Tag Archives: health

When Nothing Goes As Planned

As our Sunday winds down, with Mr. B and me hanging out on the back porch reading and writing to the glow of citronella candles, I can’t help but feel like we just experienced a life-affirming weekend.

It didn’t start out that way. Far from it, actually. Wednesday afternoon, Dottie Lou came down with a fever — which progressively got worse, topping out about about 103.4 Wednesday evening. After a sleepless night for Dottie and Mama, Thursday morning, we took her to the doctor, though by then her fever was gone and she was acting like her normal self. The doctor couldn’t see anything really wrong with her and sent us on our way.

By Thursday afternoon/evening, the fever was back. Bringing with it screams and cries and moans. My poor baby was in horrible pain — but from what, we couldn’t tell. After dealing with just over an hour of ceaseless screams, we called the nurse line at the pediatrician’s office. They couldn’t offer much because Dorothy didn’t have any other symptoms, and the fever was controlled with Motrin.

Poor Dottie slept a total of about five minutes that night. Mama, too, as Dottie thrashed and kicked and screamed. But Friday morning, she woke up — again — fever-free and happy as her normal self. At this point, I was super confused. Until I buckled her in to her car seat. That’s when I saw a few red spots on her hands and a couple on her feet. A quick trip to the doctor’s walk-in clinic hours confirmed it: hand-foot-and-mouth disease.

No daycare. And no work for Mama. We pretty much quarantined ourselves in the house all day Friday — with me washing my hands often enough that they got pretty raw. My attitude found itself a little on the raw side, too, as I cursed hand-foot-and-mouth for taking away the wondrous weekend I had in my mind. Running errands, hanging out at the park, shopping for a few wants I had, tackling a springtime to-do list. This weekend, like a lot of others, was pretty much planned out before it even started.

But hand-foot-and-mouth wiped the slate clean, as we found ourselves pretty much stuck to our little corner of the earth — trying to keep Dottie from exposing any other kids to this nasty sickness.

And, you know what? This has been one of my most favorite weekends in recent memory.

Friday after work Mr. B and I took Dottie to a local hiking trail, where we knew we could avoid running into anyone or touching any surfaces someone else might later touch. We put Dottie on the ground and let her roam free. She made it about 50 feet before she sat down and started digging in the dirt with her hands, followed by some running through the crunchy leaves. And, she was so very happy.

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It wasn’t a long trip because Dottie tired quickly. But, it was a good bit of fresh air that she and I both needed.

And, Saturday, with nothing to do, we finally put up Dottie’s swing set and filled her sandbox. We spent much of the day alternating between the warmth and sunshine of our backyard and the cool protection of our home. We went at Dottie’s pace and just enjoyed ourselves — no agendas, no to-do lists, no plans. I couldn’t stop feeling like I was on a different planet, looking at my life from the outside. I felt my life’s purpose being refreshed before my eyes. Dottie was happy. I was happy. Life was — life is — good.

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Today was much the same. Though we had intended to go to church, I felt it was best to keep Dottie away from other kiddos still. So, we hung out, had a picnic lunch and just spent time enjoying each other’s company. Dottie learned lots of new things, like how to get on the back porch without any help, how to peek under the fence at the neighbor’s dog and how to drive Mama crazy by repeating the same phrase over and over (and over and over), knowing that Mama couldn’t figure out what she was actually saying.

We topped off the weekend by sharing with Dottie one of our favorite things about spring- and summertime in Michigan: the return of the ice cream shops.

Being without a plan and without a to-do list tends to throw my world into chaos. I like things in front of me so I can see them, anticipate them and then anticipate what I can do if something goes wrong.

Life has been really great about trying to teach me that I really don’t have any control over anything — in big ways and small ways. Thankfully, hand-foot-and-mouth — though not fun and definitely painful for Dottie Lou — is a pretty small thing in the grand scheme of life.

So, I find myself, sitting here on the back porch, watching the candles dance in the breeze, feeling really thankful for the blessing in disguise this weekend. This “quarantine” forced me to focus — really focus— on what’s really important. And I’m going into this new week feeling refreshed and renewed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have this week’s planner calling my name — those to-do lists won’t write themselves!

