Burger Quest: Bethany Public House

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Today, the Burger Quest took on the ‘burbs at Bethany Public House. Here’s the review!

Meat: 7/10
The meat was ok. The menu didn’t say anything about it being grass-fed. Grass-fed been always earns an extra point in my book. The meat was cooked medium rare and had the right amount of moistness. Personally, I could have been happy with a patty half the size; it was just a TON of meat.

Bun: 7/10
The bun was ok but I usually like the bun a little toasted and super fresh-tasting. This but wasn’t bad by any means, but nothing special either.

Burger:bun ratio: 8/10
I think this is one of the rare occasions the patty might even overpower the bun! There was just so much meat…

Toppings: 7/10
Typical toppings – roma tomatoes, sliced red onions, lettuce, pickles. They were fine – nothing to write home about necessarily, but not terrible either. The menu didn’t say anything about them being local/organic, I would be curious to know.

Condiments: 6/10
The condiments they had were the standard types of condiments with various added ingredients like sugars and additives I’m not crazy about. ): I’m all about the real ingredient, no sugar added types of condiments!

Logistics: 6/10
Although this was a beautiful burger at first glance, it was also a messy, messy burger. I blame the sheer volume of burger, just too much of a good thing, started falling apart within the first bite, EEK.

Fries: 8/10
Larger steak fries that weren’t overly seasoned! You could also substitute sweet potato friends which is always a win in my book.

Total score: 49/70

For a compilation of burger quest reviews to-date, click here if you dare.

Onzie Yoga Gear

As I’ve found myself more or less living in yoga gear these days, I’m frequently on the prowl for quality yoga activewear. A few months back, I stumbled upon Onzie and really liked their designs and also the fact that their products are made in the US. We connected, one thing led to another and now, for the past few weeks I’ve been #gettingflexy in a few of their pieces! I’m frequently asked about yoga activewear recommendations, so here’s my review on the Onzie gear I’ve been wearing!

The capris you see in the pictures above are the “black magic” capris. I must say, it didn’t take too long for me to fall in love with them. AKA want to be wearing them 24/7. I like them because they are fitted yet breathable. They also smooth out imperfections and are a perfect thickness – not so thick that they feel (or actually are) restricting, and not so thin that they feel (or actually are) see-through.  They are opaque, and yes, I tested this with poses like swan and runner’s lunge. (: 

I also really liked the wide flat waistband. A problem I’ve had with other yoga bottoms is that the waistband either hits too high or is too thick, making a weird little fold/bunching of fabric where the top and capris meet. These ones hit at the perfect spot, at least for my body type. 

The stretch factor is another huge one for yoga gear. These capris stretch quite well while still holding their shape. I’ve noticed that many other yoga capris can start to get baggy around the knees and waist or ride up at the bottom, but these maintained their shape incredibly well.

As for the circle bra top, I really love this as well. First and foremost, I love the color. (: Like the capris, the fabric is super soft and breathable, yet sturdy and maintains its shape. I also really love the back, both because I love the criss-cross design and also because it feels really nice to have the least amount of fabric touching as possible, especially during hot yoga classes!

Overall, I really like the fabric, fit and designs of the Onzie products and am looking forward to wearing more. (: 

What factors do you consider when choosing yoga gear? Style? Comfort? Price? Fit? 

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. I have been provided this product free of charge for review by the company and have not been incentivized for a positive review.

Salsa

When I was in high school about 394 years ago, music was a huge part of my life. As in, between rehearsals, classes, lessons, etc., I would average 5 – 6 hours a day in an orchestra or choir-related activity.

Upon arriving to college and deciding to go for 2 degrees in 4 years, work and volunteer all at the same time (bad idea for maintaining sanity, BTW), there was hardly time to sleep, much less be involved in any sort of music group. To go from having music play such a significant role in my life to being more or less nonexistent was pretty terrible, to say the least. I needed an outlet but didn’t have enough time to devote to an orchestra, so I enrolled in a dance class instead – salsa! 

