Sunday, August 17, 2014

Food and Measuring Moments

So this has been my worst Interstitial Cystitis flare since I started actively managing it, and as a result, my diet is ridiculous.

I went mostly vegan almost a year ago, which cut out 99% of dairy, eggs and seafood from my diet. It's been going great and I haven't looked back, but now I'm faced with some severe dietary restrictions to heal my urinary tract and eating has become complicated in a whole new way.

The IC diet actually encourages dairy, which is annoying, but eliminates all acidic foods (tomatoes, citrus, pineapple, vinegar), most spices (cinnamon, paprika, cumin), soy (tofu, soy sauce, almost all the veggie burger type products), onions, pickles, chilis, and basically 80% of the ingredients I use in every dish I make.

So, I've been eating a lot of potatoes, brown rice, beans, and veggies, and thankfully avocados are still safe. Eating so blandly has made it difficult to get adequate calories some days, so I've started eating selective junk foods (kettle chips, nutter butters, mmmm) and I've started cooking with oil again, occasionally.

Another blessing has been daiya cheddar. It's fake cheese that isn't made from soy and it's seriously saved my taste buds on days when I could not cook and had to whip up a plain potato burrito, or something similarly sad. It tastes like a cross between cheddar, american cheese, and nacho cheese, the last two of which are totally nostalgic flavors for me, so I feel like I'm getting that childhood treat when in actuality I just feel too crappy to make myself anything better. We take what pleasure we can get. It's also particularly tasty over a baked potato and a load of steamed broccoli, which is what I had for lunch today.

The pain is slowly decreasing, but I keep accidentally eating foods that are tainted with irritants and now I suspect that my multi-vitamin is triggering pain, which is ironic because I'm only taking it because I'm having trouble nourishing myself on the IC diet.


My head's been temperamental lately, too; the weather, the IC, my restricted diet, the abdominal assault my period waged on my body last week, who even knows the triggers at this point, I'm just trying to keep my sanity.

When I feel like this, just raw from the surviving, every bit of tenderness that's sent my way feels transcendent, small kindnesses are miracles, and beauty is almost painful to behold. I woke early one morning to a fogged-in forest and despite my aching eyes, throbbing back (WHY? IDK), loneliness and hopelessness, the branches of the towering redwoods faded into the fog in such a way that I thought I might die from the magic of it.

Blessed are the poor and sick, for we know the true measure of a moment.


Monday, August 11, 2014


I had a dream last night, the first I've remembered in ages. I was on a glass submarine.

The sub was floating at the surface, in dock. We moved past a huge old steamship, and I goggled at the size of it; I could see the entire girth of it from inside my glass sub, and it was astounding. Then, we dove. The waves crashed against the glass, and then the sub was engulfed entirely and I was underwater. It was murky, and ghostly fish passed by too quickly to be identified. Then there was a coral paradise, like Nemo's home, and it was brilliant and dazzling and I was laughing and crying and giddy with the experience, totally unaware that I was dreaming. And this morning, when I remembered the dream in a surprised rush, I told my boyfriend the tale and felt like I was recounting an amazing vacation story.

I haven't felt that kind of joy in a long time. I've had happy moments, I've laughed and had good times, but lately I feel like I have nothing to look forward to, and yesterday those words formed themselves exactly in my mind. Nothing to look forward to. I can't have kids. Going to school feels like it'll never amount to anything. My relationships are all faltering. I'll never be well enough to really be happy or free.

Writing it out, yes, I can see depression talking, but isn't some of it, at least, just being realistic?

I used to feel so secure in the world. I'm so jealous of myself pre-migraines, I had no idea what I had.

I think that submarine was some part of my brain sending up a signal flare, We need to be amazing again! We need to LIVE! I need to listen. I need to find a path. Or make one.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Fitness, Limits, and Flares

Even with how hard I've worked to get physically fit, my head is only slightly better. I'm grateful for the improvements I do feel; I can get out a little more easily, my recuperation time is usually less, and the pain and debilitation are, on average, less than they were when I was not exercising or eating vegan.

But I have definitely hit a wall.

