Drinking Now: Gruet Blanc de Noirs at Bistro Le Cep

Life has been pretty challenging over the past few months. In order to release some stress and take advantage of the great spring weather in Houston, Allan, SB and I have been doing a once or twice weekly bike rides. We pack SB up in a bike trailer and ride about 15 miles after my work day. After that, we go to dinner. This time we went to Bistro Le Cep.

gruetblancdenoirs1bswebjpg_69Wine – Gruet Blanc de Noirs, Methode Champenoise – half bottle
ProducerGruet Winery
Varietal – 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay
Vintage – Non Vintage
Nose – Bready, yeasty, green apples, pear citrus
Palate – Fine frothy bubbles in the mouth. Bright acidity – my tongue is watering. The palate confirms nose, meaning that it tasted like buttery bread, kinda like a croissant with tart green apple, pears and a hint of sweet citrus.
Finish – Lovely finish – medium in length

What I AteBistro Le Cep is a little French Bistro on Westheimer Ave in Westchase section of Houston. I ate the veal medallions in a mushroom sauce served with caramelized carrots and spaetzle.

Why I chose this wine – I knew that I wanted a wine that would go well with my food and wines with higher acidity do just that.  I did not really like the by-the-glass pour wines on the wine list. I knew the champagne method sparkling wine would deliver the complex flavor and acidity that I liked at a reasonable price.

Reference

Blanc de Noirs – translated as “white from blacks,” blanc de noirs white wine from black grapes. In this case, Pinot Noir is the red grape used to make this

Méthode Champenoise – now formally known as Traditional method outside of the Champagne region of France. When you see this phrase, it means that the wine makers used the same labor intensive process to make this wine as they do to make Champagne.

Part 3: Unexpected Snowbird – Falls, Protecting Yourself and Acute Inpatient Rehab Works!

The New York Times published How to Prevent Falls by Jane E. Brody January 8, 2018. The article served as a PSA about preventing falls and protecting against serious injury if you do find yourself in a sudden descent from an upright position. The article talked about the uptick of fall injuries during the winter months when surfaces become slippery with ice because of falling temperatures associated with winter. They also talked about slipping in the bath and tripping over clutter.

The article also reviewed the right way to fall. When falling forward, try to twist as you go down to land on your side then roll over to your back. If you are falling backward, tuck your chin to your chest to avoid hitting your head and keep your arms in front of you, to lessen the backward impact. These lessons can help but what if you didn’t know that event was happening?

Coming Back to Consciousness

Dad’s fall was due to Orthostatic Hypotension which resulted in subdural hematoma. In other words, his blood pressure dropped and he fell. When he hit head on the pavement, the impact triggered bleeding in the brain aka, a stroke.

Orthostatic Hypotension itself causes dizziness, confusion and in extreme cases, passing out. This could explain why Dad had no recollection of the fall. He says he doesn’t remember even walking out of the restaurant minutes before.

The subsequent trauma can lead to brain damage and even death. Dad was very lucky that Mom was with him and ensured that he received immediate care. I have a cousin whose in-law had a similar accident earlier in the year. He fell on a busy street. However no one was with him. Minutes passed before people noticed that he was not conscious. Unfortunately his brain was irreparably damaged.

In total, Dad stayed in the hospital for 34 days. He didn’t fully wake up until December 25. He did not begin to remember people until 3 weeks in.

Dad entered the hospital on December 7. About a week into the stay, one of the attendants informed Mom that Dad was supposed to be released from the hospital on December 19 into a skilled nursing facility, and that she needed to find one.  Mom started researching options for facilities near her home and work. The literature for each facility looked great but what skilled nursing could provide did not seem to be enough. The information about the services varied. Mom had images of Dad laying unresponsive in a home. She supposed she would visit him before and after work. With just the weekend to research and the target discharge date a few days away, Mom asked for something more. The attending case worker that day said, “well this is normal for medicare patients.”

Mom was incensed. Yes, Dad was 80 but she carried him on her insurance. Did the case worker even look at the file?

Dad’s main doctor, noting Mom’s distress during one of his visits, consulted with her. He would consider Dad for Acute Inpatient Rehab in the hospital if Mom had visual proof that Dad did not have a pre-existing neurological condition like Parkinsons before the fall.

