My 9 best moments from 2016

I’ve seen this a lot on my friends’ feeds, and figured I maybe should participate (if late).  2016 was not a kind year for many of us, and I had difficulty identifying three things that went well in the year.  I started reviewing photos, and found 6 more!  Here goes my list:

  1. April 2016: Won the BigBlue Healthy Kitchen Wars cooking competition at ODU with the Faculty/Staff team.
  2. May 2016: I got to take my Mom to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens for the LanternAsia exhibit for Mother’s Day (it’s rare for her to be in my area).
  3. May 2016: I got to go to Seattle, WA and give a presentation at the annual Immunology conference!  I’d been wanting to do a talk (rather than just a poster) for a few years.  I’ve also always dreamt of Seattle; I’m a pluviophile, and the city just captured my imagination.  While there, aside from the conference, I got to visit a friend and see the Seattle Japanese Garden which was gorgeous, the Space Needle (so geeky) and the quite stunning Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit, the EMP museum, and the Museum of Flight (loved the space exhibits).  It was a great trip filled with amazing food, fantastic scenery, and a lot of really good experiences that I’m glad I had.
  4. July 2016: I got to visit friends and family over the summer; in particular, I went to see Luray Caverns with my best friend.  I’d never been.  It was spectacular.  I have literally hundreds of photos and videos from that (and filled up my phone completely).  They even played the stalactite organ while we were there. We also did the garden maze (and I think we chanted “get through the Labyrinth? Get through the labyrinth?! … movie reference) and the rope adventure park.  You know, for someone who doesn’t like heights, I certainly got some altitude this year!
  5. December 2016: I was a co-author on another manuscript, accepted for publication and published online! Not primary author or senior author, but I’m very happy that some of my data was useful.   http://www.jni-journal.com/article/S0165-5728(16)30336-8/abstract
  6. September 2016: My 20th high school reunion.  Yikes!  Has it been that long!?
  7. October 2016: Survived Hurricane Matthew (not a highlight) and had a great visit with a friend I haven’t seen in years!
  8. October 2016: Halloween is always a highlight.  I did the Corpse Countess this year and utterly delighted in my costume!
  9. December 2016: I got to visit with my friend, and although the Santa Claus Shuffle did NOT qualify as a highlight, our tour through the Norfolk Botanical Garden of Lights show did!

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2017-A year of change and improvement

The prep update:

I did not post my December 16 update on my two goals to start this year fresh.  Short version: goals not achieved.  Therefore, they are the two main items on my resolution list for this year.

  1. Quit smoking: in progress.  I’m on the patch, because I’ve misplaced my Chantix prescriptions.  It will be harder this way, but maybe not impossible.  The really good news: with prior review, my insurance covers Chantix 100%, so if I request new ones from my doctor… yay!  That’s on my project list for tomorrow.  I will update when I am 24 hours cigarette free (ahem, not quite yet), and at 1 week, 1 month, and off nicotine completely.
  2. Achieve, then maintain “normal” BMI: also in progress.  I actually dropped *some* over the holidays, which is impressive!  I have 10.8 lbs to go though (still), partly due to fluctuations–I’ve been bloated–and partly from holiday celebratory foods that got me at the end.  Also, 3+ days of complete inactivity (sick).

The Forthcoming Year:

2017 is going to be a year of fairly substantial change for me.  I know that I will be moving this year (May).  That’s a big part of it.  I have other resolutions for this year as well:

  • Time improvement: I want, and need, to spend less time working at home and especially so at the end of the term.  I therefore need to work more efficiently in my office at work.
  • Money improvement: with a move upcoming, I need to work on getting and keeping my financial house in better order.  Part of this is related to the move, and I’ll explain more as I progress.
  • Health improvement: 2016 was a year of bad.  Aside from a couple of rounds of prednisone, facial paralysis, and the other incidental illnesses, I felt sick a LOT.  In addition to that, I found out something else (pretty personal) that happened that I haven’t quite been ready to blog about yet… but I plan to.  I want to NOT have as many problems this next year.  Unfortunately, I spent the first few days of the New Year feeling under the weather already!  I know that there’s not much I can do to avoid some viruses, and I did get my flu shot, but I want to work on having better overall health.  #1 and #2 should help me achieve that goal.  You’ll notice that this year I’m not setting a jogging or running goal–that’s partly related to that personal issue I mentioned.  Until I know more, it may not be in my best interest.
  • Blogging improvement: I want to get this blog on track.  Weekly posts!  No guarantees about topics, but stay tuned for more information.  Also, I’ll be launching a second, move-specific blog in the not-too-distant future!

