x6 picture. This is obviously an extra step and, again, never as easy as it sounds. Anyone who has ever tried to put a 4x6 picture in one of those cards knows that 50% of them are not glued right and so it's a fight to the death just to get the picture down in the pocket. Unfortunately, this year, we did not do so well with some of them and poor Hubby's head seems to be either adorned by a green bow or slightly lopped-off at the top. (Sort of like an enforced flat-top - yes back to 90s for Hubby...Ice-Ice-Baby!) Needless to say, if you receive a card like this, please do not make fun of him - he was a good husband, participated in the maddening stuffing process and does not deserve it.

Next comes the return address labels. This is where I really begin to miss England because you can send something in the mail without having to include a return address on it. Usually, through forethought and foreplanning, I have ordered or created said return address labels in advance of the task of Christmas Card sending. However, this year, the season has sort of crept up on me and not a label do I have. So now, task four, which I am in the middle of contemplating options on, is to create and apply address labels. Decision point here is whether to go to Staples and obtain some of those Avery labels and create the darn things myself OR whether to use some kind of online service to get them designed and printed for me. With the DIY approach, the problem is that those labels never print up right (something always goes wrong with the alignment) or the labels peel off during printing and stick to the inner drum of the printer, thus resulting in many hours of me cussing and trying to make whatever said problem is right. The issue with the farm-it-out approach is now time and money - I'm already late for getting these cards out, especially for the ones that go to the UK, and I would probably have to pay a pretty penny to get the labels overnighted to me.

Finally, there are the stamps. I have regular 1st class stamps but I refuse to use them - they have to be holiday stamps, so I have to wait to the end, do a card-count and go buy some (because I won't use any leftovers on bills after Christmas plus I do online bill pay mostly anyway and barely use more than 10 stamps a year). Either way, since I have cards going to different countries, I have to go to the post office to purchase International stamps, which your local Safeway, Raleys, or CVS does not stock. So then it's off to the USPS, at the busiest time of year, to stand in a 60 minute line of idiots who don't know how to pack and ship a box, obtain the stamps. I then usually sit in my car, apply the stamps, get out again and post them... with a HUGE sigh of relief.

At which point (at some moment in the future, who knows when?) I will finally be done and you will be able to receive your Christmas card.

All I can say is, I sure hope you appreciate it, dammit!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Friday Motivation - Week 11: Progress!


Above pic is me and Hubby in July of '07. (Man, I need a tan again!)

Well, this week has been interesting.

Let's get the diet stuff out of the way...

LBS TO GOAL: 8.2lbs

I'm definitely noticing a difference in the way my clothes are fitting and am able to get into even more of my pre-pregnancy pants at this point - a huge relief for my pocket-book as well as my ego, lemme tell ya! If I can only get below 150 before my vacation to Jamaica (which is the date of my 3 week goal), I think I would feel a decent level of success, even if I don't make it all the way down to the golden 145.

Finally, after a long and brutal illness, my massage therapist returned to work yesterday and I had my first appointment with her in a long time. It turned out to be a breakthrough appointment.

We discovered that my pubic bone issues were being caused? exacerbated? by a lot of tightness where my adductor muscle connects at the joint. Once we got the adductor to release, the pubic bone pain all-but evaporated! She also managed to get my lower-back pain and tightness to go away - the first time in what seems like FOR-EVER! Of course, I now have upper-back pain (more on that later.) My body is like a toothpaste tube with no opening.

I left her office feeling like a completely new person. All the sense of instability that I had in my hip, pelvis, and pubic area seemed to be gone! Then, I decided to do a short yoga workout (all I had time for) and found that the difference in the quality of my movement was marked. Instead of feeling like my right leg was wading through mud in comparison to the fluidity of my left leg, it felt more like water. I was more balanced, felt stronger, and definitely found that my muscles relaxed and eased into poses faster.

To say that I was elated by this development was a complete and utter understatement. Even though I went to bed with tightness in my upper back, shoulders, and neck, just the fact that it was no longer in my hips and pelvis gave me a huge sense of relief - it was progress!

I woke up this morning feeling lighter and more positive than I have in a long time. This morning I had an osteopath appointment and I drove the 45 minutes there with a renewed sense of optimism that, eventually, if I keep doing what I'm doing, I will be healthy and fit and free of chronic pain once more; that I may be able to ski and hike and chase Daisy around the garden; that I will not be afraid to move in certain ways again; and that I will get to the end of the day without the sense of mental, emotional, and physical fatigue that I currently experience, quietly battling away with the pain and stiffness that currently plagues my life (and trying to pretend that it's really not there.)

I turned the music up in my car, bopped around, and actually started to think about the joys of Christmas for the first time. This sounds sort of cliched and all but I actually realized that the sense of hopelessness I have been feeling about the status of my hip has been impacting my energy level and enthusiasm for the season just about as much as the pain itself.

There's been an element of long-term doom hanging over my head for the last year and a half, a feeling that I was stuck with this pain and resulting limitations for life, and that by the time I'm in my 50s and 60s, I'll be so disabled by the whole thing (plus all the other pains of older age) that I won't be able to enjoy life any more. For me, it's not simply enough to exist in life - I have to live it. I have to go sky-diving and zip lining and ATV'ing and hiking and visit new countries and experience new things; without the feeling that I can go at life with full-on gusto, I'm lost. I realized this morning, in that moment of carefree driving, that I was losing hope that this is how my life would be.

Maybe you think I'm crazy for feeling this way, that I'm over-reacting, but I've been dealing with hip pain for 4 years now and have spent the last 18 months of my life recovering from one surgery or another plus I became a first time mommy - when you put it all together it takes it's toll mentally as well as physically. There are days when I miss who I was before all of this, physically and emotionally, so bad that I want to cry. I look at those pictures of me in 2007 (the ones that keep heading up these Friday blog entries) and I wonder how I was possibly that girl and how quickly (relatively speaking) I got from there to here.

So, yes, it was a big deal when I did that yoga workout yesterday and things felt different.

Now to the upper/middle back, shoulder, and neck pain. Yup, seriously, I know, can I get a break!?

I keep putting out ribs. My osteopath snapped three more back into place today. My neck is also so tight she's amazed that I can move my head from side to side. How do I keep doing this to myself? You think I'd know, but I don't. I do, however, notice when my ribs pop out and it happens quite a lot and without any sort of fanfare. I can be sitting here at my desk, typing away, or I can be sitting with Daisy on the floor playing, and I'll feel a pop around my spine. I used to think it was my spine but it's not, it's ribs moving. But it's always when I'm sitting. The ribs are, of course, causing the shoulder and neck tension and, when unaddressed, result in the tension also going down my back. Clearly, the ribs need to be dealt with.

My osteopath suggested focusing on my lats, traps, and pecs more during my strength training workouts, to give my back and my ribs more muscular support and to help improve my posture. This is not the first time I have heard this in my lifetime and so I'm going take that advice and see what happens. I'm also making a very conscientious effort to sit in a more ergonomically correct position at my desk. I know I have a tendency to slouch and, when you work from home where nobody can see you, there is little motiviation to "sit pretty". Therefore, the only way to remember is to remind myself: I'm putting a little sticky on my computer that says "SIT UP STRAIGHT!"

Hopefully, if we can keep-up the progress with the hips and nip the back/shoulders/neck thing in the bud, I'll be able to sense true pain relief and the first inklings of long term recovery.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Things I don't understand about America's relationship with guns

By now you've probably heard about the horrific shooting of 4 police officers in a Washington state coffee shop. As if it's not bad enough that you have to put your life on the line for a bunch of ungrateful (and often dumbass) strangers every day, now if you're a police man, you're going to be watching your back while you're sipping a latte with your family. Horrible.

My sympathies aside, on my way back from the gym this morning I was listening to an NPR report on the aftermath of the shootings. The reporter was interviewing locals and getting their reaction to the tragedy and he came across one man, a taxi driver, who had this to say (and I paraphrase): "I think more people should carry guns... and be ready."

Um...I'm sorry. WHAT!?

Help me understand this America, please, coz Lord knows my English powers of logic are failing me here.

