Friday, January 24, 2020

Friday Mishmash

It feels like forever since I've done a FMM - I'm slowly getting back into the groove of blogging.  Oh and working - I've worked my part-time job for the last two weeks which has been good; I'm enjoying it even when I can't remember or don't quite know how to do some things.  Office work is one thing but adding the medical/insurance component to it makes it a lot more complicated.  The only glitch has been with me not able to drive; Jeff has to drive me there on his way to work and then he takes a later lunch to pick me up and bring me home.  It works but it'll be nice when I can legally drive a car again, which won't be for another month, sheesh.

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First up is Henry and his friend Mr. Rogers.  Actually Henry has two friends - Smokey, an all gray cat, and Mr. Rogers, a calico/white mix.  Mr. Rogers always comes over the fence into our backyard, so obviously he's a neighbor, and Smokey - well, you can probably guess why I named him that.  Yes I name the random cats that come to visit - doesn't everyone?  I've caught all three cats hanging out together on occasion, which always makes me smile - Henry has friends!  I've also seen Smokey come to our front door via our Nest camera, which makes me wonder:  if he could reach the doorbell, would he ring it and ask if Henry could come out and play?

This was from earlier in the week:
Henry was hanging by my window wanting to be let inside.  Mr. Rogers came over and distracted him for a bit.
Thankfully Henry is pretty fastidious and could not be persuaded to go roll in the dirt with Mr. Rogers. I really don't want a Pigpen situation inside the house.

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Next up is Paco.  Because he was enjoying laying outside at Allie's place, I bought him an outdoor dog bed - I guess our grass is not as soft as Allie's because he doesn't do that here.  But it's too cold to be outside right now, so the bed is currently residing in our living room:
Dis bed is sproingy.

Right now we have the bed on the floor near the end of the couch, which Paco uses as a springboard to hop onto the couch.  It's pretty cute to watch him do that, plus I feel better about it because sometimes he's tried to jump onto the couch and failed - I suspect he's got some doggy arthritis going on, poor old pup.

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Speaking of getting older, take a look at this:
Why yes, that's my niece Theresa DRIVING me to go pick up dinner.  DRIVING.
She's also taller than me.  
I swear she was just this little girl like, yesterday.  Paco and Theresa, circa 2009.  

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Finally, when Theresa and I were wandering in Macy's last month, we came across Thor, aka Chris Hemsworth, aka my future third husband, so I had to get a picture with him:
Hey Thor. 

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Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2020 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Spectator's Recap!

Really pretty medal this year - I love all the bright enamel colors!

On Sunday I got to spectate the Chevron Houston Marathon/Aramco Half Marathon once again.  We had a small group of Renegades running the half marathon this year thanks to babies being born and other stuff going on - it was just Jeff, Karen, Diane, and Andi.  Except for the strong north wind, the weather was perfect for running a long race and everyone ended up doing really well, which was nice to see. But I'm getting ahead of myself - you know it wouldn't be a recap written by me if it didn't contain tons of sidetracks.
The race expo started on Friday at 10:00 am, so Jeff, Diane, and I drove to Houston and arrived shortly before the expo opened.  Karen and Jimmy met up with us and we went through the line quickly - they simplified the packet and participant shirt pick up process which was wonderful after several years of organized chaos.  This year there was organization but no chaos.  And you got to get the t-shirt right as you entered the expo instead of having to walk allllll the way to the back of the building - I'm sure the runners appreciated that. 
The participant's shirt was technical fabric instead of the usual cotton t-shirt.  I think it's a nice color and design.  The finisher's shirt was white technical fabric, which...ehh.  It's sheer and just not as good as it could have been.

There were some different items for purchase at the expo which made it fun - Jeff got a cool hat:
Astros colors - I would have loved this on a shirt.

We both tried to win big at the Kendra Scott booth:
I ended up with nail polish and he got a canvas tote bag.  Nice prizes, but no jewelry, which they were giving away as well; Karen won a necklace, that lucky duck!
Photo ops were everywhere - this one was cool.