My body continues to get leaner and stronger, but my head is stubbornly refusing to improve any further. Which I thought was funny this morning, when I recalled that my burning lungs and aching legs were what used to stop me from reaching the top of our hill when I first started out. Now, I make it to the top wishing I had farther to go, and I wish I could run marathons but my head won't allow more than a few minutes of jogging.

I have been able to continue my now daily hikes with the dogs during this petit heat wave by going out as soon as I wake up, and waking up early. I'm risking getting eaten by a mountain lion, but there aren't that many of them out here, so I think my odds are good. Hopefully! I carry mace, that comforts me a little.

The yoga continues, and my balance has gotten so much better, but those inverted poses still elude me most of the time. But then I feel like an ass for complaining at all, because I used to not be able to touch my toes, because I couldn't reach and because my head wouldn't allow it, but now I can, I just have to breathe carefully. There are improvements. I can see them. I just want more, and I don't think I'm going to get it.

I've graduated from doing pushups in cat pose to doing regular modified pushups, and that feels awesome, but again, it's something I have to breathe through very carefully.

Besides all that fitnessy stuff, I really miss school. I don't know if I can attend a class and exercise at the same time. And take care of my dogs. And myself. I don't know! But I want to try. I have been playing around with some free online courses, like what they have on coursera, I only wish they had a broader selection. And that I could earn a degree that way, that would be nice!

I'm in the middle of an IC flare, so that hurts. It was triggered by a few things, I think. it's tomato season, number one. And probably numbers two through five, I was really having a tomato party for a while there. Then, there were the popsicles; ice lollies, frozen fruits bars, whatever you call them. I bought some from the store without reading the label (I know, WHO AM I??) and they had some kind of fake sugar in them. Before I even realized that though, we got some popsicle molds from the dollar store, and I filled them up with a green juice, naked or green monster or something, and they were DELICIOUS, but acidic as hell so the combination stripped my poor urethra of its protective linings and now I'm crying every other piss. All I can do is restrict my diet severely (no hot sauce or tomatoes, how will I even live) and take baking soda and antacids a few times a day.

In comparison, my head seems mild. Except for the nausea, god it is just ever-present lately. But I've been using these nice ginger chews, called Reed's. They're yummy and really helpful and much less sugar than a whole ginger ale.

I miss being able to write here frequently. I've lost my voice, it seems. I wish I had a working camera, images never fail me.

Hope you all are well. And thanks for reading. <3

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting Out Of My Own Way

So, things are hard.

And they are harder than they should be which tells me that I'm in a funk. If I ever really climbed out of the last one.

I had Big Plans to look forward this last week, which really shook off some of those lingering cobwebs of depression, but even in the midst of excited preparations, there was a campaign being waged in my head to keep me down. "I can't do it," "I'll mess it up," "I'm terrible at it," I shouldn't even bother." I listen to these voices far too much, but in the excitement of these Big Plans, I threw out my negative self-talk and tried the things I knew I would fail at. Annoyingly and happily, I did not fail, and in fact did a much better job than I ever imagined I could.

I read an article over at Captain Awkward this morning, which is what inspired me to even crack open this blog and put some words down, on Breaking the Low Mood Cycle, and it really hit my nail on the head.

So many things are already standing in my way, I certainly don't want to be one of them.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

So, Optimism

Let's the start off with the bad: My head hurts and I'm nauseated and my neck and shoulders are sore and creaky and my eyeballs ache and there are other things, but hey, that's plenty enough isn't it?

I haven't been writing here much lately. I've been feeling like I have to scrimp and save every scrap of energy I have, but it's my own fault because I spend more of it than I should hiking with the dogs almost every day. They say exercise can be addictive, and I can see how that could happen. Dedicating ten to sixty minutes a day to doing some kind of aerobic activity or strength exercises has improved my overall mood, made me stronger, increased my stamina, and improved my self-confidence.

And usually it's hiking, but I've also broken out the Wii fit (which I still kind of hate for it's body-shaming, but I find talking back to the screen with profanities and rude gestures helps) for a little indoor jogging or yoga. I dance to music, especially when I clean the kitchen. I do pushups and situps sometimes.

