December 31, 2013

The 2013 Holiday Wrap-Up

June. Yes, I realize the last post from me was in June. And it wasn't until a reader (omg, I have a reader?!) notified me that she needed to know more about how everything has been panning out for me lately that I remembered how badly I really dropped the ball on this whole "daily, weekly....ok, maybe yearly" blogging thing. Sorry to leave you all (aka, my one loyal fan) hanging!

Every year my mom writes a letter to send out with her Christmas cards. Back in the day when I was pretending to be mature - was married (way too young), keeping house, baking cookies, actually decorating for Christmas, and doing all myriad of other grown-up things, just like mom - I wrote a Christmas Letter too.  I think I did it for 2 years. And then I moved to Chicago, got divorced, lost track of my "Master Life Plan," stopped baking cookies and hauling out the decor boxes, and decided I had nothing good to say to anyone, so I stopped writing them. For 10 years. 

But I think this year I might actually have some good things to say. And perhaps this will tie up some of the loose strings I left dangling back in my JUNE post!  So here goes: Jenn's 2013 Holiday Wrap-Up Letter.

Dear Family, Friends and Folks I Don't Know But Love Anyway,

Wow. What a year! It's been an odd one (both literally and figuratively) in the Jenn-of-All-Trades household, and true to tradition, odd years have been good to me. A little sad to say goodbye to 2013 in all honesty, but rocking with anticipation for what 2014 could potentially bring.

Love
Unfortunately, the beginning of 2013 saw the demise of a long-term relationship that I had harboured some big hopes for. But I have come to realize just how ok the ending of that relationship has turned out to be with the the advent of a new (and better) one. I met Jason in September and have spent the past 3 months in a haze of new-love bliss that just reeks of kittens and puppies and all things cute and schmoopy. He's awesome. I don't need to say much more than that, but I will anyway cause I feel the necessity to brag a bit about my boy. He's an ICU nurse and is currently in grad school to be an even better nurse (which means he's ridiculously smart and talented and caring and compassionate). He's adorable..er..HOT, and can do handstand pushups (Rawr.). His family is amazing and introduced me to my first tailgating experience over Thanksgiving for which I will be forever grateful. And he has the sweetest pup there ever was who I have adopted wholeheartedly as my own fur baby at this point. Bliss, I tell you. Delicious bliss. I'm looking very forward to spending the new year and possibly beyond with this man.

Life
This year saw the completion of my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. In August I competed with some of the most amazing athletes in the world - or rather, just against my own desire to finish - in the Lifetime Fitness Chicago Triathlon. I swam, biked and ran a great race and finished in under 4 hours (3:51:55) placing 6th in the Athena division. 

I also ran another half marathon, 15K and 5K (my first "destination" race outside of Chicago - the Detroit Stuffing Strut with Jason and his sister on Thanksgiving Day) in 2013 with no plans any time soon to stop distance running or training. My 2014 schedule includes the Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon in February in New Orleans, the annual Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago in March (that I will run with Jason's family), and then the Tough Mudder in May - I might be crazy, but I'm pretty pumped for this one. 

I haven't decided on another tri or marathon yet, but I would imagine as the season draws closer that I'll be hankering to get back on that bike and back in that pool and back on the trail to train hard again. It's become almost an annual tradition at this point to be working on something all summer long.

Happiness
Quitting my full time job in May of 2013 was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I left behind a stable paycheck, health insurance, and a 7 year position for a life of part-time work, schedule shifting, crappy paychecks and ZERO security for the future, and I couldn't be happier. Turns out I really love the people I have met through my new position at Fleet Feet, Blue Man Group still keeps me interested and entertained and even tutoring has had its joyous moments (between a couple of small temper tantrums). My own company (Kiss Kiss Cabaret) even took the honours of being voted the "Best Burlesque Troupe" in Chicago by The Chicago Reader - a local newspaper with a huge following and excellent street-cred when it comes to putting all-important paying butts in the ever-wanting empty seats.

But the best news I could have hoped for this year came to me just before Christmas in the form of an Angel Investor for Kiss Kiss Cabaret. We're getting our club! And we break ground in January. I'd swear it's a Christmas Miracle - but I know it's really because of the amount of work both Chris and I have put into making this happen, not just this year, but over the past 3 years that our little company has been growing. And now someone has taken notice and has offered us the chance of a lifetime to live out our dream. Damned if we're not going to take it! So I'd say the future looks bright. Challenging and complicated and laden with more, much more, hard work ahead of us, but bright. And shiny. And with loads of optimism to kick off the new year. Wish us luck!

So here's to 2014! May it be all that it's cracked up to be and then some. I'm ready for it.

Wishing You and Yours a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Jenn

June 12, 2013

The Swim, The Bike, The Run

I'm not even gonna talk about how long it's been since I wrote a post.  Instead, let's just jump into exactly where I am with my training for the Chicago Triathlon in August!

I understand why, as far as human evolution is concerned, that we are programmed to forget pain.  If I remembered pain, I wouldn't ever want to try anything again, or push harder or faster than I have before to achieve my goals, so this is a worthwhile tool.  But I do have to say that I wish, so often, that I could bottle up the feeling of "AWESOME" that I get after I have spent some quality time in the pool.  It would make me want to swim more often than I do.  I did about 2000m yesterday (2K), officially longer than I will have to spend in the water during the race, and I felt GREAT when I was finished.  Nevermind the fact that I then proceeded to eat like I haven't seen food before (swimming does that to me) which essentially undid all the good I had just done in the pool, but the bottom line is, I felt like I could conquer the world.  Where is that feeling when the "I don't wannas" creep up?  But swimming has always been my strongest sport and the one that I chose first when I started this whole "exercise thing" in my quest to lose weight.  I've actually gotten pretty good and pretty fast now too, so I'm proud of my pool accomplishments and never really worry about having to complete that portion of the race.

Running, on the other hand, has not been my cup of tea recently.  I am training for the Chicago Women's Half Marathon which I will run next weekend (June 23rd) to officially bring me to over twice the distance that I will cover in the Tri - you know, just to make sure I can :)  I had planned to run a 15K on Monday of this week and then follow that up with an 11 miler this weekend to make sure I had the distance in me again before I taper.  But apparently I DON'T have the distance in me again at least as far as my body aches and pains are concerned and now I'm worried.

