Sunday, October 9, 2016

More Kansas Love

The coming of October marks a couple of milestones in my life (whether I like it or not). 

1. I have now hit my pain anniversary or painiversary as I like to call it. Yep. I've been uncomfortable because of my leg/back for over a year now. Raise a glass. 

2. I have now been in Kansas for 6 years, more or less. In October of 2010, I left the mountains of Asheville, NC to move to the prairie to live with my sister and brother-in-law, bake in a coffee shop and figure out what my game plan should be. Who would've thought that in a couple years I would still be here and my sister would be in thousands of miles away again in Virginia. To be fair, I did leave for several months and then came back when I got a job at Bethel College. I tried to leave, but the prairie sucked me back in. Really, I am not mad about this because if I hadn't come back Levent and I would've never started dating. I would do all of this again if I had to just so I could fall in love with this man all over again. Okay, sorry. No more sappy stuff. 

Anyway, I like to take time to mark both of these milestones (more so the second one, not the first). This is my season of reflection, I guess. 

Really, October is a good time to think about my time in Kansas thus far because the terrible heat of the summer is finally gone and I actually like being outside again. This part of the year is my 2nd favorite time in Kansas (the first being in the spring). It's easy to love the prairie in October. So whenever I am questioning why I live on the west side of the Mississippi River when my entire family lives a thousand miles away, I try not to go into the funnel of misery but rather highlight how lovely here can be. 

Now that summer is over, people start going outside again. This includes me. Here are some of the highlights of this prairie life. 

1. Double date night: A couple of weekends ago Levent and I met my cousins, Heidi and Hayden, in Wichita for supper at the now laid to rest restaurant, Fork and Fennel. (The owner actually owned 3 restaurants in Wichita and turns out that was one too many. So this little Wichita gem is now closed. I am sad about it but there are a lot of good places to eat now in Wichita; so I am not as sad as I would've been a couple years ago). I really enjoy hanging out with my Kansas cousins. We also had donuts for dessert at Hurt's donuts, a local place known for their crazy donuts. I love local flavor especially when it's covered in rainbow sprinkles. 

2. My donor relations (MCC fundraisers) colleagues from the various different regions came to Kansas the last week of September for meetings. This was mostly due to my convincing the team to come to here for these meetings. I mean, I really worked to sell them on the idea. And it worked out really really well. The last week in Sept was our first consistently lovely week. Plus, once our meetings end at 5pm, we get to spend time together "team building" (and by that I mostly mean eating really great food together). My favorite part of this whole gathering was showing my colleagues the things I love the most of about Kansas. That included...

a. the golden hour. (We all went to Maynard's house for a catered supper and it was amazing. Plus we got to tour the farm and (my favorite part) was petting his pack of dogs). 
b. hidden gems of Wichita. I took them to WSU's campus to view the large collection of sculptures that are all over that campus. This was a new experience for me too since I had only ever been on WSU's campus for basketball games. But it was lovely, with a lot of interesting pieces. 
c. Taking them to my favorite Wichita restaurants: Zaytun and Public at the Brickyard. Zaytun of course highlighted the amazing Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food available here and Public showing off Wichita's more hipster scene and old town character. 

b. The Keeper of the Plains. Of course. This is one of the most iconic things about ICT.

We had a good time, especially during our actual team building experience: participating in an Escape Room. (You know those rooms where you pay to get locked into a space where you have to solve puzzles and beat the clock). We didn't win, but we got so close. 

Another highlight for them was one I didn't anticipate; they really enjoyed being in our office because most of them are in tiny offices (or cubicles). That's one thing the prairie does not lack; space. Apparently that was reflected in our actual physical meeting space too.  

3. Since October in Kansas can often be a time to ease into fall, there are still flowers everywhere. (In fact, I have some type of prairie flower in my garden that only blooms in the fall). It's beautiful. Since one of my few "work out" option these days is just walking, I really appreciate the natural beauty all around me. 

I still struggle with Kansas. After all, I was not suppose to be here this long. But it is helpful to look around at the mysterious and sometimes harsh beauty of the prairie. (It also helps that Wichita is getting so cool. For real, Buzz feed just mentioned an area in Wichita the most hipster area in Kansas. It also so happens to be where my favorite coffee shop is).

Here is a good place to be. For now. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I went camping! what?

You heard me right. I went camping with Levent last weekend.

My boyfriend grew up camping with his family. My impression (while maybe only 50% true) is that back in the day they would drive into the northern part of Turkey and stay there for weeks, catching fish and being one with nature. I am not at this level. I am the opposite of hardcore.

