Sunday Coffee – Spring Break

Saturday (Day 1): Insomnia. Ambrose got the stomach flu and had to reschedule his SAT. I finally got to visit the new IKEA that opened up here last month.

Sunday: I discovered just how out of shape I am, and spent most of the rest of the day devouring The Suspect by Fiona Barton.

Monday: Jason went off to work, Morrigan went off to a friend’s house. Laurence and I decided to do the first day of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred and it killed us both. I finished listening to a silly-but-awesome romance-and-paranormal-mystery audiobook called Better Homes and Hauntings (ha!) by Molly Harper.

Tuesday: Lots of coffee! Soreness from the Shred kept me up most of the night! Had a rest day, watched Spider-Man: Homecoming with my boys.

Wednesday: Birthday birthday birthday birthday birthday! My baby turned 15! He wanted Huhot for lunch, so we went to one near Jason’s work so we could all go, and then we had a few gifts and ice cream in the evening.

Thursday: Rest day! Put together a 1000-piece puzzle, spent the afternoon at a coffee shop with Stephanie, where we met another writer and I was reminded just how much I love hanging out with writers. Had a massive hive outbreak in the evening, the worst since Feb 23rd and the first hives in weeks. I know what caused it, but still, UGH.

Friday: Sadly, spent the day mostly incapacitated due to inflammation/hives. At least it was a good reading day, and I enjoyed The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn.

Saturday: Up at three with hive-related insomnia (seriously I’ve never had one just persist this long since I was a kid!). Drugged up on multiple antihistamines, I napped, then helped prep for Laurence’s birthday party, which was Buccaneers-themed. (His favorite football team.) It was a good party, complete with Laurence smashing through streamers to the tune of the NFL theme on Morrigan’s trombone, and games such as Oreo football and root beer pong. Ha! Then we spent the evening out by our firepit in the semi-cool night air. It was lovely.

Today: Last day of spring break. The plan today is to get all our normal weekend work done, since we did none of it yesterday with the party and such. So it’s errands and paperwork, then hopefully back to normal tomorrow as the boys go back to school!

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Wellness Wednesday – Wow, I’m out of shape!

On Sunday, I did a yoga workout, and then decided I wanted to follow that up with some heavier cardio. For most of the last few years, I’ve done a lot of yoga and walking on hills, with some occasional jogging (indoors, essentially the equivalent of jogging in place). Every once in awhile, I’ll do something heavier (like dancing) but mostly I’ve let the heavier cardio portion of my workouts be the steep uphill sections of my walks. And don’t get me wrong, those hills can be intense – but they never last more than a few minutes, with downhills sections that follow, allowing my heart rate to drop back to more normal levels. What I haven’t done in a very long time is keep up a high, sustained heart rate during a workout, with the exception of an occasional outdoor attempt to run intervals. Those exceptions are few and far apart – like half a dozen in the last year – so they don’t really improve my cardiovascular fitness level. The hill-walking does, to a certain degree, and I thought it was enough. Until Sunday.

As I said, I did my yoga on Sunday, and then decided to round out my day with a ten-minute kickboxing video that I used to do years ago. This video was part of a Sparkpeople challenge that came out in May 2011. Back in May 2011, I participated in this challenge, which turned out to be a really good one for me. This kickboxing video was our Sunday workout, and it involved what you’d expect – punches, kicks, jumping jacks, scissor kicks, high knee grabs, etc. There was a lot packed into that ten minutes, and when I first did the workout on May 1st, 2011, it was the perfect level for me. Not too intense that I couldn’t get through it or had to modify, but not so easy that it didn’t feel like a workout. That’s about how I’ve thought of this video ever since. Again, until Sunday.

Oy. Ten minutes. Ten frickin’ minutes. Afterwards I had the same feeling I used to get after an hour-long intense swimming practice as a teenager, with that tired feeling in your heart that means it’s worked hard. Also, I didn’t make it through all the moves. I had to slow the jumping jack sections way down, and I had to move to marching in place halfway into the 30 seconds of scissor-kicks. The workout was mostly cardio, but after finishing, I felt like I’d done a full-body strength training workout in addition to heart-training. So okay, I thought, back in May 2011, I weighed less. Except then I realized…um, I weighed like two pounds less than I currently do. The weight thing is NOT the issue. I’m just WAY out of shape right now compared to back then.

