Back After Two Years

It’s almost two years since I posted on my blog. 2013 and 2014 were full of health problems! I finally have a whole team of good doctors to help me figure out my complicated thyroid/parathyroid illness. I’m not totally better yet—and probably am going to need parathyroid surgery sometime this spring—but I’m healthy enough that I want to blog regularly again.

Over the next two weeks I’ll post several catch up posts with reviews of my favorite books, shows, and whatnot from 2013-2014. Today I’ve summed up my health saga and what goals I was still able to accomplish while sick.

 2013 Health Saga:

-Went on special allergy limitation diet (GAPS diet) to improve food allergy problems.

– Consulted a nutritionist and a certified diet nurse because I wasn’t making progress on the GAPs diet, but they weren’t very helpful.

– Discovered on my own that I have histamine sensitivities and can’t eat fermented foods (a huge part of the GAPS diet).

– Felt worse and worse into the December of 2013.

2014 Health Saga:

– Discovered I was severely hypothyroid at the end of January and went on thyroid meds.

-Discovered I’m super sensitive to the thyroid meds and spent 6 months figuring out the best stable dosage for me—to avoid a list of horrible side effects. I finally figured it out in August.

– Went to 1 horrible family practice doctor, 2 horrible endocrinologists, 1 decent endocrinologist—not on my health insurance, —and finally found 1 good endocrinologist that does take my health insurance.

-Went to a good family practice doctor, who referred me to her Naturopath colleague who specializes in diet and nutrition counseling.

-Had numerous blood tests and scans to figure out my health issues.

-Added rice and then Quinoa into my diet, so I can now eat 8 foods. Whoo-hoo!

-Switched over to another family practice doctor in the same practice, who is just as nice as my first doctor but also specializes in diet issues.

-Was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism and referred to a parathyroid surgeon.

-Have an appointment with parathyroid surgeon for the late January 2015.

2014 Life Accomplishments: 

Despite being super sick from January-April, somewhat sick from June-August, and a little bit sick from August – December, I accomplished a lot more in 2014 than 2013—though I read fewer books because I actually had a life.

-Subbed 33 times

-Read 40 books (33 fiction, 7 non-fiction)

-Read 84 short stories

-Took 5 writing classes and 1 writing workshop

-Took a performance dance class and an Improv Theater class

-Went to dance class an average of 1 time a week from April -June

-Went to dance class an average of 2.5 times a week from June – December

-Took my youngest child to college in Portland, Oregon

-Wrote 5 short stories

-Read several books as research for new YA novel idea

-Began outlining my new YA novel idea to prepare for drafting

-Visited Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) and spent some time in Burlington, VT

-Applied and was accepted to VCFA’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Teens

-Set up a writing office in Maryland

-Still haven’t touched my middle grade novel at all this year—hmmm…

2013 Life Accomplishments  (I posted this on Facebook last year so I’m putting it last)

-I subbed 11 times

-Read 79 books (55 fiction, 24 nonfiction)

-Took 5 writing classes and 2 writing workshops

-Went to 2 writing conferences

-Wrote 7 short stories

-Wrote 1 YA novel draft

-Planned out the revised plot for my middle grade novel

-Bought furniture for the condo in Vermont

Wyclef Jean, Problem Solving, and Escapist TV

Quote of the Week (From The Good Wife)
Will: "But let's not expose ourselves on a subway platform unless we have to."
Diane: "Oh, what a colorful and pointless metaphor."

Wyclef Jean, The Carnival Volume II (Memoirs of an Immigrant) [2007] (***); Greatest Hits [2003] (***) –  Wyclef Jean sings hip-hop with a healthy dose of social commentary and island flavor, and without the angry sexism that plagues a lot of hip-hop.  My favorite Wyclef Jean song, hands down, is "Fast Car" featuring Paul Simon.  If you liked Paul Simon's Graceland Album, definitely check out the song, "Fast Car". It's the perfect combination of hip-hop, island sound, catchy chorus, and social commentary. 

The Joy of Problem Solving:
Last week our weather turned so tropical I began to wonder if I'd moved to Florida and just forgot to mention it to myself. One evening when I was walking into town, I looked up the weather on my phone. It wasn't raining but the humidity was 94%!
The tropical weather brought my arch-nemesis pollen with it, and I once again battled with sinus issues.  To make things more fun, I also have a new kidney stone. Despite my health issues I had a mostly productive week.  What changed?

Problem solving is the savior I'd been waiting for.  My greatest comfort comes from imagining myself in a lab coat with Tina Fey glasses holding a clipboard and going over the facts and data about my situation.

The more facts I know about allergies and kidney stones, the better I can fight them.  The more data I take on my problems, the more I can problem solve and figure out what makes my conditions worse and what makes them better.   I note what I eat, what medications or home remedies I try, and what the result of each of the actions is.

It works too!  I had mild discomfort all week, yet I was able to keep the pain manageable enough to write, bike, cook, and even have some fun.

Yay problem solving!  You rock.

PS- So far, this week the weather is thankfully cool and fall-like.

