Morning Person

I pretty much still look exactly this good when I wake up in the morning.

I miss being a morning person.  Until turning thirty, I’d bound out of bed singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day!”  It would be animated—arms reaching up and everything.  That’s no exaggeration.  I’ve done that.  When I wasn’t singing, I’d wake up talking.  Matt, my boyfriend, used to call me Chatty Cathy.  When a crack of light creeped through the curtain, I’d just start: “I like the color purple.  Do you like the color purple?  What do you want to do today?  Did you see…?”  I’d open the curtains with a spunk and vivacity only exhibited in musical theater.  As I write that down, I realize Matt really should have left me by now.  He likes to sleep in and he moans every time actors break into song.

Sadly, I’m not the morning person I used to be, and it’s made me realize that the non-morning people in my life—Matt, my mom, and my best friend since childhood, Julie—must all really love me.  They are not naturally morning people.  And now, if I woke up to a person as chipper as I used to be in the morning, I think I just might wind up in prison.

I used to wake Julie up by clanging the hinged metal handle on her dresser like a door knocker.  She knew it was me, of course.  Her lack of functionality in the morning didn’t turn her into an idiot.  Her room didn’t make random noise when I wasn’t there. I was grateful on the mornings when her mom didn’t do Julie’s paper route for her because it meant Julie would be up before daybreak.  I was awful.

My mom only got to sleep in when we went to visit my grandparents.  My grandma would protect her at all costs, entertain me all morning, and woo me with Trix, an especially effective tool because we weren’t allowed sugary cereals at home.

On a rare occasion that I felt guilty for waking my loved ones and chose not to disturb them, I had to remove myself from the situation.  The situation being their sleeping bodies.  If there was a warm body around, I started talking.  Exercise helped.  It was always a good way to burn off my excess energy in the morning and extract myself from the people I cared about.

When I was a kid my mom used to get up earlier than she really needed to before work because she required “time.”  Time usually involved coffee or tea.  I couldn’t understand.  If you knew how long it took you to shower, dress, and eat, that should be all the time you need.  Why get up any earlier?  But now I get it.  I need time.  I want a hot cup of tea, and I just want to sit there—first in bed, then in a chair, as I slowly assume an upright position.

I compromise between setting the clock a little earlier and trying to pick up the pace of my daily routine.  This is a challenge because I move slower in the morning and because each year seems to require a new ointment or pill.  You wouldn’t think that would add to your schedule, but it does, especially when it takes about five minutes of looking at a tube, bottle or pill to recall what exactly I need to do with it.  I’m a little dense in the morning these days.  To help with my newfound morning mental incompetence, I started doing the New York Times crossword earlier this year.  I can’t say that I’ve noticed improvement.  I still need to think hard in the morning about how to apply toothpaste to my toothbrush.

It’s been over six years since I last awoke with excitement and anticipation of the mischief of the morning.  I miss the feeling of knowing I have a full, glorious day ahead, even if I’ll be asleep by nine.  Life is easier for morning people.  I can say this emphatically.  When waking up is easy, the whole day is better.  Literally every morning I wish I was a morning person again.  I don’t know why I stopped waking gleefully before the sun.  Perhaps on wishbones, birthday candles and shooting stars it’s time to change my wish from being happy to being a morning person.

22 Push-up Challenge

The 22 push-up challenge has been encouraging people to do 22 push-ups a day for a month to raise awareness about veteran suicides.  My brother-in-law sent me the challenge months ago.  I didn’t do it because I wasn’t feeling well.  Turns out I had Lyme disease.  But I did finally get around to creating a list of over 22 ways you can do a push up so that anyone doing the challenge can add some variety. Remember, never pick a version if it hurts in a bad way or seems to aggravate your body.  Here goes:

The Basics

  1. On your toes:
  2. On your knees:
  3. In tabletop

Gentler Versions for Individuals who need to go lighter on the wrists and shoulders

  1. Wall
  2. Wall Toss
  3. Flex Band Lying on Back

Playing with Speed

  1. You can slow down on the way down and come up at the normal speed.
  2. You can go down the normal speed and come up slowly
  3. You can go slowly in both directions
  4. You can hold for a count of three on the bottom and the top or one or the other
  5. You can stop midway and do little pulses.

