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Adventures

When You Come to the Fork in the Road…

I love the Yogi Berra quote, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” It’s a reminder to me to keep moving forward whether that’s physically, emotionally, or professionally. When I knew I would be passing through Pasadena, I knew I had to stop to see the actual fork in the road.

Fork in the Road, Pasadena, CA

Fork in the Road, Pasadena, CA

This this is freakin’ huge! It’s at Pasadena Ave and St. John Ave. in a residential area. It’s so unassuming that it’s easy to miss it.

If you want to see what weird stuff is in your city or wherever you’re traveling, check out Roadside America.

My trip to Pasadena is part of The Undeniable Tour, which wouldn’t be possible without my awesome sponsors.

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Hostel vs Hotel – The Experiment

I did an experiment during my recent trip to San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit. To save money during The Undeniable Tour which is coming up later this month, I thought I would stay in hostels instead of hotels. I used this weekend trip as a trial run and to compare the hostel experience to a traditional hotel stay. I spent my first night in San Francisco at a hostel near the conference hotel and I spent the second night in the hotel itself. Here’s how the two compared.

My hostel bed.

My hostel bed.

The Hostel
Until recently, I didn’t know there were so many hostels in the U.S. Unlike hotels that have a fancy front entrance, this hostel was a nondescript building that had the hostel’s name on the front door and window. At check-in there was a sign that said we had to show our travel documents (to deter homeless people and others who may try to live there). The clerk handed me my sheets, towel, and the key to my room and reminded me that I had to show my key each time I entered the building.
The Room: Tiny room with two bunk beds, a small sink, and a power strip plugged into the wall. One bed was obviously in use (rumpled bedding, suitcase next to it) and the other beds each had a folded comforter on it.
The Bed: My sheets were clean and soft and the comforter seemed as clean as any hotel’s. The single pillow was flat and made me wonder if there is a life hack for a thicker pillow for my upcoming tour. At the end of my stay, I had to strip my bed and turn in my sheets with my key.
The Bathroom: Divided into three rooms – sink in the dorm room, single toilet down the hall, and the women’s shower room with five shower stalls. The water in the shower was warm but there was so much air pushing it through the shower head that it felt kind of cold by the time it hit me.
The View: None from my room – just four solid walls.
The Price: I paid a deposit of $4-something when I booked the room online and paid the balance of $23 at check-in which included $5 to purchase a towel. I also had to give a $10 key deposit that I got back at check out.
Wi-Fi: Free public Wi-Fi throughout the building.
Roommates: I had one roommate when I arrived – an MBA student. We got another roommate around 1:30 a.m.
Amenities: Free coffee, tea, and cocoa available at all times; make your own pancakes in the morning; communal kitchen; communal lounges on each floor with tables, power strips, and books.

My Hotel Beds

My Hotel Beds

The Hotel
The Room: Two queen size beds, private bathroom, desk, table lamps, TV, and dresser.
The Bed: Beautiful white linens with five pillows on each bed.
The Bathroom: Private bathroom with more towels than I needed, a bath mat, and shampoo, conditioner, and soap; no issues with water temperature or pressure; no extra fees for the towels.

The gorgeous view from my hotel room.

The gorgeous view from my hotel room.

The View: One wall was a window that overlooked the Moscone Center and San Francisco Bay.
The Price: $199/night – and that was the special conference rate.
Wi-Fi: Available for a fee.
Roommates: None.
Amenities: Cable TV, ironing board, hair dryer, fitness center, concierge, and room service.

The hotel was about 87.5% (7/8) more expensive than the hostel, but I would not say that the experience was 87.5% better. I enjoyed the casual nature of the hostel and how friendly everyone was. For a person who is traveling on a budget and open to adventure, I think a hostel is a great way to go.

The Undeniable Tour will last fourteen nights and I will be spending eleven of them in six different hostels. I’m excited for the different people I will meet and the new experiences I will have by being in a more interactive environment compared to traditional hotels. I’m curious to see if my perceptions of hostels will change by the time I get back.