Post UO, I moved to Austin for work and continued dancing, branching out to many other Latin dance styles including merengue, cha cha, samba and my current favorite, Bachata! It was something I still loved and also happened to be an easy social activity to attend alone, which worked out nicely for the girl who moved across the country to a city where she knew a grand total of 0 people. (: 

While out last week, a friend took a short video of me dancing. In the 7ish years of dancing salsa, I had actually only seen 1 other video of me, so it was fun to watch and see what I was doing well and what needed a little (or a lot) of TLC. (: Slowly but surely, I’m making progress!

The 1st video is from the other night and the 2nd video is at one of my first salsa recitals – about 7 years ago!

Carol Dancing

 Each year, a group of friends and I have a tradition of carol dancing at the Trail of Lights.  Carol dancing, meaning performing a Christmas-themed flash mob. This year, we danced to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, “The 12 Days of Christmas” as well as a more secular number, “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. 

Between the rehearsals, dressing up, good friends and the magic of the Trail of Lights, carol dancing is always one of my favorite activities of the year. (:

We sadly didn’t get a great video of us carol dancing down at the Trail of Lights, but just try to imagine us in our outfits above doing the dance in the video below. (A rendition of the 1988 National Aerobics Championship opening) Keep in mind, this is us only after a few hours of beginning to learn the dance – not so bad!

The Ramblers

Reintroducing an “official” element of music into my life was a goal I set this year. (official meaning something I could commit to, would need to practice for & included other musicians). Joining the ACO was part of plan, but because I was waiting for an opening, I was still on the prowl, you could say.

A few weeks into 2014, a chat window from my friend Brenna popped up on Facebook, asking if I’d be interested in joining her husband’s band. My curiosity was piqued, so after wrapping up travel season, I attended one of the band’s rehearsals.

Right off the bat, I enjoyed playing with the group (and I suppose it’s safe to say they enjoyed playing with me as well (;). We started off as 3, but soon after, joined forces with a few other musicians and evolved into a full-fledged jug band. I can’t say I’ve previously played with a group comprising guitars, a washtub bass, accordion, vocals, violin and the occasional fun assortment of castanets/shakers/spoons/etc., but the variety has been fun and our sound has been coming together nicely. (:

As a classically trained musician, I’ve also really enjoyed playing with the group as it’s provided me with the opportunity to peel myself away from sheet music (mostly) and work on fine-tuning my aural skills. While “reading the map” AKA using sheet music has its obvious benefits, it also lends itself to lessening the experience of the other senses…

…such as hearing

…which is kinda important for a musician. 

I was once part of an orchestra where our conductor occasionally had us play in the dark. I think it’s safe to assume anyone walking by was at the very least perplexed, but the awareness gained by not having that visual distraction was pretty profound. During a few concerts, we weren’t allowed to bring our music to the stage, which, at the time was 100% terrifying, but in retrospect, I realize how much better we played (and sounded) during these concerts.

In additional to the technical stuff, the touchy/feely/myspace.com emo side of making music is also something I’ve really been enjoying. There’s something so special about playing with a group, whether we’re talking living room jam sesh or on-stage performance. It triggers a feeling I have a hard time putting into words… I suppose what I can say is that not much else can lead to such a profoundly euphoric sensation. 

I love the feeling of calm that comes with playing – the relaxing energy that permeates through the group and/or crowd. Especially during a time when we’re all so hyper-connected – iPhone becoming 3rd limbs (and yes, I’m the first to plead guilty) – it’s so rewarding to experience the rejuvenation and energy that builds as the music begins: smart phones disappearing, smiles growing, toes tapping and people dancing. Not sure that’ll ever get old. 

Anyway…back to the band…

It’s nearly impossible to summarize our style as it’s pretty eclectic, but if I had to describe it, I’d say we play a pretty eclectic mix comprising old-timey, Tex-Mex, string band, polka, & country.