I'm holding onto a dread that makes my heart heavy, because I'm going to have to stop exercising so frequently eventually, and I'm afraid I'll lose the improvements I've seen in my head. The heat has already been keeping me more inert, and I often feel the urge to do something more with my life than exercise.

I miss school, but I'm still really undecided about the direction I want to go, and frustrated with my limited options as an online student. I've been "working" a few hours a month at the dog sitters up the street, which is pretty much a dream gig for me. It's even on my usual hiking route so I can get myself there most of the time, it's run by really low-key people and populated by awesome dogs and I've grown to consider them and their dogs like an extended pack.

I've struggled to find motivation otherwise. Sewing, gardening, I want the results of both but they both seem impossible right now. The latter for the drought, so I can hardly be blamed for that, however I do take ridiculous hot showers when my body hurts. Forgive me, unless someone rips me out of that blessed heat, when I ache I can not leave until I am blanched. Sewing on the other hand has no barriers besides my own frustration. I just need to make something new.

There was a wedding a few weeks ago, a cousin married his long-time partner. I made it through the ceremony with earplugs, but as soon as we all started filing out of the space they'd reserved for the ceremony and towards the the building in which the reception was to take place, I found myself surrounded by the perfume of a thousand old ladies, which compounded the effects I was already feeling from the sun and wind, the drive there, talking, the loud pre-ceremony music, and the stress of wearing uncomfortable clothes, makeup and heels. I was suddenly feeling quite ill and volatile and because I very much do not want to insult people unnecessarily, especially on a special day, I shut my mouth firmly in a pleasant smile and steered myself towards the parking lot for an early escape. I did try to medicate before ordering my boyfriend/chauffeur to whisk me back to the forest, but there wasn't enough pot in the world to counteract the overstimulation of that wedding.

My favorite part of dressing up always has been the taking it all off because the feeling of ease is so delicious after all that pinching of shoes and scratching of fancy fabrics; I could not wait to get back into my comfortable clothes, so I did that before we were even on the road home. It felt silly to have gone to all that trouble (makeup, hair gel, properly fitting undergarments, lint rolling my nice coat), but of course I intended to at least try to go to the reception, at which sweatpants would have been unacceptable.

The motion sickness seems to be coming back with the warm weather. It eased some for a few months, only getting bad in the car, but now it's a 24/7 struggle not to guzzle ginger ale all day again. I've got to find an alternate, something with a little less hfcs.

I'm dealing with the heat pretty well so far, though we've only really had a few hot days. One day we hit the mid-90s, and I soaked my head no less than four times, drank water and ate fruit like it was my job, and stayed out of the sun totally, only taking the dogs for a short walk under the trees, and I survived pretty well! So, optimism.

And as a final note in this wandering post, I'd like to share that asking for help is something I don't do easily, but it's something I've had to do recently. I'm very afraid of being rejected or laughed at for my feelings and my failings, or of appearing foolish or weak, and I worry that my relationships can't take the strain of my problems and my needs. These fears aren't the worst things that could happen to a person, though, so I'm realizing that maybe it's worth the risk to share my vulnerabilities, especially if it helps me get to a better place. I've got choices to make and I certainly can't do things alone, so I have to hope that those I turn to for help are open. These are murky, uncharted waters and without a map or compass I can only rely on those around me to help me keep moving forward. Wish me luck.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oxygen is Imperative

I have been relearning how to breathe.

I've been taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide like a good little human should, but not quite as reliably as we're meant to. I could blame the issue on being born with only one working nostril, but while that's an odd story, it's not at all the issue. What the hell, I'll tell it to you anyway.

