Thursday, September 29, 2011

Illness Update (and knitting!)

I'm still sick. Hoping to go back to work on Monday; as of yesterday, in addition to an inhaler and antibiotics, I'm also on steroids. The inhaler helps my coughs be more productive, so I guess that's good? Clearing out the lungs? 

I don't know. What I do know is that I'm starting to get very depressed about the whole situation, and it's difficult to pull myself out of it. Being home a lot has also led me to do far too much online shopping, but, on the bright side, I have pretty new make-up & clothes!

This morning I forced myself to do my hair and make-up and put on actual clothes. It makes me feel better & more energized when I know I look better. Why more energized? Well, being stuck in a house that isn't even clean just adds to my frustration. The other day I was able to clean the bathroom and vacuum part--yes, part--of the hallway before I felt dizzy, woozy, nauseated, and generally just had to lie down on the couch. Dr. Scott had a hard time explaining the dizziness/five-second black-outs, but I think it's probably related to not getting enough oxygen due to the breathing constrictions. At least, I hope that's what it is. 

One thing that helps with the crushing depression of my situation is being able to do something productive. Today, I've gotten a little cleaning done already, and I hope to do more--I've got my cousin & grandma coming over on Saturday to learn how to turn the heel on their knitted socks, so I'd like for the place to be presentable. My cousin has not been here before. But I've also been working on my own knitting, and learning some new techniques. There was a gorgeous afghan in the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits that I'd been lusting over, which was perfect, since Adam started complaining about how the throw blankets we currently have will be too thin for the chilly months. Here are the pictures from the magazine, courtesy of Knitting Daily

Isn't it pretty? The colors I got to make this throw are similar to what's shown, although the green is a little deeper/more olive, and the light color has a hint of grey in it. I think it will go in the living room quite well. In fact, here's a crappy phone photo of what I've completed so far:

The double-sided-ness (totally a word!) is due to a technique called double knitting. It is actually super easy, and I'm glad to have learned it! Really, I just learned it while making my gauge swatch. 

I made a short trip to Yarn Garden to get needles for my projects, and they were super nice & helpful. I recently bought yarn (via KnitPicks, because I can't afford expensive yarn, especially for the yardage needed to make a double knitted afghan) for the first time in almost two years, so you can imagine that I haven't been spending much time in my LYS (that's Local Yarn Shop, for those of you who aren't crazy fiber ladies). 

I'm also working on some other projects, but I can't really blog them, since they're holiday gifts. I'm just hoping they all get done in time. I'm also hoping that having something to work on will keep my spirits up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Life Postponed Until Further Notice

I've recently returned from another visit to Dr. Scott at the West Linn Family Health Center. I called and left messages there and at my office last night, when it became clear that I was not, in fact, getting any better. I think I got a little better for a couple days--Thursday was probably the best day--and then it all came crashing down. 

Dr. Scott's current theory & plan of action goes something like this: since I was feeling better for a spell, he thinks that the pneumonia was taken care of but that I've contracted some other sort of respiratory infection. I'm not sure if I buy that the pneumonia is totally gone, but we didn't another chest xray to verify. At this point, I'm being put on an inhaler and more antibiotics, and, if I'm not feeling better in the next two days, steroids. As a back-up (in case all of this doesn't make me well), I've got an appointment on October 10th to see a Dr. Ralph Juarez with Clackamas Pulmonary Specialists. 

Due to the general crappy feelings, my daily health logs and juice fast are once again postponed until further notice. Along with the rest of my regularly scheduled life.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm So Much Older Than I Can Take

Lately, I've felt like an old person. And not an old person having fun, like this lady:

No, more like an old person who still has to work, is still saddled with debt, and dealing with mounting health problems/medical bills. And nobody comes to visit them anymore, because their house smells weird, and it's all too depressing. 

I feel like I was sold a bill of goods when it comes to my twenties. Shouldn't I have an awesome & fun job, tons of energy, a huge sex drive, be out partying all the time and still be skinny and have nice skin and generally enjoying my youth? It turns out, my twenties kinda suck. Not to downplay the good things - I love Adam, and I love being married. I love that we are living on our own now, and I love that we've managed to make it through this shit year without financial help from anybody (so far. Knock on wood). I truly enjoy the field of work I've landed in, and the only complaint I have re: my job is that I don't get to do enough.

Everything that has happened has given me a feeling of lost youth. Not just the events of my twenties, but I'd like to blame them for the sudden realization that time is slipping by and I haven't been utilizing it in the way I'd like to. I feel like twenty-four and twenty-five year olds should not be dealing with emergency surgeries and endless doctor visits. I don't even have the energy to be cool anymore. I don't care. My conversations tend to have topics like 401(k)s and health insurance and the interest rate of a savings account, rather than arguments about indie music or books or whatever the kids are talking about these days. Suddenly I'm practically a 45-year old middle-class person, and I barely recognize myself. 