All that to say, is that my boyfriend loves camping. Since he loves it so much (and I love him), I told him I would give it another try as long as we ease into it. (No week long affair where you have to poop in the woods).

So last weekend we borrowed pretty much everything camping related and headed to Eisenhower State Park, which is by this massive lake in Eastern Kansas. It was beautiful! (I had no idea this place even existed) The weather was also perfect.

I really like the idea of camping which is also why I want to try harder to like it. I enjoy a good cooking challenge and cooking over a campfire is definitely that. I also realized that the last 2 times I went camping was when we had to travel a significant distance to camp in less than ideal temperatures and perspiration. So it also helps to be able to go someplace close on a weekend that is warm enough to wear shorts but also cools off enough to layer up and sit by the fire drinking tea.

And, believe it or not, I had a good time. We camped close to the lake and at night, the moon wasn't out; so it was just us an a billion stars. We did some star gazing down by the lake shore where the night was like magic. That was maybe one of my favorite Kansas memories so far. The prairie can be a very surprisingly place.

Don't get me wrong I am still easing into camping, but I think I am heading in a positive direction for the sake of my boyfriend, but also because I do want to the type of person who pushes myself to try new things.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Summer bucket list recap

I have the AC on today. It's still summertime. I think the high tomorrow is suppose to be 90. But since it is the middle of September and pinterest is crowded with pumpkin everything, I decided that it was close enough. Time to recap on summer even if we have a couple more weeks of it. I am pretty much over it. I want it to get cold and I want to get a very fuzzy blanket and feel zero guilt about wanting to stay inside on my couch forever. If nothing else, living in Kansas in the summer has given me an appreciation for winter I never thought was possible.

My Summer Bucket List this year was pretty short this year. And turns out, I still did not accomplish all of the things. Oh well. I tried (on some of them).

Here is the recap

1. Have a culinary adventure at least once a month.  I had to think a lot about this one. I think I did this. After all, food is where I pour most of my creative energy. In June, I went to the Wichita Food Truck Rally with Denise and ate all kinds of new, yummy things.  In July, I tried a new Juice Place (86 Juice. Results: it was good but I like Songbird Juice in Wichita a lot better. However, I am just excited that Wichita is getting cool enough to have cold press juice places). In August, Levent and I went to Goshen and at at a new restaurant with our friends. We ate fried guacamole and I had one of the best cocktails I've ever had.  In September, I really started getting into cake baking. (See previous post). I also made baked chicken wings for the first time and my quality of life sky rocketed. This weekend I also made ricotta for the first time as well as ciabatta. Finally, sometime this summer (or maybe spring, I cannot remember, I also made pita bread).

2. Go on a picnic.  Ever since Levent and I went on a picnic date back when we first started dating, I've always wanted to go again. But here is the thing, picnics are maybe the best when they are spontaneous and I love planning things. So that doesn't always mesh together. Also, I need to take this concept off my summer bucket list because I hate being outside in Kansas in the summer time. And this summer it was either really hot or really rainy (or both making everything a big swampy mess). I did, however, eat a lot of lunches on the beach in North Carolina when my family was on vacation. So I think that counts. If that doesn't count, then going to the Food Truck Rally in Wichita with my friend in the middle of July and nearly sweaty to death has to count.

3. Be near water. Check. I did this. I went to the sprinkle park with my friend and her kids. I went lap swimming a lot during my lunch break at the Newton community pool. I went to the ocean with my family. It also has rained a ton here; so maybe that counts too. ha.

4. Go on motorcycle ride with my boyfriend. Check. We did this too. (It's been a lot easier to go on rides now that Levent got me a really sweet helmet for my birthday). Our rides never resulted in ice cream, but one time it resulted in eating burgers at Wendy's in Newton which was equally tasty.

5. Find a chiropractor I like. Ugh. I maybe am at one now that I kind of like. I see a woman chiropractor now, which is nice. She also took the time to really go over my MRI report. I had some doubts about her before (see previous post) but helping me understand my MRI report was her most redeeming quality yet. And because of that report, she is changing how she is adjusting my back. (My previous chiropractor barely glanced at it and treated me like everyone else and thus couldn't understand why I was not getting better). Don't get me wrong, it's for sure not helping yet, but the fact that she is trying to help me (like really trying) and trying to help me understand what is going on in my spine is a nice change of pace.

6. Grow healthy tomatoes. I am thinking about quitting gardening in Kansas. I feel as if it might be more beneficial to not spend any money on gardening things in the spring and just use that money to buy all the things at the farmer's markets. This year, I was heading in a really good direction. But it kept raining and raining and raining. My entire garden never had a chance. At least I have gotten enough to eat on salads and make a couple of servings of pasta sauce.