Four trained, armed police officers were sitting in a coffee shop, minding their own beeswax and, despite their on-the-job experience and years of training, were unable to pull their guns out of their holsters in time to protect themselves from this random lunatic. How EXACTLY would you, Mr. Taxi Driver, fair better under the same circumstances with a pistol in your pocket?

Is the argument that if other by-standers in the coffee shop had seen the gunman and were armed, they could have perhaps taken him down before he made his way through all four cops? Because that sounds suspiciously like a gunfight at the OK Corale to me. Maybe two of the cops would have been given time to pull out their guns if the barista had dropped the frothy milk and brandished a shot gun but then maybe the little 3 year old girl sitting with her mother and her hot chocolate would have got a bullet in the head instead.

The circular argument that, because some people have guns more people should have guns, just seems like the ramblings of a bunch of lunatics to me. And I'm sorry if you're pro-gun, I just can't get my head around this stuff, even after 15 years of living in this place.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving 2009 and time to count my blessings. Here are the things I am thankful for this year:
  • A healthy, happy daughter who brightens every day with her goofy smile.
  • That Daisy has lots of people around her every day who love her - Nanny, Grandad, and Aunty Brandy to name just a few.
  • My friends (you know who you are) who support me when things aren't going great and never fail to make me laugh whenever we get together.
  • My husband for being the other half of our great team, for understanding and accepting me just the way I am, and for working hard with me every day to ensure that our marriage remains a sanctuary of love, friendship, and support for us to retreat to each day.
  • Brief moments that I am allowed to spend with Daisy throughout my day by virtue of the fact that I work from home.
  • I have a job - in this economy that's one thing alone to give thanks for indeed.
  • My planned vacation to Jamaica... my deep breath at the end of what has sometimes been a tough year.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE! I hope you have many, many things to be thankful for this year and that your list of blessings only grows in the year to come.

We're off up the hill to spend Thanksgiving with the family - party of 12 this year, in a 1,000 sq.ft. house. Yup.. one more thing to be thankful for - 2.5 acres of forest and a sunny day! No doubt there will be pics to come...

New Swooooon

Ohhhhhhhmagawwwwwwd. I finally saw New Moon last night and have to say that Team Jacob gave Team Edward a run for his money. Jeeeez... as my husband said, there is no aylor Lautner bulked-up that fast without artificial assistance. (Yes, Hubby came with me. I'm a lucky woman!)

I mean... HELLLO 6 pack abs! (And that little V that comes from the hips... fwoah... I need a fan!)

But, at the end of the day, there's just no resisting the broody, come-to-bed eyes of a tortured-soul vampire. Team Edward will win every time, which (for those of us who have read and re-read the 4 books) we already know; poor Jacob is doomed to failure.

Although this post isn't intended to be a review of the movie, nor a Twihard gushing about the respective heart-throb's abs, here is my quick take on the movie.

I liked it better than Twilight... much better. I can see how some people are feeling it's a bit cheesy and I definitely felt that in the beginning but then I also felt the same way about Twilight. There are just such intense emotions in the books that develop over multiple scenes and conversations and this just can't be played-out in a movie (unless it was 5 hours long). So, by their very nature, movies of books always feel like they make jumps or leaps of logic or emotion, which can be awkward and, yes, a little cheesy at times. However, about a third of the way through, the intensity of the relationships in New Moon took over and I was into it.

I thought the special effects and the production values of New Moon were much better overall - although the scenes of the Quilettes changing into wolves had potential to look silly, they didn't; they did a good job with the transitions and with the movement of the wolves overall so that it was somewhat believeable (as believable as five men-come-wolves the size of grizzly bears moving at the speed of light can be!)

I also liked the changes they made from the book to the movie. In Twilight I felt that the added-in scenes were pointless and distracted you from the intensity of the love story (which really needed to be solidly established in the first movie for the rest to make sense.) Whereas, in New Moon, I thought the scenes they cut and added moved the story along without taking away too much from the central theme of Bella's pain and the developing relationship with Jacob. I especially liked the amped-up action scenes. I thought New Moon was the least interesting book overall and I thought that the movie improved on some of the pivotal moments that were somewhat lacklustre in the book.

What I didn't like as much was the soundtrack. I walked away from Twilight with each scene's music almost indelibly embedded in my head and, when I bought the CD, could picture which scene each song went with. I didn't get that same connection with New Moon. The soundtrack was forgettable and therefore the overall movie didn't seem to have that same "it" feel about it, if that makes sense.

Yet, the point of this post is more to wonder at the draw of these books and movies. WHAT IS IT about them? Yes, I have been somewhat vampire-crazy for many years and so I was pre-disposed to like these books regardless. But the impact they had on me when I read them and the level of giddy excitement I had waiting for the movie to start, is quite funny (haha and peculiar) to me.

I'll tell you that I shed a tear when I finished the last of the Twilight books. Those books got me through sleepless pregnant nights and plane journeys and, when I turned over the last page of Breaking Dawn, I literally mourned for the loss of Edward and Bella in my life, so much so that I picked book 1 back up again and started reading back through them. I have probably read each book at least three times by now and am again re-reading New Moon. Isn't that completely nuts???? I mean, I'm 34 years old! Aren't I supposed to be beyond the stage of getting obsessed with the latest teen craze?

Aparently not.

It's like Romeo and Juliet meets Dawson's Creek meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets... well, every major romantic plot line rolled into one. How many great movies or books can we name that meet these criteria!?
  • Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy and girl re-unite.
  • Good girl falls in love with 'bad' guy. Amazingly, he loves her back.
  • Guy has scary secret he's afraid to reveal for fear of losing his girl but girl finds out and loves him anyway.
  • Girl is put in danger and guy saves her.
  • Guy or girl would rather die than be parted.
  • Young love and lust denied and prohibited; the constant struggle with chastity.
  • The love triangle. Girl is torn between two guys who fight for her attention.
  • Best friend falls in love with best friend but he/she doesn't love him back the same way.
  • Teenage rebellion.

... and more besides. The point is that Stephanie Meyer's genius is in the fact that she wraps all of these up into one saga and throws a little mystery and legend in for good measure. Regardless of the fact that she's no Shakespeare, her story is intoxicating and I am one big sucker for the whole shebang.

Roll on 2010 and the movie of my favorite book, Eclipse.


Footnote: And, I might add, I left that movie theater without a single pain in either back or hip for the first time in WEEKS. Aparently Edward and Jacob's abs have restorative properties!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Random Friday Sharings

From NPR this morning: One of the most touching stories I have ever heard. The part about the child's premonitions definitely pulls at your heart-strings but it was the father's acceptance, in reflection, that made tears prick my eyes.

Santa no longer returning mail in the U.S.

Yes, it's true. If you're a kid in any other country in the world, you can send a letter to good ole Saint Nick but here in the U.S., we've perfected the art of the knee-jerk reaction to such an extent that one issue last year has led to the canceling of the Letters to Santa program.

(See more from CBS news here)

I don't care what cock-and-bull excuse the USPS come up with for this, as usual with everything in this country, people over-react because of the fear of litigation. All it takes is one whiff of a situation that may result in a law-suit and organizations (over) react faster than Billy the Kid at the OK Corale.

I used to groan at one of my friends for claiming that the world will have gone to hell in a handbasket by the time her kid is old enough to enjoy it but now I see what she means.

So, it looks like Daisy will have to write to Father Christmas (the English version of Santa) via the Royal Mail. If you have a kid that would like to get a nice, personalized reply from Father Christmas on a nice Christmas card (just like I got when I was a kid) here is the UK address:

Father Christmas
Santa's Grotto

You might also want to include an international stamp to encourage the cross-Atlantic response. Deadline for replies is December 13th.

Friday Motivation - Week 9: BOOOOOOOOOO!

Me and the beautiful bride
Pic above is of me and my good friend "Nike" (Jenny) at her wedding in Dallas, October of 2007. Nike is now pregnant and her first baby is due in March of next year.