We didn't stay too long - it got loud and crowded and overwhelming.  We drove home, only to repeat the drive the next day.  But on Saturday, there was invisible construction on the highway, which made the drive pretty miserable - they'd bring the lanes down from five lanes to two for miles, and then open it back up again - with zero construction happening.  This went on a couple of times and by the time we made it back to downtown, we were over it.  We parked, grabbed our luggage, and walked into the Marriott to check in, only to discover that we were actually registered at the JW Marriott, not the Marriott Marquis, which are both downtown and within half a mile from each other.  Ugh.  When you register for a hotel for the race you go through the Chevron Houston Marathon website, and while I swear I clicked on the Marriott with the picture of the Texas-shaped swimming pool (as does Diane), somehow we ended up at the other hotel.  So we schlepped our luggage the half mile to the other hotel because taking the car out of the parking garage would have probably cost us $20 (no joke, it was $24 for the few hours the day before at the expo) and we didn't want to then park at the other hotel for even more money.

Needless to say I was in a bad mood.  Actually I had been crabby the day before because it was really irritating to be at the expo and not be a runner.  I had been having such a good running season last Jan - March, and I was going to sign up for this race, but then my back blew up and of course later on my brain did as well so this was just more of a reminder of what didn't happen.  When I made the reservation last June I was in massive pain and also on Gabapentin, which made my brain extra stupid, so I'm sure that contributed to the mistake.  But in the last couple of weeks I'd also discovered that I'd paid my gas bill twice for January, and as well as registering Jeff twice - once in July and once in September after my back surgery - for the same damn race that is coming up this weekend.  I used to not make so many stupid mistakes; who knows what else I'll discover I've made...it's like lately I'm on an unpleasant Easter egg hunt.  So while I was trying to not be pissy around our group, it wasn't easy and of course that just made me feel worse.  Definitely an I hate everything moment.  Or hour.  Or day.  Diane did make me laugh when she showed me the giant beam in her room:
The hotel is in an old 1930s skyscraper building and these beams are original to the building.  Not every room has one but she got lucky.
She also let me steal her Nespresso pods because she doesn't drink coffee.

The next morning we got up early and made the trek in the cold and wind to the other Marriott, where we were meeting up with Karen, Jimmy, and Andi.  At least I remembered to bring my knee-length down coat this year, along with the knitted hat and scarf that I've been wearing together all winter, so I wasn't freezing. 
Jeff, Diane, Karen, and Andi - Renegades, ready to run!
Jeff and Karen toasted with their UCAN drink, and then they were off to their corrals.
After we left Jeff and Karen, Jimmy and I headed to the start line, were we got a great spot.  This was just before the race began - the starting gun went off and the pace vehicles took off fast, which was good because the first group of runners - the elites - were a blur, they were so fast:
Here they come...
And there they go!

Next corral was Karen's:
We saw her, yay!
Selfie time while we waited for Jeff's corral to start.
He's in there somewhere...
Right in the middle, just beyond flag guy.

After Jeff ran by, Jimmy and I got to experience the best part of not running the race:
A leisurely hot breakfast in a nice restaurant!
We watched the race on TV and got to see the finishers of the half marathon cross the line - everyone cheered!

Eventually Jimmy left to go to the finish line for Karen; I'd already told Jeff that I did my duty last year standing in the cold at the finish line for hours (short people problems - when you get a spot in front, you can't give it up), so I headed up to our room where I got to watch more of the race on TV while drinking coffee:
And that's why I needed all of Diane's Nespresso pods, haha.

One by one they all finished - even with the wind that never seemed to be at their backs no matter which direction the course turned, everyone had a great race and they all were happy with their finish times.  Karen had already left by the time they took this picture:
Jeff, Andi, and Diane - happy Houston half marathon finishers!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Hair Fun

Long story short, I've been less-than pleased with my hair color for over a year now - my hairdresser of 15-ish years suddenly retired to open a restaurant, and while I liked the woman she recommended as a replacement, I never felt that she knew how to do highlights as well as my former hairdresser.  Plus the cuts were getting, uhhh, interesting - I'm not super picky, but the last one was a little short and yet longer on one side, while stacked in the back and yeahhh...just not my best look.