Challenging Versions

  1. Add a clap!
  2. Narrow Grip
  3. Triceps Push-ups (on knees, toes or tabletop)
  4. With a Stability Ball Under Your Hands
  5. With a Stability Ball Under Your Feet
  6. When your chest touches the floor each time but your pelvis doesn’t
  7. Add an alternating side plank each time you come up
  8. Add and alternating leg lift
  9. Spider-Man Push-ups bringing your knee toward your shoulder
  10. Elbow to Plank 

Playing with Props

  1. Put a Flex-band around your shoulder blades to create more resistance
  2. Use a Bosu for a stability challenge and add protracting each shoulder before the push-up
  3. Use a step or a box to do push-ups on a incline
  4. Use a step or a box to do push-ups on a decline

 

To My Dad on Father’s Day

The cradle my dad built us.

To My Dad:

My parents separated when I was two years old.  My dad got me every other weekend and for Tuesday night dinners.  We still get together for Tuesday night dinner.  And, according to my mom, he never missed a weekend.  My dad always seemed to want time with me and want me to be a part of his life and his interests.

He took me to baseball games and taught me to drop a ball down into the dugout with a soda bottle so that I could collect signatures.  He took me sailing.  He thinks I hated it because as a child I was scared of everything—the dark, gremlins, the alligator under my bed, leaving my mother, and sailing—but my memories from the boat involve loving being with my dad.  Note: I loved it except for the toilet or when the boat was heeling over.  That part I really didn’t like.  Okay, I actually hated the sailing part.  He’s right there.  I just liked the time with him.  But I think now I’d really enjoy it.  My dad thinks I didn’t like sailing because I often cried when I had to leave my mom.  I was a momma’s girl.  But I recall loving my time with my dad.

My dad and brother in Civil War attire.

He used to shoot black powder with the 5th Connecticut—a Civil War infantry.  He wasn’t actually in the Civil War, a point I think he’d want me to clarify for good measure.  The group aren’t exactly reenactors.  They are competitive shooters in Civil War uniforms.  He would take me shooting.  The black powder was a little too intense for me.  But my dad has always wanted to share his passions with his children.

He’s a photographer, which means our baby books are incredible.  He also taught Driver’s Ed, so when it was my turn to drive he was unusually calm.  One day he took me out and I was clearly going to run a stop sign.  He said, “That’s a stop sign. I recommend you stop, but you’re the driver so it’s up to you.”  It wasn’t actually up to me.  It’s a stop sign.  I had to stop.  But that’s a pretty calm passenger.  I’m a backseat driver—a trait I obviously didn’t get from my dad.

Though he has never liked a movie I’ve recommended, he continues to watch my suggestions.

When I was seven my little sister was born.  I was swimming at my neighbor’s pool and my mom called for us (me and my older sister) to come home to meet our new sibling.  As we ran home, my neighbor’s dad yelled, “If it’s a girl, tell your father not to flush it down the toilet.”   I was too excited to meet my little sister, Helen, when he said it at the time, but I asked my mom about it when I got home.  She laughed.

Apparently, my dad wasn’t sure he wanted to have kids.  When my mom was pregnant with my older sister, he was nervous about having kids and definitely wanted a boy.  He used to say if it was a girl, he was going to flush it down the toilet.  My mom was nervous.  And then when my sister was born and my father saw her, he looked at my mom and said, “I want another one.”  He was so in love.  He had three girls before a boy and he loves us endlessly.  Sorry, Will, Dad doesn’t love you more. (Insert smiley face with tongue sticking out emoticon.)  My dad will do anything for us.  He wants us with him.  It’s so obvious that he wants us around.  And he’s happy when we are there.  You can see the joy on his face.  And I sometimes wonder if that’s the same joy my mom saw that first time he saw my sister.

It looks like my dad is about to feed me to a lobster here.

He, like my mom, encourages debate and conversation.  Morally my dad and I align pretty well.  But on religion and politics we don’t always agree, but that doesn’t change anything about our relationship.  There is no topic off limits.  Even when my dad doesn’t agree with me, he’ll talk about any topic and love me just as much when I state my mind.  Without a doubt that has been one of the best traits of all my parents.  They will hear my point-of-view, even encourage me to have one, and they are okay when it differs from theirs.  I feel like they taught me to think and question.  They may have overdone it.

