Saturday, February 20, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Oh, and also: sleeping in.
The sleeping in was especially welcome after the boat dance party that lasted pretty late into the night. Breakfast was especially tasty that morning as the sun made its way out from behind the cliffs. We had banana pancakes and bacon and I enjoyed my usual morning mug of herbal chai.
After breakfast no one (meaning the guides) was in much of a rush to head out so we had a bit of time on our hands after packing up our gear. This spare time resulted in some impromptu photo sessions with my new friends.
Luck was on my side that morning and someone was quick to snap this photo during the 2.5 seconds I managed to be straight up and down as I yelled, "take it NOW!" I haven't been to yoga class in a couple of years (uh, not something I'm happy about, hoping to remedy this delinquency soon) but I'm glad I can still pull off a head stand.
The first stop on our hike was to take in some Native American rock art. These pictographs . I put a video together of this hike that may only be fun and interesting to those who were there but take a look if you like beautiful places.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I'm not prone to hypochondria. In fact, if I knew what the opposite of that was, I think that would be me as I tend to brush off symptoms as being nothing until they reach some sort of dire level requiring immediate attention. I avoid going to the doctor because I feel most of the time rest and waiting it out is the best remedy.
But for whatever reason, I have often found myself suffering from strange and unusual ailments that often hit one after another. Which reminds me of my oh, so appropriate Rotating Ailments plaque. Even in the midst of these ailments I find myself trying to convince myself that I am blowing it out of proportion and if I ignore it, maybe it will just fade away.
Unfortunately, that does not always work.
Which brings me to my most recent ailment and the story of how I spent my President's Day off work: in the emergency room. Prior to yesterday I had never been to an emergency room in New York City and I had no desire to ever go to one. I've heard enough terrible stories to be fine with never experiencing one first hand.
But yesterday morning I woke up tired. I had gone to bed early and slept in until 830 so there wasn't any reason for it but I just felt out of sorts and my back was sore. But that wasn't terribly unusual since I had been experiencing various forms of back pain since early December in that same spot and had recently been diagnosed with a pinched nerve. So I went to the gym at 9 am to meet with my trainer thinking I just needed to loosen it up by walking on the treadmill. After two minutes the pain intensified so I tried stretching. My trainer thought maybe I was experiencing a back spasm but there was something all too familiar about this pain. It reminded me of the kidney stone I had over ten years ago.
She helped me down to my apartment and asked if I had a doctor I could call. This is a problem I have had for quite some time. I do not have a general practitioner doctor because I already feel as if I have enough doctors to see on a regular basis between my pulminologist (for my asthma), my gynecologist (uh, for obvious reasons) and my dentist. I recently added a chiropractor to the mix too. And I was pretty sure none of them would have much to add to my current situation. So I made the decision to go to the emergency room. The pain was pretty intense.
The closest hospital is only one long block and one short block from my apartment. A five minute walk - tops. But I wasn't exactly up for walking so we took a cab. But the cab driver dropped us at the main entrance rather than the emergency entrance and the security guard sent us on a long series of "straight through those doors and then turn right until you see the yellow sign and make a left and go right again until you see the 'triage' sign and . . . " Leaning on my friend, we found our way to triage and it was strange. I later discovered that we had bipassed the front desk and gone straight to intake by coming in the wrong door which may or may not have saved us a long wait in the front waiting room. But at the time all I knew is no one seemed to be acknowledging us sitting on this random set of chairs in a hallway. My friend tried to inquire and was told to just sit down and I tried to breathe through the intensifying pain as tears spilled down my face.
