Healing myself one piece at a time

Last Friday I did a sleep study at a clinic. My doctor ordered the sleep study after I told her about my extremely daytime exhaustion, even after sleeping 8-9 hours at night. And that was with the help of prescription sleeping pills that I got in January when I was feeling so wretched. The pills were an absolute lifesaver because they helped me fall asleep easily, but I was still inexplicably tired the next morning. Also, there was another, much harder to describe symptom that I had to take to three doctors before I felt like I was getting any recognition at all. Basically, for more than two years I’ve been experiencing muscle spasms that start as soon as I get drowsy and cause involuntary movements in my legs. Naturally the periodic twitching and jolting (about every 10 seconds) made getting to sleep nearly impossible, probably prevented me from getting much restful sleep, and made me want to crawl out of my skin. But even after describing this sensation to the best of my ability, all of the doctors I saw seemed to be at a loss. They offered little insight into my symptoms or thoughts regarding a diagnosis or treatment. I was slowly going crazy. One doctor did mention the possibility of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD), something in the family Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), but presenting differently and more severely. Unfortunately after some routine blood work this doctor sent me a letter (yes, a physical letter – not an email or even a phone call in this day and age) to tell me that all of my levels were normal and I should be fine. Thanks for nothing. Fortunately the next doctor I saw referred me to the sleep study clinic (for my exhaustion, not my crazy legs, but I wasn’t going to complain) where I was hopeful that answers might be more forthcoming.

So last Friday, in a very crude hostel-like room, my body was loaded up with sensors and I was told to go to sleep so that the necessary data about my slumber, or lack of it, could be compiled. I don’t think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable than I was lying on my back (not my preferred sleeping position) on the barely adequate mattress in that facility. I had wires coming off my scalp, my face, my chest, and my legs. The woman I spoke with when I made the appointment painted a much rosier picture of the sleep study than what I experienced upon arrival. I wanted to be a good patient, but even taking my usual Ambien wasn’t enough to overcome the anxiety of being in a strange place and needing to sleep on command for the purpose of science. The insomnia was strong that night. But for better or for worse, staying awake longer than usual gave my legs an opportunity to perform their little dance and provide proof to my doctor that some part of my body isn’t functioning as it should. At first I was nervous that my symptoms wouldn’t present themselves while I was at the clinic, but that fear turned out to be unfounded. That was the only bright spot of the night. I was miserable for more than an hour after lights out due to the leg spasms and even the sleep technician came in to check on me because I was moving around so much – and not all of those movements were intentional. I finally did fall asleep after much tossing and turning, but it was only for a few hours before the technician was knocking on my door at 5:45 AM to get me ready to leave. Hopefully that short amount of sleep was enough to help my doctor draw some conclusions regarding a plan of action. Heck, even the technician told me that he observed that I have a pretty serious case of PLMD. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but at least I’m going back to my doctor with some new information. I have an appointment to see her early next month to review the sleep study results, but I am almost certain that my next stop will be a neurologist’s office. In fact I’m so certain that I might try to make an appointment even before going back to my GP. Here’s hoping that it won’t be too much longer before I find a solution!

P.S. I did a quick search of my webpage to see if I’ve written about this topic before, but it seems that I haven’t. I find that hard to believe since I’ve been suffering with this medical condition for over two years now. We all have our inward and outward struggles, but we don’t always share them with the world. I’m going to try and be more transparent with from now on.

Sunscreen experiment #19

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of my purchases this year have been beauty products. This is what happens when you listen to an over-the-top self-care podcast, don’t budget your disposable income well enough, and are still searching for the “perfect” products (which might not actually exist). It’s a dangerous and expensive combination, especially when you’re not feeling great about yourself and retail therapy is a major source of comfort. And on a lighter note, if you’ve ever visited my blog before you are familiar with my ongoing search for the perfect sunscreen. At this point I have accepted that this could be a lifelong mission. So here’s my 19th sunscreen review that no one cares about but me!

