Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Recap (A.K.A. Where I've Been Since October)

I want to start this entry by apologizing to all of the truly wonderful folks who used to follow this blog and have likely wondered where on earth I have disappeared to over the past few months.  I fully admit that I flat-out fell off the face of the planet and if any/all of you gave up on me I completely understand and do not blame you.  In fact, if no one ends up reading this entry because of that I get that, too.  It’s mostly for me anyway.  However, should you be one of those truly wonderful folks mentioned please accept my apologies and believe me when I say that I plan to re-earn your attention by visiting you all in the very near future.  It will take me a while to catch up on everything you’ve all been up to, but it will be time well spent.

Now, as to where I’ve been for the past few months (which also serves as a general re-cap for the past year which is what this entry is all about, anyway).  Ah-hem… (*Pauses, considers, re-starts*)  Actually, wait.  Let me back up a second.

In January, I had two pretty huge goals occupying my thoughts.  One was personal and one was professional.  I’m going to start with the personal since work is a whole other category altogether.

Karate

This year was the year of my 3rd Dan test (3rd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do for anyone who hasn’t been here before).  I trained for it harder than I had ever trained for anything before.  I started working out at the gym 4 to 5 days a week, I was practicing forms at least three times a week and anytime I wasn’t actively practicing something I was thinking about it.  I breathed it for months and months.  This is partly why I performed as well as I did in our home tournament in April.
It’s also why when I finally took the test in June I did as well as I did.  I don’t want to say that the test was easy because it really wasn’t.  But I will say it was significantly less difficult than what I was anticipating and what I had trained for.  I was still proud of myself, certainly.  But because I had trained so hard and because it had occupied so much of my thoughts for so long I was sort-of let down when it ended.

I woke up the day after feeling really depressed and the nagging question that sparked this feeling was “Now what?”  After such an epic accomplishment, what do I do now?  My 4th dan test is 4 years away- I couldn’t just wait around for another 4 years.  And that had been such a focal point in my life that I felt lost with it finished.  Now what?

The answer is what leads to the number two big accomplishment on my list- the one I didn’t see coming.

Running

I relayed those feelings and that question to a friend of mine.  This friend was and is a runner.  So he suggested to me, upon hearing me express this, that I do the same.  It was a very simple question: “Why don’t you try running?”

I had an answer for him.  “I’m not a runner,” I said.  I’d always hated running.  I mean, I joined the track team in high school and hated it so much that I quit in a single week.  That was how much I hated running.
“Well, yeah,” he said, “but aren’t you different now?”  Yeah, I guessed I was.  “And weren’t you just saying that you trained harder for this than you ever had for anything in your life?”  Yes, I certainly had.  “And aren’t you in the best shape you’ve ever been in?”  Well, I guessed so.  “So it might be way easier for you now.  You should try it,” he concluded.  I didn’t really have any good arguments against that line of logic.

So I tried it.  One day at the gym, after one of my regular classes, I hopped on the treadmill just to give it a try.  I ran a full 5k without losing my breath.  All that training really had amounted to something.

So I started signing up for races- 5ks, in the beginning.  The first one was hard because I wasn’t used to running outside.  But it was also REALLY fun.  So I started running outside and I signed up for more.  Then I signed up for my first 10k.  That was even more fun.  Then, finally, the huge unexpected goal: the half marathon.
I trained harder for it than I had for my 3rd Dan test.  It was at least a hundred times more difficult than my 3rd Dan test.  And I was and am more proud of myself than I have ever been before in my entire life.

I had never dreamed that I would be a runner.  In fact, it still sometimes baffles me that I am one now.  But having run my first half marathon and almost immediately concluded that a full marathon absolutely must be crossed off my bucket list I can’t really argue with the label anymore.  It was my biggest accomplishment of 2014, by far.

Work

This is the other area of my life where I ended up accomplishing an unexpected goal.  I started out the year as a counselor and leader of an intensive outpatient program for mental health.  I loved my job almost from the get go.  It wasn’t the work itself, at first.  It was my amazing co-workers. It was the level of freedom I had.  The money certainly helped.  But over time, it became about the work itself.  For the first time in my entire career I felt like I was really using my education (which is a GREAT feeling when you’re still paying monthly installments on said education.)

I am now a clinical supervisor in charge of all the drug and alcohol counselors in the office.  That was the unexpected part.

One staff meeting, out of nowhere, my boss announced that she was leaving and would be going to another office.  My boss had been the clinical supervisor as well as the site director (the latter position was taken over by my favorite co-worker.)  This left her morning drug and alcohol (henceforward referred to as D&A) intensive outpatient group open.  (I’ve been leading the evening mental health group all year.  The schedule has not been ideal, in many ways.)  So I went for it.

I didn’t actually know, in all honesty, when I applied for the position that it included not only the morning group but also the clinical supervisor role.  I found out right in the middle of the interview.  I surprised myself when I said, with the utmost confidence, I can do that.

‘Could I really?’ I questioned myself.  The answer was yes, I really thought I could.  I have more experience in D&A than I do in mental health.  I’ve had lots of interns I supervised over the years.  My organizational skills are good to enough to put me in charge of chart audits and things of that nature.  Yes- I really could.
I told them this in the interview.  I got the job.  I never saw it coming.