Nikita (*** 1/2) –  I'm enjoying the second season of Nikita.  No, it's not a great show by any standard, but it is a fun show, with just the escapist qualities I enjoy in my TV watching.  There are plenty of pretty men and women kicking ass because of their dedicated training and expert skills.  Plus, the actors look like they have a lot of fun with their characters and just when I'm getting bored of the overall plot, the writers do something unexpected to surprise me.

Pam Am (***) – I've seen two episodes of Pam AM now and am still only mildly interested in it.  The sets and costumes are striking and I like all the characters but the stories haven't really grabbed me so far.

Terra Nova (** 1/2) – I was looking forward to this futuristic sci-fi adventure about people traveling back in time to an undamaged earth with dinosaurs.   It  has great sets and special-effects. I'd expect nothing less given its 20 million dollar budget. Unfortunately, what is doesn't have is a well-developed storyworld or good writing.  The characters are all lazy Hollywood stereotypes, their futuristic world doesn't make a lot of sense, and the plot is trite and predictable.  How disappointing! That was an easy one to cross of my list.

See You In September!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s grass pollen season. Okay, not the most wonderful for time for me, so I’m taking a break from blogging and fleeing to a colder climate for a little while. I’ll post again in September.

See you then!

How Cognitive Behavior Therapy Protects You From Vampires

It’s allergy season, the time of year when I go from being reasonably a disciplined person and instead become an excuse machine. This allergy season the article,  5 Steps to Developing a Healthy Relationship with Food,  keeps whispering to me.

The article  begins:

"Why is it so hard to stick to a healthy eating plan and a reasonable exercise regimen?"

"From the viewpoint of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the reason isn’t hard to find: knowing what to do and knowing how to get yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. When it comes to changing behavior, especially long-term, habitual patterns, getting yourself to do something different, even when you know it’s good for you, depends largely on what you tell yourself: that is, on your thinking."

What kind of thinking leads to overeating?

"let’s say you’re at a dessert party and see five really delicious pastries. Will you end up eating too much? You probably will if you think, I don’t care. I don’t want to deprive myself. It isn’t fair that everyone else gets to eat whatever they want, and I have to settle for one small piece. By contrast, if you say to yourself, "I’m going to pick my favorite dessert. I’ll eat one small piece slowly and enjoy every bite. I know I’m going to feel so proud of myself," you stand a much better chance of not overeating."

The article explains in step-by step detail how first changing your own thinking patterns helps you to make lasting changes. It’s worth reading the whole piece.

Instead of overeating, my weakness is my complete unconditional love of serial dramas on TV.  While the article focuses on how to use CBT to help change eating habits, the technique is useful for changing any habits.   After reading this article I realized how often I’m able to convince myself that it’s okay to read or watch TV during my writing time in allergy season.  The conversation in my head goes something like this: 

Allergy season is so hard.  I feel horrible and can’t think.  I should give myself a break and watch an episode of The Vampire Diaries instead of writing my own story.  After all, the writers of that show are excellent at plotting, so watching an episode is sort of like studying plot, which is almost the same as writing, so watching an episode should totally count as writing. Right?  Watching 5 episodes is probably five times as good. Okay, I"m convinced. 

Is it bad that the fact that this type of thinking seems a lot like Damon compelling someone with his amusing vampire powers makes the excuses appeal to me even more? 

Conclusion:  CBT is a lot like Vervain and can totally protect you from vampires who are trying to get you to overeat or convince you not to write.

PS – I’ll be writing a review of seasons 1 & 2 of The Vampire Diaries as soon as season 2 is complete.  See, I’m writing a review.  I’m practically cured already. 

PPS – The last couple days have actually been really good allergy-wise, which made writing this post and avoiding episode 2.19 of The Vampire Diaries much easier.

May 2010: In Brief (Part 2)

It’s A Christmas Miracle!  (But …uh… in May)  It was my healthiest May in 5 years. I’d still get really sleepy on days with high grass pollen or when I ate a food with hidden gluten, but I didn’t have any horrible sinus headaches and I even had several energetic days — a rare May occurrence for me.

Writer’s Retreat– I hung out with several writer friends in an adorable cabin in West Virginia for a few days.  We talked about writing and TV, critiqued each other’s work, did a few writing exercises, and ate tons of junk food.  What more could I ask for?

Sub Jobs:
1/2 day – Media center specialist at usual school
1/2 day- 1st grade reading teacher at another school

Fiction Books Finished:
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh (****) – It’s been a while since I reread this classic. I love how honest this story is about the dark emotions of sixth grade.  [For ages 9 and up]

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (****) – Gratuity Tucci (her friends call her "Tip" for short) has an eventful year when an alien race called the Boov invades Earth on Christmas day.  This is one of those fun stories that every age can enjoy.  It would make an excellent family or classroom read aloud. [For ages 9 and up]

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (****) – 1979 is an eventful year for 12-year old Miranda.   It’s the year the game show 20,000 Pyramid invited her mom to be a contestant, the year Miranda’s childhood friend stopped talking to her, and the year Miranda received notes from a mysterious stranger who knows things about Miranda’s life before she even lives them.  How can that be?  This lovely gem is a perfect mix of a slice-of-life New York City story with a sci-fi element that pulls everything together in a cool way. It would make a good family or classroom read aloud.  [For ages 9 and up]