Luckily, mom had a video on her phone of dad dancing to calypso music at a cousin’s birthday in Trinidad just 3 weeks before the accident. The very next day, the doctor signed off on Acute Inpatient Rehab. He said he only sent people onto this program who were expected to make a full recovery.

By the end of the week, Dad was on the Acute Rehab floor. Here he would relearn everything – to sit up, to feed himself – everything to become independent again. But first, he would have to wake up.

The therapist came daily to work with him, to try feed him, get him to move. After 2 full days of therapy, Mom snapped. Her patience gone, she railed at the form on the bed. “You were accepted into this program. You need to work to get better. You need to eat and gain strength or I’m going to leave you in a nursing home!”

The very next day, on December  25, Dad became responsive thus starting the gym regimen. It was Christmas Day so Mom played Parang – folk music from Trinidad. On the 27th he started to recognize people. On January 9, the day of his release date, Dad’s doctor made a video of him dancing. Ok it was more like swaying his hips and shuffling feet. Dad was an inspiration for other patients entering the rehab wing.

Conclusion and Learning

After 18 days in Acute rehab, Dad was released to go home to follow up with a regimen of occupational, speech and physical therapy. More details to come on that in future posts.

Orthostatic Hypotension is not limited to older people. It can affect people at any age. It can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling faint or even passing out. If you routinely feel these symptoms when rising from a seated or lying position, you may choose to consult your doctor or try ways to combat low blood pressure.

Some ways to naturally combat low blood pressure and stabilizing yourself before you fall include:

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently to combat the dipping in pressure that happen after larger meals.
  • Stay hydrated. This is increasingly important as people age. As we age, the body loses the ability to tell that it is thirty. This was one of Dad’s issues. A few months before the fall, his primary care doctor had told him that he needed to drink more water.
  • Stand up slowly from a seated or lying position. Instead of just getting up and going, if you feel lightheaded make sure that you stabilize yourself before you move into open space.
  • Before you get up, pump or flex the calves to get blood circulating upwards. Flexing your feet helps fight gravity and circulate your blood back up the heart and head.

In addition to learning more about the perils of low blood pressure, I also learned about nursing and rehab facilities this winter.

I was most familiar with the Skilled Nursing Facility. Growing up as a piano student, I would routinely go to nursing homes to play for residents. There were patients of varying abilities, assisted by a nursing staff.

What is acute inpatient rehab? The goal of acute inpatient rehab is to help people regain the basic skills required for independence and self-sufficiency before they’re discharged from the hospital and re-enter community living.

There wasn’t one specific place to learn about rehab versus skilled nursing. The best comparison I found was on the Main Line Health website for Bryn Mawr Rehab. The linked site is marketing for their rehab but the service is similar to the care that Dad received. However, I really liked the comparison chart.

I am not a doctor and I offer no medical advice. These are just my own experiences within this serious situation. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, please be aware and take precautions for your future.

I Bought Wine Without Trying It – And It Was Awesome!

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See, after he opened his first bubbly with a saber

One of my good friends, See Wee, Is getting married in Singapore. We met while Allan and I had our wine shop, For Love of Wine. He discovered our wine classes and began to come by in his free time to hang out, taste wine, learn from representatives, and in time, teach about wine. When the holiday crush happened, he would even sell wine, just for the sheer joy of talking about it and sharing his passion.

In addition to his upcoming summer nuptials, it is his birthday today. To celebrate all the things, he and his bride just completed an 11 day road trip of Napa and Sonoma, planned by a sommelier friend. He invited us to come along. Alas, between the costs of living in two places unexpectedly, we could not afford to join him for either event.

I decided to send a surprise gift instead. I requested that he send me his itinerary for the road trip under the guise  that I would experience the wine and food vicariously through him.

I researched all of the wineries and decided to send a red and a white wine from Hourglass Winery in Calistoga, Napa Valley. The Owners came together over music.  The winemaker was from Cornell in Ithaca, NY and I am homesick.

The wines I chose and why I chose them

White Wine – 2017 Hourglass Estate Sauvignon Blanc

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Hiking in the spring

California Sauvignon Blancs always remind me of late spring in Upstate New York. The winters in the Catskills where I live feel so long. In April, when most of the threat of snow is gone, it rains. With the rain, coupled with the thawing ground, there is mud everywhere.