Here’s a short clip of us playing at a recent Commerce Street Supper Club:

That’s Why We Don’t Quit

Toward the end of last year, I attended Austin Civic Orchestra‘s concert. At the concert, there was a fundraiser – attendees could buy raffle tickets and the winners would get to sit on stage with the orchestra. Before the last song, the conductor drew five winning tickets. As the winners reached the stage, the conductor placed them, one by one, in seats throughout the orchestra – one surrounded by violins, another between brass players, etc.

“Hmm. Where is this going?” I thought.

After seating the winners, the conductor picked up the mic and said something to the following effect:

Most audience members never have the chance to experience what it feels like to play in an orchestra – to know what it feels like to be surrounded by sound, to be immersed with so much energy. It’s one thing to enjoy music from the audience, but to be on stage is an entirely different experience.

Whoa.

Upon hearing this, it seemed so obvious. Being on stage IS a completely different experience, but up until that point, I had never though about it from this perspective. It never even phased me. 

The concert was fantastic – the ACO played a few pieces I’ve either played or am familiar with, which made my connection with the music that much stronger. I was not familiar with one of the pieces, but I ended up really enjoying it. Why? Because the composer, Iannaccone, was at the concert and had given a pre-concert talk about the impetus behind his piece. Context is huge and having the opportunity to hear the composer talk so passionately about his music was a real treat.

Joining the ACO is actually something I’ve had on my mind for a number of years, but for one reason or another, have never auditioned. After attending this concert and realizing (once again) how much of a positive effect classical music has on my life (and the lives of others), I realized I was missing out and quite honestly doing myself a disservice by not playing with an orchestra.

In December, I emailed the conductor about auditioning. I heard back and found out auditions would be in 10 days. As in, I had just 10 days to learn an entire piece. And not “learn a piece” in a half-ass-sight-read-through-it-a-handful-of-times type way, but in a ready-for-an-audition type of way.

dont-Panic
*enter panic mode*

My head immediately flooded with the following: “There’s no way you can prepare a piece in ten days. You should have contacted her sooner so you could have had more time to prepare. Are you kidding? Even if you had known, you would have procrastinated. This is what you get for waiting! Welp, don’t even bother…maybe you can get your act together next year and try out. Wasn’t meant to be. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.”

 Whoa. Hold the phone. Time for a little reality check.

In my quest for heightened self-awareness, I’ve become hyper-aware of how incredibly critical we can be of ourselves. And how unaware we are of it. I myself wasn’t aware until I begin reading up on the topic, such as this really interested article and this really interesting book. (which ironically, or maybe not so ironically, was a required read prior to being allowed to join Camerata.)

I guess the point is, if positive dialog can affect rice, I think it’s safe to assume it can have an effect on people as well.

After “holding the phone” and “getting real” with myself, the following transpired:

“YOU. GOT. THIS. You know you’re good enough and you’ll be ready. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t get in. That’s it. THAT’S. IT. Instead of thinking of it as *only* 10 days, think of it as 10 WHOLE DAYS! 10 EVENINGS!  You got this!!” 

…so I replied to the conductor, letting her know I’d see her on the 14th. Signed, sealed, delivered, BOOM.

It was an intense 10 days as I was traveling for work during the majority of the time. The days were full of work and long drives and the late evenings full of focused hotel room practices, but it felt good. Really really good.

…mostly, I kept reminding myself to feel thankful that violins aren’t too difficult to carry on planes and grateful to not play the cello or bass. 

Praise the lord for hotel mutes. Now if only they could make these for babies & drunkies...
Praise the lord for hotel mutes. Now if only they could make these for babies & drunkies…

I’ll be honest. I was SO NERVOUS at my first audition. You’d think that after having played 30,598,235 auditions over the years, I’d be ok with them, but alas…I’m not. While there are a number of factors that can be attributed to causing nerves, there is one factor that absolutely has a significant effect on me…

With something like an orchestra audition, you can put, say, 20 hours into a piece, but have just one shot, maybe 5 minutes, to prove yourself.  That’s it. This is significantly different from, for example, developing a website. If I put 20 hours into developing a website, the outcome is consistent and the end result will, 99% of the time, reflect those 20 hours of “behind the scenes” work.  