It makes sense, really. Back then, I was doing a lot of heavier cardio workouts. Not only was I out running intervals like I do sometimes now (except on a regular basis then), but I was doing water aerobics, and aerobics videos, and elliptical training, and zumba…so on. Clearly, my exercise was far more varied and intense back then, and my fitness levels reflected that! Honestly, I’d like to get back there again. It would be good for me. It’s long past time to diversify my fitness and vary the kinds of workouts again!

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Sunday Coffee – Seasons

Remember back in October when I was lamenting the fact that we weren’t ever really going to get fall weather? Well…I guess in a way, I was right. We got a little bit of it in late November, but ever since then, our weather has been weird. The fall/winter/spring part of the year for San Antonio (October through March) usually goes like this: hot for the first half of October, then sudden cold fronts giving us a few weeks of fall weather, then suddenly it’s winter, which consists of alternating days that swing wildly from 30s to 70s or higher and days that stay stubbornly in the 50s. By late Feb, the temps are getting much warmer, settling into the 60s and 70s most days with some occasional trips into the 90s, and by the end of March, 80s are the norm. That’s not really how this year has gone.

This year, it was hot hot hot for ages, up until late November when we had a short autumn. Then we went to those resolutely 50s days, but they trended more toward high 50s, and our swing days were more like 40s to 80s, with occasional high-80s. February was pretty warm most days. And now in March, when we’ve already gotten out the summer clothes, we suddenly had a hard freeze, getting into the mid-20s (which has only happened a half-dozen times in San Antonio history, most in the last few years – thanks, global warming…) for three nights in a row and causing us to need coats for the very first time this season. And then it got up to 90 degrees the next day.

The excruciatingly warm winter – I was serious when I said we didn’t once need anything warmer than a jacket until this week – does not bode well for this summer. I expect there will be lots of 100+ temps in the forecast. I really hope I’m wrong and summer will be unusually cool!! But seriously, this global warming thing is insane. Weather has always been unpredictable on a day to day basis, but now on a season to season basis? Yikes. I worry what comes next!

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Buzzard Party!

As I mentioned last Sunday, my family threw me a “buzzard party” for my 40th birthday. This is a longstanding tradition in our family, our version of an over-the-hill party with more jokes about how the buzzards are circling and fewer “old fart” jokes. We have several stuffed buzzards and a buzzard piñata that float from party to party, as well as a cane with a rearview mirror and manual horn, a windup turtle that goes very very slow, and a bunch of buzzard-themed party decorations that we’ve managed to collect over the last few decades. I’ve been looking forward to my buzzard party since I was a teenager!

It didn’t disappoint. Jason was in charge of the planning, and he went above and beyond, giving my party a little spinoff twist that was more our style. In other words, he built me a coffin. Ha! We don’t normally have actual funereal decor at these parties, but Jason threw my party as my “half-funeral,” complete with gravestones and mourning clothes and a eulogy read by my youngest son. I had to actually get into the coffin for the eulogy, and later for opening gifts. (A great number of party attendees eventually got into the coffin, ha! Ambrose and Laurence actually got into it together!)

The party was wonderful. My parents and most of my siblings were able to come into town for it, and my brother (the only one who couldn’t) skyped in for part of the party. A couple good friends came as well. We had a Boston cream pie poke cake with the words “Our Condolences” written on it, and deviled eggs dyed with black food coloring, and my mom even brought black roses to go into the coffin. I was showered with gifts, and most of the party was spent retelling old family stories and laughing. It really was the best way to end my birthday weekend!

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Wellness Wednesday – Yogurt and Histamine

Now this is interesting. I had an ah-ha moment last week on a night when I had a major acute hive reaction (the worse I’ve had since mid-January, with eight-inch long hives, oy…). I’m pretty sure this reaction is due to having begun a new probiotic. This particular probiotic was the same as my last one, except it included some prebiotic fibers. The kicker was that I was supposed to take two a day instead of one, and I think that put one of the histamine-making strains of bacteria at too high a level for my body to handle. The thing is, according to the research I did back in January, this particular probiotic (like the last one) only had one strain of suspected histamine-causing bacteria: Lactobacillus Casei. The first probiotic I tried – the one that initially caused the hives – had five of the seven suspected strains. I personally suspected two of those five specific strains because my Fage yogurt, which I eat for breakfast every morning, has the other three, including L Casei. And I never got hives from eating yogurt daily, which I’ve been doing since April 2012.

