Category Archives: Insomnia

Please Don’t Drop Over . . . But I Wrote Something

Summer is here and with it comes my renewed sense of who I am. I know I am cyclic; I think who I am follows a certain strange circadian rhythm. (Incidentally, I just discovered through a quick Wikipedia accidental search that I might be the lucky owner of a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.) No, it’s more than simply a circadian rhythm; my body follows a seasonal rhythm as well. I frequently look back through my blog posts to see what I was thinking about in previous years and previous months. Sometimes the blog posts from the same weeks in different years are surprisingly similar. With the exception of last summer, which I believe to be the darkest night of my soul, summer is usually a time of growth, joy, freedom, and redefinition for me. I am most likely to start a diet, an exercise program, or some new venture in the summer. I grow restless and get a sense of wanderlust when the weather gets hot. This summer has been no exception.

I began eating Paleo/Primal in January of this year, so my diet had already changed considerably. I haven’t once looked at paleo/primal as “a diet,” so it’s been much easier to continually eat this way. Also, I have noticed that I am intolerant of most of the food I was shoveling into my face as a vegan. I can’t eat corn (serious diarrhea). I can’t eat wheat (bloating, hives, mouth reaction). I can’t eat soy (serious hot flashes). And I can’t eat much dairy (tired muscles and achy joints). The dairy, though, is typically the cheat. I can’t get enough Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. It’s almost paleo/primal, right? Right?! I find that if I stick to eating whole, clean foods like meats and fishes, coconuts, nuts, eggs, vegetables, fruits, fermented ciders, and sparingly using raw honey and maple syrup, I feel so much better.

The side benefit of eating this way, for me, is never having to count calories, always having lots of energy, always having food options that appeal to me, and feeling full with very few low-blood-sugar moments. When I was vegan, I felt good, but never amazing, because I always felt just a little tired. I couldn’t easily go out to eat with friends, unless I wanted to be a total pain or my friends were also vegetarian or vegan. I found myself counting calories, because many processed vegan foods can get really caloric really fast. I counted calories, too, because I could never get full. No worries about feeling full with paleo/primal eating. I can eat breakfast and not be hungry again until dinner.  When I was vegan, my blood sugar would drop at least twice a day to the point where I was really grumpy and lightheaded. Also, as a vegan I always missed eating meat. I haven’t, not one time since I’ve been paleo, found myself fantasizing about a black bean burger or a slab of tofu, though they are both enjoyable. Frequently, when I was vegan, I would desire ribs or a burger or a salmon steak.

Basically, I feel like I’ve moved into a new life and life more abundantly. I’m still not cool with factory farming, and I never will be. I try to get all local, grass-fed meat and eggs and wild-caught fish, paying close attention to the ways the animals are raised, harvested, and slaughtered. This is the consolation I make for taking another life, which I still feel is sacred. This facet is the most difficult for me about paleo/primal, but I feel so much better I don’t ever want to look back. And, from my fattest point three years ago (256.4 pounds) I have lost 46 pounds total, but just from this January, I have lost 30 of those pounds. My pants size has dropped three sizes, and I bought my first pair of Calvin Klein shorts at Marshall’s when I was in Florida. I can run, bike, and swim with much more ease and speed. It’s really refreshing and beautiful.

I have set two new goals for myself: run a trail marathon by the time I am 40 (July of 2014), and complete a triathlon of some length by the time I am 39 (July 2013). Summer affords me the time and light to get in a lot of exercise, which may be why my mood gets so much better. Every morning I get up at 5:30 or 6 and either run to the pool and swim a couple of miles, or ride my bike 20-ish miles. This summer I decided to do two-a-days, which include ab exercises or kettle bell workouts in the afternoons. I find myself doing circuits, hoping to add in other body-weight exercises. I’m a big fan of minimal equipment. Today, as I sit here writing this, my abs are still on fire from the medicine ball workout I did on Monday, but I’ve read enough to know that you’re abs can take some punishment. Every day punishment, so I plan to carry-on this afternoon before joining the summer solstice bike ride that leaves from Pita Pit this afternoon. I also play disc golf, because I can and because it’s fun.

I know.

I sound like a total meat-head who can only talk about diet and exercise, but I consider those to be two of four basic building blocks of my life. Diet. Exercise. Spirituality. Intellect.

