Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hoping for Happy and HEALTHY New Year

There are only 5 more sleeps until a fat man in a fur-trimmed red velvet suit will break into our homes, eat our food, and leave anonymous packages under a gaudily decorated over sized house plant.  If it wasn't Christmas time, this guy would be facing a number of charges including breaking and entering, theft, and possibly terrorism.  Its funny how we are so accepting as children and yet can become so jaded as we get older. Never fear blogland.  I'm in a fine spirit this holiday and I'm looking forward to spending time with family and friends.

However, as I do every year, I don't bother to take those last couple of days off before the Christmas break.  Why?  I don't usually do much over the holidays between Christmas day and New Year's so taking any extra time usually means I'll be bored out of my mind.  This often translates to slothiness (I don't care if that's not a real world but if it is, yay me) and overeating. Plus, this year, our offices are closed for the first time from December 24 - January 1 so I have plenty of time off.  However, my spirit gave up on work the day we went out for Mom's birthday dinner.  Its been a struggle to get through each work day since.  Everything in me is screaming that I shouldn't be in the office; I should be getting ready for the holidays (although I already am) and relaxing at home.  Oh well.  Too late now.  I've got two days next week Well, to be honest, I'm hoping it will only be a day and a half.  Fingers crossed the big boss lets everyone go home early on our last day.

Speaking of the new year and overeating.... It seems that every year, like so many other people, I pledge, not to lose weight but to become healthier. And dollars to donuts, I fall far short each and every time.  Given the ongoing health problems I've been experiencing over the last three and a half months, the need to change some of my lifelong bad habits is stronger than ever.  FYI, for about two weeks, I was experiencing an ice cold feeling wrapping around the area of my heart.  Its gone now (I think it was likely stress) but the pressure has now returned to my left side.  Don't panic, I went to my family doctor again, and in addition to the eventual appointment with a rheumatologist, I will be going for a ct scan on my chest as well.

Unfortunately, because physical activity seems to trigger the inflammatory problems in my chest, and I sometimes experience discomfort carrying grocery bags, undertaking any sort of fitness regime is out of the question for the time being.  I'm going to be experimenting with yoga again to see if it will aggravate the problem at all. Other than that, I will have to focus on my diet which, to be honest, has for most of my adult life been pretty much comprised of eating whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like.  I won't be attempting Weight Watchers again.  My brief attempt this summer reminded me how cultish it seemed to me although I admit, I think the premise of the program is good.  No, I will be focusing on real food (I know, I've said so before), limiting take out food and soda consumption, and swapping chips and dip for things like hummus and crackers.

Its my hope that this nonsense with my chest is remedied or at least controlled in the near future.  For now though, I will struggle through until I can talk to the specialist and have my tests. I will enjoy the holidays and time with my friends, and look forward to the future, whatever the New Year may bring. I hope the rest of you are able to do the same!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Laptop has Landed!

Finally!  After numerous problems involving reversed credit card charges, incorrect tracking numbers, and a total of five (yes, 5!) different toll-free numbers to try and get things sorte, my Dell laptop has finally arrived.  I've only been using it for about an hour and ... I hate Windows 8.1.  Who's stupid idea was this?  OMG dumbest set up up ever.  Fortunately a friend of mine had gone through the hassle of figuring out some of the tricks to getting it set up so its a bit more user friendly.  The situation isn't great but its workable and with time, I'll get used to its little annoying quirks.
And with the arrival of the new laptop, I'm looking forward to an increase in my blogging activity.  Its a lot more comfortable writing from my new chair or the couch than it is from my 'desk' (an Ikea table and chair!).  I'm going to set myself some sort of blog-challenge beginning in January and am hoping that some of my blogger friends join me.  Now...I just have to figure out what I'm going to do...  If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Bring on the Holidays!

This year, I have to admit, I'm not fully into the holiday spirit.  Normally, I'm wicked excited to dive in and decorate, shop for presents, and get the holidays going. While I'm still feeling Christmas-y to an extent, its certainly not at my normal holiday celebration level.  That didn't stop me from starting my baking though (really, who needs an excuse for cookies?!).
This year, I went with an old stand by which seems to delight everyone - pumpkin raisin cookies. Mmmm, I wish Blogger offered smell-a-vision.  Delightful.  I also decided to go totally against my grain and make a variation on sugar cookies. For those who know me, I avoid rolled cookies like the plague. I can never get the dough right and if I even come close, I usually overcook them.  This year however, I found a recipe on Pinterest for Lightly Lime Cookies.  I was intrigued. Sure, they don't really sound Christmas-y but they sound delicious!  I gave it a go.

