Trek Women
November 30, 2007

Who Stole My Endorphins?

Detective This is that time of year to play the juggling expectations game.  It seems every time I turn around there is another holiday commitment to add to the calendar.  And when I keep adding things to the calendar, I've noticed that the things already there don't seem to drop off.  Pair that with the constantly swirling thoughts of "To- Do" lists that never end during the holidays - a girl (namely me) can get kinda stressed out.  I think this year I noticed it earlier.  Having the "boot" on my foot (see The Freak Effect post) has left me making lists titled "All The Things To Do When I Get This Boot Off My Foot."  The lists are kind of long.  In fact, last night I think my lists in the family room mated with the lists in the kitchen and had little list babies. 

Right now my head is swirling, my house has no order, my energy is zapped.  And then it came to me. In an a-ha light-bulb kind of moment - WHO STOLE MY ENDORPHINS?????  During the Spring and Summer and well into the Fall I was training.  Six days a week I was either swimming, biking, or running - often twice a day.  Those endorphins kept me going.  My creative zen and stress relief were wrapped up in the miles I put on my bike, my legs or in the pool.  I've been pulled to a stop with the weather, the "boot" and all the zany craziness that comes from Thanksgiving through New Year's.  To quote my favorite 7 year-old, "It's NOT fair!!"  I want those endorphins back.  I don't think I will survive the season without them. 

My whole family knows that I am a calmer, happier and much more sane person when I've had my daily endorphin dose.  So, does that make me an endorphin addict?  Perhaps.  But, I think the benefits are too great to just "ignore" this daily therapy in my life just because the holidays are a crazy time.  I know a lot of women out there (and men too) who spend a lot of stressed out time saying, "When this month passes, or this deadline, or this holiday. . . "  Perhaps the mall wouldn't be the crazy ball of stress that it is right now, if we'd all give ourselves first the gift of a little exercise-induced stress relief.

So, today, I am getting out my detective gear and heading to the gym to see what I can do to solve this mystery.  If I spot any one else's endorphins and stress relief in the Lost & Found box, I will let you know.

-Jen

November 29, 2007

Bump Me, Baby

Airplane_2 When we traveled home this week, the airport was the usual holiday craziness.  Passengers who were tired, hungry, and intent on getting to their destination as quickly as possible packed every inch of the airport.  It was our dream come true. 

We love to travel.  Traveling costs money.  The way we offset our little hobby is to spend endless hours in airports NOT getting to our set destination on time.  It's the bumping game.  Yes, we purposely book flights at the holidays that are sure to be overfull with people intent on getting to Dear Aunt Sallie's on-time.  We then get to the airport and volunteer ourselves to be bumped to a later flight.  In exchange we get airline vouchers.  This little game has funded our travel adventures for most of the last ten years.  We always come prepared for the overnight bump and have taken bumps even when the kids were still toddlers.  The boys know Atlanta's airport and terminals like the back of their hand.  Our families know that all plans to pick us up at the airport are tentative until given actual notice.  This Thanksgiving we were disappointed on the way to SC with no bumps.  But, coming home we were richly rewarded with an overnight stay and $1,600 worth of airline dollars for future flights.

Because vouchers are only good for a year and we already had our Christmas tickets and vacations through summer 2008 booked, we are now looking at these vouchers as a bonus - an excuse for a trip we would have never done otherwise.   When we were in Seattle in August, we picked up information about some great biking journeys in Washington and Oregon that we are now considering. . . .I think my bike is going to learn to fly.

-Jen

November 28, 2007

One of Pavlov's Dogs

Dog_large Long, long ago a man named Ivan Pavlov used dogs, food and a bell to discover that we can develop a conditioned reflex to things.  He would ring a bell and then give the dogs food.  Pretty soon, just hearing a bell would cause the dogs to salivate because they thought there was food - a classic conditioned response.  Well, I am a classic Pavlov dog case. 

Today, I went for the bone scan on my foot.  This is the type of scan that has to be done at a hospital where they have said scanner.  So, I found myself sitting in patient registration this morning at the same hospital where I had the biopsy of my lymph nodes that diagnosed my lymphoma.  While a bone scan has nothing to do with surgery or cancer I found myself with a rapid heart beat, sweating and a lot of anxiety while forking over all the necessary items for the scan (none of these said items was related to my foot mind you - mostly prescription, insurance card, various signatures guaranteeing my first born if my insurance didn't pay - the standard stuff).  The whole thing was made worse by the fact that the woman registering me was a nun (it's a Catholic hospital).  That made it hard for me to rationalize throwing something at her to distract her so I could bolt out the door.