Another basic building block is my faith. Summer gives me time and inspiration to devote to spending intentional time with God. As I did with Lent, I am utilizing Common Prayer to facilitate my morning worship and prayer time. I take great comfort in the ritual of liturgy and prayer, and I find I can connect more completely, more fully with God, when I structure my prayer as a call and response with the refrain, “Lord, hear my prayer.” In my prayers, then, I can be as specific or as general with my words as I want to be, and the words, “Lord, hear my prayer,” feel as if they reassure me that God can hear my thoughts about that topic without my having to verbalize them. There are many things I pray, that I am not sure I would know how, or feel comfortable, verbalizing, even just to God, who I have been told already knows my thoughts.

As a child, I couldn’t see the value of prayer if God is unchangeable and if God already knows my thoughts. What’s the point? Now it seems to me that the point is much like speaking to a psychologist, and sometimes I can think/speak through my own problems or think/speak my own joys much like I would to a friend. Sometimes simply doing that makes it feel as if God is answering, and maybe that is the answer. Maybe we aren’t really changing God’s mind, but our own. Maybe we aren’t hearing a tangible answer from God, but we are instead somehow coming around to an answer. Perhaps this is how many people make decisions where God’s will looks a lot like their own will. I’m not sure. I’m just knocking around some skepticism/cynicism. Sometimes as Christians, I think we like to have things both ways: God is unmoveable, but we can move God through prayer, and we want God to be constant, but we want God to save someone’s life or change an outcome. In fact, we sometimes beg. It’s interesting is all I’m saying. I haven’t lost my faith, I just have lots of questions.

I have also added into my quiet time the discipline of reading through the book of James each day. Once I feel as if I have most of its truths committed to my soul, I will choose another book, though there aren’t many short enough to read in their entirety each day. I may have to read a few chapters each day or something. I started with James because of its practicality and because it seems to be an outlier about some pretty heavy theological concepts, like faith and works, speech, and prayer. I like James for his candor and for his perspective. He’s not Paul, and I love that about him.

I think when I am grounded in my faith, my relationships get better. I lump family, friends, and my love into this building block of spirituality. It all rolls together for me. When I am fully centered and fully contemplative of God, my faith, the Church, the way I deal with people is much more grace-filled, much more holy, much more compassionate. I can’t give love that I am not allowing myself to take from God. When I center in God, pursue God, my relationships fall in line and become more fulfilling, more of a blessing, and less like work. Summer is a time to nurture those relationships.

Finally, feeding my intellect is something that I have to do to feel like all is right with the world. Sometimes I feel like I go into a nine-month-long hibernation during the school year. I get up. I teach. I come home. I plan. I grade. I go to bed. If I am lucky, I add in some exercise or socialization. But, during the summer, I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I even have time to read. I read a lot during the summer. It’s my goal to read at least two books each week: one fiction and one nonfiction. So far, I am on schedule. I love learning new things, and my favorite way to do it is by reading, especially since it’s become real again.

So, yeah. Summer. Love.

Lent Day 11: A Lesson in Love and Humility

Without giving too many details, I will just say I have learned a lesson in humility and love this weekend at AWP. To make a long story short, my insomnia didn’t, in fact, go away. It only got slightly less ferocious, allowing me five hours of of sleep for one night instead of three. When I don’t sleep, I get mean, curt, short-tongued. I have been all of those things this week, which led to quite a large eruption of misunderstandings last night between a friend and myself. The quarrel led to me moving down to the lobby of the hotel for quite some time, so I could recompose myself and not put my fist through the mirror in our room. See I told you I have some anger management issues, and I felt as if I could beat my way with small, tight fists through the thickest, heaviest punching bag on the market. I didn’t.

Instead, for a change, I left the room to recompose myself elsewhere. By this morning, after a conversation with my beautiful and sensible wife, some coffee, a session on queer YA fiction, and some prayer, walking, and meditation, I was able to calmly and rationally initiate a discussion of the events of last night. And, of course, we came out on the other side with love and grace, because I am learning that’s how things work out when you practice humility and love.

Here is the photographic chronology of my day:

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

Walking North on Michigan Avenue

A Coffee Shop I've Always Wanted to Try and Finally Did

A Little Morning Reading and a Mexican Mocha

Buildings Dating from the Mid-1800s

Do You Need Some Art Supplies?

