Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My Treacherous Heart and 100 Rides by 49

"The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?" Life is crazy and so are our bodies. We can do all the right things and still end up with illnesses that affect our bones and muscles. We can not take care of ourselves, eat bacon all the time, and live to 93. We never know what our body is going to do. The best bet is to just eat right and exercise as much as possible as long as we can. 

It turns out I have an unusual heart. A few months ago I was diagnosed with WPW/Wolf-Parkinson-White (an accessory pathway of the electrical current in my heart) and possible sick sinus node. I went in to the hospital on November 16 for a cardiac catheterization to map my heart and to see where the problem was. The doctor at UT Physicians was sure that I was going to have to have an ablation.So did the second opinion doctor from Methodist/DeBakey.
It turns out that I have an ectopic atrial rhythm in the top left chamber that made it look like I had WPW and Sick Sinus Node. I have neither and the ectopic atrial rhythm is not life threatening. In fact the main electrical impulses of my heart start with that rhythm. The sinus node also works but not as strongly as the rhythm. The doctor has never seen anything like this before in his professional career. He said he got on a conference call with the doctor who did my second opinion and another specialist and they had never seen this before either.
So all's well that ends well for now. I took a two week break from my Peloton bike to make sure that the entry points in my groin had healed. I've been back on it for a week now and everything is working as it should so far, except for some slight soreness on the left side. My regular doctor said those entry points take a little while to heal. 
There's this meme that I love that I used to post when I was trying to walk/run. I want to make the same one for cycling. There are so many things to be grateful for and one of those is that I have a body that can move the way it does. Not everyone can say that.

Of course I'm not out of the woods yet. I still need to keep cycling and eating right and trying to lose this weight that haunts me. I've made a commitment to reach 100 rides by my 49th birthday in February. Yesterday I got to Ride #60 so I'm well on my way. Now I just need to change my diet to match my exercise. I have to. I need to. I will recommit for 2019. #100ridesby49

Sunday, November 25, 2018

My Paris Recap

This is really late in coming but I'm finally getting it written. I went to Paris October 11-16 with my best friend and traveling buddy Vicki. She and I took our first cross country trip when we were 16 years old to California, Las Vegas, the Hoover dam and the Grand Canyon. We took a break in traveling together for a few years when we were married and our kids were little, but here lately we've been to New York, Chicago and now Paris!

Arc de Triomphe

We were busy every single day. Starting with a walk, dinner and then a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We saw the light show at 9 p.m. and then headed to the hotel. We were up bright and early for our trip to Versailles.

Here are some tips for Versailles:

Get there super early, like 8:30 at the latest. They open at 9 a.m. but even at 8 a line is forming. Even if you buy a timed entry ticket, get there early.

Buy a ticket that will get you into everything. You'll just show that same ticket when you go into the gardens and to the Petit Trianon with now worries. You can purchase the ticket online.

Plan on spending the whole day there if you can. Rent a bike or a golf cart because it is huge. Like bigger than you probably imagine it to be. Marie Antoinette's home is a very far walk from the main palace.

If you rent a bike or golf cart be sure to budget the cost for keeping it for at least 3 hours. There's also a hop off and on tram that goes around the grounds.

When you go to Marie Antoinette's house, the Petit Trianon, you'll have to park and walk into the house first. Do not think you can take a shortcut around. You must enter through the house, through a metal detector and you have to show your ticket.

You still have to walk through the house to go see her hamlet town so you might as well see the house. The hamlet is a made up little town of some real houses and some facades. She built a little hamlet because she wanted to pretend to be a poor peasant. You can see why the poor people of France hated her, but she was just a spoiled kid.

Pack lunch, water and snacks if you are going to make it a day trip or plan on eating in the restaurant there in the palace.

If you take an Uber to Versailles when it comes time to leave, walk away from it before you order a car back. Always walk away from any major monuments and the price goes town substantially. We just walked down the main street that runs into the front entrance as far as the tourism office.

After Versailles we walked by Notre Dame but the line was too long so we just took pictures on the outside. Sunday we went to the Musee D'Orsay, Sainte Chapelle, the Pere Lachaise Cemetery and walked along the Champs Elysees until we go to the Arc de Triomphe.

Some people have told me that they'd rather see Sainte Chapelle instead of Notre Dame but since I've never been inside of Notre Dame I don't feel like I'm qualified to give that same advice. I can tell you that whether you go to Notre Dame or you don't, you MUST go Sainte Chapelle. It wasn't on our itinerary originally but when I was in Philadelphia connecting flights I went to the Rodin Museum there. The woman who worked there told me that I had to go to see Sainte Chapelle. Her art teacher had described it as a "jewel box turned inside out" and when I saw it it did live up to that description.