My dad gets excited about my adventures.  He laughs when I swim in Jell-O and tells his friends that I’ll be hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro.  My dad gave me my interest in hiking.  He was the first person to take me to Devil’s Hopyard, and I loved it from the start. It was so much better than sailing. Every time I’m on the top of a mountain I think of him.  I’m seeing that view because of him.  My love of history comes from my father.  My memory does not.  I have to call him any time I have an historical question or a question about our family heritage.

When I was in college, even though I had a boyfriend, my dad mailed me an “Application to Date my Daughter.”  It included questions like, “where would you least like to be shot?”  My dad still calls to check in on me.  He texts me almost daily.  He frequently tells me he loves me.  It’s nice to hear, but it’s obvious.  My dad likes to have me around.  Most recently he taught me how to urinate like a man.  So the life lessons keep coming.

My dad is really good at letting things roll off his back.  He doesn’t hold a grudge—two traits I envy.  He’s also good at relaxing, enjoying the moment and being present.  It’s an example I’m trying to emulate.  But at thirty-six, I’m not sure it will happen for me.

What I did pick up from my dad is an incessant need to twirl my hair.  I twirl it up by the front and close to the scalp.  He used to do this too, and I used to ask him to stop so that I could twirl his hair.  Sometimes if I really get going I can twirl two little devil-horn looking loops in my hair on either side of my head.

We also share a sort of obnoxious need to be early.  If something starts at 5pm, my dad and I will want to be there at 4:45.  If we are going to be late, which means 4:50 in our mind, we start to get stressed.  I think everyone we know finds this irritating.  But he and I get it.

He sings ditties.  My other siblings tease him, but I have to love it because I do to.  A Downie Ditty is basically a made up musical number about something that just happened.  Best when sung off key by someone completely tone deaf.  When I was a little girl, he used to sing, “When I was just a lad of three I climbed upon my mother’s knee and said when I grow up I want to have a kid just like Maggie.”  He made it up, but for years I thought it was a real song that was amazingly perfect for us, except when he sang it to my sister and used her name.

We share the same mole.  It’s huge—the size of a thumbprint on my back.  It’s important that we both have this monstrosity, because I’m not sure I’d like it if my dad didn’t have the exact same one.  I’ve always loved it because it was a way I matched my dad.  We have the same feet and legs.  I presume this is bad for one of us.  One of us is a guy with girl legs.  The other is a girl with guy legs.  I’m worried because I think my dad has pretty nice legs for a guy.

When I was still lap sitting age and my parents were newly divorced, I’d repeatedly ask my dad if he loved my mom.  He always said, “Yes.  Of course I do.”  As an adult I can’t imagine how hard that was because I suspect they were both pretty mad and hurt by each other at the time.  The wound was raw when I was asking.  But somehow my dad never let that get in the way of what was best for me.  Never.  When I talk about how my parents handled divorce, I often feel like I’m bragging.  They could not have done it better.  They should write a book with my stepmom.

So, yeah, my dad is pretty wonderful.  He makes me feel so loved.  And that is a gift I can never repay.  But at least he can know I know.

Pee Like A Guy

I also got a fancy case to conceal it when it’s not being used.

In prep for hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, it was suggested to me that I get a device that enables women to pee while standing without taking their pants off.  It enables women to pee like a guy.  In truth, I’ve always been sort of interested in one of these contraptions, so it didn’t take much convincing.

A friend suggested the p-style.  And she said, “Practice.”  It arrived earlier this week.  The p-style looks sort of like a pink taco with one side sealed.  You place it where it needs to go, and viola, you can urinate like a guy.  Except I couldn’t figure out how not to pee all over my feet.  I couldn’t create enough force to get away from my feet.

I mentioned the problem to my dad at dinner.  He tells me, “Maggie.  Wide stance.  Pelvis forward.”  So I tried and it worked.  I’m not sure if guys know this little trick intuitively.  It also amuses me that my dad just taught his 36-year-old daughter how to pee like a guy.  A conversation I suspect he may not have counted on.