7. Popsicles. This didn't happen but I am really okay with that because I made homemade ice cream at least twice, made iced chai for the first time and have really gotten into cake baking. And, even though I just listed all those things and fully intend of making a coffee cake today, I am trying to eat less sugar. (As a result, I am trying to make my co-workers eat more sugar since I've started taking my bakes into work for everyone to eat).   

And there we have it. Those where my summer goals. Not too bad, but I am ready for the next season. Let's go, fall. We're so ready for you.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Finding balance and other such rants

Balance. This is something at which I am not very good. Dang it's hard. And I know as 29 year old I should beyond saying this, but being an adult is super hard. You have to constantly call people on the phone. It's the worst.

Okay, I know. Using the phone as an actual phone is not a real problem. But this month I've felt really annoyed by this. I am constantly needing to call various doctors or chiropractors or auto places. I am so tired of it!

My pain anniversary (or painiversary) is coming up, marking a whole year of being in more or less consistent discomfort. Awesome. I spend 1/4 of my monthly income on trying to manage this pain and I still have not gotten my medical bills from March. (Is this a normal thing?). This stresses me out, which is ironic since I think a lot of my pain is caused by stress and anxiety. It's a never ending cycle.

I have not found the balance in my finances when it comes to my leg issues. How much should I be doing if I am feeling the same as I did several months ago? I've cut down to just going to the chiropractor once a week instead of 2-3 times. Instead, I've been trying to get more deep tissue massages and teach my muscles how to stay in a relaxed state. That has not been a cheap or easy alternative. All this to say, I am not really sure how to move forward.

And let me just say that it does not help to have medical professionals belittle me. My nurse practitioner won't take my allergy problems serious because I have a cat and she clearly hates cats and my chiropractor does not believe that I have bad anxiety problems.

Let me tell you, I do a lot of self-reflection. In all of my issues, not knowing myself is not one of them. I make a huge effort to be self-aware. I am not allergic to my cat. I grew up with a cat. If I allergic to cats, I think I would've known that a long time ago. How dare you. My cat is amazing. And how do you know my anxiety is not a real thing? You're not the one who has to live with it. I am not a child. Good grief.

I know. I need to find new medical professionals. Yet, living in a small town makes this really challenging.

Okay, let me back up. That was a huge rant I did not mean to go on. I wanted to use this space to talk about balance, find balance in my leg care, in my anxiety management, in my financial management (and wanting to make smart decision but also wanting to enjoy life) and in health and personal well-being. This has been overwhelming me. So much so that I am debating whether or not to spend money on a plane ticket to Asheville just so I can have my mom cook for me. (Also, I miss my family).

The only thing I've figured out is to just try and focus on one day at a time. How can I make today a good day? Obviously, this is easier to do on the weekends, but it's something. So yesterday I drove to Wichita and got a deep tissue massage like a baller and it was amazing. Then I came home and made an Italian cream cake even though I am trying to eat healthier. For whatever reason, cake baking has become my ultimate joy in life. So I keep making them and try to share them with lots of people, mostly my co-workers, so Levent and I don't eat the whole thing ourselves. Baking a cake, but not eating it for breakfast feels like balance. Right? Today, I walked up to the perk for morning coffee and blogging space and this afternoon I plan do enjoy my other favorite hobby these days, painting prairie wildflowers on cards. It's lovely.
Because of this mindset, it's been a good weekend. I did not spent my whole weekend cleaning and "going crazy" (meaning forgetting to relax). I think I've been doing better at this, at least one the weekends. And hey, that's a start.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Another work trip later

Well, I did it. I survived yet another work trip. Really, there was never any real doubt, just a ton of anxious doubt clouding my worldview. You know the drill. In all of my panic stricken worries, I still manage to be a fully capable person. I just often forget this.

Overall the trip went fine. I met with people I needed to meet with and thankfully they were all very friendly and easy to relate with. On paper, I have no idea why these donor visit trips cause me to loose my mind. It's fine. They're fine. I'm fine. It's all fine. But that's not how my body experiences this part of my job.

Thankfully, all the things I made sure to have in place worked out really well. I took care of myself. I made sure to do some yoga and went for a walk. I used my meditation app, Headspace, before I went to bed (and went to bed at like 8:30). I didn't eat fast food once and spent a lot of time at Panera bread. I made sure to see the mountains. I got a whole bunch of snacks at Trader Joe's. I colored in my down time. I stayed at one place the whole time and it was the best. (I really like airbnb).
Still, all these self-aware, self-care things I do (and medication I take) completely take away the anxiety. My stomach was upset off and on. Even though I was in the mountains, my sinuses came pouring out of my eye sockets. (Sorry that's super gross). And my sciatica was really inflamed when I got back from all the driving (plus spending so much time in fight or flight mode).