Stained glass of Sainte Chapelle
On our last day we did less but we did two big things We went to the Louvre in the morning and we went to Moulin Rouge in the evening.

When I went to Paris in 1987 my sister got pick-pocketed and ruined our chances of going to the Louvre because we spent the whole day looking for the police station to report her stolen birth certificate and driver's license. So for 31 years I have been looking forward to going back and seeing the Louvre. I wish I had planned better so I wouldn't have felt so disappointed.

Here is my Louvre advice. Get ready to walk a lot, almost as much as Versailles. Print out a floor plan BEFORE you go and plot the things you want to see. For example, you will pass Michaelangelo's Slave statue on your way to see the Mona Lisa. Stop and visit it then. So have a route you are going to take or you will find yourself walking in circles and disgusted.

And yes the Mona Lisa is tiny and they do not have an organized way for you to look at her. I would recommend to them that they rope it off and make everyone pass it in a single line, like they do the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico. It's a chaotic big crowd in front of the tiny photo and you may have a couple taking 20 selfies in front of you like I did. I finally told them to stop and move on.

Moulin Rouge is amazing. It's a cross between Cirque du Soleil and a burlesque show. Somehow I never realized that the dancers are topless the entire time. It's definitely something you have to see at least once in your life.

Over-all Paris is magical. I would like to go back but I would spread things out more and I wouldn't pack so many things into one day. We had to do that because we were only really there for four days. If I go again I will do less, and see some things I haven't seen, like other churches. The point is I will go again. It's definitely a place I want to take the kids. Until we meet again Paris!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

I Feel Pretty and My ADD Self-Confidence

I just came back from a 4 day trip to Paris on Tuesday. Yes, I know, that in itself is a whole other blog on its own. I'll be writing one about my favorite travel tips next. This blog is about the two movies that I watched on my flight home- "I Feel Pretty" and "Book Club." These are two totally different movies but they both deal with one similar theme, a woman's self esteem, whether she's single and in her 30s or a 65+ empty-nester. Even a federal judge, played by Candice Bergen in "Book Club," can feel insecure and unattractive sometimes. (Small "I Feel Pretty" spoilers.)

Me at my biggest in 2006 on the left and recently this year on the right. 

The truth is we are all our worst critic. I think that’s what “I Feel Pretty” was about. Amy Schumer’s character is her worst critic and when she hits her head she gets this total self-confidence. The interesting thing is that we never see what she sees in the mirror. We all assume she sees a super fit woman from the things that she says, but unlike other movies that play with this theme, they don’t show her point of view. Which really emphasizes the fact that we all have our own idea of what the ideal woman looks like in our head.

What I loved about the movie was the message that if we just love ourselves and have self-confidence we can achieve so much more. Unfortunately, the character does become a bit obnoxious and full of herself, so I think there was a message there too. Despite it getting a little corny and Amy Schumer exaggerating things a bit, for the sake of comedy, I loved the over-all message of believing in yourself and that realization that she had that self-confidence all along. We all do!

When I recently posted this old photo on Facebook my sister said she didn't even remember me that size on the left. I do remember being this size and I remember thinking that I needed to lose weight. However, I don’t think I realized how I looked in that dress. I look at this picture now and I think I look self-confident and like I don't seem to care that you can see the outline of my stomach or that it does nothing to camouflage the size of my boobs. I know I did have some feelings of insecurity sometimes, like anybody else, but I don’t think it was that bad. For god’s sake look at that dress I’m wearing! 

I remember a friend telling me one day when I was talking about my weight, around this same time period, that she didn’t think that my weight bothered me because I didn’t act like it did. I probably just hid it very well or forgot that it bothered me. Sometimes I'm ADD like that! Seriously though, I know that part of the reason I made a drastic change in my life to lose weight was for appearances. I did have times that I looked in the mirror and wished I looked different but part of me hated conforming to society's idea of what we should look like.  However the most important reason I did it was for my health. That's not to say I don't still struggle with my weight daily. A lap band is not the end all cure all. All it does is keep me from weighing 300 pounds and having diabetic complications.