Lyme Disease in Connecticut

Getting preachy about how to treat disease isn’t my thing, so I’m just going to share my story.  When it comes to what is happening in your body, you need to make the best decision for yourself.  It can be hard in a world with so much information and so few answers.  Everyone has their own opinion.  I’m one of the many cases of Lyme Disease in Connecticut this year already, and I think it easily could have gone undiagnosed.  That concerns me for others who may have Lyme disease, too.

I work with a naturopath and a medical doctor.  Years ago I thought naturopaths were a little whacky.  I went to one out of desperation because I was really sick and no one could figure out what was wrong with me.  My naturopath figured out I was hypothyroid and had Hashimotos.  These are not that hard to diagnose. My PCP at the time denied it (she’s no longer my PCP).  An endocrinologist confirmed the situation and wanted to put me on levothyroxine.  I was hesitant to take medication and read going gluten-free could help.  I went gluten-free and my Hashimoto’s antibodies dropped (a good thing) and my thyroid numbers went back to their normal level.

This worked for me for two years and then I went on levothyroxine in addition to remaining gluten free.  That’s the quick story of how I came to trust a naturopath.  I’m not using this story to knock MD’s.  I think I just personally had a bad one at the time.  But it made me very committed to my naturopath.  And in contracting Lyme this year, it was once again my naturopath that helped.

Lyme is misunderstood.  It’s complicated, and can be hard to diagnose.  NPR’s Where We Live just did a story about the increased incidents of ticks carrying Lyme in Connecticut this year.  It’s worth a listen if it’s something you are worried about.  But they think it’s showing up in higher numbers because the tick population has increased after a mild winter (that February thaw may not have helped kill off the ticks) and the mouse population is high.  Mice are hosts for deer ticks.  Mice like to live in Japanese Barberry (an invasive plant), so if you have some in your yard, you might want to consider cutting it out if ticks scare you as much as they terrify me.

When I was nine years old I had Lyme disease.  After finding a deer tick on my abdomen and never developing a bullseye rash, I tested negative for Lyme.  Six months later I couldn’t move my legs.  I had Lyme.  The treated me, and I was good to go.  But I always like to joke that I’d be a lot smarter if I never had Lyme disease.  Also, Lyme is thought to be linked with autoimmune issues.  This possibly includes Hashimotos and thyroid imbalances.

This year when I got Lyme, I didn’t even consider it until a test came back positive.  I thought I’d be much sicker if I had Lyme because I remembered not being able to walk as a child.  But I never got sick as a kid with Lyme—no fever, no rash.  Just one day I sat on the couch and then I couldn’t get back up.  There was no fatigue.  My legs just wouldn’t move.  I know a number of people who have had Lyme and they seemed a lot worse off than me.  Still, late last summer, I’d been bitten by a deer tick, and I said to Matt, “If I’m complaining of feeling sick in six months, don’t let me forget I got bit by a tick.”  We both forgot.  My symptoms were similar to a lot of the issues I had when my thyroid was off, so I attributed everything to my thyroid, but that was testing fine.

Symptoms:

My major and most worrisome symptoms were extreme fatigue (without sleeping well) and brain fog.  I’d confuse words and forget words.  I told my 91-year-old grandma that she had a better memory than I did.  It was true.  I’d find myself reaching for very basic terms.  But I thought that could be attributed to the lack of sleep.  Matt would ask me what day I wanted to do something and I’d respond, “pasta.”  Moments like that made me really concerned.  Was I loosing it?

I also had some mild knee joint pain that I could l have brushed off as coming from workouts.  My heart felt funny.  It wasn’t palpitations, all I could say is that it felt odd.  I was very aware of it and when I went to bed at night it seemed very obvious it was working. I was extremely light headed.  Nearly every time I tied my shoes I thought I would pass out when I stood up.  A couple nights a week, I’d get night sweats.  And I felt like my brain and heart were buzzing—two sensations you might hesitate to mention to a doctor.  I thought they might want to throw me in the looney bin.

My stomach was a mess, but testing found that was linked to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which can sometimes develop with Lyme disease.  It can also be unrelated, but Lyme disease affects your nervous system, which can influence a lot of our moving parts.  Those intestines are moving parts we normally don’t have to think too much about.  I didn’t relate any of this to Lyme.  I was convinced it was all my thyroid.  I could come up with an explanation for everything.  Brain fog from lack of sleep.  Knee pain from riding the bike.  Heart issues from thyroid.