I know that anxiety is something I will always have to manage but this recent work trip has made me start thinking about my end game here. I am not sure I can do this part of my job anymore. It is way too taxing on my entire life. That's a scary thought. If I can no longer do this part of my job, what does that mean? Do I need to quit? And if so, what in the world would I do next? Ah! All the things! But that was honestly part of my mantra to get myself through this last string of donor visits. I kept telling myself "this might be the last time I have to do this." That thought alone was amazingly helpful, even if it might not be fully realistic.

I am not planning on doing anything drastic any time soon but this trip did motivate me to perhaps have some more intentional conversations with the powers that be at work. My position is in transition anyway, maybe I can figure out a way to use that for the benefit of my mental health.

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Anxiety is a bitch

I apologize to my mother and grandmother for using choice words in this post. 

That really seems to sum everything up. 

I went to bed last night at 8:45pm. (Yes, I am champion like that). I had great plans of getting 9 hours of sleep Thursday night. I was going to feel awesome on Friday morning. That was the goal anyway. Turns out, I probably fell asleep around midnight due to the major sciatic discomfort in my leg. I eventually got up and took a hot bath, which helped me relax. 

I know, I know. If I am not complaining about my garden, I am complaining about my weird health issues. But this is real life for me right now. 

Recently, I've started to notice that when I am completely relaxed, I have significantly less or even zero nerve pain. I've also noticed that these past 2 weeks I have been in a lot of discomfort. It's constant. And guess what is coming up on Monday? Oh right. My least favorite thing of the year: Traveling to Colorado to make donor visits. 

I think my anxiety causes my stress levels to be abnormally high on such a consistent basis that I don't even realize I am stressed out. (And really, I am not exactly sure what I have to be stressed about. My life is not that hard). High stress is so much my daily norm that I don't even notice how tense I am or how long I stay in "Fight or Flight" mode. 

So last night, during my sleepless hours, I started googling, which I know can be dangerous for many reason (One of them being that sometimes my anxiety makes me into a hypochondriac. Another being that I think it's a common human experience to get on Webmd and be convinced of your untimely death). However I did find this article about how stress can cause pain, including sciatica

Sciatica pain, which is often felt in the legs, is thought to be caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve. Some experts believe the condition most likely results from prolonged stress, and by getting to the root cause, the pain can be reduced or eliminated.  
So that's something. And the more medical things I've tried, which didn't work, the more I think that maybe it's connected with my anxiety. Don't get me wrong, I did see the x-rays of my back. I definitely have a vertebrae that is pinching my nerve, but I am beginning to believe that anxiety/stress is keeping it from healing, even if I go to the Chiropractor 3 times a week, (which I do).

I've also recently gain a little bit of weight and thus clicked on the suggested article from that previous article to this one: Stress Hormones and Weight Gain. One of the things they suggest is to straight up quit your job if it's causing too much stress trauma in your life. Oh geesh. I am not exactly ready to quite my job, but I think this upcoming work trip will be really telling. The last donor trip I took made me physically ill. I am really hoping this trip will not be like that.

Like with every work trip, I am trying my best to make sure I have things in place to be a healthier version of myself. (That way I don't have to spent next week solidly in crisis mode).

Here's what I've planned so far.

1. I am very strategic about where I am staying. Since the region I have to cover is really large, most work trips involve driving some place new every day. This time around, I am driving to different areas around Denver, but will be ending up back at the same spot at the end of the day. I'm really excited about this. I won't have to worry about check in or out times more than 1 time during my entire stay.

2. I cut my trip short by 1 day. Thus I am sticking with the "work trips should only be 3 days long" theory. Anything beyond that becomes hard for me to handle

3. I am staying at an Airbnb. (For those of you who don't know, this means that I am renting someone's entire apartment. Don't worry. They won't be there). This means I have access to a couch, internet and a kitchenette (so I can bring my ice pack and ice my back at the end of the day. I can also keep it stocked with cold water and fruit). I also will have access to a small community pool where I am staying and am hoping to maybe go "lap" swimming while I am there. That might be ambitious, but even if it is there is a park not too far from where I am staying too. Finally, this place isn't too far from a juice place, a yoga studio, Jimmy John's and Panera Bread. What else could I possibly want?

4. Harry Potter Audio Books. They seem to be my biggest source of comfort when I travel. Laugh all you want, I am fine with this.

