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Diagnosed with gallstones: Changing my diet didn’t help (at first)

Following my diagnosis in mid-November, I changed my diet pretty drastically. I did a lot of research on the Interwebs and talked with a friend who had also been diagnosed with gallstones. She had met with a surgeon and was considering surgery, but her symptoms went away and never came back. She drank a lot of apple juice, which sounded like a good idea to me.

My symptoms continued to wax and wane. During one of my first days at work, my boss took me out to lunch. I ordered a pasta dish and forgot to ask if it was prepared with butter or olive oil. Given the discomfort I felt afterwards, my guess is that it was prepared with butter. I was able to finish the day at work, but felt frustrated with myself and this new condition that I was living with. I was still confident that I would come out on top, or maybe I was just in denial.

I cancelled Thanksgiving Day plans because of this lunch incident and because I didn’t want to be *that* person who asked: What is this made with (when looking at every dish)? I even had a great idea for a gluten-free dessert, which I ended up making and which wasn’t very tasty. Sigh.

I drank apple cider vinegar and read about liver flushes that you could do by at first fasting, or eating apples, and then drinking olive oil mixed with citrus (typically lemon juice). That didn’t sound appealing, quite honestly. I tried turmeric and milk thistle. I wasn’t eating any red meat or fried foods, and cut back on high-fat dairy, including cream in my coffee.

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Midwestern kindness

Tracey, Mary & Cindy

hi mary! it was real nice to see u at the reunion the other night. u were always a nice person to me in high school and still are a nice person now! take care and i hope to see u before the next 10 years pass!

I traveled home, to the Midwest, twice in August. The first time was primarily to visit my parents. Last Christmas, we talked about going on a trip together and couldn’t quite make that work (cruise to Alaska, Montreal). And then we both thought at the same time: Why not come home? I hadn’t been home in several years, since my parents now visit every Christmas.

I was looking forward to the trip. I still have close friends who live in Northwest Indiana (AKA The Region). Band of Horses was playing a show in Chicago and I managed to snag tickets before the show sold out.

My parents always spoil me when I’m home. My dad gives me money when I go out with my friends, and when I leave. My mom offers to do my laundry, which I never really need to have done during these short trips home. They let me sleep in and I take walks around the neighborhood with my mom.

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What does “yes” look like?

YES

Inspired by Alice Derry’s “Fooling Around,” and poet & teacher Elizabeth Austen

I’m saying “yes” these days to adventure, eating vegan (B6, mostly) and finding a new level of happiness. “What smoking, drink and the wrong man had done.” That could have been me, but I only had a few months over the course of a few years of damage.

I’m still a bit green in terms of this change, if that makes sense, though in many ways I’ve always said “yes.” The yoga retreat in Kauai was a boost and reading “Wild.”  Starting Bar Method in April kind of kicked off this new perspective, and then ballet lessons. I’m drinking less (mocktails with Lisa B. and Chloe!) and my rewards the other night included an impromptu ballet performance, Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” on the way home on the radio and a gorgeous sunset with radiant and explosive colors of gold, white, pink and blue.

I’m saying “yes” to a quick walk down the street with my camera after spying a pre-rain rainbow in the early evening. It was gone, alas, but I captured some pretty photos of the sky and crew members on the Montlake Cut heading towards Lake Union.

I’m saying “yes” and “no”to invites for meet ups, ensuring that I have a little down time and that I get my workouts in. Cleaning can wait. (ha)

And I’m saying “yes” to attending my high school reunion in August. At first glance of the post on Facebook, I thought “no,” because I was already going home at the beginning of the month. But I haven’t been to the last few reunions. And then FB friends forwarded the invite. Shannon, whose locker was just a few steps away from mine from 7th through 12th grade sent me an email message about the reunion. And the plane ticket wasn’t that expensive. So I’m going to do it. Oops that my parents won’t be home and I’ll need to rent a car and will maybe want to stay near Midway on Sunday night, because my flight is early-ish on Monday.

Julie Robertson, class of ’87 at DePauw University, and a sorority sister we fondly called “Pluck” because of a Woodstock costume she wore during rush, died two days ago from ovarian cancer. May she rest in peace.