For the last year or so, Allie has been experimenting with different color combos on her hair.  She gets compliments all the time, and when we were looking at furniture after our hair appointment, a salesman said he liked it and asked if it was natural.  I told him she was born with it, haha.

Allie loves her hairdresser, so I asked if she could get me an appointment with him while I was there for Christmas, just to get it cut.  She did, he was wonderful, and while he cut my hair, I asked him what he would do to color it.  His enthusiasm and ideas led me to make another appointment for when I returned from my trip to California, and that's when Allie and I had our first mother/daughter hair appointment!

The finished product - he curled our hair for fun, which added to the experience and made us walk out of there feeling amazing:
All Allie had done was a trim and a deep conditioning since her hair had been colored three weeks prior - but look how intense the color is, still.  My hair had three different things done to reduce the gold and bring it to a more natural color.  I couldn't tell you what they were, but I love it.
 She's been going to him for about a year now; he's hilarious and they were fun to watch riff off of each other. And her hair looks fabulous!
The new me, yippee!
Not curled - which is more of my (lazy) style, much as I love the curls.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Herniated Disc Update #8 PLUS Seizure Update

Herniated disc update:  It's been 3.5 months since I had surgery - a laminectomy and discectomy of the L3 - for my herniated disc.  I had a third follow up appointment with my neurosurgeon last week; we discussed getting another MRI to check things out since my leg is still not 100% better - it's hugely improved, but I still have incidents where if I move wrong or get in the car awkwardly, I'll get that old familiar shooting leg pain.  But, since the recommended course of action would be to continue to wait for more healing to happen, we decided to hold off on the MRI.  I'll hold off until August, if need be - our insurance runs on a fiscal year so I've hit my deductible already and any big tests won't cost me much at this point; why not get one if there's any doubt?

With all of the craziness of the seizure and then traveling, I have completely gotten off of my physical therapy routine, which is too bad because I can tell that I'm not as flexible as I was; in fact, every time I get up from sitting, I have to steady myself and I walk stiffly for a minute or so until things get moving again.  My doctor is very pro physical therapy so I'll begin another round with Amanda this week and hopefully with that plus more time to heal, I can put this herniated disc saga behind me soon.  I'm ready to be done with it, believe me.

Seizure update:  A lot has been happening with this while nothing much has changed.  Right before Christmas I had a second opinion via telephone from a seizure disorder neurologist located in New Haven, Connecticut.  This was via 2nd.MD, which is a service provided as part of our health insurance, and while I went into it thinking it could be a whole lot of nothing, it ended up being incredibly helpful.  Prior to the telephone call I'd given permission for my ER records, with the CT scan, MRI, EEG, etc, to be sent to the specialist, so when we spoke she'd gone over everything and gave me her take on what might be going on, along with what she recommended. 

She agreed with my original neurologist that with the EEG showing abnormal activity, I do need to be on anti-seizure medicine, although she recommended switching to one that should be easier on me than the Keppra has been, side effect-wise.  She also recommended getting another EEG, even while taking the medicine; she said that if it came back showing less abnormal activity, that would be an indicator that the medicine is working, which would give me some peace of mind (more on that in a bit).  Another thing she recommended was that I see an epileptologist in Houston for a workup, which I'm on board with doing.

While this neurologist does think I have some sort of seizure disorder, she was encouraging in getting me back to living a normal life.  Because I had no indication that a seizure was imminent, and because I had been dealing with a little stomach bug/not feeling great the weekend that it happened, she recommended that I pay attention to times when I am not feeling great, and during those times to not drive or swim or do anything that might result in getting seriously injured if I were to have another seizure.  Also I'm supposed to be sure and get plenty of good sleep, which hasn't been happening for me for years now so I'm not sure how I'm supposed to accomplish that, but I have been trying to go to bed earlier.  I still wake up in the middle of the night but I'm more rested when that happens, LOL. 

