Giving Up Diet Coke

So I might have a little issue with Diet Coke. I drink it on and off, and then it builds to one per day, and then I add in more per day if I am stressed out. Soon, I substitute it for water until I realize I have to detox again. What in the world? It’s Diet Coke. It’s not that big of a deal, but it is. When I get off of it, my face clears up, my sweet tooth fades, and all that water I hold, comes off. That’s just for me.

I started drinking Diet Coke in high school or maybe I started in college. I don’t know. I just know it was always there as a comfort: it helped soothe my anxiety when I wrote undergraduate papers, and then my dissertation, and, finally, my book. It helped settle my stomach when I went to Friday classes after late Thursday college nights, and it settles my stomach now after long runs.  It’s that carbonation and sweetness that hits the spot of any hunger that I have. Add that caffeine to the mix, and that’s a powerful drink, filled with memories and jolt of happiness.

As I detox once again, here are some substitutes that I use:

Unsweetened Green Iced Tea: It’s caffeine loaded, and you can sweeten it any way you want. Plus, it tastes really good when you are thirsty.

La Croix Water: I like it because it’s carbonated and a good alternative if I want something to settle my stomach.

A Big Gallon Jug of Cold Water: There’s nothing like ice cold water to satisfy that thirst.

Nuun Tablets: I throw about three of these tables into my gallon of water the day before a long run in Texas, especially during our summers. The tablets help with dehydration. I’ll start drinking the water with the tablets the day before my long run, and then bring it with me for after the run. It really helps. Oh, and the tablets make the water carbonated. Some of the tables are caffeinated, another bonus.

These products are what I have used and will continue to use to detox off Diet Coke yet again. Will I drink another Diet Coke ever? Sure, I will. What I have to watch out for is that I drink them in moderation, like once a week, as opposed to every day because then it starts to become an addition again.

Good luck to you in your own Diet Coke Addiction.

 

 

 

InknBurn–My Two Cents on Some Cool Workout Clothes

InknBurn
My InknBurn Outfits

I like this brand of workout clothes called InknBurn: https://www.inknburn.com/   The fit is flattering and fun, and it’s comfortable. I started wearing the brand about a year ago when a running friend told me about it. I bought a pair of shorts and became hooked. It’s pricey compared to what I would pay, but the brand is worth the price because the colors do not fade even with all my sweat, and the fit is great. The 6 inch and 4 inch shorts don’t ride up and neither do the shorts in the running skirts. The bras and camisoles don’t chafe, and the singlets and long shirts are comfortable. I have not bought a short-sleeved shirt yet, but I have my eye on a Medusa design.  I really like the capris and tights because they’re not all black and boring; there’s some cool designs. The clothes are fun to wear. I also wear them to the gym for weight lifting and to Pilates reformer classes. I’m hooked on the brand. I usually look for the sales and the new designs that come out usually once a month. However, I have to be be quick because if the design is popular, it sells out fast. There are also designs on Poshmark and Ebay, but I have to be fast because if it’s an older design or anything related to Star Wars, it is snatched up quickly either to be worn or resold on Ebay for double or triple the price. Yes. Those designs can be very popular.  Workout gear doesn’t have to be all black and drab; it can be comfortable and fun. https://www.inknburn.com/

Seasonal Depression Sucks

 

Seasonal Depression Sucks. It’s called S.A.D. Yes, it is sad. It’s depression. It’s not happy.  For me, it hits in January to the end of  February. By March, the sun starts to come out , and the weather gets warmer.

Don’t tell me to snap out of it. Um, you don’t snap out of depression. You are not cured overnight. It’s a process. I know that depression is a part of me, and I refuse to be in a constant battle with it. Life is way too short to be at war, fighting your inner demons, all the time.  I acknowledge the depression, give myself a break, and then slowly start using my coping devices to work my way out of the funk. Yes, it’s sometimes chocolate.