Nostril is a hilarious word, and a totally embarrassing one to have to say to your friends when you are twelve years old, so when I had to have the surgery I told my friends that I was born with a bone blocking one side of my nose and I still use that terminology to this day, if I don't catch myself. Anyway, I was born prematurely, and a piece of cartilage that blocks a fetus' sinuses didn't get a chance to dissolve like it was supposed to, and I lived with it for twelve years. I couldn't breathe out of my right nostril (hehe omg ew nostril) and it led to years and years of sinus infections, colds, and chronic bronchitis, and intensified even the mildest allergy and asthma symptoms. I remember being at my daycare in maybe first grade and having a cold, like I usually did, and trying to eat a snack with a completely blocked nose and realizing that no one around me was holding their breath while they ate, and rushing to chew and swallow before they turned blue. I sure was, was swallowing whole chunks of bread in my desperation to breathe with a full mouth of food, and had been almost as long as I could remember. It occurred to me in that moment that something was wrong with my nose. It just never cleared up. I tried to tell my mom a few times, but either she wasn't listening or I wasn't articulating well enough until I was eleven. I decided enough was enough, stalked up to where she was sitting with a friend in the backyard and told her I'd never been able to breathe out of "this side of my nose". Ever. This other side, sure, it clears up on occasion, but I could never, ever, EVER remember breathing out the right side of my nose. She paid attention that time and booked me an appointment with an ear, nose and throat guy and that was the beginning of the end of my life as a child snot-machine. I still seemed to get sick more often than other people, but at least I didn't have to hold my breath while I ate anymore.

So, nostril stories aside, breathing isn't the perfect autonomic response that biology classes would have me believe. As a weirdo only child, I used to pay attention to my breath and lose the rhythm of breathing entirely. I would be struck (every time) with a mildly amusing panic that I might not be able to breathe easily ever again. I'd try to think of something else, let the automatic processes take over again, but my mind was noticing every little hitch of my chest, how the air flowed into my lungs, how it filled my body and how my torso rose and fell, and breathing was certainly not a normal action that I'd been performing without thought since birth, but it was a phenomenal, complicated, probably supernatural, bizarre sequence of events that were completely impossible to keep straight. It was almost like when you say or write a word so many times over and over that it loses all meaning; I could no longer let the autonomic functions of my body just go, the analysis had ruined breathing, and possibly forever. So, resigned to a life of concentrating on inhaling and exhaling, I'd breathe as best I could, trying not to show my worry, even miming the in-and-out inhale-exhale motions that the people around me were making with their bodies, and hoping no one around me could hear how I was totally failing at even breathing. After several agonizing eons that were likely only seconds, I would inevitably be distracted and my body would continue breathing without my obsessing, miraculously. Muscles expanding and contracting when they should, with no prompting from me whatsoever. I grew out of this quirk, and hooray for that, because while it was never scary or really stressful, it was seriously annoying and made me feel like a total weirdo.

And a third breathing anecdote: As a child, I loved to run. I was the fastest in my class for a year or two, but I was always more of a sprinter, and found distance running to be rather horrible. I never questioned my preference until recently when I realized while hiking that I'd never learned to breathe properly. My body can take care of the basics (as long as I don't think about it too hard, haha sigh), but when I really push myself or if I'm focusing very intently, I often hold my breath. I never noticed this before migraines, but now holding my breath often bites back immediately with major head-pounding, truly it's one of my worst triggers. Relearning how to breathe through focus, pain, intent, tension, anger, fear, and excitement has been a constant challenge, but it's probably good for me to be breathing through these things anyway.

When I was first trying to push my stamina and strength while hiking, I was so easily tired out, I'd have to stop every ten feet or so. At first, I continued to rest when I needed to, but at some point I noticed that that my muscles weren't at all tired, I was just breathing too desperately to keep going, which eventually led to be the revelation that I wasn't just exercising inefficiently, I was HOLDING MY DAMN BREATH. So, I started practicing breathing. I typically start out my hikes with an inhale every two steps, even if it feels fast. As I continue up the hill, my body uses the oxygen quickly, and about halfway up my brain starts sending out Exhausted signals, but instead of resting, I speed up my breath to an inhale on every step. It feels unnatural at first, but I was shocked by how easy exercise was when I was getting all the oxygen I needed, I really couldn't believe it. I could exercise until I was tired, and then keep going! My exercise-induced migraines are MUCH less frequent when I'm breathing properly, and increasing my time and distance has increased my stamina by about a billion-fold.

So, this breathing practice is starting to bleed into my regular world, too. I notice when I'm holding my breathe from stress or concentration, and forcing myself to breathe through these things that normally make me clench up has been eye-opening. Instead of my body clenching up and powering through whatever stress, I'm learning how to work with it, let my body feel the stress and also feel how we can keep breathing if we want to.