Last week I not only had an appointment with my neurosurgeon, but also with my neurologist - it was Neurology Week, woohoo!  I told my neurologist about the second opinion I'd gotten and she agreed to switch my anti-seizure medication to Lamictal; it's a very slow titration, 25 mg/week for two weeks before increasing another 25 mg, and we're heading to somewhere around 150 mg, so I'll be continuing to take the Keppra while this is happening.  I'm glad she was agreeable to the change.  She is putting in a referral for me for an epileptologist in Houston while my neurosurgeon is looking for one to refer me to as well - I am hopeful that between the two of them I'll end up with someone who can help me navigate through all of this and figure out what I really am dealing with.

What I want to end up with all of this is some peace of mind.  I'm having a hard time reconciling what happened.  One minute I was standing in my kitchen and then next thing I knew, I was on the ground, not knowing how I got there.  To go down like that with no warning, and to not be aware or have any memory of what was happening during the seizure has been really unsettling to me.  It doesn't make a lot of sense as to why it bothers me as much as it does, but when we were at a family gathering recently I happened to overhear someone say that he'd had a seizure, and when I asked him what had happened, he had a very similar story regarding how mysterious the entire event felt to him.  While I was sorry that he'd had a seizure, I was really glad that I got to compare and share our experiences.

I try not to worry, at least consciously, that this could happen again.  After all, I'm on anti-seizure medication, so that should be taking care of things, right?  But I will admit that the fear of another seizure is still deep inside of me because I'll notice that if I'm not feeling great I'll suddenly become irritable, and I think that's the worry - warranted or not - coming out.  I am still on my state-mandated three months of no driving which is fine with me.  It's annoying and inconvenient to not just hop in the car and go somewhere whenever I want to, but it's one less thing to worry about.

As for now, I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing - taking my meds, resting my still-concussed brain, and trying to get back to my regularly-scheduled life, whatever that is at this point.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Christmas 2019 Recap

I know I know, it's January 13th and I'm posting Christmas pictures - but this is what happens when your blog is also your diary; I swear this thing has been so nice when I want to refer back to life events - I'm probably the biggest user of the search section here - but that also means I have to fit everything in, so welcome to December in January.

Christmas 2019 was more of a low-key affair, considering we'd spent the first part of December together as a family on our Orlando vacation.  The hotel and most of the meals were paid for by our kadults as our Christmas/sorry you had a seizure gifts; Jeff and I did our Christmas shopping for Sam and Allie at Universal Studios (stocking stuffers were so fun to choose there), and Sam didn't have any vacation time remaining, so Jeff and I spent the week before Christmas at Allie's new house.  Between still unpacking plus not having living room furniture, she didn't really want to decorate a tree, so we made our own version:
At least we know where the tree can go next year...

Jeff has been working on fixing up Allie's garage - basically he's creating the garage of his dreams with her money - and wanted a new drill/driver set, so I indulged him:
I think he liked it.
I'm holding my "Best Entry Level Employee" mug that Allie put in my stocking after seeing me laugh at it when we were at TJ Maxx - can't wait to bring that to work tomorrow when I finally return.  My other gifts were the BEST TAPE MEASURE EVER - I've been wanting a new one to replace my 35-year-old heavy metal Stanley tape measure, and Jeff found one that is lightweight, with bright printing on both sides.  It's the little things, I'm telling you.  I'm also moving pictures around as I write this post with ease thanks to the Apple Magic Mouse that he bought me - I have the trackpad (this is Sam's old computer so I have been using what he had) but it's hard to drag things with it; getting the mouse has been a huge help.
I forgot that I told my mom that I wanted this t-shirt last summer so it was a fun surprise to open it - instead of the usual K1P1, which stands for the "knit 1, purl 1" stitch pattern, this has a slightly more risque saying but one in which most knitters are familiar with at one point or another while knitting.  I love it, and I love that it matched my new dachshund pajama pants, too!
Dachshund pajama pants for everyone!  I found these at Old Navy right before Christmas and at $5 per pair, could not resist getting them.  I'm not cropping these pictures so you can see the state of the living room in December 2019 - it's a work in progress.  I can't wait to see what it will look like in December 2020 (and yes, we plan on having Christmas at Allie's house again next time).
Chopping onions made Allie cry - but what made me teary-eyed with pride was seeing how she put the red peppers in the green bowl and the white onions in the orange bowl.  This is what makes Fiestaware fun, making the colors pop!
We discovered she doesn't have a large mixing bowl, so she improvised with a big pot to mash the sweet potatoes.
SHE COOKED CHRISTMAS DINNER ALL BY HERSELF!  Heck yes we'll be coming back...it was delicious and also quite wonderful to not have to be the head chef after so many years of doing it all.
Paco unwrapped his usual Christmas cookie treat.
He also suspiciously eyed the inflatable dachshund that we'd bought last year after Christmas - this shot alone was worth the $15 we paid for it.  As it turned out, an inflatable dog went perfectly in Allie's new neighborhood because...
Buddy the Elf was two doors down!!  How have I never seen this and where can I get one???