The weather has changed in Chicago again.  It's been a humid week and my allergies are starting to act up like crazy.  I thought I had managed to escape them this year with the colder weather, but not so much.  Whatever bloom gets in my nose and wreaks havoc has taken up residency in my sinus cavities and I want to rip my nose off my face.  Monday was a bad day for this and it just ended up not being my day to run 9+ miles.  I will also admit that I set out with a bit of a defeatist attitude and my bus card, which never helps, because dammit I'm tired and it was always in the back of my head that I could quit and bus it home.  I had a very long weekend of work and I just would have rather sat in front of the television all day.  But I didn't.  I got out there and ran.

Everything started out ok, I stayed slow and on my midfoot as much as possible.  I've been having trouble with heel striking which I think is causing a lot of my aches and pains, so I'm trying to stay present when I run and stay forward on my foot instead of pounding the pavement so hard.  I was tired and feeling the humidity by mile 4, but all was still good enough to keep plodding on.  I headed north on the Lakefront trail but underestimated in my head how much a mile and a half would be, so that always sets me back when I have to run way further than my mental picture of where I have to run to.  It makes me feel tired - more tired than I actually am.  I stopped for fuel (a GU pack) on my way back, but despite the extra fuel, I just crashed.  I slowed to a walk at 7 miles.  Then started the deal making.  Run to the next tree and you can walk for a minute.  You HAVE to run to Fullerton to the drinking fountain and then we can walk some more.  On and on.  Ugh. Finally, I HAD to run because I was out of time! I was supposed to report to work within a half hour and I was a good 3 miles from home.  I made it to the bus and perspired profusely the entire way home, noticing how badly my hip and knee were starting to tense up.  When I got up to exit the bus I felt the first wave of nausea pass over me and just prayed that I wouldn't pass out in the middle of the intersection.

*Odd side note - when I am not on birth control, I will often feel faint and have on occasion passed out after a run as my heart rate drops back down to lower than where it usually sits.  When I was on birth control, I never had an issue with this.  But I'm off it again (I hate what it does to my body and completely prevents me from losing weight, not to mention that I don't currently have a reason for it...boohoo...) and now the fainting spells have returned.  Obviously, it's completely hormonal, and the spells are absolutely tied to my monthly schedule - they are worse at certain times just after ovulation, and I perform my best on the first and second day of my period.  Anyone else have an issue with this?*

Anyway - I got home as fast as I could, but at this point my knee had completely locked up, stiffness everywhere, and I couldn't get ice on it fast enough.  This is an injury that happened during the marathon last year.  I was favouring my right hip which I thought was a case of bursitis (fluid and swelling around the hip ball socket that causes pain when the joint moves) but my massage therapist thinks it's actually my TFL - the muscle at the top of the hip that wraps around the hip bone and attaches to the quad muscle.  Since I was being ginger with my right leg, I was probably putting more pressure on my left to compensate and sure enough, my left knee locked up during the marathon at mile 16 and I ran with it like that for another 10 miles.  It was NOT comfortable.  And now BOTH of these aches are back again to haunt me.

I made it to 8 miles and called it a day.  And now I'm freaking out about being vastly undertrained for this Half Marathon next weekend.  The suggestions from fellow runners are to taper NOW, get off of the aches and pains and just rest, and to attempt the race with run/walk intervals, which is now my plan.  Thankfully one of my best running friends (Kathy from the Runner's for Boston night) is doing this one with me at 6 minute, 1 minute intervals, and so I'm planning on running it with her and doing the best that I can.

Which brings me to the bike, which I did today.  Do you have any idea how much easier it is to ride with air in your tires?  HAHAH!  This sounds like a no-brainer, but I am still really new with this whole bike thing, and after STRUGGLING for 30 miles during Bike The Drive over the long weekend in May, I was convinced that I was going to continue to hate the bike.  Until some guy at the end of the race yelled at me to get some air in my tires, and I heeded his advice.  I pulled up to the air cart and actually watched the guy fill my tires and it was like a light-bulb went off.  I have super thin tri-bike tires, which are very different from your standard large & fat easy-rider tire.  There is an air-release valve on these tires that actually needs to be ready to accept air!  And here I was trying and trying and failing to put air into my tires because I had never actually released that valve.  Duh.  So today I put in 12 miles (half of the Tri distance) in HALF the time that it took me to do it before, and all because I actually had full tires.  Amazing.  And - I don't hate the bike.  My butt only hurts half as much as it did before (it still hurts, but not as bad), my legs are way less fatigued, and since buying actual bike gloves, my hands also didn't take the beating that they did before having gloves.  Amazing what a little gear and knowledge can do for you!  Not to mention that I feel like a total badass when I'm suited-up properly.  Yeah baby - I own the road!

So all in all, it's coming along.  I still have a long way to go, but I'm not letting a small running set-back derail my entire process.  Thankfully, all three exercises are cross-training activities, so all work the muscle groups differently and swimming is non-impact.  There is hope for me yet.  And after the Half, I'll be able to lower my mileage again to a more manageable level every week so that I can start combining sports into brick workouts - usually swim/bike and then bike/run.  I would like to maintain a half marathon distance over the long term just in case I want to start training for another marathon.  It will make my life much easier.  But I think backing off to maintain a 10-miler every few weeks will suffice and will be much easier on my joints in the long run.  Heh...long run. Runner's jokes.  Haha.

In other news, I started my job at Fleet Feet Chicago this week.  More on that in another blog, but I won't let it go without saying that working for a national running store absolutely validates all this training.  And intimidates the crap out of me sometimes - but didn't someone smart say that we should do something that scares us every day?  Words to live by!

May 27, 2013

Past the Point of Pain

As suspected, my world has been turned on its head.  I think I'm doing ok so far with the adjustment, but it's going to take some getting used to.