Again, another pic from 2007. I can't believe it was just 2 years ago - I look so much younger and healthier, it's SICK. If you go downhill so far in just 24 months, think what can happen by the time you hit your 60s! I think I'll maybe just drink myself into oblivion by then or something - go out with big bang rather than a slow creak.

Well, time to get down to the depressing stats for this week.

LBS TO GOAL: 10lbs

It's becoming increasingly more obvious that I am not going to meet my goal weight by the time we head-off to Jamaica. I've lost only 6lbs in 9 weeks, despite cutting out my evening meal, bread, and most processed foods as well as adding 3 trips to the gym each week.

Depressed. Dejected.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things that are pissing me off right now

  1. That I have to start my day with two mega pain pills
  2. That every time I turn on my tv set I see Sarah Palin - she just assaults every one of my senses. I'm sure if I could smell her, she'd make me vomit.
  3. That I am yet again considering hiring yet another 'expert' to help me try and figure out why I keep injuring my hip/back/pelvis and that this will take more $$ and more time, both of which are in short supply lately.
  4. That I have to end my day with two mega pain pills and a muscle relaxer. (With any more of #2, I might also need a valium.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Small things

As I alluded to in a previous post, I put my back out this past weekend. I'm not exactly sure what I did or how I did it but all I know is that I was walking up the stairs with Daisy in-arms one minute, and unable to put my left foot down, lift, or bend the next.

Unfortunately, this event coincided with my Goddess of Pain Relief - my massage therapist, Tanya - falling violently ill and winding up in the hospital. She got better from the hospitalizing event, by the way, but now appears to have contracted the flu, poor thing. Obviously I feel horrible for her and want her to take the time she needs for her recovery but, from a purely selfish standpoint, the timing really sucked lemons.

Without her healing hands I was left somewhat blowing in the wind. What to do to relieve this pain???

I took a trip to the chiropractor on Monday (somebody I had visited during my pregnancy and the rotten pubic malfunction incident) but honestly don't know if I believe that those little activators actually do anything. A little click here and a little bump there, lift your head, tilt your head, move this arm, push here... ten minutes and $50 later and you're walking out the door wondering if you're feeling relieved because someone told you that you should be feeling less pain, or because you are actually feeling less pain. (If it were really that easy, wouldn't we all just be going to the chiro for ten minutes?) I can never quite tell but I was in enough pain to pay $50 and try.

Tuesday, although bringing slightly less pain and stiffness (and enabling me to kick the pain killers for 8 hours) still presented enough discomfort to make me grouchy by the time the afternoon rolled around. Not wanting to resort to pills again, I decided to pull out the Kundalini Yoga videos.

Kundalini Yoga was my first experience with yoga. Back in 2005, I was under a lot of stress at work and started getting muscle spasms in my upper back and neck. I did a lot of research online and found Ravi Singh and Ana Brett. Their style of yoga promised relaxation and relief without all the pretzel-twisting and, as favored yogis of celebrities such as Gwynneth Paltrow, Madonna, Sting, and the Red Hot Chilie Peppers, I figured there must be something to it. I did their first DVD, Ultimate Stretch, and was hooked. Although it felt as though I hadn't done much at all (I was a gym rat in those days and was used to huffing and puffing my way through a workouts like the Big Bad Wolf), I woke up the next day sore but in a good way. Plus, at the end of every practice, I began to feel energized, loose, and happy. Best of all, the muscle spasms started to go away.

After a while, however, I got more and more interested in other types of yoga and delved into more physically challenging practices focused on building strength and stability. I slowly all-but gave-up by Ravi and Ana workouts.

So, yesterday, was a return to basics, if you will. I let go of the voice in my head that said I needed to be doing something physically challenging that promoted weight-loss and strength-building, let go of "achieving" anything at all really, and did a 45 minute practice, breathing, meditation, (which I often skipped) and all. Once again I was reminded why I turned to Ravi and Ana in the first place: I stood up and felt immediate, palpable relief in my back. The pain wasn't gone but I felt as though something had "let go". It's amazing how the smaller, less ambitious movements of Kundalini yoga, coupled with the somewhat unusual breathing techniques, can really make a difference.

Later that night I dug back again into my tool-chest of things I've learned from past pains and injuries and remembered what a physical therapist suggested for piriformis issues - a tennis ball and a wall. Since I was experiencing pain in my right buttock, radiating out from my back, I fished-out a tennis ball and stood up against a wall, using the ball to massage out the gnarly, painful bits of my back, butt, and thigh. It was painful but oh-so-relieving.

By the time I was ready for bed, my pain had reduced by a good 50%!

So, the lesson of Tuesday was to remember that small things can make a difference; whether a little activator, a deeper breath, or a little yellow tennis ball.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Friday Motivation - Week 8: Late

Just a quick update so you know I'm not slacking off.

Weight last Friday was 155.0lbs. Grand total loss last week of only 0.2lbs. Drats!

Went to Trader Joes yesterday and bought all kinds of yummy healthy stuff in an attempt to avoid falling off the wagon in any way, shape, or form.

Unfortunately, this blasted back strain has prevented me from working out. It's been almost a week since I got to the gym or got on the Total Gym. Pain has started to fade a bit today and I've been able to not take any painkillers, although I'll probably give in tonight to get some sleep.

Chiropractor said I've strained my iliolumbar ligament. Great. Even more parts of my body that I didn't know existed are hurting.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shame on US.

A compassionate, yet rational, perspective on our health care crisis.

"As many people die every three weeks from lack of health insurance as were killed in the 9/11 attacks." -- WOW.

November 12, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

America’s Defining Choice

President Obama and Congress will soon make defining choices about health care and troops for Afghanistan.

These two choices have something in common — each has a bill of around $100 billion per year. So one question is whether we’re better off spending that money blowing up things in Helmand Province or building up things in America.

The total bill in Afghanistan has been running around $1 million per year per soldier deployed there. That doesn’t include the long-term costs that will be incurred in coming decades — such as disability benefits, or up to $5 million to provide round-the-clock nursing care indefinitely for a single soldier who suffers brain injuries.

So if President Obama dispatches another 30,000 or 40,000 troops, on top of the 68,000 already there, that would bring the total annual bill for our military presence there to perhaps $100 billion — or more. And we haven’t even come to the human costs.

As for health care reforms, the 10-year cost suggests an average of $80 billion to $110 billion per year, depending on what the final bill looks like.

Granted, the health care costs will continue indefinitely, while the United States cannot sustain 100,000 troops in Afghanistan for many years. On the other hand, the health care legislation pays for itself, according to the Congressional Budget Office, while the deployment in Afghanistan is unfinanced and will raise our budget deficits and undermine our long-term economic security.

So doesn’t it seem odd to hear hawks say that health reform is fiscally irresponsible, while in the next breath they cheer a larger deployment of troops in Afghanistan?

Meanwhile, lack of health insurance kills about 45,000 Americans a year, according to a Harvard study released in September. So which is the greater danger to our homeland security, the Taliban or our dysfunctional insurance system?

Who are these Americans who die for lack of insurance? Dr. Linda Harris, an ob-gyn in Oregon tells of Sue, a 31-year-old patient of hers. Sue was a single mom who worked hard — sometimes two jobs at once — to ensure that her beloved daughter would enjoy a better life.

Sue’s jobs never provided health insurance, and Sue felt she couldn’t afford to splurge on herself to get gynecological checkups. For more than a dozen years, she never had a Pap smear, although one is recommended annually. Even when Sue began bleeding and suffering abdominal pain, she was reluctant to see a doctor because she didn’t know how she would pay the bills.
Finally, Sue sought help from a hospital emergency room, and then from the low-cost public clinic where Dr. Harris works. Dr. Harris found that Sue had advanced cervical cancer. Three months later, she died. Her daughter was 13.

“I get teary whenever I think about her,” Dr. Harris said. “It was so needless.”

Cervical cancer has a long preinvasive stage that can be detected with Pap smears, and then effectively treated with relatively minor procedures, Dr. Harris said.

“People talk about waiting lines in Canada,” Dr. Harris added. “I say, well, at least they have a line to wait in.”

