My experience with the SIBO breath test (spoiler alert: it was not fun)

As much as I try to remain positive, there are times when I simply can’t. Today was one of them. And that’s okay because I get another shot tomorrow.

But let’s back up to yesterday. The test required a full day of dietary restrictions, which were not fun, but thankfully it was only for a day. I lived off eggs, bacon(!), plain chicken with broth with steamed white rice, white bread, lots of water and plain, hot black tea. The no sugar thing was probably the hardest to avoid, but I’m happy to report that it was a success!

That night, I had to fast for 12 hours, which was no biggie for me since I love going to bed early to watch Netflix. {Any other Last Man Standing fans out there?} The test required me to be awake and not exercise for an hour before, so I took a shower, made Mike some coffee and folded laundry. Time flew by!

It was really easy and straightforward. You breathe into a blue plastic bag, put a glass test tube in the needle part (on the side in the pic above) for a couple seconds and slap a label on it with your name, time, date & test you’re taking.

Before taking the first “baseline” sample, I mixed the lactulose solution with 8 ounces of chilled water, set it aside. Took my first baseline sample, then drank the solution. It didn’t taste bad at all. More like a clean, semi sweet chilled tea which was really nice. Then take a sample every 20 minutes until all 10 test tubes are complete. Popped them in a box and shipped them off. It was really easy, but very time consuming especially when all you want is a cup iced coffee and breakfast. Ha!

With all this time on my hands, I was debating between a coconut smoothie or Daiya cheeze pizza after the test. When I set the last timer for 20 minutes, I popped the pizza in the oven. I thought I needed more substance after fasting for over 15 hours. After the pizza, I made an iced Americano. About 90 minutes later I started to feel sick to my stomach. My Functional doctor thinks it was from either the lactulose (most people don’t feel sick) or it could be a really bad case of SIBO. We shall see what the test results say in about a week. But it has definitely not been a day at Disneyland.

If you are considering taking the SIBO test, I hope this post doesn’t discourage you. It’s only 24-30 hours and I think (hope) it’s well worth it. I had a difficult time because I also had a migraine on prep day and the morning of the test. I wanted the cleanest test results possible, so I didn’t take Imitrex while testing. If it wasn’t for that, I believe it would have been easier. Even if side effects are rare, chances are high I will be the one to get them. Ha! So I say give it a shot!

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Thank you for letting me bitch. I never intend for this blog have a “woe is me” vibe and I hope it never comes across that way. My intention is to keep it real. It’s a fine line to walk sometimes…between those two. On one hand I don’t want to pretend things are drippy, sugary sweet, but I also don’t want it to come across as a feel sorry for me either. And please don’t, there are far worse health conditions I could have. I’m thankful for the ones I’m dealing with right now. Even on the toughest days, I remain thankful.

Having said that, chronic health issues are real. They’re raw. They wear you down. They wear your spouse and people close to you down. They chew you up and spit you out on a daily basis. I have always considered myself as strong, tough & stubborn. But lately, I’m just…..tired. I’ll bounce back though!

My hope that my experiences both good & bad can help folks not feel so alone, explore alternative options or fight for their health, that makes it all worth the time spent sharing my experiences.

SIBO Breath Test prep

After being given a list of medical conditions, along with minimal treatment options (5-6 small low fat, low fiber meals, Miralax & Bentyl) I turned to Functional Medicine.

Contrary to what Western medicine tells me, I think there is at least one underlying issue that is causing this daily GI distress. If we’re being real here, I think the IBS diagnosis is just a bullshit excuse for I don’t know what’s wrong with you, here’s a label so you have something.

If I’m coming across angry or frustrated, that’s because I am. But I am also optimistic there are answers out there, I just have to keep looking for them. I’m used to busting through roadblocks in life like the Kool – Aid man anyway.

After meeting with a Functional medicine & acupuncture doctor, we ordered an at home test for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO for short.

There are other options to test for SIBO, but from what I understand the breath test with lactulose solution is considered the gold standard, so that’s the one I choose.

The test requires a very restricted diet the day before and it takes 3 hours to complete the following morning.

The restricted diet starves bacteria in the gut and the lactulose solution taken the morning of the test activates it. I’ll share more about this & my experience in the next post.

I spent the day before (yesterday, 1/4/17) the restricted diet, to prepare some meals for it. I don’t really expect it to be that bad, it’s only one day, but I figured if I made some food ahead of time and keep myself busy the day of, it will fly by. PS will someone please have some pizza for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I steamed some Basmati rice in the pressure cooker. BTW it only takes 5 minutes!

