Feeling crabby

Since learning my identity was stolen, I’ve increased my wine purchases, attendance at cardio boxing and developed an eye twitch.

I’m also sick of my hair stylist telling me I’m stressed. “It’s not good for your hair, baby.” I know! I know! It’s not helping my skin or mood either.

I feel like all the free time I used to have is now spent calling credit agencies, law enforcement agencies or sending copies of my birth certificate to said agencies. It’s frustrating the hell out of me. I just want this nightmare to be over.

So far it has cost me approximately 20 hours of my time, $50 of my money and no access to my own (stellar) credit. With no progress. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth hiring a lawyer to speed it along and try to recover damages.

But for now, more yoga classes, deep breathing and boxing class. More boxing please!

Workout Wednesdays: Part 1

A Twitter user I follow started #workoutwednesday . I’m playing, too.

A couple years ago, I got off the elliptical and got serious about working out. I’m not sure what finally gave me that kick in the pants to step up my fitness. Maybe it was the fact that I was 30 and not getting any younger. Maybe it was that I found myself in a fresh, healthy emotional space and wanted to be there physically, too. Maybe it was because I saw too many people too young to be dependent on someone else for care that I wanted to do everything I could not to put myself in that position.

I know there’s a lot I can’t control in life, but if I find myself with heart disease, diabetes, bad knees or other maladies that I could have done something to prevent, I’ll regret it the rest of my life.

So, I bought some shoes started running. Actually, first I started running in some old sneaks I’d bought off a clearance rack and used for years. I thought running was just hard on the body, and it was normal to ache for days after until someone told me to get new shoes. Turns out, no, it’s not normal to spend the rest of the week on a heating pad.

My favorite training place at the time was Seattle’s Green Lake. It’s approximately three miles. Once you start, you have to finish. The lake was conveniently located between my office and my apartment, so I’d bring my running clothes to work and change there (or in the restrooms at the park), and lock my stuff up in the car while I ran. I could take breaks to walk, but I had to go all the way to get back to my car, and it was faster to run. I tracked my run with an app on my iPhone, so I could set my goal to run a little more and walk a little less the next time.

I tried to run a couple days a week. Other days, I’d turn on an Exercise TV class and do that in my apartment, or I would take a class at the yoga studio a 10-minute walk from my apartment. The studio had a terrible parking situation, so I never drove. Even when it was pouring out.

Although my routines have changed, the habit became permanent along the way. I feel healthier and fitter than ever. I give most credit to my boot camps, which whip me into shape fast. In between buying boot camp class packages, I workout at a gym where I can take challenging classes or have solo time on the treadmill. I’ve completely shunned auto-pilot ellipticals.

My keep-at-it trick for the treadmill is to turn on ESPN while I work out. Watching Serena Williams kick ass on the tennis court or NFL highlights is inspiring. This started because I used to use a former apartment building’s workout center during Seahawks games since I didn’t have a TV. Sometimes I’d be in that room a long time, watching the game. I also position myself on a treadmill in front of a window, if possible. When I feel like quitting, I look myself in the eyes in the reflection, and know I’d regret it.

Life, challenges and love

I promised myself I’d write about the bad times as often as the good. After all, what good is a blog if it’s all happy, fun times? That’s not realistic. I’ve morphed and so has this blog, but the intent remains. If I can help just one person feel less alone in what they’re feeling, then I’ve succeeded.

This week I had moments of feeling very alone in something scary.

I went to the doctor Monday for an annual checkup. “Do you feel that,” the doctor asked, putting my finger on my left breast. “I feel a tumor,” she said with no emotion as I felt a hard mass. My eyes bugged out. “Not necessarily malignant,” she added. She explained that I needed to go for a mammogram and an ultrasound to measure the mass as soon as possible. The next step will be a biopsy.

I nodded like a good little patient, my mouth unable to form words. Why did she sound so calm. She just said the word tumor!

I honestly never thought I’d be a candidate for breast cancer. I’m fairly certain my family doesn’t carry the Angelina Jolie gene. (My great-aunt was in her 60s when she had breast cancer. Neither my mom nor her six sisters have had breast cancer.) While I drink a lot of coffee, have a sweet tooth and eat processed foods a little too often, I do most things right. I eat fruits and vegetables every day. I eat red meat, white bread and greasy foods sparingly. I work out four or five times a week. I brush, floss, don’t smoke or drink soda. I call my grandmother. I treat people with kindness. Why me?

