Halloween 2019 (NaBloPoMo day 2)

I had a busy Halloween considering how low my energy levels are these days. The only thing I’ve been able to do consistently while on medical leave from work is exercise. I have managed to attend boot camp classes three to five times a week for the last few months and it really makes me happy. (My runs have been few and far between, however, but I’ll write about that in another post.) I still have a long way to go in my fitness journey, but I definitely feel stronger after three months of weight training, even if my dress size hasn’t gotten any smaller. Although I don’t like the number on the scale right now I am trying to have a positive attitude towards my body in its current form. It’s not easy! Getting back to the story, I was determined to get to the gym on Halloween, but I had to go at 9 AM since my usual evening class was cancelled for the holiday. As you can see in the above photo, my gym buddy and I had matching floral skeleton outfits from INKnBURN. She even brought flower crowns so that we could enhance the effect. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays so celebrating it this way was really fun. The workout itself was pretty difficult, but at least I started the day by doing something healthy.

I had plans to meet my BFF and goddaughter for trick-or-treating at 5 PM. After an egg sandwich for breakfast and a post-gym shower I attempted to take a little nap to replenish my energy stores, but my stupid restless legs had other ideas. I may have dozed for half an hour or so, but my twitchy legs did not allow any more than that. (I know it’s my brain causing the muscle spasms, but sometimes I daydream about a leg transplant that will fix my PLMD.) I knew that the long drive to/from my BFF’s house, as well as several hours of Halloween celebration, were going to be hard on me, so I took half a dose of my stimulant medication to ensure that I wasn’t dead tired before even arriving. (I use the stimulant very sparingly to get me through events that demand a lot of energy, but it’s a band-aid rather than a long-term solution to my constant fatigue.) Trick-or-treating with my goddaughter’s Girl Scout troop was a lot of fun. Safely guiding about ten girls from house to house to gather their candy while trying to avoid anyone getting left behind was quite the balancing act. I’m really glad I got to share the holiday with my goddaughter, though. It was the most human interaction I’ve had in months (unless you count Disneyland), but it was very draining. By the time I got home I was fading fast. My nighttime medication generally requires about two hours to take effect, but I somehow managed to pass out in about half that time. You know I’m exhausted when even leg spasms can’t keep me awake! The next morning my gym buddy and I were planing to go to the 9 AM boot camp class again, but neither of us was up for it when our alarms went off. I ended up sleeping very late to recuperate from all of the Halloween festivities. Still a fantastic holiday!

Happy November!

Ah, good ol’ November 1st. Historically the day I kickoff my contribution to (the now defunct) National Blog Posting Month. November is traditionally National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and the weblog community started their own version in 2006 (NaBloPoMo) where bloggers endeavor to post new content to their sites every day of the month. I accepted the challenge several times during my more prolific blogging days – some years being more successful than others – but extenuating circumstances have kept me from flexing my writing muscle too much recently. Of all my hobbies that have fallen by the wayside since my health began to decline I miss running the most, but writing is a close second. I love the creative outlet blogging provides, but it demands energy that my mind and body don’t always have to spare. Like I’ve said before, fatigue affects every area of my life, and writing is no different. Also, no one has ever said there are too many hours in the day, so finding time to consciously devote to blogging (rather than aimlessly browsing the interwebz) isn’t easy. I have been reading a few books lately that I hope will help me get back in the habit of writing everyday, but I haven’t put any of the ideas into practice yet. No promises, but I’m going to try to use NaBloPoMo to kick-start my blogging habit again. We’ll see if it works.

P.S. November 1st is also the Day of the Dead – better known as the day after Halloween when kids are sleep deprived because they stayed up way past their bedtime trick-or-treating. I figured on this 11/1 post it was appropriate to include a photo of me with my BFF and her daughter from last night. Aren’t we adorable?

What I learned today

This morning my alarm went off at 5:30 AM. This would be ridiculous for most Sundays these days, but today I was trying my darndest to make it to the School Ghoul 5K in Los Alamitos. I have missed so many races in the last couple of years due to my poor health, and every time it happens I feel a little bit worse. My near constant fatigue has gotten in the way of just about everything in my life, no matter how hard I struggle against it, so I try to gain ground whenever and however I can. Fortunately this morning was a win. I successfully got out of bed at 5:30 AM and got ready to leave for the 5K. It helped that this race is small and local (Los Alamitos is not far from my house) so I wasn’t facing a long drive or difficulties with parking or crowds. Also, it was the only Halloween race I had any real chance of participating in this year, and I had a whole outfit planned for the occasion. If at all possible I was not going to miss this 5K.