Enter the ah-ha moment. Prior to remembering exactly when I started eating yogurt for breakfast every day instead of cereal, I hadn’t considered the yogurt to be related to inflammation at all. When I was discussing all this with Jason on the acute-hive night, I expressed frustration at not having an answer for what was going on. I kept getting the hives at the same time nearly every day, with only rare moments of getting them at other times of the day. Tracking my food, activity, and potential contact allergens (like weeding the garden) didn’t produce any meaningful correlation with the severity of hives. And I had a hard time believing that it was just the probiotic, because the only histamine-causing strain in it was L Casei, which was also in my yogurt, which didn’t cause acute inflammation…and hold the phone. Lightbulb turns on.

Within a month of when I started to eat yogurt daily in 2012, I began having inflammatory reactions like fatigue and bone/organ pain for days after strength training or high intensity exercise. That wasn’t normal for me and I couldn’t explain it. Just a couple months before, I’d had muscle soreness but no lingering fatigue or weird pain with the same kind of exercise. I blamed the new weird symptoms on insomnia, which got severe around this same time (another inflammatory reaction), prompting me to began taking Benadryl. This could have countered the histamine reaction to a certain degree, and indeed during the one three-month period when I didn’t need sleep meds (several years later), I gained weight for the first time since I’d hit my goal weight despite no change in my diet/exercise. (I can’t blame stress either, as I’d been through other terrible times with no weight changes.) More tellingly, when I stopped eating the yogurt for four weeks during my experiment with a paleo diet in autumn 2014, most of the inflammatory symptoms disappeared until I returned to normal eating. The inflammatory reactions have worsened over time, and I continued to attribute them to sleep issues because they mostly involved fatigue. I really only recognize them now after the extreme inflammation of December/January, when just walking to the mailbox felt like running a marathon.

Most live cultures eaten by mouth don’t make it to the gut because of the acidity in the upper part of the digestive system. Over seven years, though? How much could have made it through? And if those particular bacteria were causing me to have too-high histamine levels, how much could they have been affecting my health all along? Then, add several probiotics containing some of those same bacteria, massive doses of them making it to the gut, and you get a major histamine reaction. My hives nearly always came at the same time every night – about ten hours after my yogurt breakfast, regardless of what time of day I took my probiotic. This was one of the most frustrating things about trying to find a pattern, but suddenly, it makes a hell of a lot of sense.

Needless to say, I quit taking the probiotic immediately. Eight-inch long hives are NO FUN. I stopped eating the yogurt the next day, when I decided it wasn’t worth using up what was in my fridge first. As much as I love my yogurt – and I truly do love it, to the point where I mourn giving it up – I wanted to feel better NOW, and all the massive hive and eczema flare-ups were killing me! So I stopped eating it as well, and plan to keep it from my diet for several months. I really feel like this is the answer I’ve been looking for for so many years and might really help fix so many issues I have, from depression to insomnia to my inability to strength train or do high intensity exercise. I’ve mapped out some timelines of acute and low-grade inflammation over the last seven years, which has really helped me see patterns. There’s real hope this time that I’ve found a solution.

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Note: I’m also looking into whether or not this is a histamine-intolerance issue in a more widespread way. Many of the foods I eat on a regular basis (beef, spinach, legumes, strawberries, yogurt, chocolate, bananas, nuts, coffee, eggs, etc) are high in histamines, all to varying degrees. With histamine intolerance, you build up histamine levels throughout the day, and if you breach a threshold, you have a reaction. This could also explain why I always got the hive reaction in the evening, regardless of whether I took my probiotic in the morning or evening.

When I began eating yogurt daily in 2012, it was because I switched over to a mostly-whole-foods diet, and 90% of the whole foods I can eat are histamine producers or inhibit the mechanisms in the body that break down histamine. (Oh the irony of being a picky eater, widening your eating range, and managing to widen it only toward foods that may be damaging your body…) This may have simply been a perfect storm that I had no way of detecting. However, considering my inflammation mostly cleared up (as far as I can remember) during my one stint with Whole30/paleo (a very high histamine diet), I’m leaning on the side of this being related to the live cultures in yogurt specifically, rather than histamine generally. Or possibly that yogurt, which is an VERY high histamine food, just brought me regularly over my personal histamine threshold.