This type of reaction (only much worse) also happened to me after chemo.  During my first set of chemo's I always wore the same clothes - I was in the hospital all day and my style had to be dictated by what allowed easy IV access.  How bad is it to go to the store and admire things like this, "ooh, this looks comfortable, versatile and can be rolled up or down for easy IV in either arm?"  Anyway, for months after chemo ended, I couldn't look at those clothes in my closet without getting severely nauseous because of the association.  I finally had to throw them out.

What I'm wondering is how long these reactions will last?  Will I forever be hospital scarred/scared?  The effects of cancer treatment go well past the IV's and scans.  I know that I'm not the only one.  How about we do a cancer clinical trial on this and see how long it takes to break the cycle?  I'm not sure if Pavlov ever told us.

-Jen

November 28, 2007

The Freak Effect

Jen_boot_at_the_beach It's beyond a little strange.  It's beyond the odd coincidence.  It sometimes defies explanation.  In our house it's called The Freak Effect.  Let me explain.  When I told you about our time down at the beach in SC for Thanksgiving, I neglected to explain why I was forced to be the referee and game photographer in our beach football game.  It was not because I dislike football or can't keep up.  It was because of the lovely accessory pictured on my foot here.  It all started with a ten mile run (I know, in hindsight we might argue that right there was the problem).  I came home, took off my shoes, stretched and then went "OW!! Why does my foot hurt?"  I knew it right away.  It was The Freak Effect.  The Freak Effect is a little known mathematical postulate, originally described by Jeff.  It goes something like this:  If there is anything, ANYTHING, freaky, weird, strange or completely unlikely to happen in the realm of possibility, it will in fact seek me out and happen in a strange confluence of events to me and to me only.  (It's that last part that let's the rest of you out there in the normal world breathe a sigh of relief - this formula truly only applies to me - that's why it's not a well known theorem).

I know what you are thinking - "Jen, you must be exaggerating - that can't truly be true of you."  Oh contraire my unsuspecting blog readers.  Here are just a few fine examples from my life (don't worry this excludes cancer - that's a whole different ball of wax):

1) My local emergency room is probably still laughing about how a mother could possibly be cutting her toddler's fingernails and shoot a fingernail clipping into her eye and scratch her cornea (TRUE STORY). 

2) The fine print that comes enclosed with prescriptions where only .0005% people suffer from a side-effect?  Me.  Had to visit an emergency room in Seattle when I developed the "no one ever gets this but if you develop a rash as a result of this medication do not pass go and go straight to the emergency room" rash.

3)  When I was going through chemo the first time and was bald, I somehow fell down in my garage (while tripping over NOTHING) and sprained my ankle so badly I was on crutches for almost a month.  I must have scared all the neighbors while I crutched my way down, bald, to the kindergarten bus stop each day.

These are just a few examples of The Freak Effect.  So, today it will be a bone scan to determine the difference between a strained tendon or a stress fracture - we're rooting for the tendon thing.  The good thing is that, because of The Freak Effect, I have a lot of practice working around these things.  I'll keep you posted on the news and how we are going to work the off-season with this little change of plans.

-Jen

November 24, 2007

Just Beachy

Jen_nov_2007_005 For our Thanksgiving time this year we have been spending time at the beach - Fripp Island, South Carolina to be exact.  We have been coming here for Thanksgiving since before Jeff and I were married.  I don't have much to report because we have been doing NOTHING and having a great time at it.  We've been down at the beach where despite cool air and colder waters we couldn't dissuade the boys from playing in the ocean.  When they were little they somehow fell for our trick of saying "They said the ocean was closed."  (as if we personally consulted some Atlantic Ocean manager - they're on to our tricks now.)

We have also have had quite the game of beach football. I ended up being game photographer (which turned into instant replay official when a couple of calls were disputed).  Jen_nov_2007_026

A while back I was shocked to read that most Americans don't use all their paid vacation time each year.   The average American gets 14 days paid vacation a year and only uses 10 of them.  We aren't using 29% of our vacation time!!  I translate that into us all being 29% less relaxed.  Basically we are all getting a C minus in vacationing.  C'mon everyone, we can do better!

Jen_nov_2007_039 We are a family that firmly believes in vacationing.  We need time to relax and recharge in a different environment.  (I know - you say you relax - but paying your bills with a glass of wine doesn't really count).  A vacation doesn't have to be far off or exotic but it does need to give you time to do nothing or, alternatively do something that you enjoy and don't have time for in your regular grind. (Seriously, when else would I have the time to do a 1,000 piece puzzle??)

So, when planning your vacations for next year don't just be 71% relaxed and recharged, aim for a perfect 100%.  We do and it does wonders.  In fact, right now, we are just beachy. 