Capitalism Block on State Street

I decided to go to church tonight, but I wasn’t sure where to go, so I literally typed the address of the Palmer House in the first blank of the “Get Directions” feature in Google Maps, followed by the word Methodist in the second blank. I figured I couldn’t lose since I live four hours away, and I’d never see any of the people again. I mean, it’s always a crap shoot when you’re a lady-boy lesbian and looking for a church in a different city. Each time I risk rejection from the body to which I’ve belonged since the age of four when I “gave my life to Jesus,” a form of rejection that breaks my heart again and again.

I walked to Temple Church (a.k.a. First United Methodist of Chicago) with low expectations and hoping that I wasn’t dressed too shabbily. I can never accurately anticipate the dress code at a “First United Methodist,” because they are usually the big, old churches that are trying to stand guard and keep from dying out. But that guard-standing usually comes outfitted in whatever is the latest fashion.  I always assume that the dress code is on the upper end of the spectrum, not jeans and the sweater I was wearing. But, as I mentioned, I’d never see any of these people again, so I pressed on.

Temple Church's History in Stained Glass

Destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire

As I walked past the beautiful arts garden, pictured above, I looked to my right and got a glimpse of the Chicago Picasso. I could feel that this hour of my life was going to be an adventure. Electric Jesus was in the air. I strolled through the revolving door and up to the security guard. Yes, you read correctly, I walked confidently over to the security guard, and said, “Can you please tell me where the church service is meeting tonight?” She pointed me up the stairs and through some double doors.

I was a bit disoriented as I walked through the thick wooden doors, because I was released into a space that looked like a storage closet, only without anything in it, too big to be a closet, too small to be a respectable hallway. The space was a hallway nonetheless, and I began to search for what I was sure would be a large stone chapel or sanctuary. Instead I found the small, intimate chapel pictured here. In fact, I had to ask the lovely man in the picture if I was in the right place.

A Tiny Church Service in a Huge Church's Small Chapel

By the time the service started with a greeting and then a hymn that none of us really knew, I realized I was experiencing the Body of Christ in a very real way. The mix of people was diverse: various ethnicities, social classes, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities. There were people there with children of varying ages, and older people who were there alone. The bulletin specifically spelled out that we were all welcome.

The service followed the liturgy while still being personal: we confessed as a group and then offered silent meditations of our own. When it came time for the prayer requests, the congregants shared intimately and without reservation, and then we prayed for those concerns. We passed the peace! Finally, we collected tithes and offerings and shared the Eucharist together. We stood together around the communion table and celebrated the Great Thanksgiving as we looked each other in the eyes. I could feel the Holy Spirit hovering there in our midst, like the soft breeze that blows off Lake Michigan in the summertime, and as refreshing.

Jesus’ body was broken, His blood was shed, and we were redeemed yet again. A glorious miracle.

Several times the intimacy and the beauty of it all overwhelmed me to the point of tears. Here, four hours away, is the type of community I long for each Sunday. Here, in a church I assumed would be too uppity for my jeans and sweater, I met my Jesus in the realest way I have experienced in years. Here.

Today was a beautiful mess. Peace.

Lent Day 10: More AWP

I am still at AWP: writing is exactly spirituality. We are born to create, to go forth and multiply, and by taking a little liberty with what that command might mean, I find that writing or making art is doing just that. Through creation of text or visual media, we multiply all that is good and right and beautiful in the world. We cause people to think through the less appealing parts of the world in order to see the more appealing ones. We can take the worst situations, the most horrible events, and create through them healing, help, peace, and grace with our words and images.

Part of today’s daily prayer from Common Prayer reads: “Sometimes we don’t realize the intensity of the things for which we pray, Lord. Keep us courageously mindful that your way is laden with tears on the way to resurrection. Amen.” Keep us courageously mindful that the way to creativity is laden with tears on the way to resurrection. Keep us courageously mindful that your way is laden with tears on the way to creativity and rebirth. Keep us mindful.


I went for a run this morning after sleeping for five whole hours last night.

The Reason I Slept So Well

Wacker and Wabash in Chicago

Chicago River "Private" Walkway

I'm Lovin' the Ferris Wheel

One Lighthouse

Super Yellow Beanie and Cityscape

Another Lighthouse

Lake Michigan

Ferris Wheel in B & W

Marilyn Monroe on Michigan Avenue: Fidelity

The Giant Bean and Some Tourists

Don't Let the Pigeon . . .


