I hate being asked the question, “What have you been up to lately?” It’s like, the worst question you can ask me. It always sends me into a tailspin of panic as I try desperately to come up with an interesting response, something that will conceal the fact that I’m quite boring and have a painfully predictable routine.

But more than that, I hate being asked “what have you been up to lately?” because I’m not very good at small talk. I’m not the type of person who can easily give you a vague overview of my life because pleasantries drive me nuts. I either want to talk about the innermost workings of our psyches or just not talk at all.  

Normal person: “Hey, Courtney! Great weather we’re having, eh?”

Me: “I wonder if you can be reincarnated as a tree.”

And then I make morning conversation at the coffee pot super uncomfortable for everyone.

So when asked what I’ve been up to lately, it’s just easier to give a flippant response like, “Oh, just work and stuff.”

But since I love you guys, I can be honest with you: I’ve been dealing with undiagnosed back pain for the past 6 months and it’s affecting my life to the point that I don’t remember what it’s like to feel good and am prone to randomly bursting into tears because I’m so frustrated. And the anxiety I’m accumulating from not being able to move and expel energy the way I want is spilling over into other areas of my life and I’m almost downright unbearable to live with.

Almost $2,000 later (thank GOODNESS for health insurance), I’m not that much closer to an answer about the pain I’ve been experiencing since November. I’ve seen my chiropractor, physical therapist, and general practitioner numerous times, but still don’t have a definitive diagnosis. I’ve been told a few different things (each of which was told to me with great certainty), but none of the suspected reasons ended up being accurate and at one point I was doing PT exercises that were actually causing more damage than good. 

The most information I have at this point is that I have mild lumbar scoliosis. An x-ray revealed that my lower back is slightly curved, but I kinda feel like I already knew that.

Remember in 8th grade when the school nurse made you take off your shirt and bend over in the locker room so she could look at your back and see if you were eligible to start wearing a socially popular brace? I vaguely recall being told that my back wasn’t perfectly straight, but that it wasn’t a huge cause for concern. But what I do distinctly remember is that the girl in front of me was a gymnast and the nurse just kept marveling at how big and strong her back muscles were. And I remember feeling mortified because they only thing I brought to the table at that age was a healthy crop of bacne.

So I have a hazy memory of my back not being 100% straight (and I’ve survived an additional 20 years with that knowledge and no complications), but now that a radiologist has concluded that I have mild scoliosis, I feel like Gollum.

I’m not well versed in spine-related matters, but it seems odd that my scoliosis would suddenly rear its crooked head and start giving me grief now. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but it just doesn’t seem to add up with the timeline of all this hamstring/general fatigue nonsense.

The next step would be to get an MRI, but they’re really expensive and I’m honestly scared it’ll reveal that all kinds of stuff is wrong with my body. (“Well, we found all that chewing gum you swallowed as a child … and you have worms.”). Ignorance is bliss, right?

I know that’s the wrong attitude to have, but I just don’t want to go that route quite yet. In addition to spending a few hours a week strengthening my core, I’ve been very diligent about stretching and alternating ice and heat on the area. I’ve slowly been working up to several hours without pain and I’m hoping I’m on the path to recovery. If there’s not significant improvement in the next few weeks, I’m scheduling the MRI.

I also started taking an iron supplement to see if it will help with my chronic running fatigue. My GP did some blood work over the winter and reported that my iron levels were normal, but after I logged into my patient profile a few weeks back, I saw that my numbers are actually on the extremely low side of normal (and I find it odd that he didn’t mention that). I figured supplementing my iron was worth a shot.

I am happy to report that my running energy is slowly returning. I don’t know if the supplements are actually helping or if it’s a placebo effect or if the universe finally is finally throwing me a bone or what, but it’s improving. I can’t hold a fast pace very long, but it’s better than not being able to hold one at all.

I made the decision to downgrade my upcoming half marathon to the 10k. I know it was the right decision, and one I should have made much sooner, but asking the race director to change my registration filled me with a lot of bitterness. I signed up for the Geist Half Marathon in December thinking, “I’ll be healed by then!” But here we are, just 2 weeks from the race, and I’m still snuggling with an ice pack after each run.

I’ve been telling myself it is perfectly okay if I need to walk during the 10k and if my back starts bothering me at all, I should walk, but my ego is having a hard time warming up to that idea. I’ve been forced to have a lot of come-to-Jesus talks with my pride lately.

