Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hypochondria 101 & The Unfortunate Power of Strangers

So, first things first: the blog got a little re-design, which includes a new header, and a new background.  I'm absolutely in love with the header I created--the background, not so much, but I've spent enough time on that for right now.  I figured since I've been blogging pretty regularly, it'd be worth it to put a little more effort into the look of the blog!

Anyway, the post today comes out of one of the worst weekends I've had in a long time.

Let me begin by explaining something: I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. Not in the true 'let me go to the ER 12 times in 6 days' kind of way, but in the way that if anything is wrong with me, I automatically think something is really wrong with me, and I panic, and then continue to obsess about/over it, when it ultimately turns out to be the equivalent of a hangnail.  So, suffice to say that I've been stressing a lot lately, and after a doctor's appointment on Friday, I'm pretty sure things will be okay after a couple more run-of-the-mill tests.

So, after a late night at work on Friday (I didn't end up getting in until shortly after 6pm), Saturday started out pretty well--I woke up at 9:30am to take Cash to the groomer, since he'd begun looking like quite the little rag-a-muffin/vagabond.  I dropped him off at his 10am appointment, only approximately 7 minutes late, and proceeded to head down the street to a local bakery that is quite popular. I made a quick stop at a thrift store, but just couldn't hang. I don't think I'll actually take up thrifting, unless someone knows of a... cleaner place. It all seemed like a bunch of junk, honestly. Dirty junk, at that.

Once I got to the bakery, I stood in like for a good 20 minutes, and despite the plethora of deliciousness that surrounded me, I managed to keep my self-control and only bought a chocolate covered strawberry and my requisite diet coke.  I sat outside, enjoying the lovely weather, and eating my chocolate covered strawberry.

I proceeded down the street after I'd finished, when I ran across a salon.  I'd been wanting to get my hair cut/colored for quite some time, but the regular girl I go to (while fantastic), is a bit pricey.  So, I walked in, and it turned out that they had an appointment available.  So, I took it-- and after I dropped Cash back at home, I returned to the salon excited for a change, and hoping to try a pretty short 'do, like I'd been wanting.

It all went downhill from there.  Firstly, the woman doing my hair was nice enough, but she wasn't anywhere NEAR as friendly as the girl I used to go to.  Secondly, she seemed a little self-involved. Okay, really self-involved.  All she talked about the whole time was herself--her upcoming trip to Armenia, how her family has a house there, how she's going with her sister, how maybe she would go to Egypt with her friend instead, and they'd be on a cruise, how she was launching a product, so she wasn't sure if she'd be able to go or not-- which, in retrospect, kind of makes it seem like she was lying about the trip.  Anyway, long story short, after she's done washing my hair, she tells me that it's thinning on top.  Thinning. But, she doesn't want me to panic.  She just wants to be honest with me, it could be stress, etc., etc., etc.

Okay, first of all--this girl doesn't know me.  I've had thin hair (we prefer the term fine thankyouverymuch) for my entire life! For as long as I can remember.  In fact, I don't think I even got hair until I was like at least one year old.  Second of all, this girl doesn't know me.

Just in case you don't, either, let me tell you that I am, and unfortunately have always been, the type of person that allows complete strangers to ruin her day.  I don't mean to--but, I suppose I'm just too sensitive.  If someone calls me a rude name while I'm driving, for instance, rather than getting angry back or brushing it off, I mill over it, and allow it to just completely ruin my day. Which is totally not a healthy way to be, but I've always been that way--quick to tear up, quick to forget that I'm pretty awesome, when you get right down to it.

So, for her to say that to me-- a hypochondriac, who tends to obsess, and take everything pretty personally, was actually pretty out of line.  I spent the rest of the weekend crying, looking in the mirror, feeling my hair, and sending pictures of my hair to my mom, trying to figure out if it was true.  I also spent some time on the internet, researching remedies, and ended up with some shiny new vitamins, and a brand new shampoo/conditioner system.  Which, okay. Maybe I'll be healthier, even though research says most vitamins don't really do anything.