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Second note: My appointment with the allergist this week was a bust. This is the second time I’ve seen this guy and both times he’s treated me like I’m five years old. This time, he told me that “some people just get hives” and it’s impossible to tell what they’re from, and it’s definitely not from probiotics because no one can be allergic to probiotics, and inflammation isn’t actually a problem, it’s not real, and if I don’t like the hives, I should take several kinds of antihistamines daily. Then he gave me a list of antihistamines I can get over the counter with their generic names so that I “could find them.” Grr. Needless to say, I’m looking for a new allergist!

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Rosmersholm; The Christmas Hirelings (audio)

I listened to a couple short classics (one play, one novella) a couple weeks back. Since they were both short and my thoughts on them are equally so, I decided to review them both in the same post. The two really had very little in common. I just happened to listen to them back-to-back.

Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen (translated from the Danish by Charles Archer)

This is a play about how politics can drive people crazy. Pretty apt in today’s modern world, no? Basically, the story goes like this. A year after Rosmer’s wife gets ill and kills herself, her nurse/friend Rebecca still lives with the family at Rosmersholm. The wife’s brother comes to visit after a long absence, is horrified to learn that Rosmer has become a liberal, and accuses Rebecca of warping his brother-in-law’s mind. Accusations, confessions, and ruined friendships abound. Melodrama spills everywhere. Aaaaaand that’s pretty much it. I didn’t get much out of the play, but hey, it was interesting to read another work of Ibsen’s. Plus, I now understand the lines that head all the chapters of Lethal White, and why this play was used as the reference in that book.

Performance: The audiobook was full-cast. The two women did well at their roles, but the male voice actors all drove me crazy for one reason or another. I was only able to continue with the audio version because I enjoy listening to plays generally. Also, what was up with all the characters having either British or German accents?? The play is set in Norway…

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

This is a sweet tale of family stubbornness that leads to estrangement and the efforts of a family friend to trick the family into being together again. It’s also Braddon’s very clear denunciation of the way upperclass women were raised at the time, as well as her idealizing of the health of poor folk. (One of the major threads that goes through the novella is the idea that children who run wild and don’t spend a lot of time learning – aka poor children who don’t go to school – have great health and never need doctors, whereas rich children who study a lot overtax their brains, which leads to a deterioration in physical health – even if part of their study is to spend several hours a day in physical activity.) Setting aside the very naive ideas on the best way to live, the story itself was cute. I enjoyed watching Sir John figure out the trick that’s been played on him, and how his heart falls in love with his grandchildren all the same. It’s ultimately a story of forgiveness and the stupidity of stubborn pride, and I liked that.

Performance: This audiobook was read by Richard Armitage, who did a wonderful job, even with the children’s voices. (I usually don’t like children’s voices in audio narration.)

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Sunday Coffee – 40 For 40

A year ago, I made a list of 40 goals to accomplish by my 40th birthday. Some (like playing Just Dance with my kids) were little, some (like walking 400 miles) were huge. I finished 32 of those 40 goals (including the 400 miles goal!). Yay! Some of my favorites from the year of tasks include:

  • Take a big hike – I expected this one to be at one of the nearby hiking areas an hour or so from San Antonio, but I ended up doing this in San Francisco while on vacation! Yes, I count that. If you haven’t been on the stairs and hills of San Francisco, you won’t know just how much of a hike they are!
  • Make a new friend 🙂
  • Finish the afghan-in-progress that I’d been working on for 18 months
  • Walk the 3.2-mile roundtrip to my old neighborhood and back on the wiggly sidewalks my boys loved as kids (self-explanatory!)
  • Help landscape the front yard – it’s getting sooooo close to done!

This year, I’m not going to make a list of goals or tasks to complete. My 2019 goal list is already overly packed. Instead, I’m going to leave this post here as a reminder to treat myself to 40 little mini celebrations for my first year in my 40s. A full year party to mark this awesome birthday occasion, starting today with my Buzzard Party!!!

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