Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Time has Come, the Walrus said, to Talk of Many Things...

Wow - I got a huge outpouring of comments and messages about my last blog post! I can't believe how many people have, or know someone with, gastroparesis. It's intense! Thank you everyone for all of your kindness and concern! I truly appreciate it, and value all of my friends and family :) <3

What else has been going on... hmm. A lot of reading, that's for sure! I finished up A Storm of Swords, then re-read A Feast for Crows, and Amazon messed up and sent me my copy of A Dance with Dragons late - I didn't get it until Thursday! But I inhaled it so quickly that I was done it by Sunday. Whoops!!

There's been a lot going on other than that since my last update - I should probably start with Wednesday the 5th, when I met up with Mike and our friend Mike Castrovinci for some dinner, and then headed to Redcap's for D&D. It was fun! I feel almost like it gets better and better every week. The next day I came home and read after work, and Friday after work I headed to Mikey's and met up with some friends who worked at, or currently work at, our bookstore. Some I hadn't seen in almost a year! So it was really amazing to catch up with them. After that, I headed downtown to a Geekadelphia poetry reading called "Broetry," which was dedicated to poetry about... you guessed it... bros. It was held at National Mechanics, which is one of my favorite places to go. After the broetry was done, Mike showed up, and so did another writer at Geekadelphia and Warp Zoned, Chris Urie. We ended up chilling with him and our friend Jake most of the night, and afterwards Chris came over and we played some games and hung out until like 2 am. Friday was also when the doctor called to tell me about the gastroparesis, so I was a little shocked about that, for sure.

Saturday morning we woke up early, ate some food, and then grabbed a Philly Car Share car, picked up some Jimmy John's sandwiches, and headed to my sister Jenna's for the day to hang out with her, my nephew, and Jenna's family. It was an incredible time! My little nephew is getting sooooo big! He's so sweet and wonderful and affectionate. I had a great time with Jenna and her little sister, Rachael, too - we played some Just Dance, which I'd never played before (and have since bought!). It was nice catching up with her mom and stepdad, too - they are awesome people. They asked us to stay for dinner so we did, and it was delicious! We got home around 8 (after some minor drama with the car!) and hung out, played games, and read all night. Sunday we headed to my mom's to celebrate my stepdad's birthday. I wasn't feeling great, so I mostly just laid around and read some more.

Monday I was preparing for Dance with Dragons to come out, and trying to wrap up Feast for Crows as quickly as possible, but Tuesday came and went with no book! I bitched at Amazon, but they still didn't get it to me until Thursday. So Tuesday we recorded another podcast for Warp Zoned, Wednesday I met with my nutritionist to discuss my diet options, and afterwards I met the Mikes at my local diner and then we went to D&D. I was thrilled to get the book Thursday, and read the whole night at babysitting! And then again most of Friday night, after we went food shopping and picked up lots of food that I can actually eat. I ended up baking some awesome parmesan-encrusted chicken, which turned out amazingly well! I was excited about it.

Saturday I was very social! I started the day out doing some laundry, and then Mike and I went to Jersey to meet our friend Stacy, her boyfriend Ross, and her parents at PJ Whelihan's for lunch. Stacy and I met when we went to Ireland together for a wedding - I went with my friend Mike Cahill, and she went with her friend Carter Posey, and we ended up bonding and becoming instant friends. Our friendship has continued through the last three years! She and Ross are considering moving back up to this area from DC, which would be awesome, because we'd get to spend way more time with them. Afterwards, we went to Mike Castrovinci's and they played some video games while I read and napped, then we went to my mom's for dinner. She ended up dragging us to the mall to exchange her latest Pandora charm (I got her obsessed with Pandora!) and I stopped at H&M to get some new tank tops, then we headed home and read and gamed the rest of the night.

Sunday was the best. We sat around and did very little! Since we'd already gone food shopping, we didn't have to go anywhere. I did some stuff around the house, like some vacuuming, and we did head to GameStop so I could return a game, but other than that, it was just reading, gaming, and eating. It was so nice. I was kind of sad when I got to the end of the book, because I didn't want it to end, and who knows when Winds of Winter will be coming out!!

Yesterday afternoon we received a nasty shock at work - around 4:30, we got a phone call saying one of our faculty members died. It was very sudden. It's been a flurry of activity around the department since then, and many people are very sad. I didn't know the professor all that well, but it saddens me to see so many people hurting.

After work, we recorded our podcast, and then I played some more F.3.A.R., read more of Codependent No More, and did some writing. I've been trying to write as much as I can, but it's been tough. I wrote a preview of Catherine, as well as an article about my impressions of the Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception beta, and I'm working on a review of F.3.A.R., and also started the new BioShock novel, BioShock: Rapture today, and I'll be reviewing that as well. Whew. Busy! I've been doing some other stuff, too, but it's getting late, and I need to go to bed.