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Yoga, Kauai, vegan-ing, bliss, Samadhi

Secret Beach

Books read: 1, Wild: From lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed. This was really the perfect book for me to read, even if it sounded cliche to take on a yoga retreat in Hawaii – Cheryl’s mother died, her marriage fell apart and she went to find herself on the trail. I’m inspired to visit some of the places she described along the trail, inspired to be even more adventurous and take trips in the wild and calm.
Yoga classes: 13 (7 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily), courtesy of Samadhi yogis Kathleen (the lovely) and Sheev
Pounds lost: 4
Hikes: 2, including the Na Pali Coast trail (treacherous, sweaty! and got rained on, which felt pretty heavenly. Remnant – a blood blister on my big toe, right foot. Gross, but true.)
My yoga mat was mistaken for: fishing pole container, “a piece of rubber”
Dogs encountered:  5 – including one-eyed Maui, Kona and Pua (flower) at the retreat center
Laps in the pool:  unknown, but swam on two different days. Sun was harsh and left me with a “tramp stamp” sunburn one day (thanks for that description, K)
Rainbows viewed: At least half a dozen, while experiencing yoga on the lanai. Hope that my photos captured it.
Animals heard, day and night: Geckos, cows, chickens, roosters, dogsVegan meals:  7 + – I think I’m a convert. I know, it surprises me, too. I lost weight, feel wonderful, didn’t miss any foods and my skin looks fabulous, too. I may opt initially for Mark Bittman’s Vegan before 6 or VB6 as the cool kids say.

Smoothies: 12, estimate. Pina colada on the final day (virgin, of course).
Recipes to try: Coconut lime banana bread, Okinawa sweet potato curry (if I can find that potato here in Seattle), raw pumpkin pie- some from Jennifer’s 30 Minute Vegan cookbook. Yes, we were blessed to have her as our chef for the week.
Incorporate more in diet: macadamia nuts (though they’re expensive here on the Mainland), sweet potato, avocados, smoothies, vegan foods as declared above
Items purchased: Long-sleeve rash guard, tank top with cut-out back from QuikSilver
Beaches visited: 2 – Secret beach and non-secret
Naked humans observed: 3, at Secret beach. A woman praying to the gods of the ocean, a man rolling on the sand as we left the beach, another man walking in the distance. L walked closer to land so that she could see him. JK.
Dolphins: 60, according to a local surfer who captured some film on his birthday. Hurling themselves on the air … Breaching the surface and having so much fun at Secret beach.
Alcoholic beverages: one-ish, glass of wine with dinner on our final night at Dolphin in Hanelei
Fish tacos: 3
Places to visit next time: Queen’s Bath, Garden Cafe at Common Ground, Tiki Tacos, Secret Beach (again)
Summary statement of the week: good God (R on the final day, struggling with virasana after an arduous hike. I felt the same that day. Thank you for verbalizing.)
Music in my head the entire trip: Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia. And does it not sound like Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” in the beginning? I so need to be a DJ.
Movies to watch: South Pacific, North Shore
Hikes to try: Mt. Rainier, Bagby Hot Springs
Future vacation: Alaska
Items thrown away: Keens, bathing suit bottoms (too big, falling off my bod in the water at the beach and, yes, I had a smaller pair with me)
Items to replace: Keens
Products to try: Lavender and echinacea body lotion (courtesy of L)
Books to purchase or get from the library: 30 Minute Vegan, Bitters by Brad Parsons (recommended by V)

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Claire, the refrigerator and the heat

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

I started watching “House of Cards” recently, after hearing a lot of positive comments on it and watching a bit of the White House correspondents’ dinner (which included a video with Kevin Spacey, one of the show’s main characters, Congressman Francis Underwood).

Robin Wright plays his wife. She’s so beautiful and a great actress. Like many, I’ve loved watching her since she appeared in “Princess Bride.” Her character in this show is not exactly a princess. That can be a little shocking.

In one of the episodes that I watched, Claire retreats to the kitchen to get more chardonnay for friends who are over for dinner. The female friend follows her into the kitchen, and sees her lean in to absorb the cool air. When I was watching, I thought that she was exhausted because the dinner was work-related and she was hitting this couple up for money to support her company. And they live in D.C., so who doesn’t want some additional cool air, especially if it’s summer time?

But the female friend initiates a conversation about hot flashes, and asks Claire if she is also getting night sweats. Claire changes the subject.