I've spent my first week of "unemployment" - and by that I mean only 3 part time jobs and the cabaret to occupy my time, working my ass off.  That wasn't really what I expected.  And actually, that isn't TOTALLY true, I did take a small amount of time to myself on Friday to do some retail therapy.  But for the most part, my days and hours have been full, with the biggest difference being that I'm actually enjoying almost everything that filling them. Breakthrough!

A few people have commented this week that I seem happier and lighter.  And I guess that's the case.  I do feel like a large weight has been lifted.  While on the other hand, a bigger one has dropped.

It's been a while since I've posted, and that can tend to happen when I don't feel like I have a lot of good things to say.  I've been "going through it" as they say and struggling, HARD, with my still-recent break-up, and not really the break-up itself, but more the fact that he has moved on already to another woman.  And that breaks my heart.

I know a few things of myself:

1. I like to feel needed.
2. I have big issues around feeling as though I've been replaced.
3. Both of the above items lead me to constantly push to be "The Best" in everything I do in the hopes that someone will love me and need me so much because I'm so awesome that they would never dream about leaving me and moving on to someone else.  And apparently this time I wasn't awesome enough. Like the time before that, and the time before that, and the...yeah, you get the picture.

I didn't say it wasn't fucked up.  It is. But it makes sense to me and it's the thing I'm having the worst time of right now.  Nothing makes you feel "not the best" more than breaking up with someone and then having that someone move on to someone new in record time.  Even though the breakup was mutual and the right thing to do, I feel all kinds of wrong about it. Like there's something terribly wrong with me.  Notice that I'm not talking about anything being "wrong" with him? Even though there was plenty that wasn't right between the two of us, this is about me and my issues, and right now all of those make him, for some odd reason, look like a Saint.  He's NOT a Saint.  In fact, it will probably only be a matter of time, if it hasn't already happened, that the new girlfriend finds out some of those un-Saintly things as well.  But it doesn't help me to think about that.  Nothing seems to help right now.  Except the all too wise "Time." I hate Time. I don't want this to take Time. Another thing I know of myself?  I'm impatient.  I like instant gratification. I have ZERO use for Time and all the things it might teach me in my life.

It wasn't until I was on mile 16 of Bike The Drive yesterday that it really started to make sense.  A phrase popped into my head: "You have to push past the point of pain to get to the next level."  At that point, the pain was purely physical.  It was my first LONG bike ride of the training season, and actually, my first ever, being that my Tri bike is brand spanking new and I've put in less than 6 hours on it combined up to yesterday.  My quads were ANGRY with me.  My ass was SCREAMING for me to stop.  I had already done the south loop, 7 miles down to The Museum of Science and Industry, and 7 miles back to Jackson, and now I was on the north loop headed towards Bryn Mawr and thinking about every 10 pedal revolutions that I'd maybe turn around at the next rest stop.

And that's when I decided that I wasn't going to stop.  I was going to do all 30 miles of the Drive if it killed me.  And in that moment I got a little misty-eyed.  Time, you bastard, you taught me a damn lesson.  Sometimes you have to push past the point of physical pain, mental pain, emotional pain to learn something about yourself that jumping into a new relationship will NOT fix, no matter how good it might feel.  Denying that sense of instant gratification makes me a better person.  A stronger person.

I'm an endurance athlete.  I can say that now with pure confidence.  I know all too well the feeling of wanting to quit, of wanting to throw in the towel, to sit down and relax and to take the easy way out.  But I also know the feeling of digging deep to a place I had no idea even existed within me a few years ago.  To push past that point of pain and to learn immense and important things about my stamina and ability and drive in the process.  To feel REALLY proud of who I am and what I have become in the face of incredible challenges.

It's like that with relationships too.  Right now, this is incredibly painful.  I feel unimportant, and unneeded, and unloved.  Some parts of me even feel worthless because if I was worth as much to him as he said I was, then why was I so easy to replace? His actions have flown in the face of all the loving words he ever spoke to me while we were a "We" and I am plagued by the thoughts of how it was when we first got together and how that must be again for him now.  And all of that hurts, so much.

But I am in a time of great flux and great challenges in my life.  This is just another one.  I don't know and I can't see who I will be on the other side of this.  But if history and time have proven anything, it's that I can be confident that I will be better than ok.  And for now, that has to be enough to live on.  Pedal hard up the hill, because on the other side, you get to coast with the wind in your face and enjoy the exerted effort.

For now, I will just have to learn how to like Time and how to make the most of it because eventually I know it will be my friend again.  I'm pushing past the pain and digging deep, and keeping an open mind for what I might find while I'm down here.

May 14, 2013

So Many Things!...Gone Running...

I spent my allotted blog time this morning getting an extra 15 minutes of sleep and going for a morning run.  So I will just leave you with this instead:

Photo: Morning run face. Dude, it's getting hot out there! Woohoo!
Morning Run Face in 65 degree humidity.  Awww yeah.
Also - 

1.  It's my last week at my full time job so things are nuts.
2.  I got the job at the running store, so you're looking at Fleet Feet's newest employee. Huzzah!
3.  I managed to sustain the 7 pound weight loss from the cleanse, but that was all she wrote, so I'm on to just better eating habits right now in the quest for more poundage down the toilet.
4.  This Chinese company has been bugging me to secure the rights to my company's website name through all the Chinese web domains and it's really bugging me.  Of course they want me to shell out for them to make them money and if I don't, this other company is going to buy them up and start posting stuff on them that has nothing to do with us.  It's China, so part of me doesn't care, but I feel like they're taking something that belongs to me and we don't have the kind of cash right now to buy out all the Chinese domains.  Grrr.

How's that for a sampler package?  Haha.

I find it totally appropriate that the City business class that I'm taking on Friday morning - my last official day of work before turning in my keys - is called "How to Start and Stay in Business."  I think that's kicking things off on exactly the right foot.

Stay tuned folks.  Let's DO this thing!

May 7, 2013

The Verdict

Seven days later and she writes a blog folks.  I know, I know - I suppose since this blog is all about me being busy, I don't get to use that as an excuse, right?  I'm gonna get better at this "Daily Blogging" thing.

In the meantime, I will say a lot has happened this week.  Newsflash.  Duh.