After taking the rice out, I put boneless, skinless chicken breasts with 3 cans of chicken broth and pressure cooked them on high for 20 minutes.

While that was going, I boiled some eggs.

Some meals to choose from:

  • Chicken & rice soup
  • Chicken & rice noodle soup
  • Boiled eggs with S&P
  • Fried egg on white toast
  • BACON!!!!!

Things I will not be partaking in: plain coffee because coffee without non-dairy creamer & sugar is just wrong.

I also have a list of things to do to keep myself busy. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have you ever taken the SIBO test?

How to you keep busy on days like this? 

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.

Tips for dining out with food allergies

I have never really been a fan of eating out. I think mostly because I was sick most of the time, knowing it had something to do with food, but not having a clue as to what the culprits were. Plus I’m a picky eater which doubles as a cheap date. Simple, easy dishes make me very happy. Big, elaborate, sit down meals stress me out. What a weird-o, right!?

Though I don’t love eating out, I do try to live as normal as possible with tons of food allergies. Mike loves going out for a nice meal, it’s convenient when you’re out and about, and we go on road trips for 2 weeks at a time. I’m no professional, but I do know how to navigate almost any menu, communicate efficiently & very nicely with the chef and recruit the server to help.

It can be stressful because you are giving up control over every single ingredient that goes into your body to someone you don’t know. It’s a big leap of faith and trust in a stranger. So try not to piss them off, mmkay!

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Here are some tips I find helpful with ordering meals at restaurants when you have food allergies:

  • Dine out during slower or off times if possible.
  • Recruit your server. Be very nice and clear as to what you are allergic to. I usually lead with I can’t stand being a micromanager and sympathise with them over how inconveniencing my ridiculous allergies are. So far, I haven’t had a horrible experience eating out yet! Just be cool with them and they will likely want to help.
  •  Offer simple swaps & suggestions. For example if we’re at a burger joint, I’ll ask for plain boneless, skinless chicken breast to be cooked in a clean pan & utensils with EVOO, salt & pepper. (Yes, food cooked on the same grill as beef makes me incredible sick even when it’s scrubbed clean)
  • Genuinely thank the chef if you get the opportunity.
  • Be happy with a simple meal. One time I ordered chicken like above, plain steamed white rice & sliced avocado. I’ll never forget how such a simple meal made me so happy. It gave me peace of mind that it wasn’t going to make me feel like death and sadness.

 

  • Go to Vegas. If you needed another reason to vacation in Sin City, here it is! Vegas is hands down the most food allergy friendly city I’ve ever visited. I highly recommend El Segundo Sol <-very accommodating & my favorite & nothing beats Giada De Laurentiis. 
  • Leave a generous tip. Sincerely thank them again at the end of the meal for being so awesome, especially if you plan to return. They will remember you and will likely be happy to accommodate you next time.
  • Eat before dinner parties, offer to bring an (allergy friendly) side at a get together & bring snacks. Chances are you will be able to find something that is safe, but sometimes we’re left with a salad and french fries, which is a total score in my book!

If you have any tips, please leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

Do you like elaborate sit down dinners, or do you prefer a more simple meal?

Bovine aka Beef allergy

For years I’d feel perfectly fine before a meal, but before I was finished eating, I’d start to feel sick to my stomach. Say we had one of my favorite meals, spaghetti. I’d go through all of the ingredients, fruitlessly trying to eliminate possible culprits. Was it the onions? Or garlic? Or gluten in the pasta? Oh maybe it was the wheat? Never did it cross my mind it could be the beef. I’d never heard of anyone being allergic to beef. Have you?

I began to realize food can either be poison or healing.

Fast forward to years later, I was diagnosed with a bovine and milk allergy, along with several intolerances. I remember thinking back and connecting the dots as to why I was so sick a lot of the time. I honestly had no idea.

Growing up beef and milk products were a family staple. Burgers, spaghetti, tri tip (oh gosh how I miss that), tacos. Armed with this knowledge, I started paying more attention to labels. A LOT more! I’m that chick who picks up products at the grocery store and analyses every label. Mike loves it. <-I hope you are sensing my sarcasm.

