Friday, May 29, 2015

The Series of Misadventures and Failures that was Living in Colorado

 I think I have been asked hundreds of times why we left Colorado, so it's about time that I just blogged about it. It makes it easier for everyone.
Last August we moved to the Denver area so I could attend graduate school at the University of Colorado. (Which was an adventure in and of itself.) When we arrived we discovered that our apartment was 650 square feet smaller than our contract stated. In fact apartments as big as our contract stated did not exist. They gave us one that was 50 sq ft bigger than the first and a free garage and storage unit to put our stuff in. As there was a housing shortage and we were there with our moving truck, we didn't have a whole lot of options. The apartment was brand new and the location seemed great so we took it.
 I checked out the elementary school for our kids before we selected our place. It seemed very close in scores to the one my kids attended previously. But my kids were bullied, so I started volunteering in their classes so I could be more aware of what was going on. I felt like their teachers were great, I LOVED their teachers. However, there were other factors that made it hard, like a very large number of kids in their classrooms who didn't speak any English, and an unusually high percentage of kids with special needs. As great as these ladies are, they can only do so much.
 In November I was notified that I was a possible match to donate blood stem cells to someone with leukemia through the Be the Match program. That was super exciting.
 In December my son's 1st grade teacher quit. It was hard and she decided it wasn't what she wanted to do.
 In January I started a temporary nursing position that I was super excited about. It didn't work out very well. After a month I requested that I be oriented as much as they had promised, and they fired me. It would have been nice if they fired me the week before we bought a second car instead of the week after. :/
 A week before my winter semester started I began having intense abdominal pain. After a couple days of that, I went into the emergency room. They found a hemorrhaging mass (cyst) the size of an
orange on my ovary. They told me it might be cancer and if I needed more pain meds before I could see  a specialist I should just come back to the ER. I know that sounds completely ridiculous, but I am not making this up.
 A few weeks later, the OB/GYN said that the cyst appeared to be gone, but they would do more follow-up in 6 weeks. The upshot was that after a couple months they said I don't have ovarian cancer, (yay!) and the problem with my ovaries isn't worth treating unless I am winding up in the ER on a regular basis. (So far, so good.)
On the day that I went to the ER we also discovered that my son was failing every subject except math. Between having a string of substitute and potential replacements, he and most of his class were failing. The longer we stayed the more miserable my daughter was. There was one week where she cried everyday on the way to school, she hated it so much. We had tried to get our kids into the gifted school, but we were told that you have to live in the district for a year and then there was a long application process. So we were waiting to hear if our kids would be accepted to the gifted school for the next year.
 In February I was notified that I was indeed the best possible match for the person with leukemia. They drew a 19 large tubes of blood for diagnostic tests. I walked out of the office pale and with blue lips. I went home, fainted and hit my head in my kitchen. Be The Match decided that it was probably best to go with the second closest match. Between my hemorrhaging mass and all the blood draws I was pretty anemic, meaning finding the energy to do my homework and keep my kids alive took all my will-power. I was grateful that they had a back-up match.
  The day I was scheduled for my ultrasound I also took a practical exam that I failed. 85% was required to pass. I was nervous and I missed just a few too many points. So even though I still had an A in that class I failed the whole course by default, and I'll have to retake it later.
 Meanwhile no one wanted to buy my big beautiful house in Utah. We put a ton of money into upgrades. No offers. We dropped the price by enough that we would lose at least $20K. No offers. Nor could we
rent it for enough to cover our costs. And Colorado kept getting more and more expensive. During 2014 Denver tied with San Francisco for the highest inflation rate.  Lots of people wanted to move there (for marijuana and various other reasons) and the housing supply did not match the demand. We were paying almost twice as much for our tiny apartment as for our large house that had nearly four times the space. And in the 8 months that we were there the market value of our apartment went up 30%. We heard all kinds of crazy stories about people struggling to buy houses and the longer we stayed, the more we realized that the prospects of us getting into a place that was both big enough for our family and near a good school for our kids were not very good. The final straw was when our daughter was accepted into the gifted school and our son was put on a waiting list. Not good enough. Even though our place was convenient for me, staying right there was not a good option. We couldn't ignore the fact that his academic needs were being ignored. I may be a lot of things. I'm a nurse. I'm a student. I'm a runner, I'm a coach, but first and foremost I am a mom and I can't go after my dreams at the expense of my kids.
 So we moved back to our big beautiful house in Utah. My daughter was immediately accepted into the local gifted school and my son will be there when he is old enough (Here the gifted programs don't start until 3rd grade).  The longer we are here, the more it is evident that this was the best move our for our kids. Our kids are more free to run around and make noise. We have enough living space (and then some) with reasonable lighting. They have more friends. Within 3 weeks my son was reading at grade level. All of our expenses are less, which takes off some stress. We LOVE it here, even more so than when we lived here before.  My husband and I have great friends here.  We have easy access to lots of hiking and outdoor play. I can do most of my classes online, and the rest gets complicated, but I will make it work.
 Colorado is beautiful and there were lots of fun things to do there. We made some really fantastic friends there who we miss, but unfortunately Colorado was not a good option for our family.
 In some ways the experience felt like a big expensive and painful failure. (We had several other smaller failures mixed in that adventure, but those were the highlights.) But we learned things. Do we know where we are going to be when I am done with school? No, not really. Would I do it that way again? Probably not. But I am stronger than ever and I learned lessons that I'm not sure you can put a price tag on.
 Moral of the story, sometimes things don't work out as planned, but we keep going, we learn and we find things to be grateful for along the way.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Marathon Training