OH AND ALSO! My very first paper proposal got accepted at a conference! I found that out today. And, on my way home from work, I walked by a few people standing around a car. I looked over and saw kittens inside the car! I couldn't stop myself - I was drawn to them! I walked over and squeed, and asked how old they were, and she asked if I wanted to hold one! So I got to hold TWO of them! They were so sweet, and only a month old, and they were panting in the heat! One of them was panting right in my face, and his breath smelled like cat food, and I thought of Ralph. They asked if I wanted one, and I said do I ever! But I couldn't help but think of my poor kitties, and how they would freak out if I brought home another critter. It was nice just to cuddle kittens randomly in the middle of the day and talk to nice people. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face!!

Tonight, I washed the dishes, had some dinner, playing some Modern Warfare online with Mike and our friend, Ryan Littlefield, played more F.3.A.R., and read more of BioShock: Rapture. And now I think it's time to cuddle up with my 'tarns and go to bed.

Much turtle love! <3

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Which I Talk about Gastroparesis

So remember all those medical problems I've been having? It all started last June. I was in the ER last year four times with tachychardia, which the doctors attributed to acid reflux, which they blamed on anxiety. I started seeing a nutritionist because I lost so much weight (all told: 30 pounds), went to a cardiologist (wore a heart monitor twice, and was given beta blockers which I never took), saw my family doctor a few times between ER visits (and was put on a proton pump inhibitor for the reflux), started seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist (who put me on anxiety medication), and then finally started seeing a gastroenterologist, who gave me an endoscopy and a gastric emptying scan. I changed my diet once I was diagnosed with acid reflux, and changed it back (partly, anyway) when I went on meds. All told, it's been 13 months, lots of tests and medications (most of which I haven't even touched), and A LOT of time spent in waiting rooms.

The results of all of my tests were exactly the same: everything is fine, no one knows what the problem is, here's a possible medication to help, go see another doctor... until the gastric emptying scan. My doctor called me a week and a half ago and said, "The results from your gastric emptying scan were very, very abnormal. It takes you 239 minutes to digest food, and it takes a normal person 90-120 minutes. You'll have to come in for another appointment - we'll meet and discuss a specific diet for you, as well as medication options."

I was floored. I wasn't expecting to hear that. I had assumed we'd gotten to the bottom of the problem - I was stressed out and anxious, and it was messing with my digestive system, and dealing with my anxiety would get rid of my acid reflux. But instead, it was something completely different - gastroparesis is ideopathic, which basically just means that doctors have no idea what causes it.

Anyway, I'll back up a little here - after I got off the phone with my doctor, I called his front desk to make an appointment. The soonest he can see me is September 9th. Oi vey! So I went online and did some searching on Google, which was how I found out more details about gastroparesis - which is actually what my nutritionist has thought I've had all along. So I looked at all the dietary restrictions and decided I'd start as soon as possible. I had an appointment coming up with my nutritionist anyway, so I got a head start on everything.

By the time I met with my nutritionist, I was already feeling better. Much of the problem was being caused by two things: foods I was eating that were high in fat (ice cream, chocolate, regular hamburgers, etc) and foods that were high in fiber (fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and things like nuts and granola). Well, you'll never be able to guess what most of my diet was before this all happened. Let me give you a list:

breakfast - yogurt with granola and a banana
lunch - some sort of sandwich (usually with cheese) and some trail mix that I make myself (almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, wasabi soybeans, and dried cranberries)
dinner - usually something breaded (chicken fingers and tater tots) or high in fat (hamburgers or hot dogs) with a vegetable (usually broccoli)
dessert - ice cream or something equally fattening

Now, in all fairness, I did cut out a lot of high-fat foods - I don't eat cheesecake at all anymore, and I try to avoid stuff that's excessively high in fat. But I didn't realize that so many things I was eating - like fruits, vegetables, and nuts - were hurting me! It's no wonder I was always in pain and bloated. Here I was thinking that I was helping my acid reflux, when all I was doing was making it worse!