We can keep breathing if we want to.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Being Offline and Poor

We lost internet for a few weeks, and it was a painful reminder of how fragile my sense of connection really is.

We live way the hell up in the mountains. Our closest neighbors are within distant earshot, but not eyesight, due to the trees. I depend on the internet to keep me connected to the happenings in the world, and to my family and friends. Without it, I was totally alone. Just me and the dogs in the middle of the forest. My boyfriend would come home at the end of his day to find me wild-eyed, so eager to talk to another human that I couldn't even wait for him to get in the door.

Besides being desperate for contact, I was unable to answer surveys or look for housing, I couldn't apply for services, or look up recipes, or search for diy fixes to minor home repairs.

My neighbors are kind and allowed us to vampire off their wifi during visits, but we tried to be sparing with our usage as to not abuse our relationships. They probably wouldn't have minded, but I'd rather go without than interrupt their peace. If I was in school, however, I likely would have unapologetically set up camp.

Also during this time, we got a 48-hour notice from the water company, and had to pay a massive electric bill. The money was coming in, it was just a lot of unfortunate timing, and we're back online and mostly in the black on our utility accounts, but now we're already nearly broke for the month and are low on food. We renewed the food stamps this morning (and in an ideal world we wouldn't have ever stopped with them, but the renewal process is a pain and it seems like even when we get it right, there's a problem and we have to start all over again. It's a whole 'nother post.) and I'm not sure how long it'll take to process, but we plan to check out the free food pantry tomorrow, as long as we have enough gas to get there.

It's stressful being poor, and exhausting. I need to see a dentist, but we can't afford it. HOW is dental care not a mandatory part of health care? I'm on Medicare, WHY do I not have an affordable dental option?

And with all my woes, I'm one of the luckier ones. I'm white, I have an advocate, I have the education and access to information to protect myself, or at least to try. We have the means in this country to provide ALL of our citizens with a standard of living that should be a shining example of what civilized behavior and compassion look like. But instead, we ignore, relocate, imprison, mock, blame and fail our poor, while the rich get richer every day.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Am A Tuning Fork

Another thing that really sets my teeth on edge is haptic feedback in electronic devices.

I can't use a smartphone that has this enabled, it's like every fatal keypress has a jackhammer going off in my brain. I can't explain why a little vibration in my hands will cause me to swear and feel sick and cry and throw the phone down in frustration, but learning to turn this option off is the first thing I figure out with every smartphone I handle.

I experienced this before migraines, too, but not as dramatically. Back when I used to play console games, some of the controllers had "rumble packs" in them, which would vibrate when a player took a hit, or crashed, or won the game, etc. Every time a rumble pack-enabled controller would vibrate in my hands, I would yelp and drop it, or force myself to hold it and curse the whole game from near-rage, though more often I would just stop gameplay and insist on changing the settings, another trick you learn quickly when you're a human tuning fork. It's just like that feeling of Chinese water torture, but in every cell of my body. I feel like screaming, or blowing apart into wee steph chunks, but instead, my neck, shoulders, back and jaw involuntarily clench, the nausea starts back in, and I have to force myself to breathe through the vibratory echoes that will continue to haunt me until they are durn ready to fade on their own terms, which is usually minutes, but if it hits me at the wrong time, could definitely last hours.

And I call myself the human turning fork because in elementary school my science teacher brought a few in and demonstrated how an inert tuning fork held near a vibrating one will take on that vibration. I hated these experiments because again, the sound of the tuning fork made me want to rip own head off and chuck it at the teacher, but this one stuck with me because I AM that second tuning fork, and I think I always knew it.

Other sounds that make me feel like I could start fires with the chaos in my mind, in the same tuning-fork way, include but are not limited to: bagpipes, jazz with excitable horns, and scraping.