November 19, 2007

Kick the Can

Diet_coke

Hi, my name is Jen and I am a Diet Coke addict.  This has not been a life-long addiction.  I think it may have started in college.  I love that cold can of bubbly caffeine. . . it was tough to give up when I was pregnant with both of my kids but I did.  I remember being in the hospital after delivering Cameron and being excited because I could have a nice cold diet coke again.  This has been a serious affliction. 

Well, the time has come for me to try and kick the can.  My main motivation - I can't live with the questions anymore.  "Mom, why is it okay for you to have Diet Coke but not me?"   "Ummmmm, it's not that good for you."   "So why do you drink it?"   I don't have a good answer suitable for a 7 year old to that question.

Life was much easier when my kids were smaller and couldn't talk back.  Then they started talking and I thought "Great, we can communicate now!"  Then came whining.  I made it through whining - barely.  Then came the "But Why?" phase.  That's when I understood the deep rooted primal phrase "Because I said so."  I'm sure there were Cave-mothers who said this same thing.  I thought I could get through that and then I'd be on the path to well-adjusted kids (ha!!, as if that really exists). 

Now, I am in a much harder phase - the phase where my kids look at everything I do and say and judge it.  They question the moral fiber of everything Jeff and I do and say and whether or not we follow all "rules" in life to a T.  (Let me tell you how hard it is to drive with  your own little speed-cops sitting in the back seat.)   My guess is that "setting a good example" may well be the hardest phase that I endure as an adult and a parent.  Not because I'm a bad person but because there are so many things that we, as adults, do without thinking that are cause for questioning by a kid.  I guess it's not quite as simple as "Eat your vegetables" and "Because I said so!" 

So, I am now entering my kick the can phase because being able to look your kid in the eye is sometimes more satisfying than the cold bubbly caffeine.

-Jen

November 16, 2007

A New Set of Wheels

Img_1670 I now have a new set of wheels - four new ones to be exact.  The reason I haven't been as "talkative" to you all out there in the past week or so was because I was out buying a new car to replace my mom-mobile.  Okay, so this one's a mom-mobile too - it's not like I traded the kids in with the last car. 

The exciting thing about the whole thing to me - other than that new car smell, and 30 seconds of having the cleanest car in years, was the process.  I researched, shopped, negotiated and bought the new car completely on my own.  All previous cars I have had involved a parent or significant other helping with the purchase along the way. 

Buying the car reminded me a lot of of the process of buying my bike last year.  There was a bunch of research involved, a bunch of trips to look and test drive, and a  lot of anxiety to the whole purchase!  The cool part is that the bike buying experience last year gave me a lot of confidence.  I don't think the pre-triathlon, leaping in to new experiences me would have been able to approach car-buying with the same confidence had I not done the bike buying myself. 

The salesman was great - very patient with my odd set of car buying rules.  1) The car had to be able to comfortably fit my kids (they can't run along side yet).  2) It had to be able to accommodate a bike rack on the back with ease  3) The cargo area had to fit all my tri gear (and Carla's for when we carpool) - most people aren't running through that mental checklist at the dealer 4) it had to be able to play my good pump-me-up for a race music and 5) it had to have no power doors (my kids were endlessly fighting over who got the power door on the old mini-van.  "It's NOT fair, he got it last time," said in the whiniest voice possible was getting on my every last nerve.

And so, the new car met the Jen criteria and I negotiated a good deal.  Now I have four new wheels and have lived to tell the tale with no car salesman goo all over me!

-Jen

November 15, 2007

"[Insert your name here] Are an Ironman!"

Tom_and_jen I listened and watched person after person cross the finish line and be declared an Ironman last week.  I was able to watch, on my computer, a feed of the Florida Ironman, waiting for Team Survivor triathlon coach, Tom Battaglia, to cross the finish line of his first Ironman race.  (Tom, notice I said "first," implying others).  The picture here is of Tom and I at the NJ State triathlon this summer - I raced sprint, he did Olympic distance.

There is something amazing and magical (not to mention gut wrenching) about completing an Ironman.  Swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then completing a full marathon  - how could you not respect and be inspired by that?  (Okay, so maybe you have to have a little triathlon crazy in you in the first place - Jeff's thoughts on an Ironman race "Your sport is just ridiculous!")  To me, even more honorable, is the ability for the everyman and everywoman to become an Ironman.  Now, of course, by that I don't really mean everyone - see, for example, Jeff's comment.  But, my deep respect for those who go the distance comes from seeing those men and women who have regular jobs, families and lives set this lofty goal and then meet it.   Quite a feat when you think about the months and hours of training that go into being able to race for up to 17 hours straight!