A few episodes later, husband Francis mentions that he has seen her lingering at the fridge. “Does it hurt?” he asks. “It’s not pleasant,” Claire says. He asks her if there’s anything that he can do and she says, “no.” I was intrigued by these exchanges because, as a blogger for Slate penned earlier in the year, you don’t often see scenes about menopause on TV.

I haven’t been lingering at the fridge but I am experiencing those same hot flashes and night sweats. I’m a few years older than my mother was when she went through menopause (which is how clinicians gauge timing) but even that small triumph is not a big consolation.

One of the worst parts of it for me, really over the last year, is interrupted sleep. I had been waking up really early for awhile, couldn’t go back to sleep and wasn’t sure why. I joked with friends about having Bill Clinton eyes. (Thanks for that, Clara S.) Initially, I thought that my bedroom might be too warm. That could have been part of it. But thinking back now, something similar was happening last fall when I spent the night at a friend’s house … kicking off the covers for a bit, and then diving back under the blankets.

The night sweats aren’t horrible. I feel a wave of heat come over my face, really, so I’m a little prepared. And there is just a small amount of moisture that I can easily wipe away. There is often a few drops in the crooks of my arms, too. Earlier this week, when I wasn’t feeling well (summer cold), it was also damp behind my knees.

I started acupuncture a few weeks ago and it slowly seems to be helping. I am now able to go back to sleep when I’m so rudely woken up, and that is a relief. It also seems to help when I don’t drink regularly (and that’s a good thing for me, too, I know). I slept in last weekend one day for the first time … in forever.

The last period that I had was in January of this year, and my nurse practitioner said I’m not officially in menopause until I haven’t had a period in a year. I can still get pregnant until that time, she said. It’s a lot to deal with – being single, not having any kids and now being pushed beyond that point. I know that I could always adopt if I really wanted to have kids, and it’s not like I have ever given up the chance to have children. It just didn’t happen for me.

So there’s all that behind this change I’ve moved into. I had dinner with a friend, Piper, recently and she said another friend of hers was going through the same thing. As she talked about grieving the loss and moving forward, I immediately burst into tears, and she hugged me tightly. “No one has ever talked with me about this,” I said.

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Days 26 to 37 of 40: Walking in sunshine

Lake Union in Seattle

Today’s walk – two hours, around Lake Union. The sun was shining and my legs are sore. I’ve not been doing well at keeping up with daily thoughts or even slightly less frequent thoughts during the last of these 40 days. And I’m only feeling some slight Catholic guilt about that.

Since I last reported in, I’ve hit yoga and also did a few rounds of aqua aerobics (!). I haven’t hit my bicycle yet, though the time is coming soon. I jotted down some thoughts or a few words about the recent chant from yoga: Shiva shiva shiva shambo. According to a site that I found online, Shiva is pure consciousness and the realization of our nature as infinite or immortal, never born or dying. Thoughts that I take away from yoga, in general, are to try and not let things affect me as much. I’ve got a ways to go in mastering that concept. And while I’d love to not let the thoughts that bring me down get to me as much, the thoughts that send me in a more ecstatic direction also come to mind. How could I not be excited at seeing a celebrity in class, as an example? I get as giddy as a teenager and it feels wonderful and silly for days. The dilemma of being more zen.

The pool at my gym is being repaired and it’s shut down for a few more days. But I was happy to get in a few more aerobics classes there before the repairs began. The last time I hit class, I swam laps for about 10 minutes before class. The Saturday class could be a new favorite, and was more intense than the first class I hit during the holiday weekend. The music was more modern, too, and included Adele and the Lumineers along with some Train. No more sweating in the water to the Oldies.

There’s now only three more days left in this challenge. A real work-out will be challenging in the next few days because of plans after work, but it’s entirely possible that I can finish out strong on the 40th day.

And I’ve got other non-40 day thoughts on my mind after watching Girls tonight and thinking about what I really want to do in life. And feeling more inspired than I was earlier today, after reading several depressing stories in the New York Times.

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Days 24 & 25 of 40: Swimming to the oldies

ImageI got two … count ’em … two workouts in yesterday, on a day off from work. And it felt pretty fabulous. I decided to hit an aqua aerobics class at the gym (photo example left, of course) because I was curious and also thought it could be a good workout. It had been years since I took that type of a class; the last time was at my parent’s condo pool with my mom and some of her neighbor friends.