7 days into my whole foods cleanse and I was 7 pounds down!  WOOOHOOO!  That was a happy sight.  Notice I'm using the word "was," in past tense.  For whatever reason I was up by a pound on the scale this morning.  Not-a-happy-face.  I have a couple of theories about why, but I'm going to be disappointed if any of them are true:

1. I've been eating past 9pm at night.  Only the prescribed foods still, but later than I was eating in the first week cause, dammit, I'm busy!  I don't get home until 8:30pm and then still have to squeeze in exercise.  Ugh.  Which also means I've been going to bed later.  It sucks, but I know I lose more weight when I go to bed on time.  No more late night TV.  Put down the remote, Jenn.
2. I've been exercising again.  Hard.  Zumba Saturday morning. 15 miles on the bike on Sunday. Back out running last night (only 2 miles, but my calf is better! Yey!). 45 minutes in the pool tonight.  I'm hungrier, so I'm eating more, but still only the whole foods that I've been eating all week.  Sure, sure, there's a "muscle gain" thing - but I honestly think that my body does something else when I start working that hard. I don't want to say I'm averse to exercise, but I have a remarkable ability to hold on to every ounce of myself and then some whenever I start to sweat.  It's irritating.
3. Turkey breakfast sausages.  I missed my breakfast meats, especially not being able to eat eggs.  So I cracked open a package of Jenny-O.  It's still turkey, but I did note on the package that there are some preservatives in there.  And since this is a detox cleanse, I picture my newly clean innards attacking those preservative and salt invaders and hanging on to them to the death.  They're fighting a wee battle in my belly, and I'm concerned that the salt is winning.  Must drown it in more green tea and water...

This week I'm just going to try to hang on.  I'm low on food at home and, no surprise, I'm booked every night this week, so getting groceries is going to be a sporadic timing adventure.  The only thing I am CRAVING is The Starbucks Breakfast Sandwich, and coffee.  Damn you Breakfast Sandwich.  Why can't I quit you?

I know from this little experiment that I have 2 for-sure nemeses (oooh, the plural of nemesis is nemeses...thank you spell check): soda (and by extension, artificial sweeteners), and wheat.  Week 3 is going to involve more of the same for me but I'm going to add back in milk, yogurt, eggs, and ALL fruits including bananas and oranges.  I don't think those are problem foods for me.  I'm going to try to keep cheese out for another week and coffee for the time being.  My suspicion is that my body will lose easier if I lose the glutens in my diet.  Which really sucks, cause I love me a loaf of bread, and beer.

This week I'm doing the same thing I did last week, but I'm journaling my food and counting my calories to get a good idea of how many calories I'm consuming each day of clean foods while maintaining (hopefully) more loss on the scale.  Once I have that number, I'll keep that as may daily goal once I start adding other things back in.  It's all a numbers game, and the body is not a calculator (as I know only too well) - but since my initial BIG loss, I haven't been able to find that daily limit that allows me to continue to lose and feed me enough to sustain my heavy training schedule.  And this year I want to lose more weight, safely, while training for my big race.  I'm so tired of being in the same place!  I'm just scared that losing another large amount of weight is going to involve forgoing heavy exercise for a few months so that my body can let go of what it needs to without being concerned with holding on to my fat for energy!

In other news, I only have 8 more days on the job, training my replacement until I am FREE.  The next 8 days also involve a film system install to one of our theaters, an HVAC (new heating and air conditioning unit) install in another theater, a repair to a unit in the 3rd space, training the new General Manager for 4 hours a day, city licensing all day tomorrow, and FOUR shows at Blue Man this week.  Someone call me on Monday and see if I'm still alive.

I'm worried about maintaining this momentum when I'm officially done with my full-time job to push that time and energy in to my own company and committing just as many hours to that as I have been when fully employed (well, maybe just a FEW less).  Right now all I want to do is sleep for a month.  And train for the Tri.  I know it's going to take a period of adjustment for sure, but my biggest issue is that I hate that I can't see the future.  Crazy right?  But it's true - if I knew what my life was going to look like in a couple of weeks, I would relax a bit about it I'm sure.  But I don't - no one does - so I'm just going to have to wait it out and go through the transition process as best I can.

The BEST part is that week 2 of my transition is going to happen in Vegas - and there's NOTHING wrong with that.  More on that to come!

April 30, 2013

Cleanse

After seeing the scale start to creep back up slowly over the past 4 months, I decided that it is high time to nip this issue in the bud and get my body (and brain) back on track.  The incessant stress since Christmas - CHRISTMAS - has done bad, bad things to my eating habits and my waistline. And despite attempting a couple of "resets" nothing has stuck except the additional poundage on my ass, so it's apparently time to get hard on myself and try to regain some of my health so that I'm really ready to make these big changes in my life in the best of all possible states.

A couple of my friends have had varying degrees of success recently with cleanse programs.  I'm not going to name them because I'm still of the belief that any "diet" that costs you more than the foods you put on your plate on a regular basis is a fad, and I refuse to buy into them.  ALL of my weight was lost with the development of healthy habits, calorie counting and exercise.  Plain and simple.  And hard.  Very, very hard.  But actually, when I go back and read my food journals from those early days, not as hard as I've made it out to be now.  The key is actually SIMPLICITY.  Simple rules to live by, simple eating, cutting out the crap.  The hard part is being of sound mind enough to stick to it and when you have a good day, to wake up the next morning and do it again.

But anyway, the idea of a whole foods "cleanse" that I didn't have to pay for was still appealing to me, so I downloaded some of the food lists from these programs and they all seem to say pretty much the same thing - to reset your digestive system, eliminate wheat, gluten, soy, milk, eggs, sugar and a couple of other GMO foods (bananas, oranges and peanuts) and opt for whole grains, fruits and veggies and healthy oils.  Duh.  It's perfectly simple.  So for the next 2 weeks, this is what I'm going to do.  I am taking a daily multivitamin and calcium, so I'm not stripping my body of everything.  And while I'm laid up nursing this calf injury, this is the best time to reset my diet because I'm not burning a ton of calories every week that I need to replace.

This made me laugh this morning.  I'm such a bad ass for doing this.  HA!

