life: super powers not included

Category — Mind

Read: It’s Good For You


You know that scent attached to bookstores? It’s a mix of fresh paper, coffee, and ink. It’s my Chanel No. 5. Part of the reason I love Eau de Bookstore so much is that I love to read. (I’m not above admitting that, being a writer who hopes to one day publish a novel, it’s also the smell of dreams being realized. Too pathetic? OK, forget I said that.)

Books have always been an escape for me. I’m mostly talking about novels here because, truthfully, a good book about fitness or nutrition doesn’t whisk me away to a land where I don’t have chores.

And fiction’s more fun. Sorry.

Anyhow, because I’m such a huge fan of reading I was so excited to read Mark Daily Apple’s post about bibliotherapy. You should really read the full post since it’s wonderful, but here’s the local news channel version:

Therapists assign trouble clients books to work through difficult problems, new at 11.

Here’s another sneak peak:

He said, “Within the safe but compelling confines of a book, readers can find themselves and their life’s issues laid bare.” More, after sports.

Anyhow, I love the idea that by reading we can envision a different life. We can work out problems. We find inspiration and courage and comfort and motivation.

For four hours I can pretend my feet don’t burn, that I have magical powers or need to stop a corrupt government from outlawing love. And when I’m done? I can start all over again.

Do you agree with this? And what’s the best novel you’ve read recently?

PS: Happy St. Patrick’s Day. May you avoid meals with green food coloring.

PS Again: Have a Goodreads account? Me too. Let’s be friends.

PS Times Three: I’ve been reading mostly young adult because that’s the type of book I’m writing. Anyone interested in learning about some really great YA novels? If enough people are interested, I’ll do a post on my top picks.

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March 17, 2011   32 Comments

The Scowler

82349838_a76ca558f6photo by wadeb
She’s a bona fide scowler.

I have a pet peeve.

Scratch that. I have many pet peeves. However, I’m only going to talk about one today. (I’ll leave picking your nose in public—and YES, A CAR IS PUBLIC—for another time.)

It annoys me to no end when I pass someone in the halls at work who does not smile. Or nod.

See, there’s this woman at work. I don’t know her. I don’t even know her name. My sole interaction with her happens in the hallway between my desk and the bathroom.

She’s a scowler.*

Each time I’ve passed her in an empty hallway, she makes eye contact but scowls. It’s as if she’s eating Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans in Toe Nail flavor. Sort of. More than that, she looks like she’s the queen and I’m a peasant who has soiled her beautiful robe with my dirty fingers.

I want to stop her one day and ask, “Would it kill you to smile?”

Because we work together. Because we’re in the same empty hall. Because it’s kind of the normal American thing to do.

Or, if smiling would in fact kill her, a nod would do. Or one of those half smiles.

I find that a chance encounter with The Scowler can set my morning off wrong. And if I’m having a bad day? Seeing The Scowler can make me downright annoyed.

What do you think? Do you expect strangers in an enclosed space to smile or nod or semi-grin at one another? Or does it not bother you?

*It should be noted that, as I don’t know this woman, I can’t know for certain whether she’s scowling or whether her face permanently stuck in that position after eating too many lemons.

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December 9, 2010   31 Comments

Dirty Laundry


I’m taking a break from the Q&A (I have a few more questions to answer) to air a bit of my dirty laundry.

On Wednesday, I asked you all what your greatest fear was, and Yum Yucky had this to say:

My biggest fear for TODAY is not getting the laundry folded. The pile is so big, I feel like a slacker. I fear having this same slacker experience tomorrow. Gotta fold the laundry (soon).

Which made me think of this.


You see, I’ve never been one to slack. I don’t mind folding laundry. With a good T.V. show it, the chore kind of goes by quickly. (Though I will never cease being surprised at how many white shirts The Man wears in a week.)


But when you’re sick, this thing happens. Suddenly chores take a million times longer to do.

You wonder how there could possibly still be clothes in the hamper—but there they are, so you keep washing. And they keep piling up.

Then you think, Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.


You keep telling yourself that until the pile of clean laundry starts climbing up your wall.


And fills your entire guest bed.


So I pledge that all of those clothes will get folded.



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October 22, 2010   31 Comments

Tracey’s Falling Apart: The Finale

Vitaminsphoto by veo
Oh look, it’s the number of vitamins I take at breakfast. Yippee!

Thank you to everyone who’s left me amazing words of support, and to anyone who’s just reading. You guys are the best.

I thought I’d end this whole series on a positive(ish) note. A couple days ago I went to another doctor to get to the bottom of my EM. Let’s do the bad news first, mkay?