I was one of two younger-ish women in a class of 25 to 30 students. At 11 a.m. on a Monday, I didn’t expect a lot of younger people. We aqua’d to the oldies, if you will, doing sprints, lunges and twists to dance-ified versions of “Under the Boardwalk” and “Jailhouse Rock.”  I could barely hear the  music during most of the class, but the instructor was great in providing encouragement and keeping us going during the 60 minutes of class. She stayed on the deck the entire time and I know she’s the teacher, but she was pretty impressive in mixing it up and even providing some in-water stretching at the end. The heater was broken, which made for a chilly entry into the pool but I and others obviously survived.

I hadn’t then planned on going to yoga, but my friend, L, wanted to meet up because she didn’t get her workout in earlier in the day. 90 minutes with Steve, who shared thoughts about equanimity at the start of class. It sounds like a tricky thing to strive for though it’s been discussed before in class in different terms – not letting either pain or pleasure really rattle you. It seems like the ultimate in reaching a zen and Buddhist state, too.

And now, on to today. 30-ish minutes of walking, including a nice long walk in the middle of the day, when the sun was shining here in Seattle despite the cold. 10 minutes of the walk today came at the end o’ day, walking with D. from the office to vehicles parked offsite. Here’s hoping we’ll have more sunny days during the rest of the week. I’m pretty psyched about the way I’m closing out this second half of the 40 days.

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Days 17 to 23 of 40: Back on track

Half moon pose from Yoga Journal

My real work outs began again this weekend, one week after gum graft surgery. (Yes, this is a funny video and no, I didn’t find it completely accurate. There is not any gum in the roof of your mouth; it’s tissue.)

Yoga yesterday, and today – 90 minutes each class. I feel great. My torso is sore in a good way from the twisting and core work (thank you, Liz).

Earlier in the week, I made sure to walk every day. Of the highlights, on Monday, I took a walk to the University District to pick up a prescription. 40 minutes round trip. I was still feeling the effects of the surgery, and while peeking gently at the gum graft sites, I worried a bit about whether I might have an infection. Turns out, now that it’s healing up even more, it was just the sutures on the left side of my mouth that looked like an infected wound. Gross, I know. And I also figured out that if I really did have an infection, it would have been hurting and not just looking like something was wrong.

My periodontist said right before the surgery that it was great to see a patient that had so much saliva flowing. She said that most of her patients are on so many medications, it dries up the saliva. Not something I’ve always thought about being thankful for, but it was a nice reminder that I am healthy and not on a bunch of meds.

On Monday, during that long walk, I took a cue from a scene in Liberal Arts. The main character walks around listening to opera, and he comments on how it has changed the way he views the city. In that scene, everyone looks at him and smiles (the scene takes place in New York City). I was listening to Mozart arias performed by Cecelia Bartoli. It’s a favorite disc of mine though I haven’t listened to it for awhile. Sorry to report that the music did not have the same effect on the people that I passed. Maybe one or two smiled, but one guy gave me a pretty quizzical look and a lot of people ignored me. So – interesting experiment but not quite the same results.

My horoscopes have been strange and somewhat dark this week on Astro.com. On Tuesday, Feb. 12 the subject line was: Something is wrong. Yikes. On the one hand, some of what was in there is true – you’ll separate yourself from persons or circumstances that are doing you no good. But then it went on to say in the process, I’ll experience a considerable amount of tension, and that I may be confused for awhile. “You would be well advised to go off by yourself for awhile, because other people’s advice will be of little value, unless you select your advisors with great care.” The horoscope went on to say feelings of restlessness and uncertainty would be strong. I actually do feel some of that.

Looking more on the bright side, the subject line for today is Soft lights. But, wait – tomorrow is A new tack. More thoughts on this change in direction for my life. “Keep working, for your efforts to expand and liberate your life are not finished.”

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Days 15 & 16 of 40: Fog

Dense fog in Seattle from Wikipedia

This is how I felt this a.m. when I woke up: Foggy. After having gum graft surgery on Friday (my second go-around with the procedure), I woke up this morning a bit disoriented and hazy. I had a surprisingly hard time falling asleep last night, and was concerned that any teeth grinding might disrupt the new tissue waiting to bind. And I say “surprisingly hard” because I went to a friend’s b-day gathering and stayed up later than the night before.