Coming Home

Dad 2.0 SummitI spent the last few days at the Dad 2.0 Summit – a conference for dads who blog. I didn’t know what to expect, especially given that I am a woman and a non-parent. I wasn’t sure if it would be a locker room grunt-and-scratch environment where any naturally occurring source of estrogen would be deemed an outsider – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These were the kindest and most open and welcoming group of guys I had ever met. There were no pecking orders or ego issues. All the attendees were interested in being good parents, having work-life balance, and using their sites as platforms to share their experiences. They embody what it means to be a real man, not the stoic muscle man or the blundering idiot father that are too often portrayed in the media.

As I boarded my flight home, my mind was bubbling with new ideas about gender norms, parenting, and a how companies should treat their work force when it comes to parenthood. I thought about my new guy friends as I walked through the airport after my flight landed. There was a priest on my flight traveling in his black “uniform” and white collar. A pair of similarly dressed men greeted him with open arms after we crossed the threshold at Security. They embraced as I rode the escalator that would take me down to the shuttle and eventually my car. No one was there for me.

My Rosie watching "Dog TV"

My Rosie watching “Dog TV”

I enjoyed the quiet ride home in the early desert evening. It was a reprieve from the cacophony of sounds of the conference and traveling. I thought about my new guy friends as I walked through my door into my dark condo. I envision them being met with warm embraces from spouses and shrieks of “Daddy!” and leaping hugs from their kids or for the guys with little little ones, the sound of “Da da” and chubby arms reaching up to them from cribs. My home was silent, dark, and until I was in it, empty. I can pick up my “baby girl” from the kennel first thing in the morning.

I don’t think I’ve met a group of more content and self-confident guys than the ones I met at Dad 2.0. They know what’s important to them and they don’t need your validation. I aspire to have what they have. Does this mean I suddenly want kids? No. I aspire to figure out what matters most to me into simply do it – not because it makes me rich, wins me awards, or makes me famous in certain circles. It’s just what I’m meant to do. And hopefully I’ll have someone wonderful to share it with.

The Dad 2.0 Summit has an amazing community and I feel lucky to be part of it. I hope to see you all again at the 2016 event.

Night Sweats Experiment

Since my doctor suggested that my dizziness, fatigue, and night sweats are not due to a cardiovascular problem, I decided to do some research on the other causes of night sweats. I read an article that said that most night sweats are simply caused because the person is too warm at night. I wondered if I fell into this category before reading this article, and I tested it by pulling down the blankets before going to bed at night. I still woke up in the middle of the night with the soaking wet shirt. However, I decided to test this possibility further.

This is how my bed looks when I go to sleep - 2 fresh shirts ready to be switched out for sweaty ones

This is how my bed looks when I go to sleep – 2 fresh shirts ready to be switched out for sweaty ones

I have two sets of sheets. My summer sheets are simple cotton sheets. My winter sheets are also 100% cotton, but they are T-shirt sheets so they are thicker, softer, and warmer. I usually switch the sheets on my bed when the rest of the world changes their clocks to “spring forward” for daylight savings time or “fall back” to standard time. In the winter I usually have two blankets on my bed as well. One is a fuzzy soft blanket and the other is a heavier blanket that is crocheted using acrylic yarn. I like the weight of the heavy blanket on my body and the softness of the fuzzy blanket against my skin.

This is been a particularly warm winter in Phoenix. The high temperature during the day is often 10° above normal – in the mid- to high 70’s or low 80’s. The low at night is only in the 50’s, and my home is really well insulated. It made me wonder if sleeping with T-shirt sheets and two blankets were contributing, if not causing, my night sweats.

So this past weekend I switched out my T-shirt sheets for my summer sheets. I took the fuzzy blanket off my bed completely and I folded the heavy blanket down so that it’s only on the foot of my bed. I read somewhere that you get the best sleep when your head is cold and your feet are warm.

I wore this shirt with the cooler set up. It was still this wet 5 hours after I took it off.

I wore this shirt with the cooler set up. It was still this wet 5 hours after I took it off.

