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

creature comforts

On Wednesday my husband bought me three Caramello bars.

I adore Caramello bars.  I compulsively buy them every time I go to a Wawa (or heaven-forbid another gas station market). I cannot go to CVS without detouring to the candy aisle to check for them.  If I don’t eat them, I stash them in the freezer.  Y’know.  Just in case.

I was feeling a little blue on Wednesday.  It’s the middle of March, so it’s right on time.  But it gets me every year because I am convinced that it will be better.  It never is.

Tuesday’s ‘blizzard’ was so disappointing, and my day was so … far from what I’d imagined … that Wednesday felt like a hangover.  The ‘ice snow’ was piled inconveniently around the entire neighborhood, making a walk with Lucy like climbing Everest and moving my car basically a no-go  Not that I had an incredibly exciting destination.  I didn’t.  But a chai tea latte on a snow squall day can cheer up anyone.  And it wasn’t even an option.

Bad days are always peppered in with good days — regardless of my work status.  I think everyone — if they were being honest — could agree that not every day dawns full of sunshine and roses.  It’s really about how we choose to deal with the obstacles.

I’m getting better, but I’m not necessarily good.

Some of the things I’m non-negotiable about in order to get myself motivated ~

I always get up when John takes Lucy out for her morning walk.  No matter what, I make us smoothies.  I’m pretty Nazi-ish about green smoothies.  Sometimes all John wants on the weekend is a big breakfast, and instead I present him with a bright green smoothie, and multi-vitamins.  He’s a champ though, and drinks them every day.

I also made a commitment last March to ride my bike.  And now, I ride pretty much every day.  Even when I procrastinate until 4pm, I manage to slink down, climb on and ride.  And inevitably, I feel better.  All that talk about endorphins and exercise?  Yeah, it’s pretty true.  Exercise works like a charm every time to boost my spirits.

I’m also a little obsessive about my water intake.  I try really hard to drink about 90 ounces of water a day.  First, it’s not easy.  Second, you have to pee a.lot.  But again, it always ends up being worth it.  I feel better, I don’t stuff junk food in my face all day, and my skin looks amazing (haha!).

I think one of the most important things is recognizing when the blues are coming.  Sometimes I’m in them before I realize.  But because I am such a creature of habit, I’ve usually already had my green smoothie, drunk a ton of water, and either ridden the bike or had it planned.  Doing these things are a small help in keeping my life on an even keel.  Because it’s not just about the sadness, it’s also about the M.S.  The way it wreaks havoc with your life.  The way you are up one minute and down the next.

I’m really really hoping that the weather figures itself out and we progress slowly toward April and warmer temperatures.  I love the winter and the snow.  But Mother Nature sure has been ornery about it this year.  I’m ready to feel steady again.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

here I am

I love days when I feel productive and as though I made good decisions.

Those days don’t happen all the time.  And when I have one, I am very inspired to continue the trend.  But inevitably, I get tired, or distracted and again make less good decisions.

Yesterday was a semi-good day — which I feel can be marked as progress. I didn’t have a green smoothie to start the day (I never — despite all intentions when I fall asleep) get up early enough to make one and also make my train.  So I rely on the kindness and thoughtfulness of my hubs.  Yesterday he also deserved to sleep in a little (what exactly is ‘sleeping in’ when it occurs before 6am…?  Ah, I know.  It’s called ‘Lucy didn’t wake up at 5.35a’).  But I got a green juice at Starbucks (which was actually nearly frozen through and hadn’t defrosted by the time I left the office at 4pm).  But I did buy it with the best of intentions.

I managed to drink a fair amount of water.  I have a system — more like a schedule — that I try to stick to, but it has proven challenging when my days are crazy … as more of them tend to be as the business begins to grow exponentially.  I try — valiently, i might add — to drink a full 32 ounces before noon, another before 2pm and then I can ride the train home without worrying about having to use the bathroom.  That leaves another 20 ounces to be consumed prior to bed and I try to get that done before 7pm so I’m not up every 2 hours throughout the night.  MS, folks.  She’s no joke.

I did a lot of work — I usually do a lot of work, but yesterday’s was quantifiable work & I like having evidence of productivity.  Then I got on the stationary bike when I got home and rode six miles — my longest workout yet.  (As a sidetone, it’s only my third ride on our stationary bike).  I only had two (albeit rather full) glasses of wine.  And we had salmon sashimi and dumplings for dinner.  Not so bad.