The next two days were agonizing while I waited for my appointments at the radiology clinic. My friend Tara gave me the pep talks I needed. My sister, Kelly, told me she’d share worrying with me, so I wouldn’t have to take it all myself. My mom filled me up with love. I could tell she hated having to wait as much as I did.

But when I hung up the phone Monday night, I felt so alone. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to listen to music because music is emotional. I didn’t want to write or read the pile of health magazines on my shelf. I turned on “2 Broke Girls” then fell asleep at 9:30.

I couldn’t hold the news in at work Tuesday, so I told two friends, asking Quyn to come to my appointment with me. She agreed. “I want to be there,” she said.

She asked if I wanted a Tuesday night distraction. I could go out with her and her friend who was in town. He is here celebrating his own win over cancer, but I declined. I didn’t want a cancer buddy. Not yet anyway.

Later in the day, my friend James texted to ask if we are still going to an upcoming Mets game. I didn’t know if I should commit. What if I’m sick? But I decided I’d deal with that later if I have to. I confirmed I was in for the game.

Even though I didn’t want to go out with Quyn and her friends after work, I knew I didn’t want to sit at home all night either, so I thought I’d go somewhere I could feel powerful and in charge: the treadmill at the gym. I put it on a random hill setting and bumped my fitness level up two steps higher than I normally go. I powered through every hill the machine threw at me. I felt good. I could do this!

Until I got home and felt anxious again. What if my aunt’s cancer does mean I have the cancer gene? What if my niece and nephews have to watch their aunt get sick like I did? Will I have to move home with my parents? Who will ever love me after I’ve had a double mastectomy? Wait, didn’t Mom accidentally say “malignant” instead of “benign”? What if she prays using the wrong word?

Then I resumed my positive thinking. It’s probably not cancer. My doctor said it could be benign.  Tara reminded me that many people get picked for extra testing and it is nothing. I’m only 32. Even if it is cancer, people come back from that. Angelina Jolie, Giuliana Rancic, my own aunt Jane.

I worked half of Wednesday, then got to the radiology place in Chelsea, where the receptionist handed me a clipboard with the regular paperwork plus one with a drawing of boobs on it. I was supposed to draw in where my mass was located.

While I was sitting there, a man and woman with heavy Staten Island accents sat down beside me. The woman was filling out the forms for the man who was there for a lump in his breast. “You’ve had syphilis, right?” she asked. “No!” he said sounding offended. “I’ve had gonorrhea and chlamydia, but never syphilis!” They loudly argued about which two it actually was, clearly not caring who knows about his sexually transmitted diseases – or “VD” as they referred to it. I alternated between being annoyed and amused while I finished my forms.

After a few minutes, I was called back. The woman showed me the gowns and changing rooms, then she showed me the lockers where I could stash my belongings and a kitchen with snacks and beverages I could help myself to. Odd, I thought as I stashed everything except my phone. I’d be keeping that despite the “no cellphones in this facility” signs all over. And I’m glad I did because I was left waiting in a TV room with the other gown-clad women for over an hour. I’m just here to find out if I have cancer! But take your time. Let’s  all catch up on “Days of Our Lives” first.

I went to find someone to ask about my appointment. “Usually we do the mammogram first, but you’re so young we want to do the ultrasound first instead,” was the answer.

“OK, so when is that?” I asked blinking back tears. Damn! I’d been so strong an hour ago! “You’re next,” the woman told me.

After 15 more minutes of watching Staten Island lady rip perfume samples out of magazines and shove them in her bag, I was finally called back.

“What are you here for,” the ultrasound tech asked.” I hate that question! Do you not have that information on that form in your hand, lady? I drew an X on the boob picture for you!

I started sobbing.

Why are you crying, she asked. You’re so young. It’s probably just a cyst. Lay down. I grabbed a tissue and laid back. She felt my breast. “That?” she asked. “That’s just a cyst. I’ll show you on the ultrasound.” She squeezed some gel on my boob and waved the wand over it. “See?” she said pointing at the monitor. “It’s just a pouch of liquid. Do you drink coffee?”

I said I did. She told me to cut down. “One a day is enough.”

She left to confirm with the doctor that it was a cyst and that I didn’t need a mammogram. I asked if we could do it just to be sure. “We don’t recommend it at your age,” she said. “Your breasts are too dense. They show false positives, and it’s unnecessary exposure.”

I asked a few more questions. Do these come and go? “Yes.” It’s not harmful? “Not unless it hurts. We can drain the fluid if it causes you pain.” No thanks. I’m good. I’ll cut back on coffee. I’ve been trying to drink tea anyway. “No tea either. One cup of coffee or tea per day.”