And it’s definitely not helping that my Time Hop app keeps showing me pictures and status updates from my previous spring half marathons and I’ve seen several old photos of me running with what can only be described as the look of pure happiness and contentment … even during my first few races when it took me over 2 hours to finish.

I just want to get back to high mileage. I just want to get back to that feeling that only comes from a long, enjoyable run. I miss the dopey grin I could feel on my face while I cooled down and stretched after an hour and half run. I miss the satisfaction. And the pride I felt in myself for just moving my legs that long and far.

So ya, that’s where I’m at right now. Part of me is optimistic, and part of me worries I’ll never get back to where I was because of my back. No matter what is causing this season in my life, I sincerely hope and pray its temporary. If the reason is nothing more than to teach me how to take care better care of my body, fine. I gladly accept it and I’ve learned my lesson. I’m just ready to be better.

Postscript: Each health care professional I've seen has said there's no reason why I can't run right now, but to go slow and stop if I feel any discomfort in my back. I'm approved to work out so long as it doesn't cause pain.

I’ve spent a few days trying to decide if and how much I should be bothered by a comment that was made to me last week.

One morning before work, Clay and I drove my car to the dealership to have some recall repairs made (apparently I had two recalls out on my vehicle). The repairs were no big deal and took only a few hours, but in true dealership fashion, the mechanic showed me a long list of “problems” they believe I should address and pay them to fix.

Some of the suggested repairs are definitely legitimate concerns, but they didn’t surprise me because my car is 12 years old and that kind of thing is to be expected. I politely thanked him for the list, knowing full well that we’ll be showing it to our personal mechanic who we trust to be open and honest with us about what truly needs to be done.

Before we left, the gentleman at the dealership made a comment about being sure I addressed a broken brake light ASAP. (It wasn’t worth telling him at the time, but we already had light bulbs on the kitchen counter that we bought the night before. We were aware.) He said, “Cops in this town love to pull people over for that kind of thing.”

Again, we’re aware. I’ve lived here 12 years, Clay’s been here almost 30. We’re familiar.

But then the guy looked at me and said, “Now, don’t be offended by this,” (which is always an awesome way to start a sentence), “but if you go out with your girlfriends for a wild Girls’ Night at Longhorn Steakhouse and drink 3 glasses of wine, you might not be thinking about your broken brake lights on your drive home.”


I have a few thoughts.

Firstly, if you have to say, “Now, don’t be offended by this …”, then you probably shouldn’t say what you’re about to say.

Secondly, this man is making an assumption that I would possibly drink and drive.

Thirdly, by inferring that he thinks I could possibly drink and drive, he’s diminishing my intelligence and capability of rational thinking.

Finally, and perhaps the most offensive, is that he thinks that out of all the amazing restaurant options in Bloomington, I’d eat at Longhorn Steakhouse.

Okay, no. The part about him thinking I could possibly drink and drive is definitely the most offensive.

I’m sure he thinks he was being cute by painting such a vivid picture to illustrate his point about fixing my brake light. I can say with almost 100% certainty that his intention was not to offend me.

But he did. Polite and well-meaning or not, it’s problematic that this was how he chose to reiterate the importance of changing a freakin’ light bulb. But since he said it with a wink and a smile, it’s harmless, right?

I hate doing this, but what would he have said to Clayton if he picked up the car by himself? Would he even feel the need to “explain” why Clay needed to fix the lights? And if he did, would he do so by weaving a tale of Clayton getting drunk on beers during a wild Boys Night and then driving himself home?

And really, I’m ultimately the one to blame because rather than looking at this guy in horror, I faked a chuckle and walked away. By not sticking up for myself, I basically confirmed that it’s acceptable for him to say the same thing to the next woman who brings her car in with a broken light bulb.

But I’m a passive a-hole who feels safer seething in the privacy of her home and writing a blog post about it.

There are definitely worse things that have been said to people and I’ll probably hear things that are much worse at some point in my life (either things directed at me or someone with me). Hopefully by then I’ll be less scared of conflict and feel confident enough to actually say something so then that person knows for a fact that it’s not an acceptable thing to say ever again. Because it’s these small, seemingly harmless statements that stall or impede social progress.

I’ve been wide-awake since 5:30 this morning. I had zero intentions of getting up before my usual 6:45 wake-up call (especially on a Monday), but someone was sleeping on his back like a beached whale and snoring like a faulty chainsaw.