When I put myself to bed the first night in my colder arrangement, I was absolutely exhausted. I thought I would have no problem falling asleep – but I was wrong. Despite being in a condo that was around 70° inside, I felt really cold. I was uncomfortably cold, so much that it made it hard to get comfortable and fall asleep. I told myself this might have to be the payoff could not have night sweats.

I was wrong about that too.

A few hours later I woke up with a soaking wet shirt. I’m pretty convinced that my night sweats are not due to being too warm at night. But at least I have evidence of this to take to my doctor when I see him later this week.

I Still have a Defective Heart – But That’s Not the Problem

So here is the update about my heart.

My doctor called me late on Tuesday afternoon to let me know that the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) showed that I have a hole in my heart (PFO) but there is no blood flowing where it shouldn’t be. My doctor said unless I have a stroke, I don’t need to have the hole patched. I seem to be one of those people who have a heart defect, but it is not problematic.

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

The good news is my fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and night sweats do not appear to be caused by a cardiovascular problem. The bad news is I’m still having the symptoms and we don’t know why.

So it’s back to the drawing board. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and we can attack this problem from a new angle. I suspect he’ll order blood work to see if my numbers have changed from my last full physical. I may ask him to throw in a hormone test to see if it might be early menopause. I called my other cardiologist to ask if I needed to keep taking the beta blocker. (Remember: I’ve never had high blood pressure.) His office called me to say that he wants to see me for a follow-up. Perhaps he’ll have some suggestions about what else could be causing the problem.

Since my heart defect isn’t causing my symptoms and my symptoms didn’t show up until I was running 15 miles at a time or more, I hope I can start working out again soon. Before I started training for the marathon, I was running 22 miles and biking 19 miles a week. I was doing two 4-mile runs and two 6.5-mile runs each week. I’d like to get back to that.

It’s frustrating to feel like part of my life is on hold. Part of me wants to say “fuck it” and do whatever I want whether that’s running the hills when I’m in San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit, taking a high intensity step aerobics class, or treating myself to a few hours of trampoline tumbling. I don’t like being told that there’s something I can’t do. I definitely plan to have a candid conversation with my doctors about being more active while we figure out what’s wrong with me.

In case you are wondering, no, I haven’t become completely reckless. And yes, I make sure I’m wearing my Road ID before I leave the house, just in case.

I’m an Impatient Patient

I will be the first to admit that I can be pretty impatient, especially in situations where somebody has committed to having something done or the being somewhere at a specific time. In my defense, I’m also one of the most understanding people if you come to me with a valid excuse why you’re late or why you couldn’t deliver on your promise. Life happens and sometimes there are things that are outside of our control that we have to deal with. I get that.

Domo Attacks Florida by Richard Elzey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Domo Attacks Florida by Richard Elzey from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Having said that, I’m freakishly annoyed with my cardiologist. I had a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) on Thursday, January 29th. I called my doctor’s office the following Monday to get my results and find out what the next plan of action is. My doctor’s assistant reminded me that he’s not in the office on Mondays and that he would call me on Tuesday with my results. Tuesday came and went without a phone call from my doctor. On Wednesday morning, I called my cardiologist’s office again to explain that I hadn’t gotten a call to make sure that following up with me was on my doctor’s to-do list for the day. I didn’t get a call that day either.

I know my cardiologist isn’t in the office on Thursday – he’s usually at the hospital doing procedures – but I called any way. My doctor’s assistant said I was on his list of patients to call the previous day. The office staff was understanding of my frustration and anxiety. I was elated when my phone rang from my doctor’s office that afternoon, until my doctor’s assistant explained that the earliest my cardiologist would call me is Tuesday of next week.

What the fuck?! I understand I’m not his only patient, and probably not his most critical patient by far, but he’s making me wait an extra week to get my test results? That also means if he is recommending any type of procedure related to my heart (like sealing the hole) he is delaying my treatment. It’s annoying to live with intermittent chest pain, fatigue, dizziness, and daily night sweats. I just want this fixed.