I think I know why most people don't enjoy poignant works of art, or really anything that makes them think - popular culture is as dumbed-down and fluffed up as it is because most people just don't have the energy for anything else. When there's some spare time or you're trying to wind down from a long day, the last thing you want is to watch or read or listen to anything that is going to emotionally exhaust you even more - you want the artistic equivalent of cotton candy. Ridiculous reality shows or cheesy comedies or even a semi-dramatic movie with a happy ending gives an escape from the depressing reality of your actual life. Hell, that realization in itself is incredibly depressing. 

I was really hoping to have a crazy night out sometime soon, but it seems I'm having a relapse. Last night I had a sore throat and my cough came back; I'm getting dizzy again. I doubt I'll even be able to stay up to watch SNL tonight, much less go out late, because I am old.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Opposite of Sleep Deprivation

I've written here & here about sleep deprivation, but that hasn't been so much my problem lately. The latest example: I went to bed at 8:15pm last night and woke up at...6:33am. That's right. I was supposed to be at work at 6am, but I slept right through my alarm and woke up only when Frey (my cat) decided it was time for him to be fed. 

Usually, he's trying to convince me to stay in bed.
I must say that today I had the calmest reaction I've ever had to waking up late. I woke up, went "oh shit, I was supposed to be at work 1/2 hour ago", called my boss & let her know I was running late, then got ready like a normal person. Bus coming in 22 minutes? Fine, I will be ready. I was (and the bus was late), and I got to work at 7:20 in the end, but it was okay. My office is pretty laid back/understanding. What I'm not understanding is why I passed out for ten hours; it's a little concerning. On the upside, I did feel much better today than yesterday, although I can feel the fatigue starting to set in as I type. 

In better news, I've lost 10lbs! I hope it's not fake pneumonia weight loss, but we shall see. I missed a couple days on the weigh-in (not to mention this week's measurements), and I'm just now going to get back to the food journal & fitness log. Hopefully I'll be back to some semblance of normal soon.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goals Wednesday

Wednesday again! Well, my well-laid plans got waylaid by an unexpected bout of pneumonia. Today was my first day back at work, which means I've already accomplished my main goal: make it through the work day without collapsing. I've also completed everything on my constructive worry list, except for one want that has been nagging me - concord grapes. 

my mouth waters just looking at this picture.
Normally it would already be nearing the end of the season, but I haven't seen them anywhere. Did I miss them? That doesn't seem possible. I spend way too much money on these grapes every year.The season has been really wonky, since we never really had a proper summer. Some other grapes are just coming in. I'll be calling Whole Foods after I'm done here, because New Seasons and a couple farmer's markets have brought me no grapes! I blame Alton Brown for this. Adam & I were absentmindedly watching Iron Chef America over the weekend and we saw Battle: Grapes and ever since then, I can't get them out of my head!

But, I digress. Goals. Non-grape-related goals. That's what we're here to talk about. I'm going to tentatively say that I would like to start the juice fast next week, although I need to check with all the other participants to see if this will work. It will be nice to have a little community support, but I'm also easing us into it - I've been making juices for breakfast for Adam & I. I haven't had a solid breakfast since we got the juicer. I haven't had any caffeine or alcohol in a while either, since I've mostly been laying on the couch and had no use for either. 

Other than the juicing/preparing for the juice fast, I'm not setting any other hard-and-fast goals this week. I feel pretty pooped after my first day back at work, so for now, the goal is making sure I get completely well and don't push myself too hard. The last thing I want is a pneumonia relapse.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Juicer Has Arrived!

As I mentioned previously, one of my goals for this week was to order a juicer! I ordered the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor on Thursday, and thanks to my Amazon Prime membership, it arrived yesterday. Adam had gone out and purchased some produce at the market over on Hawthorne in preparation, so we quickly made our first juice. Here is a picture of said juice, snapped with my phone:

Even a small amount of kale makes a bright, almost iridescent green color - it will turn almost any juice pretty green. Our first juice included kale, canary melon, apples, and lemon. We put the lemon in whole - peel & all - which makes the juice very lemony very fast. I was surprised how much I liked the taste, but I'm not sure why it was a surprise. Maybe it was the disgusting juice Adam made later in the night - his juice was kale, celery, carrots & an apple - it needed something like lemon or ginger or perhaps another sweet fruit to balance it out. I can't taste much, since the pneumonia has me all stuffy, but even I could tell that juice tasted like butt. 

This morning I tried out my new tumbler and made a big 24oz - juice. My tumbler was ordered when I ordered the juicer & it looks like this:

I also bought two other tumblers from the same company in different colors/designs: one each for me & Adam, plus an extra. I like that the straw has the stirrer on the bottom; those of you who juice surely know how the juice will be very separated at first, and this worked to blend it all together right in the cup (which is what I juiced directly into). My morning juice had kale, lemon (just a 1/2 lemon this time), ginger, canary melon, cantaloupe, cranberries (frozen when I bought extra last year), raspberries (frozen when I picked them from our bushes this year), blueberries, and a pear. It was, if I do say so myself, delicious. I've already drank it all and neglected to take a picture. Adam had a couple ounces, but I'd say I drank about twenty ounces in all. It's definitely given me a little boost of energy (hence the blogging, rather than just laying on the couch). 

