today’s goals

I definitely woke up  much less stiff and sore this morning.  But I also had to do a very modified work out yesterday (due to my sore knee).

Hubs and I are headed to his parents this weekend so John can help them do some projects (which involve climbing on the roof, so I’m guessing they are both serious and necessary).  I’ve struggled with travel since the whole MS thing, because I am a creature of habit, and those habits involve food (ahem, smoothies).  So yesterday, I set about finding a small, portable blender so I can have a smoothie in the morning while we are away from home.

Amazon really dropped the ball.  I originally ordered a blender that had a guaranteed delivery date of tomorrow, just to have the tracking information update this morning when I checked shipping.  Thanks Amazon, so glad I have a Prime Membership and infinitely more glad that it’s so efficient.  Smoke could be seen coming out of my ears and in a rage, I cancelled the order.  What good does a blender do me on Monday?  No good at all.  None.

So, today, my goals include hitting my Move goal (aka burning over 800 calories according to my watch), drinking at least four bottles of water in preparation for meds tomorrow (being hydrated means the nurses can find the veins and saves me additional angst because I really don’t love needles) and finding a portable blender at either Kohls (I’ve googled, it seems they have quite a selection) or BBB (I’d rather hit the jackpot at Kohls – it’s closer to home).  I’ve done my meal planning for the day – salad for lunch and veggie noodles with chicken sausage for dinner (I had sushi last night, because Hubs had to go meet a work associate at the last minute and take him to dinner).  We also have to pack up the truck for the weekend — tent for camping in the yard, air mattress, blankets etc etc.  I’m still trying to figure out what workouts I will do while in Mansfield.  But I’m sure I’ll come up with something.  Additionally, the paper has begun to accumulate on my desk, so I should probably sift through that before going away for a couple days.

Ah.  Life.  Always keeping you on your toes.  Wishing everyone a great day filled with lots of smart food choices, a healthy sweat and tons of hydration.  It’s a humid one in Southeastern PA, so I’m sure the MS will be buzzing!  (Literally.  It feels like buzzing in my fingers and hands).

every morning

This morning John and I slept in.  What that really means is that he gets up with Lucy at 6a so she can have her breakfast and a little walk around the neighborhood to do her duty, and then he comes back to bed.  So really, it’s a win for me.  I always mean to get up but the beginnings and the ends of days are tough for me.  It’s tough for me to get going, and it’s tough for me to stay awake at night.

I thought, since I’m trying to get back to this space a little more, that I’d begin July with a post about how I begin most of my days (barring meds, or MRIs like yesterday, when we get up at 5a and head into the city).

Every morning, I get up and put on my watch.  That begins the tracking of my movement for the day.  Also, the earlier you start your stand hours, the sooner you hit 12.  I check my Nalgene by the bedside – how full it is, etc.  I have four Nalgenes, three of which are in constant rotation at the house for my water tracking.  One is purple, one pink and the last green.  Each is 32 ounces, so based on the idea that a person should drink half their body weight in water ounces, I need to have about 80 ounces of water a day.  And more, because I exercise.  So I make a mental note of which color bottle I’m starting with, and how many ounces are in it.  I try to have three full bottles a day, plus any extra waters at restaurants, or our other water bottles that fit into the Jeep (and actually keep water cold). Having the different colors helps me remember (if it’s a tough brain day) how much I’ve had.  I can track by color.

Once I’m vertical, and have allowed my body to have its morning spasm (always enjoyable), I get dressed to work out.  My goal is always to ride the bike early, so that the rest of the day is free, but I will confess that that doesn’t happen all the time.  I get distracted doing laundry, or cleaning the floors, or reading a magazine.  But I now have a whole section of work out clothing in my closet (thank you Fabletics) so I’m usually go to go with clean clothing.

I’m a skincare junkie, so I try to splash my face with some cold water and then do a quick wipe with toner.  Then I slap on some lightweight moisturizer with SPF so that when Lucy and I walk around the neighborhood I don’t get sunburned.  I also psychotically brush my teeth and use a tongue scraper (sidenote, if you have never used one or don’t even know what it is, let me tell you that it is the best thing for making your mouth feel clean and keeping your breath fresh.  I am obsessed with mine).  I will confess that the time I spend in the bathroom at the beginning of the day and the end of the day is not a small amount.  But … I like taking care of my skin and my teeth.