OK, I think I've caught up with 2019.  No wait, I haven't - I still have our trip to Universal Studios to recap.  I really fell behind, didn't I?!

Friday, January 10, 2020

2019 Gingerbread House Throwdown!

Yes I realize I'm going backward in my post recaps, but welcome to my crazy world.  It'll get straightened out soon enough - just bear with me and things will be back to normal one of these days.  Also, I want to apologize for not leaving comments on your blogs; I've been reading but that was about all I could manage between traveling and my concussion.

The Throwdown was changed up this year.  We had plans to do it in Orlando - we figured that we could bring them to the huge cafeteria at our hotel and have a proper gingerbread house decorating contest one evening.  Sam even purchased two houses and we brought them along with us when we drove to Orlando, but the weather was cold which meant that we ended up being at the park more of the day instead of wanting to relax in the lazy river each afternoon, and by the end of the day we were all wiped out.  So we didn't do it.

But, since Jeff and I were going to Allie's house for Christmas, we decided to have the contest there, even though Sam wouldn't be able to participate since he used up the remainder of his vacation for the year in Orlando.  Jeff and I bought the last two adorable retro camping trailer gingerbread kits at World Market for something like $4, and when we made it up to Allie's place, we found more kits at Home Goods, where she chose a castle, so it ended up not being a team contest - we just decorated our own, and had Sam and Kevin choose the winner via text pictures.  Side note:  while the houses from World Market were fresh, the castle from Home Goods was not - it had icing that had dried out so it must have been last year's model.  Same price as World Market though.

We ended up decorating them on Christmas day and since we each were decorating one, there was no downtime and therefore no in progress pictures.  But here are the results:
Santa got run over by a trailer...
Trailer was constructed well even if the decorator got tired of icing it, LOL.
This one was more of a lean-to than a trailer, but it was decorated on both sides.
 
Plus it had a bonus area for a sail to dry out by the picnic table.
 The castle's princess was turned into Rapunzel thanks to copious amounts of yellow fondant.
And after voting, here were the results.  Because of the lean-to trailer, there was extra gingerbread to make awards, YOU'RE WELCOME PEOPLE WHO ACCUSED ME OF CHEATING.  Yes I was the winner, woohoo!

The voting commentary was pretty funny:

My commentary is green, in case you couldn't tell.

But wait!  There was a late contender to the throwdown this year:
Late to the party but a beautiful addition.
This was Theresa's New Year's Eve eve project.  She ambitiously decided to place seed sugar pearls around the windows but got tired of the tedium after the first one, so I helped with the second window.  Then I was fired from helping.  That kind of detail work is beyond my abilities, LOL.  I did get to sprinkle on the "snow" crystals afterward and now I want to get some for next year's throwdown - that was fun!

So our gingerbread house throwdown stretched from North Carolina, where the original houses were purchased, to Florida, where they traveled (but were not decorated), to Texas, and then to California.  It was a coast-to-coast event!

Allie and I originally had a plan for our team house thanks to reader Kim, who sent me the idea months ago, but we're saving it for next year when we will be back to our cutthroat teams since we should all be having Christmas together.  Just wait...Team Awesome will be back to win it all!