Thursday, November 28

A different kind of thankfulness

I know I'm not the only one who is finding it difficult to feel thankful this year. I know. But I feel like getting this out in the open might help me to find my own grit to be thankful.

I've been unemployed/underemployed for nine months now. February seems like a long time ago because 2014 is just around the bend. Fighting to get a job is feeling more hopeless all the time and the four part-time jobs I have aren't enough to pay my bills... I'm broke.

But I'm not broken.

I may not have money for all my bills, but I have enough for some of them. So I pay them.

I may not have money for Christmas gifts, but I can still pay my internet bill and phone bill so I can email and call my friends and family to let them know I'm missing them or sending them holiday joy.

I may not have the kinds of food I'd like to have around this time of year, but I do have some food. (I never thought I'd revert to bagged salad and ramen noodles like college, but I also never knew I would be this hard up for money.)

I may be struggling to believe in myself because I can't find a professional job to pay me a salary I can actually live on, but I still have the most marvelous man as my boyfriend who tells me that I'm worth it, helps me find hope, and lets me cry to him when I'm hurting.

I may not be able to make any future plans, based on time or money, but I know that I am fortunate each morning when I put both feet on the floor and take a big breath to lift myself from bed. I have learned to plan on just waking up and being alive.

I may feel hopeless (nearly all the time, these days), but I have a few really good friends who, despite whatever distance between us, have the power to lift me up.

I may not have health insurance, but I have found a way to get my prescriptions at a reasonable cost so I may remain well and, especially important, free of asthma attacks and healthy enough to run and keep running.

I may cry too easily right now. I do. But I have the cutest, sweetest dog who has a truly intelligent sense of empathy who has finally learned to cuddle to make mommy feel better.

I may not have friends close by all the time, but I work hard to be able to afford the luxury of keeping my dog, who is there for me day and night.

I may not see what is in front of me in my path for life, but I am working hard to trust in God and to remember that I can't always see his plan but that there is a plan... and I try to remember that I am an instrument of God when I can help other people.

I'm thankful that I am not broken. I'm not sure how much longer I can sustain myself in this state (this sad, sad state), but I am thankful that I find strength in everything I listed here. I find strength to push on and do what I can, whatever it is, to keep going minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

Wednesday, November 20

Taking a Break from Racing: Marshall University Half Marathon

Gosh. So it's been awhile since I wrote. My sincerest apologies… I'm juggling life not unlike anyone
else, only currently life's juggling involves less time online.

So I ran my third half marathon on 11/10! It was wonderful. I finished with a time between my other two times, so I'm pleased that I have an average to work on for next year.

Yes, I'm done racing for the year. This means I'm abandoning my goal of running a race every month. I did it for as long as I could manage, and I am pleased with that, but cold weather running has me chickening out a bit since the aforementioned juggling act leaves me such little time as it is. I'm planning to use this time away from racing as time to build more strength, particularly in my core and legs, to bolster my running in the spring time. I also think this is a good time for me to take a break because I was convinced I had a stress fracture in my right foot the day after this race… I got it x-rayed and it's fine, but the pain is enough for me. I'm prepared to take it easier on my feet for a few weeks.

The Marshall Marathon and Half Marathon were lovely. We had beautiful weather and a nice flat course. I'm delighted to announce that my Oiselle teammate Aubrey came in 2nd overall for the marathon (!) and 1st for women (!!!). What a fast bird she is! I was glad that I got to meet her again. We hugged and celebrated her victory with upbeat chatter as we both cooled down from running. I'm so proud to be on the same team as this quick lady!

This is me at mile nine. I'm still smiling!
I waited to blog about the Marshall Marathon (I ran the half--let's be clear on that) because I had a problem. The day I got my number I was told that I did not pay for the jacket and shirt… but I had. I was a little irritated that I didn't get them on the day of the race. However, afterwards the race director was kind enough to check the records to see that yes, in fact, I had paid for these items. While I am still a tiny bit irked that I got size medium (when I requested small… when I originally paid for the items…), I'm glad to have the items anyway. The jacket is really nice and it's my first race jacket. :) I'm glad that they were willing to mail them to me.

As I mentioned, the race was really nice. The water stops were well-spaced, the crowd that gathered was just enough to boost my energy, and the course varied between concrete, pavement, and even a little dirt trail. I definitely plan to run this race again. I like that it's small (with a few hundred participants, not thousand…).

Tuesday, November 5

Part-Time… everything

I'm a part-time worker at several jobs right now... I'm still underemployed. I haven't found a full-time position… So I have taken on a few retail options for the time being. Money is tighter than ever before. I'm more afraid than ever. But I'm also more determined than ever before.