To this day I am blown away by how prevalent bovine is. It is literally in so many things you wouldn’t think. How do vegans do it? <- That was a serious, honest question. And food labels…oh good grief…they are so convoluted. Why does a bag of chips need to have 20+ ingredients? How in the hell can you take a simple potato, throw a bunch MSG, sodium & questionable man made ingredients on it and call it food?

I’m not knocking chips, they are practically a food group for me. But I do my best to choose brands with fewest, most natural ingredients with the and make sure I recognize all of them.

 

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Back to bovine though…my hope is that this post becomes a resource for folks who have a beef/bovine allergy. Or those who would like to avoid it for whatever reason. Below is a list of some less obvious things {*cough gelatin cough*} I have found to contain beef products. I’ve been researching this for the last year and still come across items today. It’s everywhere and in places I have yet to discover.

Here is are some things I’ve uncovered so far:

  • Gelatin. If the label doesn’t state where the gelatin was derived from, it’s safe to assume it’s from beef.
  • Medicine, both OTC & prescription, vitamins, minerals, supplements, etc that come in a “gel tab,” “capsule” or are labeled as “coated.” This was a huge one for me, back in April I was dealing with an angry gallbladder which caused nausea and a tremendous amount of bloating. I took a couple Phazyme gel tabs and felt even worse. Not a fun way to learn a lesson.
  • Salami & pepperoni. They are traditionally made only with pork, but some brands use beef as a filler.
  • Marshmallows, including store bought rice crispy treats, cereals like Frosted Mini Wheats and brands with marshmallows like Lucky Charms.

  • Gummy & chewy candy. Sour Patch Kids are fine though!
  • Jell-o. Surprisingly Jell-o pudding is bovine free.
  • Altoids, Starburst, Trolli candy. Always read the label, you might be surprised.
  • Some non fat yogurt , cream cheese & sour cream brands.
  • Refried beans, especially the authentic kind served in Mexican restaurants.
  • Deep fryers in restaurants. It’s always safe to ask what kind of oil they use and if they use the same fryer to cook things like chicken fried steak.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings. Another hard lesson learned on my part. They use beef lard in their deep fryers according to my gut and their website. This was one place I thought I was safe and didn’t think to question their oil or cooking methods. You can bet I question every restaurant after that now.
  • Planters dry roasted peanuts.
  • Pop Tarts with frosting.
  • Nail polish remover. Not that I’d drink it, but I recently found this out and was shocked.
  • Turkey, chicken, pork or other meat sausages. Always read the label. I once picked up a Jeannie-O turkey sausage and didn’t realize it came in a beef casing. Thankfully I saw it before we cooked it.

I’ll be sure to update this post as I come across more products.

Is anyone else allergic to beef? Or do you know anyone who is?

If you have food allergies and/or intolerances, what are they? How did you figure it out?

Happy New Year 2017 & my one goal

Happy New Year!! 

I was so ready to kick 2016 to the curb and welcome a fresh, clean start. It was a tough year…Mike had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists at the same time in February. We lost his mother to cancer in March. April I was in the hospital 3 times for a traitor gallbladder.

Things started to turn around in May when we took a road trip for 2 weeks. In June I went back to work for another fantastic season of bartending on the golf course. Then my health started to unravel in the fall. Whew, that was a rough one, but I’m still thankful the the lessons life throws my way and for a fresh start.

I love setting goals at the beginning of a new year, but this year there is only one thing I want to focus on. That is healing.

I don’t expect everything to magically heal or to feel 100% all day errry day, (that would be a dream!) but if I shift my focus on healing daily – like having a fresh green juice or taking Bam for a walk or take some time to stretch or do yoga. All of these little things add up.

I feel a little selfish writing a goal like that, but I also know that if I’m feeling good, it will have a ripple effect for everything else in life.

Speaking of green juice, here is my current favorite mix:

  • Kale
  • 1/2 Cara Cara orange
  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Handful of mint

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Someone asked about Bam the other day and since the little guy was kinda the heart of the blog before, I figured to include a little update about him.

Bam is now 11 years old and over the last year went completely blind. But don’t feel sorry for him because he does not care one bit. In fact, his eye doctor said that we would be more upset about it than him. I can attest that is completely true. Dude just rolls with the punches.

He still has the same lifestyle as before, running on the beach off leash, going for rides in the truck, hiking, doggy day care, etc. In fact the folks at doggy daycare recently said for a blind dog, he sure escapes every time we open the gate. Knucklehead has always had a thing for open doors.