For starters, his office is more than an hour away, which means I need to take a day off work every time I go.

And also, he doesn’t take insurance. Which means I forked over $295 for the initial appointment.

Finally, he didn’t take one look at me and say, “Figures. I see this all the time. Well, I’m sorry you had to come all the way out here for something as simple as this. All you have to do is take this one vitamin twice a day and you’ll be back to normal in a week.”

OK, so maybe that last part was just a fantasy. On to the good news.

The guy spent an hour and a half with me. As in 90 minutes. That’s, oh, 88 minutes longer than that vascular hotshot spent with me. Unless, of course, you count the time I spent in the waiting room, in which case that’s 55 minutes longer than I spent at the last doctor’s office.

So, he didn’t know why I suddenly got EM or what’s causing it. (Sigh.) But he does think something triggered it, and if we can find the cause and squash it like the pest it is, I can beat this. Of course, finding a cause seems like playing a game where we open a medical textbook and shoot darts at possible disorders. (Oooh look! Maybe it’s testicular cancer!)

Anyhow, the point is that even though he doesn’t know the cause, he’s willing to go on this whole treasure hunt to discover it.

For starters, he’s testing me for Lyme disease, heavy metal toxicity, and a bunch of vitamin deficiencies. If those come back A-OK, it’s to the drawing board again.

He also prescribed a medication that might in some people maybe just maybe alleviate some of the symptoms. No, it doesn’t make EM go away. But it might make it less painful. (Let’s skip over the fact that it’s really an anti-epilepsy medication, all right?)

I’m also on so many vitamins that I’m going to buy a vitamin purse to carry with me every day. Seriously, I think I’m chugging about 30 pills daily. (Note to self: Get higher doses, take fewer pills.)

The bottom line: I’m just kind of trying everything to see what works.

But I’m not going to let this EM sideline me. It might bankrupt me, but I’ll get to the bottom of this. Or, you know, burn to a crisp while trying.

Anyone ever have to seek out a cure or treatment on their own just to get to the bottom of an illness or injury?

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September 17, 2010   31 Comments

Letting Go

Fire Dancerphoto by john curley

Here’s the last of my sadness. It’s me—totally honest, totally open with you.

The hardest thing about my erythromelalgia is having to let go. Thinking of the normal, everyday things I’ll miss simultaneously breaks my heart and angers me.

From right here, right after diagnosis, I can’t see the possibility of ever again…

Going to the beach
Going to the mall
Sitting at a park in summer
Taking a walk around the block
Having kids
Going outside in summer
Cooking dinner by myself
Showering while standing
Riding a bike
Meet new friends outside of my house

I think about what I had planned for my life—traveling around the world. Climbing mountains. Seeing faraway cities. Having kids. And I feel trapped in my air conditioned cage. Feet up, socks off.

That said, I’m not giving up. Doctors may not know much about EM, but I sure as hell am about to find out all I can. If there’s a supplement or way of eating that might help, I’ll try it. (Let’s be honest, if it would make the searing pain stop, I’d eat a dog food diet for the rest of my life.)

And that, friends, is all. That’s my secret. What’s been eating at me for three months.

Tomorrow I’ll give you the very latest update (consider it the insider scoop) on a doctor’s appointment I had yesterday. I’ll just say it was, oh, 7.4 million times better than the first one I had about my EM.

And after that, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Whee!

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September 16, 2010   16 Comments

Tracey’s Falling Apart: Part 3

Firephoto by heal and inspire

Yesterday I told you some backstory about my condition. Today, the name: erythromelalgia.

So far, the hardest part of having erythromelalgia was the diagnosis. I suspected I had the disease. It’s very rare and under-diagnosed, but my symptoms fit perfectly and I did a lot of googling. Still, it wasn’t real since a doctor hadn’t diagnosed me.

When I went to the vascular surgeon, I wanted answers. I wanted to know why this was happening, why now, and what I could do to get my life back. Here’s what he said:

Yup, you have erythromelalgia. There’s really nothing you can do. Just try to avoid anything that makes your feet flare up.

And he headed toward the door. It took all my strength not to cry in front of him. I made it out of the office, to the car, and through a traffic light before that started.

No cure. No treatment. No answers.

To avoid triggers, I’d have to avoid air over 68 degrees, standing, sitting with my feet on the ground, walking, running, and anything else that involves getting off my couch and lowering my legs.

I was—am—crushed.

I’ve made a lot of modifications. At work, I slip off my shoes and put my feet up under my desk.