I'm a genius.

Well, whomever created the recipe is a genius. I'm an amazing baker.  They were, as expected, delightful.  I opted to skip the icing because I just couldn't be bothered. However, it turned out to be a good decision. The rich lime creamcheese icing would have been too much for these light, flavourful cookies.  I'm already thinking of other variations I can make - an orange or a lemon/lime version is making my mouth water.

I still have a few more things to bake but the cookies have all but disappeared. I've kept enough for the family on Christmas Eve.  The rest ended up at work and didn't last the day.  Still on my to-do list:  banana bread muffins and a lemon loaf.
My banana bread muffins are award winning. I even have a certificate to prove it. I'll do a batch of chocolate chips (dark chocolate, 'natch) and another holiday themed with cranberries instead of chocolate. Trust me.  Divine.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Back to Blogging!

Hello again me bloggies! I've returned!  At least for today.  I've missed blogging on a regular basis and have plans to start back a fairly regular basis very soon.  Why not immediately, you ask?  My biggest problem is my lack of a comfortable computer space.  Other than my work office (which doesn't really approve of doing non-work related things on work time), I don't really have a cozy spot to blog from. Currently, I only have a desktop and the desk/chair where its set up is terribly uncomfortable.  In the new year, I'm looking at getting a laptop which will allow me to write from anywhere. I'm especially looking forward to spending more time in my comfy new El Dorado La-Z Boy.  Someone else isn't as keen on being kicked out of his new favourite napping spot.
To get everyone up to speed, here's what's been happening since my last post way back in October. My CRP numbers aren't budging (bloodwork - indicator of inflammation) despite the fact that I feel a lot bette than I did back in September and October. Dr. H has decided there's no point in continuing to do bloodwork if the numbers aren't changing (my veins thank him for that!). The next step is to get an appointment with a rheumatologist.  Who knows how long that will take? I love our health care system here in Canada but unless its dire, it can sometimes take forever to see a specialist. The waiting continues...  All in all though I feel relatively good.  The pressure in my chest has pretty much stopped although I sometimes get a weird cold feeling spreading through my lungs. The chest pains come and go but certainly less frequently than before. I still cannot carry anything heavy for more than a minute or two (eg: grocery bags) but I'm hoping that will change as I start moving again.
A week or so ago, I had the opportunity to head on over to Craft Beer Market for dinner after work. It was practically blizzarding outside with a bone chilling wind but they make a pretty fabulous butternut squash ravioli so I braved the wicked weather.  Not many folks would get me out on such a night but it was a special event.  Longtime blog friend, Eugene (27th Street) was in town on business and we were finally going to get a chance to meet!
We hadn't been there very long when we were surprised by none other than another longtime blog friend, SME, (Swallowing the Camel) who saw our posts on Facebook and decided to crash the party! So glad she did.  The funny thing is, SME and I not only live in the same city, we within blocks of each other's work and home but have never gotten around to meeting face to face until now! WOOT!  More good news, Eugene is headed back to the capital city soon and we'll hopefully all get together once again.  Bloggers are the best buddies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm an Enigma

So…it’s been a while. There’s been a lot happening and not happening in my life at the moment. To be honest, I felt like blogging about it when it all started but then figured I’d try and let things sort themselves out before putting fingers to keyboard. Things still aren’t “settled” so to speak, but here goes nothing since I don’t have any sense of when they will be. Now, where exactly to begin?