It’s about time that I took the plunge into Korean skincare. As a general rule we don’t embrace paleness here in the United States, but other parts of the globe actually do! Thus the need for adequate daily sun protection – something that isn’t the easiest to find in our “you look better with a tan” culture. I should have made the switch to Korean brands years ago! I think the first time I learned about MISSHA Sun Milk was from a Buzzfeed article. (This is becoming a trend. I should stay away from Buzzfeed if I want to save money, but then I’d also miss out on some great products. It’s a mixed bag.) Then I heard a favorable review of it on the Forever35 podcast where I’ve gotten so many good recommendations. After doing a little research on my own I ordered a bottle of MISSHA All Around Safe Block Essence Sun Milk (SPF 50) on Amazon. This is the moisturizing variety (there are also matte and waterproof versions) which I definitely need because my skin is generally very dry due to the arid Los Angeles climate. So what’s the verdict? I love this stuff! It’s just fantastic. It’s my new daily moisturizer and sunscreen that I wear under my makeup. And the SPF 50 is a big step up from the Olay SPF 15 lotion I’ve been using for so many years. I can’t say it’s the best primer, but I’m making it work with some new moisturizing concealer as well (Benefit Cosmetics Boi-ing Hydrating Concealer). The combination of the concealer and the Sun Milk keeps my makeup from settling into the lines around my eyes – a plus for a woman who is almost forty years old. Bottom line: I finally found a winner. I am very happy I purchased this sunscreen and I have a feeling I’ll be using it for years to come.

Las Vegas addendum

After finishing yesterday’s post I finally found what I was looking for last night. Turns out I did indeed write a review of Star Wars Episode II after my initial viewing in May 2002, but I’ll spare you that tripe. However, as a comparison, here’s the portion of that post where 23 year-old me described our quest to see Episode II shortly after it happened. I may have gotten some of the details wrong in my retelling yesterday!

“As soon as my dad and I got to Las Vegas I started calling movie theaters to see which one had a digital projector. Since ‘Attack of the Clones’ was filmed entirely in digital format we wanted to see the movie the way George Lucas intended it to be viewed. The Orleans casino turned out to be the place to see digital Star Wars in Las Vegas. It was absolutely amazing. The difference between digital and film is akin to the difference between DVD and video. The clarity (i.e., the lack of lines and spots on the screen) made every detail of an expression or a costume noticeable. If a director really wants to draw a viewer into a movie then digital is the way to go. That, and having a great story to tell (i.e., Star Wars).”
5/23/02 webpage post

Las Vegas

On Sunday I got back from spending the weekend in Las Vegas with my running buddies. I’ll write more about that later, but our trip reminded me of another time I was in Las Vegas and I wanted to share that story first.

In 2001 when Dan and I were first dating we spent a weekend in Las Vegas, but I was underwhelmed. I thought the variety of over-the-top themed hotels and casinos was novel and interesting, but since I don’t gamble, drink, or party the city didn’t really have anything to hold my interest. (FYI, on subsequent visits I was introduced to some of the lesser-known attractions that are much more my style. Like state parks, art museums, outstanding restaurants, beautiful shops, and the now sadly defunct Star Trek: The Experience at the hotel formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton.) When we drove home from Las Vegas after that first trip I didn’t really have any desire to return. The second time I went there was a bit different. It was May 2002 and my dad and I were driving from Florida to California before I started my second Boeing internship. We spent two weeks on the road, visiting both sides of the family (in Ft. Smith, AR and Wichita, KS) as well as three of my top-choice grad schools (Georgia Tech, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Stanford). We had a fantastic time even though we basically had to live out of my tiny Dodge Neon and subsist on fast food hamburgers. About two-thirds of the way through the trip we found ourselves in the vicinity of Las Vegas and decided to spend a night there. I can’t remember exactly why, but it might have been because “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” had just been released and we wanted to see it. I know it’s the standard now, but back in 2002 digital movie projection was new and exciting and Episode II was one of the first movies to employ it. Tallahassee didn’t have a theater with a digital projector, but I figured Las Vegas might have this thrilling new technology. This was back before smart phones or wifi (or even reliable cell phone service) so I must have done research on theaters on my laptop using the dial-up internet connection of the hotel where we were staying a day or two before. Super high tech, huh? Lucky for us there was a theater featuring digital projection in The Orleans Casino. The bottom line is that, Attack of the Clones was the first movie I saw in digital format. Also, that was probably my best trip to Las Vegas. Road trip with my dad plus Star Wars. What could be better?