I arrived at the race start line plenty early, picked up my shirt and bib, and walked back to my car to put on sunscreen. I had 50 minutes to spare. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t brought my GPS watch with me. Or my headphones. In fact, I had forgotten all of my running electronics at home. Is it obvious that I haven’t run a race in almost two months? At first I remembered that I have a spare set of earbuds in my glove compartment for just such an emergency, but then it hit me that my phone hasn’t had a headphone jack since 2017. So no help there. Facing the prospect of running 3.1 miles without my usual playlist was so daunting that I decided to rush home and grab the items I needed. If you thought getting home and then back to the race would be the most difficult part of the morning you’d be wrong. That part was pretty smooth! I got back to the race start with a full 25 minutes before I had to run, so I thought I was in great shape. Then I tried to set up all of my electronics.

Fortunately my interval timer is stand-alone so all I had to do was clip it onto my pocket. The watch and headphones proved to be more of a problem. Last month when the iPhone 11s came out I went to the Apple Store and took advantage of the newly lowered prices on older models to buy an iPhone 8. My iPhone 7 was slowly dying and it was time for an upgrade, but I didn’t go crazy and buy anything too fancy. Unfortunately, I haven’t run a race since before my phone swap so my Bluetooth electronics had never been paired with the iPhone 8. After a couple of attempts I gave up trying to get the Garmin app to recognize my watch since that connection wasn’t essential for the race, but I really needed the headphones to cooperate. The best part about wireless earphones is the wireless part, but it is also the most breakable link in the chain. No phone pairing = no music. I tried everything I could think of up until the moment the race started, but it was no use. My iPhone 8 and my Bluetooth headphones were just not going to play nicely together. I was resigned to run the race with no soundtrack, the useless headphones tagging along as ballast.

Plenty of folks have told me how much they enjoy “unplugged” running with only the ambient noise of nature and their inner thoughts to entertain them. Today I learned that I am not one of those people. There are two reasons I absolutely need my favorite playlist in order to make plodding along on the pavement tolerable. 1) Running by itself is boring! Without a the distraction of music I lose interest in this particular form of exercise very quickly. It’s monotonous and every mile seems to drag on forever unless I have songs to listen to or friends to talk to. Ideally both. 2) I have difficulty regulating my breathing without the aid of a tempo. I learned this a long time ago I got my first iPod and it completely changed my workouts. While running the 5K today I had to sing to myself the whole time (silently, of course) in order to keep from breathing erratically. It was rough. I was completely exhausted, mentally and physically, when I crossed the finish line. As happy as I was to run the 5K, it was a miserable experience without my playlist. I will definitely make sure all of my electronics are working before my next race!

Happy holidays 2018

It’s Thanksgiving week and I am officially overwhelmed. Not only am I still fighting my usual chronic health problems (I need to call two of my doctors tomorrow for some follow-up information), but I also have a lot of other things on my plate right now. I haven’t written about most of them yet (not being secretive, just waiting for the dust to settle), but they have been dominating my time nonetheless. And of course the holidays are front and center right now which doesn’t make anyone’s life any simpler. First of all, there’s Thanksgiving on Thursday. I am running a combination 10K/5K turkey trot in Dana Point that morning, and then heading to dinner at my best friend’s house in Pasadena in the afternoon. In order to make the food preparation a little less stressful I whipped up my homemade cranberry sauce last night. Two batches even – one with diced apple and pear, and one without (to cover everyone’s dietary requirements). I also signed up to make a couple of desserts so those have to get done by Thursday afternoon. ‘Tis the season for time-consuming holiday obligations! And that’s nothing compared to the rest of the year. I swear time speeds up starting on October 1st and the next three months pass in the blink of an eye. As much as I love it, this time of year is very difficult. The shopping, the parties, the decorating, the eating, the travel, etc. Even with most of those activities being thoroughly enjoyable, it all piles up. And I’m already fighting exhaustion 24/7! So in an effort to minimize the drains on my already dwindling energy reserves, I am taking a break from blogging until January. Since I still have quite a few subjects that I want to write about I will continue to craft posts whenever I find the time and inspiration, but I don’t plan to publish anything until 2019. Hopefully this respite will make the last six weeks of 2018 a little bit easier. So here’s wishing all of my readers a lovely Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Let’s make the rest of this year the best it can be!

September 1st (Retail therapy #2 revisited)

I went to Target today because I was down to my last roll of toilet paper at home. So as a responsible adult I headed out to replenish my stock of bathroom essentials, but I was also hoping to browse the Halloween section of the store. This was a less “responsible adult” inclination, I admit. Unfortunately I was disappointed on that account. The back corner of the store that’s usually dedicated to selling products related to the next holiday on the calendar was sadly still decked out in back-to-school fashion. What a shame. I know some kids don’t start school again until after Labor Day, but it’s finally September, for crying out loud! Time for the holiday festivities to begin! But maybe that’s just my own impatience talking. I’ve been waiting eight whole months for this day! (One of my friends actually started decorating her front yard for Halloween today so I’m clearly not the only one who is excited for this time of year. And if my Halloween door hanging wasn’t tucked away so far in my closet I’d have started decorating today too.) However, I did find one holiday surprise in the bath products section of Target. Remember how last December I was obsessed with getting my hands on a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Apple Cider Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap? Here’s an excerpt from my retail therapy #2 blog post to refresh your memory.

