Thursday Things

1. I had a delightful time bird watching last weekend for the Great Backyard Bird Count! This was the first time I really participated in a widespread birding activity, so I feel like I’ve now ~officially~ achieved #birdnerd status – because, clearly, having a bird identifying app (Merlin) and the eBird app on my phone for easy bird watching checklist creation wasn’t enough to get me there *insert geek emoji here*

I’ve made a point to keep an eye out for birds in my neighborhood on my morning and evening commutes since the beginning of February, so I was pretty sure I had a good idea of what I’d encounter. I figured I’d see a lot of House Sparrows, probably some European Starlings, maybe some American Robins if they were feeling cooperative, and, if I was really lucky, my local Northern Cardinal friend. (It is perhaps worth noting that my friendship with said cardinal is probably a one-way affair, but I do say hello to him every time I see him, because apparently that’s the life I live these days.)

Boy was I wrong! I took an extended route home, swinging by a park where I’ve had good bird watching luck in the past. There was a guy flying his drone in the area where I usually see the best birds, so I figured there wouldn’t be any birds in the area and started to head home. As I approached the edge of the park, I heard quite the ruckus, and just about lost my mind when I saw TWO WOODPECKERS on a tree immediately outside the park.

woodpeckers

I stood there like a crazy person for at least 15 minutes, taking pictures of the birds like my life depended on it while other unsuspecting pedestrians thought who knows what of me. Further review of my pictures shows that both the woodpeckers were male, so I think they must’ve been fighting over territory or something, because they kept chasing each other up and down the tree, and one had his tail splayed out like he was not particularly pleased with the other one. (Though to be fair, I know nothing about woodpecker behavior, so I could be totally off on my analysis here.)

While all of this was going on, I continued to hear another bird that sounded to be directly above me. I was sure it wasn’t either of the two birds I could see, since the sound was coming from the wrong direction, but I couldn’t find that other bird for the life of me. If you can accurately identify a bird’s call, you’re allowed to log it on your checklist on eBird, so I pulled up Merlin to listen to a Downy Woodpecker call (since I was pretty sure the woodpeckers on the tree were Downys, but I’m not very confident in my Downy vs. Hairy Woodpecker identification skills. They did seem too small to be Hairy Woodpeckers, though.). I had to turn the sound way up to hear it, since I was outside, and oh my gosh you guys, THE BIRD AT THE TOP OF THE TREE CALLED BACK. I could NOT believe it. What a way to start the Great Backyard Bird Count!

I went out for a real birding walk on Saturday and had almost instant success. A mere block from my house, I encountered a chickadee, another woodpecker, AND a House Finch all on the same tree. I was, once again, beside myself. Where had all these birds come from?! I keep an eye out for them every day and never see anything like this! Did they all know it was bird counting weekend and wanted to make sure they were noticed??

The rest of Saturday’s walk was fairly uneventful in the birding department. I did, however, get this picture of a male House Sparrow, which, oddly enough, is now officially my favorite bird picture that I’ve taken. I’m not all that fond of House Sparrows, but what do you know: even plain, common birds can make for good photos, apparently.

housesparrow

I decided to keep an eye out for birds on my way home from the gym on Sunday, and had just about given up when I thought I saw a cardinal on the other side of the street. I crossed to confirm, but the bird flew away by the time I got there. I decided to dawdle in the area for a few moments, and in the process encountered a GOLDFINCH, only the second confirmed goldfinch I had EVER seen in the entire City of Chicago, and on Great Backyard Bird Count weekend no less! I just could NOT believe my luck!

It was a very delightful birding weekend 🙂

2. I have the freedom and flexibility to work from home once a week if I so choose, but I rarely take advantage of that opportunity. My reasons for preferring to work in the office range from pathetic (my laptop is heavy and I don’t like carrying it around) to reasonable (I can plug into monitors at my desk at work, and that extra screen space makes a big difference), but since I do very much prefer to work in the office, that’s my regular process. On Tuesday, however, I decided to work from home just because (previously I’ve worked from home due to impending snowstorms or while under the weather), and WOW. What a difference!

I obviously enjoyed the flexibility to sleep in until 10 minutes before I needed to be “at work,” but just being at home, period, was what made the real difference. Remember how last week I complained about having all of these things to take care of at home that I just couldn’t bring myself to do when I got home because I was so tired from work? I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but when I work from home, I can take care of those things while I’m at work. When I need to take a two minute break to clear my head, instead of checking my email, I could clean the bathroom mirror! Instead of scrolling through BuzzFeed forever on my lunch break, I could tidy up my dresser! It was AMAZING and made me feel so much better about my productivity level/life in general. I’m definitely filing away that newfound information for future times of work/life balance stress.

3. I’m sad that the Olympics will be over soon! I’ve actually kept up with them this year (I didn’t pay much attention to Sochi or Rio), and it’s been a fun way to spend just about every night for the past two weeks. Although I have to say, NBC is killing me with their figure skating coverage! I don’t have cable, and therefore don’t have NBCSN, so my figure skating viewing has been limited to whenever NBC finally gets around to showing it on the nightly broadcast, which, in general, has been way too late for this old lady. (And by “way too late” I mean “like 9:45 p.m.” Haha.) But seriously! I’ve got to go to bed, man! These competitions are on school nights! I’m thankful I live in the Central time zone, because it’d obviously be even worse in the Eastern time zone, but I feel like the real solution to this problem is to just exclusively show figure skating on NBC, and show everything else on all the other channels. Never mind all the other athletes that have worked their entire lives to get to that point in their sport that is almost never, ever aired on broadcast TV – I want to see the pretty dresses and routines and get enough sleep! Is that so much to ask?? 😛 (I am joking, to be clear. The ACL-defying antics of the skiers and death-defying antics of all the sliders has been awesome to watch as well, even if there is a notable lack of sparkly outfits.)

Have you been watching the Olympics?

 

Advertisements

Thursday Things

1. When is spring break?

I’m just kidding–well, not really, because I could definitely use a spring break. I realize I’m a grown up now, working in Corporate America, where you don’t get a free week off just because you’ve had your nose to the grindstone for several weeks in a row. No spring break for me. But man, could I use one.

