Using meditation to reset your mind

I was chatting with my therapist this past week about how, pretty much ever since I started meditating, all of my anxiety, anger, and stress-filled dreams seemed to have come to a full halt. She asked me when I would normally do my meditation. My original goal was to do it in the morning as a way to start my day, but that quickly got derailed by the fact that I’m never on time at the gym (my appointment time is always 8am Monday through Friday, but I’m lucky if I make it there by 8:05; 8:10-8:15 is more realistic), and if that is not on time, I will never start my work day “on time.” So I decided that in the evenings, shortly before bed, would be the best time. It would be regular. I’d feel zero rush to get anything else done before or after, as the only thing waiting for me after meditation would be sleep.

“Well, that completely makes sense to me!” she exclaimed. “You’re basically resetting your mind, clearing it of all the clutter that filled your mind throughout the day, and that’s allowing you to have more peaceful dreams. It’s not always the content of your dreams that is meaningful, but rather that’s the way it just manifests in your subconscious.”

So her suggestion to me moving forward is that whenever I have stressors or feel a depressive episode coming on, whether they are fertility related or anything, I should step away from the situation and meditate, whether that means doing a quick visualization or breathing exercise, and treat it the same way I treat nightly meditation. That would allow me to reset, refocus, and just bring more calm to my mind. It could take only a minute or five, but that would be enough for me to readjust.

It’s a good idea… once I need to put it into practice, I’ll see how effective it is for me.

Dosa Delight

Today, we went to Jackson Heights, one of my favorite neighborhoods on earth, to eat and explore. We hadn’t been back to our go-to spot for dosas, Dosa Delight, since 2019, so Chris wanted us to eat there. We got two dosas and mango lassis and ate inside, where they had some tables blocked off for indoor dining and some reserved for indoor dining given the limited indoor dining laws with the ongoing pandemic. When Chris went to wash his hands after we finished eating and our check was brought to us, the owner, who was actually our server, told me that they were really struggling and not doing well, and that they’d really appreciate it if we could write them good reviews on Yelp and Google if we enjoyed our food and experience.

That just broke my heart. He was so attentive to us throughout our meal, asking us if we were enjoying everything and if the food was up to par. When he said this to me, I could see the hurt in his eyes. It just felt so sad. This restaurant has been in business for over 35 years, and we’ve been regular patrons for over 10. The idea that this restaurant could get decimated by the pandemic would just be so upsetting. I don’t even know what could possibly replace it for us.

I had already taken video footage of the restaurant, planning to make an Instagram video of it, and maybe a TikTok one. Now, I’ve also got to write reviews for them, hoping they will survive this madness.

Elbow flare-up from cubital tunnel

I stopped seeing my physical therapist at the end of December. We had reached a “steady point” where he wasn’t really teaching me any new exercises or stretches, and my pain/stress was manageable. Other than tweaking parts of my computer setup, trying my best to refrain from doing activities that would stress my ulnar nerve, resting, and continuing my nerve flossing exercises, there wasn’t much for me to do, he said. I also got irritated remembering when he told me that the tightness and weakness I felt in my ring and pinky fingers had nothing to do with my ulnar nerve. A quick Google search reveals that the ulnar nerve originates in your neck, goes all the way down your arm through the inside of your elbow, and then ends in your pinky finger and half your ring finger.

I had a flare up this past Saturday while holding a heavy bag of groceries in my right hand. Prior to that moment of tension in my elbow, I’d never experienced that symptom of pain when carrying anything, which my PT said was unusual. Usually when someone has ulnar nerve issues, they cannot hold beyond a certain weight, but with me up until that point, I was totally fine. And well, now, I’m not. That was a little depressing.

So since Saturday, I’ve been icing nightly, refraining from too much phone use, and trying my best to stay off a computer (other than for work). I also decided to start looking for new exercises and stretches to do, and funnily enough, the exercises I am finding on YouTube made by other physical therapists seem to be helping me more than the ones that my PT taught me.