Following the last post, which was mid-September, I had some pretty serious and yet completely baffling (at least to medical personnel) health problems.  I started experiencing chest pains on the Wednesday and let it go until Sunday morning when I eventually decided to go to the emergency room. Yes, I KNOW. I shouldn’t wait for things like that.  Believe me, I’ve been reprimanded by a number of health workers already. Anyway, the pain had mostly abated by Sunday morning but I had started to get a pressure in my chest (both the pain and pressure were only on the left side) so off we went.  I got in to see a doctor in less than an hour (woot!) who ordered an ECG and chest x-rays. All clear. He couldn’t find anything wrong with my heart and lungs, and figured it was pleurisy.  Anti-inflammatories and take it easy.
Like a good patient, I tried to follow up with my family doctor but he was unavailable so I went to see one of the other doctors in his office to ensure that I was doing everything I was supposed to.  Long story short, he told me it wasn’t pleurisy and that it could be due to, among other things, my breasts being too big. Yeah, I wasn’t very happy. He ordered blood work as an afterthought.  The following week, I was able to see my doctor who agreed and thought it wasn’t pleurisy but was unclear what it was. He ordered a second round of blood work and also called the internal medicine specialist I had seen a few years ago regarding my blood pressure.  The specialist disagreed with doctors #2 and #3 and thought it was pleurisy.  Sigh.

My doctor had advised me to go back to the hospital if the chest pains returned (I was just getting the heaviness/pressure at this point).  Sure enough, they came back the following week so off I went to the ER. Six and a half hours later…. I got to see a doctor. And that was with me being a priority patient with chest pains.  Ah, I finally see what all the ER wait-time complainers talk about.  To be fair though I couldn’t really complain; by the time I got to the hospital, the pains had ceased again. Plus there were people who I felt were far sicker than I was waiting longer than I did – including the gentleman beside me who was throwing up blood on and off all day.  I digress slightly again.  Another ECG – all clear (no surprise). The doctor (#5) didn’t think it was pleurisy (argh!) and figured it was just one of those unexplained pains that people get which they can’t test for specifically and it should go away on its own.

Sigh.
The pain comes and goes every once in a while now and I occasionally get the pressure in the left side of my chest.  My doctor has ordered a fourth round of blood work (just one test) that I have to do next week. It’s still indicating an inflammation somewhere in my body and the numbers are gradually getting better but it’s still there and he wants to keep checking on it.  The good news is that I was cleared to fly to Ontario. The bad news – I didn’t take part in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (half) that I had been (sort of) training for.  The ER doctor (#5) had said if I felt well enough to try it, she wasn’t going to tell me no. However, I thought it was better to skip it and instead cheer on the other members of our family who were racing.  
My mother, uncle Peter, and cousin Dan all finished the half marathon and received their shiny medals (I’m soooo jealous but very proud!).  And, in future news, we might be headed to (1) Jamaica, (2) Bermuda, or (3) Hawaii in 2016.  All offer great looking marathon weekends.  Mom was particularly taken with the Reggae Marathon in Jamaica although I’m partial to Bermuda (it would make a great birthday present!).  Hawaii would be nice but staying there would be wicked expensive.  And there are two, on different islands.  Oh well, here’s hoping I’ll have this weird chest problem sorted out soon and can get back to walking and maybe a little running.  I’m getting antsy just sitting on my behind and turning into a sloth.

Friday, September 12, 2014

STWM: Training Diary Week 12

Still struggling to pull myself out of the funk I've been in since the 10K a couple of weeks ago.  Slowly but surely... I was going to go outside for a walk on Sunday. Key word: WAS.  I had my running clothes on, belt packed with everything I needed, hat on, route planned. As I sat down to put on my running shoes, I realized I didn't want to go out. If I've learned anything over the past two years, its not to force myself to do something I'm not feeling like doing. So, I made a different plan. I would do a nice, slower walk on my treadmill and then another similar walk later in the day (also on the treadmill).  Seemed like a good plan and a nice way of splitting up an otherwise boring machine based workout.  Yeah... sure did. After a mere 10 minutes on the treadmill, I knew it wasn't going to happen.  However, I did log 4.5 miles which is more than I did the entire week previously!  Small victories.  To keep up my momentum, I walked to work on Monday, logged another 2.25 miles on the treadmill on Tuesday and lifted upper body weights on Wednesday. 
Tour of Alberta 2014 - Sharp turn at the bottom of Bellamy Hill
My weight is an issue. I'm feeling very sluggish these days and its not just the post-race blues.  Since starting my new job I've been even more sedentary than before which I didn't think was possible.  Unhealthy eating is out of control and soda continues to be my drug of choice. If I could afford it, I'd consider joining Weight Watchers again just for the accountability.  I definitely made smarter choices when I knew I'd be judged on how much I'd lost or gained each week.  Perhaps I need to focus on my health the same way I've been focusing on my finances lately.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Speaking of the new job, its going really well. Busy busy busy! But I'm enjoying the challenge.  I'm not enjoying feeling slightly lost sometimes and not knowing what I'm doing but that will come with time. My small group is really great and I'm learning a lot.  Its still early days, I know and a lot can change in the course of two years but at this point, I'm hoping that the position becomes permanent.  Every week, I'm reminded by something small and seemingly insignificant of why I wanted a change in the first place.
As I've mentioned a little while ago, Emperor Nero had a visit with the new vet in order to have his nose examined.  The steroid shot didn't work and weeks later, it seemed the black gunk in and on his nose was getting worse.  After a number of calls between the vet and I, we decided to try Vaseline.  Yes, Vaseline.  His nose is also dry and the Vet figured .... why not?  Why not, indeed. Wonders!  It seems to have worked.  His nose is much clearer and he gets very little of the black crap along the ridge area. And, even more surprisingly, he doesn't hate it.  He doesn't enjoy it but then Nero doesn't enjoy much other than his morning cat treats and having his whiskers scratched.