Eventually I was ushered into triage and was asked a series of intake questions I managed to answer between waves of nausea and pain. The best one was "on a scale from 1 to 10, your pain is a [brief pause], I'm going to put 10." Yes, that is what a 10 feels like trying to stab its way from the inside out. We were then told to go to some nurses stand where things got confusing again. I think they verified my name and I was told to wait some more. Then this nurse/orderly/guy-in-scrubs told us to follow him and led us down a hallway, around a corner and into a strange back room and told me I should be more comfortable there. We spent several hours in that freezing room. A doctor did manage to find me there and I told him I had a kidney stone and he agreed that was probably the problem but threw out other possibilities like "twisted ovary" that needed to be ruled out. And how do you rule out the possibility of a twisted ovary? With a pelvic exam of course. But first I had to pee in a cup in a really gross bathroom (shouldn't hospitals be clean?) and I was given some morphine by a very nice nurse along with some "fluids" and anti-nausea medication that ultimately made me puke. The morphine dulled the severity of the pain for a little bit but not enough to make a pelvic exam tolerable. The doctor kept telling me to relax my legs. Let me repeat the circumstances - excruciating and debilitating back pain plus a freezing cold room plus being probed with foreign objects . . . sure, I'll relax now that you ask nicely. It was simply not in my power to relax under those circumstances. Eventually they gave me more morphine but no one would allow me to have any water. Even after I threw up.
I took a wheel chair ride around the hospital so I could wait for an MRI in a room that I swear was refridgerated. I knew I needed to stay still and a voice kept telling me to hold my breath and forgot to tell me when I could start breathing again but I was shaking a lot. I was then wheeled back down to the actual emergency room area where there were lots and lots of beds curtained off with people bustling around. Probably where I should have been taken in the beginning. It was the first time I was actually lying on a bed and during the next 2 hours while I waited for the doctor to come back, I managed to drift in and out of sleep a bit.
Finally the doctor came and told me it was a kidney stone and that it was "only 2 mm" so I could go home and wait for it to pass. A nurse removed my IV, handed me a couple of prescriptions and sent me to check out. By this time I had sent my friend home so I was on my own. Besides, I was no longer in pain, just really, really thirsty and tired.
So I stopped at the pharmacy across the street from the hospital and walked home. It felt a little surreal almost as if I had made the whole thing up. And today I am back at work and except for the fact that I am seeing a urologist on Friday and I have some heft prescriptions in my bag, everything feels pretty much normal. No pain whatsoever.
And now my question is, was the back pain I have been suffering since early December caused by the kidney stone all along? I believe that is the first thing I will be asking the urologist on Friday. That is, the first question right after I ask him if I am safe to get on a plane to Panama on Saturday . . . .
Friday, February 12, 2010
To send you off to a weekend of love. Or at least to a long weekend free of work and full of the Olympics, here are a few more photos from Blizzard 2010 (imagine a dramatic male voice over right there). To sum up the storm, I will paraphrase a conversation I had with my sister that evening:
Her: Be honest, if that storm was in Salt Lake would anyone get out of work early?
Her: Would the airport have closed?
Me: Of course not. Although flights may have been a little delayed. The thing is, the infrastructure of this city is barely hanging in there on a good day, so the smallest thing can knock everything off course. There are just too many people to move around.
Her: So, a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan . . .
Not that this storm was the smallest thing. It was definitely an event. But the City whisked the snow away almost as quickly as it landed (in Manhattan at least) so unless you went to Central Park, it was impossible to tell how much snow had actually fallen. I never heard a total but I think it was far less than the 12-18 inches that was predicted. And by mid-day yesterday, the bulk of the sidewalks were completely dry.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Curious about what it really looks like out there? Or at least how it looked at 830 am when I was walking in? Here's a photo tour of my commute. Enjoy!
Let me start the tour by telling you that I love snow. I mean, I seriously love snow. I love watching it, I love sledding on it, I love tilting my head back and catching it on my tongue, I really love snowboarding on it and yes, I even like walking in it.
That being said, my love of snow is directly linked to the type of snow I grew up with, aka, "The Greatest Snow on Earth" (it is true, it's on the Utah license plate and there was even a lawsuit over it! (okay fine, the lawsuit was over infringing on the "greatest show on earth", but that's not really the point)). Utah's snow is a dry, powdery snow that is a thing of absolute beauty. It is light, it is fluffy and did I mention dry? I never really understood the whole dry snow thing until I moved to the East Coast and discovered what wet snow looks and feels like.