This only makes me believe less in our stupid medical system and more in YouTube and self-treatment. It’s like no one can help me except myself.

Bolognese for dinner on a weeknight

One thing I don’t mind about working from home full-time is the ability to cook food on the weekdays. Pre pandemic, I mostly did most of our cooking on Sundays, but given the flexibility of work, time between meetings, and a lack of commute, now I have more time to cook on the weekdays. Oftentimes, with just a little prep work, I can toss things into my Instant Pot or oven, and food will be ready for dinner time. One thing you never think you can make on a weeknight would be bolognese, a rich, meaty, Italian sauce that usually takes hours and hours to braise over a low flame on the stove. I tried finding recipes to allow it to be made in the Instant Pot, but they seemed too tomato forward. My favorite Bolognese has always been the ones that use tomato paste vs. several cups of canned whole tomatoes. In that sense, it’s more of a hearty meaty sauce with tomato flavor rather than a tomato sauce with meat in it.

So I decided to use a bolognese recipe that uses white wine, two small cans of tomato paste, and for the beef, I used the remaining two pounds of wagyu minced beef I picked up from Costco. During lunch time at around noon yesterday, I got the base of the sauce made while eating lunch (with all the mirepoix prep the night before). Then, between meetings and work tasks, I would take a little time to stir the mixture occasionally and replenish the water when needed. By the time 5:15 rolled around, the bolognese had already been stewing for over four hours, and all that was needed was the pasta to get cooked.

Four-hour-plus braised homemade tagliatelle bolognese on a weeknight. That is definitely a pandemic-era meal.

Fishing when the big fish takes away all the other fish

The dreams, while peaceful overall, have been pretty plain and everyday, a little boring, without any drama at all since I started regularly meditating at the end of December. Last night’s dream was particularly interesting because it was probably the most “action-filled” of all the ones I’ve had in the last few months.

Chris and I were on a boat being steered by a guide along some huge body of water. It was a hot, sunny day, and we were out fishing. Lucky for us, we’d already caught a number of large and medium sized fish, which were all sitting in a net in an open ice box on the boat. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a HUGE fish jumps into our boat, uses its massive fin to sweep all the fish back into the water, and then jumps back into the water. We’re all soaking wet in the water that the big fish brought into the boat and sitting there dumb struck, not believing what we just witnessed.

Well, I guess there would be no fish to eat that evening.

Endometrium what?

So today was the day of my big ERA test at the clinic. I was bracing myself for what would be 5 to 10 seconds of extreme pain. The clinical assistant had warned me that it would feel like “a very intense cramp for a few seconds, but then it would be over.” And so I knew that today was not going to be fun. They’re also taking a biopsy of my endometrium to check to ensure I do not have endometritis, which is an inflammation of the endometrium that can make an embryo transfer difficult. If I have it, the nurse said the fix would be easy — just a course of oral antibiotics.

The doctor came in with a nurse assistant and said that he was really excited about this menstural cycle for me because everything looked as good as it could possibly look: all my hormone levels were progressing as expected and hoped, plus the lining of my uterus was over the ideal level of thickness; he anticipates we’ll have a smooth transfer assuming this ERA test goes well.

“Excited,” huh? I’m not sure how “exciting” any of this is. That’s a funny word to use in the world of IVF.

So, he stuck the speculum into my vagina, and then took his instrument to remove a biopsy of my endometrium. He gave me a verbal head’s up when the “unpleasant” feeling would begin. It lasted less than 5-6 seconds, but it felt like a very, very intense menstrual cramp. And when he removed the speculum and said we were all set, I felt a combination of feverish hot flashes wash all over me. I could feel my face flushing. He suggested I lie down for a bit before getting dressed to leave. Even though he had removed the speculum already, it still felt like there was something down there, still inside of me, for at least a few minutes after.