Monday, September 01, 2014

STWM: Training Diary Week 11

There was no long walk this Sunday. I just wasn't feeling up to it.  Physically, things are fine. Mentally, not so much.  Ever since my race last weekend, I've been feeling blah.  Blue.  Meh.  I walked once on my treadmill on Thursday mainly because I needed to test out my new running shoes, not because I needed to train. Along came Sunday and I had to force myself to get on the treadmill again.  Pre-race I was excited and looking forward to the half marathon in October. Now? I've seriously considered switching to the 5K although I won't (and Mommikins wouldn't let me if she knew!).  Is this normal?  I don't know but I'm bummed about being bummed.  Bummer.

I bought a new pair of shoes a week or so ago.  They're going back.  Surprisingly, I love the colour. I know... what's wrong with me, right? See above!  Just wearing them around the house, they started to bother the arches of my feet.  I wore them on the treadmill yesterday (lasted a mere 1 mile!) and the Thursday (2 miles) and was uncomfortable with them both times.  I was reminded almost instantly why I switched from these last year.  Tight arches and calves, problems with my knees. Back they go! I'll be switching them for another pair of my beloved Mizuno Enigmas

That's it for now.  Trying to get back into the running/walking/racing mood.  Only 6 more Sundays and then... BOOM. Marathon weekend.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Edmonton Marathon Weekend - 10KM Recap

I considered writing a nice long, detailed post about my 10K race today but I can't do it; at least not yet.  I was in bed Saturday night at 5PM, asleep by 530.  As a result I was up at 2AM on Sunday.  Six hours before I started.  Needless to say, I had plenty of time to gather everything together and be completely prepared.  Was I?  Nope, I forgot my toe caps and paid the price afterwards.
Ok, highlights:  I got the 2nd best hug ever from a volunteer around the 2K mark. I started dreaming of FatBurger around 3K.  At the 5K turnaround (cruelly situated right across from Vi's for Pies) I felt like crying.  There was a fabulous volunteer there who high-fived me and told me I could do it!  This race was difficult for a lot of reasons - I'm about 40lbs overweight; I decided to try running every kilometer marker when I haven't been running; and I was alone.  Mom saw me off at the start and caught up to me a few blocks down the road.  I had no one to look forward to at the finish line and no one to meet up with who may have finished before/after me.  This was a new experience and I didn't like it.  More than once I wanted to give up - who would know?  I would but pfffttt. Who cares. Somehow though I ended up at the finish line, running the last few blocks. Truthfully, all I could muster was a wounded shuffle - feet, back, and knees (both) were screaming at me to stop.  I heard Mark Connelly from CBC (our host for the day) call my name, raised my hands in the air and found just a little bit more.  I booted it to the finish and the tears started  to flow.  As I slowed down to get my medal, the wonderful volunteer who was handing them out saw me and gave me a huge hug.  I may or may not have left salty tears and a little snot on her shoulder.  As I made my way down the chute to the exit I kept crying and another volunteer put his arm around me and asked "What's wrong? You FINISHED!". I just smiled, nodded and kept crying.  Somehow I managed to  pull it together enough to snap this completely unflattering photo.
Other highlights:  I saw Batman, The Flash, someone doing the full marathon in a gorilla suit (yes full marathon = full gorilla suit), and at the expo where I was volunteering the day before, a mini-me version of Captain America, including helmet but no shield.  Love.  The results webpage will not load properly, keeps coming back with internal errors and timing out.  Somehow I managed (I think) to find my results using their app (which is also crapping out regularly).  Here we go...
So, it looks like I was the very last 40-49 year old woman running the 10K to finish.  Finally got through on the website: the results keep changing.  I am now 380/383 - I beat two 20somethings and a 30something.  And if I'm reading it correctly, former Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan beat me by just over 10 minutes!