Don’t tell me how to get over my depression. Don’t give me any advice. I’ve had depression long enough to know what it is and when it hits. I know what to do. But there’s the rub. When I’m depressed, it’s hard to get out of it because I’m depressed with a huge weight sitting on me. It’s a slow process. I have the tools, but  when it’s hitting me, it’s hard to get off the couch and go for that run. It takes baby steps. There is no snapping out of it and no overnight cure. If anyone tells you that there’s an overnight cure, that’s not depression.

Let me take my baby steps. Do not pressure me. Writing is part of the baby steps I take. I am acknowledging the depression, accepting it. Once I accept it, then I can start taking my steps. Of course, working out is another baby step, including working out outside even when it’s cold. Who wants to get out in the cold? Getting my light box out is another step. I know I need to get that light box out of the drawer, so I will. I’m taking those baby steps to climb out of the hole.

Don’t judge me. I advise you not to judge me or anyone else for your own sanity because of the simple rule of karma. If you don’t know what karma is, then look it up. I’ve had karma kick me in the butt so many times when I have judged that my booty is really sore. And karma is a hard kick in the ass. Of course, karma can come in a good way, too.  That’s what you want to focus on–karma returning good experiences to you.

I can only speak about myself because I have been dealing with depression pretty much since high school, and I’m way out of high school now.  I’ve had years and years and years of therapy and still am in therapy. It’s a process. I’m fine, and I have the tools.

Most people are like me when they are dealing with Seasonal Depression and maybe even their own depression. If they have lived with it all their lives, then they know when that depression raises its ugly head; they know what to do. However, some people have no clue about it. If you happen to find someone who is struggling and cannot figure out why, then suggest help for them. You’ll  know it because you’ll feel those red flags in your gut. However if you encounter someone like me and notice that my personality has become darker than what it usually is, and my personality is pretty dark and dry, then know that I’m good. Yes, I will appear as a bitch until March, but then the sun will come out, and all will be right with the world again, well, maybe not the world.

 

 

 

Our Spirit Airlines Saga: Part Three/End of the Nightmare

Here is the last installment of our journey with Spirit Airlines. Oh, I am so happy to be home.

So Happy To Be Home

Thursday, January 4th

Remember when that Spirit employee asked us on January 2nd if we wanted that January 4th American flight directly to Dallas? We were so regretting not saying yes, especially when we had to wake up at four in the morning to catch the 6 a.m. American flight to Charlotte. Checking intro American Airlines was slightly scary because my daughter and I did not have assigned seats. In fact, the ticket attendant told us that we would have to get our seats at the gate because Spirit is notorious for placing their passengers on American flights that are already full. I was shocked and very worried that we would not get back to Dallas because we didn’t have seats on our first flight to Charlotte, but luck was on our side. For our seat assignments, Anya and I had the coveted emergency exit seats. We had so much room that we stretched our legs and fell asleep even before the plane took off. In Charlotte, all my family had seats that were in different places on the plane to Dallas, so I asked if Anya and I could have seats together since she was a minor. Luck was on our side again or maybe because it was American, but the ticket attendant gave us seats on the last row of the plane, which was fine with us. We had to wait an extra hour due to de-icing on a plane coming in from Orlando. American was upfront about the delay and kept us informed, unlike Spirit where we had to figure out what was happening. When we did board the plane to Dallas, we had plenty of room and an empty seat between us. We stretched out and enjoyed the flight, which actually included free drinks and snacks, and we could upload a movie. These added benefits felt amazing, especially after flying Spirit.

Anya with Kirby and the Cats
Group Shot

We did make it home and picked up our animals, but we had to board both the two cats and the dog for two extra days. It was more added cost. Thank God for my neighbor, Katie, who handled our animals and other appointments that I missed since I could not make direct calls because we were out of the country.  We will not fly Spirit again. I think Spirit is good for a direct flight in the United States, but when you have connections and international flights, it is not worth money that you save. I am so happy to be home, and thus our journey ended.

Our Spirit Airlines Saga: Part Two

This installment is Part Two  of our adventure on Spirit Airlines. Perhaps “adventure” is not the correct word, but “nightmare” would certainly fit the description.