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An Experiment in Kitchen Experimenting

Mr. B and I love to cook. And we love to try new things. That being said, we tend to get into kitchen ruts: grilled chicken, grilled pork chops, grilled burgers, grilled fish, sautéed veggies, quinoa/pasta. So, basically: protein, vegetable, grain. Add a glass of wine/beer/milk/water, and you have our traditional dinner.

Now, I used to cook — a lot. All sorts of delicious things, trying new recipes all the time. But then Mr. B and I got married, and we worked opposite shifts. So I fell out of the habit. Because it was kind of a pain cooking two separate dinners — or making a dinner that tasted good at 5:30 and at 11:30.

Lately, though, we’ve been feeling antsy to get back in the cooking habit — especially now that we have an awesome new kitchen! And there are a lot of things we’ve been wanting to try. (Just recently, Mr. B even made beef bourguignon!) Being the super-fun person that I am, I wanted to add another level of excitement to our goal to cook more for each other.

Enter playing cards. I figure: 52 cards in a deck, 52 weeks in a year. It’s like a sign.

So, Mr. B and I each got a deck of cards, and we spent one evening writing on the back of each card either one ingredient we wanted to use, one recipe we wanted to make or one type of cuisine we wanted to cook. Then, each week we’d draw a card from the other person’s deck. That would give us two meals each week that we’d be “forced” to try something new.

Cards and Sharpies

Sharpies — of all colors — are a must for this project.

The first week, Mr. B drew my “Gwumpkie” card, and I drew his “goat milk” card. Now, Gwumpkie isn’t exactly a “new” recipe — we used to eat it all the time when I was growing up. But I can’t remember the last time I’ve had it. And Mr. B? Well, he’s never had it. And, goat’s milk? Well, I think we’ve only ever had the “cheesed” variety.

I emailed Mom for her Gwumpkie (casserole) recipe. So that was an easy one. Goat’s milk, though? The options were limitless! I knew I wanted it to be something savory, though — not a dessert. A Google search led me to many, many options. I clicked and scrolled around until I found a recipe that caught my eye: Savory Goat Cheese Soufflé.

I wish I could say I came up with the recipe, but I didn’t. Honestly, I wouldn’t have known where to start. And we didn’t take any liberties with the recipe, either, since neither of us had ever eaten a soufflé before, much less baked one.

Souffle ingredients

Everything’s ready for a soufflé experiment at Casa B!

Cooking with someone else is not always an easy thing to do — tripping over each other in the kitchen, getting in each other’s way, making a mess. But, Mr. B and I do alright. For the most part, we make a pretty good team. (Though, he’s learned not to get in my way when I’m stirring — that creates a … “situation.” Right, Rosebud?)

I’ve always put soufflés up on some sort of foodie pedestal — something I’d never be able to make. I mean, they’re so hard! But, to be honest, this recipe was pretty easy. Steps were easy to follow, with pictures! And we didn’t mess it up in the least! In fact, it came out looking pretty darn good — and smelling even better!

Finished Souffle

The finished product — looked, smelled and tasted delicious!

The recipe suggested serving the soufflé with turkey, fish or chicken. Or, even, by itself with a salad. Mr. B and I opted for shrimp, sautéed with a kale, leek, bell pepper and garlic. I’m really glad we served it with something rather than making it the main feature — it was just too light to be filling. But, it did taste absolutely delicious. And, it was super-duper fancy — especially for a rainy, boring Tuesday night.

Wine and Mr. B

Good food deserves good company and good wine.

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The Truth About Alzheimer’s Disease

My dad doesn’t talk about his disease very often. Well … really … ever. So, when he does, we listen.

“We need to find a cure. Because I’ve got that.”

It was a simple enough statement, said to Mr. B, who works in the activities department with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients at a senior-living facility. And it was quiet — most everything Dad says is quiet, barely a mumbly whisper. But, at the same time, the statement rang loud and clear.

We told Dad that doctors and researchers are working so hard to find a cure.

But none of us said what we know: Dad will die with the disease. Right now, everyone who has the disease dies with the disease.