Come May, one starts to smell hints of bud break in the trees before they leaf and flower. Maples, oaks, tree blossoms of apple, peach, and lilac begin to perfume the air. The mountain air is still sharp and cool, but the aromas hint at the warm days of blossoms and ripening fruit to come.

My favorite way to enjoy these California Sauvignon Blancs is after hiking by the creek or at the lake. My best friend Tsa and I hang out with my daughter, the dogs and a picnic. Though the days are still cool, everything hints to the  promises of summer. For me, the lush mouth feel of the fume blanc, the weight from oak aging, balanced with the bright acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc and the note of ripe peaches is another hint of the summer to come. For me, drinking this wine is this time of the year, but in a glass.

2017 Hourglass Estate Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Calistoga, Napa Valley
Varietals: 91% Sauvignon Blanc, 9% Semillon
Treatment: Stainless Steel Tanks (40%), seasoned oak barrels (45%), new French oak (15%)

Tasting Note (paraphrased from the website): Primary aromas of lemon and lime zest, orange blossom and Granny Smith apples are followed on the palate with a layered blend of limeade, cut hay, white peach, pineapple and vanilla bean, wet stone minerality. The mid palate is a balance of creaminess and crisp vibrancy.

 

Red Wine – 2015 Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

One day, after doing a particularly heavy day of tasting, See Wee and I reviewed our notes. Now, for the record, when I am tasting wine, I am very academic about the whole thing in order to get the most unbiased thoughts of a wine. Only after I have tasted everything and evaluated each wine equally do I  actually think, “I like this” or “I don’t like this.”

After this day, reading through my notes, my friend, a scientist by training, said to me,

“Kristen, you like your reds young, not too young, but right before they are ready to drink or at peak.”

As wines age, the aromas we perceive will change. The tannins will soften and create a smooth feel in the mouth. Brighter berry flavors will morph to riper and more dried fruit flavors. The herb or greener qualities may change to more muted earth tones. Imagine eating the fruit off of a cherry tree at the start of the harvest and again at the end of the harvest. Flavors in a bottle change in a similar way.

I was thinking about our particular exchange while stuck in Houston traffic, imagining the beautiful wine that I selected. I realized that this preference could be likened to the anticipation of sex. Perhaps the anticipation of great sex is better than the reality of not quite satisfying sex. Unless the sex you are always getting is amazing, explosive, out-of-this-world, your partner has you crying for mercy again and again, I gather for many, it’s like the analogy I heard in college.  Sex is like pizza. Sometimes it’s really great, sometimes it sucks, but you always eat the pizza.

2015 Blueline Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Calistoga, Napa Valley
Varietals:  86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot
Treatment: 21 months in 100% new French oak Bordeaux barrels

Tasting Note (truncated from the website): Opulence and richness are the hallmarks of 2015 vintage, and the Blueline Cabernet Sauvignon demonstrates this in spades. The aromatics are a mingling of dense fruit scents, with cassis and blackberry bramble, a hint of barrel toast and crushed graphite that echo on the palate. The mouth feel is lushly textured, with a bright nervy minerality in the back mid-palate, a characteristic that defines our Blueline Estate wines. The tannins are sleek with a wide palate impression, and the wine has a long, arching finish.

Part 2 – Unexpected Snowbird – Bleak House

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Dad and me on my 21st birthday

It was New Years and nothing was as it was supposed to be. SB and I recovered from the flu that we caught around Christmas but Allan was still sick. The flu that started with SB the week before, hit him and wouldn’t let go. Allan would go onto having fevers and chills for the next seven weeks.

Mom and Dad’s house was usually festive, bordering on garish, during the Christmas season. They used loads of shiny Mardi Gras beads as garlands around the tree. The multiple crèche that were usually strewn with colorful blinking lights that played carols, sat unadorned. However, all the decorations were still in brown boxes that lined the upstairs hallway. Dad pulled everything from storage days before the fall, but Mom would not move forward without him.

On New Year’s Eve, Allan raced from Clarksville, TN, hoping for a happy reunion. He was determined to spend the new year with SB and me.

However he was so ravaged from the flu he had no appetite for the meal I cooked and no interest in popping open the champagne. He fell asleep about an hour before the year turned. Then awoke about 15 minutes into the year very sad that he missed it.

