Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Sleep Study is Up Next

The next leg of my medical journey is underway.
I recently got all of my tests back for Cushing’s and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  Turns out it’s neither.  There is nothing wrong with me hormonally.  Apparently the original spike in cortisol was just a fluke – leftover stress from the workday or nervousness from getting blood drawn perhaps.
The doctor then suggested I be tested for sleep apnea.  Apparently years of not getting enough sleep and routinely depriving one’s brain of oxygen can result in a number of the non-specific symptoms I have.

I was pissed.
Don’t get me wrong – this is good news.  No one wants a screwed up endocrine system.  And I can hazily see how sleep apnea might contribute to how I feel.  It’s also very easy to detect, treat, and manage.
That being said, I felt letdown.  Angry, in fact.
While I didn’t want to have it, Cushing’s put a face to my situation.  A bunch of checkmarks next to a list of vague symptoms that have been accumulating in recent years.  It gave me validation that something is indeed wrong with my body.
Now that validation has been taken away.  I’m left with some very grumpy feelings:
·         What if there's nothing actually wrong?
·         What if I just suck at losing weight?
·         What if this is the way my adult body looks and feesl like?
·         What if this is as good as it get?
I am not confident they will find sleep apnea, and even if they do, that rhinoplasty or a breathing machine is going to make me feel loads better and enable me to become healthy.
I feel imprisoned by my body.  It conspires against my wishes to be a fit human being.  It makes me grimace when I look in the mirror or go buy clothes.  It is filled with unending muscle pain that is just low enough to not take an aspirin but high enough to not ignore.  It forces me to be dependent on high levels of water to function.  It makes me feel weak, tired, endlessly hungry, and dejected.

I used to take my health for granted.  I’m perfectly aware that my current weight is the result of too much stress, poor eating habits, and little exercise. 
The issue is that it won’t let me change.
I value change very much.  I believe you can change yourself, for better or worse.  Your life is in your hands – you control the outcome.
But my health is not within my direct control.  I reduce my calories by an acceptable level and it results in energy crashes.  I do light exercise, such as walking or biking for 30 minutes, and my hips and legs are angry for days.  I now have a good balance with stress and ensure “me time” is built into my routine.
These changes have amounted to very little.  The scale is approaching 200 pounds and I cannot stop it.  I am ashamed of this. 
This past weekend, a good friend and I sat complaining about our looks, circling the same frustrations we have been voicing for years.
In many ways, I’ve come to realize that placing an exaggerated emphasis on the way someone’s body looks is juvenile, not just unhealthy.  There’s something immature about making looks a discussion point.
I am very guilty of thinking this way.  I grew up in a very judgmental environment that placed great emphasis on fitting in and looking right.  While I never bought this attitude enough to change who I was, the message did sink in enough to cause insecurity and doubt.
Feeling like I am judged based on my appearance.  That my looks overshadow all the other accomplishments in my life.  That I should be nervous of what people will say when I go to my high school reunion a year from now or when I visit family who I haven’t seen in a while.

It is still something I’m working on.  I hate that I am so very cognizant of how stupid this mindset is and yet can do little to repel it.
Graduate degree, feminist, career woman supportive of everyone else’s body but her own, the headline would read.    
I wondered today, however, how much of this sick attitude of feeling like I’m just a blob of flesh might be induced or influenced by how my body actually feels.  What would my outlook be if my pain was reduced, if I had more energy, if I didn’t feel so limited physically?  Would I be so down on myself if I didn’t feel so down physically?
I don’t know.  I certainly hope so.
Sleep test is in two weekends, not sure when I get to discuss the results.  Guess we’ll go from there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Uncorked: Sweet Cherry Wine by Stone Cliff Winery

SWEET CHERRY WINE"Made from Door County cherries, one could not ask for a more flavorful sweet bottle of wine. Imagine served with chocolates, ice cream, cherry braised pork chops or just plain sipping. It is best described as "cherry pie in a bottle." Serve chilled and enjoy."