Next up I take four drops of liquid Vitamin D and B12.  I do 8000 IUs of Vitamin D a day and 1000 of B12.  Probably a little higher than the average Joe, but I have multiple sclerosis, so it works for me.  I also always  make my bed and clean up any clothing I might not have put away the night before.  Sometimes I’m so blindingly tired when I go to bed I don’t even remember, so despite my OCD tendencies, it isn’t uncommon that my clothes are folded and left out on the bench under my window.  Somehow, despite fatigue, I still manage to fold my clothing before bed.  Just not put it away.

I also put some foot cream on my right foot, because the nerve endings in that foot are shot, and so I have a build up of dead skin and calluses (super sexy, I know) and my podiatrist prescribes me an ointment that eats away at that stuff.  It’s pretty rad.

The best part of my morning is my green smoothie, which I almost always have first thing, before Lucy’s walk, my bike ride, or anything else.  I’ve been doing green smoothies for a couple years now, and our basic recipe is pretty delish, but sometimes we switch it up if we have extra fruit (recently we had mango and it was so.yum) or something we want to try.   We used to use the NutriBullet, but that burnt out after a couple years so now we use our Vitamix.  If you don’t have a Vitamix, consider getting one, because it is glorious.  I absolutely love it.  I put baby spinach, orange juice, milk, ice cubes, organic peanut butter, a banana, Field of Greens supplement, Matcha, ginger, turmeric and a little cayenne pepper into our smoothie. I used to use coconut oil, but I like the flavor of a nut butter better.  You could make it healthier by using nut milk and nut butter, but John and I have tried (to this point unsuccessfully) to make the switch away from cow’s milk and intermittently used different combos of almond butter, cashew butter and others, but because it’s such a routine thing, I buy the easiest stuff to get when I’m trying to get in and out of Wegmans as fast as possible.  (That store is NEVER not crowded.  Seriously.)

With our smoothies I dole out our vitamins, a Men’s Multi for John, Women’s Multi for me, and a Vitamin C boost.  Sometimes we take Airborne (depending on the season and how we are feeling).  After that, it’s a walk around the neighborhood with Lucy, which I consider my warm-up, and then some burpees, squats, ab stuff and a bike ride.  My goal was 100 miles a week, but I’ve upped it recently to 150 (I was consistently hitting about 135 a week, and figured I needed to increase the challenge).

Anyway, that’s my morning.  That’s my little recipe for trying to feel the best I can regardless of how my body and my disease are feeling.  I read in one of my health magazines an interesting piece about hitting a workout plateau.  And I think I’ve begun to mentally apply it to MS.  A lot of times people hit a plateau because they don’t believe they can keep going/push harder/lift heavier/last longer.  But mostly, it isn’t about what our muscles are capable of, but what our mind has decided.  So sometimes, when I am near tears and feeling utterly beaten and frustrated, I think about that.  And I try to focus on succeeding and overcoming.  And once I believe I can, it makes it a lot easier to accomplish.  So, even when my bones ache, and everything feels heavy and clunky, I make myself get up, strap on my watch, and begin my day putting goodness in my body.

Happy July all! xo

my bike is a very very very nice bike

This morning, I was feeling incredibly motivated.  So –despite the habit I’d fallen into the past few weeks– I jumped on my stationary bike before 9am.  I started my audible.com book (“The Cruel Sea” for anyone interested … not something you might first consider to be good bike-riding listening, but I’ve been enjoying it very much).  I settled in for a long ride.

But … Something was off.  I’d noticed it yesterday, but thought it was just my foot slipping on the pedal.  This morning, it was different.  Very rhythmic.  Very disruptive.  Around 30 minutes into my ride, I picked up my phone and messaged John.  I told him something was wrong — he’d need to look at the left pedal when he got home.  I was going to power through my ride.