Surprisingly, it was Joey, not Clayton.

In a fit of exhausted rage, I flopped over the edge of the bed to berate Joey for ruining my slumber, but he looked so freakin’ cute wrapped up in his blanket and laying halfway off his doggie bed that I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I let him continue to snore through his blissful beagle dreams and quietly crept out of the room since going back to sleep was now impossible.   

So I got up early and actually worked out before work.

Thanks, Joey?

But my workout was done and out of the way early and that meant there was one less thing standing between me and tacos for dinner. (All day at work I was like, “TACOS! TACOS! TACOS!” It’s hard to concentrate on anything else when you know you’re going home to eat TACOS! TACOS! TACOS!)

This past weekend was great. The weather wasn’t ideal (it was pretty chilly and Saturday was so windy, many people lost power), but we got a lot done and still had plenty of time to relax.

Highlights of the weekend included seeing Fahim Anwar at the comedy club with Dan and Emily and then going back to their house to drink cocktails and play Mario Kart. I actually won 2 races that night and got so excited I fell asleep on the couch while everyone else kept playing video games.

It’s always a good time with those two and I don’t just fall asleep anywhere, so I hope they feel super special.

I ran 8 miles on Sunday morning which, given my situation over the past several months, is a big deal! Since I incorrectly charged my Garmin the night before, the battery was practically drained and wouldn't last during my workout. Instead of throwing a hissy fit, I decided to use the stopwatch on my phone and just run for an hour and 15 minutes (assuming I ran 9 minute miles with a few extra minutes for padding).

The run went really well! I’ve been having a hard time getting through 5 and 6 mile runs and assumed this one would be no different, but I actually felt pretty good! I ran on some pretty steep hills and despite my vision going blurry and a few thoughts of, “So this is where I die”, I powered up each one.

The time actually went by fast, which is weird.

But more on running nonsense in a later post.

My favorite part of this weekend was finally getting our new couch! We were able to pick it up Saturday (2 separate car trips in 40 mph winds, no less) and that night we got to laze around on our new sectional and watch movies.

For the record, Joey hates the new couch. It’s not as “crater-y” as our old one and he’s having a hard time adjusting to a firm surface when he was once so accustomed to a couch he practically sank into. We had to drag his doggie bed into the living room so he had something to sit on.

I’m actually really pleased that we decided to wait on new carpet and instead put our tax refund towards new seating. Having our carpets shampooed brightened them up beautifully and for the first time since we stepped foot inside this house, it doesn’t have a faint aroma of old dog urine.

It wasn’t horribly noticeable in the summertime when the air conditioner and air filter were turned on, but any days we wanted to shut off the system and open the windows for a fresh breeze? No way. There’s no such thing as “fresh air” when the breeze is just blowing around old dog pee.

We steam cleaned the carpet, used every possible DIY cleaner, paid a professional to steam the carpet—none of it worked. One time I even got on my hands and knees with paint thinner to see if that could lift the stains. We were ready to replace it.

But then our need for a couch (and a trip to France next year) became the immediate need and we put plans for new carpet on hold.

I’d always heard that shampooing carpet did more harm than good, but we were seriously desperate. If we couldn’t afford brand new carpet, then we wanted to do anything we could to salvage the old.

We bought a house specifically to host get-togethers and I’ve been so embarrassed by the “musky mutt odor” and the subsequent carpet staining that I’ve rarely invited guests into my home. I couldn’t stand the thought of someone thinking that’s how I kept my home or that, heaven forbid, our dog made that smell.

As of tonight, a full week after the carpet cleaning, the giant black stain in front of our TV is GONE. I honestly started crying when I first walked through the door the day we had the carpets done—it was something that bothered me THAT much.

I'll wait to post a picture of our freshly shampooed, slightly redecorated living room. I'm waiting on a small decor item to come in the mail and once it's all put together, I'll show you. For now, here's Joey trying to get comfortable on the new sofa:

 And you can feast your eyes on my TACOS! TACOS! TACOS!

For dessert we had whatever you want to call this thing:

It’s basically a dessert lasagna with alternating layers of Oreos and whipped cream and strawberries. It’s messy and has no name, but it’s delicious.

(And please don't judge how dirty my glass casserole dish is right now. It's very, very old and will forever be haunted by remnants of meals past.)

Happy Monday!