As for the juicer itself? So far, we love it! It's a little bit of a pain to clean every time, but that's the nature of the beast, I'm afraid. This morning I tried putting a plastic bag in the pulp catcher area, as recommended, and that made clean-up a bit easier. Berries are delicious, but they really do get everywhere. I'm going to need to look for some more containers to hold juice, so we can make some ahead of time. 

As you've probably guessed, the juice fast is on hold until we know the pneumonia is gone, but I am going to try and juice for breakfast, for now (I've never been great at eating a full breakfast anyway). 

FInal parting shot: I've started a Pinterest Board for juicing, etc. 

Sleep Deprivation, part 2

Last month, I wrote a post about sleep, or rather, the lack thereof. Yesterday, I was excited to see my new issue of Whole Living in the mail, as always, but even more excited to see an article about sleep! I can't actually find the article on their web site, but they do have a whole area of the site devoted to sleep, and I highly recommend you check it out. 

The article is called To Sleep, Perchance to Gleam, and it talks about a lot of the same issues that I raised in my post. According to the Whole Living article, 

"A recent review of studies in the European Heart Journal found that regularly skimping on a good night's rest ups the odds of developing or dying from heart disease by 48 percent and stroke by 15 percent."
That is pretty incredible. 48 percent?! I wanted to single this out, as opposed to the parts about the hormones, weight gain, etc. that I already explored, because heart disease & stroke may motivate people even more than the idea that their lack of sleep is causing them to gain weight or causing a little mental slowness.

The article also pointed out that anxiety is one of the top reasons we're losing sleep, once we actually get to bed. I've been talking about my attempt to lessen anxiety around bed time via constructive worrying; and it has helped tremendously. Whole Living also had some great tips for sleeping better. They do mention sleep aids, but of the alternative medicine variety: 

"Taking a B-vitamin supplement early in the day may make it easier to get to sleep, says [Dr. Michael] Breus, noting finds published in the Alternative Medicine Review. In one small study, taking niacinamide (B3) resulted in a significant increase in REM (the dream stage of sleep). "But the natural remedy with the most data is valerian," he says. "It's an anti-anxiety agent shown to help people fall--and stay--asleep.""
I did a little research on valerian, and the best place to start was the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). ODS has a great overview of the clinical studies done, as well as their findings & flaws. While the data is not overwhelmingly conclusive, I would definitely give valerian a shot, just to see if it helps.  

The best tip I found in the Whole Living article was the first - "Find Your Ideal Bedtime." The first step is to try giving yourself 7.5 hours of sleep before your alarm will go off; so, if you have to get up at 7:30, they recommend getting in bed & turning the lights out just before midnight (to give yourself time to go to sleep). If you wake up just before your alarm, you've found a good bed time. If not, they suggest slowly making your bed time earlier until you find the right time for you to feel rested in the morning. Once you've found your ideal bed time, you should try to go to bed then as much as possible. 

With that in mind, how many of you adhere to a strict bed time? I get tired pretty early on the week days myself, but I think we all have those times where we have an event or we're just restless and sleep doesn't come as often as it should. I try to keep in mind the consequences if it happens too often and learn to say no to plans that would keep me up too late.

Friday, September 16, 2011

While I'm home...

...I've decided to do a couple of fun things. I'm almost out of foundation, so hey, why not do some online make-up shopping? I've been ordering from Smoky Mountain Minerals, which, although not reviewed on the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, seems to be non-toxic. I like the mineral foundation fairly well, although I wouldn't rave about it. I'm having trouble finding a foundation I want to commit to. Skin Deep has been both my friend & foe; it's hard to know what you're getting into when a lot of the products you love aren't reviewed. It's also been difficult because, for the first time, I've actually got some skin issues. Prior to the past 14 months, I rarely had a blemish, but all of the sudden, my skin has decided to rebel against me. Just part of the bad-health bonanza that has been my recent life. 

I'm a big fan of Benefit Cosmetics, but Skin Deep has reviewed very few of their products, and there was a large range (from 2-7 on a 10 point scale) of toxicity. So while I still use their products, I don't really know how good/bad they are for me. But Confessions of a Concealaholic is something I use daily. Especially the Erase Paste. I get some serious dark circles, and this stuff is amazing. I've tried using purely non-toxic mineral make-up to cover up the circles, and it just doesn't work. It might be one product I'd want to keep, even if it was toxic. Where do you draw the line, you know?

My basic rule of thumb is that a product - whether it be toothpaste, shampoo, make-up, or sunscreen - should be rated 5 or less in terms of toxicity. It's been a rough journey, and I've had to throw out a lot of products. It's hard to find natural, non-toxic products that really work. What's more, I'm left wondering why my skin is worse now than it was before I purged my bathroom. I replaced my deodorant, toothpaste, face washes and moisturizers, and most of my make-up. 

So, I'm looking on Sephora, Benefit, and Smoky Mountain Minerals to figure out what I'm going to order this time around. What beauty products do you guys swear by? 