Based on the numbers from the Harvard study, a person like Sue dies as a consequence of lack of health care coverage every 12 minutes in America. As many people die every three weeks from lack of health insurance as were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Health coverage is becoming steadily more precarious as companies try to cut costs and insurance companies boost profits by denying claims and canceling coverage of people who get sick. I grew up on a farm in Yamhill, Ore., where we sometimes had greased pig contests. I’m not sure which is harder: getting a good grip on a greased hog or wrestling with an insurance company trying to avoid paying a claim it should.

Joe Lieberman, a pivotal vote in the Senate, says he recognizes that there are problems and would like reform, but he denounces “another government health insurance entitlement, the government going into the health insurance business.” Look out — it sounds as if Mr. Lieberman is planning to ax Medicare.

The health reform legislation in Congress is imperfect, of course. It won’t do enough to hold down costs; it may restrict access even to private insurance coverage for abortion services; it won’t do enough to address public health or unhealthy lifestyles.

Likewise, troop deployment plans in Afghanistan are imperfect. Some experts think more troops will help. Others think they will foster a nationalist backlash and feed the insurgency (that’s my view).

So where’s the best place to spend $100 billion a year? Is it on patrols in Helmand? Or is it to refurbish our health care system so that people like Sue don’t die unnecessarily every 12 minutes?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The story of who I am

The story of who I am consists of a chapter about how I just don't tune into other people's feelings and emotions. Although I have played along with this with many of my friends for a long time, I have recently decided that this is a load of codswallap (to coin an English phrase.)

Reason number one for the cod is that this is a relatively new chapter, one that has emerged since I moved to the U.S. There were many stories of who I was back in the U.K. but this was not one of them. So, it got me to thinking that either something drastic changed in my personality immediately after I moved to rhe U.S. (possible but unlikely), that the story was untrue, or that there was some underlying cultural factor that was leading me to be misunderstood.

After my soul-searching and self-analysis I realize that this is one of those areas in life where I have been (and continue to be) classically misunderstood.

For those of you who don't know many Brits, you don't understand how people are back where I was brought up. The expression "chin-up" is the best way to begin: when a friend or family member is going through a rough time, it's generally accepted that you bitch along with them to a certain extent and then tell them that it will all turn out alright in the end. Support is considered to be bolstering one's friends' outlook on the problem, not wallowing in the mud with them. We're a nation of eternal optimism underneath our grouching. Nobody expects much sympathy or empathy; people get on with it because they know there really is little else choice. A good friend "snaps you out of it".

This doesn't translate to the U.S.

When trying to deliver the same friendly support in the U.S., it's interpreted as insensitive. People out here want empathy, they want sympathy, they want you to emotionally connect with their feelings, their problem, they want you to cry along with them. In short: they want you to be their own personal Oprah.

Don't get me wrong, I am not downplaying the importance of empathy or sympathy or judging the American psyche negatively here, just pointing out a major difference and trying to explain that this is not what I was brought up to do. It's not what my culture does. It's not in my DNA.

But, does it mean I'm insensitive or that I can't tune into other people's emotions? NO. IT. DOES. NOT.

An experience with a good friend in the last few years taught me this lesson that I have only recently been able to see with clarity, in hindsight. I thought I was being supportive at a difficult time in every way I knew how. She thought I was being insensitive and expecting too much of her (as if my "chin up" attitude were a critique on her emotionality.) The reality was that I was being supportive but in the way I knew how, just not the way she wanted me to be.

Of course, there are lessons for me to learn here about how to look at people as individuals and try to understand what they need from me as opposed to using a cookie-cutter approach for each friend or loved-one in my life. BUT there are also lessons to be learned on the other side of the equation and, some experiences of my own in the last two weeks have made me realize this acutely: Just because someone does not give you exactly the kind of support you want in your time of need, it does not mean that they do not care. The "understanding the other person" equation is not a one-way street. Sometimes, when you feel someone doesn't understand or "get" you, it could be just as true that you are not understanding or "gettting" them.

Anyone who has known me intimately for any length of time knows that I am generally thoughtful, loving, and loyal as a friend or family member. Yes, I am also frank-speaking, sometimes tactless, and often put my foot in my mouth but we're talking about the difference between intention and action here. The people closest to me, I am confident, would say that I am insightful into other's motives and personalities and that I understand (and empathize with) far more than people expect of me on the surface. (If you don't think this then I'm open to hearing about it but suggest that perhaps you haven't taken the time to know me the way you expect to be known yourself.) How this comes out, how I embody this, may, however, be different to what's expected in the U.S.

I take that onboard and I look to find ways to be a better friend, wife, and family-member every day. BUT, I still say phooey to the story that I am not sensitive or tuned into other people's emotions. I am re-writing this story. If you have been a contributer to my narrative, wipe this slate clean.

Report from the inner sanctum: First night on the TP bed

Ehhh... nothing really bloggable here except to say that I had a freak-out/tantrum about the bed being 4 feet off the floor. I just couldn't get past it last night; it was irritating me all evening.

Not only do I have to climb-up onto it (which just bothers me - you should be able to fall onto a bed, in my opinion) but it engulfs the entire room. I thought we had a great sized master until that monstrosity erected itself in the middle. Of course, the bed takes up just as much floor space as it did before, but the vertical space it now occupies make a lot of difference to how big the room feels. This is all not to mention the fact that our bedside tables are now 3ft below us (I couldn't even see my alarm clock without all-but falling out of the bed to reach for it and pull it up to me) and we would need all new bedding (or, at least, a new stock of dust ruffles, which I HATE WITH A PASSION) just to cover up the foundation. I have one dust ruffle that we have barely ever used. I put it on last night, just so I could have some kind of mental and visual "peace" (I know, I'm a lunatic) but it looks too busy. I'm a simple, no-frills bed kind of girl (think IKEA).

So, in a frenzy, I did some research online last night and found that the mattress alone can be used on a slatted bed base (such as we have), as long as the slats are not more than 6" apart. We fit the bill and so Hubby will be removing the foundation from the equation tonight. Now the question remains: what do we do with a $400 mattress foundation?

As for how it slept, obviously it's too soon to make any judgments yet. What I can say is that I stayed on my back most of the night (which used to be my default sleeping position until a few years ago, when I wound-up waking up with a stiff back) and only turned onto my side at 4am to look at the clock. The difference, to me at least, was that I didn't feel the mattress under me the same way I did with my bachelorette mattress. Hubby, however, woke up a few times in the night, probably just because it was all new. I think we're going to like it but we need to make some adjustments and it will probably take some time to feel any real benefits.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


For the last year, Hubby and I have been toying with purchasing a new mattress. Or, more specifically, Hubby has been saying that our back/leg/hip pain (he has some too) is probably, at least in part, related to the fact that we have been sleeping on a 10 year old, $400 IKEA mattress from my bachelorette days.

I, however, have been resistant. This mattress has been through it with me, ya know? It came with me to my first house where I lived on my own after my divorce and has followed me from Southern California up to Northern California, for a total of 6 moves in 10 years. Like my dog, Frankie, and the entertainment center in my front room, it's my buddy. (Don't tell Frankie I likened him to a mattress and a piece of furniture, however. He'll just growl.)

But, after analyzing our aches and pains in the hotel on Sunday morning, we decided that a visit to the mattress store was in order. So, we packed-up baby and drove out to Sleep Train on Sunday afternoon.

Prior to accepting that I really did need to fork-out hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars for a new mattress, I had done some research online and asked around a bit about what mattresses are good for people with bad backs and hips. Resoundingly, with only a couple of notable exceptions, I heard Tempur-Pedic was the way to go.

So, at Sleep Train, napping baby in stroller, we jumped right on a TP mattress and were instantly sold - the perfect mix of softness and support! We then tried all the traditional mattresses, going through the "mattress tour" that the salesman takes you on to discern if you're a softie or a firmie. (We're firmies, btw.) Unfortunately, it kind of reminded me of going shopping for my car 6 years ago: I got in the fastest, top-of-my-price-range car on my list first and, well, couldn't very well accept anything less after that.