Wednesday, January 3rd

With smiles and stinky clothes, we hoped that Spirit would have it together, and we would be back to Dallas. We were wrong. When we arrived at the airport in Bogota again, we checked in with little problem and received our connecting flight information. We would fly to Fort Lauderdale, and we had plenty of time to go through security to get to our connecting flight. We waited. Plane was delayed until 1:00. We waited again. My daughter and I knew all the shops in the airport now. There is only so much you can do in an airport. We waited some more. Flight was delayed until 3:30. We had been at the airport since seven in the morning. Once again, Spirit never told us why the delays. Finally, we were ready to board the plane, which had been sitting at the same gate with our luggage since yesterday. However, we first had to board those dreaded buses and travel the long journey to the actual plane. Three buses pulled up to our plane, but the doors would not open. They left us on those buses without anywhere to sit for 45 minutes. Yes, 45 minutes. The few seats, at least on our bus, went to the mothers with the small children and the older passengers. We sat and stood and stared at the plane.

Waiting on the bus for 45 minutes

At one point, the captain came out of the airplane and started yelling to see what the problem was. He looked very agitated, and we applauded because at least it was something to entertain us.  Finally, we were able to board the plane, and we found out that Spirit was waiting for a flight attendant, who was coming in from the 3:30 flight. The only reason we actually found out why the flight was delayed was because the flight attendant told us. When we asked him why the flight was delayed, he said, “It was because of me.” That was the first honest answer that we had received from anyone at Spirit. No one could be mad at him because he was the only one who was completely transparent about any delays. When we arrived in the States, I think some of the passengers started crying. Even the captain come on the microphone and commented that we were finally in the United States. The passengers applauded when the plane landed, and I think all the passengers were so hopeful that perhaps we would make our connections even though our flight was delayed eight hours. We did not have a chance at all.  Like ants or more like zombies, all of us on that plane went through immigration. We had our passports stamped again. We waited for our luggage. We waited a long time. Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock.

At this point, after our family finally picked up our luggage, we said our goodbyes with a shake of the head in the universal “unbelievable” sign to the rest of the passengers, and they shook their heads with the same response. They had their own own road to travel with Spirit, and I wished them good luck.  Our family (Gabe, Anya, Michael, and myself) headed out to the next part of our journey: the connecting flight back to Dallas. We were so hopeful that we actually could make the flight back to Dallas until we hit security. Not a chance. After security, we raced to our gate to Dallas, and it closed right before when we got there. Spirit could not have waited five minutes, knowing that people (our family, as well as others) on that Colombian flight were trying to make that connection to Dallas. My guess was the flight was already sold out, and there probably were not any seats for us anyway. I would not put it past Spirit. We were devastated. We were still in our stinky clothes that were two days old, and it was late in the night, and we were exhausted. Our luggage was on that flight to Dallas. The thought of staying in another hotel in the same clothes again was just insane.  I was worried about our luggage landing in Dallas without us and walking away without us. With buried heads, we headed back to the Spirit ticket counter.

Unfortunately, our flight came in right before a  big storm  in the north was about to slam into New York and all the surrounding areas, and the Spirit ticket area was filled with lots of angry Northerners. The endless lines of angry people looked like one of Dante’s circle of Hell, where those who can never get flights are forever punished trying to get flights. The whole atmosphere was filled with chaos and yelling.  It was terrible, and I finally lost my cool. There was no way I was waiting in another long line again when Spirit had royally just screwed us over by closing that door to our Dallas flight with our luggage already on the flight. Yes, I lost my cool.  I went up to one of the employees, who was directing the traffic of angry people, and told her what happened and asked for her to help us. Yes, there were tears. Sometimes, hysterics are appropriate. She moved us to the front of the line. We were placed on flights not to Dallas, but to Charlotte and then to Dallas. Those flights were tomorrow, and they were on American. What was really irritating was that they did not place us on flight to directly to Dallas. We had to fly to Charlotte first and then to Dallas. Ridiculous. They gave us hotel vouchers again. Thank God that Gabe’s father lived in Fort Lauderdale. His family took us in around midnight, and they gave us pajamas. We showered, washed our clothes, and ate the best arepas I have ever had. I also had some whiskey, which was much needed. We had to wake up at four in the morning to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Charlotte. At least, we did not stink.