Only, I wasn’t.

At 32 minutes, the pedal fell off.  I scrunched down, I looked at each piece — the fallen off pedal and the mechanism on the bike.  Things were wobbling.  I sent John a picture.  I told him I’d broken the bike.

He was wonderful.  He asked for more pictures.  He started googling new bikes.  Within three hours, we’d checked “Best of” lists and ordered a new stationary bike as well as a trainer to put our outdoor bikes on.  I maniacally checked the shipping info.

I have become so used to riding my bike every day, sweating out the sorrows, the woes, the frustrations, the sadness and the fears.  Working through problems.  That when the pedal fell off, I felt even more adrift than I had when I left my job.  I felt terrified.  How would I get through the seven days it would take for my new bike to arrive?  How would I survive?  More importantly, how would I sweat? 

I fretted about it all day.  While I took Lucy to the vet, went clothing shopping with John, waited for take-out burgers.  I tried to calm myself with the knowledge that help was on its way.  But it didn’t make me feel better.  Smaller bumps than this had disrupted better men.  How would I stay focused and motivated with a seven-day gap?  I didn’t trust myself.  I didn’t trust my resolve.  Thirteen months, and this could be the end.  I was despondent.

John and I got home.  We put on comfy clothes.  I spread out our food booty on a TV tray.   Burgers, and french fries and blue cheese dipping sauce with a small cup of root beer.  He said he was just going to check out the bike.  Minutes ticked by.  I paced.  I fretted more.  I  poured two glasses of wine and walked downstairs.

“Do you want the good news or the bad news?”  There was laughter under his words, but ironic laughter, disillusioned laugher.  Not funny laughter.

“It can be fixed? But not today?”  I guessed.

“Ha!”  This time he did laugh.  “No.  It’s fixed.  But we just spent a ton of money replacing it.”

“It’s fixed?” My voice was filled with both delight and the underlying fear that he was lying.

“It’s fixed.”  He stood up, his hands on the console.  He spoke with finality.

My whole world lightened.  I smiled, stupidly, childishly.   I positively beamed.  He shook his head.

“I can ride it tomorrow?”

“I wish I’d looked at it tomorrow.  Because now I have to ride it tonight!” He words were heavy but lined with amusement.  He caught my expression.  “You can ride it tomorrow.”

We climbed the stairs back to our living room and settled in for burgers and sitcoms.  We toasted our glasses, and I thanked him for fixing my bicycle.  He smiled sadly.

“I’ve counted on it for thirteen months,” I began, feeling guilty.

“I know. I’m glad it was an easy fix.”  He kissed my forehead and took my hand.  We curled into the couch.  “I just don’t know where I’m going to put the second bike.”

moments in life

I chug green smoothies on my drive to the train station.

I’m never up early enough to drink it before flying out the door, my arms overflowing with keys, phone, wallet, lunch, kombucha, a scarf and coat, umbrella  … and also something absurdly random that is (of course) desperately necessary.

This morning, as I flew down Romansville toward the Thorndale train station, the fog coming in great puffs across the blackened road, I laughed at how much I concentrate on finishing my smoothie.  It’s a morning challenge for the ages.  In general, making the train is a morning challenge for the ages.  But I seem to do it, most mornings, against all odds.  I call that adulting.

Yesterday I slunk down to my bicycle (sitting innocently enough in our garage). I eyed it up. For what seems like forever, the fatigue has been overwhelming (it’s meds week) and my brain has been fuzzy, too full and unfocused.  I didn’t want to exercise.  I wanted to stay in pajamas, watching endless episodes of “Gilmore Girls.” (I’ve just begun watching them, and routinely wonder why I never watched them before … I am in love).  

I knew I would feel better.  But I was feeling agitated.  Fussy and unmotivated.  I didn’t want to listen to “Kitchen Confidential” (my current audible.com book). I began it because my husband loves it, and while it is highly enjoyable, I deal with restaurants daily at work and don’t always want to spend time in them for fun.  Especially the seedy underbelly that any lifer is intimately familiar with.

