Monthly Archives: September 2011

Friday cat blogging.

Extreme close-ups from odd angles…

Ultimate workout playlist.

Here’s the thing.

I am a flipper.

If the iPod is set on random while I am exercising and a song not fitting my mood at that very moment comes on, I will flip and flip and flip until I find one that does. Even with 3,000 songs on the darn device, I need specific types of songs during specific parts of my workout.

I know what you are thinking, why not set up playlists?

One of these days I need to stop being lazy and do that, especially with this set of songs key to any awesome workout lasting approximately 35 minutes:

  • Killing Me Softly With His Song – The Fugees
  • Lightning Crashes – Live
  • The Distance – Cake
  • Hymn – Edguy
  • It’s My Life – Bon Jovi
  • New York Groove – KISS
  • Little Red Corvette – Prince
  • Sleeping Sun – Nightwish

If it is a longer workout towards 50 minutes, I might add in:

  • Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac (before “Hymn”)
  • Punk Rock Girl – Dead Milkmen (before “New York Groove”)
  • Waiting for the End – Linkin Park (before “Sleeping Sun”)

So, what’s on your workout playlist?

Eighteen. Years. Old.


How did the sweet little boy grow to be eighteen and into a young man already? Seems like just yesterday that I met you at your ripe old age of five days old. Those days watching The Lion King together at your Auntie L’s house (19 months old) and visiting the Shedd Aquarium with Grandma and Grandpa (4 1/2 years old) seem so fresh in my mind, even though you may not remember them.

Always proud of what you accomplish in soccer and school, I am even more impressed with the lovely words you spoke earlier this month for your mom and M. You brought so many happy tears throughout the crowd at the wedding, both for what you said and for being such a good kid without giving my big sister much trouble during those tough years you all faced.

You may be considered an adult today, but I know from experience there is still so much to learn and so many more ways to grow. It can be scary, though I think you will do just fine with that process, especially if you keep that sense of humor alive. I cannot wait to see how everything transpires from here on out, from this last year of high school to college to everywhere beyond.


Aunt Rachel

Friday cat blogging.

Mom and Dad are off to their fiftieth high school reunion this weekend. They will also stop and visit Mom’s aunt and uncle on Sunday, who still live in the same house where many family gatherings were held when I was a wee one.

A cat named Killer lived there once upon a time (but doesn’t she look gentle around a certain four-year-old?)…

Redux: Bloggy Boot Camp.

When I first heard Bloggy Boot Camp planned on a Denver stop this year, two reactions popped into my head. First, wow!, a blogging conference where the only cost will be the program ticket, no plane ticket or hotel room needed in a year when saving money and travel time is of utmost importance.  But then, wait a second, is this format worth it to me, someone without kids, someone without a desire to work with many brands?

While I did turn some heads when I explained that I primarily write about chronic illness, I felt mostly at home during the one-day conference. No one knew (until now) that I avoided the sponsor tables and did not participate in the drawing for free stuff. The only freebie I brought home was a copy of the October selection for the SITS book club, Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros. After lunch, no one knew (unless they follow me on my locked Twitter account) that I needed to step out from the “chaos” that any conference brings for a little “me time” to soak in all I learned in the morning sessions.


After attending a session on “Authentic Branding” with Amy Bradley-Hole (@AmyBHole), I felt compelled to take on an overhaul of my “About Me” page. She asked us five questions, noting that we may not have a full answer by the end of her session and that they were meant to set us thinking about whether we are properly branded. (As much as I used to cringe at the word “brand” in regards to blogs, it is true that in order to take blogging from a hobby to something that makes a dent in the bills, a strong “brand” is needed in order for name recognition.)

Five questions to ponder:

  • What are my distinguishing characteristics and personality traits?
  • What are my guiding principles and values?
  • What is my role on the web?
  • What is my promise?
  • What is my story (why I am what I am)?

Answering these five questions is leading to some reconsideration of the information I put forward on the “About Me” pages of both blogs.

The session that followed turned out to be most valuable. As someone who has been stuck in a “woe is me” spot in her life, I know it has shown through in my blogging the past several months. Inspiration from Jillian Tohber Leslie (@catchmyparty) through her presentation on “The Creative Process in Blogging (and Life)” will most certainly lead to getting my blogging (and offline writing) back on track.