Though it was no matter because I was a mess. I rang in the New Year with my best friend in New York by phone an hour before. I was terribly homesick and I was preoccupied with why I had not seen Dad as yet, among other things.

And when I finally got to visit Dad on New Year’s Day? Dad wasn’t happy to see me. He wasn’t unhappy to see me.

The First Visit

On Monday, New Year’s Day, Mom asked for the umpteenth time, “Do you want to see daddy?” To which I said as lightly as I could, “Of course – I’ve traveled all this way, haven’t I?”

Mom instructed us to come to the hospital in the afternoon. Dad was scheduled to be finished with his rehab sessions. He was in acute rehab for most of the day.

Allan being ill, did not want to potentially spread his illness to Dad who, at 80, was already at risk for infection.

I left Allan at the bookstore while SB and I went to the hospital.

After leaving the car with the valet at CHI St. Luke, I took the elevators to the 17th floor. The doors slid open and Mom met us with a box of masks in hand.

“You have to wear this!” She was aggressive as she thrust a mask in my hand and tried to put on one SB. SB was scared – she had never seen mom with as mask on. She squirmed and cried.

Dad’s room faced east. It was 4 PM. The sun was setting and the city lights were coming up. The darkening twilight blue sky and the twinkling lights might have been magical were it not for the fluorescent lights humming at full force.

SB still refused the mask and I could sense mom’s frustration. I know Mom just wanted to keep Dad healthy and on the road to recovery but SB was scared. Gone was the friendly grandma face from FaceTime. All SB saw was worried eyes on top of a mask. Mom told me earlier about the family room, so I suggested that she take SB there.

I walked into the room.

“Hi Dad! I’m here,” I said as cheerfully as I could giving him a kiss and a hug while trying not to jostle tubes and needles.

I kept thinking, Smile with the eyes and people can hear a smile in your voice.


Mom had said before that Dad did not like the hospital food. However she didn’t prepare me for the sight of him. Dad had a gray pallor. His complexion was ashen. He was too skinny. His weight was written on the board – 114 lbs. I hadn’t been 114 since I was 12 years old.

There was a line of hand held urinals marshalled on a nearby counter. A portable toilet was at the foot of the bed. The toilet was attached to a walker – like the one we got for my Grandma when she lost mobility at age 91 a few months before she died.

I purposefully picked the closest seat to him that I could – as if to tell him, or myself, your frailty doesn’t bother me.


I tried to carry on a conversation, but it was hard. Dad wasn’t conversant.

After telling him about recent travels, work and some current events, we sat silently letting the TV fill the space. MSNBC was on, but Dad provided none of his usual side commentary. He looked at the screen as if it were an alien.

About 30 minutes later, Mom and SB came back. SB ran to me, hid in my side and cried. Mom was insisting on the mask now that she was back in the room. I argued, that she was fine and under my scarf which already had a host of other cooties on it. I moved away and let her rest buried under the dark teal colored cloth on my lap.

Soon, the orderly came with dinner. Dad became animated for the first time during my visit. He was grumpy. Mom lifted the lid off the plate. Dry chicken, limp veggies, iceberg lettuce with a cherry tomato, some grated carrots and a Sysco food service light Italian dressing packet. To drink, there was a cup of watered iced tea. The highlight of the tray was the individual packet of Mrs. Dash. Mom unpacked a can of Glucerna from the cabinet with her personal belongings. Dad accepted help to sit up and move his legs over the side of the bed. He fed himself about half of the chicken, dusted w/ Mrs. Dash with a chaser of Glucerna. No wonder he was only 114 lbs.

After the visit

I left dad’s room with mixed feelings. I was glad he was ok. I was upset that he was more engaged by the bad food. I was hurt that he was more interested in SB wearing the mask than actually talking to her.

I picked Allan up from the bookstore. He was hangry. I was bewildered. SB was the only happy one, relieved to be away from the room with the masks.

It was solidly rush hour in Houston. There was no way to get back to the other side of town quickly. So we drove to the only other place we knew – The Mall.


Retrospect

That night I lost myself in a bit of retail therapy. I bought a yoga mat and some workout clothes. I don’t know what I had been thinking when I left New York. I had packed for Christmas at Mom and Dad’s – going out to their favorite places, visiting their friends and going to mass. I wasn’t packed for sitting around an empty house all day.