Wednesday night, I wasn't feeling so hot. Or rather, I was feeling really hot - I got a fever, I felt sore all over, and suddenly very tired. More so than normal. I thought perhaps it was the Revenge of the Cold that has been stalking me since Friday of Labor Day weekend. In the morning I got up, showered, and realized that It Wasn't Happening. Do you ever have that moment? It occurs when you're not feeling well but you're trying to drag yourself out of bed & get ready for work anyways, but suddenly it hits you that you can not do this today. So I called out and went back to bed. 

When I got up, it was nearly noon. I was feeling worse, so I called the doctor, but they were all out to lunch. They called me back when I was vacuuming (Digression: Sometimes I wonder if my need to be productive prevents me from actually resting and therefore getting well), so after a bit of phone tag, I was able to speak with a medical assistant. I described my symptoms and she said "Yeah, we need to come in today." An hour later, I was there. I had my sister, Vashti, drive me, even though I had the car - I figure dizziness and driving don't go well together. 

Once there, I got to meet my doctor, Dr. Scott. The office I'm going to (West Linn Family Health Center) is new for me, and last time I had just seen a nurse practitioner. I liked Dr. Scott. He was very focused on what I was saying and nearly immediately said he was concerned I had pneumonia and wanted to do a chest xray. I've never had an xray that wasn't dental before, so it was interesting - I had to take off my bra. They had me take two xrays, which would've looked something like this:

Only the pneumonia wasn't as bad as this.
After reviewing the xray, Dr. Scott came in and told me I most definitely had pneumonia. He wanted to give me a couple of options for antibiotics that I could take. There was a generic antibiotic which I do not remember the name of, and he said it is effective in most cases, and he'd be happy to recommend it. He said there is also an antibiotic called Avelox, which is a bit stronger, and he usually prefers that for patients with underlying health issues. I really liked that he didn't treat me like an idiot and allowed me to make a choice. He was also upfront about the fact that Avelox is a newer drug, there is no generic, and it may cost me more. After chatting with him a bit about some of the other issues I've been having (fatigue, the supplements I'm on, etc), I said "Let's go with the Avelox." He was able to give me the first dose in the office, since he had samples. It looks like this:

Once again, that Out of Pocket Maximum did well by us (at least until Jan 1, 2012, when it all starts over) - the receipt from the pharmacy says that my insurance benefit saved me $153.29. I only got 7 pills (you take it once a day). I paid $0.00. Some of the side effects of this drug are pretty interesting - they consider blurred vision, vomiting, and sleep problems to be some of the "lesser" effects. I personally hate taking antibiotics. They always make me feel icky, and you're generally taking them when you already feel icky. It's just a festival of ick. But I also know not to mess around with pneumonia. Right now, I'm being treated at home, which means a lot of laying on the couch, perusing the internet, and watching TV (I'm getting cable installed today!). Not to mention filling out FMLA paperwork, yet again. I'm getting pretty adept at that. But if I don't get better, I'll have to go to the hospital, and I'd really rather not. It's much more comfortable at my house, and nobody is poking me with needles or waking me up at all hours of the night to take my vitals. 

You'll probably notice that I won't be keeping up with a lot of my daily projects during this time - I will try to at least keep getting my weight. I'll also be missing out on Mt. Angel's Oktoberfest this weekend, which really sucks. I was looking forward to that. I'm starting to feel like a much older woman, rather than a young'n who is not quite twenty-five. Perhaps someday I'll be able to act like a youth again. I keep being told I'll feel better, once {insert immediate condition/treatment here} is done and over with! I'm hoping at some point that's actually true, and I'll just be well again. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Goals Wednesday

Time to check in on my goals! I'm going to go pretty fast through what's already established, to get on to the new & exciting stuff.

I think my favorite thing so far has been the constructive worry time. I've been sticking to it this week, and I've been awesomely productive AND able to fall asleep easier! It feels good getting stuff done, and I'm always surprised at how fast it goes if I just power through it when I get home from work. Not only does it help me get to sleep easier, but I feel like I can really enjoy my evening, which is so nice. I highly recommend it.

Weight & Measurements are going well, I'm down some weight, although I'm not sure how permanently. I've been doing the calisthenics, I haven't been so good at the stretching/yoga. Something to keep working on. Keeping track of my weight and keeping the food journal definitely helps me be more aware of what I'm eating. Some things I really hate to have to write down, and it sufficiently shames me into doing it less. I'm not sure how healthy I've been about my eating habits lately, but the damn cold medicine suppresses my appetite and everything got all out of whack. What's worse is that between the unnaturally small appetite and the stuffed nasal passages, I haven't been able to enjoy my food. Half the time when I'm eating, it's just because I know I should be eating or I need to eat (that whole sustenance thing is a bitch sometimes). This is sad for me, because I love food. Not only do I love food, but I love good, natural food, and I know a good bit about it. 

Being a little down about my lack of eating enjoyment as of late, I took a recommendation from my lovely aunt Alisa and watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (the link will take you to, it's also available to watch on Netflix, which we have recently cancelled). It was a pretty moving documentary, if only because you're watching some people achieve some tremendous weight loss. It is also a great advertisement for juice extractors! Adam and I have decided that we're ordering this tomorrow:

This puppy from Hamilton Beach is pretty well-reviewed by Consumer Reports (and actual consumers, on and it is way cheaper than a lot of the other juicers I looked at. Since I've got my handy Prime membership, I'll be receiving it Saturday (or I guess Monday, at the very worst), and we can start playing around with making some juices. 