Day One wasn't easy.  Probably because I totally had the "Last Supper" binge of Cheetos and Diet Coke on Sunday night.  (I mean - why?)  So when 4pm rolled around I was totally craving sugar, caffeine and pretty much any other junk food I could think of to shove in my face.  I didn't ignore my craving.  I fed it with a Raw Bar of nuts and fruit and a large iced green tea.  It worked well enough to get me through the slump.  I even managed to go out to a show with a 2 drink minimum last night and ordered a delicious iced pomegranate green tea instead of 2 glasses of red wine, which I would have preferred.  Thank goodness my motivation is still high.  I can imagine that as the weeks progress, this is going to get tedious.  But I know I'm going to start feeling better really soon.  So I'm going to hang on.  I'm not starving for anything but junk.  And that says a lot right there.

Today I put cashew butter in my oatmeal.  Already Day Two is so much better.  I have a new favorite breakfast item.  Oh damn it was so good.  And already in the mirror this morning my eyes are brighter and my face is starting to clear up.  I was broken out so badly it was gross.  Bye bye toxins.  Not nice knowin ya.

I'll keep you posted on the rest of the week.  My prep for food this week included baking fresh cod and chicken breasts in toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds.  So delicious.  And ever since I discovered my baby crockpot for cooking grains, I won't make them any other way.  So I cooked a big batch of wild rice and quinoa to go with the meats, and then another batch of organic pumpkin pie oatmeal (clean eating recipe below) which is what I added the cashew butter to this morning.  Picked up some huge bags of carrots, peppers, baby squash, kale, cherry tomatoes and berries, berries, berries.  I don't like not being able to eat eggs or yogurt right now.  Those are the two things that I will be adding back in rather quickly once this is over, but I'm going to at least try adding back in only organic and local stuff to try to stay as clean as possible.

The whole point of this is to feel good about it.  But I think I'm going to if I can hang on to it long enough.  The initial period is two weeks.  So let's see what good habits I can re-develop in two weeks (drinking water and cutting out soda is a BIG one right off the bat).  I'm not sure I'm a person who can live clean all the time, I like ice cream and fast food too much, but it's the moderation that I need to get back, and perhaps doing something that makes me feel really great about myself will jumpstart that process for me again.

Organic Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

1 cup organic steel cut oats
1 cup water
1 cup organic unsweetened almond milk
3/4 cup organic canned pumpkin
2 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp organic vanilla
2 packets Truvia or Stevia (you can use organic maple syrup or honey to sweeten this as well, but my current plan eliminates those)

Mix all the above ingredients in a 4-cup slow cooker (Little Dipper) and set to high.  Cook for 4 hours - or until it's done to your liking.  Many people call this "overnight oatmeal" but with grains, I don't leave them to cook overnight even on low because they have too high a tendency to burn around the edges and get too mushy.  4 hours is plenty of time to cook this dish.

Enjoy!

April 26, 2013

Of Baby Elephants

I have a baby elephant.  Well, she's not really MY baby elephant, but I do "support" her through life by sending my annual donations in her name.  The strains of "Baby Mine" from Disney's Dumbo are playing softly in the background right now.  Actually, I lie, right now Pandora has chosen NIN's "Closer" - HA! I'm not even going to bother going to that ironic place.

ANYWAY...back to my baby elephant...

Her name is Sities, and she lives in Nairobi at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  If you've never heard of this incredible organization, do yourself a favour and Google them, or click on the link above.  These guys are amazing.  They rescue orphaned baby elephants who have been separated from their mothers too young and would otherwise die in the wild.  The story of how Dame Daphne Sheldrick figured out the formula for elephants milk is worth a read all on its own, but every week I get a newsletter from the Foundation, chock full of stories about new rescues, updates on the current eles (elephants), and information about the various Foundation locations and all their giant, and sometimes not-so-giant, grey residents.


The email this week read "Sities Graduates to Ithumba" in the subject header, so I had to click on it immediately.  And sure enough, my wee babe has made a big move!  She has been doing so well in her development at the constant-care nursery that they decided to move her and 2 other elephants to essentially a larger play pen.  At Ithumba, the elephants are re-introduced to wild herds and are allowed to make new families and friends while still under supervision from the keepers.  So for the next few months (to possibly years), Sities will be slowly introduced into a hopefully long-term relationship with a new family.  It's an elephant adoption!  I have adopted her from a loving person and monetary standpoint.  But there is only so much I can do for her as a human.  Now she needs to be adopted by her elephant family and I will continue to follow her journey as she attempts to do so.


In a way my heart is heavy.  No one ever wants to see their babies grow up and move on.  But chances are that Sities will outlive me, and one day she will have her own babies, and her own herd, and I am so hopeful that the re-naturalization process for her is an easy one and that she is accepted into her new peer group and continues to grow and flourish as she has in the orphanage.

When I was in Nairobi, I missed out on my chance to meet Sities by mere hours.  I had traveled there with my brother and cousins, but was leaving on the second leg of my trip to join a friend in Istanbul while the rest of my crew stayed in Nairobi for an additional 2 days.  I had done so much raving about Sheldrick though, and had adopted Sities months earlier in hopes that I would meet her when I was there, that they went anyway and made sure to document the trip for me.  

A picture of Sities' pen door
Every day during certain hours, tourists are allowed into the orphanage to meet the baby elephants and watch them play.  My brother sent back reports that I had a "bad, little elephant" since when the visitors all went to see the eles playing in the mud pit, my little Sities decided that the people looked more fun and charged at the group, making a woman drop her camera in the mid pit.  I honestly had to laugh.  That definitely sounds like "my kid."


Playing in the Mud Pit!

Not a month after I got home from that trip, my brother emailed me excitedly.  He had just watched the Canadian television show called "The Nature of Things with David Suzuki" and they were featuring a program called "For The Love Of Elephants" featuring the documented rescue of Sities!  I had no idea when I adopted her that her story had been filmed.  It is one of the most beautiful and moving documentaries that I have seen and I have watched it countless times since it originally aired.  Unfortunately, it isn't available in the US, so I will try to post the video here so that you can see it if you are interested.  But the best news about all of this, is that the film crews have continued to follow Sities' progress and her transfer to Ithumba is being made into the second part of the documentary!  I can't wait to see it.  Here is the video of her transfer though that is posted on the Trust's youTube channel.  Oh man, if you're an elephant lover like I am, a) you need to know about these guys, and b) there's stuff to keep you entertained here for DAYS.