“When I saw that Mrs. Meyer’s had a limited edition apple cider hand soap I just had to have some. Unfortunately I was late to the game because it was more of a fall scent, and therefore not readily accessible in stores. So I turned to Amazon, my usual tried-and-true source for everything under the Sun. Of course it was available from one seller, but it wasn’t cheap, as far as standard amounts of hand soap go. As you can imagine, in my holiday-fueled hysteria I wasn’t thinking clearly and purchased a bottle. It was silly, but it made me happy.”
2/24/18 webpage post

Well, as of today this previously coveted hand soap is available at my local Target at a reasonable price. Makes me feel silly for going to such great lengths last year! Not that I’ll be lining up to buy any this time around because I realized that I can experience the same scent profile from the Suave Kids 3-in-1 apple shampoo that I use at the gym! However, I did find Mrs. Meyer’s pumpkin hand soap, a variety I was previously unaware of, sitting on the same display shelf. I was intrigued. I bought so many bottles of holiday hand soap last December that I won’t even get close to finishing them by the end of 2018. So, thinking practically, there was absolutely no reason I needed to purchase pumpkin-scented soap today. In fact, my pledge to be more frugal for the rest of the year (I have two Disney World vacations coming up, and those aren’t cheap) is a prime reason that I shouldn’t have put any of the pumpkin hand soap in my shopping basket. But I did anyway. What can I say? My resolve weakens when I’m faced with special edition holiday stuff! Luckily hand soap is on the low end of the spectrum, price-wise. Let’s hope I have more willpower when it comes to other, more expensive and more compelling items. Like the gorgeous glass pumpkins at Pottery Barn. I must be strong!

Baking is my self-care

“I am rediscovering my love of baking today. I used to use it as self-care, and now I remember how soothing it is for me. I’m headed to a friend’s house later to shoot off some fireworks and gorge on delicious food!”
7/4/18 Facebook comment

This past week I’ve been thinking about how in the heck I’m supposed to follow such a heavy post about feminism and rejecting limitations. I’ve recently started several other posts on meaningful topics that I want to expound on, but they need a lot more time before they’ll be ready to publish. So in the meantime, here’s something a bit lighter! (I would have added the word “literally” to that sentence, but one of the things I’m going to talk about is pound cake which is the opposite of light fare!)

With a few exceptions (mostly holidays like Halloween and Christmas), I haven’t done much baking in the last couple of years. Granted, I’ve done quite a bit of other cooking (chili, of course, plus a lot of Whole30 recipes), but it’s just not the same. Looking back at my archives, I’ve been partial to pumpkin bread in the fall, but the last chocolate chip cookie recipe I posted was in February 2016. (I high recommend those brown butter and molasses chocolate chip cookie bars.) Baking used to be a weekly activity that I truly enjoyed and soothed my soul. It was certainly a welcome distraction during Gator games in the college football season! There’s something calming about mixing ingredients in the right proportions and producing a delicious treat that I can share with my friends and co-workers. These days while focusing on my favorite forms of self-care I realized that baking was one of the ways I took care of myself. Not that eating a whole bunch of cookies is particularly healthy, but I relished the process more so than the finished product. So when I got an invite to the annual Fourth of July party I saw it as an opportunity to reinvigorate this pastime and also provide dessert for everyone.

With July 4th falling in the middle of the week I knew I wouldn’t have time to make anything complicated, so I chose two old, previously posted recipes that I knew would be delicious. Also, I figured there was some leeway in both of them for me to experiment a little. I love the creativity that baking allows me – within reason, of course! So in the berry buttermilk pound cake I used a mix of red raspberries, golden raspberries, and blueberries. The grocery store that I visited in a panic the morning of July 4th had only one package of red raspberries left so I improvised with other fruit. I also added more buttermilk than the original recipe called for – probably an extra 2 Tbsp. The end result was an amazing pound cake that I ate way too many slices of. My second cake was a blueberry upside down cake that I’d made for a Memorial Day get-together a number of years ago. This time I used 1/2 c brown sugar, 1/3 c white sugar, an extra 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and an extra 2 Tbsp buttermilk. I am so glad I made those changes because the cake was absolutely incredible! It was rich, flavorful, and tasted like blueberry cobbler. It’s the perfect summer dessert and everyone at the party loved it.