At home I keep my feet raised on the couch (putting them on the floor lets blood rush to them). I sit on the counter to make dinner, and The Man takes over when I start to burn. I sleep with a fan on my feet at night, covers only to my ankles. My house stays air conditioned to 68 degrees or lower.

I rush to the couch to elevate after a particularly burn-inducing activity—like showering, washing my face, or standing in the kitchen.

I’ve stopped wearing closed-toed shoes and socks. And as you’ve probably noticed on the blog recently, I’ve stopped going to the gym. It’s been four months since I last worked out. And it burned. (Incidentally, it’s also been months since I walked more than a block or stood for longer than five minutes.)

I know this post is so completely at odds with what my blog is all about. It’s fun. It’s goofy. It’s positive. And yet this is ridiculously depressing.

Next week, I’ll return to normal posting. I’ll probably mention my EM on here, but I’ll leave the depressing stuff with The Man.

In the meantime, are there any questions you have about my condition that I can answer in an upcoming post?

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September 15, 2010   30 Comments

In Which I Reveal The Big Suck

Molten Lavaphoto by prob1t

So yesterday I left you with a cliffhanger about my new health problem. I know, that wasn’t too nice. But I figured we all have such short attention spans on blogs that it’s actually nicer for me to cut it short. Besides, now I have a series: The Tracey’s Falling Apart Series.

I guess this would be Part Two: Wherein Tracey Stops Being Funny.

Seriously though, there’s really nothing to joke about here. About three months ago, I started to notice my feet (and sometimes my fingers) were getting very hot and swollen during the day and especially at night. I had attributed this to my Raynaud’s (in which blood vessels constrict, leaving hands and feet freezing in response to cold) since blood vessels dilating after an attack can become inflamed.

But then it started happening when my feet weren’t even cold. And it was happening a lot. Now, it happens multiple times a day.

Sometimes it starts on the tops of my feet, like an itch. Those are the best times. The burn covers my feet and ankles and sometimes lower calves. It’s like taking a hot shower with a sunburn.

The majority of the time, though, it starts in my toes. That signals the worst. My feet swell and turn bright red. The veins bulge like they’re about to pop. And I burn. It’s the burn you feel after playing in the snow for an hour and then run your frozen feet under boiling water. It’s like my veins are full of acid. Like I’m standing in molten lava.

Guys, I’m not going to lie. It sucks.

Sometimes the burn starts after 10 minutes of standing. Sometimes after two. It’s worse at night—though I don’t understand why. It happens when I walk for more than a few minutes.

And here’s the kicker—it’s set off by heat. So if I were to, say, sit outside in 70-degree weather, my feet would flare. In 80 or 90-degree temps like we had this summer? I cry, too.

Here’s the treatment: Get a fan. Point at feet. And raise them over your head.

And with that, I think I’ll take a break. The series continues tomorrow with the details (like, you know, the name of the condition).

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September 14, 2010   14 Comments

What I’ve Been Waiting For


All of August has been one big lead-up to today. It’s like I’ve gone through the month as one big breath in, never exhaling until right now.

I imagine this is how many of you must feel when you sign up for a race and spend months training. That last final month is a countdown to race day and when you’re finally at the finish line you realize this is what I’ve been waiting for.

I feel like that, minus the sweat.

Today I received Mockingjay in the mail. The final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. If you haven’t read the series, I suggest you buy it right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The books are addictive and fast-paced (I read each of the first two, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, in a day) and brilliant and so fun. Plus, unlike another series (rhymes with skylight) the prose doesn’t weigh down the story or force incessant eye rolls.

So tonight after work I’m planting my butt firmly on the couch and not going to bed until I turn that last page. The Man will lose a wife for the night. Then I’ll pass the book on to him–because The Man also loves The Book–and watch as he’s sucked in for one final ride.

ALSO: If you think it’s a good idea to go google Mockingjay or Hunger Games and read about the series, BE CAUTIOUS. Seriously. There are all sorts of spoilers out there, so the best thing you could do is read the summary on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or go check it out at your local indie bookstore. After that, stop reading. Spoiled endings do not a good book make.

While I go devour this book, you can head over here to enter my final Totally Awesome Beauty Giveaway. Wee!

Have you ever so eagerly anticipated a book release—and which?

Who’s read the Hunger Games series? For those who have, two words: Team Peeta (♥) or Team Gale?

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August 24, 2010   32 Comments

To Whom It May Concern: You Rock

Operation Beautiful

If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not have heard about Caitlin’s Operation Beautiful campaign and book. (And, um, welcome back. May your new digs be much warmer, softer, and more welcoming than your previous abode.)

