Thursday, July 24, 2014

Was it a lifesaver? Or was it a small curse?


Remember back a few years when I was dealing with debilitating headaches that it seemed like no one would be able to figure out? (April and May of 2009, to be exact.) After a relatively short period dealing with the unbearable pain (about a month…but it felt like an eternity!), I finally saw an ENT that diagnosed me with Cluster Headaches.

After the diagnosis, I was prescribed a drug called Propranolol, as well as given some pain meds that go right to the source of the pain and knock it out when it attacks, and life moved on relatively pleasantly.

The propranolol was the key, though. It’s a beta blocker that acts as a prophylaxis to my headaches. For some unknown reason, it keeps them from happening. And for that, I've been very, very grateful! (They don’t know what causes Clusters. Whether it’s a stress thing, or a tired thing, or a food thing. So it makes it tough to treat them, I guess.)

One of the “side-effects” of propranolol is a lowered heart rate. I don’t want to get all medicalish and shit in this post, but this is an important fact to note. I have been taking 160 mgs of propranolol every day for the past 5 years, because when I try to back off and take less of it, it’s not long before I start having regular headaches again…and not long after that before they become debilitating.

Since that time, I have been gaining more and more weight. However, I work out regularly. I eat pretty well a majority of the time. But I continue to get bigger and bigger. I wrote a post recently  about how frustrating it can be to be in a body that just doesn't seem to respond to anything I try to do to make it healthier. I've written posts like that several times throughout the years that I've been blogging, hoping I can help make a small difference, I guess. But also, they’re a little cathartic. ::shrugs:: Meh.

I've been thinking a LOT lately that my propranolol might not be helping. So I tried looking it up online…checking to see if there’s any info out there about how propranolol affects the standard workout for an otherwise healthy adult. And I found NOTHING. Lots of articles and tidbits about how it will affect your heart rate, obvs, and even questions from people wondering if they can workout while they take the drug. (The answer is generally, yes…depending on why you’re taking it, of course. Some people take it for blood pressure issues, and hypertension. Those folks should totally consult with their doc before they start a workout regimen!) But nothing about how a standard workout for an otherwise healthy individual might be changed by the drug.

Apparently, I was going to need a heart rate monitor in order to see what was happening, specifically, during my workouts. I asked my personal trainer for suggestions, and he said he had a couple of clients that used a model from Polar that had worked pretty well for them, so I went ahead and got one of those babies for myself.

Everyone has a maximum heart rate they should be keeping in mind when they’re working out. We all start at 220, for some reason. It’s based on something called the Karvonen formula. I don’t understand where it came from, and Google isn't entirely helpful with it, but it’s what a lot of gym-goers use as their basis for calculation, so I’ma stick with that for the purposes of this post. So we subtract my age from 220, and we come up with a max heart rate of 180.

Technically, according to some genetic testing I've gone through the trouble of having done (I've gone to great lengths to try to figure out how to deal with this weight issue in as natural of a way as possible!), I should be working at 70 – 85% of my max heart rate 40% of the time, and 50 – 65% of my max heart rate 60% of the time. Since I work out with my personal trainer twice a week, we count those as the 40%, and then the rest of my workouts (3 – 4 times on other days of the week) are the 60%. They mostly consist of a great deal of walking, but can also include some tougher yoga or Pilates classes/videos.

Looking back at that math up above, the targets are as follows:
40% of workouts = working towards a heart rate of 126 – 153
60% of workouts = working towards a heart rate of 90 – 117

Unfortunately, with the propranolol in my system, my max heart rate I could reach during a heart rate test on the treadmill was 128.

128. That was IT.

My first training appointment when I wore the monitor, I worked out for 44 minutes, and burned a total of 173 calories.

That? Was depressing.

But it was a step towards figuring shit out. I set the monitor to work for Leo one day, so he could see how high his heart rate was getting during his workouts with his personal trainer. I was on the treadmill at the gym while he was doing that, and when he was done, he came over and said, “So, is this right?”, showing me the results from the monitor on his arm. He had worked out for 41 minutes, and burned 384 calories.

Not gonna lie, I went to the bathroom after that and started crying. It just was not fair. I worked out longer and harder than that guy a majority of the time, and fuck if my body just wasn't going to let me see any good result from it! (And yeah, he’s a dude, and their bodies are different from a woman’s, and he’s 3 years younger than me, too, and blahblahblah…it still sucked to see those numbers, ok?)

Maintaining the 90 – 117 heart rate level during my 60%-of-the-time workouts was easier. I achieve that without issue by doing interval training on hills and with speed adjustments while on the treadmill every time I work out.