I’ve listened to “Hamilton” nearly exclusively since April.  And it’s great to work out to.  But I wanted a story, something to distract me from the blinking lights and the display slowly accumulating minutes and miles.  Usually, “Hamilton” is great for that.  It’s a story.  But it’s a story I’ve heard so many times recently, that I know it inside and out.  I zone out now when the inclines get tough.  I’m no longer distracted.

I love musical theatre — any musical theatre really — because it’s a story set to music.

When I first began listening to ‘Hamilton’ at work, a woman in my office was shocked and surprised I hadn’t seen it.  She laughed, said she got into musical theatre after seeing the show — but she couldn’t listen to the music before that.  It had no context.

I’m not like that.  My most favorite musicals — the West End version of “Chess” and “Hamilton” — are both musicals I have never seen.  But I don’t need to.  I can get lost in the story, in the music, without ever seeing an actress or actor perform a single song.  The art of musical theatre — sustaining a narrative through song — it’s beautiful and difficult to get right.  (I’ve seen some bad musical theatre).

I rode my bicycle to “Hamilton.”  It wasn’t a bad ride.  I did feel better afterwards.  And I got lost in the story all over again.

Septa is on strike.

Which means that after the Herculean effort that they put forward to get back to our regular schedule following the July pulling of the Silverliner cars — we’re right back where we were before.  And it’s even worse during rush hour at night.  Total chaos.

The 6.50am Great Valley Flier is a local train this morning.  Making every stop on the way to the city.  It’s supposed to be a “Flier”.  It’s not.  Running about 10 minutes late, and counting.

It means that tomorrow, I will have to drive to University City for my medicine, or I won’t get there in time.

I need the trains to be on time, and on schedule again.  Please.  Someone.  Somewhere.  This is excruciating.

 

 

friday morning

I’m on my way to meds this morning.  It means getting on the 6.50a train – which is now the norm because of the issues with Septa’s car fleet that was taken off the rails over 4th July weekend.  The parking lot was nearly empty this morning – I guess a lot of Thorndalers don’t work on Fridays.

Yesterday, over 70 people were killed in Nice during a Bastille Day celebration.  Our world is sliding slowly toward chaos.  I wonder about my friends who have small children — I wonder if they think of the world their children will inherit one day.  It hasn’t — as yet — seemed to inspire much action amongst my generation except memes on Facebook and angry rants without actual thought.  Saying we need change is like saying I’m going to be the next President.  Empty without any action.

I’ve felt like writing a lot recently.  Not because of Nice, or Orlando, or Paris before that.  I feel as though my thoughts -on all of the violence and hate that seems just under the surface of our world- are muddy and confused.  I want to understand – I really do.  But I don’t understand and I don’t know what the best thing to do is.

This morning, all I want to write about is my bicycle.  Somewhat trivial and insignificant in the face of the tragedy our world is dealing with.  But meds week is exhausting for me — more so in the summer, when the heat is debilitating.  So this week, along with my bi-annual meeting with Dr. M, has been excruciating.

(P.S.  Loud people on the train at 7am irritate me.  They shouldn’t.  But they do.  Shhh people!) 

Yesterday I made my way home through a fog of fatigue, kissed my Lucy Lou, took her on a walk, and then shuffled down to the garage and my bicycle.  We also have two real bikes in the garage — we have gone on a long ride since buying them.  But I am much more consistent about jumping on the stationary Schwinn, picking a course and time goal, putting my head down, and falling into the story of ‘Hamilton.’ (Yes, folks.  I work out to ‘Hamilton.’  At this point in my life I do just about everything to ‘Hamilton’.).

And here’s the crazy thing — after 45 minutes, a lot of sweat, and 15.6 miles (my best time/distance combo so far) I felt infinitely better.  My mind felt clear.  I felt energized.  I realized, as I wiped the bike down and began shutting off the lights and the overhead fan, that I am probably addicted to the bicycle.  I’ve joked about this before, but yesterday it felt real.

Before M.S. I began running.  I did Broad Street — i had the Nike app on my phone.  Lucy and I did between four and five miles most mornings.