After years and years and years of feeling stagnant and frustrated with my chosen career I had started a new job and been promoted in less than a year.  Finally all my hard work- which I have been doing all this time- paid off.  It’s an amazing feeling.

(I don't have any pictures for this one, sorry!)

The only downside to this promotion- which I do genuinely believe I will be truly good at once I actually have the time to do it- is that they couldn’t find someone to take over my evening group right away.  So for the past two months I’ve been working 12 to 13 hour days… 4 days a week… every week.  In the morning I go in and run the D&A group.  Then I see individual clients and hold supervision with the other clinicians.  At some point I run home to walk my dog and then race traffic to get back in time for the evening group.  On Fridays, even though I’m usually well over my 40 hours by then, I go in from 9 to 3 to do individual sessions and try to catch up on all the paperwork I’ve fallen behind on during the week.  Then I leave early to get to the one karate class I can still do with my insane schedule.  And thus why I’ve fallen off the face of the planet.

I’m not happy that both reading and writing have fallen by the wayside in the face of work commitments and running.  But that is, obviously, what happened.  I am hoping, however, that that will change soon.
They hired someone to take over my evening group.  He starts next week.  I’ll be sticking to the old schedule for a while until he’s trained and comfortable running the group on his own.  But I’m hopeful that won’t be long.  Once he takes over I should be able to keep most evenings free.  I’ll be able to go back to karate on Tuesday nights.  I’ll be able- and this is the amazing part- to come home before 10pm most weeknights.  I hope and expect that I’ll be able to run and read and write again during those evenings.  That would be miraculous.

Because 2014 has held so many unexpected developments for me I’m not even going to bother to set goals for 2015.  I have some general ideas of what I’d like to see happen- the above mentioned activities, of course.  And if I happen to run a full marathon, or publish a story, or kick ass in a karate tournament that would all be great.  But for now I’m content to bask in the thrill of all this year has brought my way.  It’s been the best one I’ve had in a while.

Happy New Year.  And my best to all of you in 2015.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Survive and Thrive Blog Hop

Today's Survive and Thrive Bloghop is hosted by: Stephen Tremp,  Alex J. Cavanaugh, Michael Di Gesu, and   L. Diane Wolfe. The blogfest is meant to bring awareness of disease prevention and early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or treated if caught in the early stages. 

Today I'm going to tell you all a story about myself.  It was January  7, 2010 and I was driving home from work when I noticed that the world looked weird.  There were halos around every street light and the headlights coming at me were blurry and unfocused.  Getting home to my apartment I noticed the same thing- everything looked blurry, the way it does in the morning before I put my contacts in.  Trouble was, I was wearing my contacts. 

Next morning the opthamologist had no availability so I made the next available appointment for Monday morning and headed to America's Best Eyeglasses- I figured I could at least some better contacts to get me through the weekend.  They did the eye exam and found that my vision was roughly twice as bad as it had been- that's when I started freaking out.  Why was this happening?  What would cause your vision to decline that badly in such a short period of time?  I mentioned, just as an FYI, that I had a family history of diabetes but they paid no attention since at the time I was thinner than I am now.  They suggested I follow up with the opthamologist as planned on Monday.

That weekend my parents-in-law came over to Dave's house to celebrate his birthday which had just passed.  My mother-in-law, as usual, over did it on the food and I, as usual, over ate.  They hadn't even departed the house that night before I got violently ill, emptying my stomach of all that delicious food.  The rest of that night was like a series of dominoes falling.

Dave, who was needless to say very concerned, took to the internet to see what these symptoms were and asked me what else was going on.  Was this the first time I had gotten sick like this?  Well, no- now that you mention it I got got sick on Christmas eve (when I had again over-eaten), too.  And hey, haven't you been really thirsty lately?  For a few days I'd been making comments about being dehydrated which I related to the dry winter air and thought nothing of.  What about peeing?  Oh yeah, in the bathroom all the time. 

By the time I walked into the doctor's office on Monday morning Dave and I had already concluded that I was about to be diagnosed with Diabetes so that's what I told her- in addition the the blurry vision I listed off my other symptoms.  But she looked at me the same way that the people at America's Best had- a skinny girl who was just paranoid.  She ordered the blood tests just to rule it out but advised me to buy a new contact solution to clean my lenses better thinking that would solve it (her thoughts about the other symptoms I couldn't tell you).

I just got back from Quest when my doctor- who I'd called first thing that morning to tell of the weekends events- returned my call and asked what happened.  He ordered even more tests which sent me back to Quest.  The rest of that day was spent with me in front of the tv desperately trying to distract myself from the catastrophic thoughts bouncing around my head.

By the time the doctor called on Wednesday to inform me of the test results I was already certain I knew what I had, he just confirmed my (and Dave's, and my parents') suspicions.  My A1C was 9.3 (The A1C test measures your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months.  Diabetes is diagnosed at an A1C of greater than or equal to 6.5) and my blood glucose was 234 (Diabetes is diagnosed at fasting blood glucose of greater than or equal to 126 mg/dl.)