Dubuque, IA



Yes. It has been a long time since we did a wine review.  So, to make sure Jennie stops 'wine'ing about when we're going to do one, here we go.  UNCORKED AND ALL CRUNKED.

What are we reviewing today?  A dessert table wine.  Why is table wine called table wine?  I don't know but when I find out I'll make sure to blog about it.  What is in this wines' table? CHERRIES.  I know what you're thinking, "Wine isn't made from cherries douchenozzle!  They make wine from grapes and baby tears, and maybe a little virgin sweat for good measure.  Cherries are not grapes nor are they baby tears nor virgin sweatiness."

Yes, wine is made from grapes.  Usually.  But this wine is made from cherries and baby tears.  I should know, I saw them wringing out the babies when we were there sampling their extraordinarily enticing elixirs of evil.  I can't say for certain that there is also any virgin sweat in this stuff, there might be, but the people working there said they were from Iowa and Illinois, not Virginia.

So, what does this taste like? Juicy Juice for moms who host parties with costume jewellery and need something light and actually good tasting before they get into the hard stuff.  Like Franzia.  Or maybe Boones Farm if they're really going to get crazy and need to do it cheap. 

If you sniff the glass you'll get a very sweet aroma.  Your first thought should probably be, "This probably is going to taste like a champagne spritzer."  If any other thought flows through your head you are either dead or don't drink very much adult grape juice.  The next logical progression would probably be to grimace and milk the hell out of that one glass for the next 18 hours of gossip and drunken Desperate Housewife tales of debauchery and hot mailmen (or women.  We're inclusive around here).

The start is very crisp - this is a pretty dry dessert wine. You get quite a lot of fruit and not a whole lot of anything else.  It's labelled "sweet" after all; which it is I guess, as in "it doesn't taste like turpentine or baboon ass".  I'm assuming by "sweet" they actually meant, "yes, this is made out of friggin' CHERRIES. It will get you drunk as hell because it's kind of fizzy and bubbly and you think it's a chick drink."  Then you wake up in the drunk tank on the morning edition of TMZ with a huge picture of yourself dry humping Janet Jackson or something weird like that.

For the ability to get you rolling and tasting actually pretty good, and for putting your friends to shame when they try to chug your new found "chick drink," this wine gets 4 belches out of 5.


Yes, my husband's humor is just that special.

This Sweet Cherry Wine is made by Stone Cliff WineryThese cats are out of Dubuque and housed in a repurposed brewery.  We picked this wine up directly from their tasting room, though it's also easy to find at HyVee.

As Mike has already relayed, this is a tasty dessert wine.  The cherry flavor is dark without being too heavy.  If you've ever tried the berry wines from the Amanas, this is one step lighter.

It is excellent with dark chocolate.  I had it one night with a nice 60% dark chocolate square and the next with just plain old chocolate chips.  Good for sipping on the couch, bundled up in the blankets as you watch the leaves blow around.  I imagine it's good slightly warmed.

The only downside is that this doesn't last too well opened in the fridge.  We had half a bottle left and returned to it 3 days later.  The taste had definitely changed - the finish was a little harder than before.  That could have something to do with our fridge, who knows.

I would definitely buy this again.  4 corks out of 5.  

A Visit to the Vet

As any pet owner knows, your endearing and lovable fur baby is an ongoing expense.

Seriously not staged ... as if you could stage cats ...
There’s the food, litter or pickup baggies, collars/leashes, and toys (or outfits if you’re that kind of owner ... which we are not ...).

Then there’s the vet.

We recently took our kitties in for their annual vet visit.  I’m not a stickler for precise yearly visits as our cats are in-door only.  We take them in every 1.5 years or so.

We hadn’t gone to the vet since we moved last May so I first had to find a new provider.  An internet search directed me to an animal hospital on our side of town and with a military discount – score!

One of the problems with the vet, just like human doctors, is that you really can’t budget properly until you’ve established yourself with a place and know what to expect.