And then I broke my foot.  And M.S. began to consume me.  My legs got weak, we got Lydia — walking became harder than running ever was.  And time slipped by.  I was sad, and angry.  I felt trapped.  I tried going to the gym and swimming. It felt great — but the amount of time it took — get there, get changed, get wet, get out, get dry, drive home.  I was rarely motivated to go.

Last October, during a routine scan, John’s doctor’s saw a shadow.  And then surgery became necessary immediately. And so, he bought a stationary bike.  For himself.  To help with recovery.  It sat in our house from November until about mid-January.  It became what most home exercise equipment becomes — a collector of dust and occasionally laundry.

I don’t remember what got me on the first time.  Maybe our upcoming trip to Italy. Possibly not wanting to stare at a lot of wasted money.  Not sure.  But when we got home from Italy, I decided to make some changes.  So on March 1st, I started riding the bike.  Every day.

I didn’t like it a whole lot at first.  It was a drag, it took too much time, I got all sweaty.  I didn’t have work out clothing.  I had EVERY excuse in the book.  So I signed up for Fabletics (online advertisement = works).  I’d read that having nice clothing helps with motivation to work out.  So I ordered my first outfit — orange leggings and a white tank.

I wore those leggings ALL.THE.TIME.  I love them. I wore them grocery shopping and to Va La Vineyards.  And I wore them to ride my bicycle.  Every day.  When April rolled around and I ordered my second outfit, I couldn’t wait to not have to do laundry every day.  I’d committed to at least 66 days of working out (something I’d heard about having to do something for 66 days for it to become a habit).  I began actually using my “My Finess Pal” app for the first time in about four years.

It’s halfway through July now.  I have four or five workout outfits, padded bicycle shorts, body butter, riding gloves …. The list (surprisingly!) goes on.  Now, my bike isn’t a daily purgatory.  It’s where I go when I’m sad, when I’m mad, when I’m tired.  It is 45 minutes a day (give or take — sometimes I max out at 30 and sometimes I push to 60… it really depends) that is just my time.  It makes me feel good.  Really good.  Healthy and as though I’m taking care of myself.  I want to give this gift to everyone.  I understand why fitness people hype it up so much.  But you can’t actually give it to anyone who isn’t willing to push through.

Because it’s not super fun at first.  And I have a feeling that if you slip, and miss a couple of weeks — it isn’t easy to go back.  But it feels like a precious gift, a little secret weapon that I hold closely in the palm of my hand.  That no matter what, I can get on my bike, and get sweaty, and feel better.

66 days

It takes awhile for me to buy into things.  I hear them, I process them, I’m pretty sure I know better.  And usually, when all is said and done, there’s a 50/50 blend of old and new in my life.

I love when people tell me what works, what I must do.  Aaaand that’s sarcastic.

But a couple months ago our company brought in a consultant.  (Cue initial eye roll).  And I was surprised because the things I learned from him were fascinating, and stimulated my brain.  Little tidbits ~ things I’d never thought of before.  Perspective.

For example, did you know that multiple studies have been done and it takes 66 days for something to become a habit?  It takes 66 days of repeated actions for it to become embedded in your brain as natural.  Sixty-six days is no joke.

I mean that sincerely.  Because after the hubs and I got back from Italy (both an amazing and excruciating trip) I decided that I needed to make some changes.  And I needed to stick to them.  I’m really *really* good at trying new things — but I don’t always tough it out.  It’s been a four-year journey for me ~ going from someone who never thought about a thing she ate to a person who thinks about everything she eats.  And when she eats it.  And how much of it she eats.  A person who drinks green juice and green smoothies and organic raw kombucha.  But once I began tuning into my body, I couldn’t turn the awareness off.  So every day is a new beginning of choices, of decisions.  Of picking what works for me.  (And sidenote, those things have changed and evolved over time).

When I was diagnosed with MS, I decided that nothing was going to change.  But that was unrealistic.  Like new parents saying that having a child wouldn’t change them.  It does.  It’s inevitable.  Some of the changes are necessary.  And some happen without even acknowledging they happened. And some things you fight to keep the same.