He’s just a bit slower as his other senses have kicked in. Buddy still runs into walls, furniture and everyone’s shins, but he has learned the art of slowing down. If you know the JRT breed, then you know this is quite an accomplishment. Oh and now that he’s old, he has become grumpy. Mostly with me because I’m a pushover, he knows better than to pull that crap with Mike.

I’ll be sure to include adventures with Bam in posts here, but if you’d like to see more of this cool guy, you may check out my Instagram page and/or #bamstagram

May our 2017 be off to a far better start than Mariah Carey’s performance in Times Square last night.

Have you set goals or resolutions for 2017?

Share your tips to heal the mind and/or body.

Do you guys make fresh juice?

My GI story, part II

You may read part I here.

September 2016 – October 2016 In September I started to feel unwell, lots of brain fog off and on. Going to work & daily life were increasingly stressful because some days I felt so sick, but I was determined to live as normal as possible. It progressively got worse as time went on. Then one day a friend said I wonder if there’s something in the water at home that is making you sick? That’s when it dawned on me, it had to be something I ingest every day so I thought about it… it was probiotics. The doc I wrote about yesterday doubled my probiotics from 50 billion a day to 100 billion. I didn’t connect it to that because it took a week or two to start feeling crappy. The good news is, once I cut back I felt a lot better within 2 days. But my troubles with this janky ass GI system were not over. I still felt nauseous, bloated & sick after each meal even with high quality digestive enzymes. I also had a sensation of pressure or fullness under my right rib where the gallbladder used to be every time I ate any kind of fat. I could literally feel whatever it is, expand.

So in early October, I made an appointment with the surgeon who did my gallbladder surgery. He ran some blood tests and referred me to see a gastroenterologist. I made an appointment with a well known GI specialist in the Bay Area, but he couldn’t get me in until mid-December. I worked with him before and knew he was worth the wait so I decided to wait it out.

November 2016- December 2016 I was hanging in there until right after Thanksgiving. My health started to spiral out of control. I could no longer eat a meal without feeling a severe wave of nausea, upper & lower GI pain. I could feel whatever was expanding under my right rib spasm and pain so searing under my sternum that wrapped around my right side, to my upper back, that made the gallbladder pain I had before surgery seem like a walk in the park. There were times I could not move, not even wiggle my toes without increasing the pain. It was so bad, there was no way I could even get out of bed to go to the ER.

In early December I called the gastroenterologist to see if he could get me in sooner. He personally called me and apologized that he could not, but was happy to order tests over the phone. Thankful is a complete understatement.

He put a rush on a shit ton of lab work, our insurance company will surely love. He also prescribed 2 drugs, one of them is possibly the most magical pill ever invented, Zofran. It has enabled me to get some much needed nutrition because at this point, I lost about 10 pounds I couldn’t afford to lose.

We did blood testing for pancreatitis, bile duct blockage, liver enzymes and a bunch of other stuff, abdominal X-rays & an abdominal ultrasound. Everything came back absolutely perfect, which is good, but still so frustrating because there are still no answers.

On 12/16/16 we did an upper endoscopy which revealed a few issues: 

Finally we have some diagnosis, but the treatment is very limited. Prescription drugs that treat these conditions come with a 30% chance of causing terrible diseases like Parkinson’s. So yeah, no thanks. Or in Mike’s words to the doc: “Well we aren’t doing that. I don’t wanna sleep next to shaky shaky”

He thinks I have Sphincter of Oddi, but will not test for it because the only test for it (ERCP) has a 30% chance of causing life long pancreatitis and treatment does not work most of the time.

So that brings us to today. In the Western medicine world there are problems, but no real solutions. His theory as to why I feel so awful, is that my body is just having a hard time adjusting to the gallbladder being removed and IBS. He thinks I will feel better (never cured) eventually, but that could take months to years.

I respectfully disagree with my GI specialists prognosis. I truly believe there is another/or multiple underlying condition(s) that Western medicine doesn’t specialize in. So on 12/23/16 I saw a Functional Medicine doctor who does Acupuncture. She ordered a SIBO breath test kit, a couple more extensive blood tests for wheat/gluten & vitamin/mineral deficiencies and did my first acupuncture session which was so relaxing.

So that brings y’all up to date. I promise most future posts won’t be so serious. I wanted to fill you in on the past. I look forward to cracking lame poop jokes and sharing more of the lifestyle side of things with you soon.