“Are there any drugs?”

Well, yes, there are. We tell him he’s taking them. But, what we know — and what he can’t understand? They won’t cure him. They will only temporarily slow the symptoms of the disease.

That’s the thing about Alzheimer’s Disease that I don’t think people understand. The ugly, dirty, gritty part of the disease that is about so much more than being forgetful. Nearly daily, I hear stories from my mom about scary — and progressively scarier — things happening with my dad.

Some days, the stories are as simple as Dad not being able to get his britches on anymore. Other days, the stories are about icy falls and angry words and actions.

Recently, Dad took a tumble on the ice. When they got to the urgent care facility, Dad couldn’t pinpoint his pain. In fact, he pointed across the room and told the doctor that it hurt him over there — in an inanimate object. This is just one of the many reasons why Alzheimer’s Disease is so scary.

My dad is a victim of a cruel, cruel beast. But, Mom? She’s a victim, too. Because he was supposed to be her partner and, now, she’s his caretaker. 24/7 — around the clock.

There are 2.5 times more women than men providing intensive “on-duty” care 24 hours a day for someone with Alzheimer’s.

There is no vacation time. There is no hazard pay. And, for the most part, it’s a pretty thankless job. (Though, I hope she knows how thankful all of us kids are for all she does. And I hope she knows I pray for her — and for my dad — every single day.)

Due to the physical and emotional burden of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2013. 

My mom and dad are my rocks — and the foundation upon which so many of us have been built. And it is painful to see that crumbling as Alzheimer’s takes its toll on our family.

But, we are not alone. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease. That is a huge number of people. If you multiply that to account for spouses, partners, children — that’s millions and millions more people affected by the disease on a daily basis.

There are days I feel hopeless and helpless. Like what I do or say or think about the disease doesn’t matter. Because it is still, I would wager, one of the most misunderstood diseases out there. And my voice? What good does one voice do?

But, here’s the thing — if all of us “one voices” stopped talking, the silence would be deafening. Instead, we have to speak up. We have to tell our story, our families’ stories. We have to do what little we can to move the efforts forward.

And, so, with what little bit of endurance I have left after a very tumultuous year, I will be joining my fellow Alz Stars again for the Fifth Third River Bank Run to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association of West Michigan. Because, every penny I can raise is another step closer to finding a cure. It won’t save my dad. But, it might save someone else’s dad. Or mom. Or brother. Or sister. Or child.

http://act.alz.org/goto/kimijoy

Oh, and one last parting tidbit? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. And, that, my friends scares the crap out of me. 

Alzheimer's Stats

— Facts and figures from the Alzheimer’s Association

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Finding My Running Legs — Again

Since I started running, that has always been a safe place. It was where I went to process what was going on in my life. It was where I went when I needed “me” time. It was where I celebrated victories and mourned losses.

And after Penelope died, I was certain running would help me heal. And, once I got the A-OK from the doctor, I was so excited to get back out on the trail.

But, then something happened. I got back out there. And it was different. It didn’t feel like my safe place anymore; it wasn’t comforting to get back into my old routine. Rather, it was emotionally painful — almost to the point of being physically painful.

I periodically went for walks, and I tentatively returned to the gym. At the gym, the same thing happened. It just wasn’t the same. And no amount of T2.5 “counseling” time could fix it.

So, I turned away from it. I learned long ago that if something wasn’t good for my soul, there was no way I could make it good for my body or my mind. 

So, I took some more time off. Some more frustrated time off. For a while, I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a hard time returning to my routine. But then, in the middle of writing Penelope’s story, it dawned on me. 

Those things? The gym. My favorite running path.  They were exactly as I had left them when the doctor told me I needed to back off the running and weight lifting. But me? I was different. Very, very different. 

And I needed something different — healing in a different way — from the gym and from running. But I wasn’t ready for it yet.

You see, the last time I’d done all of those things? I was carrying Penelope. And the grief was too fresh, too raw to be able to fully put myself back into it.

Then, I started writing a book. A book about Penelope Joy and all of the amazing things she taught me — taught all of us — in her short 38 days. And it was cathartic.