I skipped my race on Sunday. I feel bad about that because I paid the entry fee… so it feels like wasted money. I also feel bad because I hadn't dedicated any time to run last week. Starting new jobs is stressful though. I also needed rest because I was certain I was going to catch a cold. Thank goodness I didn't. A little extra sleep and some vitamin C went a long way for my health.

So in addition to being a part-time worker in so many jobs, I appear to also be living part-time. Nothing in my life seems fully committed right now--running included. I'm a part-time runner...

I've felt sluggish these past few times at the gym. I'm running my last race for 2013 on Sunday--the Marshall University Half Marathon. Yes, you're right. I was supposed to be running the full marathon--my first one. But I switched races a week ago because I'm not convinced that I am ready to run the full marathon. I don't feel like I've trained well enough. My first marathon will be a different one. Just not right now.

I'm juggling quite a few things and don't feel "all there" in a variety of circumstances, but I'm pushing onward. What I'm doing is just how I have to live my life right now. It's not forever. (I have to keep telling myself that.)

Saturday, October 19

A Shiny New PR: Staten Island Half Marathon

Apologies for the late post. Yes, I did run the Staten Island Half Marathon about a week ago (10/13/13). I just haven't had it in me to post a blog. Traveling took a lot out of me and I guess I needed to lay low for a while.

Nevertheless, the half marathon was really great. I ran much faster than my first half! The hills were long and tedious and I thought that the turnaround would be a lot sooner once I started seeing folks from the front of the pack lining the road on the other side... But, alas, I was a back pack gal this race. No shame, though. I still got a shiny new personal record (PR).

Original time: 2:58:22
NEW PR: 2:45:08

I'm delighted to report that I crushed my old PR by a whole 13 minutes!

Being there with my friends was awesome and I also got to meet another Oiselle Volée teammate!

Here's a pic of me and Gabrielle. We're sporting the really sweet hardware from a half marathon well done. :) She's a fast birdie. :)

Sadly I didn't get any other photos. This is what happens when your smartphone is become less intelligent as it ages. Meh. (At least it makes phone calls... most of the time. Le sigh. I'm tired of being broke!)

My stay in New York was truly wonderful thanks to some friends and their sofa! I ate well, ran well, and soaked up every minute of the weekend.

Here is my best photo during the race. I'm told (by my BFF, as a matter of fact) that I shouldn't look that good after 13.1 miles. Hehe. Guess I was a happy finisher! This was the 0.1 part of the race!

Thursday, October 10

Running maintains my sanity

It does. Running helps me maintain my sanity. Even though I don't do it as much as I should (according to my training program).

And what am I training for?

I'm glad you asked. :)

Sunday, October 13th I am running my second half marathon! It's exciting for me because one of my closest friends recently caught the running bug and this will be the first time we run together because she's not local.

I feel MUCH more prepared for this race than I did for my first half marathon. I think that feeling is accurate because of two main differences: 1) My asthma is under control. 2) I have a stronger base.

Am I worried? A little. Sometimes that left achilles pipes up and I wish it wouldn't. Also, there's potential that the humidity will be higher than here at home. The race is on Staten Island, so I'm not sure what to expect.

So because I'm actually crazy, Saturday the following week (October 19) I'm running a brand new 5k. Then the first weekend the following month (November 3) I'm running Pittsburgh's first 10 miler. And the following week? My first marathon (November 10).

I'm nervous about the marathon because I haven't run that far yet, but I know from the half marathon I have a decent base. Besides, if I want to stop running after just the half I can. That's nice to know, but right now I'm planning like I'm going to run the full.

And this craziness maintains my sanity amid loneliness, joblessness, moneylessness, insurancelessness, and (sometimes) hopelessness.

Saturday, October 5

Today's Run Oozes Awesomeness (for real)

I'm fairly certain that I just had the best run ever.


And it's a taper for next Sunday's half marathon. And it was partially in the rain and almost in the dark.

Simple awesomeness just oozes from this experience. Here's why...

Blurry with excitement about the new trail
My running buddy Eleanor is back from a stress fracture in her foot and a busted hand (different injuries on different days from doing different things) and I couldn't be happier that she is healed and ready to run.


Today marked the grand opening of a new trail in my county. I didn't know about this, but E did. She's got a pulse on stuff like that (for which I am grateful!).

AND... Part of the reason it was such a great run is that I fueled right for today. I need to remember today as a case study for how WELL I can do. (Obviously I have plenty of examples of what not to do. Finally a good one to recall!)

So here's the math:

   excellent running partner return
+ wicked awesome new trail
+ eating right today
-  technology of any kind
= --------------------------------------
truly magnificent eight mile taper run

We also saw pigs. Real little (and big) oinkers!
Someone's little piggies enjoying the freshly made mud

I haven't had a run that felt THIS good in months. Specifically, I haven't had a run this good since before I lost my job. I got the Warner Bros. Roadrunner legs feeling. I was breathing well despite the humidity. I felt solid for all eight miles.