I'm very glad I did it although I have no idea how I'm going to manage the half in October.  My knees could be a big problem... 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

STWM: Training Diary Week 9

The best laid plans... I had every intention of walking 8.25 miles on Sunday. That's .25 miles further than my training scheduled called for but I was pumped. I was psyched. I was ready!  My bladder however was not.
As you might be able to tell from the picture above, it was taken before the overwhelming urge to wee hit me.  Let me start from the beginning...

Sunday was supposed to be the inaugural Earthgroove 10K Trail Race here in Edmonton. I had signed up for the 5K and planned to try and run part of it.  However, only eight of us signed up for it and it ended up being cancelled.  So, instead I was on my own.  No problemo.  As I mentioned above, I was excited to get out there and really put in some distance. 

Everything started out well although I felt rushed getting out of the house.  I had to be finished by 9:30 as I was meeting the family at Big Brother's house and I'd need to shower and rest before going over.  So, off I went, out the door and into the river valley just after seven.  Thanks to the attacks I suffered last week from the blood suckers, I opted to douse myself in bug spray this time out.  Sunscreen? Check.  Copious amounts of bug repellent? Double check (and double dose to be safe). 

By the time I hit the high level bridge, the urge to "go" had begun. Aw crap (pun intended)!  It wasn't too bad at this point so I figured maybe, just maybe, I could make it all the way to Hawrelak Park before needing to find a bathroom.  Nope.  Part way down Saskatchewan Drive, I realised that I was going to have to detour down into my old friend, Emily Murphy Park.  In my head, I quickly tried to map out a new route and figure out how far I could go.  Needless to say, disappointment quickly set in.  Relief also set in as I inched closer to the bathroom.  

I must have sweat off all of my bug spray.  Walking through the grass towards the bathroom, I encountered one adventurous mosquito that risked his tiny little life by trying to suck my blood.  He died valiantly.  However, when I came out and started on my way again, his relatives swarmed me en masse.  They were everywhere!  Sadly, thanks to the skeeter assault and the lack of a definitive route to get the mileage I wanted, I cut my morning short and did my standard 5.5 mile loop.

Some good news: on the advice of Pat the Runner, I decided to try a toe sleeve. It worked really well, at least at this shorter distance.  Here's hoping that the toe problems have been resolved or at least lessened.
Next Sunday, I'm doing the 10K race as part of the Edmonton Marathon weekend.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wheelie Time!

Confession time.  I've never owned a car.  Ever.  In all my 41 years.  

I'm going to change that come springtime.  I've wanted a car for a long time.  Heck, since before I could drive but I've never been able to afford it.  Plus Edmonton has a halfway decent transit system (although yes, I think Calgary's is currently better) so getting around has never been a problem.  I also have a super awesome Big Brother and a Super Duper SIL who have lent me their vehicles over the years or taken me where I needed to go when the bus wouldn't cut it.

My original plan that I hatched earlier this year was to pay off my student loans and my personal loan, and then save for a couple of years and pay cash for a car.  However, after dinner with friends last night, I got to thinking.  Why should I go car-less for the next four or five years while I save when I can finance a car and have it almost paid off in the same amount of time - while getting to drive! The difference in cost between paying cash and financing is minimal (I got an online quote this morning) so its not like I'll be paying 1.5X the cost of the car.
The car I'm considering is a 2014 Hyundai Accent GL 5 Door (Hatchback).  Automatic transmission.  Green apple in colour (would I get it in anything else?).  The payments are totally doable once my student loan is paid off in full (I'm anticipating March 2015) and I got a few quotes online for insurance.  However, I don't know the first thing about buying a car.  What do you do first?  Buy the car or get insurance?  Is there haggling involved or is the sticker price THE price?  Do you get the extra coverage through the dealership or skip it?  Argh.

Any tips from those of you who've purchased a car before?  Help!