Basically, what I’m saying is that results of certain activities (auditions) are much higher crap shoots than others (web. dev.).

Those 10 days flew by and before I knew it, my audition was 15 minutes away and I was sitting in my car trying to get my focus on. My friend, Hilary, had sent me the following and I’ve always really liked it. I  read it over a few times before getting out of my car, attempting to convince myself that it was true. (:  It might sound silly, but I actually think it helped give me the confidence and focus I needed:

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While I’m not outwardly competitive, I am, without a doubt, passively competitive. (Let’s make sure to not confuse this with “passive aggressive.” (:) I’ve always liked being the best, the fastest, the most accomplished. Call it overachiever status, call it a “typical” Jewish/first generation American mentality, or call it typical Kim Karalekas. (: 

Growing up, my orchestra teacher/mentor, Mr. Nelson, always said: “If you’re here to win, you’re here for the wrong reason. However, if you’re going to compete, compete to win.”  I’m not sure I was totally on board with this in high school (I think I just wanted to win), but as I’ve grown older, I’ve really taken his words to heart and try to live by them as best as I can.

I walked into the audition, tuned my violin and took a few deep breaths. Before playing the first note, the words “Play the sound you love to hear . . .” echoed through my head – another Mr. Nelson-ism.

I honestly don’t remember much of the audition. The first thing I can remember after finishing playing was the conductor saying she was pleased with my performance – intonation, pitch, tone, musicality, etc. – and asking me to prepare another piece and return for a second audition. 

“Yay! She didn’t say no! She liked my playing!” …followed by “Wait…another audition?? FML.” 

We decided on a new piece I was to prepare and I was on my way. As I was walking to my car, I felt a weird mix of emotions. I felt relief and accomplishment, but I also felt a sense of “here we go again.” Regardless, I told myself, “You’ve already made it this far, no turning back now.”

…I then proceeded to get insanely lost. What should have been a 25 minute drive evolved (or better – devolved) into an involuntary 1 1/2 hour tour de Austin. (:

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of my second audition as it was almost identical to the first: more work travel, lots of hotel room practice, lots of worrying and lots of trying to convince myself I was going to do an awesome job, followed by an audition I can’t remember.

The main different was that this time, I did not get lost on the way home.

The second audition was with an orchestral member. After I finished playing, he told me he would chat with the conductor and I would hear back in the next few days. GAH. Nerve wracking galore.

A few days later, an email from the conductor popped up. “OMG. Should I open it now? Should I wait? I wish I already knew what it said! Ahhhhhh!!” (Completely acceptable reaction for an adult, I think?)

I opened the email and found out…

I got in!!!

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Man oh man…the anticipation! After reading the good word, I felt like a 20 pound brick had been lifted off my shoulders. A wave of emotion that honestly, I couldn’t even define, surged through my body. As I was attempting to process everything (slash, calm the eff down), this moment from Survivor popped into my head (Watch between 9:25 – 10:07):

In this clip, Marissa was fighting her way through a duel to remain in the game. The battle was intense and although she was ready to quit, she didn’t, ended up winning & remained in the game. Upon Jeff announcing her win, Gervase screamed, “THAT’S. WHY. WE. DON’T. QUIT.!!!”

…and all of a sudden, everything came full circle.

“That’s why we don’t quit.”

The Narcissist Dilemma

In the last few weeks, a few friends have made comments about my blog, asking if I was still posting, etc. The inquiries threw me off a bit, as I guess I figured most didn’t know about (or at least pay attention to) it. When I began blogging about 257 years ago, the primary purpose was to serve as a digital mind vomit repository. Although the decision wasn’t necessarily a conscious one, I have noticed that as the blogging fad has continued to grow, my desire to contribute to my own has declined. Beyond this conclusion, I hadn’t put too much thought into the “why” behind my hiatus.