And, slowly, as I wrote the words and re-read them over and over, my healing truly began. Then, I returned to the gym to hit the treadmill for some short run/walks, and I started lifting (lightly) weights again.

And one cold, cold Saturday morning I  bundled up and strapped on my running spikes. And I went for a cold run.

A Saturday run

Scenes from my chilly Saturday morning run.

I had the trail pretty much to myself that day — it was that cold. And step after step, I found my running legs. I wasn’t as fast as I once was. And there were a lot more walking breaks that I’d have liked. But I was out there. And it felt so good.

As the “Polar Vortex” hit, I was sent back indoors for my workouts. I don’t enjoy the treadmill — never have — but it was better than nothing, and the routine was nice.

Then, January Thaw came for a visit. And it got a bit warmer. Which meant I could head back outside. So, yesterday, joined by a friend, I hit the trail again.

I felt every single muscle as they compensated for the uneven, icy trail. But between chatting and enjoying our time outside, we ended up getting in just over 7.5 miles. It was definitely a run/walk — I still have a long way to go — but it was just what my body needed, just what my soul needed.

And, so, I’m starting to feel that old passion return. Even Mr. B sees it — commenting on the dopey grin I had on my face for most of the day after my run yesterday. My excitement was clearly showing.

Running is starting, once again, to feel like a safe place for me. It is not an unchanged place; it’s different now. I am different now. I have different goals as a runner than I used to have — just as I have different goals for myself, my life.

But, for now, I’m just going to enjoy being back out there, taking it step by step.

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A New Year’s Reminder

I started this blog as a health and fitness blog. And it’s grown into so much more than that. My life has become so much more than that. I started this blog:

  • to share my story
  • to be motivated and inspired
  • to be reminded of all the good there is in the world (you all are amazingly kind people)

But, around the end of the year and into the new year — every year — it happens: health and fitness bloggers put on their judg-y pants. You know, the pants that make them the kings and queens of the gym. They are the people who complain about all of the “new year’s resolutioners.”

I get it: it’s annoying when the gym fills up and it’s hard to get to your favorite machine. Maybe there’s no parking. Maybe someone took your favorite locker. Maybe someone doesn’t know how to do something, and she’s “in your way.”

But, here’s the thing: all of us started somewhere — maybe two or three or 16 times. Maybe this year really is the year those people are going to turn their resolutions into habits into dreams. Maybe it isn’t. But, who are you we to say?

I think this year it’s bothering me more than other years. Because, to most, I look like a new year’s resolutioner. I’m getting back into my routine after six months of off-and-on consistency. Because I was pregnant with a high-risk baby. And I had to cut back my workouts significantly. And then, my baby died. And I couldn’t face the gym for a while. Because being there tore open some wounds that I was working really hard to heal.

Maybe it’s bothering me more because I’m trying to live life with more grace, compassion and understanding.

Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are all better than that. Before you put on your judg-y pants, remember that maybe the person annoying you on Jan. 1 is terrified of being there — and they just need one tiny excuse to leave. That tiny excuse could be that side-eye you give them. Or, maybe they just lost their baby and their heart is heavy. And the one place that had been “safe” for so long was finally starting to feel like home again.

This new year, as you head to the gym for your regularly scheduled workouts, remember: it’s amazing the difference a nod and a smile will make.

Also, I know I owe you all a huge catch-up post. I’m working on it. But I have to wrap up one very special project first. Regular posting will resume in a couple of weeks. Thank you all for sticking around while I work through all that’s been happening in my life.

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A Blogging Hiatus

I’ve not had much to say on the fitness/nutrition/healthy living front lately. Admittedly, my mind’s been elsewhere. With a baby on the way who has some heart issues, that’s where my … well … heart is lately.

I’m still exercising — as much as I can. Doctor said he “prefers light jogging and walking to running.” Though, I don’t know if this ever-growing belly of mine would be very comfortable for a real run anyway. And weight lifting? Limited to 25 pounds or less.

I miss it. I really, really do. And every time I see someone running, I get sad — and jealous. That’s my happy place. And I miss my happy place. And when I’m in the weight room, I feel miserably weak and lazy. Even though I know, on all counts, that I’m doing this for our darling Pickle.