When Mom asked me to come for a few weeks and that Dad would really appreciate it, would he really? This first visit made me doubt it.

Part 1: Unexpected Snow Bird – Steak and Sleep

It seems that around this time of year I’m writing my reflections about recent winter travels. Despite my intentions to stay put winter of 2017/18, I find myself writing about this past winter’s travels – Houston TX.

Tumultuous 2017 was filled tremendous highs and lows. The first 6 months were spent either living in NYC or traveling back and forth for shorter stays.

 

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Nowhere to go

Somewhere in early July, Allan and I independently, came to the conclusion that we should see my dad, sooner rather than later. His birthday was in August. So, with thoughts of him in mind, we drove to Clarksville, TN for one week and then stayed in Houston for two. We capped that trip with 5 days trapped inside of a tense house during hurricane Harvey. My parent’s house was fine, but every road that surrounded the house was closed due to flooding.

 

By the time we were back home in early September, the last thing I wanted to do was leave beautiful Upstate New York. We talked about it and decided to stay put. Besides, hadn’t Northeast winters of late have been mild?

Early during my work day on December 7, I filled a vacant 15 minutes with a call to my parents. It was about 10:30 AM in NY so 9:30 in Houston. They had gone to early mass. Then they took their breakfast at Panera. When I called, they were just finishing up and getting ready to leave. After I said goodbye, I hopped onto my first interview of the day. While on video call with a candidate in India, my phone rang. My candidate asked if I had to get the call. Seeing the caller ID and knowing that my mom does often butt dial, I said, “no, I’ll just call my mom back – I only just talked to her”. Typically, if she really meant to dial, she would leave a message or call right back – neither of which she did.

When my interview finished, I called her back. Mom answered immediately. She was crisp and to the point: Dad fell and hit his head. He was unconscious. They are at the emergency room doing tests. Here is the doctor. I’ll call you later.

After that call, my concentration was shot. Mom could give me no more information. There was nothing for me to do but just perform my interviews. I performed some, but while I recorded all of the answers, I was just going through the motions. I started just cleaning my office waiting for mom’s next call.

They transferred dad to CHI Saint Luke’s hospital downtown. After much back and forth with mom, and several tests it seems that his fall was caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. He fell, hit his head and then had a subsequent brain hemorrhage or stroke. Would they drain the blood? Would they just wait for the swelling to go down? She didn’t know. All we could do was sit and wait.

I started looking for tickets. I told mom I could leave that night or the next morning. I would leave my daughter, SB for a short stay or bring her if I traveled for the week. The first couple days mom would say, “maybe, let me see the progress.” Then a couple days in she said in a firm, positive voice, “no. SB has school, you have work.”

On day three Mom said brightly, “Dad woke up!” Since Dad’s phone had WhatsApp, I insisted on doing daily video calls. She spoke calmly about her day. She introduced me by video to the nurses. She told me what was delivered from the hospital kitchen and the tests the doctors were running. She was always in that room. “See, there’s K!” She would say to what looked like dad’s sleeping form on the bed. Sometimes she would bring the phone closer to him. But more often than not, when I asked to speak to dad “No, he’s just resting,” She would say. He was there on the screen. Never too close.

Mom was positive and controlled. I imagine this is what she is like as an auditor. It was a side I hadn’t really seen before.

We agreed to come after Christmas. SB should finish her semester of preschool and bounce class. We could celebrate Christmas with our friends and family. Then SB and I would fly to Houston, Allan would drive with Dolce, for an anticipated 3 week stay.

As our departure date got closer, I had an inkling that things were much more difficult than what Mom made them seem. One time when I video called, I got her when she was down in the hospital basement cafeteria. I asked her, “how are you really?” I caught a glimpse of the tiredness, pain, uncertainty, overwhelmed with what she was going through. But she smiled said announced, “there is Beltran, our friend here to visit dad!” The screen went blank.

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SB, Me and our Airplane Puke Bag Puppet

SB and I arrived in Houston on Dec 29. Mom was never the biggest fan of driving and Dad loved driving. It was an easy arrangement. Dad chauffeured her for most of her long drives – like the airport. Mom asked her neighbor drive her to pick me up though I offered multiple times to get a car myself and meet her at home. On the way home, we went out for dinner. Mom encourage me to order a lot for myself and SB.  We talked about Dad. Mom was very positive about his progress. She also talked about going back to the hospital that night. The neighbor told her she should stay with me. That was when Mom admitted she had not eaten or slept in the house since the accident. It had been 22 days.