Let me tell you about how much I hate bagpipes. (I'm sorry bagpipers, I understand yours is a craft steeped in ancient tradition and history, and I'm sure that people who aren't human tuning forks enjoy it, but I so do not.) When I was a kid, a second cousin from back east came to visit, and this cousin happened to be a bagpiping kind of guy. So, we all gathered in my grandmother's backyard, one hot, late afternoon, and he, dressed in full tartan and kneesocks with the cutest little glengarry perched on his head, played us a little concert. I'm sure it was a lovely performance, but all I could hear and feel was the undercurrent drone of the bag as it breathed, like a massive, living, paisley lung that was hell-bent on destroying my brain with its all-consuming resonance. Under the assault of both the afternoon sun and the unrelenting sound, I wilted like a flower in a microwave, and it's one of the few times in my childhood I remember thinking I just might pass out, I felt so frighteningly ill.

So, haptic feedback. I lost my phone, and had to set up a new one, which was probably for the best anyway since my new (but still used) phone is way better than the old one, but this phone keeps switching into an audio profile that allows vibration on keypress and I haven't figured out how to avoid this error because by the time I turn it back off I'm already vibrating and it's too late for me. Too late.

I don't know what this is all about. I'm apparently a sympathetic resonator, and I strongly suspect it's a migraine thing. Anyone else?


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Health and Tools

When I first switched over to a low-oil, vegan diet, I was concerned about making sure I would be getting the right amounts of nutrients.

(Content Note: This post discusses disordered eating and dieting.) I've been warning people of my impending veganism for a few years. I'm not a person who makes life changes on a whim, and I make it a point to go into any and every situation with as much information as my brain can hold. I've been working up to it because it's not an easy thing to be vegan in this world, especially being a chronic migraineur and so incapacitated some days that I can't cook at all. I knew my best chance of success lie with educating myself, because if I allowed myself to become nutritionally deficient, I could get sicker. And I also worried about my mental health.

My history of disordered eating has made this change an interesting one for me. Because I have this history, dieting in any way is a minefield. I have to ride this fine line of paying close attention to what I eat, but not obsessing. Exercising frequently, but not too much. I have not been entirely successful in my past attempts to healthfully diet, mental slips have happened, bad habits have reignited, and I've slid down that slippery slope too many times to enter into any exercise or dietary changes without a certain amount of trepidation. I hesitated to embrace these changes I've been wanting to make for years because I wanted to do it right, and I wanted to make sure I stayed ok.

So, education: There are a myriad number of ways to learn about food and nutrition. Some of the sources I've delved into include: documentaries (Super Size Me; Food Inc; Forks Over Knives; Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), tv series (Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution), books (The Food Revolution, The China Study), cookbooks (Veganomicon), and blogs (Happy Herbivore).

I also took nutrition and health courses at my local community college, which gave me a lot of information about biology and how our bodies use food. Learning the objective facts of nutrition has been excellent for beating back those always-wrong demons that continue to live in my head. They'll always be there, I think, but facts sure do keep them quieter.

I decided pretty early on that I would need some kind of monitoring system in place, and while hand-tallying my calories would surely have led to obsessive thoughts and behavior, I was excited to realize that using an app for the same purpose hasn't had (too) much of that effect at all. The first and only app I tried is My Fitness Pal for Android, and it has been really helpful for keeping me accountable.

Upon sign-up, I entered my weight, my activity level and my goals into the app, and it formulated a basic caloric-intake plan for me. Every day since, I've entered 99% of my food and exercise, the app tallies up all the micro and macro nutrients, adds and subtracts calories consumed and burned, tells me how I'm meeting my immediate needs, and, even better, allows me to see my patterns and progress over time. Check it out, you guys: CHARTS!!!!

Look at that progress! It's so much easier to keep going when I can see the evidence of all the hard work I've put in so far. (Also, this is my excuse for the sparse blogging happening around here. I've been busy hiking! SEE!)

This app is good for dieters because it's easy to see how each meal, each food, each ingredient can influence your overall nutritional intake, and it makes it easier to make good choices, when we can immediately experience our consequences. This app can also be a good tool for people with eating or exercise disorders, because it holds us accountable for eating enough calories, and gives a red-tinged alert if the daily tally isn't sustainable.

However, I haven't made it through this without a single unhealthy thought or behavior, just less of them than I've experienced in the past. I'm not recommending this app as any kind of a panacea for ED because: of course not. But this works well for me, helps me stay accountable to myself, and I've maintained a consistently healthy diet and exercise routine for over 100 days, thanks in part to My Fitness Pal.

