Archive for October, 2010

I read these books – and wrote their reviews – back when there was still snow on the ground.  Somehow this never got posted.  Better late than never, I say!

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan

I cannot recommend Michael Pollan’s writing–books, newspaper articles, and his website–enough.  He’s absolutely brilliant!  Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma first introduced me to his thought-provoking, yet easy to read, work.  Whereas The Omnivore’s Dilemma took us on a journey through various types of food industry, In Defense of Food is more of an eater’s guide. 

Pollan begins with a simple mantra:

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.” 

From this simple yet profound statement Pollan expands his philosophy into an entire book full of revolutionary food thought.  I normally find non-fiction works difficult to read, but Pollan’s fresh, absorbing writing keeps you glued to his books all the way to the end.

A Three Dog Life: A Memoir by Abigail Thomas

If you thought the timeless marital love depicted in “The Notebook” was the ultimate tear-jerker, then you haven’t read this book.  It’s proof positive that love can conquer ALL and still leave room for happiness to find a way in. 

In her book, Abigail shows us that, while it may be impossible to find meaning in a life-changing disaster, it’s possible to build a new, happy life filled with love and companionship.  At 182 pages, this book is a short, yet deep read.  I highly recommend it!   

TThe Lost Symbol: A Novel by Dan Brown

Typical Dan Brown style, The Lost Symbol will not disappoint if you liked Angels & Demons or The Da Vinci Code.  Brown is obviously a master at creating fast paced thrillers, including plenty of plot twists, that require him to do a massive amount of research.  That said, this wasn’t my favorite Dan Brown book–Deception Point still holds that honor–probably because science will capture my fancy faster than religion any day.  While his other works have represented Christianity and the Catholic Church as institutions highly susceptible to corruption, The Lost Symbol casts religion in a slightly more redemptive light.

The Return & Nightfall by L.J. Smith

No offense to L.J. Smith, but I’m not even sure why I keep reading The Vampire Diaries books.  They’re just not worth it, in my opinion.  That said, if you enjoyed the first books, there is a major plot twist in these that you won’t want to miss.

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The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

Ping is a duckling who craves adventure, but also loves his duck-y family.  This story is about both Ping’s solo adventure down the Yangtze River and his joyful return to his family.  It’s a great story, but the real magic is in the illustrations.

Older Kids:

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

At some time or another, every child or teen thinks about running away from home and making a go of it on their own.  In My Side of the Mountain, Sam does just that.  He tells his parents goodbye, travels from his city home in New York City to a tract of land in the Catskill Mountains, and teaches himself to live off the land.  Sam makes human and animal friends, has fantastic adventures, and begins to grow from a boy to a self-sufficient young man.  This book offers something for everyone – young, old, guy, gal, city slicker, or country bumpkin.

Young Adult:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Here are the facts:

My hubby has never been a reader, much to my dismay. 

I picked The Hunger Games up from the library, then hubby stole it from me and read it cover to cover in a day.

This is all the motivation you should need to read it!  (I loved it, too.)


The Art of Racing in the Rain: a Novel by Garth Stein

The best book–by far–that I’ve read in the past 6 months.  Another book told from the perspective of the dog, but this one is completely different than its peers.  It was much deeper than I expected, and has something to teach everyone.  Who knew doggies had such profound thoughts?  I was very excited to hear it’s being made into a movie (due out in 2012).