Eight tools to get unstuck:

  • 15 minute timed writing sessions. “The only way to fail is to stop writing before the 15 minutes are up.”
  • Look at small goals instead of the big picture. (If I can come up with three blog posts a week that are not all about “woe is me”, I will be happy.)
  • Write now, edit later. (This is huge for me, as someone who likes to edit almost as much as she likes to write.)
  • Keep a Golden Circle. “Cultivate relationships with people who support your creative self and set boundaries with those who do not.”
  • Co-create with your community. Realize you are not alone. (Sound familiar, diabetes online community?)
  • Replenish the well. Make time for yourself so you do not overdraw on your creative bank account.
  • Become an expert from every angle imaginable, deeper not broader.
  • Notice how the universe is conspiring to help you. Inspiration from blog comments, or noticing ideas that suddenly pop up when you least expect them.

“Blog Design Basics: Clean Up Your Act!” by Aimee Giese (aka @Greeblemonkey) and a session on vlogging with Jessica Bern (@bernthis) rounded out what I experienced last Saturday. These two women are people I know now in “real life”. Therefore, I could gush and gush about their sessions, but I have picked a few key ideas I walked away with that resonated.

From Aimee, I learned what I already knew, if that makes any sense. Keep consistent with blog design, keep blog design consistent with personality, revisit the organization of your blog every few months – essentially create a style guide.

From Jessica, I decided I need to stop trying to film vlogs in one take. It is impossible to look casual without filming a few versions and splicing them together in iMovie. She also gave out a few lighting and clothing tips that I will take to heart in my next venture into vlogging.

Thank you, SITS girls, for bringing Bloggy Boot Camp to my “backyard”. In a year when travel is light and money is tight, this should become a valuable experience in helping me take back my blogging from a dark place.

Interview: Healthy Discoveries

The Boulder-Denver area holds a strong blogging and social media community, which became evident to me two years ago at a gathering where I met women from all sorts of backgrounds. That is where I found Jolene Park, nutritionist and founder of Healthy Discoveries.

Over time, Jolene and I connected over several interests, most notably is how we help people with chronic illness, particularly type 2 diabetes. What I do through writing and advocacy as a patient, she does through patient contact. Her practice and business has evolved this year, and I thought it was about time for me to showcase what she is doing.

(Disclaimer: Please note that although she does work with patients, Jolene is not a licensed medical professional. What may work for some people under her care may not work for you. Remember to check with your own licensed medical professionals before making any treatment decisions.)

What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist (in the United States), education wise?

A registered dietitian (RD) must meet the following requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in dietetics from an accredited four-year college or university.
  • A completed internship of at least 900 hours and a passing score on the RD licensing examination.
  • In order to maintain their license, RDs must earn at least 50 continuing education credits every five years.

On the other hand, the requirements for becoming a nutritionist vary greatly, but
nutritionists are not licensed and they adhere to different requirements depending on which state they reside. Some states have no licensing requirements for nutritionists, while other states recognize nutrition certification from various professional associations, but nutritionists are not recognized or connected to the American Dietetic Association.

In general, dietitians tend to supervise menus and food management services in restaurants, hospitals, schools, nursing homes, military bases and other institutions.

Nutritionists tend to work primarily with individuals and assess symptoms through a complete initial nutritional intake (60-90 minutes). Nutritionists consider overall health goals, diet, lifestyle, and family history. This is ideal for those with challenging or chronic health ailments. They customize eating and supplement plans with specific food suggestions including snacks, beverages, and meals.

Nutritionists encourage whole food choices over processed food. They consider blood sugar, gut health and brain chemistry issues along with the mind/body connection of cravings, over-eating, chronic dieting, fatigue issues, metabolism and stress.

For a thorough explanation of “what to do if you want to become a nutritionist” read a thoughtful and comprehensive article from Sally Fallon, president of the Weston Price Foundation.

Tell me about what you do (and have done) as a nutritionist. 

I received my B.A. in Communications from Colorado State University and then I certified in nutrition from the American Academy of Nutrition. I completed most of my nutrition studies through distance learning.

Yet the bulk of my nutrition training has come from 13+ years of continuing education at functional medicine conferences. I have studied with some of the best cardiologists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, gynecologists, neurologists, oncologists, etc. who are incorporating nutrition and cutting edge mind/
body medicine into their private practices. I have learned an enormous amount from these accomplished physicians.

I have since built my career in sharing this comprehensive health information with others. For the past 7 years, I have taught on-site employee health classes for a Fortune 500 company.

I utilize my functional nutrition background and facilitate 1.5 hour, half day and full-day corporate workshops. My topics include effective weight loss techniques, facts about diabetes, heart health, stress management, eating on the run, and more.