Work has been beating. me. up. lately. My workload increased substantially a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been leaving work with a stress-induced headache more days than not ever since. I realize this probably shouldn’t surprise me, but since I’m not used to enduring this much constant work-related stress, it’s been a huge surprise to me how much this has impacted every other aspect of my life. I’m cranky and have a short fuse when I get home. I’m so exhausted from all the work I’ve done at work that all the remaining non-income generating work I have to do at home with the whopping three-hours-on-the-best-days of free time I have after finishing my afternoon workout and needing to go to bed–soul-sucking tasks like vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, doing/folding my laundry, washing the dishes, making my lunches, keeping up with my finances–seems so unappealing that I’ve fallen behind on all of it, which only adds to my stress level when I see collections of rock salt littering my entryway, water stains rendering my bathroom mirror basically useless, and piles of tax-related documents stacked on top of my laptop. Nothing, technically, is stopping me from taking a personal day to catch up on all of those things, except for the knowing that just because I take a personal day doesn’t mean the rest of the office will take a personal day, meaning when I’d come back, I’d have TWO days of work to do in one day instead of one day’s worth of work, and the fact that I prefer to hoard my PTO like a squirrel burying nuts for winter, so I’ll have it available when I actually need it (because I’m sick) or because I actually want it (for a trip).

I think–hope, pray–that things will improve shortly. The project that caused me the most stress was due on Monday (it was originally due on March 30, and then unceremoniously got pushed up six weeks with 10 days notice. That might have had something to do with my bonkers work-related stress level.), so at least that’s done and over with now. But because that project became immediately important with no warning, everything else had to wait, including things with other immediate deadlines. It’s just never ending lately, and I really, really can’t wait to get back to my more manageable workload.

mortonarboretum-easternbluebird-2

I have absolutely no relevant photos to add to this post, so in honor of this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count (which I am SO EXCITED FOR!!!!!! *squeals forever*), please enjoy these recycled photos of some of my favorite bird encounters. This bluebird doing neck circles represents me doing neck circles in a futile attempt to relieve my stress-induced headaches.

2. Fortunately, this dramatic increase in workload happened to more or less coincide with my delayed but triumphant return to running post-wisdom teeth extraction!

In what has quickly become a recurring theme to this entire wisdom teeth ordeal, I vastly underestimated the amount of time it would take my mouth to heal to the point where I could run again. Honestly, I didn’t really consider that having two teeth yanked out of my skull would prevent me from running, but what do you know, it sure did! When I initially set up my training schedule for the first four months of 2018, I thought I’d be able to run 4-6 miles one week after the extraction. Since I was still barely taking in chewable calories at that point, that obviously wasn’t the case. I then tried to go for a run 11 days post-extraction, and that didn’t go well, either. My sockets ached every time my foot struck the ground–which, in retrospect, shouldn’t have been all that surprisingly. They also ached whenever my head hung down–any time I did an inversion during yoga, or stretching at dance, or anything along those lines. Regardless, it was surprising, and it was also extremely disappointing.

So I waited another week, watching more and more planned miles tick by on my training plan un-run, and headed out last Wednesday to see what would happen. Nothing! Nothing happened! Hooray! It was a totally uneventful, un-achy run! Woohoo! Of course, the fact that I can run now doesn’t make up for the fact that I couldn’t run any time before last Wednesday, nor does it make up for the fact that I’ve missed 10 percent of my intended training, but at least I can run now. I’ve learned that running doesn’t make me feel better if I’m upset, but it does help me feel less stressed (at least if running isn’t the source of stress to begin with–I’m looking at you, consecutive strings of hot and humid days during marathon season), so it’s been quite helpful lately.

That being said, I have all but given up on my dreams of a half marathon PR in April. I lost a LOT of fitness during my days of sitting on the couch and shoveling pudding and ice cream into my mouth (who would’ve guessed?), and I’m still not back to the diet I’d like to maintain (nuts and seeds, how I miss you so. Seriously, though, WHEN are these holes in the back of my mouth going to heal?! Google has told me anywhere between six weeks and eight months, which seems like a PRETTY big range.). I already knew PRing would be tough, given my schedule the week before the half marathon. Considering how out of shape I’ve become, in addition to the whole “you can’t outrun a bad diet” thing, I think hoping to even run a 2:15 in April is a bit of a pipe dream, never mind running the sub-2:00 I really wanted. There’s always next year, I suppose.

commonyellowthroat2

Seeing this migrating Common Yellowthroat was my favorite run-related bird encounter to date.

3. I’ve been a loyal wearer of Old Navy jeans for seven years now. I discovered that their Diva line of jeans fit me like a dream in 2011, and though they have since replaced the Diva with the similar but for some reason much longer (??) Original style, they’re still my go-to for jeans (despite the fact that they inevitably develop holes a year after purchase). I can buy them online and know they’ll fit, which is a good enough reason to stick with them as far as I’m concerned.

The Original comes in three washes that have official names, but boil down to light, medium, and dark washes. I like to have one pair of medium wash and one pair of dark wash on hand at all times and went to Old Navy a couple of weeks ago to restock my supply, as I had worn holes into both of my 2017 pairs. The store only carried medium wash, but since dark wash was available online, they ordered a pair for me and waived the shipping fee. Thanks, Old Navy!

Getting the jeans proved to be far more of an ordeal than it should’ve been–UPS refused to leave the package at my house, and instead of attempting another delivery or even leaving it at a nearby UPS store, they required that I retrieve it from the UPS Customer Center, which is tucked away in the middle of no man’s land–but eventually I got my jeans. I tried them on yesterday and was surprised at how difficult it was to pull them on. I checked the tag, which reported that these were, in fact, the same size and style I always wear. I figured I must just need to break them in or something, even though I hadn’t needed to “break in” the presumably identical pair of medium wash jeans I bought at the store. I made it through a whopping 10 minutes of wearing my new jeans before I deciding that there was no reason why I needed to suffer through too-tight jeans for a full day and changing into a different pair.