Whiskey
Best Arepas I Have Every Eaten

Part Three/The Conclusion will appear in the next installment. It will be a happy ending.

Our Spirit Airlines Saga: Part One

As promised, here is our Spirit Airlines Saga: Part One

“So happy to be back at home,” is the phrase I keep repeating to myself over and over again, but I am still having nightmares over what happened at Spirit Airlines. It’s like a post-traumatic stress syndrome from flying Spirit Airlines. We have flown Spirit Airlines about six times, including an international trip with connections, and we have not had any problems whatsoever until now. What could go wrong for this trip? All we had to do was board a plane, fly to Fort Lauderdale, and then make a connection back to Dallas. And thus the nightmare begins . . .

Tuesday, January 2nd

We should have known something was up when we were waiting in line to check in for our flight. We got to the airport in Bogota around 11 a.m. to check into the flight, which was supposed to leave at 3 p.m. The ticket attendants were asking people to give up their seats because they overbooked the flight. When finally made it to the ticket counter, Spirit wanted to know if we wanted to take the January 4th flight on American, straight trip to Dallas. We should have taken them up on that offer. We said, “No,” because we were already packed and ready to get back home to see our animals and eat some Tex-Mex. We received our tickets and settled into the long wait for the 3 p.m. flight. We did not board the plane until 7 p.m. We were exhausted after spending four extra hours in the airport. My daughter and I made good use of the time figuring out the mark-up of the Colombian jewelry in the airport shops vs. the little shops downtown. It’s a 100% markup.

Sleeping at the Airport
Hanging Out

When our flight was finally ready, we had to take buses from the gate to the plane, which was at least a ten-minute ride. I felt very bad for the older passengers and those passengers who had small children because there were not many seats on any of the buses. Finally, we boarded the plane, but something was a little off with at least one of the flight attendants. He was hostile to everyone as if he had been waiting for hours for the flight; however, he did not have to take it out on us. We finally headed out on the runway and then stopped. The captain came on with the announcement that he had to turn the plane around, and we would have to get off the plane with instructions when we got off the plane. That’s not a good situation. We were told that our plane would leave at 8 a.m. in the morning, and our luggage would stay in the plane. Yes, our luggage was held hostage, and we would be flying in the same clothes. We still did not know why the plane turned around, but someone said that it was a union rule that the flight crew had too many hours and had to rest. I think the passengers would have felt better if we knew why, but transparency is not a trademark of Spirit.

After getting off the plane, we were clueless on where to go and had to ask American officials. We stood in another line with all the other passengers for a bus. It took several buses and lots of waiting to finally arrive at the hotel, where we were met with another long line, a 45 minute to an hour wait to get a room. Surprisingly, everyone possessed a great deal of patience. The hotel staff gave us grilled cheese sandwiches, which were really good because were very hungry. The hotel staff was very calm, considering the employees were scrambling to find tooth brushes for all the passengers who requested them, including our family. Unfortunately, Spirit did not pay for the tooth brushes. We were then told via email that instead of eight in the morning, our flight would leave at nine in the morning, and we should get to the airport early to check in and to make sure we had our connecting flights. We went to bed with hopes of going back to the States the next morning.

And the nightmare continued. Part Two is coming in the next installment.

Finally Losing Weight and Finding How People Like to Watch You Fail

March 2017, Galveston Half Ironman
October 2017, Austin Half Ironman and 35 pounds lighter

I’ve lost about 35 pounds, and I put on five back, which is normal. However, there is a fear that I will place it all back on. So weird. There’s always a fear that I will fail, and I am not sure why. Maybe because it is expected. That’s how I was raised: to expect that failure because everyone judges you when you are happy. It’s so easy to be knocked off your happiness of success. People do not like to see other people succeed, and when you start to slip, they feel better to see you fail. Well, that’s how I was raised. Pretty screwed up thinking, right Maybe, that’s why I just stopped writing. Maybe, that’s why I just stopped eating right again. Don’t worry, I’m eating right again. It’s just so scary, these psychological games, and the games get more complicated as you get older. There has to be a point where I just say, “Screw you. I don’t care. I’m going to succeed, and I’m not going to be scared of success. I’m not going to have you judge me with comments like, “Wow, Ellen, you are really happy now,” said with that tone of jealousy. I’m not going to let you pick me off again so that I can fall to the ground again. It’s not going to happen. I’m tired of feeling trapped in fear of success.