I also work with an internal medicine physician in Denver. I work with patients on an individual basis and provide nutritional coaching and support for weight loss, diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, and digestive disorders (including celiac and gluten-intolerance).

Whether I’m working with an individual or a group, I believe it’s important to look at the “whole person”. Food is nourishing and important but so are relationships, relaxation, movement, play, service, etc. I promote individual responsibility and I believe in the power of providing healthful resources. I want the people I work with to feel empowered so they can begin to chose healthier experiences and options as opposed to me always telling them what to do or not do.

How is your approach as a nutritionist different from that of a dietitian when it comes to type 2 diabetes?

When working with diabetic patients, I focus on the positive effects of foods and the abundant food choices that are available to them. I encourage a balance between lean proteins, healthy oils (Omega 3 fats) and non-starchy carbohydrates at every meal. I also try to steer people away from highly processed, refined foods that are full of preservatives. I investigate and try to find out if people might be intolerant to a certain food because things like dairy can often have a negative impact on people’s blood sugar.

But there is no one size fits all approach, it definitely depends on the person, their
individual biochemistry, family history and medications. Cravings, lack of sleep, daily routines (when and what they eat, or how they exercise) can give me big clues as to what is happening metabolically.

What is your best advice for someone who is stuck in the belief that eating real food is expensive (as opposed to processed, pre-packaged food)?

Well, I would say processed, pre-packaged foods that are loaded with artificial
sweeteners, chemicals and unpronounceable ingredients can be expensive too.

Try buying generic over brand names and buy in bulk (things like nuts) to save money. Grocery stores often discount meats up to 70% when they approach their expiration dates so buy several pounds of meats and poultry to store in your freezer when they mark down prices. Drink filtered tap water instead of sodas, juice, bottled water, alcohol, and coffee shop drinks, they are all a huge annual expense.

Buy from one store, gas is expensive too, so find one or two places where the prices are reasonable and and then buy everything there. Clip coupons, plan ahead and check the unit price, big packages are often (but not always) cheaper than small ones. Check out your local farmer’s market for seasonal, fresh and local foods.

And finally, prepare your own meals and plant a small garden if possible. You’ll save hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year by eating at home and not eating out at restaurants or a fast-food drive-thru.

2011 has brought change to your practice – and with it, you are offering Skype consultations to supplement your other income. Can you explain how these work, and might work, for people with type 2 diabetes?

Yes! I have now added Skype consultations as part of my practice. I talk with individuals over the phone or we can video chat via the computer. I usually work with people for a minimum of three sessions, but it depends on each individual and their needs.

In the initial consultation I get a complete history, I look at recent blood results if they are available and then I make recommendations for them to implement for the next 10-14 days.

In the second visit we reassess things, take a look at their food journal, morning blood sugar numbers and discuss the challenges or successes they’ve had in making some changes.

Overall I have found that making one or two changes that are do-able and realistic to the person’s lifestyle and routine can have a dramatic effect on their blood sugar regulation.

(For more of Jolene’s insights, please visit the Healthy Discoveries blog or contact her directly.)

30 Things About My Invisible Illness: The Anxiety Edition.

Today is the last day of 2011′s Invisible Illness Week. The activities that comprised the schedule included new written submissions from people with chronic illness along with highlighted online workshops from past years.

And then there is the “30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know” meme. Last year, I completed the meme about type 2 diabetes. This year, I decided to go a different route and tackle one of my other “invisible” chronic illnesses.

1. The illness I live with is: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

2I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2009

3But I had symptoms since: 1982 – at the age of six years old.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: finding ways to cope with stressful situations before I hyperventilate.

5. Most people assume: I can’t handle bad news or tough work situations. While they can create stress, I need to know the truth and I would rather challenge myself than always take the easy way.

6The hardest part about mornings is: not knowing if I should have a second cup of coffee, as caffeine can certainly raise anxiety levels.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: Love so many, hard to choose one. Scrubs for comedy, Grey’s Anatomy for soapy drama, M*A*S*H for comedy and drama.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: the iPod, both for calming music when I am at heightened anxiety and music to inspire exercise to combat anxiety before it strikes.

9. The hardest part about nights is: when insomnia decides to visit me – sometimes I can’t fall asleep; other times I can’t stay asleep; and my recent favorite, waking up 1-2 hours before my alarm wide awake.

10. Each day I take ? pills & 0 vitamins: I take 1 anti-depressant every day, and then have Ativan available to me as needed.

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: attempt to mediate (it’s harder than it sounds with anxiety at play); practice yoga and pilates moves regularly; and massage is quite soothing to the anxious soul.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Invisible – it can stay invisible if I choose, depending on the situation.