I just could not understand how two pairs of jeans from the same brand in the same size and the same style could fit THAT differently, so I busted out my measuring tape to see if I was going crazy. Turns out, the waist on the pair of dark wash jeans is THREE INCHES SMALLER than the waist on all my other jeans (again, all Old Navy Originals in the same size). No wonder they didn’t fit! I know there isn’t much standard to women’s pants sizing, but that’s got to be at LEAST two sizes smaller than what I normally wear, especially since I tried on a size smaller than my usual size at Old Navy in December and was at least able to button them without holding my breath, which certainly wasn’t the case with this pair shipped to me. Here’s hoping the pair I get when I exchange them is actually the size it claims to be!

detroitzoopenguins6

These waddling Gentoo Penguins represent how I felt trying to get in and out of my too-small jeans. I do not expect to encounter any penguins while I bird during the Great Backyard Bird Count, though, given that they are flightless and live in the Southern Hemisphere.

 

Thursday Things

1. I have major moral qualms with the NFL and the sport of football as we, for reasons that seem to defy all common sense and scientific evidence, insist on continuing to play it, but despite my ethical misgivings, I still watched the Super Bowl. I’m not really sure how much longer I can keep up with that, though. I know taking my one set of eyeballs away from a game probably won’t be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but doing anything to support an industry that willing puts people’s brains (and, by extension, lives) at risk for the sake of the almighty dollar feels…icky, to say the least. As far as I’m concerned, the commercials and half time show are the real highlights of the Super Bowl anyway (though I will concede that the Eagles’s trick play was also a highlight), and since those are all available online without having to watch the game, that seems like the better way to go about doing things.

Regardless, I watched the Super Bowl this year, primarily for the commercials and half time show, but secondarily (or maybe equally primarily, even though that doesn’t really make sense) for the all-important tradition of overindulging in junk food during the Super Bowl. I got together with a few friends, and we had ourselves a feast of processed, fatty, salty, sugary goodness. It was fabulous.

The highlight, though–and, frankly, the entire reason why I’m even noting my Super Bowl viewing in this post–was definitely this find:

footballcookiesandfrosting

Right?!

I discovered that groundbreaking idea at Jewel on Saturday, and didn’t have to think twice about whether or not it’d be an appropriate thing to bring to my Super Bowl get together. A cookie tray with FROSTING DIP?! Why don’t they sell these year round??

2. I got my official Chicago Marathon results in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and almost immediately threw it away (well, recycled it, but whatever). It boggles my mind that the race puts together what essentially amounts to a magazine of the race’s complete results, especially in a day and age where all I had to do was open the race’s app on my phone while still stumbling through the finishing chute to get my results rather than waiting three and a half months to find out how I did. It can’t be a cost-effective endeavor and seems wildly unnecessary.

But regardless, I decided before I got rid of the results magazine, I’d at least look up my name, be proud of myself for the briefest of moments, and move on with my life. I’ve never really paid any sort of attention to where I finished overall in the field, because when it takes you more than five hours to finish in a race with 44,300ish finishers, your overall finishing place is pretty irrelevant. But I was delighted to discover that, apparently, I came in exactly 28,000th in last year’s race! How about that! According to the unofficial online results, I came in 28,003rd, but I like 28,000th better, and that’s what the printed results say, so I’m going with it.

So there you go: while it may not be necessary, I guess it’s still kind of cool to get printed results and all the other tidbits of information that come along with it.

3. Speaking of Bank of America-owned races, I have a hot take on the Shamrock Shuffle that I want to document here for the whole world to see right now:

The Bank of America should sell the Shamrock Shuffle to RAM Racing.

Hear me out: the race has not been doing well, at least from a finisher standpoint, for years. As I pointed out in my recap of last year’s event, there were 40 percent fewer finishers in 2017 compared to 2013. That’s a pretty massive drop in participation over not very much time, and it doesn’t take a marketing degree to see the many, many ways the race has tried to entice people to sign up, particularly over the past two or three years. There has been a marked increase in swag (they now give out medals, which have gotten nicer each year; one year they gave out branded Buffs in addition to the t-shirt; another year they gave out branded winter hats in addition to the t-shirt), there has been a marked change in pricing (from one flat rate to incremental pricing based on your date of registration), a marked uptick in pushing the charity angle (the 8K Charity entry, where you pay full price for the race, but part of your registration fee is donated to one of the race’s charities), a marked change in convenience (the ability to choose to have your packet mailed to you to avoid having to attend packet pick-up), and a marked change in event offerings, period (a 2 mile, untimed walk in addition to the timed 8K race). None of this happened in 2013, and my suspicion is that it didn’t happen because it didn’t need to happen. The race seemed to be a self-sustaining entity, until suddenly it wasn’t, and suddenly marketing became a lot more important.

I am hardly the biggest cheerleader for RAM Racing, but here’s the thing: gimmicky, themed events are absolutely RAM’s thing. Cinco de Miler? Hot Chocolate? And it’s not like RAM doesn’t have experience putting on events similar to Shamrock’s current size. Last year’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago had 25,000+ finishers between the 15K and 5K. The Shuffle was just five runners shy of 20,000 finishers. You want to tell me the Shamrock Shuffle wouldn’t fit perfectly into that kind of portfolio?

I think the smartest thing the Bank of America could do would be to unload themselves of the Shamrock Shuffle, focus all of their efforts on growing the marathon instead, either in terms of participants or in terms of prize purse offerings (bigger prize purse=better elite gets) or both, and let RAM take the reins of the Shuffle. The Shuffle already draws a way different crowd than the marathon–it’s much, MUCH easier to do a casual 8K than a casual marathon, after all–and I think the people you’d risk losing by selling the event to RAM would be more than offset by the people you’d gain by selling the event to RAM. I also think RAM would have naturally lower expectations for the event–if they’re used to staging 25,000-person events, it stings a lot less to have 19,995 finishers than if you’re used to staging 40,000-person events–and would be perfectly happy with the current field size.

If this ends up happening some time in the future, I want a cut of the deal, since it was clearly my idea 😛

Did you watch the Super Bowl?