But … I had one of the worst night’s sleep ever.  I get really bad headaches behind my left eye and last night’s was a doozy.  Have you ever taken pain pills and visualized how they are going to alleviate the pain?  Well, I do it a lot, because these headaches wreck me.  In my fitful, painful, sweaty half-sleep, all I kept thinking about after downing the Excedrin, was how the pills were progressing through my system, to my blood, to the spot of unendurable pain in my brain.  Thankfully, when John got up to head out to the Outdoorsman show with his buds, the pain seemed to have significantly lessened.  But I am always so cautious after a headache.  Nothing is worth doing that could trigger it to come back.  It is just absolutely the most excruciating pain.  And it always seems to last forever — as though I can no longer remember what it is like to not be crippled by it.

Anyway.

Right now Lucy and I are in my office while Dora cleans.  The paper seems to have multiplied again and it’s so depressing.  Paper on this desk, paper on my desk at work  …. so much paper needing to be read, dealt with, filed.  Sometimes I wistfully think back to simpler times … but then I remember that this is what I dreamed of, this house and my career.  And I can’t be too frustrated.

John and I leave for Italy on Wednesday.  It still feels very surreal that we are going.  There were times when I thought I’d never travel again.  First because of money, then because of MS.  And now, a little over a year into Tysabri and six years slogging away at the restaurant … dreams are coming true left and right.  I’m spoiled and I’m so grateful.

Because right now, in this moment, despite the challenges, despite the unfairness of life — right now, I am happy.  And that is a great feeling.

 

 

being grown up

The amount of things I do on a daily basis in the name of health — well, it’s ridiculous.

I began thinking about it one morning, as I took my liquid vitamin D, put my other supplements in my bag, made my lunch, prepared my hot water with lemon and green smoothie for breakfast.  And that’s just part of the nutrition side.  I drink over 90 ounces of water a day (trust me, that’s a lot of bathroom breaks), I’m about 90% meat-free, sober about 98% of the time (wine, despite being wildly delicious and utterly fascinating, also enhances my leg spasms and other MS symptoms) and I don’t eat very much gluten.  I have to say that when all these changes were first presented I was completely overwhelmed by all of it.  I didn’t think I was unhealthy but there were a lot of adjustments that were suggested as better alternatives. (In the years since I began this journey, I have learned that many of those adjustments did indeed make life better.)

Outside of food (and all those components) I also use a dry brush (my trusty Yerba) in the mornings before I shower — to help circulation, the lymphatic system and keeping my skin healthy. I try to meditate every morning. I moisturize every day (this is THE most tedious part of my day — I just find it completely tiresome), I have a pretty strict face routine (tinted moisturizer for the day, a different moisturizer for sleeping, different face washes/masks for the morning and evening — and I count to 40 -slowly- while washing my face).  I also count to 40 while brushing my teeth, and I use a tongue scraper morning and night (one of my favorite things — i have to say, as gross as it is, the junk that builds up on your tongue is a pretty good indicator of how healthy your insides are).

And in addition to all these things (which can seem endless) I also, oh, y’know, work and live my life.

It’s insane to think that when I was young I didn’t think about any of these things.  I didn’t worry about my intestines or my colon, I didn’t read my tongue’s debris like gypsies read tea leaves, I didn’t think about what I was eating at.all.  And let’s be honest — I’m not that old.  In fact, I don’t think of myself as old at all.  Thirty-five is just the right age.

I do attribute the life changes to both getting older and being more self-aware as well as MS.  And it’s crazy because the more you learn about things and decide what you agree with and what you think is just absurd (and trust me, there are things that seem completely insane in the world of nutrition and health), the more changes you make.  Almost unnoticeably.

To be completely honest (which should be a given, since this is a blog by me, about, well, me) I am proud of myself and how far I’ve come.  As John and I gear up to buy our house and move away from our first (and to this point, only) home together, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on where we began and how far we’ve come.  We started out as two kids who didn’t have two nickels to rub together, eating incredibly unhealthy dinners (as we learned to feed ourselves outside of the restaurant industry) and dreaming of ‘one day.’

Well, now, six years, a dog, a wedding, several jobs & several cars later, we’ve arrived at ‘one day.’  We took some detours along the way (no one plans for a chronic disease, right?) but we got here, and it feels kinda great.  It also reminds me that I have grown up — even if I still feel like I’m 17.  (There are things that a teenager just can’t — and maybe shouldn’t — understand.)  I think life, aging and all the things in between are fascinating.  I like analyzing it and dissecting it in my head, in my thoughts.  Understanding how I’ve gotten where I am and what I’ve learned along the way.

It’s kinda cool.  Even if it takes up a lot of time.  🙂

 

OHI moments

So, it’s been a few weeks since I finished my week-long stay at OHI Austin.

And despite my original desire to revert completely back to all my old habits and beliefs — that stuff gets into your head!