But it very quickly became clear that there was no way in hell I would ever be able to achieve that 85% of my max heart rate at 153 beats per minute! Not while I’m on the propranolol. And I’m pretty sure that without being able to work up to that number, those workouts with my personal trainer twice a week are pretty much a waste of time. (Not 100%...don’t get me wrong. I know they’re helping me to build strength and keep healthy. But as far as seeing a better result? Not gonna happen!)

So I’m weaning off of it again. I've tried this once before, but it didn't go very well. However, I’m in a completely different place with my brain now. I see my hypnotherapist once a week and we’re focusing on the headaches (as well as the hemifacial spasm) during our current sessions. My nutritionist has a supplement called “Migranol” that hopefully will help during this weaning period. And I see my chiropractor/acupuncturist every week as well. He can help with this sort of shit, too.

Western meds aren't always the answer. And I don’t wanna be stuck on a medicine for these headaches for the rest of my life, anyway! So we’ll attack them in an alternate fashion, goddammit.

As of today, I have been weaning off the propranolol for 1 week. I expect it will take 4 – 6 full weeks before I can stop taking it all together. But, surprisingly, it’s already having an effect on my workouts. The day after I skipped my first evening dose, my heart rate went up to 132 during my workout with my personal trainer. Tuesday, I worked out for 1 hour and burned 273 calories. My heart rate got up to 134 that day. The previous week, I worked out for 44 minutes, and burned only 189 cals, and only got to a max heart rate of 124. Yesterday (which was one of my 60% days), I worked out for 1 hour 22 minutes, and burned 357 cals with a max heart rate of 123 achieved.

Clearly, this heart rate thing makes a difference in calorie burn, is mah point.

For some reason, even though I’m somewhat overedumacated when it comes to my health and exercise and all that good stuff (I've been working at remaining as fit as possible, off and on, since I was a kid. I attended a fat farm/weight loss camp when I was 12. I started doing Jazzercize with mom when I got back from camp that year. I went on Jenny Craig for the first time when I was 15. It’s been a long road filled with all the info you can imagine would be related to eating healthy, working out, and living an active life), I have not made that heart rate connection with my failing to lose weight in spite of my consistent workout routine for the last 3 years.

I wanted to get this info out there so others dealing with this shit have a resource to turn to. At least a beginning to work from, if nothing else. It’s not an excuse…but it IS an explanation. A scientific one, no less! And we need more studies on this stuff, I think. More information to be able to help propranolol users maintain an optimal health level while they’re using the med. Or at least to help them realize the full impact it will have on them while using it.

In my case, the propranolol basically saved my life when I knew of no other way to save it. But it’s also keeping me from being able to burn fat, and God knows what else my body is failing to do properly without being able to reach those higher heart rate levels. (Well, and science knows, too. I’m sure science is well aware of all the things my body can be doing more optimally when I reach a higher heart rate level during my tougher workouts twice a week, right? I just don’t know how to look all that sciency stuff up. But if you happen to know it, and can tell me in layman’s terms what else it might be doing for me, feel free to share!)


Maybe I’ll always have to be on some small amount of propranolol. But maybe not. I sure hope not! In the meantime, I think I've won this one small battle. And that gives me hope for the future ones I have in store. Being positive is half of the battle, anyway, right? And now that I have that positive outlook? The war might need to just watch it’s back, honey…

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Regular Ol' Blog Post

It's been a bit since I posted, I know. I've been wanting to write a few things, and I plan on putting them up over the next couple of weeks, but I haven't quite gotten around to it thanks to traveling, appointments when I'm home, traveling some more, and then there was that whole basement remodel thing...

All of that is done for a bit. The remodel is finished. I haven't put up final pics yet because, while we've officially "moved" back in down there, we haven't officially decorated. So art is all over the place, and the furniture isn't in it's final resting place, in some cases. And then there's the shuffleboard table, which was delivered, but then taken away because it was BROKEN, and now we're waiting for the new one to come in, so the space it's supposed to be in looks very empty and sad without it.

But in good time, I will get those photos up, I promise! We are very, very, VERY happy with it. I had my first official workout in my updated workout room today, in fact, and it was wonderful. The storm that moved through earlier this week was barely audible from the new TV area. Last week, when we had friends over for the 4th of July, we were all able to head down there after we'd had enough of the outdoors, and play pinball, darts, and watch a little Eddie Izzard to finish off the night.

I have yet to get our office set back up, though. So that's still in the works. And we need to figure out some temp shelving to put up in the workout room that we can use until we can allow ourselves to get a real cabinet system installed in there somehow or another. That's less fun than needing to hang art up in the main living space, not gonna lie!