So, what does this have to do with Goals Wednesday? Adam and I have decided we're going to do a juice fast. I've signed up at RebootYourLife, so anybody who signs up should friend me! We're going to shoot for a 10-day fast, just water and juiced fruits & vegetables. I will, of course, still be taking my prescription Vitamin D and Iron supplements during this time. We are tentatively going to start this fast next Thursday, the 22nd. I think Thursday is a good starting point, since it seems that you hit your wall around day 3-4 before things get better - this will put days 3 and 4 during the weekend, where we'll be free to mope about and bitch at each other without having to interact with too many other people. Those who work in the produce section at the Seven Corners New Seasons may want to watch out. 

The goal for this week is simply to buy the juicer, call my doctor, and make sure we've got everything in order. The beginning of next week through Goals Wednesday, we should be weaning ourselves down from our normal doses of caffeine & alcohol. The RebootYourLife site also recommends eating less animal products, so for me, that means lessening the cheese intake. I think the no caffeine part of this will be hardest, but we'll see -- I've never gone that long without solid food. 

What I'm hoping to get out of the juice fast is a detox/reboot, as advertised. Adam is hoping to shed some pounds, and I think we'd both like a fresh start where food is concerned. If I can come out of the juice fast able to appreciate a good meal again, even if I don't lose a single pound and my skin isn't glowing, it would totally be worth it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Altruism & Charity

The term "altruism" was coined by French philsopher Auguste Comte (as altruisme) in 1851 {Source}. Comte was putting forth a theory, as philosophers are wont to do, that the only moral acts are those intended to promote the happiness of others. This is not an idea of morality that I would agree with. I prefer Kant's Universal Maxim (also known as the Categorical Imperative), which, summed up in simple English (not a skill Kant is known for, if you've ever read his writing. Fun times), states that any action which could, without contradicting itself, become a universal law, is a moral action.

So, for example, say you steal something and say "hey, it's okay to steal." Well, no, it's not, because if everybody stole, there would in essence be no true property. If nobody owns anything, then it is impossible to steal. This concept could not be universally applied, therefore, it is not moral. Pretty simple.

This is not a man known for stating things simply.
{source, also a cool article}
According to Kant, if you can keep from doing things like stealing or murdering, you know, the basic moral no-nos of almost any society, you're fulling your perfect duty. You're basically a good person. In addition, you're expected to fulfill your imperfect duty. These are things that are morally good to do, but they aren't required, like developing one's own creative talents (Kant was a fan of this one), or doing volunteer work. This leads back to the concept of altruism, right? Kant also believed that, in a lot of cases, the expected consequences of an action are morally neutral; the moral of the situation has more to do with the subjective intent of the person acting.

For me, I think about when Dick Cheney donates money to charities:

"I just love those tax deductions!"
I don't believe he's doing it because he truly believes in these various causes and feels good about giving them money; rather, it's a great tax write-off, and he ends up getting a refund. I'm not saying that keeping money out of the federal government's hands is the only reason that he does it, just that I'm pretty sure it's one of the reasons. It would line up with his own philosophy & morals. I don't think Comte's conception of altruism allows for evil plot laughs at the thought that you've screwed a government program out of your tax dollars in favor of funding the private sector (evil plot laughs are supplied by my own imagination).

Of course, playing devil's advocate with myself, maybe Cheney truly believes that's for the greater good and he is, in his mind, being truly altruistic. I'm just not so inclined to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. I'm doing exactly what was recently done to me: questioning the intent behind one's charitable donations. Behold:

The more I thought about this comment, the more it kind of made me angry. I wasn't particularly looking for credit, I had honestly asked for input from Facebook about where to donate, and I wanted to let my friend know I was supporting her and her workplace. Perhaps I was bit cheeky by adding the "you're welcome," but it wasn't meant to be self-important. Who would be ridiculous enough to be self-important about $15/paycheck of total contribution? It's not a huge amount, but it's what I can do at this time.

Here I was excited about supporting two new organizations this year - the US Dream Academy, focusing on serving at-risk youth in several cities (see their web site for more info), and the Carver Center Foundation, which provides funds for Carver Center for Arts & Technology, where I obtained my high school diploma, and somebody kinda came & shit on it a little bit, for me. I've wanted to give back to my high school for a while, and this year I figured out how to do it while participating in my company's annual United Way fundraising campaign (you do not have to contribute to the United Way to donate), so that's cool, since my company then does a matching donation. I'm trying to do some good.