So will I keep up with my baking as a regular form of self-care? Well, as I mentioned, it’s not exactly the most healthy pastime, but I foresee myself mixing up some sweet treats more often during the second half of 2018. Especially in the fall when Gator football returns! I certainly need to remember that it’s a therapeutic activity that I can easily perform at a moments notice in the comfort of my own home. That is very comforting.

St. Patrick’s Day 2018

St. Patrick’s Day on the weekend for a change is a rare chance to do something exciting for the holiday without the constraints of a workday. So can you guess what I did today? I ran a race, of course! Big surprise, I know. The Big LA 5K at Dodger Stadium this morning was delightfully St. Patrick’s Day themed with green shirts, green race bibs, and a medal with a shamrock on one side. It was fantastically festive. And I got to wear one of my holiday-specific running shirts for the occasion. It proclaimed my heritage as “Irish Every Day.” Very accurate. Even the weather cooperated (winter finally arrived in Southern California this month and it’s been gorgeous). Everything was great, except for the course. There are some serious hills around Dodger Stadium and they make for less than pleasant running. I’m still getting back in shape after a few months of inactivity so it wasn’t an easy 3.1 miles for my weak body, but I’m so glad that I went out and did it. The LA Big 5K is also the last race in the Triple 5K Tour of LA Challenge (Santa Monica, Pasadena, and Los Angeles) so I got an extra medal at the finish line. That’s always good motivation to get up before the crack of dawn, drive an hour, and hit the course even when I don’t want to! Let’s hope this marks my return to regular running again. 2018 has been rocky so far, but I think it’s looking up. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

Not retail therapy for a change!

“Yesterday was my favorite day of the year – holiday potluck day! It was a great day. I arrived to work early to get the hot chocolate started. I can’t believe anything that simple could be so popular, but I had several people ask me for the recipe again this year. The biggest lesson I learned is that I need to get an extra large Crockpot so that I can make a double batch next year!”
12/17/16 webpage post

I was half kidding when I wrote about buying an extra large Crockpot specifically for hot chocolate back in 2016. But a year later when I was once again preparing for the holiday potluck I did some research on Amazon and discovered that a humongous 8-quart Crockpot would only set me back about $30. It was practically a no-brainer to go ahead and order one. It seemed a bit silly to have a slow cooker for the single purpose of making hot chocolate once a year, especially with my limited kitchen cabinet space, but it ended up being a great decision. I was able to make a double batch of my much-loved holiday beverage (including a full gallon of milk as well as a quart of cream) with no extra effort, and it was still absolutely inhaled by my co-workers in record time. Due to planning difficulties this year the potluck had a much smaller guest list (I was grandfathered in after about a decade of participation), but it seems that an 8-qt Crockpot full of hot chocolate was still not enough. I couldn’t believe how quickly it was drained. I swear everyone just grabbed a straw and sucked it dry. Crazy! It wasn’t easy to find a spot to store this new addition to my kitchen arsenal, but even if I only pull it out once a year it will still be worth the investment. Only nine more months before I start planning holiday food for 2018!

Retail therapy #4

Item: Tsum Tsum Marvel Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar
Purchased: January 1, 2018

As I’ve previously described, on New Year’s Day I was sick with the flu. It was miserable. After my official diagnosis I spent most of the day on the computer, cancelling my highly anticipated Disney World vacation and feeling sorry for myself. An overabundance of time on the internet combined with my despair over the state of my health was arguably the catalyst for my glut of retail therapy. (Admittedly, some of it did happen in December, but I blame those particular purchases on the holidays.) At least it’s given me plenty to write about recently!

Speaking of the holidays, when we were growing up my brother and I had Advent calendars that had a piece of chocolate for December 1st through 24th. It was magical, given the fact that we were rarely allowed such treats. Now that I’m an adult and can buy chocolate whenever I want (much to the despair of my bathroom scale), a calendar full of sweets has lost its charm. But then last fall I was delighted to discover that Disney makes Tsum Tsum Advent calendars so I immediately bought one for myself! This is what adults do, right? The above photo includes all the characters I unboxed in December 2017. It was fantastic. On January 1st as I was browsing Amazon, feeling like crap and mourning the end of the holiday season, I saw something extraordinary – a MARVEL Tsum Tsum Advent calendar! My mind was blown. Of course I ordered one for 2018. Presents for yourself are the best kind. And let’s face it, most of these retail therapy purchases I’ve made lately are presents to myself. Granted, some of them are practical or utilitarian, like dress pants for work or household supplies, but a majority of them have been purely for amusement. Unlike all of the other items, this particular acquisition will have delayed gratification. The Advent calendar is something I’ll have to look forward to as end of the year approaches. Maybe I’ll even trim my Christmas tree this year. A girl can dream!