I decided to budget $300 to get Ajax and Draco up to speed on exams and shots.

I was pleasantly surprised to have majorly overbudgeted for our visit.

For one cat, our bill totaled:

·        Wellness Exam:                   $38.13
·        Annual Vaccine (FVRCP):  $17.61
·        Rabies Shot (1 year):          $19.13

That brought our total for 2 cats to $149.74 and then we got a military discount of $7.49 off (not major, but every little bit helps!).

All in all, we paid $142.25 for the cats.  Given that we don’t have to bring them back for another year, that’s quite the deal.

Except that we did.  My adorable fuzzer Draco has been peeing outside of the box lately.  He's always had accidents here and there, but it was starting to be every day and in our laundry.  I suspected he had a kitty UTI so we took in him.

Turns out I was right.  He was just getting over one, which makes me feel bad we didn't get him in sooner, but now we've got some antibiotics.

I knew this visit would be expensive.  Here's our tab:

Office Visit:                        $44.81
Cystocentesis:                    $18.45
Lab Work:                          $32.91
Pills:                                   $22.04

With tax + our military discount, we racked up $113.76.
Totally worth it, since cats can die from untreated UTIs.  But unexpected nonetheless.  Will be keeping an eye on Draco over the next few weeks.  

We also found a plug-in diffuser that has some hormone that calms cats and helps to prevent accidents.  It's called Feliway and it's made a big difference.  We had our first accident in about three weeks and it was a very small piddle.  The cats are strangely more cuddly too, which is not a complaint!

How much do you usually spent at the vet?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day of the Dead Reflections

Halloween, Saiham, All Soul's Day, Dia de Muertos, All Saint's Day

It's no surprise that many cultures have celebrations of death in the time after harvest and before winter's first snowfall. 

The nights are longer, the fields are barren, the trees are shedding their leaves, and summer flowers have shriveled and retreated.

Cemeteries are fascinating places where life and death mingle freely.  Some people think that visiting a cemetery for fun is exceedingly creepy.

I find them full of history, art, and peacefulness.  After all, cemeteries may house the dead, but the layout is designed for the living.

Mike and I recently spent a morning exploring Oak Hill Cemetery, established in 1854. It's near my work and I've always been curious about it.

We were surprised to find several military sites, ranging from the War of the Rebel to WWII.

As we walked around, voicing names that haven't been spoken out loud in decades, one thing that struck me was how early people died in life.

It's a historical fact that we're slowly extending our life expectancy, but it's different when you see how short a person's life once was in stone.

A gravestone with a cloth draped over it signifies that the person died early or unexpectedly.
I noticed over and over again that people commonly lived for about 50 years.  Even those who had death dates into the 1930s weren't living for very long.

It got me thinking somberly about the future.  One question has haunted me in recent days since our visit:

What would I do differently if I knew I would only live until 50?

That's barely over 20 years for me. 
I admit that I don't have a concrete answer to that.  No cute little list of things that I would change.

I've always believed life is short and previous.  Made it my goal to live with as few regrets as possible.  Or to at least avoid being the source of those regrets for myself and others.

If I were a superstitious person, this spelling plus seeing a dead deer in the cemetery would have sent me packing.
Maybe it's the changing of the seasons.  Maybe it's the lingering thoughts of the cemetery.  But I've been thinking a lot about life and death lately.  The passing of one form of existence into another.

Our lives have been greatly complicated as of late.  We recently learned that Mike is deploying overseas.  Can't provide any other details, but we will spend the majority of 2012 apart.

We also have two weeks to go until my next doctor's appointment.  A diagnosis will be welcomed, but it will change things.  To what extent remains unforeseen.

It's fitting that the month of Thanksgiving should start by honoring the dead.  

We would do well to not only remember those who walked before us, but to examine the times in our own lives that have been marked by a symbolic death - the passing of a relationship, a move to a new area, the end of a job.

Our very essence is outlined by these transitions.