Thursday, October 3

The Great Race 10k version 2.0

I ran The Great Race again this year. Now last year when I ran it, it was the first time I had ever run more than five miles. This year, I had another 10k, several other 5ks, and a half marathon under my belt. I felt good.

I didn't do as well as I felt, though. I know I'm not eating right at the moment. It's tough to make food choices based on what I need in my diet and what I can afford. I hate making those choices.

Anyway, it took me three extra minutes to finish this year, 1:11:43 is what I ran. (Last year I was around 1:08, so you see my disappointment.)

I'm glad I ran it though. I need a wake-up call like that every once in awhile, I suppose. I'm trying to keep going as a runner while trying to keep going as a human being and neither is an easy course of action.

Here's my least favorite stretch of The Great Race...
Almost all the people I talked to about the race said it was their least favorite part too. It's like you've already run five miles and you have a little left to go, but it seems much longer on this stretch of road. The view isn't that great (unless you look to the left... and risk running into people) and it's really sunny.

So I'm glad I ran the race. My music helped me keep up a decent pace. Too bad I didn't beat the time from last year. Guess I have to wait for 2014 now.

Wednesday, September 25

Adventures in Gardening: Homemade Red Sauce

Yesterday I made my own sauce. I didn't know what to expect since I'd never done it before, but it was truly simple!

Here are my raw ingredients.
My garden's yield
No, I didn't put cucumbers in my sauce... That picture is just what I picked from my garden that day--about 30 tomatoes and two cucumbers! I didn't know how many tomatoes I'd get from four plants... I grew these plants from seeds--heirlooms from my bf's uncle--and they've been quite fruitful (pun intended). :)

(Not pictured: chopped red onion. I bought it pre-chopped because I really dislike cutting onions.)

I chopped and chopped and then simmered my veggies in olive oil.

Then I added the stars of the show: my sweet, sweet tomatoes!

I got all my ingredients mixed together. Looking delicious. And the smell? Oh, it's heavenly.

All the tomatoes cooked down nicely over the course of an hour. 

I thickened it up a little and it was ready to serve.

We ate fresh pasta from Giovanni Rana (our favorite). I have additional fresh pasta to eat with the leftover sauce!

This year's garden is just about kaput, but I'm inspired for next year already!

Wednesday, September 18

Conquering Asthma: breathing through my nose

I'm excited to share that I'm making significant progress on my asthma problem.

How do I know? Did I go to the doctor? (No, I don't even have insurance right now, so that's out of the question.) How do I know I'm getting better?

I ran my entire 12 mile long run on Sunday while breathing through my nose. That's right--no open mouth breathing, no gasping, no out-of-breath feelings. I ran 12 miles straight and didn't lose my breath. Not even going up (several) hills.

This is HUGE! I've been trying to breathe through my nose more as I run to help filter the air I take in (something useful when pollen and allergens are nature's confetti), but this was the first real run I did with NO mouth breathing.

I'm delighted.

I still take my rescue inhaler with me (better safe than sorry), and I still take my asthma medications every day (though getting them at a reasonable cost soon may be difficult if I don't find a way to get health insurance). But I feel so FREE when I don't need to THINK about breathing. Free! Free, at last!

This is a milestone for me. My body is strong enough to run the distance and my lungs can now keep up. I feel incredible.

Monday, September 9

One Thing at a Time

I am taking one thing at a time.

This is how I've been trying to live each day--one thing at a time, one minute at a time. If those minutes add up into hours, then it's one hour at a time. Hours to days, days to weeks. Weeks to months, unfortunately, is what this has turned into. Months of feeling lost.

I'm burned out from my personal life. I lost my health insurance, I don't have enough money to pay my bills, and I'm not eating enough to still run well. (Part of that is appetite and part of that is financial.)

I can run, but I tire so quickly. 3.1 is about all I can handle without feeling absolutely exhausted. Yet it never feels like enough. I can't even focus on my fall races right now. They're too far away (both time- and space-wise). I'm not sure how I'll get there and, if I get there, how well I'll run because my training plan is threadbare at this rate.

I'm trying.

I'm trying to focus more on professional endeavors, specifically teaching, because that is what brings me joy and, on days when I can't find that joy, it brings me momentary fulfillment. It distracts me from the problems in my personal life that I can't really do anything about.

I'm doing everything I can. Literally, I'm doing every single possible thing to help myself. And it's not enough to change things. So when all that's left is to worry, I need to shut off that valve so I don't pour more energy into that rabbit hole.

I'm really tired. Tired of applying for jobs I never hear back about. Tired of trying to turn unemployment compensation into a life. Tired of feeling like this situation won't improve.