Garfield Park Conservatory

I accomplished a somewhat long-standing goal of mine on Saturday: go to the Garfield Park Conservatory during the winter. I visited the conservatory when I did my internship in Chicago in 2011, but hadn’t been back since I moved to the city after college. Two years ago, Erin posted about going to the conservatory to take pictures among greenery in the dead of a Chicago winter, and I was immediately inspired. It took me two years to actually act on said inspiration, but better late than never, right?

garfieldparkconservatory-1

The Garfield Park Conservatory is really something. It opened 110 years ago as the brainchild of renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen with the intention of creating the largest public conservatory in the world. The design, featuring plants in landscape instead of lined up in pots, was a brand new idea at the time and made the conservatory a particularly unique place. Over a century later, I still think it’s particularly unique, if for no other reason than that it transports you to a totally different world right in the middle of the West Side.

garfieldparkconservatory-7

 

The conservatory has eight rooms, each with a different theme: ferns, palms, aroids, and others. I particularly enjoyed the Show House, which featured so many beautiful flowers (though I’m sure it will soon feature even more: a spring flower show starts on Saturday and runs through Mother’s Day.). The Sugar From the Sun room was also really cool. Many of the plants in that room grow food, like oranges, grapefruit, papaya, bananas, cinnamon, turmeric, coffee, and cocoa. Living in the Midwest, I’m pretty disconnected from how most of those things grow–as far as I’m concerned, they grow on the shelves at Jewel–so seeing them actually growing was awesome.

The Aroid House, unsurprisingly, had an abundance of aroids (I am more familiar with these as “church plants,” since one of the churches I regularly attended as a child had fake versions of these in the narthex year round, haha). On top of the aroids, this room also has a Chihuly glass installation (!!) in the pond.

garfieldparkconservatory-4

The Desert House, as you may expect, features a ton of cacti and succulents. I really enjoyed the variety, from itty bitty little guys to towering plants. Several of the plants were flowering, and some of the flowers were so unique and different from what I expected.

garfieldparkconservatory-5

The Horticulture Hall had Birds of Paradise, which I didn’t realize were plants and birds until Saturday. Both the flower version and the bird version (obviously not on display at a conservatory) are quite unique and beautiful, though I’m guessing the plant, being a plant, doesn’t have as elaborate courtship habits as the bird 😛

garfieldparkconservatory-2

The Horticulture Hall also has a beautiful Moroccan fountain, gifted to the City of Chicago by Casablanca.

garfieldparkconservatory-3

The Fern Room is the literal centerpiece of the conservatory, being that it’s in the middle of the building. If you’re looking for heat and humidity during a cold and dry Chicago winter, this is the place to be. It was STEAMY in there, but also so green and so lush and so worth it.

garfieldparkconservatory-6

The Garfield Park Conservatory is free to visit, and even though this post admittedly sounds a bit review-y, no one asked me to go and write about it (I just had too many pictures I wanted to show off to squeeze this into a Thursday Things post, so it gets its own shoutout 😛 ). I really, really needed a respite from winter, and a couple hours at the conservatory proved to be just what the doctor perhaps would’ve ordered if I had complained about my need to see the color green again without having to travel far. The conservatory has a parking lot, but it’s also immediately off the Green Line–really, the stop is called Conservatory. You can’t miss it.–so even though it’s a bit west, it’s perfectly easy to access. If you, too, are tired of winter, I can’t recommend an afternoon at the conservatory enough.

garfieldparkconservatory-8

Have you ever been to the Garfield Park Conservatory?

Thursday Things

1. Things are slowly starting to improve in the wisdom teeth department, though not in quite as linear or predictable of a fashion as I had hoped. Last Friday, my left socket really bothered me after cleaning it after breakfast. It was the first time ibuprofen didn’t eliminate my pain, and by Friday evening, it had migrated up into my left temple. It was, truly, some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I don’t get migraines, but I have to imagine what I felt was similar to what migraine sufferers feel. I felt like someone was pounding a gigantic nail into my head, and even the prescription-strength ibuprofen couldn’t take the tiniest bit of the edge off.

I called the dentist Saturday morning to inform them of my condition, and they told me to come in that afternoon. The dentist took a look at my mouth and said everything appeared to be healing normally–she didn’t see any sign of infection, and new tissue was growing where it should be, so no bone was exposed (the condition required for it to be a dry socket). Regardless, she rinsed it out with medicated wash and then filled it with a medicated packing. Guys, GAME CHANGER. The packing, which included eugenol, solved all of my pain problems like that *snaps*. For the first time in a week, I forgot to take my ibuprofen, because my mouth didn’t hurt. It was a miracle! Why didn’t they put that in there to begin with?!

Sunday continued along in a similar vein, and I was pleased as could be…until late Sunday afternoon, when the eugenol packing started to wear off, and I was in increasingly worse pain for the remainder of the day and Monday morning. Fortunately things calmed down a bit, at least in the pain department, starting around Monday afternoon.

I mention all of this not just for the sake of documenting my recovery process, but to highlight what has, without question, been the most difficult part of this entire experience for me: the need to take pain medication. Even though I very, very strongly believe in a science-backed approach to medicine, I am also very, very hesitant to take actual medication, except under the most necessary of circumstances. I hate it, especially when the medicine primarily exists to manage or minimize symptoms rather than manage or minimize the condition. (Though to ibuprofen’s credit, it does minimize inflammation, so it did double duty for me in this case.)

The reason why I hate taking medicine is because, much like anti-smoking ads I saw on TV as a child convinced me that smoking would absolutely kill me, the side effects list on medications send me into such an anxious spiral that, unless I genuinely need to take the medicine to survive or function, I would rather just wait out whatever is ailing me. And yes, I understand that your chances of getting lung cancer or heart disease from smoking are much, much higher than your chances of encountering the worst of the side effects for any medicine, and I also understand that the side effects listed include just about every single possible thing that could ever happen as a result of taking the medication so that the manufacturer won’t get in trouble for not telling you something could happen if something does happen, but knowing that and believing that are two wildly different things for my anxious, hypochondriac mind.