I have amazing loving friends who reminded me that if there was anything severely wrong, my doctor would have called me immediately. So no news is probably relatively good news in this situation. They validate my frustration and remind me to stay calm because getting anxious isn’t going to help anything. There is nothing I can do at this point in regards to my doctor except wait ‘til Tuesday.

So what did I do to deal with my frustration? I called the hospital and requested a copy of my medical record from my TEE. I may have to wait to get my doctor’s interpretation of the results but he can’t stop me from getting my hands on the raw data itself.

I told you I was impatient.

Heart Defect Update – Transesophageal Echo

Disclaimer: This post includes an account of events that I experienced while medically stoned, so take it with a grain of salt.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram from Wikipedia (Creative Commons License)

Transesophageal Echocardiogram from Wikipedia (Creative Commons License)

In my last update about my heart defect, I shared that my new cardiologist confirmed that I have at least one hole in my heart but he wasn’t sure if I have an atrial septal defect (ASD) or a patent foramen ovale (PFO). So he ordered a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) to get a closer look which would get help determine my diagnosis and a plan of action.

A few days ago I went to the Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center for my procedure. The staff at this hospital is outstanding. A kind volunteer walked me from the information desk to the admitting area, and another volunteer escorted me from admitting to the department where I would actually have the procedure done. My nurse, Alison, was awesome. I traded my T-shirt for a gown and she covered me with a warm blanket that felt like it was fresh from the dryer, put the IV in my arm, and stuck 4 very sticky electrodes to my chest. We think we know each other from somewhere but we couldn’t figure it out.

They told me to be at the hospital by 1pm even though my procedure wasn’t scheduled until 3pm. Alison texted my doctor, ordered the machine to be brought in, and moved things along. When the Tech brought the machine in, I saw the scope they would be using – holy crap that thing is long! I knew they only had to slide it down my throat until it was parallel with my heart but geeze! I didn’t need to see that.

My doctor who did the procedure – Dr. Robert Burke – was awesome. He was very reassuring and put me at ease from the start. He made sure I understood the procedure before shifting me onto my side and he asked Alison, whom he referred to as “my bartender” to inject my IV with versed and fentanyl. I was a little nervous as I waited for the drugs to take effect but I was unconscious in less than a minute.

During the procedure they injected my IV with saline and watch to travel through my heart. All saline has bubbles in it, so they could watch to see how many bubbles went through the defect. According to Alison, when Dr. Burke first tried to slide the scope down my throat, I started hitting my thigh with my hand. (I have no memory of this.) He ordered a dose of propofol to further put me out.

I regained consciousness about 2 hours later. My aunt was there to pick me up and she said I looked very peaceful while I slept. By then, the IV was out of my arm and Alison came into remove the electrodes from my chest. Those things were super sticky. I feel sorry for anybody with a hairy chest who gets those.

I was very medically stoned. If memory serves, Alison said the doctor saw a PFO and that bubbles were going across the defect during the test. She offered me a wheelchair but I opted to walk – though I definitely couldn’t walk in a straight line, which I found pretty amusing. I slept very soundly that night.

So that’s what I know for now. I need to follow up with my other cardiologist who specializes in repairing heart defects to determine what the next step will be, but I suspect he will recommend sealing the hole.

Adventures in Babysitting

Taking Selfies with Alexander

Taking Selfies with Alexander

Last weekend at my cousin Andrew and his wife Erin had their second child, Elijah. He was born on Saturday morning and they were due to come home on Sunday evening. Andrew asked me if I could come over and watch their first child, Alexander, for a few hours on Sunday afternoon while he went to the hospital to pick up Erin and the baby.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I openly and blatantly hate children. So to ask me to watch my 22 month-old little cousin for 5 hours sounds like a form of torture. He’s actually a pretty good kid and Andrew assured me that he came with a “user manual.” I went to their house at the appointed time and Andrew showed me what Alexander eats, his schedule, and some suggestions for keeping him occupied because as a morning napper, this kid was can it be awake the entire time I was there. And yes, there was a 3-page “manual” in case I needed extra help.