Until recently.

After quite a bit of thinking/pondering/questioning, here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. I’m perpetually aware of the amount of time spent with my face buried in a screen. When I wake up. All day at work. At the grocery store. In the car, looking up directions. Texting. Shopping. Taking photos. Facebooking. Banking. It’s a vicious cycle. I needed a breather from my technology overload and wanted to figure out a “better” long-term technology/IRL balance.

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So, like any hyper-self-aware person, I performed an self-audit: What do I need to get done? What means do I need to accomplish this task? I realized that a scary high percentage of all I do requires some form of digital means. ‘Scary high percentage’ are the keywords in this last sentence. Meaning, not 100%. As in, there’s still hope.

I then asked myself : What are you doing now digitally that can be accomplished via analog means, without sacrificing quality/efficiency/etc.? Writing was one of the few things I could identify. So, in the spirit of balance, I decided to temporarily put the blogging on hold and instead, venture down the handwritten journal avenue. This was one of the reasons, anyway.

2. Blogging has exploded. Specifically, lifestyle, mommy, foodie and pictures-of-my-baby-wearing-a-fedora-and-Toms-at-a-farmers-market blogging. While I can’t say the content of said blogs is my cup of tea, my bigger-picture qualms stem from the superficiality and narcissism that frequently accompanies. Intentional or not, it happens. And I do wonder/worry about the long-term social/relational implications of such cursory, self-serving & instant gratification-based habits.

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During my “self-audit,” I questioned: Why do I have a blog? Am I inadvertently looking for a virtual pat on the back? Do I accurately depict my life/thoughts? Am I  craving that dopamine boost that results from likes/comments? Did I take a blogging hiatus to avoid being pigeon-holed into the present-day “blogger” stereotype?

At this point, I suppose a resounding “maybe” is  the best answer I can offer for the prior slew of questions. However, I do know the following. I’ve always blogged because I enjoy it. I love writing, processing, thinking, questioning and organizing thoughts on a visceral level. Over the years, it’s been an invaluable outlet for me to delve far beyond necessary into whatever it is I might be experiencing/pondering/observing.

While this all stands true, the reality is that I also get pretty jazzed upon receiving likes or positive feedback on my posts. And perhaps yes, while the feeling of exhilaration is fleeting, the complimentary feelings of motivation and support stick around. This realization was a pivotal moment for me.

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Blogging doesn’t need to be viewed as a contrived activity. And it’s perfectly acceptable to reap the benefits of positive feedback. I think perhaps what was missing for me was simply that I hadn’t really ever sat down and thought about WHY blogging made me feel good. I just knew that it did, which is why I’ve kept it up over the years. As the borderline OCD detail-oriented, consistently-asking-500 questions, psychoanalyzing type, I think I was feeling unsettled because I had never explicitly asked or answered this question.

So, I sat down and brainstormed a list. Why do I like blogging? What do I get out of it?

– Process past events.

– Record experiences. Takeaways. Life lessons. Words of wisdom.

– Identify & understand emotional reactions.

– Ask questions. Maybe provide answers, if I’ve got them.

– Clarify thoughts.

– Gain perspective.

– Review progress/growth over time.

– Connect the metaphorical dots between the items listed above.

Why does list-making feel so good? Perhaps it’s not necessarily the list-making, but the clarity that accompanies. The clarity being this: the above list doesn’t include anything driven by superficiality. My core purpose is not self-serving (on a topical level), but rather to serve as an outlet to question, analyze, process, & grow. And if others are able to benefit from what I write? Even better.

Go Home, You’re Drunk

‘It could be worse’ is what I told myself; however, in retrospect, ‘it’ was pretty bad.