I eventually got so anxious about taking so much ibuprofen for so many consecutive days that I decided to switch over to Tylenol. That was all well and good for three hours, until, in an effort to understand how acetaminophen works, I Googled it–and I swear on everything important to me, I only Googled it because I was, really, truly, genuinely curious how it works–and of course was stupid enough to click on the Adverse Effects section of the Wikipedia article. There, I became wholly convinced that I would come down with a terrifying, potentially fatal skin condition that, according to the FDA, happened to 67 people between 1969 and 2012 (that averages to 1.5 people per year) who took acetaminophen. The fact that 1) millions upon millions of people take acetaminophen and do not get this condition, 2) the condition is most often caused by drugs I have never even come close to being prescribed, never mind heard of, and 3) of the roughly 300 Americans who come down with the condition annually (.0001% of the population), only 1.5 of them come down with the condition as a result of acetaminophen, did little to quell my fears. So if I’m concerned over something I have astronomically low odds of getting, hopefully you can begin to grasp the crushing anxiety I have about experiencing side effects that are much more likely to happen, and, consequently, why I have so much anxiety about taking medicine that isn’t necessary for survival, and, consequently, why taking pain medication, even non-narcotic pain medication, has been a huge struggle for me in the mental health department after a procedure that in and of itself was ALREADY a huge struggle for me in the mental health department.

2. As I alluded to in last week’s Thursday Things, I got a tetanus shot earlier this month, and that experience could’ve gone much better.

I had had my last tetanus shot in May of 2008, so I wasn’t sure if my doctor would think I needed on in January of 2018, or if I’d be able to delay it until January of 2019, since it hadn’t technically been 10 years yet. Apparently, almost 10 years was close enough, so I put on a brave face and got my Tdap booster at my annual physical. While I wouldn’t say getting the shot was a fun experience, I’ve also been through much worse. My arm felt fine for the remainder of the day, and I didn’t think much of it.

The following day, however, was a very different story. My arm was SO sore when I woke up Tuesday morning–sore to the point where putting on clothes was a hassle–and by mid-morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I had a headache, I was nauseous, I was dead tired, and I was cold. None of these symptoms are abnormal after getting a tetanus shot, so I didn’t think much of it, either. I went to therapy, went to dance, and went straight to bed without showering that night (real life, folks).

I felt much better Wednesday morning, though my arm was still smarting. I went to the gym after work, did some strength training, and came home to shower. While scrub-a-dubbing, I rotated my left arm and noticed a HUGE red patch on it, from where I assumed I received the injection extending about two and a half inches down my upper arm and getting to be about an inch and a half wide. I had a somewhat similar reaction to the flu shot in 2016, figured this was just a normal reaction, and went about my evening.

I had to go back to the doctor on Thursday for another blood draw, and while I was there, I became increasingly panicked about this gigantic red blob on my arm. I took a picture of it and texted it to my second-favorite medical resource (after Google), my mom, who pointed out that since I was at the doctor, couldn’t I ask someone there to look at it? Good point. I saw one of the nurses, and as soon as she felt the red area and noticed it was warm, she was all, “Oh, that’s not good. I’m going to get someone else to look at this.” I then saw the PA, who, after determining that my temperature was normal, suspected I was having an allergic reaction to the shot, told me to take Zyrtec, and said that I would need to visit an allergist before I get another tetanus shot. Fabulous.

In my uneducated opinion, I don’t think my allergy is to the tetanus shot, or at least not the tetanus toxoid (or diphtheria or pertussis toxoids, for that matter). When I got my flu shot in 2016–the first injected flu shot I had had since I fainted after one in 2010–I had an almost identical reaction to the one I got from the tetanus shot: a large, warm red patch (though the one from the 2016 flu shot wasn’t as large) that extended down from the injection site and lingered for a few days after the shot. Since the flu shot contains the flu virus and, I would hope, no tetanus, diphtheria, or pertussis, and the Tdap shot contains tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, and, I would suspect, no flu viruses, I feel like my allergy/overreaction/whatever it is isn’t to the active ingredient in either of those vaccines. I suspect that one of the many inactive ingredients that goes into the vaccine is angering my arm. Based on the CDC’s list of inactive ingredients in vaccines, there are three inactive ingredients that appear in at least one of the two available versions of Tdap and at least one of the five gazillion flu shots, so that’s what I suspect, but I’m not an allergist, so what do I know?

For those of you keeping score at home: obviously this entire tetanus shot reaction situation was wildly anxiety provoking for me, your local hypochondriac. So when you combine my tetanus shot anxiety (Jan. 16-19) with my wisdom teeth anxiety (technically Dec. 13-Jan. 20, but especially Jan. 12-20) with my medicine-taking anxiety (Jan. 20-present), you can see that, at the most generous, I have been existing in a unrelenting state of heightened anxiety (that is, even more anxious than I am by default) for nearly three straight weeks now, and if you think that’s taking a toll on me, ding ding ding! You are the winner! I’ve survived anxious seasons of life before, and I assume I’ll survive this one as well (“assume” rather than “know” because since all of this anxiety has been rooted in health-related issues, it’s been hard to believe that I am not at all moments teetering on the precipice of premature death), but having been anxious for long periods of time before doesn’t make being anxious for a long period of time right now any easier. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, it’s discouraging, it’s depressing, and I can’t even put into words how desperately I want to have my normal self back.

3. In non-medical news, guess what! My sister ran her first ever half marathon last Saturday, and I’m just as proud as can be 🙂

My sister has been an on-again, off-again casual runner for probably eight years or so now–she ran her first 5K before I started running at all–and late last year, texted me to ask if I’d run a half marathon with her in January. I had to say no for a variety of reasons–PTO considerations, knowing that committing to a January half marathon would mean absolutely no breaks in training between February 2017 and December 2018, which, considering how tapped out I was on running by December 2017, didn’t seem like the wisest idea, and, ultimately, getting my wisdom teeth out a week before her race–but it absolutely killed me to say no. We had initially talked about doing this in 2016 (I actually ended up running F3 that year because she decided she wasn’t ready to do a half marathon after I had already started training), and I hated that I couldn’t be there to run the race with her. I did make her a sign and mailed it to her, though, so at least I was there in spirit.