A few months ago, one my best friends made the comment. "Someday when you write your autobiography, you should call it 'Living Crazy', because that usually sums up what is going on in your life." Haha, so true. But I believe that life is too short to live boring, and crazy generally isn't boring.
Seen on my run
 My latest crazy adventure is marathon training. I signed up for the St. George marathon this year. I persuaded a friend to sign up too, so we can plan some long runs together. It only takes one friend to keep you committed to exercising, then you can't let them down, so you'll do it even when you don't want to. I enjoy running (usually), and I was excited to get back into it. Of course when I signed up I fully intended on taking the summer off from school. I cleared it with my specialty option coordinator and we agreed that a break from school was feasible and well-deserved. Then I talked to the graduate

Piyo Cross Training
adviser. She said that if I took the summer off that it would mean I would be more than a year behind in my classes, and there would be a couple semesters where I wouldn't be able to take classes because they are only offered at certain times and I have to take them in order. So now I'll be working, going to school (just one class), shuttling kids to swim lessons and summer camps and training for a marathon. Yup, living crazy. But taking advantage of the beautiful opportunity to do so. I'm grateful and thrilled that I have such beautiful scenery to train in so close to my house.
 For my marathon training plan I chose a 20 week schedule where I run 4 days a week (last time I ran 5-6 days a week, I'm not such a fan). On my off days I'll cross-train with Piyo to keep my legs and joints flexible and help prevent injuries, or take the occasional rest day. If anyone wants to do the
Piyo workouts with me, the sale was extended this month, so now's a good time to get a discount. I love them, they're fun and just make you feel great. And my plan is to use them to protect my knees!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

African Americans, Diabetes and Thinking Like a Freak

Last week I was listening to Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain . The whole premise of the book is looking at problems from different angles. In it the authors shared the story of an economist who was interested in why is it that African Americans have such higher rates of diabetes and heart disease compared to other parts of the population. This is so even if you account for things like stress, education and income level. If you look at European Africans or Native Africans, their incidence of diabetes and heart disease is far less than African Americans. This isn't racism, it's just statistics. Then why is it that African Americans are prone to have these problems? The economist's theory (which he is still researching) is that those who survived the slave trade had a genetic propensity to be able to withstand extreme dehydration, because they held more salt in their sweat and bodily fluids, they retained more water.  This leads to a higher oncotic pressure in the blood and more cardiovascular damage. These people who had this characteristic  would have more tendency towards heart disease and would pass this on to their descendants, modern African Americans. Slave- traders actually selected for this characteristic by licking potential slave purchases and selecting people who tasted more salty.
An Englishman tasting an African