On Friday, armed with my new list from my nutritionist, I went to the grocery store to pick up all Nicole-friendly foods. The key is that the foods must be 5g of fat or less and 4g of fiber or less. One of the most difficult things to find was butter, because even some of the low fat sticks and the 'I can't believe it's not' stuff was high in fat. It was also tough finding anything to eat sandwiches on that isn't just straight up white bread (which I don't mind). So, now, my diet has changed considerably:

breakfast - smoothie (Starbucks Vivannos, but I just got a blender today, so I'm going to start making my own!)
snack - crackers or yogurt, or crackers and yogurt
lunch - sandwich (today it was tuna fish with low fat mayonnaise on a bagel flat or thin or whatever they're called)
snack - crackers or yogurt, or crackers and yogurt, or crackers and a Laughing Cow wedge
dinner - rice with frozen veggies, or stir fry I make myself, or lean burgers with baked french fries, or pasta, or baked chicken (just made some awesome baked chicken the other night!)
snack - Skinny Cow

Let me just say that Skinny Cow stuff is AMAZING. I bought the cookies 'n cream ice cream sandwiches, and holy CRAP. They're delicious! They're low in fat, fiber, and calories, and they taste like heaven. They're especially awesome in this hot hot heat!

So, the goal right now is to stick to this new diet and see how everything works out. After a month doing this, hopefully we'll be able to tell whether or not this is really what I have, and if it's helping the problem. My nutritionist thinks that I lost all the weight because my body wasn't digesting the food and I wasn't getting the nutrients, so this should stop my weight loss, which has still been going down. And I'm trying to get in some regular exercise to regulate everything - I just bought Just Dance for the Wii, which I blame on my sister, since I was playing the sequel to it at her house. It's SO fun!

So that's my update! Lots more is going on, but I wanted to write about all that health stuff. If anyone wants to see a copy of my diet, feel free to email me or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter or just leave a comment here and I'd be glad to share it. The one majorly bad thing is that I can't have popcorn, which is like on my top 5 list of favorite foods! But it's just too hard for my body to break it down, and it explains why I've been having such horrible pain every time I eat it. So looks like reduced fat Cheez-Its at the movie theater for me!

Hopefully more tomorrow. Much turtle love <3

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

F.3.A.R. multiplayer = yes

So I finally dug into the F.3.A.R. multiplayer tonight. I am officially impressed! The modes are great, the maps are awesome, the pacing is perfect, and I love how smooth the gameplay is (which I'd noticed when I was playing single player as well). It doesn't hurt that I jumped into a random game with some awesome dudes who are now on my friends list. I love when that happens!

So yeah, after work I headed home, played more of the Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception beta, headed to Mike's, did another podcast for Warp Zoned, and then played F.3.A.R. the rest of the night. We're going to try to get into the habit of having a podcast every week instead of every other week, which I think will cut down on the length and the tangents. Tonight's went really well! Hopefully we can keep it going.

I need to do some editing, but right now I just want to curl into bed with A Storm of Swords and go to sleep. Tomorrow night is D&D (woo!) and Thursday I'm not babysitting, so Mike and I might go see a movie. Friday I'm meeting some friends for drinks and then going to the Geekadelphia Broetry event, and Saturday I'm going to see my sister and my nephew, yay! Hopefully somewhere over the weekend I'll be doing some cleaning and some laundry because I really, really need to.

Also: 51.14:11:32 until PAX ZOMG!! <3

sooo late!

whew, here i go again - staying up too late the day before i have to go back to work! whoops! anyway, yesterday, mike and i played a lot of call of duty: black ops, then got showered and ready and packed up all of our stuff and headed to his grandparents' house for some lunch. his dad, his dad's girlfriend angela, and his brother keith picked us up after that, and we headed out to grab some dinner and a drink with them. after that, they dropped us off at the train station, and we had a nice ride back to philadelphia. i read more of a storm of swords and played more of link's awakening which i am in love with! we got back here and played codblops and read all night.

this morning, i woke up early after having some crazy dreams again. i swear i've been having them a lot lately! it's soooo strange. i finally got out of bed, washed the dishes, made some breakfast, and mike and i took turns playing codblop and reading. we watched more "24" while we were eating, though - it's been a few days since we've seen it. i can't believe we're on the last season! i hope jack doesn't die, but i'm guessing he probably will D:. anyway, after a while, we got showered and dressed and headed to superfresh to get some food, then came back here, had some snacks, took turns playing codblops and reading and writing and stuff, and just had a generally chill afternoon. i finished up my review of dream trigger 3d, worked on my feature about the uncharted 3: drake's deception beta, read more of codependent no more and a storm of swords, and did a little surfing around the internet, which i hadn't done in a few days. i also worked on some editing for warp zoned and oh yeah - i won an awesome t-shirt from one of the awesomest chicks on the internet, girl gone geek! she is totally amazing and i <3 her. i won this awesome mario kart league shirt:

:D! i can't wait to wear it! it's so adorable. mike said this morning that i have a knack for winning shirts online - this is the fourth one i've won. the other three were two behemoth shirts i won on twitter, and a lost planet shirt i won on twitter. and oh yeah, i won an awesome ninjatown contest as well! that one and one of the behemoth ones were both haikus. w00t! keep having contests, people! i'll keep entering them :D

ok, off to bed. i was hoping to have my u3 piece finished tonight, but the whole vacation vibe has been sapping me of motivation, so instead of being responsible, i read more martin and got more double xp. sorry, life. i promise i'll be more responsible tomorrow.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

at the beach!

so thursday was crazy busy, but i still managed to make it down the shore. i had work til 5, rushed home quick as i could, packed for the beach, headed to my babysitting gig, finished up around 9, stopped at the corner store to get cat food and cat litter, dropped it off at home, headed to varga for a meeting tristin and i had with flyclops, and then rushed back home to finish up the final packing, cat food- and water-ing, and last minute double checking of everything. i made it to patco in time for the train, which got me to lindenwold in time for the nj transit train, which was super late leaving anyway because they were waiting for the cops to get there to take some girl off. it was a strange night! i was working on homework most of the night, and then read a lot of clash of kings. we got back to mike's mom's after 1 and set up my ps3 so mike could check out the uncharted 3: drake's deception beta. i passed out shortly after that :).

friday was busy, busy, busy. we woke up early, got showered and dressed, and headed over to mike's grandparents. his mom is out of town for a month, and she lives across the street from his grandparents, so we've spent the last few days between the two houses, for the most part. we had breakfast, hung out with them, checked out the pool (i got burnt on my thighs in the half hour we spent there!), and then took their car to go pick up mike's glasses, get his brother keith from the train station, and stop at gamestop so i could see if i could find some of the games i've been looking for (which i couldn't). we did run into mike's friend, edd, who is super cool - i'd never met him before but i'd heard lots of stories! after that, we stopped back at mike's grandparents, then headed to his dad's to hang out with him and his girlfriend angela, as well as keith and his girlfriend karla, who just moved next door to willy and angela. we chilled, had an awesome meal - rib-eye steak, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, corn on the cob, salad, and a dessert of cappuccino pie, brownies, and ice cream - OMG, and then walked around the boardwalk. i think i may have been to that boardwalk before - seaside heights - when i was 19. i remember parts of it - it's so familiar. i think it's where i bought my crazy platform van sneakers and one of my favorite pairs of board shorts... which i can't find now. hopefully this summer's searches will yield them up! afterwards, we drove back to mike's grandparents, walked over to his mom's, played some call of duty: black ops, and went to bed. i also read a lot more clash of kings as well as the rest of my homework throughout the day, and played more of link's awakening, which i'm really enjoying.

yesterday was much more relaxing. we woke up, went to his grandparents' to eat, and headed to kohl's so mike could get some new sneakers. i found some amazing chuck taylor's - they were black and covered in little tiny studs, and they were only $16!! but they only had them in size 6, and my feet aren't quite that tiny :P. we headed back here, got changed into our bathing suits, and spent the day at the pool. it was soooo nice. we read by the poolside, then hopped in the water and swam a bit, then spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the sun. it felt soooo nice. around dinnertime, we headed back to mike's mom's, got showers, got dressed and ready, and headed back over to his grandparents' for dinner. they grilled for us - cheeseburgers and hamburgers, with corn on the cob and home-grown string beans, followed by blue bunny ice cream cones. it was all so delicious! i even had some wine, and i drink so ridiculously infrequently now that i got tipsy. whoops! we headed back to mike's mom's, and i played a ton more of link's awakening and finished reading clash of kings. i was tempted to start storm of swords but i was so happy and comfortable that i just drifted off to sleep.

aaand now i'm wide awake, and just feeling so pleasant and well-rested. i made the decision this morning to drop my class, because we've had such sporadic connection to the internet these last few days, and everything i need to do is online. the only reason the choice was difficult is because the class is so interesting. but with the project i'm working on with tristin, girl geek dinners philadelphia, geekadelphia, warp zoned, press one, and the fact that there are so many other things i want to do this summer - like clean out and re-arrange my apartment, as well as start working on that book i keep talking about - i just don't have the time for this class. it's time i made a decision on what i want to do, and as much as i love my coursework and want to get my degree, i love what i'm doing with the video game journalism stuff, and i would really love to start making actual money from it. and for once, i don't feel guilty about dropping the class. i feel like i'm really working in a good direction mentally and emotionally, and i haven't been this happy in a really, really long time.

the only other thing i wanted to mention is that i've been having some CRAZY dreams!! like beyond anything close to the realm of normalcy. a lot of people i've talked to have said they've been having weird dreams, too, so maybe it's the moon or something. but wow, have they been extra strange!!

ok, time to get in some more nuketown 24/7. i love double xp weekends! will post some pictures and more stuff later. happy fourth of july weekend, all :)