I began getting sick about 3 years ago. At first, I disregarded the warning signs, figuring I was just insanely overworked (going for 2 undergrad degrees in 4 years, working/volunteering/school clubs/activities/interning 70+ hrs/week) and needed to pull back the reins. Mid 2009 was when I began realizing that ‘pulling back the reins’ wasn’t cutting it, and perhaps there was more than met the eye. Despite this realization, I continued to brush everything off for another year or so. Looking back, it was a bad decision, I know. But when you’re in college, insanely busy, and invincible (ha), thoughts like this don’t necessarily cross your mind.

Until about six months ago, I’d feel better one day and horribly worse the next. One month I’d feel great, followed by 3-4 days of feeling like garbage. Such as in that one time last year when I got horribly sick at a hotel in the middle of nowhere Michigan. It took an insane amount of effort to walk down the hall for ice chips and open my laptop to Google the nearest urgent care. You know, just in case.

What does ‘feeling sick’ entail? I have a hard time describing the feeling, but here’s my best shot: It felt like: A. I had been punched in the stomach 947 times & B. My body couldn’t regulate temperature, fluctuating between intense chills and feeling hot/clammy. Sometimes this happened after eating/drinking, other times out of the blue.

When I finally went to the doctor, she pressed/poked my abdomen without finding anything glaring, so she ran a blood test to rule out ‘anything else’. When the blood tests came back clear, she recommended I see a gastroenterologist.

The gastro. recommended an ultrasound as well as a HIDA scan – an imaging procedure that tracks the production & flow of bile from the liver > intestine. You lay on a table as a tracer (a radioactive chemical) is injected. Over the next hour, a gamma camera takes pictures of the abdomen as the tracer passes through the body. It wasn’t painful in the moment, but it did leave me feeling sick for the rest of the day and into the next.

Neither the ultrasound nor the HIDA scan produced abnormal findings, so the gastro. took a stab in the dark, suggesting gallbladder removal, ‘to see if it would help’. I was actually pretty shocked by this, as we had not come anywhere near determining the cause(s) of the issue(s), yet she was suggesting I have an internal organ removed…? I felt like she was treating me like a number/science experiment, which I obviously was not cool with. I questioned the recommendation and her response was: ‘Well then, try eating really well, take care of yourself for a month and see how you feel. Either way, let’s just go ahead and set up an appointment with a surgeon.’

‘Oh, haaiiiil no.’ is what I thought. There was little to no logic behind her recommendation and I already did eat really well *thanks for asking*.

This is more or less what I wanted to tell her:

Instead of the surgeon, I opted to get a 3rd, 4th, 19th, and 437th opinion a la other doctors, specialists, and nutritionists. They all had a variety of interesting theories/diagnosis: Sounds like a peptic ulcer. You were just in Argentina? Maybe you picked up H. Pylori. Celiac. Gallstones. Liver Failure? Leaky gut syndrome.  Ovarian Cyst. Gastric Lymphoma. Gastritis! Hyperthyroidism! Kidney stones! Cholecystitis!

As interesting as the theories were, various tests proved them all wrong.

At this point, let me just say this. Years of phantom sickness is, ummm, not fun. I’ll admit, it was hard going to a new doctor every 2 weeks. It was hard having doctor after doctor completely stumped. It was hard not knowing what was going on or how long it would last. It was hard to feel helpless. It was hard to think about a potential life of chronic pain, of not understanding it, and not being able to manage it. It was hard to be “healthy” on paper, but be dealing with this mystery ailment.

Here’s one thing that helped keep me in check – a quote. Thank you, Haruki Murakami:

‘Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.’