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Winter/Spring/Summer Recap

Besides everything horse related, I…

  • Took in a foundling.  Searched for his people.  Taught him doggie manners.  Fell in love with him.  Named him ‘Dobby’ (after the house elf from Harry Potter–they have the same ears).  Realized that his people where losers and weren’t looking for him.  Got him neutered and vaccinated.  Found him the best home a doggie could ask for, where he is now named ‘Leo’, grown up, and very well-loved.
  • Had the Migraine From Hell.  Lasted three weeks straight.  Couldn’t kick it with anything.  Tried migraine meds, tried steroids, tried injectable meds that HURT.  Nothing worked.
  • After the Migraine From Hell, decided to go back on a migraine preventative.  Dr. suggested Pamelor at twice the dose I was on before (50 mg/day instead of 25 mg/day).  Migraines reduced to 2-3 times/month instead of 2-3 days/week. 
  • Decided to try neurologist’s recommendation to take prescription strength Aleve for the 2 days before my period and 3 days during that I’m most likely to develop a hormone-induced migraine.  Migraines further reduced to 1-2 times/month.  YAY!  Very, very happy.
  • Got PT summer job drug testing at USEF recognized horse shows.  Horse show fun+great people+good $$=best 2nd job ever.
  • Went to Gatlinburg, TN with hubby for 3 year anniversary.  My first trip there.  Loved it.  Hiked up crazy big mountain to see waterfall.  Beautiful.  Was sore for days.

The waterfall was almost worth the hike!

  • Went to midnight showing of Eclipse.  It was lots of awesomeness and we were on TV.
  • Turned 27.  Not happy to be older, but starting to care less and less.
  • Visited Terra and Andrew in Richmond, VA.  Toured the city, ate great food, drank the best margaritas ever, caught up with friends.  It was wonderful!
  • Vacationed on Bald Head Island, NC again.  Took less clothes and more alcohol.  Proved that I’m happy just lying on the beach all day for the week.  Saw sting ray, sea turtle nests, sea hare, cool fishies.  Swam with wild dolphins=truly amazing!

Sea Hare

  • Helped coordinate 1st ever Hess Family Mini Vacation.  Most of the fam made it to Kelley’s Island, OH on Lake Erie.  Had a great long weekend.  Very happy to spend time with everyone, especially grandparents.  Everyone had fun–success!

Kelley's Island on Lake Erie

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I’ve thought long and hard about this post and whether or not to write it.  While this might prove valuable to share with other women–like my migraines–it’s a subject that is embarrassing to me.  I mean, really, who wants to talk about pee-pee problems?

I’ve never had a particularly competent bladder, but since last spring my bladder and I have had some serious issues with each other.  Urinary frequency and urgency became every day hassles and I felt like I was always holding, even if I’d just left the bathroom.  The location of the nearest bathroom became my constant focus–when I was driving, at work, at the mall, everywhere.  My worst nightmare was entering a public restroom and finding a line.  And yes, there were a couple catastrophic events involving long car rides and poorly spaced gas stations.

At first, I thought this was because I had been on steroids twice this spring–once in a failed attempt to break a several-week-long migraine cycle, and then for my second sinus infection of the season.  However, as spring stretched into summer my issues only got worse and my hopes that this would fix itself began to fade.

The vacation we had been looking forward to all year became a giant source of stress for me due to my bladder issues.  First the 12 hours in the car–miserable and frustrating for both hubby and myself–and then the time spent in unfamiliar territory which may or may not have easy to find bathroom facilities.  All I wanted was to enjoy our vacation, yet I was constantly worrying about my bathroom dilemma. 

I don’t know why it took me so long (to be honest, I do–I was embarrassed), but I finally decided it was time to do something about my bladder issues after we got home from vacation. 

To start with, I called my OB/GYN’s office, hoping that it might just be an ongoing mild bladder infection.  I didn’t really have any other symptoms, but this seemed like the most logical place to start.  My Dr’s office thought so, too, and had me come in to supply a urine sample.  However, when my urinalysis came back clean (“really beautiful pee” they told me!), they referred me to a urologist. 

OK, so I kinda flipped out a little about that.  Here I am, an otherwise healthy 27-year-old woman, and aren’t urologists just for, like, old men with prostate issues?!  I now know that’s not accurate, but I felt a little odd calling to make my appointment.  I felt even more uncomfortable when I walked into their waiting room and realized I was by far the youngest patient there.  And then I was pretty much mortified when my urologist walked into the exam room and introduced himself to me; I wasn’t expecting him to be relatively young and good-looking!