I've been guilty of judging people about their altruistically intended acts, though. We are all quick to make snap judgments about where people donate, and how. Watchdog organizations like Charity Navigator are important, since they help those who give determine where their money is going and which organizations in a given field might be best to give their money to, but do we all need to be watchdogs? Kant would say that the intent behind the act is more important than the act itself, therefore the altruistic nature or moral is subjective, and can only really be known by the giver. We all like to speculate about one another, but I'll disagree with Kant on this point: the consequences of giving to a charity are not morally neutral. Regardless of why you've chosen to give, the fact that you have will be having a positive impact on somebody's life. I don't think the recipients of your generosity will want to examine the pureness of your intentions; they'll just be glad you gave at all.

Some organizations have decided to play around with this idea, like On Time Pledge or Stickk, where you pledge to an "anti-charity," or a cause you do NOT support. If you don't meet your goal/pledge, boom! There goes your money! Supporting a cause you hate. It's genius, really, and everybody wins in the end. 

So, what does this have to do with wellness? I would consider acting in a way that could be considered more or less morally good to contribute to one's overall wellness. We all do things we know are wrong from time to time, and it often eats us up inside. Giving to charities may not right every wrong, but it's a good place to start. People often say that giving to charity makes you feel better, but an interesting paper from Harvard Business School points out that the links show correlation, not causation. I can't promise that giving to charity would magically make you a happy, well person, but it's worth a shot. Even the most cash-strapped among those of us with an internet connection and time to spend reading blogs could probably spare $10 now and again. Hey, you can even donate to some causes via text message! 

This is no longer the face of giving (thank God).
Don't forget to check out Charity Navigator and research an organization first, though. I found this breakdown of where our dollars are going - I was surprised to see environmental & animal-related causes coming in at 2%, while religion has the plurality at 35%. If you are planning to give, or give already, leave me a comment and tell me where!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I've been meaning to blog more than this, and I've got some drafts in the works that should be coming in the next week or so. But, to be honest, it's been rough. I'm still sick, Adam's been sick/dealing with a face infection, and it's all been a bit depressing. 

As much as I would like to avoid these sorts of posts, the unsaid undercurrent of this blog is that it is supposed to help me feel better. Like therapy, almost. Whenever something scares or confuses me, I like to research it until I feel better. Regurgitating some of that research/starting a discussion with those of kind enough to read this helps me feel like I have some community support, and gives me strength & will to go on. 

But sometimes, I just get fatigued. Often literally. I've tried so hard over the past few years. I've started to eat better, I've changed my lifestyle, I've detoxed my home and changed my hygiene & cosmetic products. But I'm still so frustrated with my own body. This summer especially, I've felt trapped in my own skin. Unable to do what I want or, in some cases, even what I'm expected to do on a regular basis because something is wrong with me. 

Often, my friends & family are less than understanding when it comes to these struggles. I feel a lack of concern, or a face of concern with an undercurrent of anger/disbelief, like I'm making it up because I don't want to spend time with them or participate in their social events. I would love to be able to do all of those things. It felt good when I was able to do yoga, run three times a week, still get in my other exercise, and balance that with some occasional outings, but it turns out my body can't handle that. 

Right now, I feel exhausted. What did I do today? I slept in, went downtown and did a bit of shopping, came home, then went & saw a movie. Not exactly physically taxing stuff. I just took my iron supplement with a dose of DayQuil because I'm still coughing, sniffling, running a fever, etc. (for the record, never make the mistake we made & buy the generic DayQuil. It tastes even worse) 

These things aren't supposed to happen to people committed to living a healthy lifestyle, people who eat well & exercise regularly. I was trying all these measures as preventative care, and now I'm struggling to maintain any sort of life at all. It has been a victory for me every day I'm able to successfully get out of bed and drag my sorry ass into work. It is a struggle to get through each and every day on a physical level, and it's begun to wear me down mentally. I feel like I'm grasping at straws. But, life goes on, and I'm going to try & figure this out.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Goals Wednesday: Thursday Edition

Between the cold I'm nursing and the heat, I wasn't able to get to Goals Wednesday on Wednesday. I wasn't able to get to much of anything, really - after I got home, I took a nap, got up long enough to eat and watch a couple TV episodes, then went back to sleep, or something resembling sleep, anyway. The heat isn't super conducive to sleep. 

Anyway, let's check in! Last week, I decided to establish a food journal and a constructive worry time. I've been doing better with the food journal than the constructive worry time, although the constructive worry time is definitely helping. When I take the time to tackle some of the day-to-day issues & stress, it helps me relax and get to sleep faster when I go to bed. The food journal is not really helping me relax. It's a little irritating to pause every time I put something in my mouth & jot it down, then update it online later. I'm hoping I'll get used to it and find a way to journal that works better, because I prefer to enjoy my food. I love food! This past week hasn't been my best, diet-wise, between the vacation and Adam & I being too sick and/or tired to really make good meals. 

As for my original goals, I've been keeping up with my weight & measurements. This one seems to be easier, and I somewhat enjoy keeping tabs on what's happening with my body - even when I get on the scale and it says I've gained weight. I think it helps me pinpoint what causes bloat and what I can do to avoid it. So far, so good. Adam hasn't been quite as dedicated as I have been, but he actually was excited to take his body test on Tuesday, so there's progress being made!