I thanked her and she left the room. I took the minute to text my mom, Kelly, Quyn, Tara, Navani and Lisa. I went to my locker to collect my things and saw a flurry of texts pop up on my phone. It feels good to be so loved.

I left the clinic and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to cry. I didn’t want to go home. I wanted to skip around New York, hug everyone and live my life. Quyn got held up at work, but asked if I wanted to meet up for gelato. Did I ever.

My heart goes out to all those affected by cancer. My two days of waiting for results were agonizing. I don’t want to think about how painful it is to have to keep fighting, wondering, waiting and ultimately knowing. Lots and lots of love and strength to you.

Candace reviews Crunch gyms

I love my gym. Love. Love. Love.

A gym membership is a huge commitment, and I’m cheap. I tried a couple gyms in Manhattan before I decided on Crunch. What drew me to Crunch initially was SurfSet. I’m kind of over SurfSet now, but it got me to buy a 30-day trial for $30. I didn’t plan to commit, but I loved going to the gym with my friend Navani, who is also a member. I was initially offered a price of $100 a month, which I rejected. That’s too rich for my blood.

When the membership guy called me at the end of the month to offer me a $70 membership with no enrollment fee, I bit the bullet.

For me, variation is key. One reason I didn’t join a gym earlier is because I liked buying trials from Groupon and Living Social to different fitness centers. It was fun to make one place my home for a few weeks, then switch to something else before I got bored. I tried yoga studios, boot camps, kettlebells, barre classes and two gyms. I’d sprinkle in runs in the park and paddleboarding in the summer to round out my fitness endeavors.

What made me commit to Crunch was the class schedule. I’ve taken Bosu, Kangoo, aerial yoga, vinyasa, cardio sculpt, The Ride (the Crunch version of spinning), Pound and more. On days when I can’t make a class, I can use the cardio equipment.

The classes are so fun. The gym’s thing is to make it like a party. The lights are down, the music is bumping, the strobe lights are on. Crunch even offers The Ride Karaoke. It’s a fun place to hang out, people watch and get your sweat on.

Even better is that I can use all dozen or so locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Totally worth the extra $10 per month over the one-location membership. Because I want to make sure I get my money’s worth, I mark on my calendar the days I go and divide my monthly rate by that. If I get it less than $10 per visit, I feel like I win. I’m currently trending at $8.88 per visit. Winner!

I just talked my friend Jennie into joining, too. We’re looking forward to trying out the boxing ring. Get ready for the K.O., Jennie.

I heart introverts

I was surprised by how many of my friends reposted this on Facebook this week. I have a lot of introverted friends. I guess that explains why I’m always the one planning group outings and happy hours. I’m the annoying friend always saying, “let’s hang out!”

I was a 4 out of 10 on the introvert-extravert scale (meaning I lean slightly extrovert), so I feel like I understand both sides. When my therapist looked at my analysis closer, she saw that I love being social, but I prefer small groups. That’s why I hate going to clubs, networking events and concerts. I want to hang out with my friends, not be overwhelmed by noise. I remember Caley asking me how many nights per week I’d ideally like to be around other people.
“Every night,” I replied without a pause. (What’s your answer?)

It’s an extroverted world — although it appears the percentage of introverts is debated. Somewhere between 25-50 percent of the US population. Several of the introverts in my life have told me that they feel they have to hide or work against their introvert side to please others. But I think extroverts should be aware of what it’s like.

As one friend told me, “I hate making plans in advance because I never know how I’ll feel.”

People commonly assume introverts are:

  • Socially awkward or anti-social
  • Rude, snobby or flakey
  • Shy
  • Lazy

An introvert could, of course, have these traits, but they aren’t characteristic of introverts in general. It’s more about where you get your energy from. Are you energized by being around other people, or does that drain you of your energy?

For me, I would come home from an evening with friends and be unable to sleep. My ex, a 9 on the introvert scale, would come home from the same event and practically fall asleep on the way to the bed.

We worked with our therapist to figure out ways to make our conflicting tendencies work. (Granted we ended our relationship anyway, but not because of that).