I was not compensated for this review, just love the product. The app and online tools offered by My Fitness Pal are free.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Mud and Feasts

I love the rain, and a week-long soaking had me out with the puppies for hikes every day.

The first few minutes they hated it, they'd drag behind me and look back wistfully at the house wondering why I would so cruelly rip them away from their respective warm spots, but once we got moving they'd succumb to the inescapable allure of sniffing and adventure with enthusiasm; they love a good soggy hike as much as I do, if not more.

Our walks have been longer lately, in part because I was loving going to the very tippy top of our hill to check out the little creeks that the rain made. Since our part of the mountain is all clay and sandstone, in areas where the water regularly makes it way down the slope, it's eroded a small, ancient-looking river that's created small pools and waterfalls as it flows over and around roots and rocks.

But, the mud can be precarious, so our walks during the rain and since have been not only longer, but slower. I've slipped a few times, and only suffered momentary injuries in both falls because I was able to catch myself, and control my fall to an extent. I would have been hurt far worse only a year ago, because my arm wouldn't have had the strength to stop my fall without injuring my wrist, my legs wouldn't have been sturdy enough to slow my slip, and my core muscles were virtually jelly and would have contributed nothing to my rescue. So again, hooray for fitness.

My head has been consistently reacting to this increased exercise, unfortunately. I was hoping I'd see the pain and symptoms decreasing over time as I built my stamina, and they did -- to a point. I'm dedicating this academic quarter to my physical fitness, and like school, this endeavor is taking up most of my energy. I've been hiking my heart out every morning I can, then spending most of the rest of the day curled up in my comfy chair, nursing my head and trying to be productive on the internet (or giving up and watching a star trek marathon). My next priorities are cooking and dishes and laundry, but also, more working out. If I have more energy, I often put it to crunches, squats, pushups, yoga, and maybe even another walk. I am serious about getting my body back into shape, and believe that the harder I work now the easier it will be to maintain when I return to school.

I'm continuing to see improvements in my stamina, so much so that I accompanied a friend who is also a dogwalker on four 30-minute hike/walks in one day, with lots of dog handling and conversation, and I barely felt the pain at all. Well, later I did, but the repercussions weren't any more than usual.

Another side effect of all this exercise is that every few weeks I get to pull out the box I've had for at least 7 years, labeled PANTS! that don't fit, and see where I am with the stash I've collected over the years. I'm slowly creeping down the sizes now, which is kind of fun; it's like my birthday once a month, except I have to give my old pants up to get the new ones. There are a few pairs of jeans I've become unreasonably attached to, and I find myself hesitating in disposing of truly unremarkable and often damaged items. I mean, just because they are several sizes too big, ripped and really obviously repaired, and at least five years outdated in style, doesn't mean I have to get rid of them, does it?? (Yes, it does. Stop hoarding pants, weirdo.) Ok, then.

And on the food front: craving healthy foods is one benefit of eating well that I never really believed when anyone else said it. When I get that night-time sweet tooth, I definitely still indulge when I really want to, but usually I can satisfy those cravings for sugar with fruit. An orange or a banana might just hit the spot, and if not, GRAPES. I have never had a sweets craving that couldn't be cured by eating a cup or so of grapes.

And celery is a new and surprising love. I have historically never liked celery, but suddenly I am literally jonesing for it, I love the flavor and the crunch, and it's a perfect carrier for this white bean/peanut butter spread I'm also fascinated by.

I made a superbowl vegan feast, though I had to cook it slowly over two days to manage it all. I made buffalo cauliflower with a tofu-based ranch dip, and a flatbread with homemade pizza sauce, pineapple and teriyaki tofu; these were my vegan versions of my childhood football favorites, buffalo wings and hawaiian pizza. It was completely satisfying and the success gives me more confidence in cooking big meals in the future.

I'm so inspired by plant foods and refocusing my diet from dairy and flour to plants has made me want to learn more about food, nutrition and agriculture. I want to cook more, I want to grow my own food, and I want to know how it all works, from the growing to the digesting. I have to eat several times a day, every day. I want to make the most of it.