The nurse stayed with me for about five minutes. They usually stay with you after this procedure for a bit to monitor you until you seem more composed… in the event that you may pass out and lose consciousness. She made some small talk with me and said that this ERA procedure went really well, as it was super quick; in some women’s cases, the doctor is not able to get to the right angle of the endometrium, so he actually has to go in a few more times after that, resulting in prolonged pain and even worse cramps for the woman. She also said that most women actually scream or moan or even cry when an ERA is done. “You handled this really well!” she said, smiling. My eyes widened. Thank GOD that was not me today!

After getting dressed, I still felt like I was having hot flashes and felt a bit dizzy and light-headed, but I thought that maybe walking in the cold would do me a little good. I walked for about four blocks to get some fresh air and then called an Uber to drive me home.

On the short 5-minute ride home, all I could think was…. “The shit I’ve had to do to just try and get pregnant. Please, God, make this all worth it…..”

Grocery shopping items – me vs. my husband

While Chris does admit that he can be controlling when it comes to deciding on trips, even where we are going on our Saturdays exploring New York City, he is also quick to point out that he rarely decides what we are eating since I do 99 percent of the cooking, and thus I usually decide what we eat and let him know after I’ve started prepping. I mean, to be fair, if he says he feels like a certain type of food, I am happy to accommodate it, but he rarely does.

But the really funny thing that always happens whenever we go grocery shopping together is comparing what I put into our cart vs. what he puts into our cart. For the most part whenever I go grocery shopping, regardless of what store/market I am in, the bulk of my purchase is always fresh, perishable foods, which translates as primarily fruit and vegetables (if we’re at Costco, I’ll purchase meat to stock our freezer quarterly. Costco is the primary place I buy meat at, and occasionally at Whole Foods. I buy almost all my seafood at Whole Foods). Occasionally, I’ll pick up a whole grain or whole wheat bread, some tortillas, and of course oat and/or cow milk and juice when we are running low, but fruit and vegetables are my primary purchase. So when we are loading items into the cart, I’m mostly adding fruit and vegetables, or some pantry staple like dried beans or rice. But when Chris thinks about grocery shopping… he’s mainly thinking about a few categories:

  1. Juice (no orange, ever)
  2. Milk (cow or oat; he gets upset if he sees that I’ve purchased almond and/or soy)
  3. Chocolate (he prefers Aussie or British chocolate, but occasionally likes to try chocolates imported from Belgium or some other chocolate renowned country)
  4. Mixture or banana chips (if shopping at a South Asian grocery store, or some kind of ‘to tide you over’ snack pre-dinner time)

This is why I jokingly have told him many times that not only he is my baby, he’s a baby when it comes to grocery shopping: he likes to pick out the “non-essential” items that are more like snacks and treats rather than the “real food” for our diet. 😀 He’s like the kid who accompanies his mom during grocery runs, adding in the “extras” like random snacks and sweets covertly while mom is busy checking items like vegetables or fruit or grains on her shopping list.

Resistance training for fat loss

I am not sure why, but in the last few YouTube videos I’ve been watching, the ads that I’ve been getting served have talked about the importance of resistance training, how running miles and miles on the treadmill will not result in weight loss and is simply a wasted effort (that last part is actually not always true for many of us, self included, but sure, you market you). Ever since I started regularly exercising in college and trying different workout regimens, I’ve always incorporated some sort of resistance training into my routine. This is no secret and is not up for debate: resistance training improves both strength and endurance. It also helps with losing excess body fat. And if you have a mesomorph body type like me, and if you use your own body weight (crunches, planks, lunges) vs. free weights, then you can build strength and definition without getting too bulky.

Oddly enough, while thinking about this annoying, recurring YouTube commercial, and while doing an interval run on the treadmill the other day, I thought about a former boyfriend who had once been, in his teens to early twenties, legitimately obese. When he showed me photos of how large he was, I was in complete disbelief. Granted, when I met him, he wasn’t the skinniest or most muscle defined guy, but he was FAR from obese. He lost a lot of that excess weight by running and working out on an elliptical (in addition to cutting his meal portions), but he had never really incorporated any resistance training into his workout routine. As a result of a lack of resistance training, he had a lot of flab around his stomach and love handles that … to put it bluntly, would literally just hang there. And it was NOT attractive.