  1. I needed to give him space every day after work.
  2. I needed to give him early notice about social events that I wanted him to attend.
  3. He needed to prepare in advance for said social events. For example, if we were going to a friend’s on Friday night, he’d have a low-key Thursday, and wouldn’t make Saturday morning plans.
  4. We avoided Friday night plans as much as possible. That was consistently his alone time.
  5. I learned to recognize his signs when he was done at a social engagement. When he was done, it was time to go. Sometimes I’d drive separately, if I knew I wouldn’t want to leave early.
  6. I needed to make plans to go to the gym alone or out with the girls or my co-workers or other friends who wouldn’t expect him to attend, so I would get the social stimulation I needed.
  7. I needed to be OK with giving him a pass when he really wasn’t feeling it.
  8. I needed to prioritize social engagements. For example when we visited my family, it was important to me that he come to my nephew’s baptism, but if he wanted to skip the zoo outing, that was cool. He could stay home.

What I learned is you have to work with your introverts, not against them.

If you want to learn more, “Quiet” is a highly recommended book on Introverts.

Out of sight, out of mind?

I hope she doesn’t mind me telling you this, but my sister recently shed some weight. On doctor’s advice, she eliminated dairy and gluten from her diet.

I think that would be so hard. Gluten and dairy are some of my favorite things. I’ve been wracking my brain about what I would eat if I had to give up both. She said after a month or so, she just stopped craving those things. As I suppose it would. I think the hard part would be having dairy and gluten products in the house since her husband and kids still eat bread, cheese and cookies.

She said the biggest thing she learned was not to eat out of habit. You know, like you wake up and eat breakfast. You stop what you’re doing around noon and eat lunch. You have a snack when you get home, etc. just because that’s how you do.

I’ve spent the last week, trying to be more cognizant of what I’m eating and why. Am I really hungry, or am I eating because it’s lunchtime?

Several years ago, I cut soda out of my diet. Like Kelly, I never crave the stuff. In fact, the thought of drinking cola makes my teeth ache. Occasionally I’ll have a gingerale, but otherwise I’d just assume drink water. Around the same time, I started making a conscious effort not to have more than one dessert item in the house at a time. If I bought ice cream, I wouldn’t also make cookies or pie. That’s a really easy way for me to limit how much I consume.

I have a sweet tooth. I like my desserts, and if I’m craving a cupcake, I don’t deny myself a stop at Magnolia on my way home (and usually I end up choosing the banana pudding instead. Have you had? Amazing). But that’s also great portion control. I wouldn’t buy half a dozen cupcakes. I’d buy one. I’d savor and enjoy. Then be done.

I also love beer. It’s so good. One day I was getting dressed and caught a glimpse of my abs in the mirror. They looked flatter than they’ve been since high school. I vowed not to drink beer ever again. Of course, the next day my soccer team went out for drinks after our game. We accidentally ordered another pitcher. I couldn’t let that go to waste, so I had another … Then I happened past a cool bottle shop and went in. A mixed six-pack later, my fridge was stocked again. My abs didn’t look so hot after that week.

So no more beer in the house! It’ll be kept at the bar for me to drink occasionally when out with friends.

Come back to me, flat abs! I have a bikini to wear for a SUP tour.

I’m out

After I took a spill down some hard stairs and banged up my elbow, I took my sling off and went surfing.

When I sliced my finger, I bandaged it up for a week before seeing a doctor who said I needed stitches.

I finished my soccer game after a bad ankle sprain. Watching my ankle inflate when I took my shoes off only slowed me down for a day.

But today my optometrist found the two words that will keep me in my bed for a few days: retina damage.

I’d add one word of my own, but I’m sure you can all guess which one I’d pick.

Candace reviews Well + Good

I’d like to introduce a new section I’m calling “Candace reviews” where I get to review whatever the heck I want because this is my blog, and I said so.

Today it’s the health and fitness site, Well + Good. I discovered it a couple weeks ago, and I feel like this was designed with me in mind. I spend more time shopping for athletic clothes and gear than regular clothes. In fact, just today after work I went to Modell’s and City Sports (for a soccer ball pump, water gun and ankle wrap. I had to stop myself from buying clothes).

The Well + Good editors have their fingers on the pulse of the New York fitness scene. We’re talking about gym fashion, trendy new classes, cool outdoor events, playlists and more. I feel so in the know because I’ve taken a few of the classes they mention. I only wish I’d thought of this cool site idea.

Here are a few of my favorite articles.

The rise of the tank top.

Um, yes. I only wear Ts to the gym when I’m doing aerial yoga. Or when I really, really need to do laundry.

Class Act: Circuit of Change

Brian gets a ton of press, and he deserves so much recognition for creating the Circuit community. I’ve taken his classes for a year now. Love him. Love the classes.