I learned a couple of important things at the urologist’s:

  • My bladder was completely emptying when I urinated.  (Thus, my urge to urinate, even immediately after leaving the bathroom, wasn’t due to there still being urine in my bladder.)
  • Since I don’t have a history of frequent bladder infections, cystitis (bladder inflammation) was pretty much ruled out.
  • Lack of additional neurological symptoms  ruled out a neurological cause.  (Those with MS and other neurological conditions often suffer from bladder issues.)  NOTE: I plan on touching on this with my neurologist at my next appointment.  I’ve read that there seems to be a link between overactive bladder and certain conditions such as depression, fibromyalgia, anxiety, ADHD, and IBS.  Since migraines are also linked with several of these conditions, I’m curious if there is also a link between migraines and overactive bladder issues.
  • Since I wasn’t having leakage issues, weak pelvic floor muscles was ruled out as a possible component.
  • It’s often impossible to determine the cause of overactive bladder issues.
  • Caffeine, carbonated beverages, and acid foods/drinks can often increase overactive bladder symptoms.
  • Many younger women (and men) in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s experience bladder control issues.

So, I was diagnosed with an overactive bladder, which basically means that my bladder is getting its messages mixed up.  It’s telling my brain “Gotta go–now!” when my bladder isn’t actually full.  This message reaches the brain, which then tells the bladder muscle to contract.  (Basically, the bladder is one big, smooth muscle and when it contracts urine is forced out.) 

My urologist recommended trying an overactive bladder medication, Vesicare, for several months to “reset” my bladder-brain messages, then wean off the medication and hope the problem is solved.  I was disappointed that there weren’t really any other treatment options–besides watching my soda consumption, which I already do–but I’m a believer in ‘better living through chemistry’ when it’s necessary.  I’ve been taking the Vesicare for a month, and low and behold, things with my bladder are gradually getting better.  Since the Dr. said it usually takes a few months to see a marked improvement, I’m pretty happy.  Here’s to having the bladder of a camel in 6 months!

Perhaps my story will motivate other women who are dealing with bladder issues to seek assistance.  If I learned anything, it’s that I shouldn’t have waited so long to do something about it.

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Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”  ~Charles W. Eliot

Most people only have to know me for a short period of time before they learn that I’m sort of obsessed with books.  I love books.  I love reading.  I love book stores.  But–most of all–I LOVE public libraries.  See, buying books takes money.  Buying books the way I read them takes LOTS of money.  I am poor.  Thus, I let my library buy the books…and then I get to read them…for free (as long as I manage to return them on time!). 

For as long as I can remember, my mother chaperoned regular trips to our local public library.  There was much anticipation and excitement on library day, and the four of us probably ran amuck in the library quite often.  My poor, run ragged, genius mother cultivated a passion for reading in all four of us kids.  And then she proceeded to spend exactly 45% of her precious time extracting our noses from books in order to participate in some of life’s less important activities, such as meals, school, and chores.

A coworker who also enjoys reading mentioned to me the other day that she has trouble coming up with books she wants to read.  She said she gets a bit overwhelmed when she walks in the library, because she’s not sure how or where to find a book that she will enjoy.  And I realized that there are probably lots of readers with the same problem.

First, what is it that makes a book great?  Personally, I like the following definition:

You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.”  ~Paul Sweeney

This is going to sound a little Facebook-esq, but here are my Thursday Book Suggestions for your next literary friend…


The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

A childhood classic written by one of my all-time favorite kids authors.

Older Kids:


A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History by Lynne Cherry

Educational, but still fun, this book tells the story of a river through the years.  I read this book over and over growing up and was very sad when my copy got destroyed during one of our moves.

Young Adult:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

If you liked Twilight, you will likely fall in love with this book, too.  The writing often borders on prose, giving the book an artistic feel all its own.


Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

 Everyone who enjoys books should give Dan Brown’s a try.  His books are heavy on the details, yet action-packed, giving you a fast paced read with substance.


P.S. My library – The Washington Centerville Public Library – has an excellent resource webpage for finding your next favorite book.