Oh my gosh. It's only Monday. 
I’m honestly surprised I can see my laptop screen right now as I write this post. I had somewhat of a hydrogen peroxide “mishap” this morning and it’s a wonder I’m not blind. Seriously, just because you can use hydrogen peroxide solution to clean your contact lenses doesn’t mean you should. I know there’s a giant red warning printed along the top of the bottle and instructions on how to properly use it, but what the optometry field doesn’t understand is that if America is stupid enough to put Donald Trump anywhere near the White House, then we probably don’t know how to read or think logically.

But I’m okay. My right eye just hurts like heck!

How is everyone on this fine Tuesday evening? The weather is finally starting to stay consistently sunny and warm-ish, so I’m already in a much better general mood than I was a month ago. (Seriously, February and March are the worst.)

It’s weird that Easter that was in March this year, but it’s been three months since Christmas, so I guess we were due for some family holiday time.

My sister hosted Easter dinner this year, which was just one highlight in a fun, busy weekend. Clay and I traveled to Muncie on Friday night so we could all get up early the next day and drive to my hometown to participate in a 5k my dad and his non-profit organization host every year.

Everything in that last sentence sounded bizarre, I know. I mean, when was the last time I was in my hometown? Let alone to run a race?

I’m not race ready by any means, but I really wanted to support the cause and just told myself to have fun with it. The race route weaved through a scenic part of our town that was actually pretty trippy because we ran past a playground I remember playing on numerous times as a child.

A big draw for this year’s race was that Ben Higgins, the dude from The Bachelor, was going to be the “master of ceremonies” since he’s from my hometown. So a lot of girls showed up to the starting line wearing a full face of make-up so they could snap pictures with Ben before they started running and got all sweaty and ugly and undatable. I've never watched an episode of The Bachelor (and not because I take a strong moral stance against it or anything. I own the first two seasons of VH1's Flavor or Love for cryin' out loud), but I understand he's quite popular. 

Ashley's boyfriend took this picture with my cell phone while I made friends with a nearby dog.

My dad is one of the race organizers/directors (I’m not sure they assigned themselves formal titles) and I gotta admit, it was pretty cool seeing my own father have such a huge role in the activity I’ve dedicated so much time to in my adult life.  In fact, last week I practically willed people to ask me what my upcoming weekend plans were so I could do a little a brag on my family and drop it into casual conversation. It was like, “I don’t think my father, the inventor of Toaster Strudel, would be too pleased to hear about this.”

It was a brisk morning, but the sun was shining and you honestly couldn’t ask for better running weather in March. I settled into a steady pace at the beginning of the race and even though I didn’t beat or come close to my best 5k finishing time, I consistently sped up with each mile and it was enough to place 3rd in my age group.

We grabbed lunch with my dad after the race, and then I practically sprinted back to the car so we could go get custard at Ritter’s.

I worked part-time at this particular Ritter’s Frozen Custard throughout high school and a few summers during college. I worked with many of my closest friends and it was an extremely positive, memorable experience in my life. Being around the sights, sounds, and delicious smells for a few more brief moments on Saturday was a big deal for me.

Plus, BIRTHDAY CAKE was one of their flavors on Saturday! And I already knew it was going to be one of Saturday’s flavors because I emailed a friend of mine who works there and she said she’d make sure it was. So ya, I influenced Ritter’s weekend menu. No big deal.

*flips hair behind my shoulder* “I don’t think my friend Shayla, the manager of Ritter’s Frozen Custer, would be too pleased to hear about this.”

I ordered a Glacier (it’s like a DQ Blizzard) with birthday cake crumbs and birthday cake custard.

I could have died right then and there.

We also stopped by a candy store called Rocket Fizz and thought it would be hilarious if we all bought the grossest sodas we could find.

Then we all tried them.

And all almost threw up. The taste of that Sweet Corn pop will forever haunt my tastebuds.

Then we headed back to Muncie to meet up with my mom and enjoy the rest of our Easter weekend. My mom prepared another one of her famous holiday meals and I got to spend some more time with my newest fur nephew, Kylo Ren.

Looks at those eyes!

He’s a bluenose pitbull that showed up on my sister’s doorstep neglected and malnourished earlier this winter. She and her boyfriend rehabilitated him, fell in love, and decided to add him to the family. We were all really excited. Joey was pooped by the time we got back to Bloomington!