I can see how some people just wouldn't dig the Tempur-Pedic feel - the salesman said that some of his customers felt like they were laying in mud - because when you first lay on it, it's pretty flat and firm but then, slowly, you begin to feel the mattress conform around your body, softening in all the high-pressure spots. So, when you change positions, for the first ten seconds, your body continues to move with the mattress, as body and mattress settle-in together. I'm imagining it will take US some time to get used to as well but the bottom line was that every other mattress we layed on after the TP felt either bouncy and unsupportive or like an immovable rock.

Once we were convinced on a TP mattress, I knew we were in for a quite a shopping spree; Queen-size TP mattresses begin in the low $1,000s. Fortunately for us, we actually didn't like the 'sloppiness' and the high-profile of the more expensive models (I like to sleep as close to the floor as possible) and, instead, settled on the "Advantage" bed and foundation. Better still, we were able to get the floor model for $300 off and buy two absolutely heavenly, $100 latex pillows for 1/2 off.

I know there are some of you out there who would die before purchasing a mattress that had been layed on by a bunch of strangers but, what can I say, we actually thought it was a benefit - we saved money and the bed was already broken in for us. (The TP usually takes 6-8 weeks to break in, during which time it is not at it's most comfortable and, oddly enough, it emits a strange smell, we're told!.)

Once we'd done the deal, we spent the last two nights feeling pretty depressed to get into our old bed and, this morning, we woke up all giddy that we would be getting our new bed today. Email exchange from me and Hubby this morning:

Subject: I hope I'm not making too big a deal about it.....

Hubby: But I can’t wait for the bed to be delivered! It’s like
we’re getting a new car or something…

Me: Me too! we should be careful not to set ourselves up for
disappointment; it may take some getting used to!

... later...

Me: It will be here in 20 to 30 minutes.... soooooooooo

Hubby: Now, now, it may take some time to get used too…….I’m so excited

Me: This is sad.


So, we have the bed now and problem #1 is that it's like 4 feet off the floor (see below pic). What with the bed frame, the mattress base, and the mattress, I'm going to have to consider it part of my workout routine, just getting in bed at night. As I said earlier in this post, I don't like high beds - I like to swing my feet off the side and plant them firmly on the floor - so we're going to have to compromise and take the slats off the bottom of the bed frame and just use the base directly on the floor. Not ideal, but still.

My mother also pointed out to me that, with the current set-up, I'll need all new bedding because it won't reach any further than the depth of the mattress, leaving the bed base and frame exposed. Given that we just spent almost $2k on the new mattress, new bedding is not viable in the near future.

So, some adjustments to be made.

Tomorrow: A report from the inner sanctum: First night on the TP bed.

Monday, November 09, 2009

3rd Anniversary Celebration

3rd Anniversary 2009 006

Although our actual anniversary isn't until Wednesday (the 11th), Hubby and I decided to do something this past weekend to celebrate.

Those of you who were around on December 2nd, 2005, know that we got engaged on the roof of the exclusive Sutter Club in Downtown Sacramento, at a Lyon Real Estate Christmas Party (during the days when the housing market was good and they had swank things like that.) That night we walked gleefully back to our hotel room at the Hyatt hotel, just opposite the Capitol building. (For those of you who don't know Sacramento well, the Hyatt is where Schwarzenegger stays when he's in town. ) It follows that the Hyatt has a pretty special place in our hearts. (Not because of Schwarzenegger but... ok, you probably got it.)

So, when we were thinking about what to do with ourselves this anniversary, we turned to a friend with "connections" at the hotel and landed ourselves a super-swank suite with a killer view of the Capitol from the 8th floor of the Hyatt for one night and at an unbelievable price.

We checked-in late on Saturday afternoon, had drinks and licked the plate of a bad-for-us appetizer (chips with stinky, melted Roquefort cheese) in the hotel bar and then head-out at the crazily late hour of 5:30 to meander around downtown and old town Sacramento. We browsed some shops, stopped for a drink in an Irish Pub and then walked back to an Asian restaurant we've been dying to try for a while called Ma Jong's, just up the street from our hotel. (I highly recommend it, by the way. Well-priced, seat-yourself restaurant with the feel and food of a high-end establishment. Yumm!) Then it was back to the hotel bar for a night-cap...and in our room by 8:30pm, where we languished on the couch watching the big-screen TV until we fell asleep.

And now for the really cool part that every parent out there will totally appreciate: we didn't get up until 9am. That's right. NINE. IN. THE. MORNING. Wow! Yes, that felt AWESOME!

Our final hoorah was a walk back up L street to my favorite breakfast spot, Crepeville where we got to sit outside in the cool, sunny weather, and have a side of people-watching with our scrambled eggs.

Random sightings of the weekend:
  1. Two Jerry Garcia look-alikes on a deserted downtown street corner on Sunday morning, blasting reggae music and holding signs that said "One Love" and "Bring them Home" plus something about health care that was either for the public option or against it, not sure. Talk about mixed messages!
  2. 100 cyclists dressed in period costume (circa 1930s/40s) and pedaling silently down L street. Later research revealed it to be Sacramento's first annual "Tweed Ride". Who knew it, but there is actually a club for people who shun the modern bicycle uniform of tight-fitting Lycra!

Overhead at breakfast:

"Sacramento is such a fascinating city!" Uttered, one can only assume, by someone who doesn't get around much.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday Motivation - Week 7: I needed good news!

HousewarmingParty_FirstAnn 018
Setting the table at our first anniversary/homewarming party - November 2007

Next week is our 3rd anniversary, so I thought the above picture was appropriate. It occurs to me that I seem to like a lot of pics of myself from the fall of '07. Innnnnteresting. I wonder how much of that is how much I weighed/how I looked and how much of it was how much of a good time I was having at that point in my life? Things to think about: does our inner happiness shine through in pictures and/or does our memory of the time the picture was taken affect the way we view the pic?

Anyway, this weeks stats.

LBS TO GOAL: 10.2lbs

Not as good as last week but not too shabby either, especially considering it's been a rough week and I could have turned to bad-for-me foods for comfort. Instead, I managed to add in more exercise than normal, including a very nice and cathartic lunchtime walk with a good friend. Instead of pigging out and spending money at a local restaurant, we donned our walking shoes and chatted while we walked around some local trails. Something I'll have to do/suggest more.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


My absence may have been telling - it has been a rough, emotional week.

Unfortunately, it's not something I can share on this blog (or fortunately, depending on your perspective to the issues at hand) or, I might add, even if you email me and beg for juicy details. Sometimes life presents you with situations that can't be translated into tittilating gossip - this is one of those situations.

One observation I've had during my less-than-stellar week is how much (or, more appropriately, little) bandwidth I have left in my life for "new stuff" these days. Between my hip/leg issues, being a mommy, trying to lose weight, and working full-time, there just isn't much "me" left at the end of the day for anything else. My emotional bandwidth is taken up and, as far as I can tell, I'm not eligible for an upgrade any time soon.

In turn, this lack of breathing room has brought my meltdown button closer to the surface.

Those of you who are FB friends with me know that I had one of those on Tuesday night after a bunch of superfluous issues that would not normally even prick at the surface of my emotional resilience, literally lampooned me and sent me over the edge.

Every now and then, but extremely rarely, I get to a level of frustration and anger that can no longer be contained and one of two things happens: I walk away stat or (if I miss the trigger and don't get out fast enough) I verbally or physically abuse someone or something. (The physical abuse usually happens to things, I might add - remember the battered motherboard that cost me $700 a year or so back?) Fortunately, this was one of those times where I reached the door in time. (Having a 7-month old napping in her room next door to you also has a tendency to change your judgment on when and where to freak out.)

This is one of those times in life when you can't just turn your back on the problem, you can't distance yourself, you can't opt-out, you must engaage because it's not only the right thing to do but also because you care too much about the people involved not to. So, I find myself only at a beginning, not an end.

And, what I realize is that I do have more bandwidth. From where, you might ask? Gimme some, right?

On Tuesday the tech person at work was talking about load balancers. For the technically inept of us, it's a machine that manages traffic to or from a number of servers. It's smart enough to know which of the servers have the most bandwidth left to handle the incoming traffic at any moment in time, and it sends the traffic to the least busy server to handle, thus ensuring that no one server ever becomes completely maxed-out.