Three Things Which Bring Me Joy and One Which Does Not

Paleo Eating

Grilled Grass-fed Ribeye and Broccoli

I started eating Paleo/Primal in November, just before the holidays. Dumb move, I know. I stopped eating this way from Christmas through New Year’s Day and then hopped right back on it. Here are few things I know from the nearly three months I’ve been eating no grains or soy, no sugar, no manufactured food, and very little dairy:

  1. I have lots of energy to exercise. I am exercising in several different ways pretty much every day of the week. And, I get sore, which is to be expected when exercising, but I don’t drag through my day like I did when I was exercising this much and eating a vegan diet. And, the soreness goes away and doesn’t inhibit my workout.
  2. I get lots of sleep. When I am finished with my day, I go to bed. There isn’t any dragging myself through my day, only to end up lying in bed tossing and turning until I finally fall asleep. I go to bed. I go to sleep. I sleep through the night. And, I wake up, rested, without using an alarm clock around 5 or so, which doesn’t mean I get up then, choosing instead to lounge around in the bed until 6ish.
  3. I can be much more inventive with my cooking. This week’s menu includes fish stir fry, a dish I never would’ve even considered before trying the paleo lifestyle (even when I ate meat before, I wouldn’t have considered it). We will also be eating a beef stroganoff served over spaghetti squash. I find myself wanting to experiment with food in ways I didn’t before, not that I was a bad vegan chef, because I wasn’t, but this is better!
  4. I don’t spend a good portion of every day in the bathroom. Not to be gross, but when I was vegan I pooped at least three times every day. Now I go once, and I happen to believe it’s because my body is using what I am feeding it rather than simply passing it on through.
  5. I am not bloated or gassy. For the last three years, while I’ve been vegetarian or vegan, I have had incredible gas. It’s been pretty disgusting at times. Now, I am not saying that I don’t have some gas, but it’s not ridiculous and it smells less horrible. I don’t belch loudly, for a long time, after every single meal. I also don’t eat to the point where I am so full and bloated that I feel like complete crap, because I am paying more attention to the full feeling I get when I eat meat. I know when to stop.
  6. I am losing weight—s-l-o-w-l-y—but I feel amazing. My original hope was that the weight would just come peeling off of me, like it does for some people who go low-carb, paleo, or whatever, but then I realized that I want to still be able to do long races and swim miles in the mornings, so I need to have some potatoes or yams in my diet. I am consistently losing two pounds a week, so I think that’s fair. In a year, that’s 100 pounds. Ha! I wish.
  7. My mental state is level and even somewhat joyful. I’ve blogged before about using niacin and Vitamin C to even out my moods. It works. I don’t have the pendulumesque, out of control mood swings I’ve had all my life when I take a little of those vitamins. I don’t even have to take large doses to help me out, just a bit works fine. However, since I’ve been eating paleo, I feel so much better in my mind (mental clarity, memory, and mood) that I am going to experiment with leaving even those vitamin supplements behind. I am going to ween myself of of all additives, except my multivitamin. Right now I have pretty expensive pee. 🙂

Barefoot Running

Soft Little Barefoot Running Feet

I have been sneaking in some barefoot running at Ball Gym. I feel rebellious, like I said in my last post, but more importantly my feet are getting so much stronger and my calves are raging! I ran for about an hour the other day, and while my calves—well, really my whole leg musculature—got sore, my feet felt great. I think there’s something to this cavewoman lifestyle I’ve submitted myself to! I just feel so primal and free when I run with no shoes, like there is nothing I can’t do. (I know. Double negative. Shut up.) I feel like I could just keep running and running and never stop, but I know that’s not true, no matter how much joy running brings me.


This is actually a high school conference meet, but I swim here sometimes.

I’ve come home. To my first love. I’ve been swimming (if you can call it that) since I was about a month old in the big-ass bath tub at our original little hovel in the big HC. Sometimes I think I can remember what that first feeling of weightlessness felt like, but I know it’s impossible. I love swimming because it’s one sport where being a fat girl doesn’t matter, and, in fact, probably works to my advantage.

At any rate, swimming soothes me, stimulates me, and feeds my mind like no other sport. Maybe because I have been doing it for so long, I don’t have to think at all about it. When I run, I still have to think about my form; though I have to think less about it when I run barefoot. When I swim, the strokes come naturally, gracefully. I’ve been swimming three times a week for the past two weeks, and I feel full. At peace. Calm. Like I can do anything in the water. Swimming is grace. Swimming is joy.