Have you tried acupuncture? I’m curious about your thoughts on it.

Have you worked with a Functional medicine practitioner?

My GI story, part I

My whole life, or at least for as long as I can remember, I have had gut issues. I was that kid who had a stomachache every day and everyone thought I was making it up or didn’t want to go to school. Well part of that is true, I hated school……but I was definitely not making it up.

Symptoms:

  • Nausea (a recent symptom)
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Cramping
  • Upper & lower abdominal pain
  • Brain fog
  • Food sits like a rock in stomach too long
  • Feeling like death and sadness

In 2011 I spent a significant amount of time with GI specialists in Stanford and various other doctors to try and figure out what was going on. The only diagnosis everyone agreed on was IBS.

October of 2015 I began working with the IBS Treatment Center in Santa Monica, CA. It started out promising. They tested for food allergies and intolerances which out of 96 common foods tested, I came back with 2 true allergies (milk and bovine) and 9 intolerances. Another test came back a 1 on a scale of 1-4 (1 being low, 4 high) for Candida in the gut. So the doc put me on a very strict and if I’m being real here, soul crushing diet. I will never do the Candida diet ever again. I’d rather chew rocks into sand.

Cutting all of the offending foods out helped a lot. I thought the milk allergy would be the most difficult to work with, but turns out beef is. Gelatin in particular is in everything…gummy candy, capsules/gel coating on vitamins, supplements & medicine, it’s even nail polish remover, not that I’d drink that but it’s crazy how prevalent it is. It’s really eye opening and a relief to finally be able to look back and connect the dots to why I was so sick all the time. I was beginning to feel like working with the IBS TC was the key to overcoming IBS or at least get me to a point where the daily pain was manageable.

April 2016 everything changed. Mike practically carried me into the ER with severe nausea, upper right abdominal pain that wrapped around to my upper back and radiated to the right shoulder blade. I had a traitor gallbladder that had to be removed. At that point, if they wanted to rip out my appendix, they could have that too.

Surgery went great and I was home recovering when 2 days later I was right back in the ER (on my Birthday, don’t be jealous) with a bad reaction to the pain killers. Then that day ended with being released and my FIL buying a strong laxative. You guys, he didn’t even get me a card to go with it!! So rude, right.

God bless him.<3

Post gallbladder surgery chillin’ with my homie.

May – August 2016 I continued working with the IBS TC to figure out the underlying cause of IBS and helping my body adjust after gallbladder removal. We tried a heavy dose of probiotics, magnesium and added digestive enzymes with every meal. I went rogue and stopped following the soul crushing Candida diet for several reasons.

  •  I wasn’t convinced I had an overgrowth and my doctor couldn’t prove her theory, even with the test results which clearly stated “Yeast, not Candida albicans.” Nothing made sense to me.
  • It wasn’t working. I think anyone who cuts out all sugar (even from natural sources like fruit) will automatically feel better, but it was impossible for me to live a quality life that way.
  •  When I asked my doctor if it’s possible to have a different underlying cause, like SIBO, she said no, but maybe I had a magnesium deficiency. I call bullshit and fired her.

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I want to explain why I lost faith in the IBS TC. Along with the controversy I had with Candida, when I had a follow up with the doc over the phone, she recommended Ox Bile supplements to help aid digestion. Mike & I used a bluetooth speaker so we could all participate in the call and we looked at each other confused as to why she would recommend a bovine product when she diagnosed me with a bovine allergy? We questioned her several times about it and she got a little flustered and said she didn’t have my file up but would review her recommendations with my file after the call and email it to me.

So our insurance company was paying $160 for a 20 minute call and she didn’t even have my file up?? For $8.00 a minute, I would expect her to at least review and have my file up before the call. Now it’s not just about the money, it’s about the lack of sincerity and professionalism on the part of the doctor. I’m hurting, and am desperately looking for answers, but this particular doctor is too busy to open a file while she is on a scheduled call with me. Just come prepared and don’t get flustered or defensive when you’re not ready.

While I had a negative experience, I still believe the IBS TC has the right tools to treat & possibly cure IBS, but they don’t have the right person. The broad strokes were there, but when it came to the fine detail, I didn’t feel confident in her.

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Whew, I didn’t mean to go on a tangent there, but I promise y’all this, I will be 100% real and authentic. I have no filter in real life and I won’t have one here.

I’ll do a part II post that will bring you up to date soon.