So, I apologize for being “that” blogger who just leaves her page quiet for weeks on end. I think that it’s a sign I need to take a bit of a hiatus from this blog. I may be back this summer — posting periodically through the pregnancy about life and living. Now that Mr. B is on first shift, I may even have a few more recipes to share.

And I can guarantee I’ll be back after our darling Pickle is born in the fall. I’ve got a lot more goals to reach (I’m contemplating another marathon, perhaps, and some heavily increased weight-lifting goals), and I certainly have a lot more living to do. But, right now, I need to focus my energies on Pickle and on our family.

If you miss me and care to follow along on this part of my journey, you can find me at “The Pickle Chronicle,” where I’ll be writing about my pregnancy, Pickle’s heart defect and our family’s story.

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Because Babies Should Have Grandpas

Saturday is the Fifth Third River Bank Run. The 25k is the one local race that still remains on my bucket list. This was going to be my year to cross it off the list. More than the fact that I was ready, one of the charity partners is the Alzheimer’s Association of West Michigan. And, as you know, raising awareness and trying to fight this awful disease is near and dear to my heart. So, this race? This was my chance to tell my our story and do good while doing something that brings me peace and happiness and pride.

But then, something incredible happened. And Mr. B and I are going to be parents. In October. I’m 19, almost 20, weeks pregnant. (Still waiting for that “glow” to appear, though.) And, while I’m incredibly blessed to still be able to run while carrying Pickle, I realized during the half marathon a couple weeks ago that running long distances like that while pregnant is hard on my body.

Finish Line

Exhausted as I come up on the finish line during the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon.

And I just couldn’t see myself happily — healthily — making it through 15.5 miles. So, with a heavy heart, I switched to the 10k.

But I didn’t quit.

I will be there. Shoes will be laced up. Bondi Band will be on. Mr. B will be on the sidelines. Because this run is important. And it’s so much bigger than this one pregnant gal carrying herself over 6.2 miles to cross the finish line.

This run is about babies. And parents. And siblings. It’s about family. And friends. And caregivers. It’s about loved ones. And people we’ve never met.

This run is about every single one of us.

Because Alzheimer’s Disease knows no strangers, and it knows no boundaries. And, not to scare you, but the situation isn’t getting any better as time goes on. That’s why fundraising runs like this one are so important. Because, one day, a woman — not yet 30 years old — will see a short text on her phone from her mom. A text confirming a diagnosis she so feared: “A.”

“A” is for Alzheimer’s.

“A” is for Alzheimer’s.

“A” is for Alzheimer’s.

And she realizes that no matter what she does or how hard she fights, her dad is going to slowly forget who he is, forget who she is. And he’s going to become a shell of the person he once was. And her family will never, ever be the same. And it’s going to break her heart as everything she knew with 100 percent certainty fades into a world of gray. And she’ll have to stop thinking about the “what shoulda beens” and start thinking about the “what’s gonna bes.” Because all she can do is move forward.

To put it simply, Alzheimer’s Disease changes your life. Nothing is ever the same for the person diagnosed with this disease and for the people who love them. And, once you hear those words, “Alzheimer’s Disease,” there’s no going back — and going forward is hard. But all you can do is wake up every morning, smile and thank God for the moments you have together and get on with your day, taking it all one step at a time — together. ~”Running for a Cause

I quickly realized that I needed to talk about it. I needed to tell my story. Because that is how I fight. And unless I fight and raise awareness and raise money, so many other people are going to feel this pain. And sadness. And anger. And fear.

So many people are, like me, going to wonder whether their soon-to-be-born baby will ever get to know his/her grandpa the way he should be known — as the funnest Papa any kid could ever have (just ask all of my nieces and nephews — they’ll tell you). Luckily, and thankfully, Pickle will get to know his/her Papa. It will just be oh-so different than the picture I used to have in my head of my child playing with Papa in the orchard.

So, Saturday, when I head out on that course, I won’t be running for myself. I’ll be running for my dad. And for my mom. But, mostly, I’ll be running for Pickle.

Because babies deserve grandpas.

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