I honestly think I’m prouder of my sister for running a half marathon than I’ve ever been of myself for running any race of any distance. I took up running after being heavily exposed to the running world through an internship, so I knew the tricks of the trade before getting into it–the importance of fueling, how to buy shoes, what kind of clothes to wear, etc. My sister went in almost entirely blind and had to figure out everything as she went along, which really put into perspective how many things I take for granted when it comes to running. For instance, at one point during training, she was telling me how discouraged she was at how her progress had plateaued. In the beginning, she had been able to add distance every week, but at that point in training, she wasn’t able to run more than six or seven miles without needing a walk break. There’s nothing wrong with a run/walk method for long distance running, of course, but since it seemed to be upsetting her, I asked her if she was eating anything during her runs. She looked at me like I had two heads. She had NO IDEA that it’s totally normal to consume easily digestible carbs while running (which I suspected, because I can’t go more than six miles without needing to fuel–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to go for a seven mile run without fuel, only to fade HARD during the last mile). I gave her some of my Honey Stingers and some Sport Beans, and they made a big difference! When she complained about chafing and I asked if she had been using Body Glide, she responded that she “didn’t even know that was a thing,” so I gave her a spare stick of that, too. Just all these little things that, like I said, I totally take for granted, having been immersed in the running world before I ever started running. I’m really proud of her for sticking with it, and I’m glad to have another half marathoner in the family 🙂

Thursday Things

1. Hello, world! I’m coming to you half as wise as the last time we spoke. Two of my wisdom teeth came out on Saturday, and I have (so far) lived to tell the tale. I spend most of my days assuming that death by means ripped straight from a tabloid headline is right around the corner, and having surgery on my mouth obviously has not assuaged that fear at all. But at this point I’m still alive, so yay!

2. As I mentioned literally two sentences ago, I opted to only have two of my wisdom teeth removed. The stress of, “what if?” in regards to my top wisdom teeth and the risk of sinus perforation, combined with the absolute lack of information I had about my oral surgeon (more on that later), just felt like too much for me to handle, especially when you consider that the top wisdom teeth haven’t given me any grief up to this point anyway. Only one of my four wisdom teeth has ever given me any grief, so even getting the two removed felt excessive, since only one was an actual problem. I had my annual physical two Mondays ago, as I mentioned last week, and while I was there, bemoaning my upcoming wisdom teeth extraction to my doctor, she recommended me to an oral surgeon who is both a DDS and an MD (O.O That is SO. MUCH. SCHOOL. Four years of undergrad, plus four years of dental school, plus four years of medical school, PLUS, according to this guy’s bio, SIX YEARS in residency! So much school.). Given the potentially complicated nature of my upper wisdom teeth, I’d prefer to go to someone who not only knows about mouths, but also knows about sinuses, if I need those ones out. I was going to try to get in with him for a consultation before Saturday, but he didn’t have any opening for weeks, so that was unfortunately a no-go. Anyway, he’s on my radar for a consultation maybe sometime later this year. In the mean time, I was only comfortable getting my bottom wisdom teeth out, which I made quite clear to everyone in the office on Saturday.

3. The procedure itself, at least from my unconscious perspective, was infinitely simpler than I anticipated. I had never been under any kind of anesthesia before, not even Novocaine, so I guess I didn’t really know what to expect, but–and I realize this sounds stupid, but it’s true–I didn’t expect to be so unconscious. After they brought me back to where they’d take my teeth out, the nurse took my blood pressure (a sky high 140/100, compared to the 110/80 I had been at the doctor five days before–told you I was anxious), they inserted the IV (another new experience – I had never had one of those before. Though, after all the poking I went through last week, it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I anticipated), they leaned me all the way back in the chair, my throat got a funny feeling in it, and the next thing I knew, I was semi-conscious and talking. It was all so bizarre. Coming off the anesthesia reminded me a bit of what it’s like to wake up from fainting (three time pro at that over here *brushes shoulder off*), except, somehow, less disorienting. When I’ve regained consciousness after fainting, it starts out with me feeling like I’m in a dream-like state where I can hear what’s going on around me, but I’m too tired to actually respond to it, and I’m not even entirely comprehending what’s happening–like I can hear people saying my name, but I don’t know where they are, where I am, or why they’re saying it. Then I wake up, drenched in a cold sweat, totally disoriented, and am basically useless for the rest of the day. This was a lot like that, except I did remember that I was at the dentist, and it was substantially less jarring to wake up. I was in an absolutely fabulous mood coming off anesthesia, and was talking to the nurses before I was even aware that I was talking to them. I actually woke up to myself talking. It was such a strange experience. I felt like I was thinking clearly, like my head didn’t feel fuzzy or clouded or anything weird like that at all, but I also felt so silly, for lack of a better term, like I was drunker than I’ve ever been in my entire life (not that that would take much). I had spent most of Friday listening to the soundtrack from The Greatest Showman and part of Saturday morning before going to the dentist watching behind the scenes videos on YouTube from the movie (which is kind of weird, because if I’m being honest, I really didn’t think the movie was that great. I thought the pacing was all off, the whole thing felt way too rushed, and–and maybe this is just because I’m particularly fond of through-sung musicals, like Hamilton or Les Mis or Phantom–so much of the musical part of it just seemed awkward. It made perfectly good sense when there was singing and dancing during the shows, but then since they did it in “real life” too, it was just…awkward. So yeah, I wasn’t much of a fan of the movie, but the music is really catchy.), so, despite not liking the movie all that much, I definitely had Broadway on the brain when I was coming to post-op. I very clearly remember declaring to the nurses that I want to be on Broadway someday (which is true, but only in the same way that I want to, like, be an Olympian or win the Boston Marathon or something. It’s a nice thought, but I’m definitely not quite there in the talent department 😛 ), and I also remember trying to explain how I didn’t get to see Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen in October, but that was hard to verbalize when I was so loopy. Eventually, the nurses decided they didn’t need to hear about my Broadway ambitions anymore and rolled me out into the waiting room to meet up with my ride, who had the great pleasure of being subjected to my mouth-full-of-gauze renditions of The Greatest Showman songs, my declarations that I “just wanna DANCE!” followed by rationalization that even though I couldn’t stand up, I could dance in a chair, and my proclamation that the Sears Tower is an “architectural wonder.” So the good news is, even when I’m high as a kite on anesthesia, I am apparently still on brand (though I didn’t mention birds at all. For shame!).