As I've written here lately, I've recently been working out a lot more and I've been doing the Peloton bike. I know I've lost weight, the scale tells me and my clothes tell me I have. But when I look at pictures that were taken of me recently by other people, and standing next to thin fit people, I think I look sooo fat. When I was recently traveling I was sitting up high on a bar stool at the airport and I looked over at my reflection in the window and thought I looked huge. 

The funny part is that when I see these images of myself I think, "That's not how I see myself in my head!"  I remember thinking that same thing ten years ago when I initially started losing weight and I saw a picture of myself and it actually discouraged me. I remember thinking, "If I still look that big after losing thirty pounds, what did I look like before?" I thought the same thing this time. As funny as it sounds it's like I struggle between feeling self-confident and good about myself and then seeing pictures of myself and getting knocked down a notch. 

Then on the flight back from Paris I saw "I Look Pretty." I know, I know! It shouldn't take a movie to tell me what I already know. All I'm saying is that I'm not letting my own insecurity discourage me this time. I need to remember that self-confidence of the woman in the photo above, yeah the one of the left. She don't give no Fs what she looks like in that close-fitting dress. 

I write so candidly about all this- about my body issues, my insecurities, my thinking I look good and then not- because I know that there are a lot of people out there that can relate. I hope that my writing about it makes it real and okay to feel that way. I hope it makes someone feel better about themselves and to realize that like Amy Schumer's character Renee, we do have that self-confidence inside of us all the time. 

(This blog became all about "I Look Pretty," so I didn't get to talk about "Book Club." It's a great movie about growing older and not losing our sexuality after 65. It gave me hope for the future as I'm getting older and closer to becoming an empty-nester. I want to have the self-confidence of Jane Fonda's character when I'm 80! Hell! I want that self-confidence now.)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

How the Peloton Bike is Changing My Life

Almost two months ago I made the best drunken purchase I've ever made. It's one thing to buy too much silver in Mexico while drinking and shopping. It's another thing when you've had a few too many drinks and you're home and targeted for the 100th time with a Peloton bike ad. There's a billboard by my house, I received a direct mail postcard, saw digital ads, my boss has one, and finally I was served up a TV ad while watching Hulu. I clicked through to the ad and they had a very good call to action: (this is so the advertising person talking here) Zero down and ZERO INTEREST. That caught my attention and this ended up happening. I blogged about it and how it had become the catalayst for me to get stuff done.

I'm coming up on my two month anniversary and I'm taking my body measurements again at that time, although people are constantly asking me if I'm losing weight. Then there's social media of course. I'm posting photos about my work-outs, probably to the point of being obnoxious, and photos of my progress. Friends keep commenting that they can see the difference.

Side note to this. I like to think that I'm motivating people because I've had so many friends ask me about the bike and they are thinking about buying it. I had one friend who actually did buy it and Peloton sent me a gift card for referring her. I like what she said the best. She said that I'm a real person, not someone who was athletic and already active prior to this. I'm a busy working mom raising two teenagers, about 60 pounds overweight and I have to find the time to exercise. I like that my friends see me as a "real person" who they know, embarking on this exercise journey.

The thing is this. I have always exercised off and on for the better part of my life. I was on the swim team and track team, throwing the shot, in middle school and then I started doing aerobics every day after school in high school. I belonged to a gym in my early twenties and then later when I had kids I belonged to 24 Hour Fitness for a few years. I've gained weight and lost weight over the years, but I've mostly gained. Even after getting the lap band eleven years ago my weight is higher than it was at my lowest post-lap band weight. (Thank goodness I've never gotten up to my highest weight that I was at in 2007 before getting the lap band.)  I've started and stopped so many diets over the years. I've started and stopped exercising. I've tried running off and on, but never stuck to it.

The Peloton has been different. First of all I'm paying for it right now. Yes, I am financing the bike until I pay it off, so that's one payment. (no interest and no catches) The second payment is the subscription to the absolutely awesome program that I love. I see this like a gym membership. Not only do I follow live and on demand cycling classes on my bike, I can also do floor exercises from arms, to core, to yoga. The best part is that you can have up to five profiles on your subscription, so my two kids can use it too. So really I'm getting three gym memberships for the price of one subscription.

I downloaded the Peloton app to my phone and I can do any of the floor exercises using my phone. Today I went on a beginner walk/run using my app for the first time. I had a trainer in my ear the whole time leading the run.

Maybe I'm especially motivated right now because it's all so brand new and because I'm paying for it, but I'd like to think that this bike has changed the way I exercise. It sits in the middle of my living room and there's no avoiding it. I can jump on it whenever it's convenient and I don't have to get dressed up, except for wearing my padded shorts and cycling shoes. I can get on at 10 p.m. at night if I want to, cycle for half an hour, and then jump in the shower before bed.