I'm living check to check. I'm living sleep to sleep. I'm living blink to blink. One. Thing. At. A. Time. The poetry of mindfulness is lost on me some days because "being in the moment" requires more energy than I think I have left from worrying.

It's depressing.

Moments of "look how far you've come" are overshadowed by weeks of worry chalked up to bills I can't pay and jobs I don't have. I'm working harder than I've ever worked for anything and I've got nothing to show for it. Looking to see how far I've come isn't a fair comparison anymore. I feel no farther along because I want change--big changes, like not having to worry about finances, being able to get my medication, and being excited about life.

I'm plodding along.

One thing at a time. Everything "extra" has been shorn from my budget and, somehow too, my life. But I'm persevering. I'm keeping on.

Thursday, September 5

Sunshine Award: My time in the sun

I was nominated to receive the Sunshine Award by my pal Becki at Fighting for Wellness! This award is given to those who inspire us and bring sunshine into the lives of those who nominate others.

The relationship I have with Becki is purely online, so I feel special to be included in her nominees. We met through her blog. I've been part of fundraising for her first marathon, my own Arbonne Fit Kit experience, and a Facebook-based holiday wellness challenge. It's delightful to know someone who cares about many of the same things that I do. What a sweetheart!

Here are the rules for the Sunshine Award:

  1. Include award logo in a post on your blog.
  2. Link to the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer 10 questions about yourself.
  4. Nominate 10 bloggers to receive the award. 

Okay, so here are the questions Becki asked me...

1. When is your favorite time of day to work out?
Usually I like to run after work. Sometimes it's a struggle to get myself going, but once I'm running I am fine. If we're talking the weekend, then I enjoy Saturday late morning.

2. What is something you never thought you'd be able to do, but you've accomplished in spite of the obstacles?
Well, I'm a runner, which is a huge accomplishment for me. After breaking my left foot twice in college (I'm really good on crutches), my podiatrist told me the only time I should run would be to run away from something. Fortunately my foot is stronger than she thought. I started running almost two years ago (November 2011) and haven't looked back. I've struggled with my asthma more than my foot pain, but I still persevere with my asthma because it's actually gotten a lot better from running. I run as part of the fabulous Oiselle Volée team and couldn't be happier about that.

3. Do you have a go-to splurge item? What is it and when do you have it?
Oiselle gear. Gosh, I could buy every item they ever made. It's high-quality, fashionable running clothes for women. And the logo is a bird! I love, love, love birds! I try to reward myself with "mental money" for doing tough stuff (usually $1 per tough thing). When the mental money adds up to $100, which takes awhile, then I allow myself to shop. Who doesn't love new running gear?!

4. How do you make time for yourself?
I try to make every morning breakfast about just breakfast so I can chill a little, eat, read a magazine, or just sit in the quiet to wake up. Some mornings this isn't possible, but I like not rushing around to get going.

5. Where would you live if money were no object?
Probably San Francisco so I could enjoy a balmy summer. Then again, visiting Nevada and Utah were awesome because of the desert air and beautiful scenery. Ooo, but if we're going to get particular, I could easily live at Fallingwater here in Pennsylvania. What an awesome place.

6. Who is your go-to person for advice when you're trying to make a tough decision?
I have one friend I've known since middle school (you know who you are) and we take turns bending each others' ears. We don't get to talk or see each other much these days (heck, we're in different time zones!), but she always finds a way to help me. I always call her. 

7. What is the strangest food or fitness trend you've tried?
Anything I list isn't weird enough. It's been awhile since I tried anything truly outrageous. But I've tried liver. (Could we just not call it by its anatomical name? It would be much more appetizing, I think.)

8. What are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Right now planning the next 12 months seems basically impossible because of my situation. One day at a time is enough. But hopefully I'll be able to get on my feet financially with a new job. I'm hoping my teaching gig will continue to go well too. 

9. What is your favorite childhood memory or family tradition?
When my youngest brother was born, I was only 6 years-old. I couldn't contain my excitement. I made him toys out of paper and tape--a rattle (crumpled paper with some rice in it, taped shut) and a doll (tissues folded up and taped together, with rubber bands for legs and arms). I spelled his name wrong on the card I made, which was a travesty because my name was always spelled wrong (!), but mom said it was okay. I loved having a baby brother. 

10. Do you follow a strict food and fitness plan or wing it? 
Oh, I definitely wing it a little too much. I have a training calendar I'm not following too well right now and I need to get back on that wagon. I also haven't been super careful about what I eat since doing the Arbonne Fit Kit in June. I like to plan things, but things like this in my own life seem to take last place sometimes.  