All of our traveling is slowing down a bit, too. We'll be at home a majority of the time for the next 2 months, for a change. Yay! We really love traveling and visiting and all that good stuff, but it's funny how being away can really mess with a daily routine!

So, back to the basics, friends. I hope everyone is having a great summer so far! I'll put up a new post again soon...


Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Basement Update - almost to the finish line!

The basement is...ALMOST FINISHED! 

Still not 100% yet, but we're at the finishing stages now. We hung the TV today and we're going to start moving some pieces of furniture today. So the next pictures I put up will be of the space in it's completed form. We're still missing a few cabinet doors (they got warped when they went through the sander, so they had to be re-done), and have to finish the workout room, but we can start living in there again as early as the first part of next week! ::cue the choir of angels::

Here are the finished areas:
The bar! There's sparkling wine all up in that fridge already...we're moving glasses down in there today.
This hallway is getting a shuffleboard table put in it today...WOO!
I took this picture last week, so it looks a bit different than it does now, but that there, my friends? Is a Secret Bookcase Door. THAT IS RIGHT. 
Here's what the fireplace looks like now that the wainscot is in, and the lighting is installed (albeit temporary lighting as far as sconces go...), and with the bookcase door opened.
This is how much space the fucking television takes up when it's lying on the floor waiting to be installed. Oh, and that's more of the special wainscoting we had installed.
Here's the game room area. Temporary sconces over the fireplace aside, I think it looks FAB.YOU.LUSS,
So that's how we head into the weekend. Ready to move stuff back down the stairs. I can't WAIT to just hang out down there, guys. I can not WAIT!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Basement update - Tile is all done, and it looks *so good*

The tile was installed last week, y'all! I don't know why, but getting to this stage in the project makes me feel like I can start planning on when we'll be able to move back in, now. Like, getting the office all back into place, and moving the computer back down there, and I wanna clean the floors, and not have any more construction people in our house for a while...

Ah, daring to dream!

I'd expect the finishes will take another couple of weeks, really. But we should be at the point of being able to move furniture back in and stuff pretty soon. We'll see. ::sigh::

So here are the latest pictures as of this week. Tile is in! Now we're painting the wainscot finish and will hopefully have that installed on Friday. The bookcase is being installed today, along with all the cabinet hardware. I can't wait to see that all put in! And my bookcase? SO EXCITED. I'll post those pics tomorrow, probably.
Here's our fireplace, looking more and more finished by the day...
We used the same tile around the fireplace that we used in our master bath shower floor. We had an extra box of it, so we wanted to put it to use. It looks awesome. Everyone is very impressed with how it turned out.
The countertop for the extra seating area went in yesterday. We still need to stain and polyurethane it up, and get some real support brackets instead of the wood ones, but it's cool to see it in place. 
Here's the view of the TV area from the bar seating thing.
The bar is all tiled up, and the upper shelving was hung yesterday. The sink was installed, and the faucet was installed, and the dishwasher was installed...basically, it's almost ready for me to move all my shit in there, finally. WOO!
I'm really happy with how things are turning out. This basement is going to be show-house worthy, me thinks! SO PRETTY!!! (If I do say so myself...;))

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Basement Remodel Update...NOW we're getting somewhere!

The basement project is...getting done. 

That's about the best way I can put it right now! We're accustomed to construction projects going longer than expected. We're not a show on HGTV, and we don't live in LaLa Land, and we're not complete idiots, so we always plan for (a) extra time being spent on a project, and (b) extra money being spent on a project.

This is the reality of the remodel world, about 90% of the time. 

Yeeeaaaars ago I had a bathroom remodeled in our last house about a year after I moved in. Ripped the whole thing out, because everything from the walls to the subfloor needed to be replaced. I met with the contractor, settled on a price, agreed to a week long schedule (it was a really small bathroom!), and Bob's your uncle! Done. 

That was a magical time. ::reflects fondly on the tiny bathroom remodel::

Anyway, this is our third large remodel we've been through. We're prepared for delays. Comparably, there's a small amount of inconvenience involved in this particular project, since we have two living areas in this house. So we've been pretty easy going about the fact that the project began back in February, and still isn't completed at the end of May. 

The painting process was a looong one. It's a large space. And we chose to paint out all of the cabinets, with the hopes that we could maybe use a less expensive wood for them than we would had we chosen to stain them. But also, I decided that a painted cabinet would be better for our space, anyway. That process is not a quick one. 

Now, had there been more than one or two people doing that work, it might've gone faster. But there wasn't. And so 2 weeks went by, and nothing much was changing. All the cabinets were getting painted, but it just seemed slow, is all. Nothing against the ONE GUY that was doing a majority of the work...he was doing so much all on his own! But yeah...one guy. ONE. 