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Long ago, I photocopied an article called “50 Quick Stress Cures” from a Ladies Home Journal and stashed it away for future reference.  Today, while de-cluttering my desk, the article resurfaced.  (Funny how these things pop up at just the right time, isn’t it?)

Since I’m a condenser by nature, here’s MY top 10 stress reduction strategies:

1. Talk to someone – “Bottling things up is for brewers.”  Exchange a listening ear with a close friend or significant other.  I’m lucky – my hubby is 100% trustworthy with my gripes and I also have a close friend who is an excellent listener.  Of course, I provide the same for both of them.  (Hubby is also excellent at providing such true–but unhelpful–advice as “Just let it go”, and “No one cares as much as you think they do.  They’ve probably already forgotten about it.”)

2. Choose your food wisely – Always eat breakfast (preferably a healthy one), which I’m a first class grump.  ‘Nuff said.  Eating almonds, fiber, dark chocolate, or a bowl of oatmeal before bed are other easy dietary stress busters.  Finally, add drinking black tea, a glass of red wine, and staying well-hydrated to the list and you should be in good shape.  (I drink green tea because it’s lower in caffeine.)  A note on the red wine: make sure you don’t drink your daily glass right before bedtime; it’s actually a stimulant.

3. Laugh – “[Laughing] decreases stress hormones in the bloodstream [and] relaxes muscles.”  Watching Family Guy usually does it for me.

4. Do something girly for yourself – Whether it’s a haircut/color, buying a new nail or lip color, or just shaving your legs, doing something feminine for yourself is an easy pick-me-up.

5. Play with your pet – I’m lucky, I can tease my kitty, play fetch with the dogs, or groom my horse.  They’re all forms of therapy for me.

6. Stretch – Stretching releases toxins that build up in the body’s soft tissues.  Thus, stretching=instant detox!

7. Have sex – “An orgasm a day keeps stress away.  Well, perhaps you don’t need one every day, but research is clear that the massive endorphin release that happens during orgasm has a calming effect on the body long afterward.  And let’s be frank: partner optional.”  Ditto for exercising in general.

8. Loose yourself in a good book – My #1 favorite form of stress release.  I read for a few minutes (or longer) in bed every night before I turn off the light.  This is my routine, and it tells my mind “OK, time to turn off up there”.  I usually fall asleep just a minute or so after turning off the light.

9. Crank up the music – Loosing yourself in a song is a great stress reliever.  I usually indulge in my car with my sunroof open.

10. Do some handiwork – Whether it’s knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, or sewing, the repetitive motion and mindlessness of these crafts allow your brain some downtime.  Plus, you get to enjoy–or gift away–the results.

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Gone, But Not Forgotten

Last March, I made a decision. 

I’ve wanted to go back to school for a graduate degree since before I graduated with my Bachelor’s.  I had already decided to start that ball rolling in 2010.  Very sadly, the first step is to sell my horses.  For a multitude of reasons that I won’t go into, keeping Pea and Beau during this phase of my life is neither feasible nor fair to them. 

Unless you’re networking with the right people or have built a reputation in the industry, selling a horse is practically a full-time job.  You get your horse clean and spiffy, you take photos and video, you edit said photos and video, you post ads, you post photos and video, you update ads, you post more ads, and you respond to the replies to your ads.  Maybe one out of every 20 of these replies turn into legitimately interested potential buyers, but you have to treat them all like they’re that 1 in 20.

So, my decision in March was to literally throw myself into this 110% and get it done.  No dinners with friends, no blogging, no fun time until my horses were sold.  Did I mention that the horse industry is crap right now?  Selling horses takes time and patience and no small amount of luck.

Beau and I after bringing home 3rd at the 2010 MVH Memorial Day Hunt Pace

Thus, I have been gone from the internets and my blog for many months, but I haven’t forgotten it.  It’s been a busy, full spring and summer with lots of horsey fun.  Once they are gone, I will look back on this time and be happy I spent this time with my horses.

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