Now this is all well and interesting, (and the history of the slave trade is very tragic) but so what? What can we do with this information right now? This morning I had an 'ah-ha' moment while listening to my pharmacology lecture. There is a newer group of diabetic medications known as SGLT2 inhibitors (Invokana) which inhibit sodium & glucose transport in the kidney which leads to less sodium and glucose in the blood, and is essentially an osmotic diuretic. One of the side effects is weight loss and patients are more likely to experience DEHYDRATION. This is a the perfect medication to give to patients who are genetically resistant to dehydration. Of course has a pediatric nurse practitioner it is not likely that I will be treating African American patients with Type 2 diabetes, and I'm sure that someone else out there has already made this connection, but I was excited about it and am so grateful for science and people who think outside the box to try to find solutions to problems and improve healthcare.

Friday, May 1, 2015

My Ragnar Adventure

Last Thursday a friend posted on Facebook that she needed someone to take her place in a Ragnar, the next day and the race was taking in place in Zion's National Park. Me! Me! ME! Pick me! I have always wanted to do a race through Zion's (Even the Zion's Half Marathon doesn't go through Zion's, but just up to the park.) And I have always wanted to do a Ragnar relay and my plans for the weekend were flexible. I could use an adventure. Plus the race fee was already waived. Score! So I agreed, even though I had had zippo training and have only gone running twice since January.
Then it turns out that it wasn't my friend that was on the Ragnar team, she was advertising for another friend, who was actually advertising for another friend, so I ended up on a team of perfect strangers. But they had TWO team members drop out at the last minute and they were grateful to have anyone help them out. Oh and this is a TRAIL run and we're camping together. It's an adventure, right?
 The weather was forecasted to be perfect, or at least that's what I heard when I was packing my bag.
The drive up was lovely and rejuvenating. The race wasn't IN Zion's National Park, but it did overlook it and I had to drive through the park to get to the campsite. And even the drive to Zion's is beautiful.

 When I got to the campsite, the rumor was that there was supposed to be light showers for 2 hours. That's not too bad. I unpacked my gear, did homework and took a nap. During dinner it started drizzling. I ran my first leg starting at about 6:45 pm. Our team name was Adventure is Out There, which I loved because I'm a big fan of Up.

 The Ragnar trail runs are made of 3 paths, green, yellow and red. Green is the easiest & shortest (3 miles), yellow is 4 miles and red is the hardest & longest (7.8 miles). My first leg was a yellow. I ran through the forest wishing that I had waited to eat until after my race or wishing I could just throw up because my stomach was so unhappy with me. The trail was VERY hilly, but the view was beautiful. You really do get to overlook Zion's. I started out wearing several layers because it was cold, but took them off as I got going. On the last mile it started to rain pretty hard so I put them all back on. Considering I had zippo training, and I my stomach was so upset, I was pretty happy with my time of 53 minutes.
Overlooking Zion's National Park from the yellow leg trail.

 After my leg it started to really rain. The guy on my team who ran after me took an extra 40 minutes because of the dark and rain. Around the time he got back they decided to pause the race until 1:30 am, because it was taking so long for Search & Rescue to find the runners in the mud and rain Then they decided to pause the race until 6:30 am. It poured buckets all night long. The rain leaked on me and the two other ladies in our tent and we were glad that we weren't out running in it.
 In the morning the trails were all sludge. The race coordinators said we *could* continue the race, or we could just grab our medals and go home. I was the only one on my team who had any interest in continuing. I was not afraid of a little mud and I really wanted to have a chance to run (or wade through the mud) on the red leg. I'm probably a little crazy. But my team just wanted to go home, and frankly with that much mud and that many people, the sooner we go out the better.
My shoes after hiking to the bathroom and back.

 It wasn't quite the adventure that I expected, but I enjoyed it anyway. Taking a break from boxes and school was exactly what I needed. And the medal is a cool multi-tool.