I suggested to him several times that he try to do some form of resistance or strength training to lose it, that he needed to do more than pure cardio exercises as his 3-4x per week workout routine, but he insisted it wasn’t necessary. “It’s just excess skin,” he’d say defensively, and insist it wasn’t actually fat at all.

Well, that never worked — the polite suggestions or the relationship. He ended up gaining a lot of weight towards the end of our relationship. When I suggested that he try to lose it (this was mostly caused by stress and overeating as a result of stress from work), he said he didn’t feel like I was “accepting him for who he was” (no, that’s not the way I operate. It’s called tough love, idiots. We’re supposed to be striving to be the best version of ourselves, and that was NOT the best version of himself). And I found it completely unattractive and frustrating that he wouldn’t listen to me when I shared a very basic exercise fact that is known by pretty much ANYONE who does ANY form of exercise.

I’m not sure why I was reminded of him when reflecting on this commercial or while running on the treadmill. It was just a passing thought that came to mind. We all have different views and insecurities when it comes to diet and exercise, but to deny a basic fact about exercise seemed pretty ridiculous.

On the market for new knives

So, I’m on the market for a new everyday knife. While washing dishes the other day, I dropped the santoku style knife I usually use for everyday cutting/chopping, and the blade detached from the handle. Clearly, this was a glue issue, and while I’m sure there is a way to fix it, Chris reminded me that he’s had these knives for nearly 11 years now. He got a crazy good deal on Amazon for them (A 4-knife set plus a block.. for $25???????!!!!!), and so maybe it is finally time to invest in a new knife set or at least one new all-purpose knife. I don’t have any love, attachment, or hate for any of these knives; they have served their purpose, and I use them because I am practical and will use what we have. I don’t consider them remarkable or incredible in any sense. But if I am going to buy a new knife, I want to make sure it’s a really, really good knife.

Since maybe five years ago, I started reading about different Japanese knives, and I knew I wanted Global knives since they would be light weight (hollow handled), super sharp, relatively easy to maintain (some Japanese knives are impossible to maintain without constant professional sharpening), and they weren’t insanely expensive. As an added bonus, I read an article where Anthony Bourdain lamented how insanely expensive (and thus stupid) so many knife brands on the market are, and that that’s why he appreciated and loved Global knives so much because the price point was just right, and they were excellent quality. I was sold.

So now, the debate is… do we invest in a whole new set of 4-5, or just get a Global santoku? But apparently, the debate has been made even more colorful because Chris doesn’t understand why I am stuck on Global brand knives and insists I should consider the Amazon basics line of knives or other Japanese knife brands he quickly glanced at on Amazon. My whole thing is… I am rarely, rarely brand-devoted to ANYTHING outside of airlines and hotels (and that’s because I benefit from loyalty). I even gave up my obsession with Le Creuset and Staub dutch ovens and enameled cast iron because I appreciate and get so much use out of my Amazon Basics dutch oven, which only cost $30 courtesy of his aunt and uncle. Can’t I just be allowed one thing to have brand love for, and if that one thing is KNIVES, then that seems pretty damn practical, right?

Chris’s “stress” rate

For his birthday a few months ago, Chris’s brother got him a new Garmin device, so Chris has been using it daily, wearing it during his swims, and keeping it on pretty much day and night. He was looking at the Garmin app and noticing that for the most part, his stress level, as recorded by Garmin, seems to go up throughout the workday, and as soon as work starts winding down, it goes down gradually. Yet, on Thursday, it was a bit of an anomaly. The stress level pretty much stayed steady from about 9am through the time he went to bed. Why would that be the case?

Oh, that was easy, I said to him. We had our family chat that night! And thus, that added to Chris’s debate with me that Zoom/Google hangout/video chats do NOT relax him, and thus he doesn’t really look forward to them as he would socializing in person with people he cares about.

I’ve stopped wearing my Garmin regularly, but I wonder what my stress level is like when I do virtual hangouts with friends given what he said.