The owner of the contractor company we're using dropped by for a visit on Monday last week and apologized for the extended time the project was taking. I told him not to worry about it, and that we expected it to a certain degree, blahblahblah. We really like this company, and again, the inconvenience isn't too overwhelming, so we're reasonable about it. 

But then on Tuesday, the painter guy that had been working on a majority of the paint down there told me that because of the dark paint we chose, he was going to have to prime the walls, and they hadn't counted on doing that, to which I responded with my head exploding.

I told him that I didn't mean to sound bitchy, and I completely respect all the hard work he's doing, but was he KIDDING ME with that? Because the walls were basically white/light colored walls. And they had KNOWN that we had chosen a dark paint color for over 2 weeks. The samples were all over the goddammed place in the room he was working in! He saw it! HE KNEW IT WAS DARK. Of course we were going to need to prime before starting with the main color!!! AUGH!!!!

Then he said that the following day was going to be his final day on the job, and that was the day Leo and I were leaving town very early in the morning to go to his home town for a wedding so we weren't even going to be able to see the color up on the wall to make sure it was going to be ok, and then my head exploded again.

Fortunately, he told me all that right before I headed to a therapy appointment. And also, I called my main contractor on the way to that therapy appointment to vent and tell him what the painter guy had told me, and I said that this is the kind of job where MULTIPLE painter people should be working to get it completed, and yet there was ONE WHOLE DUDE a majority of the time and that just wasn't fair to us or the dude, and why did they not realize they were going to need to prime the walls before painting them?, and also that apparently no more painting would be done again until this week and by then, the floors would be down and that kind of sucked because protecting the floors would make it take longer, and how about if we hired more people to come in and get this damned paint job done in less than 100 years???

He understood. He's a good dude. I thanked him for letting me vent, and he said that I was always allowed to call him to yell whenever necessary, and then he apparently cracked a whip, and got the paint done, the floors done, the countertop in the bar installed, and the wallpaper put up in the following 3 days.

And THAT is what gets done when you yell at people, folks. Just saying. Acting crazy pays off now and then.

So here we are with completely updated pictures for you! The lighting isn't completed yet, so the pictures are a bit glare-ish and the colors aren't as true as they could be, but it's looking more finished than it has for a while. The floors are great. The wallpaper looks amazing. And I can't wait for the tile to get installed (that's happening this week), and for the wainscoting to get it's final piece added. But in the mean time, here we are!
The floors! Are beautiful!!! They're a high-grade laminate.
This is what that area looks like with the paint and the wallpaper and the floors all put together. YAY!
Our fireplace is turning out to look absolutely perfectly. Now if the sconces I ordered would just arrive...
That corner back there to the right of the fireplace is where the dart board will go. It's pretty perfect for that application.
The sunlight that comes in those windows at about 9 a.m. is very bright. I cannot WAIT til I get to live/work back down in that space again!
This is the hallway that the shuffleboard table will be in...it will go along that wallpapered wall on the left. The bar is at the far end...
The countertop was installed in the bar last week! SO PRETTY. Tile is going up today and tomorrow, so I'll have pics of that early next week when it's all grouted and stuff.
This lighting kind of sucks for showing the paint in the TV area, but there it is. Dark blue from Sherwin Williams called "Gale Force". It's exactly what we wanted. Once the lighting is all installed and stuff, it will show much better.
The office is painted the same color as the game area/fireplace area in the other room. This room used to be RED, so this is quite a dramatic change, and it looks so awesome!
This is just the other side of the office, with the doorway that looks out into the main part of the basement. The paint job is perfect.
So today, the tile guys are working down there, getting all set up and started on the bar area and the fireplace area. Hopefully it'll be a quick and easy job for them. I'll be sure to update with pics of that early next week.

SO EXCITED! The end is in sight, my friends. WOO!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dealing With My Crazy

I had a rough weekend. Leo was away for a bachelor party, and I was alone with my thoughts, my dogs, and my personal version of crazy for a whole 4 days.

Fortunately, I have a friend that spent a lot of the time with me…we ate, we drank, we shopped, we had our nails done. All of those hours spent doing those things were really great for me, mentally.

But the rest of the time wasn't so much. I signed out of Facebook on Friday night, because my reaction to the things being posted by the group at the bachelor party was bothersome and annoying. Saturday was a great distraction from my over-active brain, for much of the day. But then I was alone again with my thoughts, and while I was able to go to bed without too much trouble that night, I did have a stomach ache, and woke up in the middle of the night feeling bothered, and was unable to go back to sleep for a while.