If you are interested in adopting an elephant yourself or would like more information about Sheldrick, please do check out their website, Facebook page, and youTube channel.




"From your head to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Cute as can be, baby of mine"



April 24, 2013

Sitting Still?

I'm sitting behind the front desk listening to the Zumba tunes and watching all the other people in class sweat it out.  No fair.  The diagnosis on my calf this morning?  Rest.  No running, no Zumba for at least a week.  So sitting behind the desk is all I get to do.  Boo!  I am not a fan.  At least I still have the green light to swim and bike.

What I am a fan of is my massage therapist.  He beats me up, but it's the good kind of pain.  I told him this morning that I think I may have psychosomatically caused this injury because I just really wanted a massage. He laughed at me and then said I might actually be right.  Power of positive thinking right?  Or negative in this case.  My brain is a powerful tool for working in my favour most days.  So I guess the moral of the story is that I should listen to myself more often and do what I want for ME before I cause any more damage.

I stopped seeing Angelo (my massage therapist) right after running the marathon. Because I didn't feel like I "deserved" it anymore without the 10+ hours of heavy training every week.  But perhaps if I indulged more often in a bi-weekly rub down, I would indulge less in things that aren't as healthy for me.  A treat is a treat - and massages are expensive, but they serve a dual purpose - they make me feel like I'm treating myself AND they keep my body in good working order so that I can keep up with my insane schedule.  I'm taking note.  I haven't overeaten today, and I honestly credit the morning massage for the rest of the day's healthier behaviours.

Except perhaps this confession: I applied for another job today.  Yes, you can call me crazy - but I honestly wouldn't try to do EVERYTHING if I got this job.  It's at a running store.  So there is some part of me that feels like if I work in a Zumba studio and a running store while I'm putting my own business together that I won't lose track of my fitness goals along the way.  I mean - I'll HAVE to work out.

But honestly, I think this is just me getting scared that I'm not going to make it.  That I'm going to leave the only piece of security that I have at the end of May and fall flat on my ass in front of everyone.  I'm terrified that I won't have enough money to live.  And that fear is making me a crazy person as far as earning money now is concerned.  I work far too many jobs, I'm far too stressed, I don't have enough time for anyone or anything, but I'm doing it because I feel like I have to.  It's only going to be this pace for the next 4 weeks, but then what?  Sink or swim.  I really, really hope that I have made the right decision here.

An ideal schedule for me would be working 3-4 evenings a week, half days on weekends and then having the majority of my day-time hours to focus on the cabaret and training for the Tri.  Right now my Blue Man schedule is inconsistent, which is the only bad thing about that gig.  But at least I get my schedule a month in advance so I can schedule other part-time jobs around it.  Dance SPA is every Wednesday night and Saturday morning, and tutoring is every Thursday morning.  So really, if I could pick up a consistent Tuesday/Thursday night and occasional weekend gig, that would be ideal.  Man.  Never in my life did I ever think I would be going back to WANTING to work part-time nights and evenings gigs.  I used to hate that.  Actually, I still do hate that, but the way I look at it is that it's a temporary schedule for the greater gain of spending the rest of the time working for myself.  Until I am able to support myself on my own company only and then I can quit everything else!  That will be a happy day indeed.

Side Note - this is the medal design for the Women's Half Marathon this year.  SO PRETTY!  They did a Facebook poll to ask for three words describing why you were running this race, or that described the race to you.  I thought they were going to choose ONE to inscribe on the medallion itself.  Nope - all of those submissions made it onto the material part of it.  Including mine (which was probably a lot of other people's too) right in the center of the pic! Live. Love. Run.  I'm so excited to get one of these babies on June 23rd.

But for the time being, and until my calf says I can run...back to trying to sitting still.

April 23, 2013

This Is Where It Hurts

So much for blog posting every day.  I really am trying.  But girl is BUSY, and I still haven't taken this on as a big part of my "job" yet.  So for now we will just have to suffice with "every day when I can" blogs.  Forgive me in advance, because this blog is a 3-in-1!

The weekend was a blur.  Saturday I busied myself working 3 of my howevermany jobs - up early to get to the Zumba studio after a late night Friday at my show, featuring the ladies of PUR in Indianapolis.  Oh man, they killed it.  Doing an amazing set of acts to the music of "Nine."  Since I'm a huge musical theatre fan, this was right up my alley and the audience loved it!

Then it was a few hours of accounting work for my company, getting the books up to date before heading over to call the 7pm show of Blue Man.  I grabbed a Red Box movie on the way home (Anna Karenina), but what was I thinking?  I was out cold on the couch not even 30 minutes in.

Sunday was the first day of sun that we have seen in over 3 weeks.  And I had the day OFF!!!  Miracle of miracles.  Having seen the weather forecast, I had already made a date with my new tri bike to see how far I could push myself.  The bike makes me very nervous - I don't like riding in traffic and I need to ride in traffic for at least 2.5 miles to get to the trails.  But I had a mission - to return the Red Box movie to the location I got it from (even though I found out after that you can return them to ANY box...doh) and then return home, hopefully in one piece.

After sleeping in until 12:30pm (mmmm...sleep) and watching the rest of the movie that I dosed through the night before (it was ok), I strapped on my fanny pack and my Garmin, filled up and locked in my water bottles, and was out the door with Trillium (my new bike).  

The toughest part about this new bike thing is the pedals and getting my feet into them.  And then getting my feet OUT of them when I want to stop.  I opted for the run-of-the-mill strapped pedals because spending another $400 on tri shoes and clips on top of a $1,700 bike almost made me want to throw up a little in my mouth.  Plus, who's kidding who?  I'm no pro.  Just the idea of getting my feet in and out of regular straps makes me feel like a badass on the streets, so we're gonna stick with mastering that skill for the time being.  And between you, me and my parents who saw me do it, not 30 minutes after the purchase of said bike in the parking lot outside the bike store attempting to do a victory lap, I failed to extract my foot on the first stop and keeled over in the most comical of all moves, knocking into the side of a red Ford Focus.  Oops.  My bike had its first "ding" 30 minutes out of the gate (car was fine).  Hence my nerves about executing a similar move in traffic.