 

Preparing for a New Year… starting 2017 fresh

Image reused with permission from Hodge Podge Moments!
Image reused with permission from Hodge Podge Moments.

Tonight, I participated in a Facebook group blog discussion hosted by Pam of Hodge Podge Moments.  Although some of it was about the holidays, and some about blogging mechanics in general, it made me think about what I want for 2017.  I haven’t set my resolutions yet, but one of the prompts was whether we intended to set a “word of the year” for next year.  My first instinct was “improvement.”

A lot of things are set to change in 2017 already, and I want need it to be a better year than 2016 has been.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten to do some pretty awesome things this year, like visit Seattle and tour the Luray Caverns with my friend.  A lot of things have not gone as well, especially in the health and finance areas.

I have two goals for this month of December to help start off 2017 right:

  1. Get BMI into healthy range.  I’ve been resolving to lose weight for ages.  I’m not exactly giving up on the long-term goal of a very healthy BMI, but I’m sick of the yo-yo effect.  I’m sick of obsessing about it.  I’m about 10 pounds into the overweight range right now, which isn’t horrible, but it does affect my body and my self-image negatively.  I decided a month or so ago that I wanted to refocus on getting to and maintaining a healthy weight before I tried to set my sights any higher (or my weight goals any lower).  I want 2017 to be a year of healthy weight, even if not ultimate-goal weight.  Is this a SMART goal? It is specific and measurable: I have a target weight (-8.5 pounds; BMI of 24.8).  Is it achievable and reasonable? It should be, despite holiday foods.  That’s about a healthy 2 pounds per week. I just got a FitBit and I’m using that to help increase my activity levels.  Is it time-sensitive? Absolutely–I have until the end of 2016!
  2. Quit smoking (again).  I started when I had the facial paralysis.  The neurologist I saw gave me terrifying options including brain lesion and MS, and I stressed out to the max.  I started smoking again and haven’t quite successfully stopped yet.  Last night, as I sat there coughing out a lung from the cold over Thanksgiving, I decided to re-commit to starting 2017 smoke-free.  I’d ideally like to be nicotine-free.  Is this SMART?  It’s specific and measurable: zero cigarettes.  Achievable? I gave myself some flex to make sure I could reach one of the two goals; either nicotine-free or at least smoke-free.  I have a prescription for Chantix–it’s expensive, and very dangerous with my depression, but I used it before and had been 5 years smoke free.  If I do not succeed with the nicotine patches by Dec 16th, I will fill the prescription and start using it.  Time-bound?  Again, yes–Dec 31st.  I’ll check in on these again!

Accountability:

I will hereby hold myself accountable and give an update on December 16 and another on December 31.

Thanksgiving 2016

Being sick on a holiday is never fun.  This year was no exception.  Mostly, it was just a cold with a lot of sinus drainage.

I always watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!  This year we tried CBS, but we ended up switching back to NBC about an hour in.  Their coverage was just better–and so was their position/view of the performances in front of Macy’s!  I did have a distraction while watching, though…

#Thanksgiving is fun for kitties too!

A video posted by Jolie (@machatonjolie) on

Have I mentioned that Jolie likes to CHEW on everything?!

We scaled back Thanksgiving this year and did a turkey breast, green beans, mini-croissants (store bought), cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and deviled eggs.  Yes, that was our scaled-back version.  I had never done a boneless turkey breast before so hunted for instructions, and I settled on the ideas from Claire Robinson via Food Network here.
Unfortunately, having a cold meant that I really couldn’t taste much.  Mostly just salty, sweet, and tangy-tart.  The leftovers tasted better though, so I’m assuming the dinner itself was good, too.

