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Kathleen's Adventures



Old sports stories, new life stories



Updated: 2018-03-20T10:43:36.405-05:00

 



Lenten Service Sermon

2018-03-15T10:25:03.965-05:00

I was recently asked to be a speaker at one of my church's Wednesday Lenten services.  Below is the sermon I gave.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A few years ago, Margot Perez-Greene asked if I would speak about my faith journey at one of these Lenten services.  I told her at the time that I had not gotten there yet – as in I was still on the journey (or perhaps I hadn’t even really started).  She said that was exactly the point but I still felt I just did not have that much to share.Here I am few years later still very much at what feels like the beginning of this journey of faith, yet wanting to acknowledge a notable leg of this lifelong voyage. It’s funny – I had a feeling a second ask to speak at a Lenten service was coming, and I couldn’t say “no” this time.I grew up at First United Methodist Church in Beaumont and have fond memories of my time there.  When I moved here for college, my church-going days came to an end, except for Christmas with the family.  I always assumed I would go back to church, and fully intended to raise my future family in the church.  Nearly 15 years after leaving for college, that future family of mine still did not exist and I was still not at church.  Upon visiting my cousin who was expecting triplets, and hearing of their Sunday School class’s plans to bring meals and help, I got to thinking.  The fact that I was single and without kids did not preclude me from the possibility of needing a casserole one day too.  I joined Tarrytown not long after and began the Disciple 1 class.  The Foundations class began in the fall of 2013 and that is when my church home truly started to form.  We treaded lightly for the first several months as we all tried to figure out how we as individuals fit into the class, and how we as a class fit into the church community.  In the spring of 2015, I accepted an expat assignment to move to Helsinki, Finland.  Foundations was one of the most grounding parts of that nearly two-year experience.  I am afraid, however, the class has heard more about Finland than they ever wanted to hear.   I was fortunate to be able to come home every 4-5 months and slipped right back into class as if no time had passed.   When I found myself in Paris on Friday the 13th of November, 2015, surrounded by ISIS attacks, I found great comfort in the prayer I sought from Foundations and the church.I moved back to Austin at the end of 2016 – just in time for jello shots at the Foundations Christmas party.  I was thrilled to be back home making up for missed time with family and friends.  By last summer, I was getting a bit antsy and knew I needed to get back into a better volunteer routine.  I was set to start Junior League in the fall and had also signed up to be a reading buddy at Blackshear Elementary.  Little did I know just how much volunteer work would be coming my way in the very near future.Hurricane Harvey hit in late August and has changed my life for the better.  Not wanting to make fortune out of others’ loss, I want to note it is the resilience and gratitude seen and learned in that loss that has shaped me over the last six months. My parents’ house was thankfully spared by the storm, but I had family that was not as fortunate.  I headed to Beaumont as soon as I could to help out at my Aunt and cousin’s houses that had taken on several feet of water.  My cousin Mary had been managing the cleanup of her parents’ house alone for two days before I arrived.  I could not believe the amount of work she had done but also could not help but feel incredibly defeated by the amount of work still to do, and the amount of sheer devastation.  Over the course of the three dirtiest days of my life, I came to see resilience and gratitude I have never known.  I also learned a little bit about hope.  It took me a long while to figure out why my cousin Mary would not stop singi[...]



Baked Oatmeal Recipe

2017-07-18T08:39:56.609-05:00

I have been making baked oatmeal for quite a few years now.  It started as one oatmeal banana pancake made in a skillet in the morning and morphed into muffins and finally into the gloriousness that it is today.  Six* days (...or should I say "servings" for those of you cooking for more than one) of breakfast made in one fell swoop.  A breakfast that I still get way too excited about each and every day.  I have never liked oatmeal in its "native" form - runny, weird, sticky, and never seeming to stay uniformly warm.  I am also not one to cook on a daily basis - especially not breakfast!  So while the oatmeal banana "pancake" recommended to me by a nutritionist years ago was a good start towards the non-runny way I'd like to be eating oatmeal, it still required more work than I was willing to do in the kitchen each morning.  Shocker.  The recipe I ultimately came up with is way more like bread (or any sort of baked oatmeal goody) and seems really nothing like your traditional breakfast oatmeal.Ingredients3 cups old fashioned oatmeal (I'm fairly certain any kind will do)2 cups applesauce (I use HEB brand unsweetened)4-6 eggs3 tsp baking powdersalt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla to tasteOptional Ingredients**1/2 - 3/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt3 scoops Isopure natural unflavored protein powder (Much more than this may dry it out, but you can play around with the amount and flavor.  You can add vanilla powder if you want more flavor, however I do not love the fake flavor in a lot of the powders.)Mashed ripe bananas to substitute for all or part of the applesauceMashed pumpkin to taste - who doesn't need Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal during Pumpkin everything season?Nuts of any typeBerries of any typeChocolate ChipsHoney, maple syrup, brown sugar, or other sweetener of choice DirectionsMix together all dry ingredients in one large bowl, wet in another smaller bowl.  Add wet to dry and mix well.  Pour into a well-greased 9x13 Pyrex.  Bake at 350-375 for 20-30 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come up fairly clean.Once cooled, slice in half length-wise and into thirds across.  This will leave you with six servings, each about the size of a slice of sandwich bread.  Store in Ziploc bags or small Tupperware (I'm using the sandwich size Gladware these days to store two slices at a time).  Will keep at room temperature for a day or two but I generally keep mine in the fridge and freezer, pulling 1-2 servings out at a time.Reheat in the toaster and top with your choice of nut butter.  My favorites are any of the Justin's flavored Almond Butter.  For an extra treat, slice a banana on top of the nut butter, or toss a few berries on top.* Or, if you are like me, you get the ultimate baked oatmeal pan while living in Finland and are able to make NINE days of breakfast at once.  So, so satisfying.  Thanks Finland.** These days, my recipe usually has 4 eggs, 3/4 c nonfat Greek yogurt, and protein powder.  That ends up being right at 300 calories with 37g carbs, 25g protein, and 6g fat.  Add a tablespoon of Justin's Vanilla Almond Butter and you are up to a hearty breakfast of ~ 390 cal with 42g carbs, 27g protein, and 13g fat.You can play around with the ingredients until you get it just the way you want it.  If it is too cake-like (falls apart in the toaster), consider backing down on the baking powder a bit.  I've used up to 6 eggs with 3/4c of yogurt and it has still come out just fine - with lots of protein. (totally stole this pic - my kitchen photo skills are lacking compared to my baking skills)[...]



Eggcellent Insurance, round 2

2017-04-13T07:36:57.663-05:00

In my last post, I discussed in detail my first round of egg freezing, or oocyte cryopreservation.  When I wrote that post, I was on the fence about whether or not to do a second round.  I ended up meeting with my doctor the next week and decided to go ahead and plan for a second round.  I was very at peace with the decision as soon as I walked out of the office, and I'm thankful for that.  Per my doctor, an average round produces 10 eggs and that gives you roughly a 40% chance of having one child.  I have 16 eggs frozen so we could possibly call that a 60-70% chance at one child.  I do not like those odds.  I am risk-adverse by profession, and heavily insured (yet have no problem jumping out of planes or climbing tall things...but that is a different story).  I feel I will be able to rest much easier knowing I have 25-30 eggs sitting there waiting for me vs the 16.  Granted round two is not necessarily guaranteed to go as well as round one, but I will be hoping for the best.  The only real emotion I have felt about going into round two is excitement.  The huge unknown about the whole process is no longer there.  I am doing a different protocol this time around so there is a very slight apprehension about changing things up, but we are doing it differently to hopefully prevent the six days I spent on the couch the last time so that is good news.ProtocolsThe first round, I did what is called a Lupron protocol.  I started daily Lupron injections 10 days before I began Gonal-F (stimulation hormone injections).  I then stayed on the Lupron throughout the 13 days that I was on Gonal-F.  I did the Lupron injections in the same 30 minute window each morning, and did the Gonal-F each evening, with a little wider window.  I used Ovidrel (HCG hormone) for the ovulation trigger 36 hours before the retrieval surgery.  Ovidrel is what made me so sick last time (nice foreshadowing to the amazing morning sickness I will most certainly have when I am pregnant).This time we are switching things up a bit to avoid the Ovidrel trigger.  I am doing what is called an Antagonist protocol.  On this protocol, I will use the drug Cetrotide to prevent ovulation.  One of the nice things about doing it this way is that I do not start the Cetrotide until several days into the stimulation process - in other words, way less "involved" days and way less days of injections dictating my schedule.  This time I will use Lupron as my trigger - yes, the same drug used previously to prevent ovulation.  Apparently before it shuts down your hormones, it first creates a huge surge, and that is what will hopefully cause ovulation this time, just prior to retrieval.  I do not know yet the exact timing/details for the Lupron trigger but know it is a bit different than the Ovidrel.  I think there are two specifically timed injections instead of one, and I will have a blood test some time between triggering and the surgery to ensure the trigger worked as planned.  I will most likely still be on Dostinex this time to prevent OHSS.  OHSS is far less likely with the Lupron trigger, however in the event the Lupron does not work as planned, I will use Ovidrel instead and can plan to spend another six plus days on the couch.  I am, of course, hoping for plan A, however I am okay with plan B if that is what we need to do to ensure the best outcome.March 27 - Day 4 Check InI started round two of stimulation last Friday, March 24.  I started at a higher dose than last time (300 IU day one, 225 IU days two and three vs 225 IU day one and 150 IU days two and three) and it definitely jump started the process.  Per Dr. Vaughn, I got a good report card yesterday :-)  He was able to see 16 follicles, all measuring between 4mm and 8mm.  On day three of my first round, there were only seven visible and they were all between 3mm and 5mm.  Below are my "report cards" from day[...]



Eggcellent Insurance?

2017-04-05T10:22:58.031-05:00

It is no secret that there have not been many men in my life - especially not any that seemed like the right person to procreate with.  I bought a Chevy Tahoe when I was 23 and was certain I would have kids in it before I was done driving it.  I drove that car seven years and the next SUV for four...then moved to Finland...and still no kids.  Perhaps I should have purchased the two-door sports car at some point if I wanted this to go a different way.  Anyway, that is all to say life certainly has not taken me where I expected it to at this point - turning 36 in less than two weeks.  For the most part, I am okay with that.  I have had a pretty awesome life and have gone on some pretty amazing adventures.  I live a life I am proud of and one that I am happy with.  My family is amazing, work is not too bad, and as of recently, I am a homeowner.  Living the American dream, right?  Mostly.  I do not spend much time focusing on what I do not have because what I do have is pretty darn fulfilling.  Alternatively though, I fear I have become REALLY good at being single and am pretty much just a flaming bachelor now (but wait, do bachelors go out all the time?  If so, I fail).I wish I could remember when, but one day when we were eating at Matt's El Rancho with good friends of my sister and her husband (who have also become good friends of mine), Vickie spoke up and said "I'm only asking this because I've had two margaritas - but would you ever freeze your eggs?"  At that time, my answer was a very confident "no."  I assume I was around 31 or 32.  The wheels turned a tiny bit after that but I was still squarely in the "no" camp.  I had decided that if I got to the age where my eggs were too old that I would probably feel too old to have a kid anyway.  Not that that was what I wanted, but for whatever reason, I just did not think I would want to be 42 using my 32 yr old eggs to have a kid.Minds ChangeFast forward a few years to the Fall of 2014 and my mind began to change.  I had a brief (as in less than a few hours) scare upon receiving results to some blood work that made me think perhaps I would not be able to have children as easily as I would like, or perhaps not at all.  I do not think I would call that a turning point but it was the first time I was faced with the thought of infertility and it did not sit well.  By early 2015, my mind had definitely begun to change and I was getting my head around the idea of doing it.  The fact that I had been on all of three dates in the five years since moving to Austin may have pushed me towards a change of heart as well.  Then, of course, my boss asked me to move to Finland and in some ways part of my life was put on hold for a good two years.  By early Spring I decided I definitely wanted to freeze my eggs but did not have enough time before moving abroad.  I think that one of the biggest lessons I learned about myself through the process is that my mind can change, and that it is okay if it does.  But also that I do not need to assume that just because I feel a certain way today I will always feel that way.The BeforeOnce my move-home date from Finland was settled, freezing my eggs was at the top of my list of priorities for things to do when I made it back.  I started to do my research over last summer and asked around my group of Austin friends for doctor recommendations.  I ended up having a consultation with Dr. Vaughn at Texas Fertility on a trip home in August.  A friend was currently seeing him for IVF and the whole practice was widely recommended.  After my consultation with him, I did not think I needed a second opinion.  TFC's pricing was actually on the lower end of what I was thinking this may cost and I liked Dr. Vaughn.  I had an AMH blood test while in town and they let me know the results of that looked promising for egg freezing. &[...]



Numbers

2016-12-01T05:16:57.638-06:00

January 30, 2015 - the day my boss took me to lunch and asked if I wanted to move to Finland...aka "the day my life turned upside down."  Note: upside down isn't necessarily a bad thing...it is just entirely different.

In the ~22 months since that date: 

114 - number of flights taken

22 - countries visited (21 of those new) - Finland, Norway, Estonia, France, Singapore, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, UK, Peru, Panama, Hungary, Indonesia, Iceland, Sweden, Portugal, Ireland, Czech Republic, Spain, Scotland, Russia, Thailand.

15 - number of times I crossed "the pond" (I went the other way once)

6 - number of trips to Amsterdam to see Caitlin (and most recent two trips to see her adorable baby, my Godson, Theo.  And Peter, let's not forget Peter - my Amsterdam running buddy.)

5 - number of trips to France and Norway, including a tour of the American D-Day beaches that for me can only be described as indescrible. 

4 - number of trips to the UK

4 - number of friends who came to visit in Finland

4 - number of times I saw someone I knew while out and about in Helsinki.  Think on that one for a while...it was 9 months before the first encounter.

4 - number of strangers Caitlin, Laura, and I invited into our Paris hotel room for the night during the ISIS attacks.  They were stranded and could not get home.  One was a Swiss guy who brought the fire extinguisher from the hallway into our room to protect us. #interestingweekend

3 - number of pairs of winter running shoes needed.  Pair 1: Saucony Kinvara with weather sheild - water resistant lightweight trainers for running in rain/colder temps, but on clear/nonfrozen pavement/paths.  Pair 2: Solomon Speedcross 3 - water-resistant trail running shoes that are insanely warm and great for running on/in snow.  Pair 3: Icebugs - water-resistant, carbide-studded trainers for use on ice.  If I coudln't run in one of those three pairs, I didn't need to be running.  Often times though, I wished for all three pairs in a single run!

2 - number of times my sister's family and my parents came to Europe

2 - number of trips to Stockholm, Singapore, Budapest

2 - trips to San Diego, including

1 - Garth Brooks concert,

1 - Lyle Lovett concert, and

1 - best friend's wedding.

0 - regrets
(image)



Counting Down

2016-11-30T07:47:16.952-06:00

I've written a million blog posts in my head over the last year plus, but none of them have made it out of my head.  This one is finally going to make it to print though!  I've been writing over several weeks, adding to it when I think of something. Hopefully down the road it will help me look back on my time here with fondness, and also to remember to appreciate the conveniences and comfort of  home.Things I'll miss about Finland:Instant hot water from the faucet, and reasonably cold (tasty and refreshing) water after a short waitThe sauna in my apartmentRiding my pink piece of shit Jopo bicycle around town.  I realized approximately 2 seconds after handing a guy way too much cash that the bike was mostly likely stolen and in way worse shape than advertised.  I wrote it off as an insurance policy - as in if it looks like a POS, hopefully no one will steal it.  So far, so good.  It also still works just fine after being outside all winter - covered in snow and all.Being able to walk to the grocery store in about 5 minutes.Public transportation...not that there are too many places to go, but I haven't really missed a car here.The white walls and parquet wood floors in my 1912 apartment.  Oh, and my pink couch.Sleeping with my bedroom window open about half the year (except when someone smokes on the balcony next to my window...luckily that seemed to stop after a few months).Being "close" to my friend Caitlin and her husband Peter in Amsterdam.  They had baby Theo in June and getting to spend time with him has been great.  He will become my Godson in December. Korvapuusti - a Finnish cinnamon roll of sorts.  It is more bread than sweet and doesn't have icing on it, but is topped sugar that looks like the salt on soft pretzels.The two weeks of awesome winter we had.  Real snow and a few blue sunshiny days.  I loved running in the snow, especially in the woods. Travel, especially with good friends and family that came to Europe to travel with me.Flying to Singapore (12 hours overnight) from Finland seems downright easy compared to flying there from Austin.My cute bathtub.  I spent more time there than I did in the sauna.The dish draining racks most places have hidden in a kitchen cabinet above the sink - very smart!My desk/work area.  I called it "The Austin Late Night Call Center."  It is in a bay window that hangs out over the sidewalk.  I did a lot of people watching from that perch.  Kelly spent hours perched there in my desk chair reading during her visit.Things I have missed about home:FAMILYFRIENDSCHURCHGarbage disposalsTargetIce cubesSmilesFriendly peopleSunshine - the kind you can feel on your skin, that warms you to the core.Being able to open a door with one or possibly even no hands.  The door to my apartment building (and many other doors around here) requires two hands and a good deal of body weight to open.  It is beyond frustrating - I spilled a cup of tea all over me one day trying to get out; getting my bike out is a workout in itself; if I want to carry anything out, I have to set it on the ground on the nearest stair, use both hands to open the super heavy door, stick my foot out and hope it stays open, reach around and pick up whatever I had, and scooch out as fast as I can. Being able to read signs, directions, instructions, food labels, etc.  The grocery store in Finland is still a rough experience 18 months later.Kind strangers, or the "permission" to be kind to strangers.Being able to go to the grocery store once a week, or even less if I want.  Driving my car there and filling the whole back with groceries.Being about to go about my day without inhaling stupid amounts of second hand smoke and seeing cigarette butts littering the ground everywhere.  Seriously...Finns are notorious rule followers and will stare disapprovingly if you dare c[...]



Summer Update

2015-09-24T05:44:29.166-05:00

(written on August 27 - just now posting)Tuesday marked three months since I moved away from Austin.  I wouldn’t really say I’ve been in Helsinki three months since my schedule has been so crazy, but I’ve definitely been somewhere other than home for that time.  The thing that happens each time I think three months is another number automatically pops in my head – 21.  Probably not great if I’m already counting down the months – if not consciously, subconsciously.  I’m on the plane from London to Austin with several hours on my hands and am hoping I finally post an update or two (or draft them – no wifi which is highly unfortunate).Overall, I’d say the last three months have been fairly high or fairly low – not much of an in-between.  The highs are when I’ve traveled with family or co-workers or when they have been visiting me.  The lows are when I’m in a new place alone or in Helsinki without much to do.  The unfortunate thing about the highs is that they are probably contributing to the lows – as in I haven’t had much time to set any foundation in Helsinki.  My schedule plus the near impossibility of gaining Finnish friends plus my shorter-term stay does not necessarily equal the extroverted, on-the-go life I’m used to.  I’m enjoying the highs so I’m not sure I’d want it any other way.  At the same time, this is completely uncharted territory for me (and almost everyone else I know), so it is hard to have too many expectations one way or the other.  More on the deep thinking later – but for now, here is a bit about what I’ve been up to.Mom and Dad’s VisitI think I posted last just before they arrived.  We had the summer party for the Finland office on Wednesday before the midsummer holiday.  It was on a boat.  Ship?  Sailboat?  I’m not sure what the proper term is….it was built in 1947 whatever it was.  The weather was pretty looking (ie not raining) but pretty darn cold.  We toasted on the deck and took pictures and then went down below for dinner.  No one made it back up to the deck the rest of the night because of the crisp “summer breeze.”  It was a neat time though and a little different from the dinner cruise you might take in Austin.  We went out after and I somehow got conned into singing a Willie Nelson song on karaoke with our CEO.  I apologize for all who had to hear that.Mom and Dad came the next day and arrived to the beautifulness of June – mid 50s and rain.  They had spent one day there in late June on a cruise a few years back and kept swearing to me how nice the weather in Helsinki is…based on their one day.  I think their opinion changed over their visit.  We had a bit of a hard time finding things to do on Friday as it was midsummer.  I had no idea midsummer is the equivalent of Christmas when it comes to stores closing.  And there are no Wal-marts or Waffle Houses in Finland.  Saturday we took a boat (cruise ship-like) to Tallinn, Estonia.  It is about a 2 hour ride.  It rained the whole way there but cleared up a bit when we were there.  We went to Old Town and just couldn’t really figure much out…parts were pretty but we weren’t sure what all the hype was about.  We took an earlier boat back and checked that country off our list.  We were scheduled for the 8pm boat and took the 4pm.  That one was so bad we can’t imagine what the 8pm would have looked like.  Everyone in Finland takes the boat to Estonia to buy cheap(er) alcohol.  By the case.  And they apparently start drinking it by the case before getting back on the boat.  By now the sun was out but the only open deck on the boat was on the back – where the air doesn’t move.  Guess who was out there? Approximately 100 smokers.&n[...]



Good Things

2015-07-29T14:15:17.612-05:00

I've had three days out of the last four that somewhat resemble what I would have expected for "summer" in Finland - maybe a bit cooler than I expected, but still nice and worth spending many hours outside.  I have come to recognize and appreciate a few things here recently and feel that they are worth noting - if nothing more, to remind myself come about November or so when I wonder why the hell I moved here.

1.  Public transportation is great.  Granted it isn't quick sometimes (getting home takes ~50 minutes usually), but I can mentally check out while on the bus - I'm not stressed in traffic.

2.  Amazing running routes.  My only regret right now is that I have about zero endurance so I can't make as much use of the trails as I'd like.  I am exploring some by bike which is nice too.

Combination of 1 and 2: Taking public transportation to run.  I can hop a tram or bus and go however far away and run home.

3.  While it is a bit of a pain and completely different to have to carry every single thing I procure at least several hundred meters to get it to my house, it really is convenient to have so many procurement places nearby!

4.  NO TIME WARNER CABLE!!  Rejoice!  Internet is cheap here - around 30 euros a month and so far I don't have cable.  Granted my amazon video purchases may quickly fill the $ gap, but it is just so nice to not get abused on a monthly basis by TWC.

5.  Rye chips. I discovered these at a recent picnic, along with some sort of cheese dip - Voila brand.  The sour cream rye chips with the cheese dip is amazing.  They taste great and are actually not full of super processed crap.

6.  My bathtub.  It is pretty nice.

7.  When the weather is nice, it is pretty darn nice.  Still a little chillier than I'd like, but about perfect running weather. (image)



Camp Hangover

2015-07-18T13:47:56.764-05:00

I will never forget the feeling of driving away from Camp Olympia in the backseat of my parents' car year after year.  The pit in my stomach presented itself the second we drove out of the gates and hung around for a while.  The realization that it was going to be a full year before I was there again and the realization that I had to go home without my amazing camp friends were sometimes almost too much to bear for my adolescent self.  I would walk around almost like a zombie the first few days back home, numb, just not sure what to do with myself.  Sure enough though it was never long before regular life got going again - the longing in my heart to be back there would go from insatiable to a more manageable presence that never fully went away.

My nieces have all experienced something similar, even after their first year at age eight.  Kate's hangover started before closing day lunch was even over her first year and I had to take her on a walk (she was little enough that I still carried her on that walk) where we both cried.  I 100% understood how she was feeling.  This year, six years later, I talked to her on the phone when they were on the road home and she again was in full on hangover mode - no tears this time, but just said she was sad.  Again, I completely understood and knew not to pry any more.

Why am I saying all of this?  Because I have my first camp hangover in years right now and it doesn't seem to hurt any less now than it did then.  I put my sister and nieces on a train at Oslo central station yesterday morning where they went to the airport to fly on to a beach vacation in Florida.  I walked back to my hotel room, went to a work meeting later in the day and then fly home to Helsinki.  We had a crazy whirlwind five days that were over way too fast.  When I walked away from the train I tried to not think about what was happening and did a fairly good job of distracting myself.  When I walked into my empty apartment I had a work call to make and some unpacking to do so again somewhat distracted myself.  This morning, though, there were no more distractions.  Just a weekend with no one to spend it with.

I'm eagerly awaiting the end of this hangover as well but am keenly aware it might not go away as quickly as the previous ones.  Realizing it will be a year before they come back over here sucks.  That guest room I insisted on having and worked so hard to make right doesn't have any planned occupants for months.  The reality of being across the world is setting in.  The good thing is I have about six uninterrupted weeks to finally start to establish my life here.  A friend/co-worker is coming for a work trip in two weeks and I am really looking forward to that.  Then at the end of August I go home and to Peru.  So really - it isn't that long and it will be okay.  After I come back it will only be 2.5-3 months before it is time to come home for Christmas - and I would hope to God I have a friend or two by then!


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Weeks 2 and 3

2015-06-16T15:08:42.842-05:00

My amount of "busy" has certainly not lessened however it is thankfully somewhat moving away from the frustrations of the first several days here.  I've been here three weeks and one day now - in some ways it seems like I've been here way longer and in others, I'm surprised time has gone by this fast.I had my residence permit appointment on Monday, June 1.  I asked them how the timing of my 90 days allowed in the country worked and they (immigration) said they didn't really know, that they had heard different things, and that I should call border patrol during one of the three hours they are answer phones a week.  Seriously.  The attorney checked in after my application and seemed to think it was taking around 2 months to process specialist applications (what I applied for), but that they couldn't guarantee anything with summer holiday coming up.  Awesome. Looking like I would probably get kicked out (run out of my 90 days) before the permit comes.  In addition to that, I got several stories again on whether or not I can actually get a Finnish ID card without the permit - the card which is required for online banking.  I was able to register with a temporary address at least at the magistrate office so I could then get the metro pass at a regular rate vs the super jacked up foreigner rate.  The good news on the permit is that I can track it online (to a certain point) and shockingly, a decision was made on June 5.  Now I'm in the last period tracked online, the "notification period."  Unfortunately this means I just sit and wait for them to notify me of the decision..presumably by mail.  And then have to hope that decision is a permit not that they didn't get one of the required ten documents or something like that.  It has been a week and a half since the notification period began - hoping it isn't much longer but have no way of knowing.So until then I will continue to be banking blind.  I have to go to an ATM with my debit card (finally got a pin at least!) and guess what the screen is saying in Finnish to stumble on a balance printout to find out how much money I have.  My internet bill is due Thursday.  So I have to go to the bank tomorrow before work...the bank which doesn't open until 10am to pay that bill.  Entirely productive.  Not.  My second week here was my first monthly close at work "alone" - ie the first was when I  was in Singapore for training and the second was in Austin sitting in the middle of everyone who knows how to do everything.  This one was flying solo...or more like on the phone until midnight with Austin one night and several hours across a few other evenings. I managed to survive close - the job is still very, very overwhelming.  It should get better with time but new insane job in new continent is a lot.  Plain and simple.  The treat at the end of close week was that my stuff was finally delivered - only 12 days late.  Someone at my office in Finland finally called (not their job at all) and was able to get a delivery date/time set immediately.  Frustrating the people who had been working on it for a week from the US couldn't get it straightened out, but glad I finally got it.  The even more fun delivery was Caitlin on Friday afternoon.Caitlin and I grew up in Beaumont together and were inseparable at many points before college.  It is amazing she and Peter ended up in Amsterdam when I ended up here.  We have several trips we want to do.  I had my first "pinch me" moment yesterday when we were trying to plan a trip to Paris just like it is a trip to Houston or something.  Having her come visit was just what I needed.  She got to Amsterdam in early April so is out of the initial shock of moving over[...]



Weekend Fun

2015-06-01T02:41:36.225-05:00

Posting from my phone on the bus to work Monday morning. This weekend went by way too fast. I slept until almost noon Saturday because I kept assuming it was early each time I woke up. I guess I needed it, but it seriously ate into my day. I went on a short run after I woke up and saw some pretty sights. I meant to take my credit card because I wanted to stop in Finlayson and see if I saw any bedding/sheets there I liked. I didn't go back for my card because I figured I could still look and would go back another time if there was anything I liked. Well of course there was something I liked, duvet covers that were 25% off for my guest room. Sale ended Saturday. Store closed at 4. I had kayak plans at 3 that I had to leave home at 2:40 for. It was 1:48. So I sprinted back home, got my card, sprinted back, bought the covers (in their famous elephant print) while dripping sweat in the store, and then hightailed it back home. Got home at 2:30 and left at 2:40 to walk to the kayak place.  This wouldn't have been nearly as big of a deal if I had run more than once in the last month. But I got my 25% off and my guests will be sleeping in style (assuming their beds are put together).When I got to Regatta Cafe, I saw they had paddle boards and I much prefer that to kayaking so I decided to take one instead. I had on shorts and a long sleeve Columbia fishing shirt and wasn't cold, but the weather/water was still way colder than my normal SUP conditions. I just hoped I didn't make a fool of myself and fall in. After all, everyone at the cafe on the shoreline was bundled up in coats. The activity was an expat Meetup and it was just the organizer and myself that showed up but that was no big deal. He was from Greece and very nice.  On our way out I noticed the wind was at our backs and knew it could be challenging on the way back. Well, the wind picked up even more and I wasn't sure I would make it back. He was just fine in his kayak but I was dying on the board (standing up turns you into a human sail). I couldn't stop paddling because each time I did, I blew backwards. The water was choppy and I kept seeing myself falling right in. Somehow I made it back but it was 30 minutes or so of way, way more work than I had bargained for. When we got back I told them I was going to paddle in circles in the calm, wind-protected marina next time. All in all it was good to get out and do something fun but I may suck it up and rent the freakin kayak next time :-/Sunday was church and IKEA building. I hired a guy to assemble at $45/hr having no idea just how long it would take. He was here 5.5 hours and built 2 pieces. I built one twin bed in 3.5 hours. There is another twin bed to build along with 5 other big pieces. Not sure how that is going to happen. The guy did manage to help me with the washing machine though and it is in!  Granted I don't think the cabinet door will go back on but at this point I don't care. Baby ducks on my run!Park near my apartmentEsplanade on Saturday - it was an entirely different picture a month ago - brown and a fraction of the people. From Regatta Cafe - the Sibelius monument is right in the middle - hard to see here.Smiling because I made it back without having to be towed by my friend in the kayak. Almost cried because I found microwave pizza and couldn't figure out how to use the microwave. The pictures on the buttons are so informative. Not. I found a manual online....for $40. IKEA hellThe afterRandom biker gang congregating outside my windowI have some bedroom furniture (...and trashy American reality TV) now!  Still have another dresser and wardrobe to build though. [...]



Friday

2015-05-29T15:25:45.187-05:00

Update in pictures.Holy cow.  My 50 euros worth of kitchen stuff.  6x two sizes plates, 6 bowls, 6 coffee cups, 6 classes, 6 wine glasses, 6 silverware place settings, 3 pots, 1 saucepan, 2 mixing bowls, 1 serving bowl, 1 cutting board, and I don't remember what else.  All thrown in my Ikea bags I've already grown to hate.  I carried these a few blocks to the tram, rode the tram 2 stops, and then carried them a few more blocks.  Without breaking anything, including myself.  But, I can have cereal and tea in the morning!My fine living room furniture at the moment.At first, I wasn't sure what I'd do with such a big entry hall.  It didn't take long...this is the cleanest it has been and I doubt it will stay that way for long.My lovely washer/dryer setupNot the first color of plates I'd choose from Ikea, but I suppose they are burnt orange and were close enough to free.My bathroom is really pretty.  It is not, however, remotely functional.  Notice the way the cabinets open?  Super helpful when you are at the sink with the large (non-existent) counter.  I get the bathroom drenched when I "shower" in the tub.  No way I'm letting my nieces near it.  The heated floors are a nice touch though and soon enough I'll probably use the shower off the kitchen more than this tub.  Sadly, I don't think I'll use this actual bathroom for much - there isn't really even a place to put the hair dryer down when I'm using it.  Safe to say I've been spoiled :-)  I'm getting a taller dresser in my bedroom and will just use that as a vanity as well.My bedroom setup.  Another classy decorating scheme brought to you by me.The elevator at my apartment.  I have to crawl on top of the suitcase to fit.[...]



Thursday

2015-05-28T13:59:44.670-05:00

I got up this morning to be ready for my 8-10am window for the internet people to come figure out why I don't have internet.  I was excited to have some tea in my new pink teapot and a bowl of cereal.  I was proud of myself for actually buying tea, cereal, and milk yesterday as well.  The milk is somewhat scary though because they have 18 kinds of milk and yogurt here and I can't read any of it.  Apparently one kind is "old milk."  I don't want old milk.  I also don't want buttermilk.  It is possible I ended up with both though.  I didn't get to try it though because after I got my tea bag out, I remembered I don't have any cups to put the tea in!  And then I don't have any bowls to put the cereal in!  I have plastic silverware and paper plates, but neither of those are going to help with tea and cereal.  Moving to Finland fail #87.The internet guy did come fix my problem which is good but the bad news is he said he has no idea what they did and doubts my cable TV will work and I have to contact the apartment owner to figure that out.  Sounds simple enough but will be anything but.The Ikea people came as well.  I have furniture now!  I may just stack the boxes in a furniture-like fashion because actually building the stuff isn't happening any time soon.  There are 3 services that do it and it is anywhere from days to months before anyone can come.  Awesome.  I haven't worked out in a while - I guess over a week now.  I'm getting one hell of a workout carrying whatever I buy to my apartment, walking everywhere, and now moving 50-80 lb boxes around my apartment.The best part of this all is that work is busy right now - it is monthly close.  Next time I move continents, I'm not going to do it anywhere near close (...if that happens to be possible).Caitlin is coming weekend after next which is great.  For those of you who don't know, she was one of my best friends growing up and she and her husband just moved to Amsterdam for an expat assignment.  Thrilled to know someone on the continent!Thursday Night UpdateI just need to come to accept that nothing is going to be easy about this.  And then will have to recite the "A League of Their Own" quote about things being hard over and over again.I started rummaging through my Ikea haul and sure enough I ordered one piece incorrectly.  How do I go about getting it back?  Best I know so far is to haul the box (thankfully only 25 lbs) to the bus and take it that way.  Then haul the heavier, correct one home the same way.  I refuse to pay 59 euros delivery for a 159 euros piece of furniture.  Now, the 119 euros total for delivery of everything I got today was totally worth it - just not for one piece.  I could take a cab back but that will be close to $50 so not necessarily much better.This afternoon was my second Finnish class and I'm realizing I have zero talent for learning this language.  I am not picking up a thing.  I think it is quite possible my brain is already full and not able to take on much more at the moment.  I know I'm not stupid, but this just isn't working right now.  And for whatever reason, all the foreign language stuff is just making me want to re-learn (or learn...) French.  Funny how much more confidence I have there since I at least have a small clue about that language.  The class is 4 weeks long and I think offered 2 more times this summer - maybe I'll take it again and second time will be a charm.  We will see.I sent my air shipment (clothes, few kitchen items, bedding, plug adapters, etc) 2 weeks before I left specifically so I would have it within a day or two of[...]



Exhausted

2015-05-28T01:39:34.981-05:00

In the 48 hours since arriving, I've been to:- IKEA twice- the Internet store four times (and I still don't have Internet)- work twice (once did about 30 minutes and the other about 6 hours)- the grocery store twice (but I don't seem to have any food)- Gigantti once - TVs and washer/dryer- bank once (to pay deposit for Internet since I don't have online banking....bank hours are 10-4:30 - entirely convenient)- one of ten Finnish classes- R Kioski to try to pay Internet deposit (unsuccessfully) and then to get bus pass for the week (same price for a week for a foreigner as for a month for a local - will go down once I get my permit)- Stockmann's onceAnd I forget what else. The great news is someone got the memo I was worried I'd never see the sun again and put it out. Temps have been upper 50s and it feels great!  Also everything is alive and green- huge difference to a month ago!Pics may look weird since I'm posting from my phone, but here are a few.View from new office - no Town Lake, but so nice to see green (and blue). My dinner at IKEA tonight. Not okay. I don't eat hotdogsI will soon be the proud new owner of a pink couch - watch out. Yesterday's classwork Joke for blinds - this is before 4:30 this morning. A bit better - this is 9pm or so. My stylish and trendy nightstand. Who needs real furniture?Then "default" background on my new Finnish phone...cruel joke?[...]



Home Sweet Home?

2015-05-05T22:23:06.860-05:00

It feels really good to be home.  I've been back almost two weeks now.  On my way back it is amazing how "home" I felt at Heathrow - somewhere that just a few weeks earlier would have felt incredibly foreign.  People speaking English all around me and signs in English everywhere felt good - and I worry it felt too good.  That is the same with going/being home - I was looking forward to it but cautious to remind myself it was just temporary this time around.  I'm wondering how it is going to feel over the next two years when I don't really have a home in the US - I know I'll feel at home at my sister's house in San Antonio (where I expect to spend a great deal of my time), but it will be weird in Austin for sure not having a home or a car of my own here.The second half of my trip to Helsinki was good, despite that during that time I lost two more apartments (in addition to one I saw the first time I visited). My coworker Brian and his wife Les came my second week there and it was so nice having familiar faces (and voices) nearby. We had a great time walking miles and miles through the city and I finally got out to a few restaurants with them.  I found a Finnish language class at a local university to sign up for when I arrive for good at the end of May.  I got more familiar with the area and somewhat proficient at taking the bus to/from the office in Espoo.  The weather remained pretty dismal - on Saturday when we were out and about (away from the hotel for several hours), the temps dropped significantly and I was dying before we got back.  Les and I ended up buying hand-knit hats at the market by the harbor.  I didn't bring any hats with me on the trip - I guess I thought I could will the weather to be warm enough to not need a hat - I was wrong.I went to the Anglican Church of Helsinki the second Sunday I was there and it was great.  I felt very at home with the service - much of it brought back memories of 11 years of chapel five days a week at Episcopal school.  There were maybe 40 or so people there.  I spotted a girl in cowboy boots and a dress I thought I recognized as being from Target.  Afterward they had snacks and tea/coffee and sure enough it was a Target dress and the cowboy boots were straight out of Austin (from a recent road trip on their 6 month paternity leave).  She is from Phoenix and her husband is Finnish and they have lived there 11 years - unfortunately they are moving back to the US this summer.  But she was able to connect me with the American Women's Club which I didn't know existed and is connecting me with others in the church.  It was such a welcome relief to meet her and other members of the church!My time back has been good.  Everything is so green and lush in Austin right now.  Everything in Helsinki was still brown and dead so I think I am that much more appreciative of the "life" in Austin right now.  Granted come July or August Helsinki will be beautiful and Austin will probably be its own lovely shade of brown.  I finally found out yesterday I did get one of the apartments I had seen while I was there - I assumed I was going to lose that one too by the way things had been going.  This is a huge relief as I don't have to go into temporary housing.  This has allowed me to start to finalize some plans.  I have lost count of how many lists I have -what to pack in my air shipment, what to pack in suitcases, what to permanently store, what to leave at my sister's house, what to con my parents into bring with them on their first visit, doctors to see, things to buy, things to get rid of...the list o[...]



An Introvert's Dream

2015-04-14T07:00:07.925-05:00

I'm almost halfway through my two-week trip to Helsinki - my last trip before moving here.  I've decided I'm living an introvert's dream and possibly an extrovert's worse nightmare.  Not knowing the language is beyond alienating - in so many ways.  People have continually said to me "oh, but they speak English, right?"  Yes...most of them do, after being spoken to in English.  However, the conversations that go on around me, signs, directions, menus, everything printed is in Finnish (and in some cases Sweedish).  I keep finding myself wishing that either I had someone here with me or that I was doing this in England, or Ireland, or any other English-speaking country.  So after feeling sorry for myself for a while (and still doing that a bit), I'm realizing I will have to make a very very concerted effort to learn the language.  I don't expect to be able to have real conversations - just want to have some clue as to what is going on around me and not feel entirely deaf.  I would also like to be able to help myself at least a little bit when ordering in a restaurant or trying to find something in a grocery store.  The reality though is trying to take a language course and learning one of the hardest languages to learn while learning a brand new job is going to be tough.  Really tough.  But, both should have great rewards and will be worth it.  I'm also hoping I could possibly meet a few others in my position at whatever language course I take.I've spent a little time in the office and a lot of time running around not feeling entirely productive.  The apartments I've been seeing are getting a little better - I have a little hope there.  Banking is another story.  Each of the three banks we've talked to here all have a requirement that I am currently unable to satisfy.  One requires residence - which I won't have for a good 3-4 months after moving here.  Another requires me to be paid Finnish wages.  That isn't happening as I'm getting paid in the US.  The third only requires a Finnish ID # from the magistrate.  But our visit to the magistrate says I need a residency permit to get the ID #.  So yeah...clear as mud as to how I'm supposed to actually do anything here.  I'm thinking about living in one of the cool cardboard forts I saw built around a fallen tree in the woods on my run Sunday.  Then I can buy groceries on credit card and it will all be good.Meeting people will be huge and entirely necessary to me enjoying it here (I suppose that is obvious).  But figuring out how to meet them has been quite interesting and so far I haven't entirely figured that out.  I did go to the English-speaking service at a local Methodist church on Sunday.  It was so nice to hear English!  The service though, unfortunately, left a little to be desired.  I guess it just wasn't Tarrytown UMC.  Which I'm sure you are saying "no $hit."  There were 15 of us in the service and I had about the most boring background.  The pianist/singer was named Hilda.  She was fair-complected and had a fairly American sounding accent.  I asked where she was from and she said Mexico.  Not what I expected.  She grew up a German Mennonite in Mexico holding Mexican and Canadian citizenship currently studying in Finland.  Got all that?  The remainder of the group at church was from Ghana - I forget there is such a huge Methodist presence there.  It was pretty neat to have this one common thing bringing us together from literally all over the world.  That being said, I[...]



Singapore

2015-05-05T21:42:46.907-05:00

In April, I traveled around the world.  It is funny I seem to be checking off bucket list items that I didn't necessarily have on my bucket list.  My trip started with a week in Singapore for training.  It was over Easter and the local office had Good Friday off.  I worked from my hotel on Friday.  I ended up going three days without seeing a single person I know.  That is rare - there are some people that rarely even go one day.  I decided two should be about my max.  I went to a local Methodist church for Easter - it sure wasn't home, but was definitely better than nothing.  That being said, I definitely enjoyed Singapore more this time around than the last time I went.  Upgrading to business class on my flight over might have something to do with that - I didn't realize just how bad I felt last time.  I knew the area a little better and the weather was pretty darn nice this time around.  I think I had to sizzle there a little to make me appreciate the frigid Finland weather I had coming up next.I don't have too much to say about the trip - but some fun pics.  I started off at the Carlton Hotel but decided I hated it.  I stayed at Swissotel the time before and thought I'd check out the Carlton since many of my coworkers stay there but moved to the Swissotel as soon as I could.  Each room has a balcony and I had another amazing view this time.  The 12 hour overnight flight from Singapore to Helsinki was convenient, I suppose, but not what I'd call pleasant.  I'm hoping I don't have to take that one again anytime soon.View from my hotelView of my hotel from the pool.Entertaining scene at a beach on Sentosa IslandBeach on Sentosa Island - was a nice little retreat Lone pink flower in Gardens by the Bay - awesome morning run sceneryI read somewhere the Strait of Singapore is one of the most heavily-traveled bodies of water in the world.Came by this on a run one morning and at first couldn't figure out what in the world it was - so run down and ugly looking.  Then I realized that come September, it is a hotbed of money - F1 money.Mad skills flying from Singapore to Helsinki - weight limit is 23kg[...]



First Visit

2015-05-05T21:26:58.250-05:00

My week-long trip began with a two day offsite team building kickoff with the new Helsinki crew (around 30 people or so) as well as a handful from the Austin office.  The itinerary I received the week before included an ice sculpting competition, sauna time (bathing suit optional), and pigeon on the dinner menu.  Needless to say, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.The ice sculpting ended up being pretty fun  - my team made a boat with a Finnish flag on the back.  Granted towards the end it ended up looking more like a toilet bowl than a boat, but I didn't have the heart to tell my team of new Finnish acquaintances this.  Sauna time ended up being split - the men went to the "sauna by the sea" and the ladies stayed back at the one inside the hotel - ie completely uneventful...and not naked.  Dinner was seven courses and I bailed for bed after #5 - it was 11:15pm.  One of those I did stay awake for was the pigeon.  I was proud of myself for eating it but think I'm suffering some post-traumatic stress from it.  Perhaps I won't eat it again.After getting back to Helsinki from the offsite, a Norwegian co-worker took me into the City Center to show me some of the ropes.  It was ~35f and raining but that doesn't seem to slow anyone down over there.  We walked around a bit and ate a nice Italian Restaurant.  I'm glad she showed me how to take the tram from our hotel into town - something I'm not sure I would have been quite as bold to figure out on my own and that became very useful over the remainder of my stay.Wednesday and Thursday morning were spent at the office which is just west of Helsinki in a town called Espoo.  I recognized several names of company offices that also have locations in Austin and/or around the US.  Thursday afternoon I met with my relocation assistant - Anna-Liisa and looked at apartments in different parts of the City Center.  I looked at five apartments that day - one was completely awesome, three were terrible and one was okay.  One was in the Seventh-Day Adventists church building and offered one washing machine in another building for all the tenants.  It also had a pink plastic toilet seat and a bathtub I wouldn't put my big toe in.  Thanks but no thanks.  A recurring theme I noticed is a toilet basically in the shower.  You have one tiny room with a sink on one wall, toilet on another, and a shower head on the other - with a drain in the middle.  No shower curtain, no separation, nothing.  Another no thanks.  While it may bring new meaning to "shit, shower, and shave" and be a dude's dream, it is absolutely not how I want to go about things.  I also realize how high the risk is of me coming off like a rich, pretentious American B.  Hopefully I'm able to relax and soak in and appreciate some of the European culture, but I'm just not sure about showering with my toilet. Friday I took a quick day trip to our Oslo office.  It was awesome!  I know maybe 8-10 of the folks from that office so it was nice seeing a few familiar faces.  Friday in Oslo it was sunny and the temps were in the upper 40s.  It was downright delightful after the mid 30s with rain in Finland.  Saturday in Finland didn't prove to be any different than it had been, unfortunately.  To be fair, the weather forecast included "abundant sunshine" the week after I left.  I snatched a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses in the Oslo airport on my way home.  I never thought I'd be one of "those" people buying things at air[...]



How I ended up on my way to Helsinki

2016-11-02T03:52:07.018-05:00

In early January, my boss held a typical meeting of his direct-reports and mentioned the possibility of putting someone in Europe over the accounting for our subs (which is currently going through Singapore).  He asked what a few of us thought about it and I thought it was a great idea.  A bit later he said "who knows - it could be someone in this room."  I looked around the room and realized (for the umpteenth time in these meetings) that one of these is not like the others.  As in the others all have 10-20 years more experience than I do.  My position in Internal Audit is unique in that it reports to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors and "administratively" to the CFO to maintain independence.  Anyways, I looked around the room and quickly wrote off the possibility of me taking a position like that due to lack of experience compared to the others.  But then a small part of me also realized I was the only one without a family with kids in middle/high school.  Hmmm....

After the meeting one of the attendees encouraged me to raise my hand - I thought she was crazy but I didn't immediately dismiss the idea.  I went to bible study later that night and my mind was racing a mile a minute.  I couldn't tell you for a second what we talked about - I was too busy wondering if my boss could have possibly been talking about me and if I could possibly fathom the idea of moving to Europe.  Soon enough though work got very busy and the idea of moving to Europe (namely Finland, where our most recent acquisition took place) faded away.  Until January 30 - the day my boss took me to lunch and dropped what I call "the bomb" on me.  But I guess I shouldn't call it a bomb because I've never heard of a good bomb and this one was good - crazy, scary, but good.  We left it at that I'd take the weekend to think on it, talk it over with my family, and meet with him again Monday.  He wanted me to go check things out in the next week or two after that.  My initial thought: who goes to Europe on a few days notice?  I guess me.  Turns out though there were a few roadblocks preventing me from going over that quickly, but I did make it over the first week of March.  All of February was spent in limbo - not entirely my favorite place to be.



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Test 2

2013-07-05T14:04:44.365-05:00



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- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
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Test from Phone

2013-06-11T15:28:02.101-05:00

Green belt hike from Sunday.

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Dr. Doug

2013-05-31T21:28:13.237-05:00

Friday night.  One year ago.  The worst phone call I've ever been a part of.  I was in Beaumont watching TV with my parents after dinner.  I had come in for a bike ride the next day and a childhood friend's wedding Saturday night.  It was rare I was home with them.  I'm still debating whether I'm glad I was there or not.  Part of me is glad I was there for them, but the part of me that worries I will be haunted for life by that phone call selfishly wishes I had been hundreds of miles away.The phone rang and Mom said "oh, I bet it is Doug calling to complain about the Astros."  Aunt Tootsie's name popped up on the TV caller ID.  Mom answered and I could tell immediately by the tone of her voice that things weren't okay.  I heard her ask "Linda Mattingly?" as she walked down the hall.  Dad continued eating his ice cream and watching TV.  I was already sick.  Mom got off the phone and said Tootsie had said Uncle Buddy had just received a text from the law firm where both he and Linda worked saying "please pray for Linda - her husband was killed in a car wreck this afternoon."  We spent 5-10 minutes feverishly scouring the internet for any news of a car wreck.  We asked what other Linda's worked at the firm.  We assumed it just couldn't be.  Mom tried to call a few people who might know and disappeared back down the hall to the bedroom.  After a few minutes I got up the courage to walk down the hall and ask what she had found out.  I just said "was it him?" and she nodded yes.  I walked back down the hall, shaking, into the den where Dad was still watching the Astros and eating his Blue Bell and I crawled into his lap for the first time in 25 years.  I was bawling as I told him it was indeed Doug, his best friend of over 60 years, that had been killed in the wreck.  Doug, aka "Dr. Doug," was like a second dad to me.  I spent every Saturday morning when I was little "at coffee" with him and Dad - most often at the crappy hotel on the corner of 11th and I-10.  God only knows that people thought of two men in their mid-to-late 50s with me...with a bowl cut.  I never seemed to notice anything off about it though, and I'm glad I didn't.  I was eight when Linda came into the picture and not long after Dr. Doug casually mentioned "oh, by the way, we got married last weekend."  That was his typical sense of humor.  He flirted with every waitress in town, often with his wife sitting next to him.  He was our dentist since we had our first tooth and didn't retire until after I had gone to college.  He and Linda moved to Woodville sometime while I was in college after his retirement.  He had several acres there to raise his greyhounds.  They hosted 15 or so of us during Hurricane Rita in 2005 and we all decided after that Woodville was not nearly far enough north when I hurricane comes!  Dr. Doug has been to four of my ironmans.  Mom and Dad have been to five.  He only missed my first one because Mom and Dad only thought they were going to "pick up the pieces, most likely in the ER" for that race...not to watch me actually finish.  He came to Arizona 2008 (97 degrees), Coeur D'Alene 2009 (48 degrees and raining), Florida 2009 (nice, actually), and Texas 2012 (May 2012...need I say more?).  Who in their right mind volunteers to go watch me do four ironman races who is not bound to it by blood?[...]



Whole30 - Hung Jury

2012-09-10T20:23:09.278-05:00

Well, I made it.  Shockingly enough.  For 30 days, I ate no grains, dairy, alcohol, soy, corn, potatoes, preservatives/additives, gluten, sugar, or God knows what else.  I have cooked and cleaned more in that 30 days than ever before as well.  My absolute biggest complaint has become the damn tupperware.  Being a good green little girl (and how sure how else I would do it….), I’ve cooked and packed all my meals/leftovers/portions in tupperware for storage in the fridge or freezer and for transport to work.  Due to the higher amount of fat in the food, said tupperware cannot simply be handwashed and left to dry – it all has to go into the dishwasher.  However, my dishwasher sucks for 2 reasons.  First, it does a crappy job of washing, so I have to clean every dish that goes in completely before putting it in (but the steam/heat of the dishwasher is the only thing that fully removes the grease).  Second, it is kamikaze like and sends every piece of tupperware flying throughout.  Therefore, when I open my seemingly clean dishwasher, I have to then again turn over and dump out water from each one, subsequently rinse out each in the sink, and return to the dishwasher to air dry with the door open and racks out. Awesome.  Over and over again.  Multiple containers per day.  I also learned on a trip to Alpharetta, GA, that these containers like to shatter when carried as airline cargo.  Yes, I’m that person.  I cooked my meals for the full week on Saturday, froze them Saturday night, and put them in a cooler to fly on Sunday night to my business trip.   Half of them shattered.  Very odd – I’m not sure if it is from the freezing/changing pressure, etc, or if they took a jackhammer to my bag.  I used a large soft-sided cooler in an even larger suitcase to carry everything.I ended up with bronchitis a week after my surgery so that was one more hit to the body.  I was hoping the down time from lots of working out would maybe help my body adjust to the diet and that I’d be able to finally run without dying sooner than later.  Not so much.  I mustered out one 6 mile run and one 7 mile run during the second half of the Whole30, but both weren’t too pretty.  I supposed they were a slight improvement over the first half, but still nothing I’d consider remotely okay.  I ran last Thursday, Day 31, and ended up having to walk over half of the whopping three miles.  Not cool.So I’m sure you are all wondering the final verdict.  Well, I think we have a hung jury.  I lost 8 lbs in the 30 days.  Normally, you/I’d say “that’s awesome!”  But, considering 5.2 lbs of that was muscle, it isn’t so cool.  30 days of eating cleaner than ever and I lost a whopping 2.8 lbs of fat on a diet that is supposed to make my body a fat burning machine.  Hmmmm… There is a possibility I may have been one of the people who would have benefitted from a Whole45 or Whole60 to really give my body the time to “get a hang of it,” but I was not willing to sacrifice any more muscle/fitness to find out.  I have a marathon to run in January and am already way behind schedule because of this.One caveat though is that in the past I have never followed fat/muscle composition while losing [...]



Day 14 Update

2012-08-20T20:39:07.171-05:00

Shockingly, I've made it two weeks now on the Whole30 plan.  That means I have not had one morsel of dairy, grains, sugar, alcohol, and who knows what else.  People keep asking if I feel different, and so far I definitely haven't had that "ah ha!" moment.  Perhaps I feel marginally better during the day, but definitely nothing drastic.  I also do not notice much different in my sleep as is promised with the plan.  On the other hand, though, I am not really thinking about food all the time and I still get hungry but not the omg I'm going to die hungry I used to get.I made a spaghetti squash and some ground beef last week and that with Central Market Organic Pasta Sauce was definitely my favorite meal for the week.  I also discovered Applegate Farms "little smokies" at Whole Foods that are compliant.  I'm close to heaven with those as they taste good.  So I would say scrambled eggs and little sausages was my close second favorite meal.  I'm still working on the breakfast casserole and turkey meatloaf I made a lot of the first week and froze too which is nice.I haven't worked out since Wednesday so cannot necessarily pass much of an opinion there right now.  I had a minor surgery Friday that temporarily put me out of service.  I plan to try to run tomorrow and will see how that goes.  I need to start ramping up for the Houston Marathon before too long so I hope I don't have any more runs where I think my body is eating muscle for fuel.I should be able to stick out the remaining 16 days.  This weekend proved quite challenging but I passed with flying colors.  I had to walk into Amy's Ice Cream with my niece and watch her eat it and also watched her down the quarter pounder cookie at Waterloo Icehouse and I didn't budge.  Sunday I went to lunch with several friends and sat surrounded by fruity drinks, chips, fries, tacos, and who knows what else.  I had a plain burger patty with guacamole on top and watermelon I brought from home.  I didn't feel like I was missing out on much, so that is nice.  At the same time, I'm looking at Pinterest and my list of things to bake after this is a mile long.  I think curiosity will be enough to help me stick with it, at least it is helping me stick with it for now.  I lost 5-6 lbs the first week and stayed pretty even the second week.  The unfortunate thing is according to my scale most of that weight loss is muscle, not fat.  I know my scale isn't 100% accurate, but that was still an alarming trend to be watching.  I didn't gain any muscle back in the second week either.  Sooo, that will be interesting to watch over the next few weeks.  The muscle loss would kind of go along with how I felt on my run last weekend - like my muscles were deteriorating instantly. This whole thing has definitely gotten a bit easier, but is still quite a chore.  Out of the 42 meals I've eaten in the last 14 days, I've cooked all but 4.  I've eaten twice at Chipotle (lettuce, salsa, guacamole, and pork - oddly their only meat not cooked in soybean oil), once at Waterloo Icehouse (salad with avocado, eggs, plain chicken, and homemade dressing that wasn't all that great), and Sunday at Abel's on the Lake.  I'm traveling next week for work and that could prove to be quite the challenge.  I will have a fridge in my room but not a mic[...]



Whole30, Day 5 Check-In

2012-08-11T16:30:55.505-05:00

Day 2 - WednesdayBreakfast: egg/chorizo/avocado/onion/pepper/spinach casseroleLunch: turkey meatloaf (made with ground turkey breast, onions, celery, carrots, and central market organic pasta sauce), mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamonSnack: cashews and raisins (good combination!)Dinner: really don't remember?!Wednesday's workout was my usual PAC Brick downtown - we rode for ~40 minutes and ran about 2.5 miles with a stop at Blues on the Green in the middle.  I felt pretty normal through the day and my workout.  Normal being I could hardly keep my eyes open come 5:30 and it took every bone in my body to get to the 7pm workout.  I feel that way most Wednesday evenings though, so no real surprise or noticeable difference there.Day 3 - ThursdayPre run - 1/8 cup cashewsPost run - 1 hard boiled eggBreakfast - 3 bard boiled eggs and a bananaLunch - turkey meatloaf and an appleSnack - 1/8 cup cashewsDinner - egg casseroleThursday morning's run wasn't great.  I felt a little more run down than usual and could start to feel the effects of all of this catching up to me.  Still no crazy hunger throughout all of this - although when it is time for a meal, I feel like I get very hungry very fast.Day 4 - FridayBreakfast - 2 hb eggs, banana with a little almond butter (not a bad combination)Lunch - turkey meatloaf, appleSnack - cashewsDinner - HEAVENLY - Chipotle Salad with lettuce, carnitas (only meat not cooked in soy), guacamole, and salsaFriday is an off day from workouts.  I was looking forward to going home and doing nothing...and eating my Chipotle!Day 5 - SaturdayPre run - 1/8c cashewsDuring run - 1 cliff kids fruit rope (no sugar added, made from fruit puree)Breakfast - 3 scrambled eggs with a splash of coconut milk, apple with almond butterLunch - tuna with homemade mayo - tried to put it on celery but it appears I still don't like celerySnack - Larabar - one of the few store-bought "snacks" that is compliant - made completely out of fruit and nuts and nothing elseSo today's run was awful.  Completely absolutely awful.  I knew it was going to be bad when my HR was already 170 after running the .4 miles (that includes a significant downhill) to meet my crew.  My crew included 3 pregnant girls today who kicked my butt into the ground...awesome...they aren't just a little pregnant either.  Anyways, I struggled the first 4 mile loop big time.  It has a few hills and I just had nothing in me to get my fat butt up them.  My left arm was fatigued after just a mile or so from carrying my handheld water bottle.  Really?  Really.  The entire muscle chain down the back of my legs hurt.  I was supposed to do 8 miles and after 4.5 I had to throw in the towel.  I walked an additional 1.5 miles but even that was stupidly slow.  I knew it could this was a possibility at some point, but boy did it hit hard today.  I just want to know when it gets better...apparently this is all the body learning to burn fat vs. carbs for fuel.  We'll see about that.  No doubt there is plenty of fat to burn, but clearly my body hadn't found it yet by this morning.  Now I feel like I did a 20 mile long run.  Not how I want to feel.  At all.  Apparently it gets better, I just hope it[...]