I'd always said, in a morbid joke sort-of way, that I was going to end up diabetic because my father and just about everyone else on his side of the family has it.  But I never dreamed that at age 27 with a perfectly normal BMI and weight I'd be receiving the diagnosis.  

If you have a family history of this disease make sure that every professional on your healthcare team knows it and get yourself tested (the most common/easiest diagnostic test is the A1C).  If you've been told that you are pre-diabetic (an A1C in a higher than average range which suggests the disease may develop) then make the changes you need to make to your diet and exercise level.  I've known quite a lot of people who upon being told they were prediabetic massively overhauled their diet and are now fit and healthy.

The good news with all this is that the changes you need to make are the same changes that support good health overall- diabetes, heart disease, and several cancers are all linked to same the unhealthy lifestyle which means that if you get healthy you slash your chances of developing any of those issues.  If you'd like further information on early screening please visit www.diabetes.org or take their test to determine if you may be at risk.

Please visit the other healthy hoppers to learn more about health and early detection!

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things- October 17th


Thanks to our host Viklit and co-hosts Diana Wilder, L.G. Keltner, Cyborg Mom and CaffeMaggieato!

This week I'm celebrating...

Apples!  Two weeks ago we went apple picking at a local orchard and I hand-picked a half a bushel of apples I plan to make into pies, tarts and cobblers as the month progresses.  Walking through the pumpkin patch got me humming the Charlie Brown theme and wishing I had a blue blanket with me.  There was also a fall festival at the orchard so we munched on apple cider donuts and cider and I had some of the best pumpkin ice cream I've ever tasted (not to mention the homemade fudge I brought home).  It was a wonderful day and it totally got me into the spirit of things.

Huzzah!  Last weekend we hit the Ren Faire and I was in full costume.  We saw the regular shows including the falconry display which I love (Malfoy's owl from the HP movies was there!) and heard bagpipers rock out.  I ate some yummy junkfood, bought some pretty things and watched a glassblowing display.  I departed with an amazingly sale-priced half case of my absolute favorite wines- a dutch apple blend and a holiday spice wine which, when combined and heated, create something they call a "Hot Wench" which is one of the most delicious substances you can drink.  I was especially thrilled because last year our plans to attend were ruined by a poorly timed flu shot which made me sick as a dog for the weekend we had planned- I am now happy.

And, finally, back to running  A couple of weeks ago I caught a bad cold that took forever and a day and a full course of antibiotics to finally get rid of.  Because of that I didn't run for almost three full weeks.  In addition to a couple of 10k races the next two Saturdays (tomorrow being the first) I've also got the marathon coming up fast so I knew I had to get back up to snuff.  Thanks to running last Friday, Tuesday and yesterday I finally got myself back up to a full 6 miles so I have reason to believe tomorrow's race will go well.  I still have a long way to go (since 10k isn't even half of the marathon mileage) but I feel like I'm back in a good place to be able to do that and it feels really good.

I'm hoping to get a haunted house in before the end of the month and I've got a whole bunch of other Halloween-y activities to find time for so my hopes for the rest of the month are high.  Have I mentioned how much I love October?

What about all of you lovely folks?

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things- It's October!


Thanks to our host Viklit and co-hosts Diana Wilder, L.G. Keltner, Cyborg Mom and CaffeMaggieato!

This week I'm celebrating...

It's my favorite month of the year!  Fire reds, sunlit golds, pumpkin orange and even royal purple are starting to light up the trees and porches all over in the forms of leaves, mums and pumpkins galore.  Soon I will be apple picking and enjoying fall festivities.   We've got a trip planned to the Ren faire and hopefully there will be some haunted activities as well.  Not to mention pumpkin coffee, muffins, rolls and other seasonal goodies that I've been totally over-indulging in.  I'm giddy and becoming increasingly more so as the colors of the season start coming into full bloom.  Sigh, I love fall.

My Favorite Holiday is coming up!  There's a cemetery in my front garden and I just picked up a couple of new tombstones from the Halloween store.  The inside of my house is covered in orange lights, ghostly signs and tons of cute little critters all decked out for the holiday.  I'm plotting to torture my poor tiny dog with another freakishly adorable costume and I've got a lot of crafts planned for the month.  I've already started indulging in re-runs of the Treehouse of Horror Simpsons specials and I'm thinking I may re-play Costume Quest because it's the most fun Halloween game I've ever played.  I may OD on Halloween by the end of the month, but that's fine with me.

FINALLY felling better  Last Monday night my throat started hurting and by Tuesday morning I was full-blown sick with aches, no energy, runny nose with severe congestion and all around horribleness.  I took Wednesday off from work but on Thursday wasn't really feeling any better.  When this past Monday hit and I was still feeling rotten I gave in and went to the doctor who started me on the inevitable antibiotics.  After 5 days of that I'm finally feeling like this thing is on its way out.  It seems like it's been forever and it's really been pissing me off because in addition to feeling horrible I haven't run at all for two full weeks now and I've got a marathon to train for!  Hopefully next week I'll be out running again, and enjoying the changing foliage in a more in-depth way.

What about all of you?


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