Now, I've been thinking about what my new goal this week should be, and I think it's time to throw a little exercise in the mix. I still haven't seen a dietician or gotten follow-up blood work that will give me the doctor's permission to go ahead with a full exercise plan again, but we'll start simple: some daily calisthenics & stretching. Starting tomorrow, when I take my daily body test on the Wii, I'll also do some sit-ups and wall push-ups. I'll start slow, and build over time. I'm not sure what starting slow will mean to me, but I'll do reps of ten and see how it feels and let you guys know! I used to do a few yoga poses before bed, and it helped work out any muscle kinks and relax my body for sleep, so that's back in the mix, too. This shouldn't take me more than a total of 10-15 minutes per day, but I'm hoping it'll help my energy level. Besides, it will feel good to be doing something again. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Common Cold

As Adam & I were off to get our Labor Day weekend started, I noticed a little scratchiness in my throat. As we got closer to Seattle, I felt worse & worse. By the time I got there, my throat was very sore and I was feeling a little stuffy. When I woke up on Saturday morning, the full panorama had hit: sniffy, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat. This would even be joined by fever intermittently throughout the weekend. Personally, I'd like to blame the cat who was nuzzling and slobbering on my face all throughout Thursday night, but, Google as I might, I can't find any evidence supporting the idea that a cat could be a carrier for a human cold virus. 

but doesn't she just look like she'd be carrying out an evil plot?

Since we were in Washington, we were able to get medications containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription. It's rather angering that one of the most useful things when you are very sick has been restricted because it happens to be a key ingredient in meth, but at least I was able to get it while I was sick (this time). Some of the side effects of this drug can be quite serious, especially the part where it can mess with your heartbeat. The very wise pharmacist in Seattle advised that I not take the pseudoephedrine, DayQuil, and drink a Lo-Carb Monster all at once. He calmed down a bit when I told him that the energy beverage was for Adam, not me. 

Now, I don't recommend this method of dealing with your severe cold, but being as we had purchased weekend passes to this event some time ago & I did not want to be a blob on somebody else's couch all weekend, here is what I did to get through it: I double-dosed on the pseudoephedrine and drank DayQuil straight from the bottle. The bottle of DayQuil lasted me from Saturday morning to Monday night. I tore through a four-day box of Sudafed in two days. Adam and our wonderful hosts, Megan & Nat, can testify to the fact that I was still miserable a lot of the time - not sleeping through the night, still symptomatic, etc. It was one nasty cold, and it spread through my body quickly.

Rhinovirus 16 (common cold) contains 60 sites capable of connecting to a receptor on a human cell.
Everybody knows there is no cure for the common cold. What I should have done right away, but neglected to do until last night, was purchase some Cold-Eeze. If you've never heard of or used this product, I suggest you check out their website. They have direct links to clinical studies regarding their product under "About." These zinc lozenges prevent the cold virus from replicating in your body, thereby reducing the severity and duration of your illness. I can't recommend these enough, but they work best if you take them right away, which I did not. Like a fool. My only warning is to never take these lozenges on an empty stomach, unless of course you enjoy nausea. 

I want to take a moment to acknowledge that Cold-Eeze (or zinc supplements) are something I'm pointing out as a cold remedy because it has been clinically proven to work. Although I could devote several posts to this, a quick glance at the Common Cold page on PubMed Health will tell you that other remedies often toted, such as vitamin C & echinacea, have no solid evidence to back up claims that they will help your cold. Those are myths, so stop buying the Emergen-C. 

But back to the part where I warn you not to purposely overdose yourself on cold medications like I did! I was very careful not to take too much acetaminophen. According to MedLine Plus, acetaminophen overdose is one of the most common poisonings worldwide. Acetaminophen poisoning is no joke. If it's not treated well or caught soon enough, your liver can fail and you'll be dead within a few days. You should be keeping acetaminophen intake under 4000mg per day. It's important to check everything you're taking for acetaminophen - this is the active drug in Tylenol, but it is also in most cold medicines, medicines to relieve cramps, painkillers, etc. etc. DayQuil, for example, has 325mg of acetaminophen per 15ml dose. Per tablet, common painkillers Percocet and Norco have 325mg, while Vicodin has 500mg. When Adam first came home from the hospital in February, we knew he couldn't have more than 8 Vicodin in a 24-hour period. I was getting up every three hours to give him the medicine to manage his pain as best we could, while making sure I didn't poison him. 

Obligatory picture of a mound of pills.

At 325mg a dose for the DayQuil(and no other sources of acetaminophen), I figured I could have up to 12 doses per day and be okay. A normal bottle has 177ml, or 11.8 doses at 15ml each. In theory, you could have the entire bottle in one day and it would not kill you. As far as the acetaminophen is concerned, anyway. 

DayQuil also has dextromethorphan, a drug sometimes abused to get high, and phenylephrine, which is a nasal decongestant like pseudoephedrine. If you'll recall, I said the pharmacist told me to be careful taking the DayQuil and Sudafed together. This is because there are two different nasal decongestants in each drug, and both are stimulants that can cause heart problems if you take too much. The only known cure for the common cold is rest and plenty of fluids, but the medicine can keep you more comfortable in the mean time. Just make sure you're careful about what you take and how much. 