My 10 Nominees

1. Abby (@nycrunninggirl) 
Oiselle teammate and fellow nap aficionado :)

2. Katie (@katieeand)
Oiselle teammate and has a whole tab for "Puppies" on her blog

3. Danielle (@FoodosaurusRex) 
Oiselle teammate and super foodie friend

4. Kristy (@pghrunner)
hometown Pittsburgh girl I met at a race who knows her running game

5. Paulette (@paulettezf) 
Oiselle teammate and wicked awesome runner

6. Ayesha (@musingfootfalls) 
Oiselle teammate and darling of the SW

7. Catherine (@eatrabbitfood) at Rabbit Food for My Bunny Teeth, 
inspiring "you can do it" attitude and great pro-veggie blogger

8. Amanda (@risenbird) at One Mile to Go, 
Twitter pal who kicks my butt motivates me 

9. Sarah (@sarahchan) 
Oiselle teammate and beautiful newlywed

10. Regina (@rfaura) 
Oiselle teammate and awesome mommy-runner inspiration

And here are my questions for you, ladies!

1. What one thing do you do before you work out? (Race day superstition? Habit? Helpful hint?)
2. How do you keep running when you are mentally spent?
3. Since you're all on Twitter: what do you get out of your interactions on Twitter?
4. Do you go to races alone or is someone waiting there for you/running with you? Any reason why?
5. Would you rather run in boiling humidity or below zero temps? Why?
6. What is your favorite OMG-I-shouldn't-be-eating-this-but-it's-delicious snack?
7. Why do you blog? What's your motivation?
8. Someone is giving you a million dollars, but you can't spend it on yourself: what would you do?
9. What are your two favorite songs to listen to when running?
10. Have you ever struggled to get motivated? What helped? (If you haven't struggled with motivation, what keeps you going?)

Sunday, August 25

Killing the Hills

So yesterday's 5k was good by all standards--breathing, endurance, and completion--except speed. But I'm not upset about not getting a new PR. I realized about half way through the race that I wasn't going to hit my target. And do you know why that is?

I breathe really hard going up hills and I usually have to slow way down to catch my breath. Running small hills or flat surfaces allows me to really get my asthmatic breathing under control. I feel so good running now that it's hard to compare it to how I felt a year ago before I really got serious about controlling my asthma.

Hills. They are not my favorite. Unfortunately for me, I live in western Pennsylvania where hills are just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday afternoon I took a run around my neighborhood and challenged myself to run this one road that goes towards my house. It is basically a roller coaster.

Starting out flat, it progresses into a steep turn. It flattens out slightly for about a quarter mile, then there is an S-curve dip (where most cars cross the lines because they take it too fast).

What next? An uphill climb that provides, when you crest it, a beautiful view of your next two hill. Yes, there are more. Up and down until a final downhill coast around a bend. I've included these pictures of my hilly route (in the order they appear). They can't quite capture all the steepness and rolling hill feeling you get while running them.

At yesterday's race, Run Around the Square (Pittsburgh), I know I did better than I did the previous year, especially with the hills. The course is the same. It runs through one of Pittsburgh's parks, so it's part (brick) road course, part trail course.

When I realized I was going up one of the longer hills, I took note of how I felt doing it and recognized that I was doing really well.

I think some of that is due to my work on the *mental* aspect of climbing hills. I used to stare down the crest of the hill. Not anymore. I find little landmarks to stare down. Once I reach the landmark, I pick a new one.

Usually it goes like this:
"Okay, I'm feeling a little tired up this hill. Get to that crack in the pavement. Then you can stop."

Then I reach the crack in the pavement and still feel tired--but not any worse (this is my key). So then I choose someone's mailbox, a certain tree, a road sign, a crosswalk, a rock... whatever. I run to that and see how I feel.

When I get to the top of the hill, I feel like a real champ. Like a million dollars.

What's funny about my new hilly route is that the hills just keep coming! So it's a real mental workout on top of my physical workout.

My goal is to run this hilly road at minimum twice a month (every other week) to build my stamina.

When I include a few other roads from my house, this makes a nice four mile loop. Completely do-able and not ridiculous. I know these are a weakness of mine, so I'm really going to focus on it to come out on top.

Do you/did you struggle with hills? Any other tips on how to master these landforms?

Thursday, August 22

Birds of many feathers

If you've been reading along for a while now, you'll know that I occasionally freak out about birds.

I love birds.

I live in an area where birds are plentiful--from water fowl to hummingbirds and everything in between.

In the past few days I've had a good number of run-ins with birds. They're all short stories, so I thought I'd weave them all together here.

First I have a nuthatch. He perched on my open window. I was literally just on the other side of the screen taking photos of him.

I love how nuthatches have perfect cone-shaped beaks. Also, I love fancy headgear on birds. The crown on this fella looks like it is preened into a mohawk!

We stayed there for awhile--me photographing him; him looking adorable--until he flew off my porch into the lush green beyond my window.

Another morning at home showed me just how bold the geese are becoming.

I've written before about the intrepid geese that make their home in my neighborhood--I jokingly call it the Goose Family Reunion. Each year there seem to be different times at which the group (a gaggle of geese!) decides to migrate a little closer to my house.

This photo is looking off my back porch into my yard. The geese are standing near my very well protected garden. (I have a cylindrical fence that encloses my garden. It goes up and down on a pulley system. Think Mouse Trap, that old board game.)
This poor goose I saw while I was running. My boyfriend warned me about some really sad roadkill: evidently the new construction near the highway made a mess of the wetlands called home by yet another group of geese in my town.

Bf told me a goose got hit. :(

I'm really grateful I didn't find the roadkill. (I would've sobbed the whole run home.)

Canada geese are monogamous. This poor goose just lost the love of his life...

So sad.
On the way to see my career counselor in Pittsburgh, I saw these wild turkeys. They're such big birds that they're hard to miss!

They didn't mind my approach to snap a photo, fortunately. There were more than the photo shows, but the bird next to the tree does a good job of showing its comparative size.

Pittsburgh might be a metropolitan area, but the neighborhoods surrounding it are fairly wooded, and I'm not even talking about the preserved wildlife in the parks we have. I've seen deer in Pittsburgh and, now, turkeys.

Finally, this poor guy was hanging out behind my landlord's business. I took a bag of trash to the dumpster and saw this gigantic bird. I think it's a hawk of some kind.

I was really nervous to continue my trek because I didn't know if the bird was hurt or what.

Later he moved into my neighbors' yard. They were talking about him and I volunteered the phone number for Animal Rescue League. They agreed that they thought it was strange for this guy to be hanging out near humans.

My neighbors' son took him to a vet in a kitty cage to get help. I hope he's okay.

Monday, August 19

Adventures in Nutrition: ENERGYbits (review)

At the beginning of the month, I tried out EnergyBits. It was a fun experience. I had enough Bits for about a week, so I gave them a try. I took my Bits in the morning after a normal breakfast and before any physical activity. I enjoyed my Bits by swallowing them whole.  

Here's what I learned...
They do. They actually rock. Outside of the slightly stomach-turning taste of their beloved algae (hey I'm not knocking it--I've tried it and it just isn't for me), the Bits themselves are pretty cool. In a little tin, they're portable. In their own tiny size, they're swallowable (for those like me who don't wanna chew the intensely green-flavored tabs). They're not much bigger than any regular ol' pill, but they're packed with more protein. 

I felt a real difference in my attention and stamina (a.k.a. I-wanna-get-up-and-do-something-ness). I felt good. After a run, I returned home to a few more bits and felt fueled faster. I'm on board with Bits. (Maybe that's another catchphrase for them to use in marketing? :)

I have no real complaints other than the taste, which they warned of and they're not designed to taste good but to beat the heck out of your typical "performance" snacks. Since I'm still unemployed, I'm not sure when I'll get to buy my first bagful, but I'd like to get Bits into my life.

Holy smokes, I'm a teacher!

Today I'm doing testing for my first class. It is an ESL class and I've got some really excited students. I got all the international students (including one from Wales, a few from Canada, and some from England) and tested all of them for reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The ones who spoke English their whole lives were so polite about taking the test anyway. The English accents almost killed me, I admit it. Im not unlike any other American woman, I guess. 

It is nice to meet some sweet, respectful students. That's good to see. I'm really looking forward to a good first semester as a teacher! 

Thursday, August 15

Knit the Bridge

It's Pittsburgh. We've got bridges. Lots of them. You might say they're our thing. (You might also swear at them under your breath when trying to get around our city because somehow you're on the wrong side of the river... This still happens to me.)

What's cool is when the iconic, oh-so-necessary-for-transportation bridges become the hallmark of something *else* really cool. Like what's happening right now with Knit the Bridge.

There is a group of amazingly organized, talented, and dedicated knitters who have literally yarn bombed an entire bridge. Don't believe me? Check out these incredible pictures. (From the Allegheny County Facebook page.)

It's appropriate that they've bombed the Warhol Bridge (7th Street Bridge) since Andy Warhol probably would've loved something all-involved, attention-getting and of-the-moment like this.

From Allegheny County's Facebook page:
Knit the Bridge is a grassroots, community-led arts project that brought communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania together to create a large-scale, aesthetically stunning, fiberarts installation on Allegheny County's Andy Warhol Bridge, which spans the Allegheny River and connects Downtown Pittsburgh to the North Side.
In conjunction with Fiberart International 2013, the intention of Knit the Bridge is to celebrate the history of Pittsburgh as a city of bridges and steel, as well as our region's thriving, contemporary arts scene. Coming out of the street art and contemporary craft movements, yarn bombing is a bright, beautiful way to celebrate public space. Unlike graffiti, yarn bombing can be done without any damage to historic structures and is temporary and easily removable. 