One of the good things about watching a small child is certain things take longer – like eating. It probably took that kid 20 minutes to eat half a cup of yogurt and a few slices of avocado cut up into squares with me feeding him each bite. I’ve only been around Alexander handful of times so I think he was still a bit leery of me. Having me as the great feeder-person probably earned me some brownie points in his book.

After snack, we headed out to the backyard so he could “kick the ball.” I set up his little soccer goal and kicked the ball around on the grass. It seemed like we’d been doing that for at least 30 minutes but when I checked my phone it had only been 5! How do parents not to go crazy? Taking care of children can be so boring! (Don’t get mad at me for pointing out the truth. When Erin and Andrew got home with the baby they validated this.)

Alexander is at the point of verbal development where he repeats everything you say. I had no idea how often I use non-word sound effect noises with my actions until I heard him repeating each one. He thought it was pretty funny. No, I didn’t start swearing just to see if he would repeat it but I did randomly bust out some $5 words to hear him try to say them.

Thankfully “Elf” was on TV that day. I settled onto the couch to watch it and Alexander bounced between watching TV, playing with his kitchen set, and looking at books. At one point Alexander stopped playing with his toys, sat himself down on the couch right next to me, and started playing with my hand. It was really sweet. I wanted to get a picture of my hand nestled between his but he was distracted by the flash on my camera. So we started taking selfies instead and shot a quick video.

Andrew asked me to feed the little guy and had I brought over homemade chili and rice for the family. I got out two red oven mitts and put them on the counter. When I turned to put Alexander’s plate in the microwave, Alexander grabbed the mitts, put them on his hands, and walked away saying, “hot mittens.” He looked like a little lobster with those giant oven mitts covering his hands and arms.

Just about the time I was reaching my kid limit and Alexander was starting to get fussy- tired, his parents came home with baby Elijah. That baby was so cute with his red scrunched up face. I think I’m going to call him Mr. Grump because he looked like a little grumpy old man. When Andrew went to carry Alexander up to bed, Alexander reached out and gave me a hug good night. (Awh…)

And yes, I got to change diapers during this adventure, including a really gross poopy one – another reason why I’m glad I am not apparent in have no desire to become one.

Disclaimer: This post was written with the consent of the parents.

Typical Night with Night Sweats

This is my night shirt after a night of night sweats. I took this photo 6 hours after I took this shirt off and it was still drenched!

This is my night shirt after a night of night sweats. I took this photo 6 hours after I took this shirt off and it was still drenched!

Unless you’ve experienced it yourself, you can’t understand what it’s like to have night sweats. I’ve had them almost every night at least since early December. We don’t know what’s causing them or how to stop them. I started seeing another cardiologist last week; I hope he’ll know what to do.

Here’s what a typical night is like for me:

Getting ready for bed: Put on t-shirt and shorts. Lay out two more t-shirts at the foot of my bed along with my sleep sack for the morning.

Sometime between 11:30pm and 1:30am: Wake up cold, clammy, and drenched in sweat – I mean drenched: my shirt, shorts, skin, sheets, and pillow. Take off shirt #1. Put on shirt #2. Flip over pillow. Go back to sleep.

Alarm goes off at 5:15am: Wake up cold and wet again. Turn off alarm. Exchange shirt #2 for shirt #3. Pull on sleep sack and step into slippers. Pad to kitchen to make coffee. (By the way – shirt #1 is still drenched despite air drying for the last four hours.)

And that’s just about what happens every night for me. It’s so gross to have my skin and sheets covered in human salt. I don’t know how people who have medical conditions that cause this every night deal with it. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a way to sweat through the night gracefully.

I saw my new cardiologist last week who did a second ultrasound. He’s not convinced that I has atrial septal defect (ASD). He said it might be a patent foramen ovale (PFO). Either way, I have at least one hole in my heart that I’ve had since birth.

This week we’re going to do a transesophageal echocardiogram to get a clearer picture of what’s going on and then we’ll formulate an action plan from there. The heart is right next to the esophagus so they’re going to knock me out and slide a camera down my throat and look at my heart. They’ll have a lot less to go through compared to an ultrasound that has to decipher what’s going on through muscles, bones, and my lungs. Hopefully this means I’ll have answers soon.