 

My Daughter’s Healing and My Regret

 

I started this blog about working out, but it’s also about healing, mentally. As I reading Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality, which is like a Harry Potter fan fiction based on reason, I came across a passage the punched me in a stomach. It was about how Harry always thought the worst would happen, and Professor MacGonagall asked him if he was abused.

That’s my daughter, my teenager now. When she was ten, she started thinking the worst would happen and came to accept it. That was her world for three years–to expect the worst. When it did happen, she would be mentally prepared.  Yes, she was mentally abused by a coach, and it’s taken her time to heal. She was diagnosed with PTSS, and she worked through it.  She’s in a good place now–after four years. I am very proud of how she has worked through her issues: anxiety and low self-esteem.

I was so scared raising a daughter because I didn’t want her to experience confidence issues because it stays with you, but I threw her into a pit and let a coach mentally abuse her. I thought it was making her tough. There’s not a day that goes by that I live with the regret. If I could go back in time, if I could go back, I could change it.

I messed up. I messed her up, and I will forever be paying for it. However, she is healing and forgiving. I do not know how. She is so much stronger than I am. If she can heal, then perhaps I can. It will be a longer journey for me to find forgiveness.

 

A Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness

If I have harmed any one in any way,
either knowingly or unknowingly
through my own confusions,
I ask their forgiveness.
If any one has harmed me in any way,
either knowingly or unknowingly
through their own confusions,
I forgive them.
And if there is a situation
I am not yet ready to forgive,
I forgive myself for that.
For all the ways that I harm myself,
negate, doubt, belittle myself,
judge or be unkind to myself,
through my own confusions,
I forgive myself.

 

 

 

Strength Training

I’ve started strength training again and have learned the lesson to not drop it during my triathlon training, and I’ve turned to my favorite tool, TRX. When I was a personal trainer, I would use TRX on clients from their 20s to their 80s. It’s a great tool to hit the muscle groups and core.

Here’s a list that I’m using on various days. I’ll use these workouts on certain days, and I’ll also pick and choose the workouts and combine with free weights and planks and push-ups. There are so many options that you cannot get bored. Here are the workouts:

 

 

TRX for Swimmers:https://www.trxtraining.com/train/four-trx-exercises-for-swimmers

TRX for Cyclists: https://www.trxtraining.com/train/trx-workout-for-cycling

TRX for Runners: https://www.trxtraining.com/train/for-the-love-of-the-run-leg-strength-and-core-stability-for-runners

TRX for Triathletes: https://www.trxtraining.com/train/trx-exercises-for-triathletes

Enjoy, and be sure to start out slow and build up.

My Story for the Holocaust Remembrance/April 2017

Obviously, this post is not about training or healthy recipes, but I wanted to share my story that will be read at a Holocaust Remembrance at the end of April. It’s haunting story about survival, and I wrote it after my first child was born almost 20 years ago. The story, edited down for the reading, still possesses the same power of raw emotion that appears in my fiction writing. I wrote this story after reading a specific sentence from Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz. When I read that sentence, I knew that the horrors which he saw were not exaggerated, and it changed my life.

“Survival in Screams”

My reality changed when I heard my child scream for his first breath of life one week before deportation to the camp. I should have aborted him, but I brought life into a world full of death. I have committed a grave sin. In the dark woods of my life, I found myself stranded in guilt and looked for guidance, but all I could hear were screams from my child. Screams of life, screams of survival.