Okay, so I wasn’t completely set on forgetting all that I’d learned.  But throughout the week I was there, it was such a roller coaster of emotion and informational input — that by the end my brain was fried and I found deep comfort in the idea that life could and would go on just as I’d been living it before checking in to room 207.

Let’s rewind for a minute.

A few months ago, my boss spent a week at a place called Optimum Health Institute (OHI) in San Diego, California.  He came back refreshed and inspired — albeit with clear opinions about certain aspects of the program — and he felt very strongly that I should look into spending some time there myself.  I googled it.  I was intrigued but in a distant sort of way — oh, it looks good for those who have money to burn, bur for someone like myself, where every penny counts?  More like a faraway dream.

And then circumstances unfolded — the man and I booked a trip to Austin Texas to visit my brother in his newly purchased home in his newly inhabited city — and all of a sudden, I was booked for a week at OHI’s Austin campus.  And before I knew it, Sunday Oct 19th rolled around and it was 4pm, and my husband and brother were waving goodbye, and I was there.  Alone.

OHI was so much more than I anticipated.  Yes, I’d googled it, and yes, I’d skimmed through some menus, and read some bold print — but I didn’t really know what I was getting into.  Over the course of five and half full days, I learned an absurd amount about my digestive system, organs in my body, the nutritional value of food and the power of the mind.  And I made some incredible friends.

The campus was beautiful and the room (where I spent a lot of time … juicing and raw vegan food wears a person out!) was very comfy.  On Sunday night we had a small orientation, but it was an early night, and I (being the anti-social monkey that I can be) retreated to my room and spent a chunk of time in tears, wondering what I’d signed myself up for, before falling into an uneasy sleep.

On Monday morning we were walked through the program.  I recognized in the other first timers some of the same trepidation and unease that I felt within myself.  Do what?  Seriously?  These people have to be out of their minds.  

I had a tough time with some of it — buying into their philosophies, their love of wheatgrass (and its ultra superhuman healing powers …), their thoughts on food, colonics/enemas, etc.  It was so much information, and a total change of thought process — so much new stuff all at once, and so intense.  I went through waves of acceptance and then vehement denial.  I knew that I had someone at the touch of a phone to be support — but sometimes I wasn’t looking for support of the program.  Sometimes I was looking for support of the exact opposite — that living my life, eating decadent restaurant food and drinking sumptuous heady wines was okay.  It wouldn’t kill me.  And after a couple of days at OHI, I was pretty sure that their whole message was that if I followed their plan, and gave up some much of what I loved, I would somehow be healed of my worst MS symptoms.  And I had a problem with that, too.

But here I am, several weeks later, and so much of what I learned is still lingering in the forefront of my mind.  Could I eat terrible food?  Sure.  But unfortunately, now I am armed with so much knowledge, it makes it hard to do that to myself.

Ignorance really is bliss.

I’m not ready to jump on a raw vegan bandwagon — too many things come to mind that I just could.not give up — at least, not all at once, cold turkey.

But I also felt that way two years ago, when my boss’s wife gave me all sorts of guidance about food, and I realized that as healthy as I thought I was being, I really had.no.idea.  And since then, green smoothies and green juice, and eating a vegetable-based diet have become (mostly) our norm.

So despite all my skepticism, here I am, finally buying into the fact that some of that OHI mumbo jumbo was actually excellent information and I should apply it.  Just not all at once.  That’s just — well, insane.

in the thick of the struggle

So here I am, all geared up for Monday.  Finally walking without crutches, at work early, getting through all the sludge as the week unfolds before me.  Buuuuut …. on an awesome note, the man and I did real meal planning for the first time ever.  As in, sitting down and planning what we are going to eat for lunch and for dinner this whole week.

It was a little crazy.  But boy oh boy did it make grocery shopping easier! I only bought one random thing and safely stored it in the freezer for emergencies (I’d never seen an Italian Herb marinated pork tenderloin in our meat section before… had to try!)

The man is stoked because it means we have something to eat every day at work (without panicking at 7.30a as we rush to get out of the house or just being hungry all.day.) plus it means no after-work grocery store trips (which really eat up an evening … and that is a travesty when the weather is as gorgeous as it is supposed to be all week!).

We’ve reevaluated how we’ve been feeling (especially me as I work to manage stress and the frustration of a never-ending broken foot) and decided to re-dedicate ourselves to eliminating gluten from our diet.  We’ve also cut way back on red meat (well, meat of any kind) because according to the Swank diet, red meat and an abundance of saturated fat is bad.