It occurred to me today that, in life, our load balancers are our friends and family. For me, the person that showed up this week and who continues to show up for me in every way humanly possible during good times and bad, is my husband. Therefore, our marriage is like a load-balancer, taking the incoming traffic and distributing it wherever there is the most bandwidth. Last week I took some of his load, this week he took some of mine. We take whatever comes at us as a team, no matter which side it's coming from, and we field it together.

Last month marked 9 years that we have been together and next week is our 3 year wedding anniversary. We're going to be staying overnight in a hotel downown this weekend and, hopefully, clearing our collective bandwidth for another week and whatever it might bring.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Art of Non-Confirmity

What I love about online networking sites is how you find out about the most interesting stuff that you would never otherwise have learned of. Whether it's mundane but insightful information about friends and acquaintances that would otherwise have passed-by in the daily grind of life, a special event in your local area you might have missed, a charity or cause that you hadn't heard of but are compelled to support, or a website that someone else became a fan of and that provided you with entertaining or interesting information, it's one of the few ways that technology has actually helped to enrich my life. I love it!

Today, for instance, I learned about The Art of Non-Confirmity, a blog and website that follows the travels and thoughts of one man, Chris Guillebeau. I would summarize what it was about this one man and his ramblings that drew me to him but I think it's best that I take the words right out of his mouth, from his blog. However, suffice to say, this man is my alter-ego in a parallel universe. He lives the life that I would have if I had been braver 10 years ago and made different choices. Of course, it's not too late for me to make those choices at some point in the future but, clearly, for many reasons, now is not my time.

Until it is, I shall live vicariously through his blog posts, which I'm sure are going to become a weekly favorite.

Here are the stated goals of Chris' blog and vocation....

The Art of Non-Conformity (AONC) project chronicles my writing on how to change the world by achieving significant, personal goals while helping others at the same time. In the battle against conventional beliefs, I focus on three areas: Life, Work, and Travel.

Twice a week (every Monday and Thursday) I write on at least one of those topics, and once in a while I profile other revolutionaries who are also changing the world through unconventional ways. You can follow along by RSS, email updates, or just by checking in here at the site.

More specifically:
I write about personal development and life design, with the conviction that you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

I write about entrepreneurship and other kinds of unconventional work, with the belief that the work we do should be both fun and meaningful.

I write about international travel, travel hacking in general, and my journeys to more than 25 countries every year.

The key theme that links each of these topics is nonconformity. I define non-conformity as “a lack of orthodoxy in thoughts or beliefs” or “the refusal to accept established customs, attitudes, or ideas.”

If you’re looking for specific examples of what this means in practice, take a look through the archives or most popular posts. Check it out for a while; you might like it. Or you might not, and that’s OK too.

All of the writing on the AONC site is presented freely with no advertising. If you’d like to support the project, join the small army.

Every Country in the World

The site also tracks my own stated goal for world travel. In my journeys so far I have visited more than 100 countries, and over the next five four years, I plan to visit every country in the world. You can view my current progress here.

World Domination

I’m interested in the convergence between highly personal goals and service to others. I use the metaphor of world domination (ruling and changing the world at the same time) to highlight all the things we can achieve when we choose to live with gratitude and purpose.

You can learn more about that subject in the Brief Guide to World Domination that has now been read by more than 100,000 people in 60 countries. The sequel, 279 Days to Overnight Success, provides a case study for anyone interested in building an alternative career using new media.

The essence of my philosophy is this:

1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
2. If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else will probably end up deciding for you.
3. There is usually more than one way to accomplish something.
4. You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time.

The Reason Why

At the University of Washington, I paid $32,000 over five quarters of graduate school to learn a lot of trivia about governance in Africa (my chosen subject) and this one important fact: it is always very important to carefully examine someone’s motives in communicating.

Whenever you read something, ask yourself, “What are the author’s motivations? Why did he or she choose to devote a great deal of time and effort to one particular thing in exclusion of others?”

On balance, I think this lesson is probably worth at least $32,000 in the long run, but if you can learn it for free and in less time, good for you.

As for me, I started writing for three reasons:

1) I felt I had something important to say.
2) I wanted to transition from helping a few people on an individual basis to helping more people through a broader platform.
3) I wanted to sleep at night.

In the nine months before I began this project, I kept waking up at night with more ideas. If I didn’t write them down, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I learned a while back that when you wake up feeling excited about an idea and can’t shake it, there’s usually a reason for it. It’s a good idea to pay attention to what you’re being told by the universe.

Since I started writing these things down, I’ve been advancing the vision of unconventional living, helping more people, and sleeping great at night.

I mean... oh-my-freakin'-God! Isn't that just AWESOME!? How incredibly inspiring!

Friday Motivation - Week 6: Getting it done

Evani 061007 003

The above pic is of me and my friend, Mala's, daughter, Evani, in June 2007. Evani was about 4 months old here. I had just got back from my honeymoon in Belize and so was sporting a lovely tan. Man, look how thin my arms and legs were here!!! Of course, Evani has done some growing of her own since then: she'll be 3 early next year!

Good news is, I'm still making solid progress back to being that girl in the pic above.

Here's this weeks stats:

LBS TO GOAL: 11.2lbs

If I continue to lose at least 1.4lbs each week, I'll be down to my goal weight exactly on time. Woohoo!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Learning Lessons

I am bold (and vain) enough to think that I'm a pretty smart cookie. So, why is it that I sometimes continue to make the same mistakes?

This week I made a fatal error in judgment and did something that I thought I'd learned a lesson from in many different ways, from many different mistakes in the past. The outcome was almost exactly the same as it had been in similar situations in the past (making a bad situation worse) and yet I was STILL initially surprised. I remained in denial for several hours, where I blamed everything from the unknowable to the fact that I had let my heart get ahead of my brain. (As if I wasn't in control of that very process!)

After several hours had passed and I had time to reflect, I managed to piece together all of those similar situations that I should have cross-applied and it felt like I'd been hit over the head with a very heavy mallet. It was, at once, an "Aha!" as well as a "Duh!" moment. I felt even more chargrinned because I realized that it was a lesson I have had plenty of opportunity to learn.

I think I've learned many lessons in the last six years, particularly. I can't think of any other time in my life (other than when I first moved to the U.S. back in '96) when I have so drastically changed the way I think and react to certain situations in life. I'm not exactly sure exactly why this time of my life has been so influential, although I have some theories.

Part of it, I think, is that I have met some pretty amazing people who have made a huge impact on the way I look at the world and view my own actions; courageous, compassionate, thoughtful, people who demonstrate strength of character through personal growth and self-reflection. My husband is one of those people, by the way. It's so wonderful to be married to someone who shows you how to be a better person. But that's an aside...

Of course, almost all of these lessons I have learned came from making mistakes.

I'm not afraid of making mistakes, and never really have been, but I was, for a long time, afraid of owning them. Notice I didn't say 'owning-up' to them, although that was part of it too. Owning up to a mistake is the easy part (although, for a lot of people, that's a big step all on it's own.) You admit you did something, you apologize (if needed), and then you go on your merry little way in life.

However, owning mistakes (to me) means trying to understand why I made the mistake, taking ownership of those reasons and the outcomes, and making decisions about what (if anything) I would do differently if the same or similar situation happened again.

So now it's even more of a dumbass moment when I realize the lesson I learned got lost somewhere along the way; that I failed to retrieve it at the critical moment of decision and fell right back into an old pattern.

What's also different for me is the speed at which I will readily admit I messed up.

It's not like I didn't have any moments of self-reflection before or never apologized to people but it usually took a lot more time, space, and emotional detachment from the event before I could truly see my own actions clearly. I was blocked, I realize now, by the fact that I would want to defend myself, to sorta-kinda admit that I did something wrong but, at the same time, throw in ten reasons as to why I did what I did - usually excuses that blamed something or someone external.