Thanksgiving Prep 2016

After dinner?  The predictable cleanup.  After that? PIE.  Yum.  I strongly prefer to make my pies totally from scratch, but we didn’t get any pumpkins this year–and the outcome was noticeably different in the final product.  I tend to add more spices to mine than is traditional.

My final activity for the day was to have a mug of Theraflu and a hot bath.  My father always advocated hot baths when you’re feeling sick, and it’s a habit I’ve fully adopted as an adult.  Lobster-skin hot baths where you’re reeling when you get out of the tub.  I fall asleep almost immediately after.  This time, I treated myself to a new experience and tried a pumpkin-shaped bath bomb from Fragrant Jewels… and then I went to bed!

Rachel Ray’s Nutrish for Cats: A review

I received a bag of the Rachel Ray Nutrish for Cats (chicken and potato flavor) free for testing purposes from Influenster.  The bag advertised that the product was grain-free, which I honestly hadn’t really worried about with my other pet foods.  The instructions on the bag stated to start mixing the food with the existing food at about a 75% old : 25% new ratio so that it didn’t upset their digestive systems. Since I was running low on my existing cat foods, I figured it was a good time to try it out.

I currently have 4 cats: 2 of them are over the age of 12, and the other two are 3 or younger.

Three of the four cats did not eat it at first.  Two of them ate around the new Nutrish food, while the third cat went on a two-day hunger strike and refused to touch anything that had been in contact with the new food.  However, they did adjust to the new food over the course of a few (more) days, but there was considerably less enthusiasm at feeding time.

My kitties took about 2 weeks to finish off the bag of food that was provided.  During that time, I did notice some changes in the smell of the cat poop (ew) that were not particularly pleasant, but that was most notable during the transition period.

As we neared the end of the bag, I began mixing it again to transition them back to their regular food.  Again, they strongly preferred their other food to the Nutrish and ate around the Nutrish.  Because this happened both transitioning on and off the food, it’s quite apparent that it wasn’t just because one was “new.”

Mickey has adopted the #Nutrish box free from @influenster for testing purposes!

A photo posted by @miceandmakeup on

Only Mickey (above) showed no issues with eating the new food and gobbled it up without hesitation. She also liked to sleep on the box. I suspect she actually ate most of the food out of that bag.  My other kitties didn’t starve themselves, but it was obvious that they did not enjoy it.

I appreciate the opportunity to test the product, but I’m sticking with their other food (one is formulated for older cats; the other for younger cats).  Thanks, Influenster, for allowing me to test and review the product!

Recurring Bell’s Palsy?

A week ago, I was eating breakfast and tried to smile.  Something didn’t feel right; the right side of my face didn’t respond normally.  My mouth wouldn’t pull up into a smile completely.  I had movement–I could blink and I could move my cheek and mouth muscles somewhat, but there was definite muscle weakness.

I already knew/know it’s not stroke; the muscle weakness is limited to my face.  Language, math, and perception centers of my brain were all functioning pretty normally except for taste.  About a week earlier (two weeks ago now), I stopped being able to taste on the right side of my tongue.

The last time something like this occurred was 12 years ago when I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy.  At that time, I had 100% paralysis on the right side of my face: no blinking, no mouth movement, no muscle tone, nothing.  The first symptom back then was also loss of taste on half my tongue, but it progressed to paralysis overnight.

I went to urgent care and there are some things that are not consistent with Bell’s Palsy: the weakness versus paralysis and the rate of progression.  I have full or nearly full control of my forehead and eye muscles, so the right lower quadrant of my face is most affected.  Bell’s Palsy recurrences are not common, either; estimates show them at < 10% (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3362016).  There are some things that are consistent with Bell’s Palsy: the radiating pain along my right cheekbone, loss of taste on one side, reduced tearing in my right eye, and it’s on the same side that was affected before.