I kept as much as I could on the DL to the general public, mainly because nothing made sense and there were no answers. There were, however, instances when I did need to offer a bit more detail and well, these moments were the woooorsttt. Why? Because there was almost always a suggestion/recommendation/sad frowny face/diagnosis/anecdote to follow:

You probably have a gluten allergy. One time I had a friend in college who was allergic to sulfates – maybe you are too. Maybe you’re allergic to wheat. It sounds like you have an ulcer. Awwww *sad frowny face* I hope you feel better soon! You should try meditating. Have you gone to the doctor? What about acupuncture?  Maybe you should pray about it. This drink is easy on the stomach – just try a sip! I know of a great body cleanse – want the recipe? I’ve heard acai berries do wonders. How about a multivitamin? Tums! 

At first, I always responded with:  That’s a good idea, but I’ve already tried – doesn’t work. Nope, not that either. Yeah, I’ve been to a nutritionist and she was stumped. No, I don’t have a stomach ulcer. You’re right, it IS so weird! No, gluten is not the problem; I eat pasta like it’s my job. Yes, I’ve already had a blood test. Etc. Etc. Blah. Blah. Blah…  

After a few months, I changed my default response to these magic 4.5 words: 

Thanks, I’ll try that.

And you know what? It worked. At the end of the day, all people want to do is help. Of course it’s appreciated; however, the conversations got exhausting. The topic was exhausting, the situation was exhausting, and attempting to explain something that made no sense was exhausting. Those 4.5 words allowed the person to ‘help’, allowed me to show gratitude, and allowed us both to move on.

Solving the mystery. 

The doctors weren’t finding anything and I wasn’t interested in medicating symptoms (not causes) long-term, so, I began scouring every last nook and cranny of the internet, searching for anything that could lead me to a clue. My research led me to believe that food allergies could be the culprit; however, because my insurance would not cover food allergy testing (although they would cover an unnecessary gallbladder removal surgery, figure that one out), I opted for the old fashioned elimination method. One by one, I eliminated the common food allergy sources: Lactose, wheat, eggs, soy, dairy, sugar, gluten, etc.

Unfortunately, none of these were the cause.

Plan B: Food journal. Let me say this: tracking every last ingredient of every last food/drink is one of the most time-consuming tasks. EVER. But I did it. During this time, I read anything and everything I could about the gut, digestive system, autoimmune disorders, and honestly all things gastro-related. I scoured article after article after article after article about all things nutrition – the slow food movementGM food effect on the gut, etc.

What I learned through this research was CRAY.

To spare the details, I’ll simply say this: Once one learns how food is made and the affects of processed food on the body, it’s nearly impossible to stomach (so punny) 99% of the garbage that’s out there. Processed food is full of insane/horribly destructive chemicals that, over time, damage/ruin the gut lining/your entire body. Needless to say, I immediately eliminated anything and everything that was genetically modified. I made Whole Foods my second home and stuck to meals primarily consisting of veggies, fruits, beans & meat. Oh yeah, and the occasional hamburger, ice cream, and/or pasta.  Sorry, just couldn’t give that up. (: (…all organic/all natural though, so it’s ok, right?)

Anyway, after a month or so, I analyzed the journal. The difficulty was that my adverse reactions were not consistent; however, I did find 3 trends: alcohol (ALL types, unless the enthanol was cooked out), Mexican food, and synthetic vitamins. So, I eliminated all alcohol, almost completely elimited Mexican food (minus bland stuff – i.e. rice, beans & veggies – just no sauces/spices), and replaced the synthetic vitamins with the vegan/vegetarian versions.

6 months has passed since these changes and you know what?  I feel better now than I’ve ever felt.

Thank god.

While yes, I did revamp my diet to fix the problems, I must say that after learning all that I have about food/nutrition, my entire relationship with food has changed.  After understanding the affects of genetically modified grossness, it was almost impossible not to. The majority of what I eat now is all-natural, organic, crunchy granola goodness. I’m hyper aware of everything I put into my body, won’t purchase anything if I can’t read an ingredient listed on the label, and cook as much as I can from scratch.