But the flip side of the coin is that if you DO decide you want to make a change, you actually have to make the change.  You can’t talk about it and then make exceptions every other day.  You have to choose to change, and then stick with it.

That’s always been hard for me.  I’m an excellent complainer.

It started small.  All my ‘healthy’ eating turned out to be not that healthy after all.  And then I discovered, that the better you take care of your body & your insides, the more you feel it, and want to stick with it.  When you are eating crap and drinking all the time, you aren’t really in touch with how shitty you feel.  But when you start to gain perspective, everything begins to shift.  Drink water.  Get sleep.  Eat green veggies.  The result is feeling better, having more energy, and generally having less health issues.  Good stuff, right?

But the other thing that happened when I was diagnosed was that I went ahead and broke my foot.  And it threw my body into a tailspin.  And all the healthy things that I’d worked hard to include in my life (running, yoga, hiking, etc) became infinitely harder.  I had weakness in my legs, my feet both hurt and were numb all the time …. It was frustrating, depressing, and didn’t inspire much hope for movement.

I sporadically went to the gym and swam laps.  But that takes SO MUCH WORK.  And it was hard to get into a rhythm with it.  When we moved to our new house, I once again joined the gym. I have yet to go.  It’s a pretty big money suck.  And then, in October, John found out he needed surgery.  Big surgery.  And he decided to buy a stationary bike.

It sat in our spare room and then our basement, for probably six weeks.  It became what all home exercise equipment seems to become — a collector of dust.  As our Italy trip approached, I hopped on it once or twice (because clearly, that’s all that is necessary to lose weight and look like a super model).  And then we went to Italy.  And we did a lot of walking.  And I could actually do the walking.  Which was a crazy realization.  And I started to check my steps on my phone and become aware of how much exercise I was getting daily.

So even though my eating in Italy was terrible, and I paid for it, it also showed me that I was capable of more movement than I knew.  So we came home, and I decided (armed with the new knowledge about 66 days) that I would start riding the bike.

I didn’t ride it every day at the beginning.  I don’t ride it every day now.  But I ride it most days.  And I have built up my time and my resistance.  (My insanely competitive nature has come in handy!) The other thing I started was tracking my food intake.  The first couple weeks were more informational that anything — I logged what I ate.  I didn’t change much.  I didn’t care if I went over my calorie goal.  But then it started to niggle in my brain — if you want a burger, ride the bike.  You get 500 more calories!  If you want wine, ride the bike.  If you don’t want to ride the bike, eat zucchini spirals and drink water.

I have not hit 66 days yet.  I’m at 50 (I know this, because My Fitness Pal sends me notifications with exclamation points which means it’s a good thing!).  But just like green juice and green smoothies began to change my life four years ago, making exercise a priority — even for 50 days, after such a long break — has changed my life.

I know that sounds pretty intense.  But I have started to take better care of myself because I feel the difference. I’m actually watching what I’m eating, and I’m moving my body & muscles.  I’m getting a healthy sweat in nearly every day (which has done wonders for my stress levels, I have to say!).  It feels good to be focused, and to also see results.  Do I look like Christy Turlington?  No.  I am certain that will never happen.  But my body feels tighter, I am sleeping better, and I’ve lost a couple of pounds.  So my clothing fits better, my eyes are brighter and I don’t have such dark under-eye circles.

About two weeks in, I really thought I’d see something.  And I saw nothing.  I weighed MORE, I was tired all the time (this is nothing new — MS takes care of that on the regular). But I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall.  I took a day off here and there, and curled up on the couch, drank wine and ate sushi.  And then I got up the next day and tried again.  And the longer I pushed myself to ride the bike, hit the bag, the better I began to feel.

I am proud of myself for making the commitment to do this for 66 days.  Because even 50 in, I know I’ll stick with it. I am finally feeling the benefits and the difference in myself.  I’ve seen all the memes about life being short, and enjoying the cake.  I enjoy the cake.  But I also enjoy the kombucha, and the spiralized zucchini, and the green smoothies.  And those things make my whole body and my mind feel good, too.  So that’s a huge plus.