Mostly, it feels like this:
Wet, cold, sloppy and not as amenable to snowballs and snowmen. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good New York blizzard. Quite the opposite. The biggest drawback to snow in Utah is having to drive in it (although I don't really mind that). But in New York? I just have to pull on my snow boots and tromp through it.
What always surprises me here is how many people carry umbrellas in the snow. Until I'm soaked because, like I said before, this snow is WET! And yet, I never end up carrying an umbrella and just try to tuck my hair under a hat and into a scarf to try and stay dry.
But the absolute worst part about walking in a blizzard is the wind. I have probably mentioned the secret portal to the arctic circle that is located on the corner outside my building. I live right on the Hudson River and that creates a pretty severe cross wind that has been known to not only blow over a few garbage cans and sent me chasing my hat into the street but has also wiped out neon signs of neighboring retail establishments and shattered the revolving door into my building. That's right - shattered! Gusts of 50 mph are not unusual. And they are part of the forecast for today.
And even though the wind has not really whipped up into its peak quite yet, it is gusting which means turning down the wrong street can result in being assaulted with hundreds of tiny needle-like icy "snowflakes" piercing any exposed skin - basically my face. At one point during my walk, I turned a corner to walk east and immediately rethought my route at the same time as a couple of guys did the same and one of them said "Hell, no!" Luckily, the next cross street wasn't quite as wind tunnel-ish.
The only way to really appreciate the bitter wind that is blowing in every direction in a photo, is to look at the sides of buildings and signs:
Oh, and these are the north sides of signs when the worst wind was blowing from the east.
But like I've said, I like the snow so I still managed to enjoy the walk . . . no idea why I closed my eyes.
When I was almost to work, the snow shifted from something wet, heavy and sleety,
to this stuff:
It feels a lot like a hail/snow hybrid. And it stings when it hits your face although it is less needle-like.
If you are getting snow wherever you are (and if you are on the east coast, you definitely are), stay warm and safe and dry. As for me, I'm looking forward to leaving early and maybe taking a detour through Central Park.
Monday, February 08, 2010
p.s. that no complaining thing? impossible!
p.p.s. at least my work procrastination efforts resulted in a delicious black bean soup - I mean a seriously delicious black bean soup!
p.p.p.s. also, my procrastinating work also allowed me time to work on a little project for a friend.
p.p.p.p.s. work did manage to trump my plan to experiment in making red velvet black and white cookies :(
p.p.p.p.p.s. I finished my first week of Wasatch Back Training with only one modification - swapping Saturday's rest day for Wednesday's run. I'm crossing my fingers that I can squeeze in three runs this week . . .
p.p.p.p.p.p.s. if you haven't tried a cara cara orange, go out and buy one right now. They are delicious! Citrus may be the absolute best thing about winter.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
So what are the lofty resolutions I have set up for myself this year? First off, they aren't so lofty. And secondly, they aren't exactly resolutions for the full year. Last year I discovered that making simple monthly self-improvement goals for myself was far easier to do than setting grand gestures for a whole year (like in 2008 where I set two rather vague goals that I'm pretty sure I forgot about by mid-February). For example, last February I decided to not eat meat for a month. In March I decided to cut soda from my diet. Both goals were met with relative ease - but not without temptation. In fact, I think the soda thing lasted through mid-May or June. The reason I took it up again? Huge case at work that had me working around the clock and I needed (err, wanted) the caffeine. But the goal wasn't to quit for good, it was just to prove to myself that when I want to, I can have self-discipline. In April I decided to attack my peanut M&Ms addiction and went cold turkey - no M&Ms for a month! Now, this may sound a bit ridiculous if you are unaware of the depth and breadth of my love of what I consider the perfect candy. Perhaps you have never known the beauty of freshly popped popcorn with peanut M&Ms sprinkled in while the popcorn is still hot enough to slightly melt the chocolate inside its candy shell. If not, I am guessing you have never sat on your couch watching a movie, craving a snack and been pulled almost against your will into the kitchen to pull out the bag that is almost omnipresent in the cookie jar by the sink . . . I guess that is just me. Well, I knew this little indulgance had grown into a crazy habit that was being fed more than once or twice a week. So I cut myself off! And now? I only indulge once every couple of weeks and I no longer have the bag of m&ms always at the ready. Small goal of complete abstension for a month led to success at the larger goal of cutting back. See, self, you can live without m&ms.