Sunday morning, I was at the end of my rope. I was teary, and even more upset. My stomach was in knots, and things that normally serve as a decent distraction for me (i.e. recorded episodes of Peoples’ Court on my Tivo) did nothing to help. The litigants were ridiculous and the cases were relatively unbelievable. This is troubling in itself!

After a relatively spirited conversation with Leo on the drive home from the airport, I was able to calm down a bit…we spoke more about what was upsetting me, and how he was feeling about what I was saying. My stomach was better. My brain was better. I slept well last night. Today, I feel productive and energetic. I journaled a bit ago, which inspired me to write this post. I’m going to head to the gym when I’m done here. I’ll work on my needlepoint, and mount a couple of finished pieces this afternoon.

Basically, I think I blew a fuse of sorts this weekend. Today, my breaker panel seems to be back in the right mode.

My journaling lead me down a mental realization path that I felt like sharing here, because it’s something I think we all often forget to implement in our daily lives. (I know I do, anyway!) I finished my entry today in a way that really helped me.

"I need to step it up, too. Actions speak louder than words, and this weekend’s activities reinforced that old adage more than anything else has for a long time. I need to think on this, and consider what I can do to be a more loving wife, and a better influence to the people I come into contact with. I think I’ve been so focused on being a better stranger to those I randomly meet, that I’ve lost touch with being a better loved one to the people I’m closest to in my life.

Great…something else to work on! Or is this just a realization of the next thing I need to work on? Regardless, I recognize it now, and will pay attention to it for what it is."

Our actions are what people remember. The way we behave, the way we respond to their presence in our lives, and the way we choose to share our time with them…those things we DO are what sticks with those we connect with, whether it be for a moment, or for an hour, or for many years. At work, at home, or at play, we should be mindful of how our attitude is expressed. Making eye contact and smiling while we make small-talk with the cashier at Trader Joe’s; connecting with our coworkers, and letting them know when we feel overwhelmed and need their help; conversely, telling our coworkers when we need some time alone to get our portion of a project done; going to visit family in order to feel connected to their lives, and to be there in person to express our support of them…

Expressing myself in a positive way is becoming more and more important to me. Not that it hasn’t been important before now. It was just…different, is the thing. This isn’t to say that I don’t have, or don’t allow negative emotions and expression to occur. Some days, there’s a lot of yelling and crying going on. It’s a release that works well for me, and if I didn’t do it, I’d probably get a tumor somewhere, and we all know THAT isn’t good.

I’ve been known to try to drown my emotions in wine and/or vodka. (And cider, and whiskey…la la laaa!)

I might’ve hit some things to express my negative reaction to stuff.

I might’ve tried to eat my way out of those negative feelings, too.

Hell, we aren’t perfect, right? DUH!

I’m trying to work through those negative emotions in healthier ways at this point in life, though. Through a law-hawt of therapy, I’m learning about the base emotions behind those reactions I’ve had all my life, and why they happen that way. My anger is likely a manifestation of fear and loneliness. My poorly-timed attempts at humor, while sometimes welcome, might be a manifestation of my low self-esteem, which again makes me scared of what people might think of me, and that can lead to me being angry at very weird times.

This is getting boring and wordy, so I’d better wrap things up and move on with my day. Net/net, how we behave is important. And don’t think for a second that it isn’t.  We must be accountable for ourselves, and speaking from experience, it’s just nicer to be accountable for our decent and loving actions than it is to have to be accountable for our bad and ugly ones.


So let’s all go out there and be pretty and fun and nice, dammit! It’ll put a smile on your face, I promise. :D

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Basement Project Update - Almost Done!

Ok, not 100% almost done...but we're getting there. :)

The cabinets were installed today!
Our bar area...lookit all that wine storage! We don't have that much wine! Sooo...please send us wine!
The base unit for the TV area is...partially installed. I dunno what's happening there. The guys left at about 2 p.m. So maybe they're coming back tomorrow to finish putting the doors on...? Who knows. My contractor will be here tomorrow to meet with the tile guy, so he can deal with it. That's what they're for! :D
 Our mantle is perfect. Exactly what I wanted:
Super-simple, clean lines...it'll look great painted!
The workout room was our last bastion of storage/usage in the basement during this whole process, and that flooded when a stupid pipe burst a couple weeks ago. Drying out the carpet in there was a lost cause. So we tore that out and have to put in new carpet now. ::sigh:: This is what the room looks like right now:
All those boxes with the green on them there? That's our new floor. It gets installed next week.

And then...THEN...then we will be on our way to completion.

We are soooo ready for completion.