Please share your GI story in the comments. I think it would be nice to learn from each other, or if anything know that you are not alone.  

SCB revival

I have decided to blog on the reg again.  Kinda like the revival of Gilmore Girls, but hopefully not as lame. Especially that 25 minute musical I suffered through. And the last 4 words. Okay I’ll stop. Ugh.

I’ve been entertaining the blogging thing again for awhile, so I logged onto WordPress, updated the bazillion themes & plugins. Then clicked on the + New post to write and found myself getting a little more cozy in my chair, turning the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora, and reaching for my iced espresso. Ahhhhhhh it feels so good to be back!

The format and content will be a bit different, although I do plan to share some daily life/Bam adventures like the good ole days. Here is what you can look forward to reading:

  • Healing the gut is going to be my primary focus. It’s something I am struggling the most with these days or…my whole life ha! My hope is to share it all with you. In typical SCB style, it will be real, raw and hopefully give those who can relate a little glimmer of hope. I know this is more of a “niche” style of blogging, but that’s the direction I know in my heart that I want go.

  • Simple, healing foods, drinks & recipes. If you followed SCB back in the day, then you know about my obsession with not cooking. Well, being diagnosed with tons of food allergies forced me to embrace cooking and now I actually enjoy it. Mike bought some fancy pants cookware and a Breville Fast – Slow cooker. <-{LYFE changing} that I am in love with.
  • Vitamins, supplements, herbs, prescription drugs & probiotics I’m trying or using to heal.
  • Functional & Western Medicine. How & why I use both.
  • Testing for gut issues. Soon I will be doing a SIBO breath test. I’ll share my experiences with you.
  • Podcasts, books, websites, social media accounts, etc I find useful.
  • Photography. Y’all know I die over a schweet sunset shot.
  • Hiking, beach & traveling adventures.

I look forward to sharing these and more with you!

Feel free to tell me what you would like to read.

Anyone else struggling with gut issues? 

Road Trip 2016

I have so much I want to share with you guys, but the thing about blogging is it’s hard to sift through my life and figure out what you guys are interested in reading about. Total first world probs, right?

Hopefully you like reading about vacations because that’s the topic we are going with today. If not, you’re gonna have to take it up with Bam.

In May we rented an SUV and took a road trip to places I have never been before. About 3,600 miles worth of new adventures. Mike has seen a lot of these cities from the road, but never got a chance to get out and explore. The major cities we hit up were:

  • Shasta Lake, CA
  • Medford, OR
  • Portland, OR
  • Kennewick, WA
  • Spokane, WA
  • Coeur d’Alene, ID <-we freaking LOVED it here!
  • Boise, ID
  • Twin Falls, ID
  • Salt Lake City, UT <-I have big dreams of going back at Christmas time!
  • Provo, UT
  • Park City, UT
  • Bryce Canyon, UT
  • Las Vegas, NV <- DUH

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Shoshone Falls just outside of Twin Falls, ID. It was in the 40’s, pouring rain and maybe 9 other people there. Freaking awesome! It was all fun and games until Mike slipped in the mud and I had to pee.

Overall we had a great trip! We hit up a Brewery in just about every city, walked along greenways & rivers like locals, stopped into shops, hiked, ate simple & delicious food, saw screensaver worthy countryside, stopped into coffee shops, chatted with locals, explored on foot….we lived!

Though we did run into a couple unplanned snafus. One, we were planning to go to Yellowstone, but it was supposed to snow and we’re from Cali and I’ve heard that white stuff is cold, so yoga pants were not appropriate attire. The other thing was all of the hotels were booked in the park and around it. We don’t book hotels for our road trips, because we end up wherever the wind takes us. We didn’t want to rush through the park for one day, so we decided to skip it, but added a trip to Bryce Canyon instead. Which turned out to be a magnificent idea! Mike promised we’ll go to Yellowstone one day and if there’s one thing about Mike, he is a man of his word. <3

I could go on about the trip, but I’ll share the highlights and pictures.

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Dechutes Brewery, Portland, OR. I loved their grilled chicken, which is marinated in ginger ale & salt. We replicated it at home twice now and it’s a winner. Mike loved their beer as well.

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Coeur d’Alene, ID is our only regret….we should have spent more time there. We both fit right in and within 24 hours we integrated our lives into their community, making friends with the local brewery, talking to the locals and visiting their farmers market. Mike took a flight around the lake which he LOVED. This girl stayed on land to avoid motion sickness. Our time in Coeur d’Alene was a very memorable part of our trip.