In April, I also decided it was time to set up a goal that was a bit longer term and decided to start running. And in June I ran my first 5k! The goal was not without its challenges but I did it and it felt really good.
Which brings me to my goals for 2010. I have two and they are basic and neither is actually for the whole year. So without further adieu, my goals:
- Run the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay. I actually signed up for this clear back in October but I've been worried about it and mentally not entirely committed. I had doubts and fears that I soothed primarily by ignoring that I had signed up - especially when I was not running in December and January due to a mystery back issue. What is the Ragnar Relay you ask and what am I so afraid of it? It is a 188-mile team relay race from Logan, Utah to Park City, Utah wherein 12 team members alternate running 3 legs each for 24 hours. Awesome, right? My team captain is the same girl who stood next to me in gym class in 8th and 9th grade who could run circle after circle around the field where I painfully dragged my feet while clutching my side as I wondered what could possibly be trying to stab its way out. That 13-year old girl would finish near the front and cool down by running along side me to keep me company to the end as I finished barely ahead of the apathetic goth chick and the stoner girl who just finished her smoke break. I'm pretty sure Amanda will have to do the same thing for me at some point during my 12.4 miles of running. The race is in June just days before I turn 35. The training schedule started on February 1st and so far, so good. This morning I woke up tired and sore and embraced the idea of swapping Saturday's rest day with Wednesday's run and snoozed a little longer. But that does not mean I am failing at this goal or giving up three days in. I am maintaining flexibility - and avoiding thinking about how I will manage to run for 50 minutes at one time by the end of March, let alone for 120 minutes at the end of May! I am excited about this goal because my teammates include my sister, my oldest friend, her husband, her sister, her mom and a handful of other people that sound pretty cool. Oh, and you should know, yes, I am running the easiest leg of the whole thing, I am not that crazy.
- Stop complaining for a month. Easy, right? Considering that I have a pretty great life filled with good friends and family and a great job, one would think so but the dreary weather, the dreary economy and the dreary attitude of many of the people I am often around has me infected with an extra dose of negativity lately. So for the rest of February, no more complaining. No whining. No negative comments. I will practice the adage of "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." This starts today and since February is a short month and I will spend a week of it on a tropical vacation, this should not be hard. And yet, I think this will be very challenging nonetheless.
And those are my early 2010 resolutions. Maybe sometime in the next little while I will finally get around to telling you what I thought about 2009 and how I think it changed me . . . .
In the meantime, did you make resolutions for this year? If so, what are they? Are you still sticking with them? What keeps you motivated?
Monday, February 01, 2010
Of course, it didn't start off on the best foot. On Friday I found out that this nagging pain I thought was my hip and would just go away as mysteriously as it appeared is actually a result of a crooked spine and a pinched nerve! How terrible is that? At least I know I wasn't dreaming up this pain out of nowhere, I guess. The good news is I don't have to stop running or working out in any way. The bad news? I have a ten week program ahead of me that involves chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy and massage therapy three times a week! Okay, so the massage therapy doesn't sound too bad. In fact, I'm pretty please with that piece. Also, I was happy to discover this expensive insurance of mine will come in handy since I am 100% covered and all I have to pay is a $20 co-pay per visit. That definitely could have been much, much worse.
So it isn't so much bad news since I should be on the road to recovery soon. I just wasn't prepared for that. And all weekend I kept thinking about that time I went to girl's camp when I was 12 and at the end of the week they handed out awards to everyone that kind of reflected their personality or behavior or whatever over the week and what did I get? "Rotating Ailments"!! Each time my body rebels and I have some quirky ailment or injury, I think of that silly award and how it has haunted me. I mean, I am absolutely grateful for my good health, I've never had anything truly wrong with me - just minor impediments like defective knees and asthma and now, a crooked spine. Awesome.