In case you were curious, my opinion of/relationship with conventional Western medicine has also been completely altered by this experience. I’ll let you take a stab at what this entails. Here’s a hint.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

The long and short of it is this: food allergies can take a long time to surface and cause a lot of damage along the way. Basically, food allergies can & do f-up the entire body for a long time.

While yes, discovering & eliminating the main causes of my sickness was a huge contributor to me getting better, it was only part of the whole. A few additional changes I’ve made: regular exercise, sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and not biting off more than I can chew. Might not seem like much, but for me, the collective changes have made a huge difference.

While it took 3 years to sort everything out, I’m finally back on track *knock on wood*. This type of thing doesn’t happen overnight…it’s an arduous process, to say the least. It took many years, many doctors, and (sadly for my wallet) many dollars, to figure out what was up; however, figuring out/fixing the root cause has been nothing short of a Christmas miracle and worth every last penny.

I’m thankful for everything these past 3 years have taught me, and hope be onward and upward from this point forward!

 

Books & Introverts

There was a month when I had limited access to the internet about 5 years back. At first this seemed unimaginable (#millennial), but soon after, I felt so refreshed. Without the distractions of the internet, I began filling my time with other activities. Such as reading books. I  read so many books during this month. At the end of the four weeks, I felt inspired/rejuvenated  and made a pact with myself to keep the reading up, internet or not. Not digital books, not my Google Reader, but real tangible books.

I’d admit, I haven’t been completely consistent with this pact over the past 5 years; however, the past 6 months have been fairly successful. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Paulo Coelho. Be still, my heart.

It’s not too difficult to get caught up in the intricacies of Coelho’s plots and storylines. Thought-provoking is the best way I can describe his style. As a bonus, I checked out the Spanish version, entonces, podria practicar mi español.

While the stories he tells are not all that unique, it’s the way Sedaris tells these stories that make him such a wildly popular/successful author.

Greek school! I’m determined to learn. It’s actually amazing how much knowing Spanish has helped me with Greek. The number of times I’ve embarrassed myself in class by answering a question in Spanish thinking I was answering in Greek, is slightly less amazing.

 

After Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs, I was hooked. Klosterman’s wonderfully dry/witty/analytical writing style hits the spot:

Here’s a new development: I’m an introvert! Actually, I’d better classify myself as an ambivert with far more introverted qualities than I previous had thought. Reading Cain’s book made me realize that I (along with many others) had (have) a skewed concept of introversion. After completing Cain’s book and conducting a subsequent self-psychoanalysis, I saw the following introvert qualities in myself:

  • Listening more than talking. Thinking before speaking.
  • Caring less about status & focusing on what really matters.
  • Enjoying a quiet glass of wine with a close friend than a loud, raucous party full of strangers.
  • Careful, contemplative thinking; persistence; sees value in reflection.
The introvert qualities I don’t identify with:
  • Energized by time alone.
  • Not socially inclined.
  • Enjoys solitude.
Cain wrote: “We’re especially empathic”. We think in an “unusually complex fashion”. We prefer discussing “values and morality” to small talk about the weather. We “desire peace”. We’re “modest”.

Summer Days

Un poquito mas of verano en Austin.

1 lb. of veggies topped with 1 lb. of potatoes, topped with 1 lb. of fried chicken, topped with 1 lb. of gravy. Dinner at ZTejas:

Jack Allen’s makes an insane burger:

Lunch at Frank:

Whip In:

Texas-sized frog.

At first glance, I thought this frog was a rock, so I figured I’d kick the “rock” out of the way of traffic/bikers… About 2 inches before my shoe made contact with the “rock”, I heard a loud “RIBBIT!!”. As if to say: “WTF are you doing?! I’m a frog! Don’t hurt me!!!” The frog jumped about 2 feet in the air, which caused me to jump about 27 feet in the air, screaming: “jesus christ! oh dear god. that is NOT a rock!!”.

Rudy’s:

Sno-beach:

Time with my piano:

Early AM walk/run. No other way to do it in this insane Texas heat: