Wednesday, June 26, 2013

European Adventure!

Yeah, I know. It's been almost an entire year since I last posted here. I'm terrible. :)

Anyway, I write the travel blogs as kind of a journal and because people seem to dig it. So, now that I have a trip around the corner it's time to revive the ol' blog!

Over the next few weeks I'll try to write regular posts about my European Adventure! I'm taking two and a half weeks to travel to London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Venice, Florence and Rome! I'm excited!

Bear with me on this, I won't always have a wifi connection so I might not be super on the ball with these posts.

And thanks to my house and pet sitters. And my understanding coworkers! I couldn't do this without them! :)

Here we go!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Juice Fast: 5 days, 10lbs, and a Shitload of Produce

Why a Juice Fast?
I first watched the film "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" about a year ago and was intrigued by the concept of a juice fast. I highly recommend you watch the film. The Australian filmmaker decided to go 60 days drinking only fresh fruit and vegetable juice in an effort to hopefully rid himself of several ailments including obesity, an auto-immune disorder, etc. And he did the 60 days of juice while on a trip across the states resisting the temptation of our notoriously unhealthy American food.

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

His results were remarkable.  Massive weight loss and his auto-immune condition all but disappeared.  He was eventually able to go off all medications and had limitless energy, clearer thinking, healthier skin, and a majorly improved life.  All from drinking only juice for 60 days.  It really got me thinking.  I knew a detox would be good for my body and if I lost some weight in the process then hooray.

So, I bought a juicer after much research.  I settled on the Breville Multi-Speed Juice Fountain and I can vouch for its awesomeness.  The multi-speed feature is what it makes it so good at handling fruits and veggies of such widely varying hardness.  Once I got the juicer, I juiced occasionally but never as consistently as I'd need to see some real changes.  Recently I'd been toying with doing a real fast and the motivation to actually do it came in the form of a BzzAgent campaign.

BzzAgent is a site you can sign up for and, based on your demographic information and interests, they'll invite you to join campaigns for various products, services, and events.  As part of these campaigns you often get to try new things for free or at a deeply discounted price.  In this case, they provided me with the "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead Bundle" which included the DVD of the film, a produce shopping guide, and a companion booklet.  The campaign directed me to and it had a wealth of information including a variety of different plans that you can use for your "reboot".  

Based on the film, I had initially decided to do a 10 day fast based on the 3 day plan in the guide.  I figured that since 10 days is what he recommended to people in the film that I should do it, too! I did a good amount of planning.  I created a spreadsheet that combined the ingredients from all of the recipes for the 3 day plan and provided me with a shopping list.  I bought Ball jars to store the juice for easy transportation to work. And I cleaned out the fridge to make room for the massive amounts of produce I was about to buy.  

Then, to my amazement, after watching the film Tony decided he wanted to do the juice fast with me.  This is the guy that picks basil out of pasta sauce he's that "allergic" to vegetables or anything other than pizza.  I got him drinking Green Machine Naked juice to prep his body for what was to come. And he LOVES it!  Amazing.  We thought we might have to double the recipes to make enough for two, but we were wrong about that.  We probably would have been fine had we bought 1.5x the ingredients instead of 2x.  

The Fast
Then we went shopping. Good lord.  I've never had that much produce in my possession at one time. My kitchen looked like a produce department!  We bought three days worth of ingredients based on the plan recipes and I got to juicing.

This is where my plan fell apart.  I wasn't not prepared for how much time this would take!  Washing, prepping, juicing, cleaning the juicer between most juices, the kitchen disaster. I thought the hardest part of the fast would be cravings, but no.  I tried to do two days of juices at a time and it seemed to take me most of the evening.  

But as for the juice fast itself, it was easier than expected.  The recipes are designed in a way to make sure you get the right combination of vegetables and fruits to get all of the nutrients you need.  You don't want to have drinks that are mostly fruits or you'll be overdoing the sugar and not getting the nutritional value that you need.  I'm not going to lie, some juices were down right nasty.  Like this Gazpacho one, for example. I didn't like it at all and Tony was pretty sure he was going to die drinking it.  We both survived. :)

Every day's plan consisted of breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner.  The morning drinks tended to be the most juice heavy to give you a little sugar boost first thing in the morning.  This Carrot, Apple, Ginger juice was delicious! Another morning had a Purple Power drink that had concord grapes and blackberries in it and it was amazing.  I'd drink that any day!

Most of the midday drinks were very vegetable heavy, as expected.  Some were definitely better than others.  The Mean Green drink is the drink that is featured most in the film and is usually pretty palatable to most people.  It definitely wasn't bad and was loaded with good stuff from the Kale and other ingredients.

The final drinks of the day usually had a little bit more sweet to them as well.  Dessert, if you will.  From the moment I read the plan I was excited to try this Sunset Blend recipe.  It had sweet potato, red pepper, apples, carrots, oranges and beets.  It was pretty tasty!

After I made all of the juices for day one and two in the same day, I was already burned out.  Like I mentioned before, the time involved in making the juices was much more than I expected.  It would have helped had I had a kitchen buddy, but Tony's useless in there so I was on my own.  Also, my kitchen was a disaster.  I'm a pretty neat person, and having lots of clutter drives me nuts.  I literally had a 2x1' space in my kitchen to do the actual juicing.  The rest was covered in jars, produce, cutting board, etc.  And the apple seeds I kept finding on the floor with my bare feet were super annoying.  I think if I had a larger kitchen and a spare fridge it would have been better.  But the time combined with the mess made me decide that 10 days was too long.  So, I decided we'd use the 3 days worth of produce and call it good.  After all, the plan on the website was only three days and I had opted to increase it.

People assumed that I switch my plan from 10 days to 3 days because it was unbearable when in fact it was the work involved.  I was never hungry or bitchy or riddled with cravings.  It was kind of remarkable.  Tony had one bad day where he wanted to eat a mashup of every carb loaded food item on the planet, but he was never hungry.  He was shocked.  He'd tried counting calories before but that amounted to eating half of a pizza instead of a whole one in one sitting.  His aversion to anything healthy made it hard for him to lose weight.  This made it easy. He decided it's the texture of veggies that bother him, not the taste.  The juice removed texture from the equation.  I still think it's just a stubbornness thing, but whatever. :)  Tony wasn't happy when I asked to stop at three days because he'd lost 3lbs in 2 days and was feeling great.  But he understood after I explained my situation.  But we did have a bunch of produce left.  We had doubled the ingredients assuming we'd need twice as much for two people.  We were wrong.  So, we decided to go for 5 days to use up what we had left.  

I was feeling great at the end of the third day and I weighed myself on the morning of the fourth day.  I'd lost 7.5lbs but felt like I'd lost more. I think I was chronically bloated or puffy and not only did I lose weight but any of that inflammation seems to have gone away.  I'm able to fit into a pair of skinny jeans that have been on the shelf for several months and I don't even have a muffin top! 

Also, my energy levels have been pretty damn good.  On the fifth day I was pretty much bouncing off the walls at work.  Even my coworkers noticed.  Imagine that, no sugary snacks or caffeine to try and wake me up.  Just pure, nutritious energy to power me along.  

Tony started to notice some changes that I didn't because I already had a pretty "clean" diet.  The morning drink on the 4th day was too sweet for him!  He eats sweetened condensed milk straight from the can, so he's no stranger to sweets.  I'm interested to see how things taste to him now that he's done some detoxing.

As for the, um, bodily function impacts.  Don't worry about being super gassy or in the bathroom all day.  By juicing, you're removing the bulk of the fiber that usually causes the gas and stool issues.  I guess you do still spend all day in the bathroom because you're having to pee all the damn time, but I'm okay with that.

In the end, I lost 10lbs.  I'm good with that!  I think had I stayed on it another 5 days I would have seen some pretty remarkable changes.  I would definitely do the fast again.  I think I'd rather shoot for winter when my schedule isn't as busy and the juicing task won't be getting in the way of having a life, but not sure how the produce would be during that time of year.  

Tony is really impressed as well with the 8lbs he lost.  He'll likely buy a juicer of his own when he moves to Columbus, OH and will hopefully stick with the Naked juices and juice bar juices as a vessel for getting fruits and veggies in his diet.  He discovered that his trusty Starbucks sells Naked juices so he can still hang out there and have a non Frappuccino option!  I suggested he try half the packet of brown sugar in his oatmeal from there this morning and he agreed that he didn't need the whole packet anymore.  Getting all of the processed sugars out for 5 days has changed the way things taste for him in a big way.  Even if he ends up going back to the same diet he had, at least he'll be adding healthy stuff in a way he enjoys.  It's a really easy way to "eat your colors" and mostly enjoy it!

I had a poached egg for breakfast and I didn't even need to put salt and pepper on it! I'm looking forward to my lunch at Proof, but I'm not dying for anything in particular.  I never once had crazy cravings and I'm not going to dive face first into a pizza.  I'm looking forward to trying to eat better and incorporate more juice into my life.  

I'd definitely recommend this for anyone that needs a quick reset of their body.  Hell, at the very least I've found a way to drop a quick few pounds before vacations or special occasions. :)

Feel free to hit me up with questions!  Lots of people have asked me about it and I promised a lot of info. I know this post got long, but I could ramble on forever so I'll stop here and if you want to know more just send me a note!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Reflection on Having Braces

I've had a lot of people ask me what it was like dealing with braces as an adult, so I thought I'd try to summarize some of my thoughts here.  As a bonus, you'll see some awful pictures of me. :) Hopefully it'll help those that are on the fence about whether or not they should take the plunge.  It can be a hard decision, I know!

First, let's take a look at my before and after.  The before is the photo they took at the orthodontist office, so it's not terribly flattering.  I was hoping they'd upload my after photo so I could use it for this, but they haven't yet.  I didn't have a photo from the same angle, sorry.  But, you get the idea.

Left: Sept. 15, 2010 | Right: May 1, 2012

As a kid my teeth weren't horrible, I guess.  They weren't quite level and some were angled, but I managed.  Once the wisdom teeth started coming in, that changed.  My teeth bothered me, but I never wanted to make my parents spend the money.  That, and they told me they'd have to break my palate because my mouth was too small.  No, thank you!  It didn't help that I didn't have a great relationship with my dentist and wasn't a fan of any dental processes.

Fast forward 10 years and I'm a grown up (26 is a grown up, right?), and I've found a fantastic dentist.  If you're ever in the market for a dentist, Dr. David Collier is your man.  Tell him I sent ya, he won't be surprised.  I'm no longer afraid of dentistry and my teeth are in great shape.  Dr. Collier tells me that I'd have a knockout smile if I would consider braces.  I told him I'd consider it, but the idea of being a 26 year old single girl with braces was none too appealing.  I had a hard enough time meeting men without having a mouth full of metal and rubber bands.  Well, I did consider it, but it took me 5 years to get myself to a point where my self-esteem could handle it.

Dr. Collier recommended Dr. Rovner as an orthodontist as did many people I knew.  Some had had braces with him when they were 12, some had just gotten them off as adults.  All had nothing but wonderful things to say about him.  Dr. Collier assured me he wasn't biased by the fact that Dr. Rovner is is BFF. :)  I was pretty confident I had the right guy, so in I went for a consult.  I wasn't a candidate for Invisalign, but I didn't need my palate broken, thank goodness.  Dr. Rovner was confident we could get it all done without breaking anything, pulling any teeth, and in 24 months.  Financially, it wasn't that painful either.  They spread the cost of the braces over the length of your sentence...I mean, treatment.  So, I had my payments (after the down payment) broken into 24 months.  The cost included everything from the consultation to the final retainers.  So, all in all, not a bad deal.  You cost may vary a bit, so I won't go into much detail on my cost here. Just know that I wish insurance covered adult orthodontics.  One thing I will say, I paid an extra $350 to get ceramic braces on my top teeth.  Money well spent!  From a distance, you couldn't even see them because they matched my teeth.  You could just see a wire going across, which isn't bad.  The metal would have stood out a bit more.

Anyway, I did it.  It helped that I had a boyfriend that was supportive of my decision and didn't find the idea of me with braces repulsive.  He only had 3 months of a braces free me before I took the plunge.  I had the spacers put in on October 22, 2010, and that might have been the worst part of the whole thing.  A week later, on October 27, 2010, I got my braces.

October 27, 2010.  Smiling after getting my braces, before the pain set in. Notice, you can only see the wire as the ceramic brackets don't show as much.  And it's a grainy iPhone photo. :)

The changes came quickly, positive reinforcement that I'd made the right decision.  I was going to take a weekly photo showing the progress, but that only lasted about 8 weeks.  The progress was still noticeable, but I never made the animated .gif that I was planning.  In two months, I felt like a new person! The two front teeth were level, the teeth that were sitting back were being lined up with the others.  It was a damn miracle!

Another grainy iPhone photo, this time in December 2010.  Two months! 

Even with braces, I suddenly had more confidence in my smile than I'd had in years.  Not to say I wouldn't have preferred to not have braces for my trip to Costa Rica in July 2011, but I managed.

Braulio Carrillo National Park in Costa Rica, July 2011.  Yay for ceramic braces!

Yeah, there are things you should avoid eating with braces, but I didn't have much trouble.  I became obsessive about checking my teeth after eating, however.  And corn on the cob?  Yeah, you might want to avoid that.

After attempting to eat corn on the cob at the Adel Sweet Corn Festival, August 2011.

I ended up getting my braces off a full six months early thanks to my diligence when it came to wearing rubber bands.  Wear your rubber bands!  I actually preferred to have them in.  The bands pulled on the teeth and helped to release some of that pressure from the teeth moving.  So, while they were annoying, they were totally worth it.  Dr. Rovner has had people add months to years to their treatment by not wearing the rubber bands.  And then you have cases like me where I get them off six months early because I wore them!  The moral of the story is clear, people.

I got my braces off on May 1, 2012 and I've been smiling ever since!  I was worried the removal process was going to suck, but it really wasn't painful.  A little uncomfortable at times, but not bad!  I have to wear an Invisalign type retainer on the top at all times (except eating or drinking anything but water) for six months, and then only at night.  I had a permanent retainer put in on the bottom, but I also have a retainer to wear over it at night.  I'm adjusting to that.  I'll have that for the rest of my life unless I want my investment to go down the toilet.

Long story short(ish), I'm really glad I did it and it was worth every (uninsured) penny.  I think I might have gotten a blessing in disguise by not getting braces as a kid.  Lots of adults get braces again, or have crooked teeth because they didn't wear the retainers after having braces as a kid.  Since I spent my own money, and I'm a responsible adult, I know I'll wear the retainer and protect my investment and my smile.

I highly recommend that anyone that wishes they could have straighter teeth look into it.  It's not as bad as I thought it'd be having them as an adult.  Hell, you might even get carded more often! :)

First social event photo post-braces.  All smiles!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Let Yoga Festival Season Begin!

Spring has sprung a little early this year and it's got me excited about the various yoga festivals and retreats I have coming up!  I consider Spring the beginning of Yoga Festival Season despite the fact that one of the main festivals is in October....oh well!

I thought I'd post some info about upcoming events in the area (including KC and Iowa City), especially those with early bird registration going on right now, so that others can take advantage of these great opportunities!

It's important to note that these events that I'm listing are appropriate for all levels of yoga practitioners. As with any yoga class, listen to your body and make modifications.  And avoid signing up for advanced sessions if you're not ready. ;)

First up, we have the Second Annual Central Iowa Yoga Retreat!

Logo from Central Iowa Yoga Retreat

The retreat is a day packed with a variety of activities including a session with the always wonderful James Miller.  There's even a "Pose and Prose" session that involves journaling while doing yoga that I'm very intrigued by. :)  Last year was a very enjoyable experience and a good chance to bond with other local yogis.  Unfortunately, the early bird registration has already passed, but it's still a good deal!

What:  Central Iowa Yoga Retreat
When:  April 1, 2012 8am-4pm
Where:  Community and Events Center, Windsor Heights, IA
Cost: UPDATED: $99! The early bird price has been extended to everyone!
Registration Site

On Cinco de Mayo we have margaritas!  I mean, we have the Kansas City Yoga Festival and THEN we have margaritas!
Logo from Kansas City Yoga Festival

Hooray!  A nice quick road trip to Kansas City, yoga, and still time for margaritas afterward!  This is the first year for this festival, but it's shaping up to be a good one! James Miller will be at this festival as well, as will another amazing yogi, Gabriel Azoulay.  This festival also includes a yoga flash mob, so we'll see how that goes. :)

What:  Kansas City Yoga Festival
When:  May 5, 2012 8am-6:15pm
Where:  Family Life Center, Independence, MO
Cost: Early Bird Special until March 20th - $75.  After March 20th - $110.
Registration Site

Last, but not least, we have the Iowa City Yoga Festival!

Logo for Iowa City Yoga Festival

I attended the very first Iowa City Yoga Festival but a scheduling snafu kept me away last year.  Much to my dismay, might I add.  Not this year!  I've have this baby blocked in my calendar for a year!  I'm not even going to bother listing the amazing people that will be at this festival.  That, and the list isn't available...but I could make some educated guesses. :)  The brain child of James Miller, it's sure to be packed with respected speakers and instructors.  It's truly a magical weekend and not to be missed by anyone that loves yoga.  Go, enjoy, and bring friends next year!

What:  Iowa City Yoga Festival
When:  October 12-14, 2012
Where:  Iowa City, IA
Cost: $325
Registration Site
Make sure to look at the session descriptions before you register as you will be picking your agenda when you sign up!

Aside from these lovely events, we must not forget to mention the awesome free events that are available in the metro in the summer!  Yoga in the Park and Yoga on the Lawn are two fabulous summer opportunities that should not be missed. 
Gray's Lake, Des Moines, IA
June 2 - September 29
Saturdays @ 9am
The instructor lineup is quite good this year.  Take a look at the link for a full schedule.  James Miller is teaching on 8/11, his classes usually are far from free! 

Yoga on the Lawn
WDM City Hall Lawn, West Des Moines, IA
June 3 - September 2 
Sundays @ 9am

This is by no means an all inclusive list of all of the workshop, class, etc opportunities in and around Des Moines.  Just a few highlights that I already have on my calendar.  I do try to keep on top of the area events and will typically share them on my Twitter feed as well.

Hope to see you at these events!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Daily Yoga FTW!

I made a promise to myself at the end of 2011 that I'd make sure I didn't let my yoga practice get pushed aside by life.  I vowed to practice yoga for at least 20 min per day, and I even set up a special space just for yoga in my basement!

I wasn't as good as I would have liked in the last couple of months of 2011, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it.  I was just getting my life back in order after the kitty debacle and the holidays were upon me.  But those are just excuses, of course.  I've accepted that I could have done better in November and December and prepared to really kick ass and stay on track beginning in January 2012.

I'm proud to report that I've done at least 20 min of yoga every day since the first of the year! You can see by the screenshot below that in the first 11 days of January I practiced yoga for 470 minutes!  If you average it out, it's closer to 45 min per day, but who's counting!  :)
Calendar Tracker Lite iPhone App
I downloaded this handy (free) iPhone application called Calendar Tracker Lite and it's worked perfectly.  Since I'm only tracking my yoga practice I only need one calendar.  However, if you need to track more than one thing and need more calendars you can buy the full version for $0.99.  I simply told it how many minutes of yoga I wanted to shoot for per week and it will show me how I'm progressing toward that goal.  You can track time, money, distance, etc.  It's quite handy!  And It will show you your history so I can see my entries with a note indicating where I practiced (home, gym, etc).  It's been great!

I have to say, setting up my yoga space in my basement and really sticking to my goal of practicing daily has made a huge difference!  It's dark, cozy, quiet...perfect!  I tried to capture a picture for you but it turned out kind of grainy.  I wanted to show how cozy it can be, but I failed. :) I just turn off the lights, use that colorful lamp on the table and light a candle and I'm set!  I have a little JBL iPhone speaker dock to listen to music or play podcasts without blasting them through my iPhone speakers.  I also have a space heater down there in case it happens to get chilly or I want to do a little hot yoga.  I absolutely love it!  I guess it's not totally perfect.  The carpet is thick and I'm using my old thick Jade Fusion mat, so balance can be a challenge if I'm overtired or just off my game.  But I figure it'll only improve my already pretty awesome balance over time, so I deal with it.

Mentally, doing yoga every day has been fabulous.  No matter how tired I am or how late I get home I always take time to at least get on the mat every day.  It's a nice way to wind down before bed or kick off my day.  Also, I feel less guilty when I'm not able to make it to my classes.  I know that I can always take some time at home to do yoga even if I miss that class at the gym.  Stress and guilt be gone!. :)   Daily yoga for the win (FTW)!
My basement yoga space.  Sorry it's grainy, I was trying to capture the dim lighting!

So, like I said, I've done yoga every day for 11 days.  When I started this I was sad that my yoga muscle tone had diminished during my brief fall off the wagon.  I'm happy to say that it's coming back quickly!  I can definitely see that my arms and legs are more toned and if you catch me at the right angle I have abs!  I just need to shed some of the extra padding around the muscles and I'll be good to go. :) I'm not terribly overweight, but I do have some to lose.  Thankfully I'm back to my yoga and my Thyroid meds seem to be making a difference as well.  Hopefully it's only a matter of time before I'm mentally and physically where I want to be.

If you're looking to form a yoga habit, I recommend getting in on Yoga Journal's 21 Day Yoga Challenge.  It started on January 9th, but you can join up whenever!  The point isn't to see how much you can do, but to form a habit of doing yoga every day.  It's great and has classes and meditations for every level.  Enjoy!

Hooray for yoga!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So You Think You Can Tweet

Let me begin by saying that I'm by no means an expert in the world of Twitter.  There are people that have been doing it longer and more successfully than I have.  However, I think I've got a good handle (haha) on it and have had some great success in using it.  I've had a few people ask me for Twitter pointers lately or for help in getting started with it so I thought I'd just compile all my tips and throw them onto this blog post.  Again, I'm no pro so take it or leave it.  But know that I've met some wonderful people and have won quite a bit of shit by using Twitter effectively, so I can't be all wrong! :)  Oh, and this was a brain dump I did over lunch so if I babbled or make no sense I'm sorry!

So you want to use Twitter? Okay, but it's not for everyone!  I tried it once for the Iowa Caucuses in 2008 and fizzled out afterward because I just didn't see a benefit.  I tried a year later and took a different approach and now I'm an addict. Here are some tips that might help as you venture into the Wild West that is Twitter.

  1. Decide in advance what your purpose for using Twitter will be.  Are you trying to reach consumers?  Trying to build a professional network?  Want to be clued in on social and entertainment events in your community?  Want another way to keep in touch with friends?  All of the above?  Knowing your target audience will help a lot.  Generally speaking, it's a good idea to keep your social Twitter side separate from your business side, unless they are tightly coupled.  For example, your customers probably don't want to see your tweets from the Santa bar crawl you were on over the weekend.  Unless, of course, your business is a bar. This is just a guideline.  Obviously, you know your customers best (hopefully) and will know what they can tolerate.  Just keep it in mind.  Also, while you're at it, decide if you want a public or private account.  Having a private account can greatly reduce the number of interactions you have because if you dont approve them to follow you then you don't exist to them.  Nothing wrong with having two Twitter accounts to keep business and personal separate.  In fact, most smartphone Twitter clients support having multiple accounts making it easy to keep up and tweet from both.
  2. Put some thought into your name. It can be tempting to just make something up really fast with the idea that you can always change it later. This is true, but once you have a name and people get used to it it can be confusing for followers. Especially if your followers ever manually type your name instead of letting an app or website populate it for them.  If you do change it, your followers will remain and you won't have to refollow people either.  
  3. Also related to choosing a name, make sure your name is short and sweet if possible.  Remember, tweets are limited to 140 characters.  So, if someone wants to retweet something you've posted but wishes to include a comment they'll have less space to do so if your name is super long.  For example, if your Twitter name is @somehandle, to retweet you, people may append "RT @somehandle your awesome tweet here."  That means that your tweet can only be 126 characters to be fully retweeted.  People may end up modifying your tweets to fit the 140 characters if they have to.  The native Twitter RT function makes this a non-issue by simply reposting the Tweet you wanted to RT with a special notation that it's a RT without you having to actually type RT, but both work.  Also, a pain for those people that type names manually (however rare they may be).  Make it easy for people.  
  4. Twitter will seem pointless and dull to you until you follow some people and start interacting with followers of your own.  Finding your community can be hard.  I suggest that you start by seeking out the Twitter accounts of people, businesses, etc that you enjoy and that are related to the identity you wish to have on Twitter.  Follow those people.  Also, look at who they follow and follow some of them too, if applicable.  When watching tweets from these people come across your timeline, notice who they tweet at and explore their profiles.  If they're interesting, follow them.  Interact with the people you follow and your followers but don't barrage them with tweets.  Keep it relevant and interesting.  You don't want to come across as a spammer.  Once you find a few people that you click with you'll start expanding your network simply by association.  One thing to note, just because you follow someone doesn't mean they have to follow you back.  Some people have a "follow back" rule.  I personally don't feel the need to follow back unless I know their content will interest me.  Otherwise, it's just timeline clutter.  
  5. Learn the jargon.  RT, MT, CC, OH, WTF?  Of course, texting type shorthand also applies such as "LOL,WTF and OMG" but there are some very specific Twitter acronyms and abbreviations that will help as you read the tweets coming across your timeline. The following are only a few, but they'll come in handy.  Google is always available to help you decipher others you may come across.
    • RT - Retweet. This is a way to promote someone else's tweet. Most Twitter clients have a built in RT function. You can choose to simply RT someone's tweet as is or you can choose to add commentary.  Depending on the Twitter client you're using, your ability to tweet with commentary may be limited.  
    • MT - Modified Tweet.  If you want to retweet something but want to cut off or modify part of it you can use the MT instead of RT.  This one isn't as widespread, but it's a nice way to show that what you're tweeting isn't an exact quote.  
    • DM - Direct Message.  If you type "d somehandle" it will send a private message to @somehandle that only they can see.  If you're having a back and forth conversation on Twitter it may be best to move it to a DM. You cannot DM a person unless they follow you. 
    • OH - Overheard.  This is used to capture (usually humorous or insightful) one liners that people hear in real life and want to share on Twitter without attributing an author.  For example, "OH: I can't stop touching these balls!".  Likely, it means something like fuzzy Santa hat cotton balls, but it's funny when taken out of context, so it's quoted.  The point is not to give any indication who said it and to just let your followers figure it out.
    • CC - Carbon Copy.  This functions just like email.  You can use CC in a tweet to make sure it goes to people that might be interested.  It's not necessary, however.  You could just include their handle.
    • #FF - Follow Friday.  On Fridays, you'll see a ton of tweets with a list of twitter handles and a #FF.  This is the hash tag for "Follow Fridays" which is basically a way to tell the world who you think would be good to follow.  This is a good way for you to find new people to follow as you're building your Twitter identity.
  6. Speaking of hash tags, a hash tag is a way to label your tweet so that it can grouped with other tweets about the same thing.  Of course, this requires that you either pick a hash tag out of a list that your client provides of currently active tags, or that you use the exact same tag as someone else.  That's the only way it'll be effective.  For example, most TV shows now have Twitter hash tags to give their fans a way to tweet about the show and be hopefully noticed by other fans and people affiliated with the show.  #Glee is the hash tag you'd use if you wanted to tweet about the show Glee (i.e. "#Glee is amazing this week!" or "I really need this plot line to end. #Glee").  The hash tag doesn't need to be incorporated into the tweet as in the first example, it can be added after as a simple label of sorts. If a hash tag is used by many people you can set up a search filter on most Twitter clients to display a special timeline of only tweets with that hash tag whether you follow the people tweeting them or not. Again, it's a good way to find people with common interests.  This feature is also very handy for festivals or concerts where you want to see what people are saying about it.  Hash tags are an imperfect thing. Not all of them are useful.  You'll notice many tweets that just have random hash tags that may or may not be used by anyone else.  For example, "This class is never going to end. #killmenow".  
  7. Replying to someone on Twitter is easy, but it can confuse people sometimes.  To reply to a person or send them a public message, you simply have to use their handle with the @ symbol.  Replying to a user using their handle ensures that they see the tweets you write to or about them.  Please note that if you start a tweet with a user's handle, it will only show up in the timeline for people that follow you both.  So, if you tweet "@myfriend That show was amazing!", it will only show up in the timeline for users that follow both you and @myfriend.  However, if you tweet, "That show was amazing, @myfriend." The tweet will show up for anyone that's following you whether they follow @myfriend or not.  So, if you want to keep a conversation or tweets out of the timeline of people that don't know or care about @myfriend it's polite to include the recipient's handle as the first thing in your tweet.  Please note, just because the tweet doesn't show up in all of your followers' timelines if they don't follow @myfriend doesn't mean they can't see it.  If they go and look at your overall timeline it will still be visible.  If you want the message to be private, use DM.  
  8. Spam is a pain in the ass.  Sometimes, simply posting a tweet with a particular word can cause a flood of spambot tweets to come your way.  For example, if you tweet something with the word "diet" you're almost guaranteed to get spam reply tweets related to weight loss gimmicks.  When you see a tweet that's sent to you using your handle, it's best not to click on links as they can lead to sites that will give you viruses, phish your twitter account, etc.  A quick way to know if the account is spammy is to look at their followers.  Do they have any? If they have none or just a couple and the tweet smells spammy, block the account and report it as spam.  EVERY time.  If you don't report it you're dooming others to your same fate.  
  9. People post pictures to Twitter all the time.  Recently Twitter built in default support for uploading pictures so no special accounts are needed.  Some clients have support built in for other twitter photo sharing tools as well.  Just play with it and see what happens.
  10. Shortening your tweets can be hard.  140 characters really isn't much, especially when you include a link.  Using a link shortener like can help a lot.  Again, many Twitter clients have some sort of link shortener built in.

So, now that you've read all that, if you're not totally scared get out there and make an account!  Oh, and follow me. I'm @yogagirl.  :)

Thyroid Take 2: Take Control of Your Health

Disclaimer:  As with all of my health related posts, I'm only posting this stuff in order to hopefully help other people with similar issues.  If you don't wanna read it, don't. :) I'm not sharing any amount of detail that makes me uncomfortable, just general info and experiences that may ring true for others.  Okay, that is all.

So, remember that whole debacle with the endocrinologist where she told me that there wasn't anything wrong with me and asked me why I was seeing her?  Yeah.  That was fun.  Well, I had my annual appointment with my GP in September and I complained about it.  I told him that I was still dealing with the symptoms that I was having before and lamented that there HAD to be something going on with my thyroid or something.  Otherwise, why would my test results be borderline (leaning hypothyroid) in addition to my hypothyroid symptoms?

He agreed.  After all, he was the one that referred me to the endocrinologist in the first place!  He did say he was between a bit of a rock and a hard place, however, because he saw problems but the specialist didn't.  So, if things got to a severe point for me he'd potentially have some problems referring me again.  But he didn't care, he wanted me to feel better.  Not only did he sympathize with my concerns and my frustration, he agreed it was worth it to try and treat it to see if there was an improvement.  And he agreed with me that a generic version of Armour, the more bio-identical/natural thyroid treatment, was a better fit for me than Synthroid, the one that freaked me out.  Fewer side effects, more in line with my holistic/natural treatment preferences, etc.  He gave me a three month prescription for a low dosage of the generic Armour and wanted me to come back in two months for a retest and to see how I'm feeling.  The low dose would be enough to hopefully start moving my levels in the right direction, but not so high as to cause issues if I didn't need treatment.  Based on the followup we'd be able to determine if I needed a higher dose, if the current dose was working, or if I didn't need treatment at all.

I had my followup on November 18th, and I was pleased to report progress.  A couple of my symptoms had definitely started to improve, and I didn't feel any spazziness that could indicate too much thyroid hormone. He said based on how I'd been feeling alone he was fairly certain that the treatment was making a difference and that I should stay on the medicine, but that the blood test would be our true indicator.  Also, as I continue taking the medication, I'm likely to start seeing improvements in some of the other symptom areas where I haven't as of yet.  It's a process.  And it can take some tinkering to get the right levels.  As long as there's progress, I'll be patient!  Anyway, I got my results today and my numbers were clearly moving more toward normal so he wants me to stay on the current dosage and possibly adjust up a bit on the dosage later if I'm not seeing additional improvement.

...Take Control of YOUR Health...

What's the moral of this story?  YOU know your body better than anyone.  If you feel like something is wrong, and you're not a hypochondriac that's spent too much time on WebMD, fight until someone listens to you.  It can be frustrating, time consuming, sometimes expensive, and downright maddening but once you get someone to listen it'll be worth it.  Of course, the key is not insisting you know for sure exactly what's wrong with you...that's their job and hopefully they'll do it.  Be able to articulate your issues.  Be specific.  Be cooperative and open minded.  Basically, help them help you.

I'm so glad that my GP that has known me for years was willing to ignore the specialist's findings and do what he felt was best.  So far, my weight issues and another one or two frustrating symptoms haven't improved but I'm going to be patient and hope that with time and possibly a dosage change I'll start to see progress.  Unfortunately, my GP is retiring in January so I'll have to go to a different one.  Luckily, a nurse friend was able to point me to another doctor in the same practice that she felt would be most compatible with me and most like my current doctor.

Fingers crossed that I'm on the right path!  I'm excited about it and have high hopes, but not so high that I'll be devastated if things don't continue as I hope they will.  :)