My periodontist had said to wear my night guard, but I wasn’t sure if that would be enough to prevent damage. My mind was wandering, too. I took some ibuprofen to get rid of the slight ache in my lower jaw and ended up popping a pain pill that did help put me to sleep. Hence, the fog, I suppose.

I watched a great movie yesterday with a wonderful soundtrack: Liberal Arts. The movie is set in both New York and Kenyon College in Ohio (though un-named in the movie), and it’s got a couple of really great quotes, including: “The purpose of fiction is to combat loneliness” (David Foster Wallace) and “Everything is okay,” from none other than Zac Efron, in a (unexpectedly) funny hippie role. The Kaiser Cartel plays a cool tune in the closing credits, and I now need to dig up my CD of theirs that a friend gave to me a few years ago.

Yesterday, I slept in and went downtown to do a little shopping. My initial plan was to walk downtown (45 minutes, but I decided that it would be better later to do a 30-minute walk instead). I got a bit overheated and was concerned that I was fever-ish during the shopping trip, so I made my purchases at the Gap (new work bag, scarf and throwing out the old, worn ones) and headed home.

I have higher hopes for today and plans to walk with a friend. I’ve lost 4 pounds already due to the “soft food only” diet. These were pounds that I really needed to lose, so this is all good stuff.

The sun is coming out, too, and the fog is burning off. Coffee is kicking in, and the Hoosiers are on TV, up on Ohio State at the moment. I feel like I hit another slight and extended bump in the road in my 40 days with this surgery but also know today is another day, and I’ll get done what I’m able to. Everything is okay.

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Days 12 to 14 of 40: (Keep swimming)

Pool from beyondthecreek.com

Wednesday – the first bump in the road of the 40 days. With happy hour plans after work, I brought gym shoes so that I could walk during the day and also thought if I got home early enough, I could take a quick walk or do some yoga at home. Rachel and I were all set to walk outside and it was pouring rain, which is actually a little unusual for Seattle … at least during the day like that. We ended up walking a bit in the halls and up and down some stairs at work, but I don’t consider it really getting our walk in.

And I didn’t get home early enough to do anything except change clothes and head to happy hour.  That still felt good for the soul and it was nice to catch up with my friend, M, who had gone on a fabulous trip to Nepal and had all kinds of things to share about life. She listened to my “yes, I went back for a third time” tale, hugged me and told me (as many others have) that I deserve so much better. It has finally mostly sunk in, that line of thinking.

Thursday, last night – upgrade my gym membership and swim at 24 Hour Fitness. I had my new TYR nest pro goggles so that I won’t have raccoon eyes, and I was pretty excited about that. I left work a little late-ish and got to the gym around 6:15 or so. The membership upgrade process took awhile, and I’m always skeptical of the “we’ll give you the best deal” because I’ve had bad experiences before with the gym. When I last checked online, the upgrade price was $10, which no longer seemed available. In the end, I didn’t have to pay that much (I did pay a reduced initiation fee) and timing-wise, it really worked out because there was a water aerobics class and I wouldn’t have been able to swim laps.

So, as luck would have it, I pretty much had the lane to myself the entire time for swimming.  30 minutes, mostly laps. The only downside – having to listen to snippets of a conversation between three men – one younger white boy, older asian man and older African American man. From what I could tell, and thank God (honestly) that I couldn’t really hear them, they were talking about sex. Seriously, on the deck of the pool, with older women sitting around them, completely covered up. I heard “back door” and “first time” and “home run” and tried to do my turn as fast as possible when I got to that wall. The younger kid said something that made me think he and other friends of his were sleeping sequentially with the same woman. I have a feeling that he was making a lot of it up.

Back to business. I was pleased with the goggles, and able to stop at the store on the way home. And it was a double workout kind of day; Rachel and I also took a 30 minute walk–in the sunshine, too–so I made up a bit for the day before.

As for today, well, I’ll tally 30 minutes of walking. I had gum grafting surgery this afternoon, so real exercise is actually off the table for the next week. Again, something I hadn’t planned when I embarked on this 40 day journey. But walking counts and maybe towards the end of next week, I can work in some yoga. I don’t want to miss out on celebrity sightings at Samadhi.