I saw men and women, of all shapes, sizes and ages cross that finish line and be declared an Ironman.  At first I thought, "I can't believe this announcer is really going to stay here for this long (well after it is dark) and announce the name of each finisher and declare them an Ironman."  But, the more finishers I watched, the more I respected the mountains they had climbed to be there and achieve that goal.  They deserved their moment at the finish line.  They were Ironmen.

So, after almost 14 hours of racing, I was able to see Tom cross the finish line and be declared an Ironman.  Tom, you ROCK.  I've seen and heard about your training since January. (You've gotta respect the dedication of a guy who shows up at a 5 am at a women's only triathlon to help coach 40 some Team Survivor women through a race only to say, "gotta go do a 6 hour bike ride" with a smile on his face).  Tom, you set the bar high and now I'm proud to say "You are an Ironman."  You amaze and inspire. Your bragging rights have been earned.

While I am not ready for an Ironman (yet!), I do know the thrill that comes from crossing that finish line and being able to say (no matter the race distance) "I am a triathlete."  Someday I hope to insert my name and hear "Jennifer Polo, you are an Ironman!

Be inspired!   -Jen

November 12, 2007

Gray is So NOT My Color

Wackyclock_3 It happens every year.  I know it's coming and there's nothing I can do.  You'd think I would learn to prepare, but I haven't ever been ready.  It's coming, it's coming. . . and then it hits me -the end of Daylight Savings Time.  November.  Cold.  Dark.  Gray.

I moved to the East Coast over 14 years ago from Colorado.  There were a ton of cultural adjustments that I had to make, which I did, but the one thing I still have not gotten used to is the endless GRAY that can occur here during the fall and winter.  Colorado is the land of sun - seriously - weather data shows that Colorado has more than 300 days of sun a year.  Yes, I'm not kidding about this.  And while we're on the topic of Colorado weather,  let me dispel another myth:  Colorado is not blanketed in snow for most of the year.  While growing up, I did not ski to and from school (I have actually had someone ask me this).  So, the weather I grew up with included sun, sun, and sun.  It also included a lot of temperature fluctuation - I had never heard the notion "putting away" your summer clothes.  Colorado isn't real big on long, rainy days either - the 20 minute afternoon thunderstorm is really all I know.  So, looking to add some fun to your day?  Stop by my house on a gray, rainy, windy day and watch me try to use an umbrella - it's a laugh a minute.

Well, now I live here on the East Coast and it seems that each year the end of daylight savings seems to correspond with the plunging temperatures, chilly winds and gray, gray skies that may last a day or may last a week or longer.  Pair that with dark mornings and darkness at 5 PM and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster in my book.  I feel like I am trapped on the inside of a cardboard box - the sky and the road seem to be the same color and pressing at me from all sides.  My body wants to go into hibernation mode, crawl in bed at 5 each evening and eat everything in sight.  Here I am trapped in a calendar sandwich between November and March.  I'm caught unprepared yet again. I am coping the only way I can - I have some delicious soup on the stove and every light on in the house!

-Jen

November 8, 2007

Confessions of an Unmade Bed

Img_1668 Yes, I have a confession to make.  I don't make my bed - ever.  Yes, this is truly a picture of my bed, taken just this morning.  When Jeff and I took childbirth classes before the birth of Cameron,  the teacher gave the class an assignment - Don't make your bed for a week.  "Woo-hoo!", I thought, "I have this assignment nailed!"  (Note to all of you out there - apparently getting an "A" in childbirth classes does not translate to less pain during the actual childbirth).  Anyway, our instructor was trying to illustrate that once you become a parent, life is not all neat and tidy like before being a parent.  Duh.

So, there you have it - I am a non-bed maker.  It doesn't stop at the bed.  I am just not a overall neat and tidy person.  A white glove test would fail miserably in my house.  Let me say this though - I do know where everything in my house is.  I am extremely organized - unfortunately that organization is  mostly trapped in my head.  But, I digress.  Here's what I am trying to illustrate.  I've tried making those secret deals with myself before.  You know the ones - "I'll get out for a bike ride after I clean the bathrooms/grocery shop/do the laundry/pay the bills etc. . ."  They don't work.  I would never train for my triathlon goals if I became wrapped up in making sure my house was in perfect order all the time.  So, yes, my bed is unmade.  But, if you add up all that time I have freed up for myself (along with that other stuff I have decided doesn't really matter in the grand scheme), you'll find that I'm able to fit in some serious fun.  So, if you are saying to yourself "I don't have the time to bike", then I'm gonna tell you - "Stop making your bed!"  I'll ignore your mess if you ignore mine - let's get out there together!

-Jen