4. Speaking of all of this whole anesthesia experience: the receptionist at the dentist mentioned that post-op patients are either usually zombies, bawling their eyes out, or chatty when they’re coming off anesthesia. I ABSOLUTELY expected to be a crier, so it was a huge surprise to me that I was a chatterbox instead. Although the more I thought about it, the same thing happens to me if you put more than one alcoholic beverage in me in the space of like five hours, so perhaps chattiness is just how I respond to being uninhibited. Despite my ability to ramble on and on on the blog, I’m usually not that chatty in real life unless I know you well. Apparently sobriety is the only thing that keeps that in check for me, haha.

5. The recovery experience, thus far, has not been my favorite life moment to date. I haven’t felt like my pain is unmanageable–the prescription-strength ibuprofen I got has been doing the trick quite nicely–but everything else that goes along with this has just made me miserable. I didn’t get sutures, which means I have two gaping holes in the back of my mouth where my teeth used to be. Those will fill in with time, but not nearly enough time has passed yet, and they’re driving me up a freaking wall. I can’t eat anything without food getting stuck in them, which isn’t painful, but it’s such a hassle to have to flush them out after every. single. meal. On top of that, I’m also doing salt water rinses–not really sure if I need to still be doing those, but they make me feel better about keeping my mouth clean, so I’m still doing them–after every meal, and it’s all such a nuisance that I don’t even want to eat because of how much work I know I’m going to have to go through afterwards. My lack of interest in eating obviously hasn’t done me many favors in the energy department. On Monday, in fact, I could barely sit up in the afternoon, I had so little energy and strength. A bowl of Jello and glass of V8 Fusion fixed that immediately, so clearly it was a calorie issue, but man, I just hate this. I hate feeling like I have to chew my food with my front teeth, I hate only being able to eat soft foods, I hate having holes in my mouth, and I hate being so damn tired all the time. I originally hoped to go back to work on Tuesday, which definitely didn’t happen, then thought I’d go back for a half day on Wednesday but wasn’t able to get myself to the CTA that day, either. Hmph. I know my limited caloric intake holds a lot of responsibility for my fatigue, but I haven’t been sleeping very well, either. It’s taking me way, way longer than usual to fall asleep, and once I do fall asleep, I’ve been averaging about 8 percent of my night in deep sleep, according to my Fitbit. Even considering that Fitbits are hardly super accurate medical devices, I usually spend somewhere between 18 and 22 percent of my night in deep sleep, so I’m clearly not getting the rest I’m used to. I knew it would take time for all of this to heal, but since all of my previous healing experiences have been limited to healing from minor illnesses, where it takes 24-48 hours to notice major improvement, this is uncharted territory for me. And I hate it.

6. I got my wisdom teeth taken out by an oral surgeon affiliated with my dentist’s office, and let me tell you, if I could go back in time and do it all over again, I 100 percent would not have gone that route. I thought it would be simpler to keep everything in-house, and maybe it was from a coordinating standpoint, but I was #notimpressed with the entire process. When I went to the dentist in December to get a scan done prior to scheduling my extraction, they sat me down with one of the dentists in the practice I had never spoken to before (not the oral surgeon), who reviewed my images with me, recommended that I get all four teeth out with the caveat that there were additional risks for the top two that I could discuss with the oral surgeon day-of, and then was handed off to some woman who talked–TALKED–me through my pre-surgery prep, even though my surgery wouldn’t take place for another five weeks. I have no idea who this woman was–is she a hygienist? A dentist? Just a random person who needed a job and happened to get one at my detinst’s office?–and I wasn’t given any warning that the information she was giving to me 1) would only be delivered to me once and 2) would only be delivered verbally. I didn’t get any paperwork, no handy, “This is what you need to do to prepare” pamphlet that I could refer to closer to my appointment. Plus, she was just not a friendly person, which I realize is maybe fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but her harsh “bedside manner,” if you will, was offputting. I then had absolutely zero communication from the dentist until 48 hours before my appointment, where another random person–again, not the oral surgeon, or even the dentist–went through a couple, but not all, of the things the first random woman had told me back in December. No one even told me the name of the oral surgeon. Wtf?!? When I showed up to the dentist on Saturday, I had to sign my life away and then pay before my appointment, which was fine, except that my charges were for getting four wisdom teeth removed, and I hadn’t had any opportunity to talk to the oral surgeon about the top two like the dentist has initially implied. So I told the receptionist I was only consenting to the removal of my bottom two, and then had to relay that information to the oral surgeon myself! And if I hadn’t, I’m sure he would’ve taken out all four teeth! There was no consultation, no introduction, nothing. And frankly, his bedside manner left a lot to be desired, too. He was just as brusque and no-nonsense as the woman who talked me through the pre-op procedures in December. Maybe he was going for professionalism or something, but for God’s sake, man, my blood pressure and heart rate stats were right there. It doesn’t take someone with an advanced degree to look at those numbers and deduce that I was anxious af and maybe, JUST MAYBE, could’ve used a little kindness in that moment. They did have the courtesy to send me home with a one pager about post-op care, but when I received a follow-up call on Monday afternoon I was, once again, just talking to the office’s receptionist, not the surgeon or even one of the dentists. I had a bad reaction to a tetanus shot I got last week–another story for another blog post–and my doctor, the ACTUAL DOCTOR–not a receptionist, not a nurse, not the office’s medical assistant–took two minutes out of her evening on Friday to call me to see how I was doing. The reaction I had to the tetanus shot, though not enjoyable, was HARDLY as traumatic from a physical standpoint as getting two teeth ripped out of your skull. If my primary care physician, who almost certainly has a higher patient load in a week than my oral surgeon, can find time to call me, I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to expect SOMEONE with a dental degree to follow up with me after SURGERY. But no, apparently that was too much to ask of my dentist’s office. While I haven’t been particularly unimpressed with them from a routine dental work standpoint, I absolutely would not use my dentist’s office for any oral surgery needs ever again.

Thursday Things

1. I feel like I’m being a bad blogger by only posting once a week instead of my usual twice per week. I just haven’t had anything additional to say, and I don’t really feel like forcing myself to come up with content just for the sake of having content. This is what I like about marathon season: built in content. I suppose I could do training recaps all year if I’m that concerned about it (though lately, I wouldn’t have much to tell you about, other than that I’m making a lot of progress on Yoga with Adriene. I came down with a cold last week and wanted to get over it ASAP to be back to normal (at least in that department) before my wisdom teeth extraction this Saturday, so I thought it’d be in my best interest to back off in the workout department to encourage my body to heal itself.)