But, the point is: I didn't know this woman.  It's not like she's been doing my hair for years, and she just happened to notice this thing that's happening, and out of concern she let me know about it. This was the first time I'd ever met her.  Ever.  And so for her to open her mouth, without knowing my personality, and how much it would affect me, pretty much sucked.

Also, the product she is launching will help address thinning hair--at least, that's what she told me as I paid at the reception desk, and handed her a tip.  Ulterior motive, obviously-- and yet...

Sunday was spent on retail therapy.  I cried a little in the morning, watched some Netflix, and then hit the shops--where I brilliantly decided at Target that I probably wash my hair too much, and that's why this was happening, so hats!  Hats could be my thing; when anyone thought about me, they'd be like 'Oh yeah, that's the girl that always has a cute hat!' 

See what I mean about obsessing?

Yes, mom, I'll take all of most of it back.

So, what's the point of this blog entry?  I'm not sure-- except maybe it's about a lot of things.  Maybe it's about the fact that I need to learn to be a bit more thick-skinned.  Maybe it's about the fact that I need to learn to relax, and not give strangers (or anyone else, for that matter) the ability to hurt me so deeply.

Or, maybe it's about the fact that we all need to really watch what we say, because let me tell you: the old saying 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words just cannot hurt me,' is absolutely not true.  It's not even true for the incredibly thick-skinned, and it's certainly not true for people like me, who are sensitive to an absolute fault.  Words have power; they always have, and I'm pretty sure they always will.  What we say affects one another, even if the person you're speaking to is a complete stranger-- so, be careful with your words.  I know I'm not always careful with mine, but this weekend was a reminder to me that I should always be careful with them--because if that young woman had been careful with hers, I might have had a fantastic weekend, instead of a terrible one.

Maybe it's about all of these things, I'm not sure.

But, I am sure of this: words can make a huge difference-- and if you don't believe me, watch this short video (even if you do believe me, watch it--it's pretty fascinating):

watch it here (in case the embedded video isn't displaying)

So, you know, be good to each other.  And to yourself.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

High Effort, Low Sodium

Hello, everyone!  As you may remember from my previous post, I have high blood pressure.  And I decided I was going to try low-sodium dishes, based on a cookbook by Sodium Girl!  Well, being night shift definitely has its disadvantages, and one of them happens to be the fact that it's pretty difficult to prepare food.  So, I haven't really stuck to my plan of eating low sodium.  I decided that this, however, would be the week.

Sunday night, Tom and I went to the local Ralph's armed with a list of ingredients from Sodium Girl's cookbook.  Some of the stuff I'd already bought the first go-around (when I didn't actually cook anything, but bought a bunch of ingredients), but I still needed a few spices and some fresh veggies and meat.  Apparently everyone does their grocery shopping on Sunday evening, because the store was packed.  We collaborated on getting some items, and used our handy-dandy smart phones to google what ingredients actually were.  For instance, neither of us was familiar with a green onion.  I asked a couple people working in the produce sections where/what the ingredients were.  For instance, is there a difference between a Zucchini and a Zucchini squash?  The internet says there is, but the produce man said there isn't, so since all the store had were Zucchini squash, I went with the produce man.

Anyway, standing in line at the checkout stand, we tried to guess how much our order (always find it a little weird when people call it this, but oh well) would be.  I guessed $150--I guessed first, so he guessed the same.  

Our grand total was $159 and some change--this included a copy of the Rolling Stone Nirvana magazine, and a Cosmopolitan magazine (I'll let you guess which magazine was for whom).  We were a little shell-shocked, but we pulled out our wallets and loaded up our groceries in the car.

The first meal I was going to make was Sodium Girl's Chicken Wraps-- I woke up Monday a little later than I intended, I ended up falling back asleep after taking the dog out.  Nevertheless, I was confident that I could still make dinner and allow us to get to work at a decent time.  I started prepping everything, and Tom went for a run.  About 30 minutes later, I began starting to freak out.  It was taking SO LONG, and WHY DID I THINK I COULD DO THIS?! And OMG, I ALMOST JUST CHOPPED MY FINGER RIGHT NOW.

Let me tell you, mincing garlic in a garlic press = NOT FUN when you have pretty much zero upper body strength.  I'm not sure it would be fun even if you did, but you get my point.

Eventually, I calmed the storm of crazy raging within me and realized that it just wasn't going to happen that night--I made myself be okay with it, and finished prepping most of the ingredients. When Tom came back from his run, I delivered the bad news (no chicken wraps this evening), and the good news (we get to eat Chipotle [i know, i know, SO NOT low-sodium]).  So, that's what we did.

When Tuesday came around, I was in the same tired boat, and didn't get up until too late again.  But, this time, everything was already prepared, except water chestnuts which needed dicing.  I got right on that, and began cooking.  

Our kitchen is small.  Like... really small.  So, it was kind of a challenge, and I made sure that the ingredients were ready and measured out so I could add them right away.

Everything went pretty smoothly... until the end.  The recipe called for plum jam (or other dark berry jam). Unfortunately, I couldn't find plum, so I ended up going with blackberry.  Anyway, I was making the sauce, and all was going really well-- it's a mixture of sesame oil, jam, brown sugar, and rice vinegar.  It was bubbling and smelling nice, and then all the sudden it's on my finger--and, as I turn around to turn on the cold water (that's how small the kitchen is), it drips onto another finger!

Ouch.  I haven't been burnt like that in a long time, if ever. Thankfully it was just a first degree burn, and I kept it under cool water for at least 10 minutes--but, still.  Not fun.  And not an auspicious start to my cooking endeavor.

Also, I cooked the chicken too long.  This was my first time working with ground chicken (actually, ground anything, I think..). The recipe said to cook it for "about ten minutes," for 1.5 lbs (I used 2 lbs), and I probably ended up cooking it for like 20 minutes, if not more.  Oops.  Oh well, we won't die from salmonella that way, at least.

We scooped some of the chicken onto the lettuce (or cabbage?  I'm not really sure.  The guy at the grocery store told me it was butter lettuce, but everyone who sees it says cabbage), and put some of the blackberry sauce on there (I had to microwave it because it became this hard, thick thing--more reminiscent of sludge than a sauce).

The end result?  Tom really liked it.  I feel confident that he wasn't just saying that because I personally did not care for it all that much, and told him as much-- which would have been the perfect opportunity for him to be like "Yeah, it's not that great."  But, he said he loved it.  So, that's good.  He ate a lot of it, and I didn't eat very much (in fact, I was still hungry after dinner)-- which sucked because it was dinner for Tuesday AND Wednesday.

[I actually wasn't feeling well on Wednesday, so I ended up not really eating, and cooked a few eggs when I got home--seasoned them with white pepper, and began to feel better.  Tom ate the chicken wraps and insisted again that they were delicious.]

Despite the fact that I didn't care for it very much, I'd definitely like to try this again... for the next time, maybe only a pound of chicken, and I'll not be cooking it for double the recommended time.  Also, I'll find some plum jam.  And try to figure out what I did wrong with the sauce to make it turn to sludge.

Meal #1 - Tuesday and Wednesday - Chicken Wraps with Plum Blackberry Sauce  Sludge:

Not quite P.F. Changs...

Thursday brought about a different meal-- the Honey Baked Pork-chop.  I was searing, I was baking, I was broiling, I was making gravy!  This one went relatively smoothly, until the end, when I couldn't get my meat thermometer to read correctly!  I'd been cooking for an hour, and needless to say I was a little frustrated, as I am wont to get when I've been doing any one thing for too long.  I finally ended up taking them out and giving up, after which time the meat thermometer read properly.  In fact, I would have liked them a little less done, actually.  Oh well, for next time I'll know!

I also cooked some asparagus in the toaster oven at work, I drizzled a little olive oil on them, and then cooked them for approximately 20 minutes before seasoning the stalks with some pepper.

Meal #2 - Honey Baked Pork Chops and Roasted Asparagus

Toughen up, Pork-chop!

For Friday's meal, it was leftover pork-chops, asparagus, and I ended up making some baked sweet potato chips (honestly, it was just too hard to cut them into fries with my crappy knife) with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Not quiiiite as crisp as I had hoped,
but enough to break up the flavor!

So, yes.  This was my first week of low sodium cooking.  Overall, not too bad.  I definitely learned some lessons:

1) Prep the night before.
2) Make sure you have all ingredients/proper tools before cooking.

3) Don't stress.  Yeah, right...

I kind of like cooking-- I like the accomplishment I get from having actually made a meal.  It's pretty satisfying.  I'm definitely not a world class chef or anything (nor will this likely turn into a food blog), but I'll definitely be sharing some stories, I can definitely tell.

I'm looking forward to branching out into more snack foods, and desserts.  I found another low-sodium blog via Sodium Girl's blog called The Daily Dish, and she has some really great desserts on there I'd like to try in an effort to keep me away from the vending machine at work.

Going out to eat this weekend with Tom. Originally, I had planned to cheat a bit at Outback steakhouse and have some delicious bloomin' onion, which I haven't had in a very, very long time.  However, I've decided to go ahead and try to keep the low sodium thing going, instead.  It'll be a challenge.  But, I am planning on rewarding myself after I've stuck to the low-sodium game for at least a month... with In-N-Out! With the caveat that the next day, it's right back to low-sodium.

Definitely looking forward to seeing how my culinary skills progress, though.  It'll be an adventure, to say the least!

Also, it's been 5 days since I minced garlic in my fancy garlic press, and I STILL smell like garlic.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Revelations in February

The month of February has been full of revelations for me, despite the fact that it has only just begun.

This week I went to my first Zumba class (this was, indeed, my first fitness class ever), and my first spin class.  I'm going to talk about the latter, even though I enjoyed the former much more.

I tore myself out of bed on Wednesday, after falling asleep at approximately 6am, in order to make it to the class by noon.  I signed in, headed to the locker room, and then went to the room where the class is held.  I'd reserved my spot the night before, and I found it, good ol' bike 22--nestled in the back, of course.  I fumbled around with the seat, trying to adjust it, and I eyed everyone in the class surreptitiously as he or she (mostly she) adjusted the bike.  (is it actually even called a bike? I don't really even know).

After fiddling around with it, I still couldn't figure it out, and since the class wasn't even half full, considered switching bikes, but I couldn't figure the one next to mine out, either.  Frustrated, I eyed the room, and immediately began to feel self-conscious, as I often do since I've gained a bit of weight.  Everyone in there was pretty skinny, except for me.  Nobody was looking at me, though, so that's good at least--for all they knew this was my hundredth spin class, not my first.

When the instructor arrived, he asked if anyone needed help adjusting their bike.  Oh, hey, it is called a bike.  Anyway, my arm shot up really fast--I figured I'd feel less embarrassed if I made a joke out of not knowing what in the actual hell I was doing. He came over, adjusted my bike, and told me some basics--like, don't lean on the handlebars, and some other stuff I can't remember now.

Then, suddenly, it was time for class to begin.  He began talking about resistance, and where we should set our resistance, and again, I was looking around the room. This time, I saw everyone fiddling with some red knob beneath the handlebars, so I did the same, and found out how to increase/decrease the resistance.  I don't know what I was at, what percentage--he threw out 20%, but I'm pretty sure i was at like 5%.  Whatever.

Now, a bit about this spin class-- at my gym, they really try to pump you up in this spin class.  The lights dim (save for the one on the instructor, unless he turns it off), and there's lots of flashing lights and it kind of seems like a party.  

Let me just say that I have never been more glad to be in the relative dark as I was on Wednesday.  Because after the instructor dimmed the lights, what followed was the worst 45 minutes of my life.  Okay, that's definitely hyperbole. But, it was pretty bad.  Unlike Zumba the day before, my eyes were glued to the clock situated directly to the right of the very enthusiastic instructor's head.  The second hands ticked away, taunting me, as the instructor told us when to stand, when to sit, when to increase or decrease our resistance.

Sure, it was a party.  A party in hell.

I spent much of the class gazing longingly at the girl running on the treadmill.  I wanted to be running on the treadmill.  Desperately.

These spin people were maniacs.  There was a 60 year old woman in the front putting me to shame.  I didn't even pedal for the whole 45 minutes.  I kept stopping, and I definitely didn't do much with that resistance button, let me tell you.

I thought about getting up and walking out--it was dark, they wouldn't even know who I was!  Fear of offending the instructor, however, kept me glued to my very uncomfortable seat.  I did pedal some, and I did it for as long as I could, and it was definitely better than lying in bed, which is what I would have been doing otherwise.

I would steal glances around the class, and everyone (some of them even having little clips they use for this cycling occasion) were pedaling their little hearts out.  And there I was, in the back, panting and stealing sips of water feeling sorry for myself.

And I was feeling sorry for myself.  I even began to cry at one point.  Why?  I'm not sure-- maybe I was embarrassed, maybe I was overwhelmed, maybe I was mad at myself because there was a time when I probably would have been able to keep up, and I somehow let myself get so far away from that.

Finally, the minutes on the clock wound down, and the instructor was rallying us for one final push-- my spin mates were whooping, and seemed to be genuinely enjoying the experience.  I decided to pedal for the last 5 or so minutes non stop, even though I had just spent the last 40 feeling sad and fighting tears--and eventually losing that battle and actually crying (did I mention how thankful I was that it was dark?).

It was during this rally (where all I was thinking--and had been thinking the whole class-- was "I can't") that the instructor said something that really hit me-- he said "Your mind is stronger than your body, I promise you."

Now, I don't know if that's true or not.  I think sometimes our minds want us to do things that our bodies just can't--but it really got me thinking.

My whole life things have come easy to me--if they haven't, I stopped doing them.  Anything that was difficult or required much practice, I wouldn't do.  And I'm not sure why.

For instance, I like to say that I'm not good at math.  But, that's not true.  My standardized test scores from elementary through middle school prove it.  The fact that my sixth grade math teacher said he thought I could go on to advanced math the next year proves it.  But, I declined.  I was too afraid of failing--too afraid of working hard, so I went on to regular 7th grade math.  I got Cs in Math in high school and college without even trying.  When I worked at it, I understood it--I was good at it, and I even sometimes liked it.

But, still, I say I'm not good at math.  No.  I'm not good at focusing on Math, because I'm used to things coming easily to me, and when they don't, I don't want to work at them.  Apparently.

Yes, that comment by an energetic sprite of a spin instructor brought all of that on.  And it brought on the notion that I want to change.  I want to start accepting challenges instead of avoiding them--or, at least, try to start doing that, anyway.  Habits are, they say, hard to break.

So, I'm going to put change into motion.  "There'll be some chaaaanges, they're long overdue; there'll be some chaaaanges in my life."  I'm not even sure what they are.  But, I'm going to try to quit telling myself I can't do things.  I'm going to try to realize that just because I have to actually work at understanding or accomplishing something doesn't mean I'm not smart enough or good enough or whatever-else enough.

I'm sure it won't be all that easy--changing my body won't be that easy, but hopefully I can take it one day at a time.  I did pretty well this week.  I ate relatively well (no fast food at all), I exercised, and I didn't berate myself for grabbing twinkies from the vending machine-- I accepted it, and moved on.  And that's a step in the right direction.  Whereas, before I would let the cheat spiral me completely out of control and use it as an excuse to eat whatever I want because obviously I couldn't do it, and I was dumb to even try.

I'm still going to In-N-Out today, but I'm also eating healthily all day, and possibly going to the gym.  

As for the spin class?  It definitely won't be a weekly thing for me, but I would like to have a long-term goal of being able to pedal for the whole 45 minutes, and eventually (who knows when) be able to do the class as it is intended.  So, I'll get back in the highly uncomfortable saddle in a few weeks, to see where I'm at after exercising regularly--in the meantime, maybe I'll start a petition for more comfortable seats on those bikes. I mean, I know we're exercising, but is a little comfort too much to ask?  A sore ass for days after a failure like that just adds insult to injury.  Or... injury to insult, as it were.

This hasn't been my only February revelation; thanks, February, for the lesson.  And, thanks, Self, for the patience.