I find the whole process to be both educational and frustrating.  When you get a diagnosis like MS, it’s a big piece of information to get your brain around.  Last year, in June, I was running regularly with Lucy, I could see just fine out of both eyes, and I could feel every part of my body.  In just a year, I have numbness in over 70% of my body (legs, torso, fingers) and any kind of heat, exertion, or high level of stress causes my optic neuritis to flare up.  I proactively began a course of treatment, learning how to give myself an intramuscular shot once a week.  I basically have doctor appointments every week.  My whole world changed.

I’ve been lucky in having some great resources in my boss’s wife, whose nutritional knowledge is incredible.  The man and I now have an entire counter dedicated to juicing and smoothies (our Breville Juicer, our Vita-Mix and our Nutri-Bullet).  We have found a great juice combination to switch up with our morning smoothies, & we eat more fruit and vegetables than either one of us ever ate in our lives (and, to be fair, have found that vegetarian options are usually delicious and packed with flavor).  We have embraced the versatility of quinoa, which is our go-to for any dish that we used to like containing couscous, pasta or rice (**sidenote: you can eat rice if you are on a gluten-free regime, but I don’t particularly like it).

There are a ton of resources on MS, but just like the disease itself, the treatments affect everyone differently.  Some people have controlled and basically eliminated symptoms with diet alone.  Some people have found that their course of interferon-beta treatments do the trick.

So far, not much feels like it’s working for me.  And so we just have to keep trying, keep modifying, keep changing our lives and giving up food and activity and clothing (well, specifically shoes!) because my body keeps betraying me.  It’s been five months since I started taking medicine, eight months since my official diagnosis and 13 months since my first symptom.  It’s challenging and discouraging that things seem to constantly be getting harder, worse & more pronounced, instead of going the other way.

I struggle to find comfort in the knowledge that I am tough, that I can handle it no matter how hard it gets.  I try to tell myself that there is a bigger plan, a way I can use this journey of mine to help others … because I find it hard to reconcile myself to the idea that there is nothing else … it just happened to me and it sucks.

Last night, after making our green juice and fruit salad for our lunches, we curled up on our outdoor sofa.  Miss Lucy hopped up and snuggled in, and we talked softly as the light disappeared from the sky and the stars twinkled faintly.  We talked about those things you fear in the darkest places of your heart, the ones you pretend aren’t there until the whispers become to loud to ignore.

I’d like to believe I am strong enough all the time to handle what has been given to me.  I’d like to be gracious and humble and work to maintain a normal existence, where we don’t talk about MS and numb fingers and dark vision.  But now that I’m here, with distance and experience and some knowledge of what MS means, it feels a lot scarier and a lot bigger than it did sitting in the doctor’s office in the cold of January.

My husband said to me, just recently, that he’s surprised sometimes at how together I am, considering all that I’ve been through.  I think that was one of the greatest compliments but also one of the most honest assessments I’ve ever been given of who I am.  I look at the women in my family, whose strength in the face of adversity takes your breath away, and I don’t feel strong like they are… like they were.

I sit here, my head full of recipes and ideas and commitments I need to make … full of fears and potential consequences and mistakes I’ve made. I feel a little lost and a little deflated, but I also know that I don’t have any choices ~ I have to keep going, and keep trying and keep hoping that something is going to make a difference.

So on that note… til tomorrow.  xo

fresh starts & green juice

I always feel like the first of the month is a bigger version of a Monday ~ a marker at which to start fresh.  I like moments like that ~ a free pass to begin again with best intentions and solid plans in place.

The man and I have re-dedicated ourselves to clean eating and educating ourselves about diet, nutrition and exercise having spent June getting married and enjoying a culinary honeymoon and then struggling to figure out a balance when we returned home and I had a broken foot.  You really have no idea how much it changes things to not be able to walk … or the level of teamwork you can achieve because of it.

We have been lucky enough to get some awesome appliances to assist us in our quest for tasty but healthy food.  One of my great friends got us a Breville juicer(!!) for our wedding, and my life coach friend got us a Vita-Mix (!!).

After a few false starts, we have figured out juicing and it makes for a nice switch up with our Nutri-bullet smoothies.  (Actually, the man figured it out because I can’t really move around).

Our basic green juice includes:

1 bag baby spinach

1 head iceberg lettuce

5 large carrots

1 large cucumber

3 granny smith apples

1 large chunk of fresh ginger, peeled

Lemon Juice

1 scoop Green Vibrance

Instructions: Juice away! **We strain our juice through a colander but that’s just because I really hate any kind of bits in my beverages!**

Every day is going to be a challenge in some way ~ I’m working through that.  But together, my wonderful husband and I are figuring out how to make the best choices for my health, for his health and for our life.  I guess that’s the best we can do.

Til tomorrow.  xo.