Here’s the deal: People write meaningful things like “You’re beautiful no matter what” or “Hey, hot stuff” or whatever on Post-it notes. Then they go stick them all over the place for girls to see and smile about. And, no , I’m not talking about an Operation Beautiful note on the inside of a toilet stall (for a good time, call … but more like a Post-it on the mirror. Sometimes they deface public property with uplifting sayings, which is OK because usually it’s already been defaced, and the words those people scribble on aren’t always so nice.

Anyhow, when Miz talked about the book the other day she mentioned that she likes to leave behind words she’d hope to hear. She asked what random note of kindness we’d like to see. And that got me thinking. One day I hope to randomly see a Post-it that says, “You rock—no matter what.”

Here’s why.

Let’s say you have terrible knees that hate you with every ounce of cartilage in them. Pretend you can’t do much at the gym because said knees will make you pay for it later on. It’s all pain all the time, which isn’t as fun as it sounds. Anyhow, since you were once majorly active you start feeling like crap, what with the severe lack of exercise and all.

You know how exercise can make you feel better about yourself? Yeah, well it works the other way, too, friends. Lack of exercise and movement in general can make you feel like a waste of space whose only purpose in life is to create a solid couch cushion dent.

But then one day you walk into a public bathroom at Panera or somewhere and you see a pink Post-it that says, “You rock—not matter what.” And then you start thinking, maybe you do rock. Maybe you rock more than you’ve been giving your stupid, weak, noncompliant body credit for and—goshdernit—a pair of faulty knees aren’t going to stop you.

That’s why I love the whole Operation Beautiful idea. It’s not even just about weight. Because we all have something we feel like absolute crap about. And once in a while it’s nice to hear from a stranger that you’re not a freak; you’re beautiful just the way you are.

What makes you beautiful no matter what?

Also: I get how strange it must seem to remind you that you can still enter my Totally Awesome Beauty Product Giveaway while talking about Operation Beautiful, but you know what? I think it’s OK to love beauty products while at the same time appreciating yourself for who you are. There, I said it.

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August 4, 2010   29 Comments

In Which I Get Mushy-Gushy

Penguins holding handsphoto by johnburke

Quiz time.

What’s worse than eating peanut butter and jelly for lunch?

Anyone? Anyone?

OK, I’ll tell you. Eating peanut butter and jelly for lunch for the past week straight. I know you’re all on the nut butter bandwagon, and I’m not dising on peanut butter in general. Still, eating it for a week straight is enough to make me hate the stuff from now until eternity. You’d think swapping jelly for honey would make a difference. But it doesn’t. The downside to going three weeks without grocery shopping. Is there an upside to that? I don’t think so.

So I just read a study that said having solid relationships is associated with living longer. The study says that people with strong relationships live an average of 3.7 years longer than those with weaker relationships. I know this study is talking about relationships with people you’ve, you know, actually met. And that’s why I’m thankful for my friends—the ones I could pick out of a lineup.

I guess I owe all of you a big fat Thank You, too. Because I think blog relationships totally count. One of the researchers even said: “[Friends and family] help support good health habits: They remind us to put that seat belt on and ask us about that pain we’ve had, have we had that checked out? That may be the biggest factor.”

Sound like anyone in particular? Like, maybe the entire health blog community? Yes, yes it does.

So, friends, every time you leave a comment here I gain another hour of life. It’s like It’s a Wonderful Life: Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. Or something like that.

It’s really sweet of you because, as you know, my cranky knees make me about 85 years old and at this rate I’m going to be a centenarian before I hit my real age of 45.

I’m going to get a bit mushy here. Consider that a warning if you have a heart of stone and need to skip this part.

I didn’t consider the community when I started blogging. I considered the fact that there were probably other people out there with knee pain who might want to know my story. (Because everyone obsesses about their injury like I do and wants to know every single detail of everyone else’s injury too. Right?)

Well, imagine how shocked and awed I was to find out that there were real live people on the other end of this Internet thing, and these real live people happened to be really cool and fun and supportive and a lot of other gushy words. In short, you’re great.

Hey, Tin Man, come on back. I’m over the whole mushy part.

I’ll end with something a little more manly to balance things out. Grunt, grunt. You guys are, um, you know, kinda cool.

Oh, by the way, if you haven’t heard, I’m spreading the love. Im giving away 16 beauty items on Monday. Friday is your last day to enter, so head to this post to join in the fun.

What do you get out of the blogging community?

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July 29, 2010   25 Comments

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