It's only Tuesday (now Wednesday by the time I realized I forgot to officially post this), but we've already had a hectic week! We had the carpets professionally cleaned on Monday and we just had our old sectional couch hauled away to make room for the new (which we can't pick up until this weekend so we have nowhere to sit). Moving the furniture around exposed a few spots on the wall that need paint touch-ups, so we know what we'll be doing tomorrow evening, too. Plus, the grass is turning green and starting to grow which made it painfully obvious that I need to start pulling weeds.


Hope you're having a great week!

Gosh, I don’t even know how to begin to summarize our trip to NYC because we took advantage of every single minute we had in the Big Apple. We roamed the City That Never Sleeps for a solid 4 days and saw some of the best that Manhattan has to offer. In no specific order, we saw/experienced:

Central Park
Ellis Island*
Liberty Island*
Top of the Rock*
Rockefeller Plaza
The Today Show
Times Square
Grand Central Station
The Empire State Building*
The Metropolitan Museum of Art*
American Museum of Natural History*
The 9/11 Memorial Museum
St. Patrick’s Cathedral

*If you’re ever in NYC, I highly recommend you take advantage of CityPass. We bought the booklets before our trip and saved at least $100 visiting these attractions. (For a little bit of perspective: It cost $32 per person to visit the Empire State Building and the booklets cost us just $114 each)

(If it looks like we wore the same thing every day, we basically did. You don't get fancy when you're running around the city on your feet all day! We seriously averaged 23,000 steps a day and walked over 35 miles during our trip!)

Out of everything we saw, my favorite attractions were the Top of the Rock and the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The Empire State Building had an incredible view for sure, but there was just something extra special about the Top of the Rock and being able to look across Manhattan and actually see The Empire State Building on one side and Central Park on the other. Plus, the entire time we were near 30 Rock, I kept expecting to see Tina Fey (wishful thinking, I know).

We decided the best way to describe the 9/11 Memorial was beautiful and haunting. I had no idea what to expect when we stepped foot on Ground Zero, but it is a very emotional experience for anyone who is old enough to remember that day in vivid detail. The museum itself takes guests below the memorial and you find yourself surrounded by some of the foundation of the original buildings. It’s so incredibly well done; you’ll linger in each room and read every word on every exhibit.

We ate/devoured/drank:

Shake Shack
Katz's Deli
Levain Bakery
Sprinkles Cupcakes
Magnolia Bakery
Mimi’s Pizza Kitchen
Boxkite Coffee
Flatiron Hall
Café 28

If you ask me what my favorite thing to eat in NYC was, of course I’m going to tell you it was the cupcakes. Weeks before the trip, Molly and I scouted bakeries and compared notes on where we wanted to nosh on sugary treats. I know a thing or two about frosting and I have to say, Sprinkles had the superior buttercream. I ordered vanilla on vanilla at both bakeries (I’m a creature of habit).

And major kudos to Dough and their willingness to experiment with flavors. The hibiscus doughnut was truly one of the most unique things I've ever eaten. The dried flowers were quite interesting, but the flavor blended really well with the tanginess of the icing.

Best NYC dining ambiance is easily awarded to the famous Katz's Deli. Bumping elbows with the people at the table next to you, pictures on the wall of famous people who have dined there, shouting orders across the busy meat counter, so much meat on your sandwich it's falling off the sidesawesome.

Molly and I planned to run in Central Park at least one day during our visit, but the logistics of getting there from our hotel were a bit harder to navigate than we thought, so we settled on running around Madison Square Park (about two blocks from our hotel on Broadway).

When we did finally get to Central Park (as a stop on our walk to the American Museum of Natural History), I did do a little bit of running. I fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams of running like Phoebe Buffay in Central Park.

I met a beautiful beagle boy named Tyler who’s mom was kind enough to let me pet him because I was desperately homesick for Joey after only one day. I pointed out every single dog during the entire trip and Clayton eventually got kind of annoyed and was like, “I don’t know why you seem surprised that they have dogs here.”

The entire trip was a lot to take in and I'm having a heck of a time organizing my photos. There are SO MANY! Here a few of my favorite snaps:

Overwhelmed by photos yet? Me too. I'll upload these and more to my Facebook page because it's much faster, but the additional photos will just be an elaboration on what's already posted here. (So if we're not Facebook friends, you still get the gist of it!)

It was quite the adventure and I'm already wondering, "Where to next?"