I held the child for the first time: his warm, naked body, still bloody from the entrance into the world. He screamed and screamed because he was cold and hungry. I wrapped him in a blanket and held him to my full breast, where he sucked down the warm, life-giving milk.

What could I have done with the child? My first thought as he lay suckling at my breast was to give him to someone, anyone to sneak him out of the ghetto. I did not care about my life, but his–he was my child. What plans I devised in my head. Many times, I thought of plans to sneak him out–baskets, coats, etc. But there were guards everywhere, and I had no outside connections. When the guards came to take us away, it was like preparing for the ride to Hell. I tried to hide as much food as I could because I knew that I had to eat to maintain my milk for the child. I had to survive, so the child could live through my milk: my life-giving nourishment, the key to his survival.

I already hated myself and the child. All I could think of was Charon’s raft in Inferno, and how we were like the sinners that Charon transported across the river Styx. However, we would not be going to some Elysian Fields but Hell and, literally, fire. Of course, I was right. Charon’s boat in the guise of black trains lay ahead of us. Were we all going to fit in the boxcars? Boxcars. Those were for animals. Surely, we were not . . .

We were crowded in the boxcars like animals. God, my child’s screams were so loud. I tried to stifle them, but I could not. I was scared that someone would beat him to get him to stop; lord knows I wanted to. The rage filled my heart when he screamed, but the sorrow overshadowed it. The child screamed and screamed for the life-giving milk, but his screams soon died into a whimper. He was getting weak, as all of us were. How much more could he take? I didn’t care about myself, but he was so strong–you must hold on, little one. But for what? I supposed for life, for survival. His voice haunted my ears, but what terrified me even more was when the screams fell silent.

Finally, the boxcar stopped; it was the end of Charon’s ride. We had crossed the waters of Styx and had come to the other side. We were about to enter the City of Dis and await for Minos to decide our fate. Here, the name was Auschwitz, another name for Dis. But I knew we had arrived in Hell. My guilt grew even stronger.

The child was dead. He slowly starved to death. I held his limp, skinny body to my breast. He would drink no more, no more of my life-giving milk. I looked at my child: his eyes, dark brown, with no light; his mouth, open for no milk. I ran my hand down his face to close his eyes, to shut his mouth. What terror he must have felt, more than I would ever know.

The doors of our cart were flung wide open and artificial lights almost blinded us; the shouts in some unknown tongue ordered us to get out. But among the shouts, I heard the ringing in my ears of the child’s screams. The cart was emptying. Do I leave my child in the car and possibly have a chance for survival or do I stay with him and die? His screams were in my ears. I looked at him and he was dead. I placed the swaddled bundle in the corner next to a dead man that I knew. I emptied with the living but glanced back into the yawning darkness of the boxcar.

“Rest in peace, my son.” I hated myself.

I had death in my eyes, and so did the man with the baton. He was Minos, that mythical creature who used his tail to draw circles in the dust that placed sinners in Dante’s circles of sins, but this Minos decided our fate with a swing of his baton to the left or right. I looked at him, not really caring which way to go. I stepped to the left and somehow was chosen to stay alive. What irony. I did not deserve to live; I left my dead baby in the boxcar.

I remembered reading that Dante climbed out of Hell on Satan’s back and was left with some redemptive qualities that made him a better man, and he crossed the river of Lethe to wash him of sins. There was no climbing out of Hell for me, no river of Lethe, no redemption. I did survive, but I was not Dante. I did not come out a better person, having seen death and walked through Hell. I did not come back as a prophet with the need to tell the tale. What I came back with was the insanity that I had to live a normal life without family, without anything, except memories.

I knew that I was not an animal yet because I could feel. Every hour of my day was filled with the thought of the child and his struggle to live. When I worked, I thought of his body: weak, fighting to survive. When I ate, I thought of his mouth: open, sucking the life-giving milk. When I dreamed, I saw his eyes: dark brown, pleading for more milk, for more life.

I suppose my son was the one that kept me alive; his screams reminded me of my guilt for bringing him into this world, a world where I starved him to death. Such a small one gave me the strength to live. It was in his screams that I survived.