Back at the house, I opened the fridge to put away our copious leftovers. The fridge reminded me of college: old food, energy drinks, some condiments and hard boiled eggs. In the pantry there was Nissin Cup-o-soups and rice.

The next morning, I went grocery shopping. I bought SB’s favorite snacks. I stocked up on fruits and veggies. I bought meat to make steaks, meatballs and roasted chicken. I decided I would be there to cook for her so she wouldn’t have to eat hospital food.

The first meal I decided to make was steak. Mom’s favorite uncle used to make her steak and salad whenever he would visit the country. She had good memories of that – so that’s what I will make.

I made the small filet with roasted veggies and rice for lunch. Mom ate half of what I gave her. “It was delicious,” she said. But, her stomach shrunk because she had eaten so little over the past few weeks. I packed a to go container so she could have some for dinner when she went back to the hospital to see dad. It was the first time weeks that she ate multiple meals in one day.

When Mom went back to the hospital that night, she did not want me to go with her. She wanted the doctor to sign off on my visit as SB and I recently had the flu.

It was New Year’s Eve and the end of my second full day in Houston I was bummed that I still hadn’t seen dad. Allan was still on the road from his overnight in Clarksville, TN. But, the fridge was looking a bit better, more than just energy drinks and rotten food from our stay over the summer. Mom slept a solid 5 hours the night before. She slept in a bed instead of napping in a chair. She had quiet instead of the nurses making their rounds and whizzing and beeping of unfamiliar machines. Maybe I was doing some good around here. 

Yoga 101

If you know me, you know I am currently training to become a yoga teacher!  If you don’t know me… Hi!  I am Heather, thank you for reading!

Now that I am super active in the yoga community the #1 question I get is “I want to do yoga, where do I start?”  Most people I speak to are nervous about going to a class, don’t know anything about yoga, don’t know what gear they need, or even what kind of clothes to wear.

I am too nervous to go to class, what are my options?!

If you want to learn some of the asanas or flows before you go to a class, there are options!  I really love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube.  She is very approachable, and her 30 day challenges are awesome.  You can find her page here.  If you don’t connect with her, that’s ok!  YouTube or Do You Yoga have a ton of teachers and classes.  Just find someone you connect with.  I like that she is quirky and fun, but maybe you want someone that is more peaceful or zen.  You can shop around for teachers, just find someone you like!  There are many different teachers and many different styles of teaching and voices.  It’s almost like dating!  You have to like the person to be able to really get into the practice and have your moving meditation.

I am going to my first class, what should I expect?

I want to say I LOVE seeing new students in class.  There is nothing to be afraid of!  I recommend letting your instructor know that this is your first class.  They will be excited to see you there –I promise!

Don’t be nervous to ask the instructor questions before or after class.  If you didn’t understand a pose, or you are unsure if you are doing it correctly, ask!  That is part of why an instructor is there.  I have been practicing for years and I still often ask the instructor questions after class.

You may not understand everything that happens in the class.  There may be some rituals that may feel unfamiliar to you, and words you have never heard before.  Yoga is a practice, not a perfection.  If you are confused about a pose, take a look around the class.  Maybe you will be able to get some clarification from looking at other students. If you can’t figure it out, don’t worry about it.  Skip it!  Ask the instructor after class!  If there is a ritual that you don’t follow, don’t understand, or don’t feel like doing… skip it!  Ask for clarification, or just try next time if you want.  If you regularly go to class, you will start to understand the structure of the class, and the rituals that are being done.

Yoga is about you, and focusing on your body and breath.  Don’t worry about the namaste or OM if you don’t like it or understand it.  Don’t fret about that confusing or difficult posture.  If you want to sit on the ground, and count your breath the whole time.  That is yoga!  You will build strength in time, you will develop the vocabulary in time.  It’s not a rush to the finish line, it’s a journey that should be enjoyed.

What Studio or form of Yoga should I try?

If you are unsure of what studio to go to, or what kind of classes to take, shop around!  You will find a studio and form of yoga you connect with.