As for me, I'm starting to feel better. The heavy brain cloud that tends to form when you are congested, coughing, and all but lost your voice started to lift yesterday afternoon. On the drive back to Portland, I felt myself feeling progressively better (and sleepier - we didn't get home until 2:30am). I was smart enough to take today off work in advance, so I've got time to rest and hopefully, get my voice back.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

I am frantically trying to get everything done procrastinating in order to be ready to get Adam from work and head up to Seattle for Labor Day Weekend! This will be our 2nd Annual Labor Day Weekend in Seattle, and both years have been sponsored by our dear friends Megan & Nat, who are gracious enough to provide us with lodging. This will also be our 2nd year attending Bumbershoot, and our first time having passes for the whole weekned. And the Starbucks VIP area (free coffee, private bathrooms, and cell phone chargers! It just sounds so glamorous). 

I'm looking forward to the weekend away, and I may not have access to do a whole lot of updating - if you don't see my food journal or weight/measurements updated right away, rest assured I'm keeping track offline, and everything will be updated on Tuesday, after I get home & take a nap.  

I hope all of you have a great long weekend to look forward to! Take a weekend-long break from your normal busy lives and have some fun.                     

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The lunch break

Question: how many of you take a lunch break at work? And I don't mean that you clock out for 30 minutes, but how many of you actually take a break? Get a change of scenery, maybe get outside? For me, it varies a lot, but I almost always take a 35 minute lunch. I also have the option to take 45 minute or 60 minute lunches at my office. Some days, I'm at my desk (with my computer locked, because I can't work when I'm not on the clock per company policy), just reading a book & eating. Sometimes, I go out for lunch. Sometimes I've brought my lunch, but I take the whole thing to Keller Fountain (which is across the street from where I work) and eat there. 

Imagine this with a hobo bathing in it, and you'll get the idea of my lunchtime views.

Today I ate lunch in the break room (you can read about it over on my food journal!), which isn't so bad - it's got floor to ceiling windows, and a view of Mt. Hood on clear days. It was certainly cheerier than never leaving my desk, plus, it's on a different floor, so I've got go up & down some stairs. 

I read this article contrasting the European work day, which often includes a three hour break, and the new ideas behind some companies like VendorSeek, who are encouraging their employees to take little to no lunch break. Well, it turns out that breaks are important, but the U.S. isn't talking a whole lot about it. When I was searching for news articles, blogs, etc. about lunch breaks, coffee breaks, any kind of breaks, I was finding mostly European news articles talking about how the lack of a lunch break can make worker productivity plummet. 

The closest thing I found in the US was a bit on Polished Prose, which was comparing various studies on the effects of "microbreaks" - breaks of five minutes or less - on those of us who work a computer all day. Here's my favorite part:

In 2000, Galinsky, Swanson, et al. reported a study of 42 data entry operators who took 5-minute breaks every hour, plus the 15-minute breaks required by law every 4 hours, for a total of 20 extra minutes of break time or 50 minutes total per shift. "[Workers] indicated that discomfort in several areas of the body, and eyestrain, were significantly lower under the supplementary than under the conventional schedule," said the researchers. "In addition, increases in discomfort of the right forearm, wrist and hand over the course of the work week under the conventional schedule were eliminated under the supplementary schedule. These beneficial effects were obtained without reductions in data-entry performance."
It seems that taking those microbreaks can help make the work day go by without putting too much repetitive stress on your body. Back when I was still in the call center, I used to do a few yoga poses at my desk during long calls with downtime, which helped a lot - it seems that taking breaks and stretching, getting up, etc. can help your body deal with the long periods of sitting. This research was pro-microbreak for sure. 

Again, American literature on lunch breaks is less conclusive - this article at eHow points out that eating a heavy lunch can make us sleepy, or that we may get distracted from the day's work. While this is true, I would say that science would seem to back the claim that the lunch break is overall a better thing - not only for worker productivity, but for health & happiness as well. 

What's interesting is that there is no Federal labor law that requires your employer to give you a lunch break. In fact, according to the Department of Labor's web site, Federal law doesn't require any breaks at all. This was a real shock to me when I lived in  Mississippi, which does not really have many state labor laws. I didn't know that when I started working in Mississippi, although my boss did let me know at a later time. The Department of Labor has this handy chart depicting meal period and this chart depicting rest period (break) labor laws by state. Check it out, there is no entry for Mississippi on either chart. In fact, only 9 states are listed on the rest period chart! Think about how different your working experience would be if you lived in a state like that and didn't have an employer who wanted to make sure you were healthy, happy, and getting the breaks you need. 

Contrast that with this article, written to help those moving to France adjust to their new life; any newcomers to France should be aware that most shops close between noon and two pm, that schools close as well and families often meet at home for a full lunch together, and that lunch breaks are even longer on the weekends. Part of me says "Wow! I'd love that!", while the other part thinks that I wouldn't want to have the day drag on that long. What do you think? Do you take actual breaks (for meals, microbreaks, etc.) at work?