I won't lie - I had a couple of minor heart attacks on Sunday.  Got honked at by an aggressive cabbie.  Decided to take a break at a stop sign and didn't realize the car beside me was trying to turn right and was waiting for me to go.  Almost took out a small child on roller blades who dodged into my lane (good thing those new brakes are still pretty tight).  But all in all, I made it to the Red Box and back, unscathed and flying high from adrenaline and endorphins.  And dudes - Trillium can MOVE.  I wasn't even messing around with the high gears this first trip out and already I was moving a speeds higher than I've ever experienced before once I got to the trails.  She is SO light, and such a huge difference from my Easy Rider "Roxie" who weighs about 30 pounds and makes me sweat not 5 minutes into a ride.  But I will say - the next mission - PADDED PANTS.  My ass is sore.  Very, very sore.  But the pain is worth it.  The glory of the wind in your face trumps the discomfort of the saddle.

Sunday night I ventured into the city to see 'American Idiot' at the Cadillac Palace Theater - Broadway In Chicago.  I loved every bit of it.  I'd be a terrible theater critic because I honestly like almost everything I see.  Unless it's REALLY terrible, I can usually find pretty awesome qualities in everything about live theater, and having worked in it for so many years from a variety of different angles, I really appreciate the hard work that goes into it.  Call me a lemming, but I also derive much of my own enthusiasm and excitement from the crowd around me.  And the audience at Sunday night's show was absolutely over-the-moon for this show.  Music fans are a bit of a different breed from musical theatre fans - and since this is a rock musical based off the songs of Green Day, the people in this audience were there to see a concert.  And that's exactly what they got.  It was a full-blown Green Day concert with a plot.  Gotta love that.  The choreography and effects were particularly outstanding.  I can't get over the undying energy of those actors - to headbang with such ferocity and still hit their notes without being breathy.  Wow.  Great night out.  I'm still getting used to doing things by myself.  But it's nights like this where I go where I want, see what I want, eat what I want and feel what I want that I appreciate being single and totally in control of my own life.  Sometimes I am struck by loneliness and wishing that I had someone to share these awesome experiences with, but then I remember how nice it is to be greedy sometimes and keep all of it for myself.  Sunday was a full day just for me, and I squeezed it for all the good juice it was worth.

If Sunday was a day for me, yesterday was a never-ending day of distractions and working for everyone else.  As are all Mondays.  It never fails that I hot the ground running on Monday mornings and have usually answered about 16 emails before I even get out of bed.  This is a week of deadlines and projects for me and I'm finding it hard to get even my regular job duties done, let alone everything else I have on the schedule for this week. (Shhh, don't tell anyone I'm blog writing in the middle of the day instead of getting other work done - but really, this is also on the "To Do" list now, so something's gotta give.)

Monday and Tuesday at my full-time job are accounting days.  I pull reports, cut checks and spend a lot of hours on Quickbooks.  Add to that the looming end of the month which also means payroll for my own company and a mess of other monthly items that need to be finished before May 1.  As far as Kiss Kiss Cabaret is concerned, this week is the deadline for a new ad campaign that we're launching in May.  Today is the print deadline for our design imagery, so there has been a flurry of emails (77 and counting in one email chain alone) to get that copy finalized and delivered to the printers.  Which lead to the realization that our website needed some updates, and our Dropbox folders of company imagery are a mess, and the Facebook account needs this and Twitter and Tumbler need that...it's a never ending list of things to do.  The good news is, I still love it all when it isn't totally annoying and exhausting!

Yesterday evening was the Run for Boston - a reprieve I had hoped from the day and all of my other responsibilities.  I was running with my good friend Kathy and was super excited to see her.  I haven't seen her since she ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in November, which I was also supposed to run but was nursing a foot injury from the Marathon.  The evening was brilliant; warm and sunny and a perfect breeze off the lake. 
There were so many runners signed up for the event that RAM ended up moving the start to the Lincoln Park Zoo so that we could run on the Lakefront Trail instead of on city streets.  I jogged over from work and found the group and got in line for my $20 t-shirt to benefit the Boston ONE Fund for all the families and people killed and injured last Monday in Boston.  I got one of the last shirts available (they were sold out by 15 minutes after 6pm).  We all gathered as they played the National Anthem, which made me tear up.  Like I've said before - it's a terrible reason to get together, and looking around at the rest of the runners there all in blue and yellow, their hats off to reserve a minute of silence and the flag at half mast, was an emotional trigger for me.  Such a beautiful night after such a horrific event.

After the Run. We're glowing!
Unfortunately, Kathy had the bad luck of a terrible cab driver and so she missed out on the ceremony of the event and the huge cheer that went up as all the runners took off north on the Lake Front Path.  Determined not to run without her, I waited at the start point while we were on the phone trying to find each other in the park.  I finally spotted her awesome pink jacket coming from where the runners were headed and jogged to meet up with her.  A quick hug was exchanged and we were off in hot pursuit of the larger group.  It was totally awesome running with this girl.  She too has lost over 100 pounds and looks just fantastic.  And our paces finally match up!  We're both coming back off long-ish breaks - her from her Half Marathon, me from the full, and we're both training to run the Women's Half Marathon together in June.  Then she goes on to train for the full Chicago Marathon this year while I will head up her support crew!  We didn't totally catch the group, but we did catch up with a few of the run/walkers at the turn-around point.