At Savage's Ale House in Muncie, IN

You aren’t really supposed to drink any alcohol when you go paleo/primal, but I really love beer. Recently, I haven’t been able to drink beer much because of my allergies. I think I am really allergic to wheat, because I feel 100% better and my allergies have all but gone by the wayside since I stopped eating wheat. In case you missed it the first time I said it, I really love beer. So I occasionally have a beer. Like once a week.

Last night was “Festive Friday.” A bunch of colleagues and I go out and have a couple of beers to celebrate the end of the week and look for a better week to come, which is really a way of celebrating life if you ask me. I had a Bell’s Porter, one of my top ten all time beers, and my face swelled up like a little bright red, hot to the touch, strawberry. I had one beer, three glasses of water, a double bacon burger, and some fries, and my face swelled up with hives. It was ridiculous. I still love beer. There is no joy in being allergic to beer.

Here are my top ten, in no particular order because I just can’t decide, but the top five are the top five, in order:

  1. Hacker-Pschorr Dark, Hacker-Pschorr Brewery
  2. Bad Elmer’s Porter, Upland Brewery
  3. Riggwelter, Black Sheep Brewery
  4. Bell’s Porter, Bell’s Brewery
  5. Taddy Porter, Samuel Smith Brewery
  6. Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA, Dogfishhead Brewery
  7. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Great Lakes Brewery
  8. St. Peter’s English Ale, St. Peter’s Brewery
  9. La Fin Du Monde, Unibroue
  10. Levitation Ale, Stone Brewery

Sad day that I can’t drink one of each…

Hurt: Johnny and Trent

Johnny Cash

Nine Inch Nails

Same song. Different performers. Trent Reznor (NIN) wrote it.

I feel a bit like this lately, and it’s the longest funk I have been in to date. I am seriously considering seeking professional help. It isn’t as if I haven’t considered it before because I am proud or because I think people who see psychiatrists are somehow weak. And it isn’t as if I am afraid. I don’t go to the shrink because I have an extremely low opinion of most of them. From what I have seen my many mentally ill friends go through with their medications, their counseling, and their general states of well-being, I just don’t trust the “professionals” who offer their psychiatric services. I also think, in a mostly irrational way, that if I can articulate my pain/disillusionment and think critically about it, then I must not have a problem. Somehow I have come to believe that to need a psychiatrist means that you can’t cognitively decipher your own messed-up thoughts, feelings, desires.

Don’t think I am harmful or dangerous to myself or others. I am not. I am simply sad. I simply feel trapped and like I am unable to see a happy ending to my life. I can rationally say that this feeling probably stems from mental exhaustion or from getting close to the end of my PhD program, but in less rational moments, I have nightmares, anxiety, insomnia, and, as a result, I can be quite thin-skinned and moody.


See the thing is I think I feel guilty for feeling this way because I really have nothing to be sad about. Well, at least there is nothing happening right now for me to be sad about. I think there are many things from my past that I still haven’t completely processed, that I need to process. But still those things pale in comparison to those other things that are going on around me: people who have lost children, countries devastated by hurricanes, people losing their jobs after many years, and people who are in unfulfilling relationships. My life compares well to others, but to me it feels as if I am simultaneously grateful for this life of mine and ungrateful for the opportunities that cause so much stress. However, this morning I feel more hopeful than I did last night.

Just when I thought I wouldn’t come out of the funk, I feel a little better today.  With the exception of my dissertation proposal revision, I have accomplished everything I needed to this week. I have a lifeguarding class all weekend this weekend (6-10 tonight, 8-2 on Saturday and Sunday), but I feel confident that I will have time to finish me proposal and get it to Debbie by Sunday night. We meet again on Wednesday morning. Luckily, I have everything planned for the next couple of weeks for both my Burris students and my BSU students.

Today is a better day. Abs and I play racquetball this afternoon, so it can’t be bad, right?


I am thankful for meaningful moments in whatever shape they come.

Food: banana, juice, poptart, 3 donut holes, seven layer burrito, nachos, Puerto Vegetarian C, chips and salsa, 1/2 of a Negro Modelo, decaf tall soy latte

Exercise: ran 5 miles, walked the dogs 1 mile