Of course, being a recovering addict, the first thing I asked when my doctor said I needed this procedure was, “Do I get propofol with that?”

The Undeniable Recap of 2014

Wow – 2014 was a year for change for me. I never would have predicted that so much would be different in 12 months’ time – mostly for the better. It has been a tumultuous ride but I think it’s allowing to lay the foundation for more good things to come.

I keep a running document for The Undeniable Recap from the beginning of the year and it’s so fun to look back and remember everything I did in the last year. It’s always hard to come up with the top 5 events for the year but here goes.

Photo by Julia Kolsrud

Photo by Julia Kolsrud

1. We Moved! I’d been living in my parents’ second home since I moved to Phoenix and I decided it was time for Rosie and me to get our own place. After months of searching, I found a condo that I fell in love with at first sight. It’s less than half the size of our old place – just 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, an office, and an open kitchen/dining/living room. It’s the perfect place for a girl and her dog.

2. The Packing Party. I read about Ryan Nicodemus’ “packing party” in the book Everything That Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn. I’ve been an aspiring minimalist for a few years now and moving gave me a chance to step it up a notch. When I moved, I put everything in boxes and only unpacked what I needed when I needed it. It took 72 days to go through all my boxes and a lot of my stuff is going to charity. It was eye-opening to see how little I need to be comfortable.

3. Week in Wickenburg. At the recommendation of my therapist, I spent 5 days in Wickenburg last spring at a workshop at The Meadows. It was an intense experience where I got to do a lot of personal development work and look at who I am, what’s important to me, and when I’m in a hand basket. And with no computer or cell phones allowed on the campus, it was a valuable centering experience.

Post-Brunch Handstand - Photo by Erika Brown

Post-Brunch Handstand – Photo by Erika Brown

4. Birthday Stories. I had the most awesome birthday this year. I always take the day off on my birthday to do whatever I want. This year I asked my friends to send me stories about something related to our friendship. Dozens of people responded. I spent a few hours curled up in front of my laptop taking a wonderful trip down memory lane. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to thank each of you who contributed individually but know that your stories were very much appreciated!

5. Lindsey’s Wedding Weekend. The best trip I took in 2014 was for Lindsey’s wedding in the Bay Area. I’ve known Lindsey since she was probably 7. We were gymnastics teammates and we’ve been friends for decades. It was great to get back to my old stomping ground where I crammed in as many people as I could in a 72-hour period – teammates, coaches, and other friends. And to top it all off, I got to see Lindsey get married. Of course we had a post-wedding handstand contest.

Photo by Jeff Moriarty

Photo by Jeff Moriarty

Firsts in 2014
Aerial Yoga class
Polar Plunge
Encyclopedia Show
Yelling at a server at Buffalo Wild Wings (not my best moment)
Performing at the Orpheum
World’s Largest Pi Fight
Mass mailing for Carter Law Firm in honor of Captain Kirk’s Future Birthday
Virtual Presentation at a Conference – ABA TechShow 2014

Poolside Rosie

Poolside Rosie

Batting cages
Getting crapped on by a bird
Day trip to Jerome
10K race that I ran the whole time
Visit to the big dinosaur in Gila Bend
Ice Bucket Challenge
Overnight trip to Sedona w/ Rosie’s first hotel stay
Buying real furniture for my new place
Ignite Phoenix After Hours at The Mint
Driving myself to Prescott
Hiking the Wind Cave Trail
Local Events: Arizona Wind Symphony Performance, Art Detour, Scottsdale Arts Festival, Tempe Arts Festival, Heard Museum, and Zoolights

Hanging with Peter Shankman

Hanging with Peter Shankman

Medical Firsts: Cardiac ultrasound, Beta blocker, Anti-depressant, Stress test
Food Firsts: Pho, Rutabaga, Matzo ball soup, Sugar cookie in a mug,

Celebrity Sightings
The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
The Oatmeal – aka Matt Inman
Chris Guillebeau
Peter Shankman