This is where it hurts...
But my calf was really tight.  I should have stopped at 2.5 miles.  I didn't.  I wanted to push through it and make it to the finish - for Kathy, for Boston, and for my stubborn self.  Wrong choice.  I limped off the finish point to find a tree to stretch.  After a walk back to my office, my leg was still in pain, and it's no better today.  I have been nursing this injury for a week already.  Two weeks ago I strained my left calf muscle - most likely from ramping up my training too quickly with two days of running longer miles and two days of Zumba (read: bouncing on my toes for an hour) in one week.  I knew it hurt, and that I should probably rest it.  So I did.  For a whole week.  I did swim and I did bike and I did do LOW impact Zumba (taking out all of the jumping), but I didn't run and I didn't bounce.  Still no bueno.  I knew it was still sore before my run yesterday, but by the time we were done I was visibly limping and every push off my left foot made it feel like my calf muscle was going to snap away from my Achilles tendon. DAMMIT.  I'm starting to worry at this point that the Marathon may have ruined me - I have done nothing but nurse low grade injuries since I finished that race.  But I have also gained some weight back and haven't been training as much, so I really need to get smarter about this and make a slower training plan.  Too much, too soon and now I'm benched for about a month in the running department.  We'll see.  I'm making appointments with my chiropractor and massage therapist for tomorrow so that I can hopefully nip this pain and recovery in the bud.  I'm also planning to start a pseudo-cleanse diet to try to get my body and weight loss back on track in the next couple of weeks.  It is time.  No more nonsense.

And finally, to end this epic post and my 3 days of crazy, it was my ex-boyfriend's birthday last night.  I really do try to stay friends with the guys I date, because honestly, I date some really great (just not great for me) guys.  So I wanted to go out and get a drink with him and some of the friends that I met through him while we were together.  Not to mention, I had a birthday gift for him that's been under my bed since Christmas that really needed to get out from under my bed...the cats were complaining about a lack of hiding space.  So I ventured out after my run, and meet-up with Kathy, and pulled calf, and knocking back a few Advil to see him at one of our go-to restaurant pubs.  It was nice.  And weird.  The first 5 minutes of greeting everyone was even a bit bizarre.  I'm that girl that broke his heart (and broke mine too in the process) and I haven't seen any of these people since we were together and in some cases not at all this year.  But eventually everyone dropped their guards back down to "friendly socializing status" and I ended up having a pretty good night.  The goodbyes were equally as awkward (do we hug? shake hands? argh...), but I arrived home to a text message from him saying that he loved my birthday gift (I got him a home brew kit), that he was really happy I came out, and that he was glad to see me.  Phew.  So hopefully we can continue on the friend level.  It's hard, and it isn't necessary, but sometimes I feel like I'm short on people in my life who really know me, and he's someone who does.  And isn't that what good friendships are made of?

April 19, 2013

A City Education

I'm composing this blog while I'm on hold with the bank.  These things happen.

The first step to being in business for yourself is getting out of bed in the morning.  I say this because I know this is an area in which I am troubled.  I love my bed.  It's really, really comfortable.  I never want to GO to bed, until I'm in bed, and then I never want to get out of it.  I know I'm not alone in this.

Anyway, this morning was important because it was one of the FREE Small Business workshops that are offered by the City of Chicago for new businesses.  But it was early in the morning on top of a full string of early mornings and late nights this week.  I'm exhausted.  Not gonna lie.  I've already talked about how emotional I've been this week.  So all I wanted to do this morning was to roll over and hit snooze again.

But this little voice in my head sleepily chirped, "Dude, you're in business for yourself now and this is what being in business for yourself means. Get your ass out of bed and DO IT."  So I did.  But only after responding to a series of emails in bed.  Smart phones are good for something.

This morning's class was where everyone should start: The ABC's of Starting a Business in the City of Chicago.  Now - I already own my business.  We've been in operation for two and a half years.  But what we're doing now is only a fraction of what the business will hopefully grow to become, so I want to be as prepared as possible, especially when dealing with the City.

Armed with my extra-large Dunkin Donuts coffee and a banana, I found the welcome packet of information for the course and my certification check-in (after I have completed 9 of these business classes offered by the City, I get "Business Certified" with a pretty certificate and everything that I can hang on the wall - who knows what it will mean in the long run of things, but hey, it's cheaper than getting an MBA!).  I took my seat and waited for the class to start.

All in all, I'm really glad I went.  It was a really good overview - most things I already know, but some things that I didn't and definitely some avenues that I need to take away and brush up on.  But education is key.  One of the main things that I wrote down and circled from today is "DO THE RESEARCH".  You need to know everything there is to know about your own business and holding your cards close to your chest, thinking that you have all the answers to everything is not the right way to proceed in this game.  I have always been afraid that someone else will steal my ideas and run with them before I have a chance to get there, so I have kept a lot of secrets about my plans.  Well - the proverbial cat is now out of the bag, and so there shall be no more secrets.  I need to be able to talk to the full extent about my business and my plans.  I need to sell myself and my vision.  I am going to need education and help and networking to get me to my end goal and those people need to know about my dreams.  What I have to have confidence in is that no one else in this world is me.  And I am the one with this vision in my head.  I was the only one in that room today who was starting the kind of business that I will one day have...but there were three people there starting Thai food restaurants.  So if they can carry on knowing that their competition was sitting in the same room, then so can I.

After the session was over, I went down to the Office of the Registrar to clear up some other licensing issues with the Greenhouse.  Over the years, I have developed a few contacts at City Hall who absolutely make my life easier.  Sheryl is one of them.  She knows when she sees me exactly what I'm there for, and such was the case today.  She took my documents and emerged 15 minutes later with the news that the holds on our account had been cleared.  And then, when I mentioned that I was pleased that I could finally get our City Licenses which had expired on Monday mailed to me, she said "Well let me go get those for you right now!"  Another 10 minutes and I was good to go, documents in hand and a smile on my face.  While I was waiting, I posted my good news on Facebook and told Sheryl that I had given her a great shout-out.  She was tickled pink.  She even got a little misty-eyed.  Everyone that shows up in her office is there to complain.  Money makes people crazy, and most of the time she is dealing with people who are there to fight water bills or parking tickets or other issues in which they feel that the City has wronged them.  So I told her I wanted to write her supervisor a letter to sing her praises.  She jumped up and down and practically hugged me and then ran to get her information so I could mail her boss.  And then she turned around and said "Any questions you have, any permits you need with this new business, you know where to find me.  Come to me and I'll make sure the stuff you need gets to the people who need to see it."  Customer service win!

And as my partner said to me later: "Just proof that honey catches more flies than vinegar!"