The typical treatment is prednisone + antiviral medications.  I’m now finishing my 2nd round of high-dose prednisone this year–and I ache all over!  That will fade.  I have an appointment with a neurologist in 2 weeks to try to determine what is the most likely explanation–additional diagnostic tests are likely to be needed in this case.  In the meantime, we’ve done the best treatment we can if it IS Bell’s Palsy.  If not, at least my face isn’t getting worse, though the muscles DO fatigue easily when chewing dinner (and I have to chew on my left side if I want to taste anything).

The worst parts of having Bell’s Palsy before were not being able to blink or to stop drooling–I’m not suffering either of those.  However, I can’t puff up my cheeks with air.  I just make fart noises.  It makes me laugh.

I’ve heard that a lot of people who have Bell’s Palsy are too upset to go out in public. I seriously doubt anyone would notice that there’s any problem.  I don’t look like my face is melting off.  Therefore, whatever this is, for now, I can deal with it.

SNOW!

This morning when I got out of the shower there was a note on my nightstand telling me to look outside!
FirstSnow2016
Hey, if you’ve known me at all, you know I love snow. I’m an adult and it makes me feel like a giddy little kid. I may not love driving in it, but I have a job where if it’s unsafe I can stay home!

 

New Year’s Introspection & Resolutions

2015 In Review

2015 Bests
2015 Bests

How did I do on my resolutions to rehabilitate myself post-surgery?

  • Achieve a BMI of 20: NOPE. Not even close. This year’s low was a BMI of 24. I got it out of the overweight range and lost 20 lbs, though.  This is real and measurable progress, so partial win.
  • Run a 10-minute mile: Actually, according to my Band, my best split (mile) was 9:30 but I think that might have been a glitch. However, in Oct I clocked a 10:04 mile and a 10:05 mile so it’s possible!
  • Run the Santa Claus Shuffle 5k in less than 39:52 (that was my best time in 2012): This year’s time was officially 37:18, so WIN!

2016 Resolutions

I kind of liked having just one resolution last year with a few measurable outcomes.  I sort of kept that for this year.  This year, I resolved to work on my lifestyle: how I want my life to look and feel.  Part of this developed from the unreasonable stress I had at the end of this last semester and the fact that it’s simply untenable, so I need to work on better balance (doesn’t everyone?!).  So how do I organize those thoughts and make them measurable and attainable?

Physical:

  • BMI of 22.5 is measurable. I’m enrolled in another DietBet Transformer. I should achieve this by the end of June. If I am happy, great; otherwise, progress to BMI of 20.
  • Yoga: I can start with Yoga Camp. This builds on the 30 Days of Yoga I did last year. Later, when $ permits, I can take a class. This is for mental health as well as flexibility.
  • Strength: there are plenty of options out there for free. For January, I’m going to do the Fit Girls Guide workouts (just not the meal plan, because I hate meal plans).       This year, I want to COMPLETE 10/12 monthly workout plans from whatever system(s) I choose or try!
  • Cardio: This year, I’m aiming for a 5k time of 36:00 or less. Jog 3x/week as training.
  • Continue the daily 10,000 steps or 5k/day (whichever comes last) for general fitness.
  • Do not skip two days in a row!

Personal:

  • Complete the Apartment Therapy January Home Cure (again)
  • Continue the weekly/monthly/quarterly schedule.       It works!
  • Finish the Fall/Winter Closet Cure and do the Spring/Summer Cure. Stick to the one-in, one-out rule (if I buy something, some equivalent item must be donated or trashed).
  • Cooking: ENJOY my food this year! Attempt ZERO eating plans (seriously).
  • Personal care: create a beauty and lifestyle routine that works for me. This will require some experimentation.

Work:

Leave work at work. Maintain as close to a 9-5 as possible given the teaching schedule needs. Grading, planning, etc. all need to be accomplished at work. Do NOT add anything to your pile this year!

Social & Financial:

Redacted.  I have goals in these areas, but they’re not for public consumption.