 Check out the video of the installation here:

Saturday, August 10

Liberty Mile 2013

I finally got to meet some Oiselle birds at a race! Woohoo!

Yesterday's GNC Live Well Liberty Mile was a smash. I loved it. Fast race with fast people, and I got to watch the heats of even *faster* people afterwards. It was a real rush to see people finish a mile in less than five minutes. Wowzer.

I finished with a shiny new PR at 9:03. :)

Afterwards, I snagged a pic with Magdalena, the female Master's Mile champ.
Magdalena and me.

Then I waited for the women's Pro Mile so I could see some BIRDS FLY!

I got to meet up with Jennie Castle and two of the newest Oiselle Team additions, Aubrey Moskal and Jordan Hamric, both hailing from West Virginia.
Me and Jennie.
Jordan, Aubrey, and me. (Sporting our Oiselle temp tats!)
The race was really well organized and the weather cooperated (a little) by not showering us. The pummeling storms got out of the way earlier in the day... but there was quite a bit of humidity. Ick. At least this year I could participate! Last year I missed this race because my asthma was so awful I wasn't even able to be outside in this kind of weather! Cheers to running for cardiovascular health, y'all. :) I'm crushing asthma one race and one mile at a time now!

Friday, August 9

Happy Friday!

Sorry for falling off the planet for a few days...

I've got some exciting news coming soon. Right now it requires me to dedicate much more time to my offline life, so I'll have to push back in this direction after a little bit.

Thanks for being patient!

In the meantime, here's a few photos of my awesome zinnias! They're taking over the backside of my house this year and WOW, are they pretty. :)

Monday, August 5


It's August, meaning it's the best month to be born... Or I might be a little biased because next Tuesday is my birthday!

My boyfriend picks on me because I celebrate all month, but I think since adults don't normally throw birthday parties that I'm entitled to spread the joy all month. August is my birthday month... 8:13 on the clock is my birthday time... You get the pattern. :)

This year I am hoping for my birthday present of a full-time job. (Yes, it's listed on my Amazon wish list.) That'd be great. But if that doesn't happen, feel free to send any Oiselle apparel, or race entries in my general direction. ;)

Let the countdown begin!

Saturday, August 3

Knitting my first baby blanket

I started on this awhile ago and without any real idea of how long it would take to knit, but I'm finally finished knitting my first baby blanket!

It's for one of my dear friends (a professor of mine from college who I've become close with) who had her baby in February. Sure, I would've liked to have the blanket done for his big debut, but like I said... I had no clear idea of what it would take to knit a crib-sized blanket.

I love it. The blanket is soft, snugly knit, and very textured. There's a seed-stich border and the knit/purl combo in the pattern I used makes knitted squares separated by lines of purls for a nice grid look.

The yarn is machine washable--very baby- and user-friendly thanks to soft knit acrylic and wool Plymouth Yarn.

I washed the blanket when I was done knitting it and cleaning up loose edges. Now I have it all wrapped up for gift giving!

I'm so excited to give my blanket to my friend for her sweet little one!

I'll be adding the blanket to my Knitting tab (at the top of my blog) as my latest accomplishment. :)

Thursday, August 1

New porch friends

Today a tufted titmouse found my bedroom window particularly comfortable for a perch. We were hardly six inches away from each other, but with my window screen between us. She sang very happy little songs for me till the bird feeder caught her attention again.

I really miss my iPhone sometimes. My iBird app made looking up birds so much easier! *sigh*

Wednesday, July 31

Adventures in Nutrition: Arbonne Fit Kit Detox (review)

June 1st through 30th I removed all gluten and dairy from my diet and followed the Arbonne Detox Fit Kit.

Now let's get this straight--this was not easy, especially when much of your diet is wheat- or dairy-based. I think I chose a good time of year to do this experiment. Fruits and vegetables abound, making my food prep fairly easy and straightforward.

Now the specific Arbonne products...
The whole Fit Kit: chocolate protein powder, vanilla protein
powder, two boxes of herbal detox tea, citrus fizz sticks,
pomegranate fizz sticks, lemon fit chews, caramel fit chews,
and daily fiber boost. 