Most studios offer a new student trial.  You can go to the studio and check it out before you even sign up for a class.  Go inside, and ask questions, see if the ambiance is what you are looking for.  If not, don’t feel obligated to go.  Again with the dating, you are dating the instructor AND the studio here.  Make sure you like them .

If you don’t know what type of yoga you may like take a look here and see what resonates with you.  When you find a style you like, Yelp it and find a studio near you that offers that style of class.

There are heated classes, hot classes, and regular temperature classes so check that out when you select a studio.  There are many different opinions on hot yoga practices and I am not trying to sway you in any way.  If you are curious do some research and see what you think.  I just want to give you a heads up so you don’t walk into a 100 degree room your first time and think “uhhhh what?”

What clothes should I wear?

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter, you should just wear something you feel comfortable in!  I would suggest a top you can at least tie in a knot at the bottom (you are upside down a lot,) and high waisted pants (you are bending over.)  You don’t need fancy brands or anything.  I get 99% of my workout gear at Old Navy.

Don’t feel discouraged or distracted by what other yogis wear.  Just wear something that makes you feel good and doesn’t require a lot of fussing or adjusting.

What gear do I need?

Basics: yoga mat, hand towel, water bottle, and possibly mat towel if you’re choosing a hot or heated class.  If you don’t have a mat, sometimes studios offer rentals (but call and ask first!)

You can get a cheap yoga mat from TJ MAXX, Home Goods, Target, or a similar store.  If you are looking for a decent but affordable brand I would suggest Gaiam.

If you are looking to build flexibility you may want to purchase a yoga strap.  I have this one.  If you do buy a strap I would suggest doing some research on how to use it.  Here is a great article to get started.

A block may also be useful to you.  Most studios have blocks to borrow while taking class there.  Feel free to get two and ask the instructor how to use them.  They should cue in the class where a block may be helpful to support your body and help gain access to a pose.

 

 

I hope this article was helpful to you!  If you are interested in doing yoga I would suggest you get out there and do it.  If you have any additional questions.  Please feel free to comment and I will answer them for you!

 

Diabetes and the dog – Our crash course in managing chronic illness

Bringing up Dolce

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Dolce at 6 weeks

My husband’s theory is, “always name your pet the character you wish it to have.” For example, my first pet was an orange tabby named Giuseppe. He was super feisty. Allan named his cat, Hazel, “A nice grandma name.” For the entire time I knew her, Hazel was content to lay on your lap all day.

We wanted our Keeshond puppy to grow up to be sweet and loving. So, we named her Dolce, the Italian word for sweet. In her early years she was definitely playful, sweet and loving. Now, approaching her 9th birthday, we’ve learned that our beloved puppy is diabetic. There is too much sugar in her blood and she is insulin dependent. She is sweet in more ways than we hoped.

Young Life and Early signs

dolce_hiking_days
Dolce during her hiking days

 

The average Keeshond is between 30 to 40 lbs. In her first years, Dolce was always in the mid to high 30s. We would give her extra treats. We didn’t think this was a problem at the time. For her first 5 years, she would go on 3 to 5 mile expeditions with me almost every day.
One hot summer day when she was 5 and a half, I took her on a long run. Halfway home, she stopped, looked at me and sat down and refused to move. I had to call Allan to bring the car. When he opened the door, Dolce perked right up and took a running leap into the back seat. After that day, she refused to go on walks with me again unless it was absolutely necessary. She also steadily began to gain weight.
Dolce was always a food motivated dog. While some puppies respond well to joyful praise during training, Dolce responded best to treats. As her sweet face looked up at you when at the table, it was almost impossible to deny her a nibble of food. One holiday, my mother even baked a whole turkey. When I asked why, pointing out that no one in our family liked turkey she said, “Dolce does.”
A couple years ago, we asked the vet to test her thyroid. It seemed that Dolce had been on a constant diet – only about one cup of food per day, but she wasn’t losing any weight. The blood test confirmed she had underactive thyroid, an endocrine system disorder. We started giving her a thyroid hormone twice a day. Dolce started getting her energy back. She even joined me for some longer walks!
After a while, Allan lessened the dosage based on her constant panting and hunger. Reading on the internet, he felt that she was getting too much. He lessened the dosage without getting her blood and hormones tested again.
Whenever I asked, I was brushed aside given assurances that it was all ok. I did not push the issue. At that time, our daughter, SB was just under a year old. We were both working from home without extra help. I feel guilty now that I did not have the capacity to take the dog myself.