13. Regarding working and career: Dealing with anxiety presents challenges in the workplace, though it gets better with each year as I learn new ways to cope with the stress of deadlines and heavy workloads.

14. People would be surprised to know: that I am not the only one in my family who deals with anxiety issues, that it really does have a genetic connection.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: the actual diagnosis of GAD should have been a relief, that my condition is real, but it did create more anxiety to have that label placed upon me, if that makes any sense.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: travel alone for business and pleasure. Over the years, I’ve made trips on my own to Las Vegas, Dallas, Orlando, New York City, as well as several back to the Midwest. I don’t like to fly, but it’s a necessary evil – and I love staying in a hotel room all by myself.

17. The commercials about my illness: are usually more about the related illness of depression (which I also deal with as a “co-morbid” condition).

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: being as carefree as my parents tell me I was before the first panic attack at the age of six.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: caffeine and alcohol when I am in a period of sustained anxiety. Even a second cup of coffee or a glass of wine can send me in a tailspin during these times.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: being more artsy and crafty (since the actual diagnosis two years ago). I’m learning to knit, and I am coloring and doodling more. This also includes visits to art museums, as well as listening to more classical music.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: do all the things that anxiety has limited me in the past from completely enjoying experiences – from walking across swinging foot bridges to enjoying a spectator sport from the nosebleed seats to smiling and laughing at a social event.

22. My illness has taught me: who accepts me for who I am and who does not; whose support I have and whose I do not.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “It’s not worth crying over”. (It is more than just crying, it is the physical symptoms people cannot see – racing heartbeat, sweating, and at its worst, the hyperventilating.)

24. But I love it when people: talk me through a tough spot, encourage me to take a walk, let me cry it out.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be AWESOME instead” – Barney Stinson (fictional character), “How I Met Your Mother”.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: anxiety is a bitch, but when you learn coping skills, it can be much easier to handle most of the time.

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how much I can do to advocate for myself and others.

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: reminding me of how special I am to them and that I am not defined by the anxiety I sometimes feel (this happens quite a bit, thankfully).

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: it is so incredibly important to debunk myths and confirm suspicions about my chronic conditions.

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: empowered to keep telling my stories of physical and mental invisible illnesses.

Pretending to sleep.

What do you do when the only places you sleep well include everywhere but your own bed?

This insomnia thing is wearing me down, now present for six full months.

Oh, I have tried every single trick in the book. Each work for a few nights, then my body shifts right back to obnoxious sleep patterns.

Through it all, I try try try to stay on top of diet and exercise so as not to disrupt neither blood glucose nor emotions. The former, so far so good. The latter, another story.

(written 9/13/11, morning.)


What do you do when the only places you sleep well include everywhere but your own bed?

Maybe you pretend that you are not in your own bed.

Maybe you pretend you are back in the pillow-filled bed in that Chicago hotel room, the one where you slept for nine hours two straight nights without interruption.

Maybe you pretend you are back in your brother’s basement, lying on a mattress with your mother only a few steps away. Another night when you slept nine hours without interruption.

Maybe you pretend, even if it is emotionally dangerous to keep thinking you would rather be anywhere but where you actually are.

Maybe you pretend, because you know you need to do whatever helps.

(written 9/13/11 afternoon, with every intention of pretending this evening.)

Here we are again – 9/11/2011.

Ten years ago on the evening of 9/10/2001, I watched as Ed McCaffrey suffered a compound leg fracture during Giants-Broncos MNF.

I went to work early the next morning to prepare for our annual department strategy meeting scheduled to begin that afternoon. Turned out not much work got done that day (or really, at all that week) with the news that hit me as soon as I walked in the door.

It was not college graduation or buying a house that made me feel like an adult – it was 9/11/2001. Any remains of childhood innocence vanished for me that day, at the age of twenty-five, as the country witnessed that terrible attack on our own land.


Here we are again, another anniversary of sadness and despair.

Have we, as a country, ever really recovered from it all? Only a few brief moments united until the initial phase of healing ended, until we began to fall into a downward spiral divided.


NBC News used “Hallelujah” to wrap up coverage several nights that horrible week in September 2001, which touched me so very deeply. Though Leonard Cohen wrote it many years before, it had been used in the movie Shrek that was released earlier in 2001. I’ve chosen to share that version here, to convey the sense of innocence that the country felt in the months before September 11, 2001.

Friday cat blogging.




The Kari-cat enjoys some catnip.


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