Testing

I was visiting so many doctors—a gastroenterologist for my intestines, my endocrinologist about my thyroid, my regular doctor’s office because my heart and light headedness (which may have been related to my thyroid actually or the Lyme).  When all my numbers seemed good, my naturopath suggested I go see a naturopath she recommended who specialized in Lyme disease.  They ran some blood work.  I had to pay out of pocket for the bloodwork, but not to see the doctor.  The test came back positive for a current case of Lyme.  This wasn’t remnants of the last time I had it.  Naturopaths can’t prescribe antibiotics, but I wanted to take them.  They worked for me when I was nine.  Lyme is pretty serious.

So it was back to my PCP where they reviewed all my bloodwork.  They ran a test for Lyme disease that came back negative.  And that’s what concerned me.  My PCP was surprised.  The test they ran was negative.  The Lyme Naturopath had run a more in-depth test that tested more bands for Lyme disease.   My PCP explained that they run the test she used and when results from that test are uncertain then they run a more extensive test like the one my naturopath opted for.  They wouldn’t have run a more extensive test for me, but I still would have had Lyme disease, but I wouldn’t have gotten treatment. And I would have felt like I was just going crazy.

That’s the piece that concerned me.  It’s important and helpful to catch Lyme early, and the test my PCP would have run would have missed my case completely.  Catching Lyme early matters because the people I know who really suffer from Lyme catch it very late.  Perhaps in part to poor testing.  Doctors know the testing is limited.  This isn’t something everyone’s denying.  I’m just not certain why they don’t skip the first test and go straight to the more detailed option.

Dr. Ulysses Wu, Chief of Infectious Diseases at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center on NPR mentioned that he was skeptical of some labs showing false positives.  I wish he had time to go into more details on why because he also discussed the fact they think nine in ten cases of Lyme go undiagnosed.  But he fears Lyme is both over and underdiagnosed. You wouldn’t want to miss an autoimmune disease or cancer and think you have Lyme disease.

Dr. Paul Fiedler, the Chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and principal investigator of Lyme disease research at Western Connecticut Health Network, pointed out on the show that the two-tier test recommended by the CDC only comes back positive the first time it’s administered a third of the time for patients that have Lyme symptoms.

You may not develop symptoms until weeks or months after being bitten so by the time you go in for a test, you may have been living with Lyme for a while.  Often the same test will eventually be positive a few weeks later.  So your doctor would need to know to run the test again.  This is in part because the test doesn’t look for Lyme disease.  It looks for antibodies.  Our immune system has to start fighting the Lyme before anyone can catch that we have it.  I would assume once you have symptoms the body is doing that, but maybe not.  Dr. Fielder and his team are working to come up with better testing, and it looks like they have some promising results.  Both doctors emphasized that testing can be accurate when administered appropriately.  Again, I’m not knocking doctors here.  They can’t know everything, but you can advocate for yourself and ask for a retest or a more in-depth test.

I opted to treat with antibiotics and herbal medications.  I’m done with the antibiotics and continuing with the herbals for the next couple of months.  I’m feeling better—so much better.  Things still aren’t perfect, but I’m certainly on the mend.  No more night sweats and my heart feels fine.  And when I stop treating then it’s just a waiting game.  I wait and see if I feel sick again.  I’m thinking positive.  My body fought Lyme back at nine, I’m confident it can do it again.

The doctor’s I use:

Dr. Marina Franzoni, Hart Acupuncture & Nutrition in Farmington, CT  –my regular naturopath

Dr. Keith Yimonyines, Tao Vitality, Hebron, CT –my Lyme naturopath

Dr. Sachdev, Connecticut GI, Glastonbury CT –my GI

I won’t weigh in on my PCP because while I liked her, my Lyme diagnosis was just my first visit with her.  We’d just gotten assigned to each other.

Statistics:

From Dr. Theodore Andreadis, Director of Connecticut Agriculture Experimentation Station & Center for Vector Biology and Zoonotic Diseases (from the Where We Live episode):

The testing center is getting 10-times more ticks sent for testing than usual in Connecticut

Of the over 1,000 ticks they have already tested (prior to peak season) 38% are positive for Lyme.  Fifty-percent have Lyme or another tick borne illness or both.