Making excuses – Delaying the inevitable just makes things worse

Over the past year, we saw an increase in panting and hunger, even though she was not getting as much exercise as she had in her younger life. In addition, she began drinking a lot more water.

The excuses we made for all the drinking and panting was that she was hot. In the summer, it was just plain hot. In the winter, the fire was hot. In our defense she is super fluffy and she is often hot.

Why was she hungry all the time? Well, she just likes food. She is food motivated.
At age 5 she stopped walking with me. But at ages 7 and 8 she stopped wanting to go with Allan, her main person. When she did, she would slowly heft herself up and limp out. The excuse there was that she hurt her paws or her nails were long.

Allan takes pride in grooming Dolce. However about a year ago, we did not have time and we took her to a groomer. She was surprised at the dermatitis in Dolce’s skin especially based on the quality of food we gave her.

In hindsight, I realize that all of these things are classic symptoms of diabetes in dogs.

The Diagnosis

Docle_SB
SB and Dolce, 2 months before the diagnosis

About two months ago, we left Dolce with our best friend to take my brother to Manhattan for the weekend. After the second night, she called to say something was definitely wrong. Though her house was a steamy 80 degrees, Dolce was drinking a lot more water than usual. She drank to the point of vomiting. In addition, Dolce was aggressive to the other dogs and to my friend when the water bowl was taken away. Dolce was panting, whining, and would not move from her spot, even to go into an air conditioned room.
When we brought Dolce home that weekend, she seemed normal. Allan said she was fine and she just missed us. This time I did not take his word for it. I called the vet myself to make the appointment.

Aftermath

Blood tests showed that Dolce had high sugar levels in her blood. Further tests of her pee showed that it was leaking into her urine.

When they called with the results, I anticipated what Allan would ask knowing that he is skeptical of medicine and doctors. “Can this be controlled with diet and exercise?” The answer was no. Dogs are different. Once they have diabetes they can’t get rid of it. They need insulin every 12 hours.

The timing of the diagnosis was unfortunate. Two days after the second test, we were leaving for an extended road trip to Tennessee and Texas.

We were supposed to start giving Dolce insulin. The brand on the script cost $380 and our pharmacy did not carry it. They said it would take a week to get the drug.
We kept driving. That night in Western PA we tried a Walmart pharmacy. They had a Novolin. They said it was the same thing that our vet prescribed and it was a fraction of the price. We decided to wait until Monday to call our vet and make sure we could give her the cheaper version.

Once she started taking insulin, we noticed her perk up immediately. Her smile was almost back. Her initial dose was 5 cc.
Sadly Dolce went blind within the week of her diagnosis.
We were able to find a good vet in Texas to do follow up bloodwork on our Dolce. He told us about a dog’s sugar cycle. The blood glucose levels spike at meal time. 6 hours later, should be the low point. In a dog, this should be between 80 to 120.

At 5 cc of insulin, Dolce’s blood glucose was still about 400 mg at the 6 hour mark. We were instructed to stay at the current dose for one week. Then we should increase the dosage by 2 cc, let her adjust and see how her body responds. Currently we are at 9cc of insulin per meal. Dolce’s blood glucose level is now consistently around 90 to 100 at the 6 hour mark.

Regarding her eyes, she cannot see at all. There is a program out of Cornell in Ithaca, NY that can test to see if Dolce would be a good candidate for eye surgery. We are considering it. Dolce is only 9 years old this year and the average lifespan of a Keeshond is between 13 to 15 years. That is still a lot of time.

In Conclusion

Our life has changed dramatically with Dolce’s diagnosis. We now give her shots twice a day.

We can’t be spontaneous anymore. This hampers our travel. We can’t just leave her with anyone. We need to carefully monitor her food. Had I been more forceful, there is a chance that the condition would not have gotten this far.
This episode has inspired me to be more adamant and relentlessly persistent about following up early with chronic conditions.
Does someone in your family have a persistent cough that they swear is just allergies? Get that checked!!
Do you know someone who had elevated blood sugars during pregnancy but now they are fine? Continue to monitor that glucose levels once yearly at minimum.
It is important to establish a baseline for your health and to continue careful monitoring for fluctuations.Know the conditions you have so they do not develop into bigger challenges later in life.