Protein mix - I used coconut milk and a banana in every shake I made. Initially I struggled with grittiness, but once I began using bananas I found the thickened consistency to be pleasant. (I wasn't doing the detox to lose weight, so the banana fit my plan. Others who were trying to lose weight most likely didn't use bananas since they're considered extra sugar, etc.) I noticed that mixing frozen fruit changed the flavor more effectively than fresh fruit (with the exception of the banana). I was most pleased by the way my GI tract handled the protein. I've gone through several brands trying to find something that didn't bother the "I" part of GI, if you know what I mean. My only real complaint was that the zipper closures on the bags weren't that great, so I ended up using a clip on the bag to make sure everything stayed fresh. Both chocolate and vanilla flavors were satisfying, but I enjoyed mixing things up with the vanilla mix most. Coconut milk, pineapple, banana, and orange juice were amazing mixed with the vanilla shake.

Energy fizz sticks - Delicious. I was originally nervous about using these since they were supposed to be replacements for coffee and other caffeinated beverages because I don't do well with caffeine anymore. (Before my tumor I was fine... Now that I've only got one adrenal gland and no tumor making extra adrenaline, if I have a cup of coffee I usually end up feeling really loopy.) But I didn't feel jacked by the energy aspect of these drink mixes. The flavors were nice--citrus and pomegranate--and I was pleased that I could have even two of these in a day and not feel crazy. My only complaint is the little perforated area to tear open the packets was usually insufficient for opening it. I often had to use scissors to open it, which makes it slightly less convenient for on-the-go drink portability.

Herbal detox tea - This is amazing as sun tea. Herbal iced tea is one of my favorite things to drink in the summertime, but making sun tea with this particular tea was really enjoyable. I used five tea bags per quart and no added sweetener.

Fit chews - I had to keep these in the refrigerator after a bad experience with the wax paper not peeling off of the chew. The consistency is like salt water taffy. The lemon is my favorite flavor. Caramel was okay, but not as satisfying as the lemon was, as a replacement "candy" treat.

Fiber boost - I think this did its job--it helped me stay full between my breakfast shake and lunchtime. No flavor here, so it's an invisible extra in the blender.

All in all, I recommend the Fit Kit if you're looking to do some detective work around your diet. I was majorly uncomfortable after eating any gluten once I finished the 30 days, so I've learned that I'm sensitive to gluten. This has been really helpful information for me when shopping and planning. I still enjoy bread, beer, pasta, and pastries... just not all at once or all the time. I'm selective about what gluten to include in my diet now. It has to be quality if I'm going to eat it. (I'm not sitting around eating plain white bread!)

I learned a lot about what I *can* eat too. I've not gone the route of finding all my gluten-ridden favorites in a gluten-free form. I admit I'm concerned that I could end up swapping one unhealthy thing for another if I'm taking sugary or fattening versions of GF food. I really stuck to a meat, fruit, vegetables, and brown rice diet pretty well. (Again, doing this in the summer made the difference for my palate and patience since veggies and fruits were plentiful.) I can't say that I tried any new recipes or food preparations. It felt too complicated to try to overhaul my diet and my way of cooking in just one month. One thing at a time... :)

So before and after is a big deal with this Fit Kit, but mostly for folks who were trying to lose weight. Since I didn't get to workout for about two weeks in June, I know I didn't do anything truly spectacular for my physical shape. (I kept my same weight, within a few tenths of a pound, and my measurements didn't change either.) Lots of people kick up their fitness routine to get the maximum benefits from this kit, but I actually toned my routine down (by force, not choice) and ended up noticing how the nutritional changes affected my appetite. I wasn't hungry. I felt fuller longer and my GI--both G and I!--felt better and I'm okay attributing that to not eating handfuls of gluten every day. Dairy (fortunately) is not a problem for me, so I've integrated that back into my diet slowly (so as not to shock the system).
Good tidings of great gluten free Fit Kit

I'm interested in finding more information about digestive enzymes to help me process gluten better. I'm also interested in just keeping a low profile on the gluten-filled foods I like. I know I can live without them and I know how they will affect my insides. I pray I never get to the point that I have Celiac's disease or some other affliction that forces me to act on my diet again. I also have a new respect for my friends and acquaintances who eat gluten free regularly, either by choice or force, because I now know the pervasive grip that gluten has in our society's generalized diet. It's tough to be 100% gluten free because that little protein gluten is in so many things that we don't even realize it sometimes.

Would I recommend the Fit Kit? Sure. For people who are looking for a way to jumpstart their foray into dairy- or gluten-free life, this is a good way to get used to new things in your diet. It's simple too because there is no restrictive calorie counting or other numeric calculations (outside of your weight and measurements, if you choose to track them). Having the Facebook group to go to with questions and successes was a nice addition. (The Facebook group helped me solve the gritty smoothie problem in a matter of minutes, when I could have spent hours trying different combinations.) If you're looking to investigate your GI health in a safe way (no crash dieting), I think this is a good program with lots of information and support. The Arbonne consultants stick with you and have answers to questions, which makes the system really work. (Kudos to Becki from Fighting for Wellness!)