5. Headspace: I think I've mentioned this app before but it's been awhile. Headspace is a meditation app that helps me with some deep breathing exercises. They had a special to get the extended version of the app for only 99 cents for the next 3 months. So I went ahead and got it and am going to give it a try. I actually started it again last night. My hope is to do this every day, at least for while.

6. Journal: I really need to start journaling more. Writing has always been helpful to my mental well-being. During this trip, I am planning on bringing it along and writing everything down that scares me. I hope this will help with some perspective.

7. Trader Joe's: Ah yes, my favorite. On Wednesday, I have one donor visit and then I am heading home to Kansas. But before I do that, I already found the Trader Joe's that's near my route and will be stopping there as a treat (and so I can pick up some treats, which brings me to the last point...

8. Healthly food, but also coffee: I am planning on avoiding fast food on this trip. My stomach is already upset during these trips because of anxiety. So I am really going to try and pay attention to my fruit and veggie intake (as much as I can). However, if I want to get a grande iced caramel latte on the road. I totally am and I am not going to beat myself up about it.

Alright. That's the plan. We'll see what happens on Monday.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August gardening tips for April

Every year my blog goes in a very specific cycle.

I love gardening, I hate gardening, I love gardening, I hate gardening. 

Rinse. Lather. Repeat. 

It's true though. Mastering the art of gardening in Kansas has not been an easy task. Now after 4 years of gardening in the prairie, I feel as if I am not one step closer to truly understanding how to garden in this space. 

Oh well. There is always next year. And next spring will undoubtedly bring about so much hope for tomatoes that my heart pretty much bursts from excitement. 

Right now? Right now is is August. And in August, I hate gardening. Things are not going well. (Although, Kansas decided to give up a break this weekend and give us a preview of fall. My windows have been open for over 24 hours. It's a miracle). 

It seems as if every week I go into the garden only to completely pull up something because it clearly so sickly nothing will happen. (We also got 2 1/2 inches of rain in a short amount of time on Friday, which is part of there reason why things are going so badly in my garden). My zucchini, melon and eggplant have all been ripped up because of either weird things caused by rain or bugs.  It's sad. And my tomatoes, which were looking so good just a couple of weeks ago still look fine but actually aren't producing like they should. This is probably because of all the rain. And actually, it might be my worst tomato year to date. I've only canned 3 pints and made sauce twice. (I also have plenty for my lunch salads). So really, it's fine. My energy for canning this season has not quite been there. But it is so maddening. I have 7 tomato plants but only the produce of what would be 1 plant. This happens every year. I am not sure what I am doing wrong. Ugh. 

Ironically, the tomato plant that is doing the best is the lucky number 7, which came up on its own, is not in a cage and was never on the soaker hose pipe line. It's doing great! So I guess the lesson here is plant stuff in the ground and do nothing...? That doesn't seem like a smart plan though.

I decided to "bottle up" my garden frustrations from this season into my blog. That way I can try and remember what not to do when spring comes again and I get seduced by flowers and tomato names.  

1. Do not plant cilantro. It's not worth it. Since I don't grow it from seed, it is not cheaper than buying it from the store. It also grows way too fast and never seem to need it before it goes to seed. 

2. Only plant begonias in a hanging basket. You might remember this spring I got sucker punched by begonias. (They are my favorite). But the only ones that did well were the ones in my hanging basket. The wind completely destroyed one and I am not sure what was the other potter's deal.

3. Plant herbs in the flower bed. I have a "flower bed" right next to the garden that ideally will be filled will herbs and perennial flowers. That's the goal anyway. The soil is awful and needs some work. However, I had basil come up there by itself and hope it will keep it up over the years. I also had basil and rosemary in pots on the porch. They did not do very well. 

4. Do not plant squash. This one is going to be hard for you, Anna, but remember, it makes more sense to buy it at the farmer's market than to try to deal with it in the garden. It's not in the stars for you to grow squash in Kansas. Maybe try again in another state. 

5. Plant zinnias in a more sunny spot.  I do have some lovely zinnias this year, but they would be doing so much better if they had a tiny bit more sun. 

6. Ask your landlord to ease up on all the fall/winter/spring tilling. I have the best landlord in the world. He takes really good care of this house and it's property. However, he gets a little too gun-ho when it comes to tilling the gardening in the off season. I mean, I get it, it looks nicer than all the grass and weeds trying to come up. But the more it gets tilled, the more the soil has the opportunity to blow away in the winter. I do not want this. 

These are the things I need to remind myself in April. Hopefully next time around, I'll be less frustrated. One can hope anyway