Now I attempt to fall on my sword right away; get it out of the way as soon as possible by apologizing and accepting (and I mean that as more than a surface-level admission) that I made a mistake or did the wrong thing. Until recently, I didn't realize how much time and emotional energy that took up: trying to hide something, consciously, that was subconsciously, banging on a door to be let out. All your emotional energy is being spent on just trying to keep that door closed at all costs, rather than really dealing with what comes out when you open it. Let's face it, you usually end up dealing with it anyway, at some point down the road and then, sometimes, it's too late to repair whatever you damaged.

So, I messed up. I guess we all do it. They say may all your mistakes be new ones but sometimes you just don't live up to that for whatever reason. I suppose the biggest lesson of all that I can say that I have learned is to accept the lessons themselves. Ten years ago I would still be in the defensive, blaming, denial phase of my dumbass move. Now, I'm mortified I messed up, I've apologized to all who I affected, and I can already clearly see my own actions and the real reasons behind them. Let's hope I can pull this one out of the memory bank and not make a similar mistake again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Overcommitted and overscheduled?

Those of you who know me pretty well know that I make an effort to see my friends, in person, as regularly as possible. Lately, however, it has really struck me just how hard it is to get together with people.

I shared a string of several emails today with a friend who really did want to see me (ie: wasn't just blowing me off) but where her schedule and mine just failed to coordinate for multiple reasons. By the time we were done, we were booking ourselves 3-4 weeks out! The same thing happened just last week with some friends that usually get together as a group - we threw some dates out there for the month of November (remembering this is still only October) and could only come up with one day that worked for everyone. One day... out of 30!?

When I was at home in England, I just don't remember people's lives being this way. But then, maybe I was just a teenager with no responsibilities, who was friends with a bunch of other teenagers with no responsibilities. I don't know, but my recollection was that friends dropped-by on one another unannounced or called each other at 6 o'clock to decide to get together for a drink in an hour. What I remember is that people decided to go to the pub after work and just invited people on the spur of the moment - and people were available, and came!

Yet, since I've lived in the U.S., that kind of social life just doesn't seem to exist, or at least, rarely. People are scheduled to the hilt three, four weeks in advance (sometimes more) and if you don't make the effort and plan ahead it's easy to just lose touch as the weeks and months slip by.

Now, I'm not saying that my schedule is always open either - in fact it's a tad packed for the next week or so - but it just brings up the question: why is this? Why is it that people in the UK have much more spontaneous social lives and people in the U.S. (at least the way I've experienced it) end up running their calendars like a military operation?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Motivation - Week 5: At Last! Progress!


Jamaica has been on my mind this week. First of all, my sister-in-law sent me an email about Christmas gifts and Christmas get-together plans. Secondly, just this morning we had to go and apply for Daisy's passport at the local post office. Finally, I spent most of the morning on the phone with the folks at Delta airlines trying to figure out what I paid $1k per ticket for. (More on that later.)

Jamaica was also the last real vacation that Hubby and I took pre-Daisy and the last time I was any sort of "normal" weight. As all my weight-loss goals are based upon making it back into a bikini by 12/27 when we head back to Negril, I thought this picture was appropriate.

So, let's get to it.

LBS TO GOAL: 12.4 lbs

Wooty woot woot! Yes, I lost MORE THAN a pound this week. I'm soooo happy and so relieved. Maybe this is the beginning of the shedding?

An additional stat: Body Fat% (according to my fancy scale) - 38%. Back when I got the scale (2 months ago @ 161lbs) it was more than 40%! I KNOW! Isn't it ridiculous? Almost 60lbs of fat on my body. BLECH indeed. Anyway, it demonstrates more progress and may indicate at why the scales have not been budging as much - it appears I've lost 4lbs of fat but only 3.6lbs overall, telling me I have indeed been turning fat into muscle.

Enough of the fat/weight/body-image crap.............

Back to what I mentioned in my first para on Jamaica. As you know, Delta Airlines cancelled our direct flight from Sacramento to Atlanta and instead made us take two flights, stopping in Salt Lake City. Then, as you probably also know if you pay attention on this blog or on FB, they moved-up our third flight (the one from Atlanta to Montego Bay) giving us only one hour between flights and little room for delays. I know, nice, right? We get to Jamaica about 90 minutes earlier, which is awesome assuming everything runs on time. If it does not... Ok, I'm not going there, I may have a panic attack.

I think I deserve some kind of discount at this point; if I changed the flights this many times I'm certain the price would have been upped on me. It should work the other way around. Since that's about as likely as Ann Coulter having a crush on President Obama, we'll move on...

As we are traveling with an infant, we need papet tickets and those were issued back in June when I booked them. When I talked to the folks at Expedia after the first flight change, they said new tickets would be issued and sent out to me. I didn't get anything in the mail however, but when I saw the third flight had changed, I assumed that was why and continued to wait. Well, it's more than a month since the original change and I still hadn't received a thing, so I called Expedia back.

NOW their story is that the tickets were never going to be re-issued (that, aparently, was misinformation one of their agents fed to me previously.) However, I did need to go to a Delta ticket office and get my tickets revalidated.

Um, excuse me? WHAT??????

So, I called Delta. The "good" news is that they say we can do it before check-in, we just need to arrive 30 minutes earlier than normal. The bad news is that our flight leaves @ 6:15am, (which, for an international flight, puts us at the airport at 4am either way,) yet the ticket office only opens at 4am.

It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

I gotta tell ya, thank GOD I know the relaxing properties of that white sand and warm, Caribbean, otherwise I could seriously consider throwing the towel in on this one. The potential for this to be an utter nightmare is huge. I'm brave but not stupid.

But then I hear that reggae beat in my head, feel the warm sun on my skin, and taste the sweetness of a Pina Colada in my mouth... and I realize I may in fact be stupid enough to endure all of this, for that. Sigh...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nutrition and me

First of all, thanks to my friend, Elena for her words of encouragement and advice for my previous post. Elena - you crack me up. Yes, you are MADLY supportive, I'll definitely give you that.

The one piece of advice I am definitely going to take from Elena is to take it one step at a time and experiment.

My goal, if at all possible, is not to CUT OUT anything entirely (as in never-ever-ever eat it again) but to remove it from my regular diet.

I am very serious when I say that, while I admire Elena's resolve, I CANNOT and WILL NOT live a life where I examine every single ingredient on a restaurant menu or send instructions ahead of me to friends or family who invite me for dinner. Holidays and vacations are also non-restrictive zones. I'm not (what would be to me) spoiling those occasions by obsessing about every morsel that I eat.

Let me be clear: I'm not saying ANYTHING about Elena's reality here, just about what's not acceptable to me.

So, here's where I'm going to begin, based upon Elena's advice, my own research, and previous experience:
  • Cutting back on processed foods is definitely something I'm going to start doing right away. I have done this in the past and I have noticed energy as well as weight-loss gains. The more and more I think about it, the more I realize that, with the exception of a few key items (like Heinz Baked Beans) I ate a lot more unprocessed food when I was living in England. Since I've moved to the US... not so much. Is it a coincidence that I now weigh a wopping 60lbs more than I did when I moved out here 15 years ago? I think not.
  • Bread is bye-bye. Again, I have done this before (back when I was 105lbs) and have lost weight cutting it out of my diet. Honestly, it's not that big of a deal for me. Do I like bread? Yes. Is it essential to my enjoyment of food? Um, no.
  • Cut back on inflammatory foods. Increase anti-inflammatory foods and ingredients. Fish, berries, vegetables, olive-oil, whole-grains, brown-rice, ginger, rosemary, garlic, onions, red wine, and green tea - IN. Salt, soda, bread, sugar, red meat, fried foods, smoked foods, and processed foods - OUT. (Honestly, aside from the sugar and processed foods, I don't really eat much of anything on this list already.) Dairy is also on the inflammatory list. I'm on the fence with this one - I love eggs, cheese and milk. These will be a last-resort removal, although I'll definitely be more conscious of how much I consume now. Let's face it, do enough research and you'll find that eggs and milk, especially, have many of their own health benefits. Everything in moderation. I truly believe that: I think that (with the exception of all the added-in crap for processed and packaged foods) your body needs a little bit of everything (some more than others) to work optimally. Cutting any major food group out just doesn't make sense to me, unless, of course, you can establish that you are allergic to it.
  • Consider adding supplements and/or different herbs and spices to my diet. Chamomile, Ginger, Willow-Bark, Boswellia, Bromelain, Vitamin D, Calcium, Paprika, Cumin, Tumeric, and Fish Oil all seem to come up over and over again on websites I found on anti-inflammatory diets and digestive health. (Although, the more I started researching, the more I found that just about every vitamin, herb or spice seems to have a magical digestive or anti-inflammatory property which makes me somewhat skeptical overall.)