It's not like any other stationary bike because of the classes and the instructors. So far Jess King is my favorite because she is so motivating. I did my first live class this weekend and I chose to do it with her. So far I had only done pre-recorded on demand classes and I was working my way up to a live class. I also like Jennifer Jacobs for the arms but I'm sure that as I do more classes I'll have more favorites. I must admit that watching the leaderboard when I was doing the live class was really motivating too. It shows you how you rank with all the other people doing the same class.

The Peloton bike is changing my life and reshaping my body and my mind in the process. I feel stronger than I have in a long time and like I can do so much more. I'm even more aware of what I'm putting in my body for fuel, rather than just eating for the pleasure of eating.

On today's run the instructor said something powerful. He said don't exercise because you "have to." Exercise because you can. You GET TO exercise because you have that privelege. I don't live in a war torn country where we have to stay inside. I have legs that allow me to cycle and run and there are people who wish they could. So I get to exercise and I don't take that for granted. This will be an exciting journey and I can't wait to update you all on the progress. (Not a sponsored post.)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Building My Own Personal Brand as a Writer

I've been blogging here since November of 2004 when my youngest was seven months old. So much has happened to me since then. I started the blog as a writing outlet and somewhere to be an accountable for my writing. My goal then was to get my novel written and I talk about it in that first post.  I did get my novel written, and even edited a few years ago, but in the almost 14 years since I started this blog not much has happened with the novel. But a lot has happened with me and this blog became the  chronicle of my life.

Me reading part of my novel at a Nuestra Palabra showcase at MECA, March, 2004, 8 months pregnant.
The reason I'm going down memory lane like this is because for a long time now I've been beating myself up about this blog. I beat myself up when I don't write often enough. I beat myself up when I forget to promote it. I beat myself up because it doesn't have one set theme. For a while I was told that I had to have one main subject, like shoes or make-up or one of those other subjects that people blog about and make money selling ads or getting sponsorships. I stressed because I never took the blog to the next level, I never put it on it's own website. I own the name but it redirects to Blogger.  I finally got over all of that. I had an AHA! moment.

Last Friday I attended Houston Social Media Breakfast, a monthly breakfast that always discusses a a different social media topic. I learn so much at these breakfasts and it's a great place to network. The speaker was Mila Clarke Buckley, AKA "Hangry Woman." and she said so many things that resonated with me. The topic was "When Building Your Personal Brand Isn't Your Day Job."

So to keep it short and sweet these were my main takeaways and part of my AHA! moment.

I don't necessarily have to blog to build my brand. As long as I'm creating content online on a social media channel and creating a following. Her social media channel of choice is Instagram. I'm not sure if that's exactly what Mila said, but that's what I decided from what I heard.

Instagram is all about these 30 hashtags and if you have good hashtags you can gain more followers. So I came up with these 30+ hashtags that may change from time to time, depending on my post. (Instagram only allows 30 hashtags.) Why are these hashtags important? Because these are the topics  I write about on my blog and when people see them on Instagram, and they are something they are interested in too, they are more likely to follow me and get to know me as a writer.

#shoegirlcorner #shoegirl1970 #loveHipHouston #workingMama #coparenting #momofteens #singlemom  #writer #pelotonmom #lacrossemom #booksandcocktails  #healthynotskinny #myinnerjourney #newspaper #publiceducationadvocate #HoustonCemeteries #typewriters  #traveler #alchemy #recommit #evolve #gratitude #fashionmom #almost50 #artlover #innercityliving #oldarchitecture #nativeTexan #80smusic #4yearplan #sacredhearts #swatchwatch #vodkaconnoisseur

And most importantly I finally came to terms with my blog being about all these things. It just is. This blog is all about my life and the many things that make me who I am. So I may blog about getting a Peloton, about gratitude, old architecture, being a single mom and so many other topics. The goal of my blog and of building my personal brand is to build a following and readers, not to sell advertising or sponsorships or to promote a brand. So when I finally publish my book I'll have a community of people who will want to read my books. 

It's that simple and it goes back to the original reason I started this blog. It was to help me write my novel and to keep me accountable. Technology has changed a lot in the past 14 years since I started this blog and social media has been a big part of that. So it's only natural that my blog has had to change too. I'll probably only blog once a month and I'm okay with that. As long as I keep promoting myself and my writing on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter it's all good. Follow me and read my book!