P.S. Since I was blogging back then I though I had written an account of this experience at the time (or at the very least a first-impression review of Episode II), but I can’t seem to find anything. Maybe I have it in an old Word document. I’ll keep looking!

2017 Resolution #1 revisited

“As far as race bibs go, I have a huge stack of them in the same box as the old medals. The most recent ones get displayed on the front of my refrigerator, but after their tenure there is over they are filed away. My goal for 2017 is to put all of them (OK, maybe not the ones that I can’t even remember what race they’re from) in a scrapbook or album for future reference.”
1/4/17 webpage post

4/26/18:
It’s getting dangerously close to May, but I still haven’t documented any solid resolutions for the year. It seems silly to even consider the traditional New Year’s enterprise now, being nearly four months behind schedule, but at some point I’ll probably make a list anyway. However, in order to avoid getting too far ahead of myself, I figured I should probably follow up on my 2017 Resolution #1 before making any for 2018! Regarding 2017 resolution #1, I never posted this revisit (that I started writing a whole year ago!) because I had only accomplished half of my goal, but at this point I’ll take credit for that portion and the rest can wait.

4/25/17:
As April is drawing to a close I can happily announce that I’m finally making some real progress on my first New Year’s resolution. On March 12th I ordered a scrapbook for my race bibs from an Etsy shop that makes them specifically for this purpose. Then last week I finished putting my first 75 bibs in it. They range from April 2014 to December 2016. I admit that some of the bibs from that backlog got tossed because they were so generic that I either couldn’t remember which race they were from, or they weren’t memorable enough to keep. I’m really happy with how the scrapbook turned out. It’s a fun memento that reminds me of all my achievements and doesn’t take up space. But funny enough, it’s already almost completely full! I’ll need to order a second one for future race bibs.

Retail therapy #7

Item: Old Navy swing dresses
Purchased: February 24, 2018

A few weeks ago, before I started my clean-ish eating plan (I am trying to make it more of a lifestyle rather than a finite period of food restrictions), I was really unhappy with my body. It was outward proof that I hadn’t been taking care of myself and I desperately wanted to do better, feel better, and look better. But I knew that dramatic change wouldn’t happen overnight so I had to find a way to improve my self-image and my confidence in my appearance while I was still putting in the hard work with diet and exercise. This is one of the reasons I ordered a ton of new clothes as part of my retail therapy spending spree this spring (besides being sick at home and feeling depressed). I was tired of wearing the same pants and blouses at work, donning a similar boring outfit every day, so I decided to diversify my wardrobe with things I can wear now, when I’m still chubbier than I’d like to be. This is where Old Navy swing dresses came into my life. I already have a closet full of beautiful Ann Taylor dresses, but they are all at least one size too small for me at the moment. It’s frustrating! Luckily, until I get myself back into those size 2s I have Old Navy swing dresses in my life. Not only are they attractive (I bought several in different colors and patterns), but they are flattering, loose-fitting (i.e., figure-friendly), and super comfortable. And since I am a cardigan addict I can easily pair one of the dresses with any number of colorful sweaters and my favorite flats to make a perfectly appropriate work outfit. Plus, the economical nature of Old Navy clothing meant that I was able to purchase a number of items for a reasonable price. That provided me with lots of options while keeping my credit card bill from being astronomically high during this active period of retail therapy. I appreciated that! (More money for me to give to the Walt Disney Corporation. It’s inevitable, really.) I’m actually planning to wear one of the Old Navy swing dresses to work tomorrow so they are being put to good use on a weekly basis. They make me feel confident even though I know I’m not currently at my best. What could be better than that?

Business travel again (Part 2)

A continuation of my musings from the Denver airport on 4/14 while waiting for my flight to DC. Because my train is tired tonight and writing something original isn’t going to happen after such a long work week!

As I was preparing for this trip I checked the DC weather and saw that it was going to be fairly cool, but not exactly frigid while I was there. It’s been three weeks since my last visit and much to my delight I wasn’t going to need the super warmth factor of my North Face down jacket this time around. So while I was packing I flipped through my closet and pulled out another option. It was the North Face jacket that I purchased back in 2016 for a January trip to DC. You know, the one that went completely unworn because the week I was there was unseasonably warm? Well, it still had the tags attached! I can’t believe it’s been hanging in my closet for over two years, lonely and neglected. But no more! It’s a lovely purple color and it fits great so I’m glad I kept it. Hopefully this jacket will be just what I need to brave the weather in DC this week. Of course I already spilled some of my protein shake on it this morning on the way to the airport so that’s annoying. It will have to go straight into in the wash when I get home!

This time around I also didn’t need the boots and their accompanying knee socks I hastily purchased in March. It’s not going to be nearly cold enough to require such hefty footwear. And it’s a good thing too because those boots gave me blisters. They fulfilled their purpose of protecting my feet from the cold on my last trip, but I don’t foresee myself wearing them again anytime soon. My favorite little leather flats were perfectly suited to handle the last gasp of winter in DC this week. And they take up so much less space in my suitcase. That allowed me to pack both my running shoes and my gym shoes for maximum workout potential. Whether I’ll wear both pairs on this trip seems unlikely, but at least I have them if I get ambitious with my exercise!

Business travel again (Part 1)

Written on 4/14 in the Denver airport while waiting for my flight to DC. I never feel comfortable using my laptop on a plane anymore given how cramped all of the seats are so I spent most of my layover in Denver writing. I have a silly follow-up story that I will post later this week.

I’m headed to DC again this morning. Currently I’m sitting in the Denver airport waiting for my connecting flight. And in similar fashion to all of my other recent travel, it’s delayed. Why am I not surprised? When going to DC I always like to arrive as early in the day as possible, but having to stop in Denver this time makes that a bit difficult. Luckily all I really need to do when I arrive this evening is go to the grocery store. There’s no way I can maintain my clean-ish eating plan without some fresh produce and healthy snacks. Temptation is always present! This time it will be in the form of Firehouse Subs and Potbelly Sandwiches. (Maybe they make salads? I’ll have to check.) Luckily I did find at least two restaurants that are salad-focused so I won’t have to eat pre-packaged ones every day. If I can stick to my diet this week I’m going to be very pleased with myself. And a little shocked! Similarly, I’d also like to hit the gym tonight, but that’s debatable given that my flight won’t arrive until about 5 PM. I’m missing my usual classes at the gym this week, which annoys me, but I’m going to try to keep up with the workouts on my own. My running buddy will send me the exercises from the classes she attends and I’ll do my best to replicate them in my hotel fitness center. I picked this hotel because they seem to have a nice, large workout space, unlike so many other places that only have a couple of cardio machines, and sometimes only one of each kind which can be problematic. I’ll definitely need some weights to do the boot camp routines. I really should run on the treadmill a couple of times as well, but that’s unlikely given my hatred of that infernal machine. I even brought both my running shoes and gym shows with me this time in case I feel motivated to mix things up. There wasn’t a single bit of extra space in my suitcase when I finished packing, but it’ll be worth it if my fitness routine doesn’t deteriorate while I’m away from home.

Regarding my flight back to LA on Friday, I was fortunate/smart enough to book a nonstop flight to LAX to hopefully avoid the drama of my last trip. Like last time, I have an event that I don’t want to miss shortly after I get home. I’m going to the Dodger game with some co-workers on Friday night so I absolutely, positively have to meet them at 4 PM to carpool to downtown LA. I hate making that drive myself, especially in rush hour traffic. My flight home is supposed to land at about 11:30 AM so that should give me more than enough time to stop by my house, change into baseball game appropriate apparel, and still make the required rendezvous. It’s Hello Kitty night at the Dodger game so there’s no way I’m going to miss it. We get t-shirts! Also, we’re sitting in the coveted all-you-can-eat section of the stadium. Usually that’s a great deal because you can get as many hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, drinks, etc. that you want, but it’s not so great for those of us on a diet that prohibits almost everything that tastes delicious! If I can successfully avoid sugar and grains while I’m on business travel I think I’ll allow myself to eat one or two hot dogs (necessary carbs for weekend running) at the game. And I’ll wash it down with unlimited diet soda! Not the healthiest choice I could make, but not the worst under the circumstances either. I do have a race on Saturday morning as well so that’s another reason to get home on schedule. Funny enough, it’s the Angels 5K at Anaheim Stadium. My running group is will all be there. It’s funny that I’ll be visiting both LA baseball stadiums in less than 24 hours!

Stay tuned for part 2!

Clean-ish eating

For Easter I baked a blueberry pound cake using my favorite cream cheese pound cake recipe. It was incredible. Fortunately for my already too large waistline I only ate one piece before giving the rest away at Easter dinner with friends and the next day at work. But that was the last day that I allowed myself such indulgences because my clean-ish diet started on Monday, April 2nd.

I finished my original Whole30-ish experiment on October 30th of last year and things went downhill after that. (Honestly, I didn’t do too badly on Halloween with the chili cook-off at work, but that was the exception. I’ll admit I did have a piece of the pumpkin sheet cake that I made, though.) I wouldn’t recommend going on vacation right after ending a diet to anyone who wants to maintain their weight loss or other personal gains. And then came the holidays. So many seasonal temptations, and therefore excuses, for slipping back into old, terrible habits. Celebrating holidays with food is such a powerful tradition. Our Christmas dinner consisted of turkey and all the trimmings, plus my mom’s insanely delicious chocolate cake. She also made her famous peanut butter bars which are nearly impossible to stop eating once you’ve started. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The first part of 2018 was tough. I got the flu, had to cancel my vacation, and really suffered mentally and physically after that. In order to maintain some semblance of pleasure I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted during this time. There were very few fruits or vegetables on my plate in those days. And then the influx of Easter candy in the stores was more than my last bit of willpower could possibly handle. I wasn’t in a good state of mind for a while. Fortunately things started to look up in February. After I started exercising regularly again with my running buddy, which had such a healing effect in every aspect of my life, I knew I needed to make a positive change in my eating habits as well. No more burritos after boot camp class! So I took my inspiration from my Whole30 experience last year and overhauled all of my meal and snacks. I started bringing homemade lunches to work, stocked my kitchen with only healthy snacks, and found the best nearby restaurants to get take-out salads. Today is day 14 of my diet and I feel fantastic. I’ve had few minor cheats, and a couple of intentional ones (specifically, when I need more carbs for running), but for the most part I have stuck to my plan. I’m calling it a clean-ish diet because I’m eating a wider variety of foods than Whole30 allows (like cheese and beans), while still keeping my focus on meat, fruit, and vegetables. And after two weeks I’m starting to see some real results. I wish I’d made this change sooner!

Retail therapy #6

Item: Brooks Boston Marathon Launch 5
Purchased: March 25, 2018

Who wouldn’t want running shoes with lobsters on them? I’m not from Boston, I don’t ever expect to run the Boston Marathon, and I don’t even eat seafood, but I still love them! But even with their whimsical nature, these shoes might be a bit too practical to fall into the retail therapy category. However, I’m still calling them a frivolous purchase since I didn’t really need them. I saw these shoes for the first time on Facebook and thought they were absolutely adorable, but they didn’t seem like a reasonable investment. The Brooks Launch style don’t have enough support for me to use them for running (I prefer Brooks Adrenaline), and I wasn’t in need of athletic shoes for anything else. But after several days of seeing them all over social media I bought a pair anyway because I decided I couldn’t live without them. They are just so fantastic! I figured I could wear them to the gym so they wouldn’t be a completely silly acquisition. Fortunately they have worked out great in that capacity. I’ve been going to boot camp classes with my running buddy consistently for about six weeks now and I feel great. In addition, lacing up these fun shoes three times a week makes getting ready to go to the gym even more fun. It’s amazing what a little exercise can do!