I'm also looking seriously at studying the Mediterranean diet in more detail. I've heard from many sources that people living in Mediterranean countries consume high amounts of fat but incidences of heart disease and cancer are lower. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (so, not some goat farmer from a rural area of Greece) found that a traditional Mediterranean diet reduces inflammation and cardiovascular risk.

Finally, I'm not throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. I'm going to continue doing (or try to improve my consistency in doing) many of the other, more basic things that I have always found to work: drink more water, eat little and often, and don't eat after 6pm. I'm also planning on keeping a food diary.

Last night we went to the store and I bought Ginger Tea (not bad as it goes), raspberries, lots of salads, spinach, onions, fish, and veggies. A good first step. This morning I ate a healthy egg-white omelette with onions, spinach and a small slice of cheese.

My main focus initially is to find things I already like that fit into the "new diet" category and eat more of those rather than to add new things into my diet that I may not enjoy so much. I mean, how likely am I to stick to a new nutrition plan if I'm not enjoying the food I eat? Knowing me - not frickin' likely at all.

As one website said: Eating well doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out your favorite foods. It entails making adjustments to the amounts you eat from each food group.

THAT I can deal with. Wish me luck!


Side note for Elena: I tried a Gluten-Free diet for about 4 months last year (had to stop when I got pregnant on the advice of my doc) I experienced no significant health or weight loss benefits as a result. Conclusion: I am not gluten or wheat intolerant. While some foods that contain gluten and wheat will probably be on my no-no list for other reasons, I don't see any value in removing either entirely.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Connecting the dots

Yesterday I went to see my massage therapist. She has been on vacation for a few weeks and so I have not seen her in more than a month. During that time I have been stepping up my workout routine in an effort to get fit, get strong, and well, let's face it, lose that effin' baby weight. So, with all those things combined, I was a ball of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia all fighting for a channel to spreadh their pain message. Tanya, my massage therapist, as usual, found them all one by one. It was brutal.

Today I went to see my osteopath. I had not seen her in 2 weeks. Her nose scrunched up in disappointment when I told her my current pain level (3-4) and list of ailments. (Nothing you haven't already heard, so I'll spare you the details.)

I told her I had been stepping up my exercise routine and thought that may have been the cause of the increased issues. She asked me exactly what that meant (ie: what I had been doing and how often) and by the time I had finished listing everything I do, she was pretty gobsmacked. It was only then I realized myself how much all these things I've been incrementally adding actually added up to:

  • Power yoga 1-2 times per week
  • Cardio @ the gym 3 mornings a week
  • 30 minutes of strength training on the Total Gym 3 times a week
  • 30 minute walks 3-4 times a week

Of course, I had the passing thought: Why the hell am I not losing weight? I didn't have time to linger because my treatment started.

At some point during an assault on my IT band, the doctor asked me if I was pooping fine. Strange question to ask, right, given that I was there for hip, groin, and thigh pain? It was, however, a thought-provoking question because that... um... particular element has been somewhat back-and-forth from different extremes lately. (Sorry if this is TMI - you know where the "x" is on your web browser!)

When I reported my... problem (let's call it) she said that osteopathic medicine believes that there is a connection between IT band tightness and my GI tract. Blockages or areas of tightness in my lateral thigh, therefore, could be caused by my erratic pooping or, of course, visa versa. I asked her which was which in my case and she said it was a bit like the chicken and the egg; you don't know which way around it is.

Logically, my brain went to the conclusion that nutrition and diet could be affecting all of this. (Of course --- and before you get to the comments section Elena --- this is not the first time I've heard this but it was the first time that I've opened my mind to the possibility.)

Further research when I got home basically led to articles on the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is a part of it. In lamens terms, the PNS regulates the body's visceral organs via the innervation of three kinds of tissues, one of which is muscle tissue. Through this process the PNS is connected to your GI tract, your bowels, your pelvis, and, particularly your pelvic diaphram. (It's all a lot more complicated and involved that that but that's the reader's digest version.)

Since all of these things are connected, it is possible that either:

(a) Many of my pain issues are causing pooping issues or

(b) My pooping issues are causing many of my pain issues, particularly in my pelvis and pubic bone area.

Of course, if it's (b), a different diet could help.

And then, of course, there's the issue of my not losing weight despite all the exercising and dieting I have been doing.

And then I connected the dots.

And then came the acceptance.

Maybe - just maybe - if I changed my diet, I could affect my pain outcomes and lose weight.

Bottom line, I've been avoiding this conversation with myself for quite some time. I've seen friends change the way they eat and report benefits above-and-beyond weight-loss but I thought I knew better. (Or, realistically, hoped I did.) I've lost weight in the past on my own knowledge and under my own steam and thought I could just go down that the same path again.

Yet, it's not working. I've been at it for more than 4 months now and haven't really lost a pound. Ok, I haven't always been as "good" as I could have been and have only recently stepped-up the exercise but there should have been some incremental improvement; I haven't seen it.

Although I have been too stubborn to admit it, my body is not responding as it once did. This could be attributable to my age, my hip surgery, the fact I carried a baby, and/or my c-section. Who the hell knows? When I list it like that, it's quite frankly unsurprising that my body may be a different beast these days.

I'm not saying I'm definitely convinced there's some hollistic answer to all of my problems and I'm absolutely not saying I'm going to become some crazy person who will only eat certain foods and who delivers a 20 minute list of dos and don'ts to the waitress at a restaurant. I'm just saying that I'm open to modifying my diet right now. The whole nerve thing made sense on a practical level (rather than the hocusy-pocusy level that this stuff is often presented on) and so I'm willing to try.

So, I started googling nutrition and pain. I've already found some interesting information I think I can put to work right away and I'll report on that in a future post. For now I'll end here and await the "I told you so!" (and helpful advice) from my friend, Elena. :o)

Friday, October 16, 2009

No shame but no gain


The above picture was taken for Halloween 2007. Dang I was thin. Sigh.

Ok, so let's get straight to it. It was not the successful week I was hoping for.

LBS TO GOAL: 13.6 lbs

Clearly 0.2lbs can be the difference between pre-pee and post-pee, so I'm not going to beat myself up about that. But the reality is that I have not LOST any weight. Again. I'm stuck. I just don't get it.

This week I even instigated an early morning gym session. I got up Monday, Wednesday, and today at 5:30am, dashed off to the gym as quietly as I could, did 30 minutes of cardio, and dashed back before Daisy woke up. My goal was to get there and back in an hour, and I made it each day. On those same days, I still did a 30 minute Total Gym workout. I also did a Power Yoga workout on Thursday.

The only thing left to do, that has worked like gangbusters in the past, is to cut out my evening meal. Eating at night has never really worked for me. When I was at my thinnest, I was skipping that end-of-day meal and eating a snack in the late afternoon instead. This way, the food still has time to burn off.

Mostly, I eat in the evening to be social. Time with hubby, time with family etc... Secondarily, I eat because it makes sure Hubby eats - he needs to eat; we need to change the balance of weight in our relationship. Since Daisy has been born, however, we rarely get to eat together, we usually get take-out, and I eat it so fast that I barely get to taste it. So, it's got to go. That's the change for next week.

As for my hip. Rotten week. My right butt cheek feels like it's been hit with a baseball bat, over and over. I know what this is - a combination of a tight piriformis and tight IT band - but I'm going to have to get ahead of it today and take a muscle relaxant - I can barely sit on it.
Related Posts with Thumbnails