Why Cetaphil isn’t doing your skin any favors

This one really got to me today. I have this in my bathroom. A dermatologist recommended it. A esthetician told me never to touch the stuff. After reading this, I’ll find a new cleanser.

Stunning yoga escapes

A girl can dream, right?

I’m all right

After anxiety attack days – like yesterday – I like to update you all and make sure you know I don’t think I’m a hot mess and my life is a disaster.

I’d been feeling anxiety since the weekend. I had two anxiety dreams, but other than soccer starting, I couldn’t really pinpoint what was bothering me. Things spiraled out of control Wednesday. I went running in hopes of mitigating my stress, but that caused more. I got off the treadmill and felt horrible about stopping after 2.5 miles. My goal is always 3.1. I came home and Carlos greeted me at the door and guilt poured over me. I felt like I’m not good enough for him. He used to have four family members now it’s just me, and I stop home for two hours and leave again. I saw two emails that stressed me out: 1 about the soccer team rosters and schedules. The second was about my gym membership, asking if I was ready to commit to the (steeply discounted) price I’d been holding out for. I sat in my chair feeling like my world was flying around me. I had to get going to Spanish, but I wanted to skip, feeling like I hadn’t studied enough and wasn’t good enough.

But I wiped my tears away, put some drops in my eyes, grabbed my books and went to class. And after about five minutes in class, I put everything else behind me. I had fun with my classmates, as we wrote funny sentences using only the words we know (Mine: My colleague is eating grapes at the grocery store).

A little anxiety resurfaced today, but I kept in mind three pieces of advice

  1. From Caley (my therapist): If you name your feelings, they lose power. “I’m feeling anxious because …”
  2. From a yoga teacher: All you have to do is breathe. Anything else that happens is a bonus.
  3. From some user feedback I read today at work: “Fix your shit!!!!!!!!!” (I joked to a co-worker that I was going to print that one out and hang it up on my desk.)

After work, I hung out with Navani. We had our own group therapy session. We commiserated about feeling anxious and how once things get going, we can spiral them out of control in seconds. As we were getting up to leave, we both seemed lighter. Not bad for skipping a workout to sit in the park with frozen yogurt, right?

On the train back to Manhattan, I read “The Gifts of Imperfection,” by Brene Brown. Amazingly, the chapter I started is called, “Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle.” I reread this part about 10 times, “I don’t need to figure out how to keep going with this level of anxiety. I need to figure out how to be less anxious.”

It’s not that people who live “wholehearted lifestyles,” the focus of this book, don’t have anxiety. They are just anxiety aware. Bells went off in my head. I’m anxiety aware! I knew what was happening to me this weekend. I recognized all the signs. I got out my anxiety toolbox and mitigated it. I named my feelings and I breathed in and out. I went for a run (which usually helps) and I allowed myself an evening off. My life is never going to be anxiety-free — and I don’t want it to be. That would mean not experiencing new things — but I know how to lessen the effects, and I did it. Two years ago, I would have sat with that heavy feeling in my belly, unable to eat for a week.

Instead of listening to “All Alone” from Fun. Again tonight, I’ve got “All Alright” on repeat.

I’m all alright.

Living with rosacea

My name is Candace and I have a skin condition called rosacea.

Rosacea is a hereditary condition (my mom and sister have it, too) that is characterized by redness of the face. I get some bumpiness as well. It’s most common among women of Western European descent. It’s 100 percent cosmetic.

For the most part, I can cover it up with makeup and no one is the wiser. I’ve taken pills for it in the past. They work wonders, but they make me feel sick to my stomach, so I quit them. I’ve also used topical lotions and creams. They’ve never worked well. For me it’s triggered by spicy food, red wine and heat. I often tell people I have a red wine allergy. This is what I mean by that.

My rosacea doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable. I don’t even think about it much – except post-workout. My face gets deep red. Really. Like a red grape. In boot camp once, a fellow bootcamper felt the need to point it out. “Ohmygod! Your face is so red!” then she shriked again. “You get so red!”

I’m pretty sure the second time I shot her a dirty look. I don’t particularly enjoy having rosacea, but I’m not ashamed or embarrassed by it. Still, I didn’t really feel the need to explain my skin condition to the entire class. It does bother me when (rude) people think they should get to comment on the color of my skin. “You’re so pale, you should go tanning,” for example. I’m of Swedish and Irish descent. This is the color I am. I’m sorry if it bothers you, but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t see it as any different than commenting on someone with dark skin. And when people do that, we call them racist.