Luckily I didn't have too much time to dwell on my own mystery diagnosis (it was only a mystery because I refused to see a doctor for two months!) or the bitter single digit January temperatures because I had a train to catch! A train to Delaware to visit good friends. We dined at a hip sushi joint in Philly with a nearly all white interior and colorful lights in just the right places to make one think the future is finally here. There were flat screen tvs in various places playing Japanese anime of Astro Boy that were bizarre yet riveting - especially to the younger ones in our group. Afterwards we received a charming tour of all the wrong places in Philly courtesy of the GPS (and possibly a wrong turn).
By the time we reached my friends' home (aka, my country home), we were all ready to snuggle up in warm blankets to watch This Is It - the Michael Jackson movie. And let me tell you, it was so, so good! After all the MJ hype surrounding his death last summer and all the years of crazy MJ in the media, I had forgotten how amazing his music is. Well, not entirely, last summer I loved that every restaurant, party and bar I entered was full of nostalgic hits. If you ever liked Michael Jackson and have not yet seen the movie, go rent the DVD right now! You will love it. My friends' kids love it. I love it and I keep telling everyone I encounter that they will love it. And last night I downloaded a big chunk of MJ's music to fill some gaps in my collection.
After the movie we stayed up into the wee hours just talking as the kids snoozed nearby. I tried to sleep in and when that didn't work I just lounged in bed later than usual just because I could. Then it was off to Target and Marshall's (I was very intimidated), some delicious pizza for lunch and back to the train.
Sometime between lunch and boarding my train, it began to snow. And drivers freaked out. It came down in big dry flakes that reminded us of the snow from our home state - so different from the icy, wet stuff that usually falls in these parts. We listened to Michael Jackson, we swapped suggestions for other music favorites and ignored a call from a persistent husband because we were all too busy singing in the car. You never truly appreciate the true bliss that comes from singing in a car filled with music until you no longer drive. There is no substitute.
I made it to the train station with only a couple of minutes to spare and then proceeded to sit on the train at the station for an extra 30 minutes. But I was entertained with a call from my mom and brother and then by a really good book. A book I started at the doctor's office on Thursday and could barely stand to put down until I finished it last night - Born to Run. Where do I start in describing this book? Inspirational is the best word I can think of. The book focuses primarily on the author's contact and experience with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico who are legendary distance runners and the main story arc is ultimately building up to a 50k ultra race in Copper Canyon, the home of the Tarahumara. This story is fascinating and compelling keeps the reader turning the page. But interspersed throughout the narrative are personal anecdotes, character sketches and a wealth of information on how to run, how to be a runner. McDougall's tone is conversational and personal - right from the opening chapter he discloses his own running injuries and the book is as much about his own journey to run pain free as it is about the Tarahumara. What fascinated me the most about the book was the evolutionary and anthropological studies on how we as people evolved as endurance runners. I've only been running for a year and I've already had a number of physical setbacks so finding a way to run without those injuries is definitely appealing. While I do not envision myself at this point kicking off my shoes to try barefoot running or signing up for any 50 mile ultramarathons (or even a regular old marathon), the book inspired me to just get out and run. And also to pay attention to how I run. Since today is the first official day of my training schedule for the Wasatch Back relay race I am running in mid-June, this book was the perfect way to get me pumped up for all the work that lays ahead of me. Whether you run or not, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book.
Saturday night I managed to tear myself away from the book long enough to attend a small birthday party for a friend in another friend's cozy loft apartment in the Village. Sitting around talking with five fabulous women I've known for nearly a decade for a few hours was worth laying the book aside for the evening.
As you might imagine after my glowing review, I spent the bulk of Sunday reading. I also braved the elements and went for a run along the river. Luckily the sun was shining brightly and the temp had warmed up to a balmy 29 so it wasn't too bad. Of course, the book did not magically turn me into a master runner and I was pretty sure I was doing everything wrong, but at least now I know what I need to start focusing on correcting.
My weekend concluded with good news from a family member and a spaghetti dinner with homemade sauce that made my aprtment smell strongly of garlic. After eating my creation, I decided I should always add red pepper flakes for a punch of flavor - the carrots, zuchinni and shallots helped as well.