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Multnomah Falls, OR was a random stop. I saw it from the freeway, so we stopped. #soworthit

Upper Falls 542 feet, Lower Falls 69 feet.

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Salt Lake City, UT Capitol Building.

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Finally got to meet the beautiful & talented Heather for bagels in Provo!!

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Bryce Canyon, UT. Do I even need to explain this one?? We hiked the Navajo Trail at Sunset Point. It was only 3/4 mile one way, but starts at 8,000 feet elevation. Good thing it goes down, but of course you have to hike back up. Thought I might die. It was the most difficult, mind blowing, beautiful hike I have ever done in my life.

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See those little dots on the bottom right? That’s the trail we hiked.

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The bottom of the trail.

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Driving through Red Rock NP on the way to Bryce Canyon.

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Badwater Basin in Death Valley, CA. 282 feet below sea level.

If you want to find really rad places, I highly recommend using hashtags on Instagram. Sounds kinda weird, but that’s how I found a lot of these wonderful places. I even use hashtags where we live just to see where others are doing.

I really wanted to see and do a lot more, but I was about a month post major surgery, and already pushing it. My energy level is just not where it used to be yet and I still have some rough days. Instead of heading to tour the Lower Antelopes & see the Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ, we opted to sit under palm trees in warm, sunny Vegas for a few days. It was a great life decision!

The only way to travel, is together. There is no one else I’d rather do life with than you cowboy! <3

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What cities or places are on your bucket list?

What was the last new to you city you visited?

Where should we go next?

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Tiny squares of sunshine

My life, as depicted in the tiny squares of Instagram is a lot like how I am if you met me in real life. I choose to focus on the positive, sunny spots, so when tough times come along, (and boy, they do!) it helps to remember the good times. I choose to ignore  the hell I’m going through. As in real life and social media, I also choose to leave much of the bad parts out. Unless you are lucky enough to be in my circle of trust.

I recently went back to work and someone asked where I’d been. I explained that my gallbladder decided to be a traitor, I had surgery and took some time off to recover. He said something like wow, I’m glad you’re alright. It’s nice to have you back. I thanked him and mentioned that I’m only back for a few days, and then I’ll be on vacation. But I look forward to seeing you then…

What he said next caught me off guard: “it must be nice to drive a Porsche and go on vacation all the time” while walking away.

I did something I normally don’t do. I shut up, put my head down and did my job.

I try to be very professional, yet have no problem standing up for myself. I feel very honored to work for a company that trusts my ability to take care of some of the worlds most high profile & successful, as well as everyday folks like myself. Walking up to a CEO of a fortune 500 company, movie star, President or regular people, asking how their day is, and offering them a beverage or snack doesn’t intimidate or make me nervous one bit. To me everybody is a guest, it’s my job to make them feel welcome. And I absolutely love it!

His comment kinda stung and I even surprised myself by choosing not to respond.

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It wasn’t until later I figured out why this comment bothered me so much. It’s my fault he doesn’t understand how awful 2016 has been for us, because I don’t care enough about what he thinks, to explain it.

He has no idea how hard we worked to build a solid foundation for ourselves. He has no idea Mike was off work longer than expected to have surgery on both hands at the same time. Or that a month later, he spent a week beside his mother in the hospital, making some of the toughest decisions no one ever wants to make. He was with her when the cancer took her way too soon, but at that time, she met Jesus..Then we spent another week helping his father cope with the loss, making funeral arrangements & taking care of other family business. He has no idea I was in & out of the hospital 3 times less than 2 weeks after her funeral either.

Why? Because I choose not to share these things. And I am not bitter with is reaction at all now that I took a step back, and looked at it through his perspective.

Mike & I are the kind of folks who take care of us. We choose not to share a lot of our life because we are simply private people. We don’t like anyone feeling sorry for us. Life gets dirty, it unravels faster than we’d like at times, but one thing is true for everyone, that life does not discriminate. Life is just plain hard sometimes. Mike often says to me that the easiest day was yesterday. I hate to admit how true that is sometimes.

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I actually want to thank him for helping me realize something. That is sometimes – dare I say most times we don’t have to justify the choices or decisions we make, or what we to do or say to anyone. So we can’t be upset when they make comments that sting. They only get to see the tiny squares of sunshine I let them see.

Your ignorance about my life is my choice.

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