2. While we’re talking about medicine, I would like to subject you to my latest source of frustration: the “optional” health screening required by my employer.

I get an annual physical every year, because I am a responsible adult an anxious mess of a human who is constantly convinced that she is teetering on the precipice of sudden death, despite being fairly healthy in general, an having a medical professional tell me that all is well quells that anxiety for approximately 34 minutes. Point is: it’s not hard to get me into a doctor’s office. I would actually argue that it’s harder to keep me out of a doctor’s office (#anxietyproblems). But, because I am probably in the minority of people who stick to a physical schedule with admirable (?) rigidity, my employer/health insurance provider/corporate wellness program organizer find it necessary to coerce me and my coworkers into an annual health screening.

This screening requires a medically trained professional to take your blood pressure, your height, your waist circumference, and–and here’s where it gets sticky (puns) for me–your cholesterol, your glucose, and your nicotine status, all of which MUST come from a blood test, which MUST take place via venipuncture. Because this is “optional,” you do, technically, have the choice to refuse the health screening. However, if you choose to not participate in this health screening, my employer will punish you by charging you $925 more annually for your health insurance premium. So sure, legally, technically, officially, it’s optional, but when nearly $1000 is on the line, is it really optional? No, it is not.

To accommodate this option requirement, my employer provides onsite screenings. This is all well and good if you’re someone who’s able to maintain consciousness when needles are involved. Since I am not that person, I have to take care of all of this in the doctor’s office, where I am then responsible for all the costs incurred for the appointment. When I went to the doctor to have all this done on Monday, the doctor forgot to order the nicotine test (shocking, that she wouldn’t automatically think to do that for a patient who has never so much as touched a cigarette in her entire life /sarcasmfont), so now I have to go back to the doctor AGAIN to have my blood drawn AGAIN to avoid paying $925 extra on my health insurance this year.

I am not thrilled 😐

3. While I’m in a complain-y mood, I would also like to vent my frustrations at Amazon. Super uplifting day on the blog over here!

On Cyber Monday, I ordered three Christmas presents from Amazon: a ceramic planter and two books. I don’t have Prime, so I patiently waited for my packages to arrive as scheduled the following Friday. Throughout the day on that Friday, I got a few emails warning me that something had gone wrong with my delivery, and that Saturday, learned that the delivery had never taken place at all due to a shipping issue (that issue, as I later learned, was that the ceramic planter had broke in transit. How THAT happened, given how its replacement was packed, I’ll never know, but whatever. Amazon said it broke.). Amazon told me to contact their customer support to remedy the situation, so I did that right away Saturday morning. I was issued a refund for the broken planter, and the two books were reshipped to me. I reordered the ceramic planter and went on with my life.

On Christmas Eve, I received an email from Amazon warning me that I only had a couple weeks left to return the two books from the initial order, or else I’d be charged for them. This was concerning, particularly because I had never received the two books from the initial order in the first place. To my understanding, based on the tracking information associated with my initial order, all three items from the initial order were sent back to Amazon a week after Cyber Monday. The two books I ended up getting were sent in a different order that Amazon created on my behalf to get me the books I paid for. The initial order, including those two books, was never even dropped off. So I contacted Amazon, told them all of this, and they said to not worry about the email I received on Christmas Eve. I, once again, went on with my life.

Then this past Saturday, I received another email from Amazon telling me that since I had never returned the two books from the initial order, they were charging me for them effective immediately. I. Was. FURIOUS. Where on earth did they get off, accusing me of “not returning the order” that was never delivered to me in the first place?!?!?! My outrage only grew when I went back to customer support, and the person assigned to my customer support chat had the gall to tell me that the two books I had received were sent as a replacement to make up for what happened with the first books–which is all well and good, but the fact remained that I was now being charged for FOUR books, when in reality I had only EVER seen TWO of them.

I did eventually get my money back, but man, what a long, drawn out hassle, all over a problem that Amazon created for itself in the first place when THEIR delivery person somehow break a planter that was packed so tightly I had a hard time extracting it from its box to make sure it was what I wanted before gifting it. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of Amazon–I just feel much more confident buying directly from a retailer I know is reputable instead of hoping I’m buying from a decent dealer on Amazon–and let me tell you, this did NOT help matters AT ALL. I have a feeling it’ll be awhile until I buy anything from Amazon again.

4. In less whiny news, I am the proud new owner of ALL OF THE SHOES. Well, maybe not all of the shoes. But all of the shoes I needed to replace.

We have this thing at work where when managers are happy with something you’ve done, they can reward you points, which you can then use to get stuff–basically like credit card rewards, but without the spending-money-via-your-credit-card part of the equation. It occurred to me that I had points stored up in the system and that I probably had enough to get a gift card or two that could go to my shoe-buying needs. Lo and behold, I did!

I was delighted to discover that L.L. Bean had boots on sale (since L.L. Bean has such a generous return policy, I figured they were a safe bet in that department) and that Nike had their 2017 Frees on sale, so between the gift cards I could get from work’s system and the sales, I ended up spending a lot less of my own money than I originally anticipated.

LLBeansnowboot

While the boots have been great from a warmth/dryness standpoint, they are definitely taking some getting used to. The leather uppers don’t come pre-broken in, so they’re breaking my calves in the meantime. The boots have been way too stiff against my legs and have really irritated my lower legs. I’m sure once I break them in that won’t happen anymore, but the process of breaking them in is proving to be a bit more uncomfortable than I had hoped!

The Nikes, on the other hand, are a rousing success.

nikefreernflyknit2017

I really wanted them in this color, but they didn’t have any in my size online when I bought them (they do now, of course). These at least are still a little purple, even if they’re not OMGPURPLE like I wanted. Anyway, these are the Free RN Flyknit 2017s (I got the running Frees as opposed to the training Frees because they were cheaper…no shame), and they’ve worked excellently for both dance and a strength training workout thus far.

How should I spend my down time after I get my wisdom teeth out? Totally unrelated to this post, but this upcoming wisdom teeth extraction is about all I can think about, so here we are.