My parents might move to Houston!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My parents are going to make an offer on a property in Houston.  In a cute neighborhood in the loop.  Basically, right near us.  They may or may get this particular property in the end.  I don't know what they're bidding.  I don't know details.  But, I am so excited.  I have half-heartedly tried to be as reserved about this as possible because this is, by no means, fair to my other siblings and it isn't really fair of me to ask my parents to move to the city where I live, even though I have obviously mentioned--once, twice, or forty times--as many benefits as I can think of related to living near us.

I almost feel guilty thinking about the prospect that my life might just work out perfectly.  How often do you get to go away for your education, move home for a year and then move to a city, away from your family to pursue better jobs, and then end up with your parents following you to the new place?  Let's try never.  To be fair to my guilt-stricken self, my parents are not moving to Houston because of us.  They are really moving here because all of my mom's relatives are here and my mom has been missing those relationships in a very profound way for decades now.  Plus, Houston is warm and interesting and my dad is just going to love how many days out of the year he can be outside in the sunshine exercising.

The thing I miss most about home is my parents.  There are plenty of other things for sure, but the thing I miss most is my parents.  And missing them would only grow with time.  One of my goals for my future kids is for them to know both sets of grandparents well.  I didn't know my grandparents well until I grew up and once I got to know them I realized that I had missed out some.  My parents and A's parents are all fantastic.  If my parents are here, they will have a relationship with my kids and having that relationship come easy will allow me to focus my time and energy on developing the relationship between the kids and A's parents.  In short, I'm ecstatic.  Everything seems to be coming together.

The only thing that worries me is that last time things seemed to be unexpectedly coming together, the other shoe dropped and A got cancer.  I'm not really sure how to prevent any inevitable misfortune, but I do have a creepy feeling that things are going too well . . .

The Carries and Natashas

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My superhero guy went in for chemo yesterday and somehow when he came home, instead of being the loving, doting wife, I found myself angry and stressed out about the cooking, those constant pieces of clutter in the backroom, the dishes, the laundry.  I managed to cook salmon and pull together a spinach salad and a kale dish, but I did it in a stressed out hurricane fashion.  I demanded that he help me.

I recognized that I was having issues and I apologized, of course, but I'm back to the drawing board on how to prevent this from occurring.  It's not fair, or right, or healthy.  It isn't.  And it doesn't matter what those posts circulating my facebook feed right now say.

 If I believe any of those posts on Elite Daily or other websites, I could just tell myself that I'm a complicated, emotional, woman and that having feelings and demanding "respect" makes me better wife material than someone more taciturn because it means I am "pushing my man to be better."  I am the Carrie--according to Elite Daily's Sex and the City metaphor--who has passion and anger and therefore I am inherently more interesting, thoughtful, and driven than the Natashas of the world, who accordingly to Elite Daily are less demanding and "easy" to be with.

According to Elite Daily, the Natashas "go with the flow," they laugh and are always comfortable. They're good natured and let the man do whatever he wants.  In the other box are the Carries who are complicated, don't put up with not getting everything they deserve, they crave more from their man, have big dreams for the two of them, and argue at inopportune times because they are passionate and emotional because they care.  Not that the Natashas of the world don't care, but they're basic.

So, basically, you get a pass for being complicated and emotional and angry because you also have other positive traits.  And you're either in one camp or the other.  And the men who want to be around good natured women are boys and not actually men.  Okay.

Wait.  Really, Elite Daily?  Why are we demonizing having a calm personality and being easy to be with?  Is it just way too difficult to admit that sometimes, okay a lot of times, okay . . . most of the time, when we're being complicated and emotional we're really just in the wrong?  What is so hard about that and what is so immature, boyish, or wrong about preferring being with someone who is easier to be with?  And, stop a moment before you say that the point is that someone who is complicated and emotional is inherently going to push others around them to achieve more and be more intelligent and reflective because that would be an unintelligent and not a reflective statement to make.

Being nice and good nature is an evolved way to be.  Working hard not to be angry at inappropriate times is also mature.  Looking for a spouse with those traits, mature as well.  There is no get out free card to this type of behavior.  If I ever have to hear that "if you can't handle me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best" quote again, I'm going to lose it.  We're all human and we all make mistakes, but we should be working towards being better rather than patting ourselves on the back for being complicated.  And no, this doesn't mean that we should require our spouses to love us and encourage dreams.  There's no reason that being good-natured means you can't also require those sorts of things, it just means you go about seeking them in a kind, straight-forward way.

I'm still a work in progress, but it's worth working on.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yesterday, we buried my cousin, J.  I can't write more about that now--maybe later--but I would remiss if I didn't begin the post with a mention.

After the funeral, graveside service, and reception, I worked very hard to try to compartmentalize my feelings and put on a happy face for A's company's holiday party.  Except for a few internal moments, I did a good job.  The holiday party was lovely.  The company had rented out a small, nice restaurant with high ceilings and big windows.  There was a bar and a wonderful four-course meal.  The people are wonderful.  The company is very young with young employees and its culture involves a work-hard play-hard attitude, which meant that it paid for all the employees to arrive using uber so that they could enjoy themselves and stay safe.  Lovely.

A & I joined others folks afterwards at the bars downtown.  We stayed out late enough to grab a 1 a.m. slice of pizza, which is something I haven't done since law school.  The pizza slice came with all the predictable bloodsugar issues and I probably should have refrained, but you have to do something special every once in a blue moon, right?  We finally made it home just after 2 a.m., but then my bloodsugar issues kept us up until around 4.  Complete craziness.

This afternoon I went for a run to try to cleanse my system and clear my mind from all of yesterday's intensity.  I thought about the drama between different extended family members and the way that affected me.  I thought of my cousin's volunteer spirit and the way she had embedded herself into the community.  I felt guilty that I hadn't somehow found a way to know my cousins better throughout more of my life and wondered how much I really fit into the extended family in Texas after moving to join them at such a late point in life.  I wondered if my grandmother and her sister would ever resolve a fight that has kept them separated for years.  I thought about my cousin's husband and young son.  As my feet hit the pavement, I cried for so many different things in the hopes that I could just wring it all out at once . . .

That hasn't seemed to happen, but I am beyond grateful for A and all of the family in my life.  I'll try to make the most of being lucky to have so many wonderful people placed around me.

Holiday Series: Holiday Hacks for Christmas Cards and Gifting

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I spend hours surfing everyone else's blog looking for fabulous holiday ideas or hoping someone else's holiday ideas will spur my own holiday ideas and I have found so many wonderful crafts and ideas.  But, the little touches or ideas that are too simple to merit an entire post have probably contributed to the festivity far more than the larger ideas.  Thus, without further ado, I present a few "holiday hacks" and ideas.

1. Christmas Cards:
  • I loved my mom's Rolodex when I was a kid and I tried to make my own in my early adult years.  I got over it.  If you aren't yet over it, get over it and transition to an e-system.  I swear by google contacts.  Just go ahead and do it.  This is by far the easiest way to track relatives' addresses and it comes in handy year-round.
  • Writing a good Christmas letter is tricky.  If you write a letter, my best advice would be not to take yourself too seriously.  To some extent, your update will include the highlights of your year, but if you sound too serious it will come off dripping with self-righteousness.  You're always almost over the line with this one and yet people love getting these letters.  Tread lightly!
  • We've used SimplyToImpress the past few years and been pretty happy with the results.  I'm always tempted to do a cute animal card, but a poll of a representative sample of our recipients unanimously preferred card with pictures of us, even though we are far less cute than animals.
  • I love adding a cute little stamp to the envelope.  Cheap and adds an extra cute touch.

2. Gifting 
  • For a million extended relatives is an awful budget-strain/time-strain for everyone involved.  This year, our extended relatives opted for a secret santa exchange in order to make it easier on everyone and add some intrigue.  We used to generate our list for us over the Internet.
  • For immediate family we used Amazon wishlists and google docs that included all family members except the recipient so that everyone could annotate with what they were buying in order to avoid duplicates.
  • One of my favorite ideas for a friend this year was personalized wrapping paper and gift tags from  Who doesn't need more gift-packaging at this time of year?  And it's so convenient to get something you can use right away.
  • We also have extra hot chocolate in mason jars with chocolate-covered spoons in order to give with ease those gifts we weren't expecting to need to give.
3. Decorating

  • One huge plastic gallon of various red balls creates a uniform background that pulls the tree together in spite of all those fun, quirky ornaments and you can use those balls in glass bowls for great decorative pieces around the home.

Single exposure to BPA linked to increased blood pressure

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The NYTimes is reporting on the results of a groundbreaking study on BPA exposure today.  BPA exposure was not something to which I had paid lots of attention, but after this study I am going to begin researching my BPA exposure immediately.

The study, published in Hypertension, which is an American Heart Association journal shows that a single exposure to BPA--drinking from a plastic cup or metal can made with BPA (or other similar chemicals) raises blood pressure two hours after exposure.  In order to determine this, researchers compared blood pressure in subjects who drank soy milk from a glass as opposed to plastic container.  Subjects who drank the soy milk from the plastic had elevated blood pressure.  While one exposure seems relatively harmless, doctors theorize that chronic raises in blood pressure contribute to cardiovascular events.

A & I do not keep canned and plastic drinks at home with the exception of Gatorade, but this seems like more motivation to avoid canned sodas and to get rid of that Gatorade.  I'll also be checking our tupperware to make sure our fleet is entirely glass and looking for other exposure because why not?

Our sole power: love

Monday, December 8, 2014

I have always thought the advice in Baz Luhrman's "sunscreen" song is smart.  I have frequently found myself attaching lines from the song to events in my life.  Too many times the line in my head has been: "Don't worry about the future.  Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.  The real problems in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday."  And so it was with A's cancer diagnosis.  And again this morning when I learned my 33-year-old cousin passed away unexpectedly as a result of a pulmonary embolism.

She leaves behind her husband and four-year-old son.

Last week, they were in the normal world, visiting the aquarium, trying to get their foster puppies adopted, buying Christmas presents.  This week, they are in the world of facebook posts and online fundraisers ( and we are all staring at the pictures, transfixed by J's blonde hair and blue eyes in the picture of her and her adorable son in the waves against the blue sky.  Her carefree smile.  Her carefree son.

The world spins in ways I don't understand.  Sometimes, while deciding amongst the directions it can take, the world spins entirely off its axis and you are left in a world that is unrecognizable.  There really isn't a silver lining, but if there were one, it would be feeling loved and embraced by other human beings who inhabit this planet.  Our sole power is in pouring out love.  I am continually reminded to try to live in a way where I pour and pour until it hurts.

Holiday Series: Spiced Hot Chocolate

Even in Texas, the mild December chill is enough to make me snuggle up with a sweater and a coffee mug filled with hot chocolate.  My pinterest board has been filled with ideas for hot chocolate bars for a few years now, but I've never quite found enough time during the holidays to actually execute on that idea so giving out spiced hot chocolate mix in mason jars has had to suffice this year.

This easy, inexpensive homemade gift has just enough a touch warmth and adorable to touch the hearts of neighbors and friends everywhere this holiday season.

Shopping List:
1. Dry milk powder or packets
2. Baking cocoa
3. Sugar
4. Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Cloves
5. Mason jars

That's it.

1. In a large bowl, mix one dry milk packet or one cup of milk powder with:
2. 3 TBS baking cocoa
3. 2 1/2 cups of sugar
4. 1T cinnamon, 1T nutmeg, 1T pumpkin pie spice, 1T cloves
5. Scoop the mixture into mason jars

These measurements are approximations.  The fabulous thing about using baking cocoa is that you can create the mixture and continually test it to see how much sugar and how much spice you need in order to adjust the mixture to your liking.  Make sure you're getting enough of the hot chocolate powder mixed in with your water while you're testing it and then add sugar until you've reached the sweetness level you desire.  If you don't want as much control over the sweetness, you can use regular cocoa powder and start out by cutting the amount of sugar in half.

I tied a ribbon around my jars and attached two chocolate-covered spoons to each hot chocolate mix for the perfect token Christmas gift.

Bonus: A & I have been enjoying some quiet evenings with a little hot chocolate before bed.

O Christmas Tree

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A put our tree up last week while I was out running with friends.  We have a tiny tree in our postage-stamp sized apartment, but I love it nonetheless.  The evening just seems so much calmer and festive with the lit tree.

Holiday Series: Chocolate-covered spoons

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

These chocolate-covered spoons are adorable DIY additions to a holiday gift of hot chocolate or coffee.  This year, I'm gifting home-made hot chocolate mix and added these spoons as a cute little extra to make the hot chocolate feel just a touch more special.

I worried about making these because I had horrible experiences coating oreo balls or peanut butter balls in chocolate, but coating spoons is much much easier.  And, yes, they peeled off the wax paper at the end easily.  These spoons were a breeze.


1. Green decorating sugar (baking aisle) (optional)
2. Red decorating sugar (baking aisle) (optional)
3. White decorating pearls (baking aisle) (optional)
4. German chocolate cake bits (baking aisle) (optional)
5. Plastic spoons
6. Chocolate chips
7. White Chocolate chips (optional)
8. Butterscotch chips (optional)
9. Reeses peanut butter chips (optional)
10. Butter (2T)
11. Wax paper
12. Holiday plastic shrink wrap
13. Wire ties


1. Melt chocolate chips (or white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, etc.) in small pot over medium heat with butter, stirring until chips are thickly melted.

2. Use spatula to evenly coat chocolate mixture over spoon.

3. Set spoon on wax paper.

4. Decorate with sugar, peals, chips, mini-marshmellows, anything fun!

5. Set spoons in freezer to harden.  Leave for at least an hour.

6. Place shrink wrap around spoon and secure with wire ties.

Thanksgiving Holidays

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I can't believe the four-day holiday is almost at an end.  This is the first time in years that I haven't traveled to celebrate Thanksgiving and I've enjoyed having more time to be at home although I also miss my immediate family and A's family.

We weren't alone by any means and drove just slightly north to celebrate the holiday with my extended family.  Growing up far away from the family center, we celebrated holidays with our small immediate family.  It's kind of fun to pull up to my grandmother's and have the driveway piled up with cars.

Adam made barbecued green beans and I made the sweet potatoes.  Everything about Thanksgiving was pretty standard.  Everyone else headed off to the movies and I hung behind with my grandma, knitting and chatting.

The day after Thanksgiving was, of course, dominated by Nebraska football.  The game against Iowa was definitely too close for comfort.  My bloodsugars even reflected the intensity of my emotions. After almost perfect bloodsugars throughout the entire Thanksgiving holiday, you can see the bloodsugar spike that happened as Nebraska began mounting its come-from-behind victory.  You can see a screen shot of 12 hours of bloodsugars on my CGM.  Almost perfect until the middle of the third quarter when it began to look like Nebraska had a shot.  So funny to have such a compelling visual of how sports fandom can affect the body!

Saturday, A and I hit the lots to start looking for a new car for him.  Right now we're struggling to balance practicality, affordability, and fun.  It'll be interesting to see where we end up.  We have a few more cars to look at, but A seems particularly interested in the Mini-Cooper.  When I look at that car, I see the next ten years and no space for carseats, but A has been through a lot and deserves something fun, so we'll see.

In the backdrop of all of this, Houston has been beautiful, producing just slightly cold, perfect fall-like weather for the holiday.  This is the view outside our windows.  You probably can't tell, but there is a little swan on the edge of the water.  This is my home.

Org. Series #8 Wrapping Paper

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wrapping paper can be a total mess.  I can't tell you how many feet of paper I've had to toss in the trash because they got crumpled in the closet somewhere.  This year I finally broke down and bought a wrapping paper organizer!  The organizer I picked is this one from The Container Store and that occurred because I happened to see it there while purchasing wrapping paper, but there are many other cheaper options at Target and Wal-Mart and the like.  Such a lifesaver!

New Vitamin D Update

Monday, November 24, 2014

I have written several times about studies suggesting low Vitamin D is related to the most prominent causes of death.  About an hour ago the NYTimes just released this story, which reports on a Danish study that determined low Vitamin D is casually linked to earlier death.  According to the study, low Vitamin D levels increase the risk of cancer by 40%.

Changing up my approach to exercise

Sunday, November 23, 2014

At my last doctor's appointment, my doctor and I set a goal of losing six pounds by my appointment in February.  I had gained weight from my previous appointment in spite of the fact that I had reached of level of physical fitness and consistency that I hadn't seen in years.  It is likely that part (or maybe all) of the weight-gain may have happened during the stressful time while A was inpatient and recovering from intensive cancer treatment and friends were bringing us decadent, comfort-food meals, but even if that's true, I realized I needed a more effective fitness routine.

The old approach consisted of running three days per week and hot vinyasa yoga two to three days per week.  This type of workout routine worked wonders for my vital signs.  My previously slightly-high blood pressure plummeted.  We measured it once on a stressful day in the hospital and my blood pressure clocked in at 106/65.  My resting heart-rate dropped into the 50s.  But, while it is clear that my heart had strengthened, the cardio-based approach wasn't torching fat.

After some extensive research, I've changed things up just a bit.  Instead of running three days per week, I'm running once and doing 2 HIIT workouts from Fitness Blender (a fabulous site with free full-length HIIT workouts that require no equipment), I'm still doing hot power yoga about twice per week, I'm playing tennis once a week and have added one day per week of weightlifting with my husband at the gym.  The reasons for making these particular changes are mixed.  Adding tennis, for example, had nothing to do with improving my fitness routine and everything to do with happening to rediscover a game I love.  I decreased my running and added HIIT after reading up on making the change.  The impression I got from the articles I read was that you should consider adding in HIIT into a workout if your blood pressure is good and your resting heart rate is below 60.  HIIT stresses your body in different ways than cardio, depleting your oxygen stores and burning carbohydrates.  The hype behind interval training is that it kickstarts your metabolism and causes you to continue burning calories long after the workout has finished.  While HIIT seemed like a debatable change, the need for weightlifting seemed pretty obvious.  Almost every fitness expert recommends a balance of weightlifting and cardio because increased muscle mass changes the amount of calories your body burns.  Fitness experts would probably recommend weightlifting twice a week, but I have not yet developed a great love of weightlifting and I think it's more important to have a workout schedule I love than the perfect, ideal workout combination.

I am paying for the changes to my workout in terms of my ability to run.  It's not as easy to run one day per week as it was to run three and that has meant it's a bit more challenging each time I do run. I was able to ignore all of my feelings about my decreased running ability on my running day today because the weather was beautiful.  Running felt beautiful.  I ran with my arms outstretched.  Houston is perfect this time of year.

Two years

Friday, November 21, 2014

Judge Kopf married A and I two years ago in Lincoln.  I love the memory because it felt so authentic.  I felt a little bit nervous that morning unlike on the day of our wedding celebration.  And the moment felt much more the way marriage feels.  But A hates the memory and he's entitled.  He was very sick.  Rushing out to puke outside the courtroom kind of sick.  Skipping our planned dinner celebration and returning immediately to the hospital kind of sick.  Thankfully, that day did not approximate, for him, the way marriage feels.

We are not specifically celebrating our anniversary today.  We are celebrating our lives and marriage in the way that we do every day.  We are meeting up after work at the gym to start a weight-lifting routine.  I need to begin weight-lifting to improve my health and A is just barely able to begin the process of recovering from his last super-round of chemo.  After the gym, I will try making a new sweet potato recipe and that will be lovely.

Although I won't be drawing too much attention to today, it is a marker that focuses my view on time and all of the changes that have occurred as time has passed.  What a difference two years makes!  Looking back, I'm very proud of the way we handled our first two years of marriage.

Leaving Nebraska

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I have as much home-state pride as the next girl.  I don't know that it's so different from every other place in the way all of those "You know you're from Nebraska if . . . " articles seem to suggest.  Whenever I read those, by the time I get to the end, I know the author is struggling because she ran out of unique things to say after hitting the fifth or sixth item on the list.  I don't live in Nebraska anymore, but I don't think there will ever be a time in my life where I hate having to say that I don't live in Nebraska anymore.

It's not that I am urging my husband to move back home.  He had a fabulous job opportunity in Houston and he loves his job here.  I also love that he is being treated for leukemia at one of the best hospitals in the country.  My extended family is here and I know that my folks are planning to leave the cold and windy plains when it's time for them to retire.  Sometimes I marvel at the city as I drive my car into downtown Houston.  It amazes me that my coworkers can pick a new place to try for happy hour every month and it's always great and always within walking distance of work.  There is a meetup group that does everything.  It isn't that I'm unhappy here in Houston or that I don't think this move, and my husband finding a job he loves, was in our best interests.

I just miss Nebraska.

Lanny Fuller wrote on a blog entry going viral that "Out here, people aren't afraid of feeling small."  As an attorney, this may be what I miss most about home.

When I graduated from Duke Law School and returned home to Nebraska, it felt like I could finally breathe again.  No, I'm not one of those people who hated every minute of law school, I loved it, but I did feel guilty every time I took a shower that was a little bit too long because I knew I could have been using that extra time to study.  Back in Nebraska, I took a comparatively low-paying job as a government-attorney.  And I did good work, but I also left the office in time to make dinner and I worked from the hospital sometimes while my husband was receiving chemotherapy.

In Nebraska, nobody wanted to hear about my resume, they wanted to hear about my family.  Nobody pressured me about my career goals, they wanted to know if I was happy, if my life felt balanced, which colors I was considering for my wedding.  They knew I would figure everything out in time, or if I continued to work for the government my entire life, that would be wonderful because it was challenging, important work and being satisfied with the work you do is more important than being rich or well-known.  You can be rich in so many ways.  I knew about my boss's kids' soccer tournaments and my co-worker's exercise routines.  As I worked steady hours, but wasn't plotting toward some grandiose future, I spent time in the hospital with my husband as we fought cancer and nobody judged me for spending all of my after-hours time in that way.

We are programmed to mimic our peers to some extent.  The influence, at least for me, cannot be escaped entirely.  In Nebraska, everyone approved of my steady job and family focus and I split my efforts between improving my legal skills and giving to my family.  I did not spend my evenings networking.  And I never felt inadequate.

The big city in Texas is not the same.  I moved into a similar job in Houston, but people wonder when I'm going to finally be ready to transition to a job at a law firm.  And then I start wondering and questioning.  I wonder if my small life is enough.  Am I wasting my brains?  My education?  The doubt creeps in here in a way it never did back home.  Out there, people aren't afraid of being small.  It's harder here.

Study suggests milk is unhelpful and potentially harmful for adults

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I've become a bit jaded by health studies and health advice over the years.  It seems almost every old adage has been dismantled, but this one shocked me even more than the first time I heard that fruit could be considered unhealthy.  (For what it's worth, I still think fruit is healthy.  I acknowledge the sugar, but it comes with so much fiber and antioxidants, and I have to believe that variety is still the spice of life.)  Anyway, today we have a new study claiming to dismantle everything your mother ever told you about drinking milk.

I skimmed the article and have only skimmed the studies, so I have more research to do to be qualified to really discuss these findings, but some of my initial reactions are that the causality linking milk to early death is non-existent and I'm not sure it's even worth mentioning the correlation.  Also, while the statement that most Americans are not (known to be) vitamin-D deficient might be true, I've written several times about vitamin D, including here, and here, because a substantial percentage of Americans are vitamin-D deficient and the current thinking suggests that is no minor deal.  Finally, even today's article concludes that milk in moderation is fine--well okay--was drinking milk to an excess even a major problem?

Even with my slightly skeptical response to the alleged harm, it's certainly interesting to know that milk doesn't seem to have the protective qualities I thought it did.  For, now I'm staying put.  I don't drink enough milk that this new article will alter my behavior and who knows when this study will be overturned by the next.  Still, interesting.

Exercising and Gaining Weight

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Just last night I was reflecting with my mother about the lack of any weight loss benefit in spite of a substantial overhaul of my exercise regime.  Everyone says it must be muscle, I was explaining to her, but it doesn't seem like muscle.  If I had just gained muscle, I would expect to eventually be losing weight, but I'm not.

Almost as if it read my mind, today the New York Times published a story on exercising and gaining weight in which the Times reported on a study of women who undertook a new exercise regime under supervision and were told not to change anything about their eating habits.  Some women lost weight, but a substantial number of women gained weight, which suggests that, at least for some, exercising causes an unintentional increase in calorie intake that is not offset by the calories burned.

Before making observations about weight loss, though, I want to point out that fitness ability is more important than weight in terms of achieving health benefits, so it would not be advisable to avoid starting an exercise program out of fear that you'll gain weight.  But, a few takeaways from this study:

1. The old adage that diet causes you to lose weight and exercise doesn't really do anything may not be true.  It may be that exercise doesn't work because people are likely to increase their food intake without realizing it when they start an exercise regime, but if they held their caloric intake steady, they actually would lose weight.

2.  Exercise is not a cure-all, so it's important to track what you eat even if you're exercising regularly.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread Thank-Yous

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The idea of trying to figure out how to thank everyone who has helped us this past month has been overwhelming just because so many people brought a meal or arranged delivery.  To be clear, I don't think that everyone dealing with an illness should expend tons of effort to thank those helping them out.  The last thing your friends want is for you to be sweating over the stove while your loved one is lying on the floor of the bathroom alone in agony.  But, since I found myself with the opportunity to make some time to thank people, I spent some time trying to determine how.

I haven't quite figured out what to do for everyone, but I did take a big step towards thanking the folks at work.  I settled upon this pumpkin cream cheese bread recipe.  The benefits of doing something like making bread are enormous.  First, I was able to double the recipe and bake two loaves at a time and I could bake all of the loaves in succession.  Second, as I repeated the same steps over and over, I got faster and better and actually making the loaves.  Third, these loaves are easy to stack and easy to transport.  And this recipe is the perfect combination of seasonal and sweet without being a straight dessert.

A few tips and tricks with this recipe: 1. Put the cream cheese layer close to the bottom rather than the top.  Because the pumpkin mixture is heavier than the cream cheese mixture, whenever I set the pumpkin in the cream cheese moved around.  Having the cream cheese closer to the bottom made it much easier to actually close the bread.  2. 48 minutes was way too short for my oven.  I started the loaves at an hour and added an additional 15 minutes onto that for some of them.

I had some burlap sitting around and that proved to be a nice touch at the end.  I also spiced up the envelopes of the thank you notes with metallic puff paint because "why not?"

A practical guide to dealing with a cancer diagnosis #1

Friday, November 7, 2014

[In an attempt to capture everything I've conveyed about caregiving in the cancer context, I broke the process down into five categories: 1) the medical, 2) the financial, 3) the logistical, 4) the social, and 5) the emotional.  I tried to write about all five in one post, but never could finish it up, so I'm going to post these in a series.  This post focuses on the medical and financial aspects.]

Treatment for leukemia is a long process.  We just celebrated (okay, we didn't really celebrate) the two-year mark, and we have another six months to go on chemo.   The downside is that it's a LONG process, the upshot is that I have learned a lot about how to handle it all in the past two years.  Does this mean I'll handle it well this time?  Who knows, every round comes with its own surprises.  I think my odds of success have been increasing, though.

The following is a practical guide for caregivers prepping to go through it.  It is not scientific, it is based on my own experience:

The Medical:
1. I am constantly amazed by two things when it comes to cancer treatment: the first is the amazing scientific advances--what humans have learned about our cells and how to change it is truly amazing.  Many days I am in awe of the medical establishment.  Equally amazing is the lack of detail-orientedness at every cancer center we've been--and we've been to some of the best.  From missed lab tests to attempting to administer a flu shot to an allergic patient, a clearly marked allergic patient.  You have to be your own advocate and you have to hold your treatment providers to the plan they intended to execute.  If you aren't on your game, the game-plan will not be executed properly.  My best advice is to contact LiveStrong and get their big patient binder.  Open up the calendar and write down every test any doctor mentions and the date it's supposed to occur.  Write down all the medicines prescribed.  Write down all of the discussed contingency plans and options.  Keep the binder with you anytime you walk into a hospital and don't be afraid to question your provider when the game-plan you hear on Thursday doesn't match what you were told Wednesday.  These are big treatment centers and the providers are treating lots of patients.  They need to be reminded about the specifics of your loved-one's disease.

2. Understand your treatment plan.  Oncologists walk faster than any category of human beings I've ever seen.  They pop into the room and never take their eyes of the doorway.  It's like they just dined and ditched and are about to be caught.  Call the oncologist back into the room, tell them to slow down while you think a minute, and ask them your entire list of questions.  Make sure you understand what they told you and make sure it makes sense to you.  There is no reward here for taking the path of least resistance.

3.  Get a second opinion.  This applies more toward the beginning and at any major decision-branch in the treatment.  It's a pain.  It feels impossible to travel while your loved-one is so sick.  But, cancer is life and death.  Every doctor we've met has found something important that the others missed.

4.  Try to get your loved-one to be honest about the side-effects they're experiencing.  The doctors and pharmacists will come in with a chemo calendar and tell you it's a standardized plan, but chemo regimens are not one-size fits all.  It'll get adjusted over time.  The doctors are balancing different risks and so it's important that they know your loved-one had acute chest pain--they need to test for that pulmonary embolism and the answer to that test matters.

5. Making decisions about treatment: One of the most terrifying parts of A's experience was when the doctor told us he didn't have any advice as to whether or not A should receive a bone marrow transplant.  The doctor basically said, well, I don't know what's going to work best--it's an option that comes with certain risks.  But, in our case he didn't have a recommendation.  "The transplant team was equally split," he said.  In another conversation he added, "the hospital makes a lot of money from transplants" without any further explanation or comment.  That's one thing to be aware of--the hospitals and the doctors have interests and in borderline cases your treatment providers may or may not consider those.  Knowing that doesn't help you much.  My best advice is to try to seek second opinions from folks outside of the hospital who will do the actual procedure to make sure they have no skin in the game.  Also, ask social workers and folks from cancer support groups to connect you with others who have had to make the same decision and find out how they made their choice.

The Financial:
1. There is some sticker shock associated with cancer treatment.  The last thing I wanted at the end of a long day working and then at the hospital was to come home to my empty apartment and open medical bills.  It has to be done.  Know that you will not make it through cancer treatment without a mistake.  Familiarize yourself with the details of your plan and get used to calling your insurance company.  I've heard that in cases like cancer, you can request to have one person consistently handle your case.  Given the amount of run around you're probably going to get, I might set that up.

2. Even after you know the details of your insurance plan, stay on top of it.  This was something that I delegated to my mother during A's initial diagnosis, but we've taken it over as time has progressed.  If you can delegate this aspect of care to someone, I'd absolutely do it.  I guarantee that you will not make it through your cancer treatment without billing errors that you'll want to challenge.  You may be able to set up one contact at your insurance company, which can be very helpful as every time I call the insurance company they contradict whatever they said the last time I called.  Watch out for pre-authorization problems--you don't want to be trying to get pre-approval at 4 p.m. on a Friday for something your loved one needs done immediately, you'll spend the whole weekend beating yourself up about your inevitable failure and it's unlikely you'll get it solved first thing Monday.

3. Accept that you are going to spend than whatever the out-of-pocket max is on your plan and start trying to incorporate that into your budget.

4. If you have a diagnosis like leukemia, you automatically qualify for social security disability benefits, but it takes a long time for the paperwork to set in.  Get that started immediately if your loved-one will not be able to work during treatment.  With respect to work, see if there is any way your loved one can work from home, work from the hospital--the longer they can stay employed the better.

5.  If your loved one cannot work and takes disability, start looking into your health insurance options pretty quickly.  If they lose coverage, they should be able to be on your plan, but you have a tight window to obtain coverage.  That coverage may be ticking away while you're in the hospital and your employer isn't going to be incentivized to bend rules to add a cancer-patient into their group.  Talk with social workers about all of the options available if you're on disability.  Don't delay on this.  Note that some of these insurance changes may need to be made well before you ever see a bill.

6. Cancer takes a heavy financial toll on almost everyone.  It's normal to feel overwhelmed.  If you're feeling crushed under the weight of the medical bills, talk to a social worker at the hospital about different resources out there.  Sometimes hospitals will work to charge you less for treatment and social workers can also direct you to resources.  The American Cancer Society and other groups will pay utility bills, rent, and all kinds of bills for cancer patients who are struggling to make ends meet in the face of the millions of dollars in medical bills.

Taylor Swift "Out of the Woods" & cancer

Friday, October 24, 2014

In my very first blog entry, I wrote that I had been reminded that while A was in remission, we aren't "out of the woods."  I still find myself trying to google for statistics, anything to convince myself that the most recent remission milestone means everything is really okay now.  I know the reality of a cancer diagnosis and undergoing chemotherapy is that you never really like you are out the woods.

I don't know if that's the weight that always feels like it's buried somewhere, ready to burst loose at the most inopportune moments.

Throughout most of my twenties, I related to Taylor Swift lyrics.  I still remember driving to my boyfriend's at night in college with the windows down, the first time I ever heard "Our Song."  Her album Red came out a few weeks after A was diagnosed and I took a break to drive to Target to buy it on opening day, hoping that there would be something relatable.  I didn't really find what I wanted.  I was sitting there in the hospital wanting her message about young love overcoming all odds, but all she had to offer was anger and disillusionment.

I have no idea what her new album, 1989 will offer, but "Out of the Woods," which she performed on Jimmy Kimmel tonight, hit a bit closer to home.  It made me realize that maybe this whole gripping uncertainty thing was more universal than I realized.  How many times have I been there in a hospital room when the sun came up looking at A?  Or at night watching him sleep?  And how many times has that darker uncertainty given us those moments where we moved the table to dance in the living room?  Or the IV pole to dance in the hospital?

Are in the clear yet?  Good.

Here's the video of her performance:

Back at it: inpatient chemo

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A is back in the hospital.

I had forgotten what this feels like.

That's all I have the heart to write.

The miracle of my life: mass production of stem cells that secrete insulin

Friday, October 10, 2014

I will write more about my month-long break from blogging and all of my questions about the purpose and direction of this blog shortly.

Existential rambling aside, I have been wanting to write about some huge news in the world of t1 diabetes.  Hopefully, by now, you've read the articles if you follow diabetes updates.  Harvard scientists have successfully enabled stem cells to secrete insulin and they have determined how to mass produce those cells.  This is probably the biggest breakthrough in searching for a diabetes cure in decades.

Scientists have said a cure will take two steps: 1) figuring out to cause stem cells to become beta islet cells & mass producing those cells, and 2) preventing the body from attacking those cells once they are transferred into diabetic patients.  Today marks completion of the first step.  Scientists have simultaneously been working on the second step and several researchers have been working on a way to encapsulate cells by coating them so that they will survive attack by the body's immune system.  So far, encapsulated cells have been to withstand attack for approximately a year in mice.  There is some more progress to make in this regard, but there's a lot of direction.  We know what we're looking for.

This research means that sometime before I die (if I live a normal lifespan), I am going to get the news that I can be cured (will, of course is a whole different thing, because who knows about costs and insurance companies).  That is something I have hoped for since age 9, but until recently, hadn't really thought would happen in my lifetime.

I also can't help but be excited that Dr. Melton's lab solved this problem.  My great uncle is also a professor/doctor/medical research at Harvard.  He made his big discovery decades ago when he figured out why penicillin works, which allowed scientists to make amoxicillin and other antibiotics.  When I was diagnosed with diabetes, he told my mother that they were working on a cure and he thought what they were doing would work.  We took a family vacation to Boston and he took me over to Dr. Melton's lab, which was manned with some graduate students at the time.  They promised me they would cure my disease.

Their work was set back and slowed by political restrictions.

People have said to me, throughout my life, that I would see miracles and advances I couldn't fathom over the course of my lifetime.  I remember going to NASA and seeing a display about being being able to videochat with your grandmother in the future and I remember thinking that that was impossible.  Now, I do it weekly.  If I were able to pick, I would probably pick cures for cancer and heart disease over a cure for diabetes just because I understand the broader collective impact of those diseases, and because of my husband.  But, for me, this would be the miracle of my life.

Wellness Wednesday: gut bacteria and glucose levels

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I wrote here that I was a bit unsure about the benefits of improved diversity in "good" bacteria in your gut.

An interesting post-script to that post, in this arstechnia article regarding artificial sweetners and glucose intolerance, discussing a study in which researchers determined that artificial sweetners negatively alter the makeup of bacteria in your gut, researchers opined that the imbalanced nature of the bacteria actually caused glucose intolerance.  The theory seems to be that the gut bacteria play an important role in your insulin sensitivity.

One more card stacking the deck toward making the effort to promote a healthy diversity of bacteria in your gut!

A nicely mixed weekend

Sunday, September 14, 2014

This weekend has been a great mix of productivity and fun.  On Friday, I stopped by a quick happy hour with the coworkers after work before kicking off the weekend with A.  Saturday morning, I finally checked out a nearby Farmer's Market, Urban Harvest, which had some interesting items, including peach almond spread, spicy mango chutney, and veggie samosas.  I picked up a beautiful box of peppers to try to work into the meal planning this week, and in the meantime, they're a beautiful fall-feeling decoration.

After the Farmer's Market, I ran to the grocery store.  Then, A and I went rug-shopping.  We've been looking for a rug for months off and on, but haven't wanted to shell out a fortune and have had slightly conflicting goals for the rug.  A has been largely utilitarian about it, he mainly wanted the rug to cover up a cord, but I have had trouble spending that much money on a piece that didn't add any color or design to our uniformly brown apartment.  Our patience actually paid off.  We found a grand total of one rug that we both liked.  After several rounds of some serious "good cop," "bad cop," we were able to negotiate the price down by $125, which made it actually affordable.  It's kind of amazing how much the rug cozies up the room. 

I managed to slip in a quick hot yoga class before making chicken and green beans for dinner.  After dinner, A & I made a Starbucks run so I could finally indulge in a pumpkin spice latte and the baristas gave us our drinks for free!  Then, I agreed to try playing videogames with A...which was a first for me.  It actually ended up being a lot of fun, which confirms that I should be more open to things like videogames and television--although I still think that severe time limits on that kind of thing make for a much fuller life.

This morning we dropped off my car in for new tires and inspection and then I set off for a four-mile run.  I am sort of training for a half-marathon, by which I mean, I am haphazardly following a training program and am still with it but am not 100% convinced that I'll actually complete it because it just seems like way too much.  That said, a year ago I might have made the same statement about four miles.  As an avid enthusiast of every type of 5k known to man, I'd managed to enjoy running that amount, but I brought myself to a complete halt at 3.1 miles and never exceeded it.  It was an invisible line that I felt I couldn't cross.  I managed to keep it up, though, even during the Houston summer and was regularly running a little over 2 miles multiple times per week, and a little over 3 every so often, even in the 100 degree weather.  Today, the temperatures dropped into the 70s and suddenly 4 miles felt the same as 2 or 3.  My feet and ankles hurt a little bit more than usual, but I could see trying for 4.5 miles next week.  5 the week after is another story, but I don't have to encounter it for two weeks :).
View of downtown Houston from the running trail that abuts our apartment.

Tonight we're heading out to the beach for a double date.  This weekend has had just a little bit of everything.

Belated Anniversary Post

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I didn't write any type of anniversary post on Sunday, which marks a year since our traditional wedding and the anniversary date that A prefers.  I love reading anything real that anyone writes about themselves or their relationships.  I hate reading a list of cliches--"I married my best friend."  Even if you did really marry your best friend, I can't tell from your writing if you really feel that way or you heard someone else say that and thought it sounded cute.  It's undeniable, though, that particularly on big days, a lot of what we do and feel is cliche.  That's how I was Sunday.  And, so, I couldn't write a post.

A day or two after A proposed.
I might have some kind of indie-elite thing going on regarding relationships.  That'd be irrational and stupid, but it might be true anyway.  I find myself denying logic all the time.  In my family law class, we talked about how nobody thinks they're going to get divorced, so nobody gets pre-nups, but really if we were rational we all would because we know that many people who don't know it at the time will get divorce and we have no way of distinguishing ourselves from those people and the pre-nup saves a lot of heartache and expense.  I wholeheartedly agree with that logic.  But, I don't have a pre-nup.  Cooling down from a run with a friend, I was confessing my deep fears of dying and the way they affect my daily life too much.  We talked about that fear.

She had it.  Death didn't bother her.  She feared getting into a marriage.  "No way.  Really?  Marriage?"  It's the only thing I've done in my entire life that I feel entirely sure of.  No, I didn't hesitate.  I recognize that I know nothing about marriage or maintaining relationships past the seven-year-death-mark or after you've both changed, or this, or that.  It doesn't worry me, though.  We'll be on that road together, I know we will.  My feelings about my marriage deny my faith in logic constantly.

I do not believe that we have a soul-mate out there.  I believe we become soul-mates as we journey through life together.  I think that, initially, there are plenty of people out there you could choose to love your entire life and you'd have a beautiful life.  But, after you journey so far and over certain terrain with one person, it can become impossible to turn back and live your life with anyone else.  For me, it would be.

There was a moment, during our time of uncertainty, where A & I were trying to decide whether to get married early.  At that point, we didn't really know how the cancer journey was going to go.  The point of getting married early would be so that if he died, we would have been married.  Necessarily, in making the determination, I thought about what I would want if A died before our anticipated ceremony date in September.  If that happened, would I want to be a widow or a single girl whose fiance had passed away?  The thought crossed my mind about trying to date someone else in the future and what would I want.  At that point, I realized that in my heart, I'd already crossed the Rubicon with A and there was no way that some future with someone else would work--even if A weren't alive.  I wouldn't want it.  The choice was easy.  It was clear to me that he is my soul-mate.  And that is that.

Apple Pie Recipe

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I don't do much in cooking that is "mine" and there's a good reason for that.  But, for whatever reason, apple pie is something I've turned into a science.  This is my process.

A & I at Kimmel Orchard picking apples.

  • Note: The apples make the pie.  In Nebraska, we would go pick bags of apples and then I would spend the day making caramel and all kinds of apple treats, but we haven't yet found a convenient place to pick in Texas.  Apple pie without fresh apples isn't quite as good, but timing your pie for late August-September makes a big difference, even with apples from the store.  Most people recommend a green apple with some sourness to it.  I prefer honeycrisps or red/green mixes. 
  • A word: I am totally okay buying a Pillsbury dough crust.  They taste great and are so much easier.  Some shortcuts are worth it.  To me, this is one of them.

    • Pillsbury dough crust
    • 6 apples (I like honeycrisps)
    • 3/4 cup white sugar
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3T flour
    • 1/4t salt
    • 1T cinnamon
    • Dash of nutmeg
    • Lemon juice or lemon
    • Aluminum foil
    • Pie plate
    • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Unroll the first pie crust and place it in the pie plate.
    • Peel, slice, and core the apples.  I have an apple peeler, corer, and slicer.  This contraption is about $20 and makes the job so much easier.  Many kitchen knick-knacks don't actually help you.  This one does.  After you have the apple slices ready, drop them into a bowl of water with some lemon spritzing to keep them from turning brown.
    • Combine apples, sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt and spritz of lemon juice in a bowl.  Drop them all into the bowl, then use your hands to mix it all together.  Drop the mixture into the crust.
    • Sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg on top of the pie mixture.
    • Unroll dough pie top and place the top crust on the pie, pressing the edges into the ridges of the pie plate.
    • Cut slits in the upper crust with a knife.
    • Take aluminum foil and cover the edges of the pie.
    • Bake in the over 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  (I always begin checking at 35 min.!)
    • Remove aluminum foil before serving

    Quick trip to Austin

    Appellate bootcamp binder.
    This past week/weekend I went to Austin for a work conference/CLE and got to spend some time with a good friend and my little sister.  Unbeatable deal.  The conference was actually really great and informative and I knocked out most of my CLE (continuing legal education) requirements for the year.  I spent the work days in typical fashion, learning things and socializing with other attorneys.

    But, after the conference was over, I got to have some quality time with my little sis.  She introduced me to moon milk, some kind of magical combination of seven secret ingredients added to coffee, taught me how to SUP (stand-up paddle), and showed me the Social Work School at UT Austin.  Austin was lovely and quirky, as self-described.  And I was happy for a quick trip to a new place.
    SUPing on Ladybird Lake in Austin.

    Menu at Summermoon, filled with all kinds of "moon" drinks.

    I got to buy my little sis a hot chocolate, coffee, ice cream drink after she had a bad day.  What else can a big sis ask for?

    The cancer goalposts have moved (again).

    Monday, August 25, 2014

    The cancer goalposts have moved on A again.  Or, maybe we weren't ever seeing them correctly.  Either way, it doesn't matter.  We thought he would finish his chemo in October and he could then have hip surgery.  It turns out we were wrong about that and he won't finish until April.  He handled this news the way he handles everything, like a champ.  He didn't even seem to flinch as he told me.  It's horrible news because he is in so much pain everyday and it means six more months of chemo, six more months until we can fix the pain.  But, he just takes things with a straight face and keeps going.

    We have stopped thinking too much about cancer most of the time.  The PICC line is there constantly--no love, you can't do the ice bucket part of the ALS challenge for the same reasons you haven't been able to take a normal shower in almost two years or enjoy the hot tub on our roof.  There's the one day per week that he's in the hospital and it messes up his work schedule.  The day each week he takes his chemo pills.  The day each month he gets IV chemo.  And the constant pain in his hips.  It's a big pain.  "I'm surprised you walked in here based on your x-rays," his doctor commented.  "Can we get you a prescription for crutches?"  "I'd honestly put you in a wheelchair, but I don't want your muscles to atrophy."  He keeps walking.  He helped our friends move our of their apartment, carrying furniture up and down flights of stairs.  You should be in a wheelchair.  Well, should is a complex word.

    He has such a strong desire to make his life about living that all of that fades into the background as just parts of the new normal.  Because we don't spend too much of our time on cancer, though, sometimes it's hard to take the news that it isn't over, isn't ending soon.  We have been doing this almost two years now and since A is much better than when he was diagnosed it just seems over.  It's easy to forget how important all the treatment is, that we aren't really out of the woods.  I guess we just want to be and so we mostly act like we are.  Honestly, it's the only way to have a life.

    There's nothing to do about the news.  I don't know if A had a moment where he broke down.  He didn't do it with me.  And I didn't do it with him.  I went to bed that night and I didn't even realize how much my heart had broken for him.  The next morning I woke up early to meet a friend for a run.  I opened the door to our apartment and walked to my car and then began crying out of nowhere.  I cried the seven-minute drive to the park, dried my tears and started stretching while waiting for my friend.  As I'm crying I'm a little surprised but this has also become a routine.  Sometimes as a kid, I would think about lots of sad things and then I'd cry.  Now, I've found I do this thing.  I cry without thinking.  There are tears, but my brain doesn't even process what it is.  I hear news, smile and look on the bright side for A, cry as soon as I leave the apartment and never really even process why.  It is how it is.  Part of me wonders if it's unhealthy to grieve separately, but at the same time, it's not tons of grief and it makes A really sad when he knows that I'm sad.  I don't think this way of coping hurts our relationship, especially when there is nothing we can do to improve the situation.  This is just how it is.

    All I can do is give extra hugs, extra love, try to make life so pleasant that it's still wonderful and happy even in all the pain.  So, that's where we are.  Mostly that is a very satisfying and happy place.  Apparently we will be here a bit longer.

    5 changes toward a lower A1c

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    I wrote here that I recently dropped my A1c to 6.3.  I promised I'd reflect and try to figure out how that happened.  It took me a little bit longer than I had expected, but I have definitely made some consistent changes in how I live my life and manage my diabetes.  Here are my top-five changes:

    1. Exercise Consistently:  I had always picked up the occasional yoga class, indulged in the occasional personal training session, and trained haphazardly for 5ks.  That probably had some sporadically helpful effects on my bloodsugar, but I've noticed that consistency really seals the deal with exercise and bloodsugar.

    First, consistency allows you to adjust for the weird bloodsugar results.  One yoga class drops my bloodsugar, another raises it, figuring out how to best mitigate those changes is both luck and repeat experience.  I've learned, for example, that eating a semi-serious snack three-four hours before a run provides for the best running experience and it doesn't matter too much what it is, as long as it involves some protein.  For some reason, a baked potato twenty-thirty minutes before a run will work well without many complications.  If I'm desperate and haven't thought ahead, a Gatorade will spike me enough to make it through the workout, but spells disastrous highs on the flipside.  Glucose tabs, orange juice, and Elovate to raise bloodsugar before the workout and I can expect to stay low and stop the workout early even if I dump lots of extra sugar into my body.  Why are they so different than Gatorade?  I have no idea.  This is just how it goes.

    Second, I swear there is something else going on inside my body when the exercise is consistent.  It seems like the exercise is to bloodsugar control as the ocean is to temperature.  When I'm consistently exercising my body seems to tolerate and moderate changes better.  When I skip a few days, things become erratic.

    2. Do something that feels good:  I recently added a yin yoga class that just felt good.  I added it into my schedule just for myself and not to achieve any specific goal.  I'm not sure whether this yin class really does anything that is super helpful in terms of building muscle or stretching out the connective tissue, but it seems to make a difference in my vitality.

    3. Use a CGM: You can't beat wearing a cgm consistently.  First, you learn a lot about how your body responds to different things and when.  This allows you to understand better what action is causing a particular bloodsugar response and to take that into account.  For example, I really did not realize what killers rice and sushi are.  I don't eat them anymore.  Before wearing a CGM, I didn't fully make the connection and understand exactly how much havoc those foods wreak.  Second, you can respond quickly when you're entering a high or low crisis.  Third, you don't have to take as many compensatory actions to prop your bloodsugar up before doing things like going to sleep or exercising.  The CGM is a fabulous tool and it's saved many lives.

    The downside is the cost and the added stress of trying to make it all work out.  Unfortunately, I haven't had any sensors for awhile as I have run out during the past month, which has mostly been spent fighting with Medtronic and my two insurance companies over ~$4,000 in medical bills that I actually don't owe.  But, I did have a consistent supply of the sensors during few months leading up to the measurement of my A1c.  I placed a fourth phone call to Medtronic today regarding the order and the amount of time it was taking to process my we'll see if they actually are able to get things expedited or if we will continue to wait in a bundle of red tape.

    4. Lower carbs.: Technically, you can eat whatever you want as long as you take insulin to cover it.  But, the law of large numbers applies to diabetes management and insulin dosing.  The more carbs you're eating, the more you're considering bolusing and the more opportunity you have to mess up.  It isn't that  low carb diet is necessarily healthier for a type-one diabetic, it's that the human error in guessing how the carbs will affect your bloodsugar is greatly reduced when the carbs are reduced.  For this reason, I have primarily switched to a low carb diet and I think that is part of what has helped me achieve better control.

    5. Reduce stress: No law school, little in the way of cancer treatment, no bar exam, no starting a new job, no moving to a new city...stress is the rocketship to the planet of unpredictable highs.  I think it's highly possible that getting more parts of my life working and under control made most of the difference.  It's amazing how intertwined our body is and how much everything affects your physical health.  I'm pretty convinced that almost anything you can do to reduce stress (except, obviously, things like giving up on fighting with insurance companies) is worth its weight in gold in terms of health benefits.

    7-minute scientific workout

    I've seen a lot of buzz about the the scientific seven-minute workout published by the NYTimes last year.  I'm not sure that you can get all the stress benefits/endorphin benefits from such a short workout that you do from a much longer one, but if you've got only seven minutes, this workout will at least give you a little burn!

    Clean Eating Peanut Butter Pie

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    We had a wonderful weekend.  Saturday involved cleaning and errands and I managed to sneak in a hot yoga class.  A took my younger cousins to a metal concert in the evening while my grandma and I shopped the Antonio Melani sale.

    Sunday, I got in a 2-mile run.  That sounds wimpy, but it was 97 degrees and it was sufficient to basically keep me on track in training to complete a half-marathon.  I recently set a goal to train/complete a half.  This sounds a little insane to me and I'll detail all that in another entry, but I figure, why not try and if it becomes too difficult, I'll quit then rather than deciding to never try.

    In the evening we had some friends over for dinner, which gave me a chance to try out a few new recipes.  All of them turned out pretty well, but this almost-clean-eating peanut butter pie was the clear winner just because of how amazing it tastes without being horrible for your health.  The recipe is from IFOODREAL, here.  The blog includes a fully clean peanut butter pie, which means that the crust is clean as well.  I did not have time to make the clean-eating crust, so I substituted a graham cracker crust.  The only ingredients in the filling are three ripe bananas, blended with a cup of peanut butter, and a tiny bit of vanilla extract.  Toss 'em in the blender, dump into the pie filling, pile on some chocolate chips and set it in the freezer.  This pie has a crust, peanut butter, and chocolate chips, so it isn't healthy, but it tastes just like any decadent peanut butter mousse.  It satisfies that type of rich craving and it way healthier than that type of dessert.

    Org Series #7: Sink Organizer

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    I'd been wanting a sink organizer for awhile.  Since I already have my ring holder, hand soap and dish soap sitting on the counter around the top of the sink, leaving the sponges, and hard dish brush laying around left the sink area looking constantly cluttered even when it was clean.

    This sink organizer is the first organizing purchase that I thought wasn't going to work.  I would attach it to the side of the sink and it would fall down an hour or two later.  Defeated, I was just setting the container on the counter next to the sink.  Then, my mom came to visit, applied water to the suction cups and they haven't fallen in weeks.  Fabulous.

    Good Grips Aluminum Sink Basket.  View it here.

    Wellness Wednesday: Gimme a break

    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    More and more articles have been popping up recently touting the necessity and benefits of mental breaks, napping, daydreaming, mental wandering and the like.  I approached these articles skeptically.  Few things have amazed me as much as our efforts to justify the healthiness of our worst habits.  Maybe drinking wine and beer really is healthy.  Maybe coffee is healthy.  Maybe being slightly overweight really is healthy.  Or, maybe, people will later find that, really, we just wanted these things to be healthy so we kept looking and looking for some sort of health benefit until we designed the right study and found one.

    But, all of these break articles seem to make some sense.

    Your brain is a series of circuits and neurons and information flows between these circuits.  But, your brain has limited capacity and limited attention.  And there is a lot of competition for that capacity, and particularly the attention.  Everything that is on your to-do list that you haven't yet accomplished is taking up some space, the space where you're conscious of it, stressed about it, know that you need to take care of it.  It's so hard to not respond to an e-mail sitting in your inbox if you know it's there and you need to respond.  This is why some people spend most of their work day responding to e-mails.  It's harder to focus until you clear out everything else.

    To maximize your attention, the advice is to segment out your day.  Set aside time for social networking.  Set aside time for e-mailing.  Set aside time for exercising, time for cooking.  And build in mental breaks where you allow yourself to daydream, allow your mind to wander.  It's during those breaks that we discover creative solutions to our problems.

    Cancer treatment: when doctors don't pick a course

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014

    We had spent the day peering out at the snow on the ground from the 7th floor hospital window.  I had been watching the flakes drop and calculating whether or not I would be able to drive home or whether I'd be stuck in again that night.  I spent a lot of time contemplating whether I could really request to "work remotely" another day in a row.  And yet, all I really felt like doing was crawling into a ball on the couch beside A's bed and just freezing myself there in place until his cancer treatment ended.

    There were weeks where my entire body felt like lead.  It wasn't just the cancer.  It was the responsibility.  Our doctor had given us a choice between a bone-marrow transplant and continuing our chemo course.  He would not advise one way or the other.  If a bone-marrow transplant is successful, the leukemia will not come back, but it may not be successful and you'll be stuck with transplant complications.  Transplant complications give you about the same odds of surviving that you have with leukemia, etc. etc.

    "What would you do?" we asked our doctor, the person with a medical degree.  He couldn't say, he was just explaining the options.  "I brought your case up during the transplant team meeting and the team was evenly split," our doctor explained.  As an afterthought, he added, "But, the hospital makes a lot more money doing transplants than just regular chemo."  There's some brutal honesty.

    I spent nights reading the Journal of Hematology and Oncology, scouring past issues for outcomes in transplants as opposed to A's chemo regimen.

    There was recently a good article in the NYT about the treatment choices one has to make when dealing with cancer and how the patient empowerment movement often leads to doctors who hesitate to give any sort of advice.  I sympathize with the writer's concerns.  Maybe doctors should have a recommendation.  How do you expect a stressed out patient to acquire the medical knowledge to make an informed treatment decision.

    I was complaining about the lack of direction to another patient who had our same doctor and had just completed his transplant.  "Yes," the other patient said, "But, you know he's being sued, right?  He told a former patient, who had no other treatment option, to elect a transplant.  That patient were to a hospital in Minnesota, he didn't have the transplant here even.  He died during the transplant and the parents are suing, saying that Dr. A didn't inform them that transplants sometimes cause death."

    Of course the transplants can cause death.  And in the case of the individual filing the lawsuit, that particular individual had a type of leukemia that will kill you without transplant.  Everybody transplants.

    I thought of the lawsuit, the responsibility, and Dr. A the next night as I was pouring over the literature.  Maybe the decision is just about luck and the doctor can't take responsibility for making a random guess.  We elected not to transplant and I think that was smart.

    I hope I never have to take responsibility for hearing that it wasn't.

    Family Weekend

    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    Growing up in Nebraska, I had my small nuclear family, my parents and two sisters, but no extended relatives nearby.  We traveled every so often, but I never felt like a part of a big family.  Moving to Texas, where my mother's home fires burn has been an experience.  It first it felt a little odd to be around all these extended relatives who knew each other well, but the thing about family is that they tend to just accept you even if you're a virtual stranger.  Now, here we are, in the middle of a huge family.  My grandmother was one of six children (all still alive and nearby) and my mother was one of four.  On my mom's side, I have five first cousins in addition to my two sisters and then there are various aunts and uncles as well as second-cousins and first-cousins-once-removed.  I'm not entirely sure how I am related to everyone, I just know who they are.

    After A and I moved to Houston, my sister decided to attend graduate school in Austin and one of my cousins from Florida decided to move to Houston for a few months.  I am the oldest cousin and there's a bit of an age gap, but the flurry of activity related to all the new Texas residents has just been plain fun.

    This past weekend, my aunt had a birthday and we celebrated out at my grandpa's farm under the stars.  Few things feel as wonderful as being out of the city, with family, grilling out or chucking watermelon rinds over the fence.

    There is something about being able to get away, outside of the city.  I don't know exactly what it is, but it almost feels like all the extra space takes away my stress and stretches it out so that it's thin enough to dissolve away.  There is something about being outside, outside of the city, staring up at the moon and the stars.  Something about being able to see so much more of the universe shrinks all the mental clutter and clears out my brain.

    And then there is something that feels secure and fun in doing simple things with family.

    I'm trying to savor it all.