A Plexus Experiment

As most you know, I feel crummy a lot of the time. In an ongoing process of learning to sleep more when I’m tired, what foods and supplements make me feel better, how to better manage my symptoms, and just generally continuing on a slow journey of letting my body heal, the percentage of time that I feel crummy continues to lessen. This is only somewhat comforting on the days when I crawl back into bed with the dishes half done, but it does make me really, really appreciate the times when I can clean, declutter and reorganize my entire kitchen in a single week.

So, when I found out that a friend of mine with similar, but worse, health issues was feeling much better after taking a new supplement, I got curious. And then skeptical, because it was an MLM product, and then curious again, and then… well, then I attacked the internet in search of information.

My search turned up cheesy marketing videos and an intense rant against Plexus that boiled down to, “I tried it, and it made me feel bad, and only stupid people take diet pills anyway”. The diet pills connotation was off-putting, but the ingredients (a combination of herbs/plants and minerals) seemed to match the actual claim that it should help balance blood sugar and support good metabolism. That could help you lose weight, sure, but not in the scary diet pills kind of way, just in the ‘hey, my body stopped being broken about how it deals with fat’ sort of way.

Long story short, we decided it was worth giving it a shot to see if it would increase my number of ‘cleaned the whole kitchen’ days and decrease my number of ‘crawled back into bed exhausted’ days.

My Plexus order (consisting of their main three products: Slim, BioCleanse and ProBio5, a probiotic) came last Friday. I started with just the Plexus Slim to get a better idea of how each product affected me. It tasted like fruit punch with a malty/herby undertone of taste, and since that strange combination tasted really good to me, I figured maybe there was something in it that my body recognized as a needed nutrient.

I spent the rest of the day Friday trying to figure out if I felt any different or not. (Not that I have a tendency to over analyze and overthink everything… Oh, wait…) I’d been having a minor Lyme flare-up, so I’d been having extra fatigue along with lightheadedness and muscle soreness. The next morning I woke up feeling fairly energetic. I thought, hey, maybe the Plexus is working! Then I remembered that it was Saturday, and that if there is one day of the week that I will wake up with energy, it’s the day that I get to sleep in. I discounted the idea that this gave me any information about how well the Plexus was working, and went back to sleep.

Over the course of the weekend I still got episodes of lightheadedness from the Lyme flare up, but the underlying fatigue seemed to be lessening. I also noticed that I very quickly felt headachey if I got at all dehydrated. (Plexus Slim is supposed to be detoxifying, and comes with a warning to drink lots of water to help flush the toxins out of your system.) I also gained three pounds over the weekend, which I find rather amusing, even though it’s not enough weight to be significant. (I have heard though, that when the body is about start healing it likes to put on a few pounds as a reserve first, so there’s a small chance this is a good sign.)

Monday Colton took the day off to recover from some symptoms that were flaring up from his recent health issues. I decided to also take the day as a rest day since he was home and I’d started getting some side effects from the hormonal medications I’m on at various times in the month. Except, by the afternoon I was getting kind of restless with  my rest day and decided that I should tackle a ‘fun’ project. like decluttering and reorganizing all of my craft supplies. This was my first real clue that the Plexus might be giving me more energy.:-)

Since then I have started feeling more sleepy, like I need extra sleep, but the underlying, deep fatigue is still absent. I kind of wonder if this is a healing reacting again, but it’s also possible that I’m getting a cold, or having another round of side effects from my hormone medication, or that all of this is just part of the natural ebb and flow of energy levels that I usually have.

So, thus far, the official word on my Plexus experiment is that it’s promising, but too early to tell for sure how much it’s helping.

Either way, it’s nice to have my craft supplies organized for once.

Of Ice Skating and Decades

According to my calculations, aided by various social media histories, I went ice skating for the first time six years ago yesterday. This was my summation of the experience on twitter: “didn’t fall down enough to truly succeed at ice skating, but did make it around the rink a couple of times.”

Yesterday we continued with the New Year’s Day tradition and went ice skating with a large group of people from church.

In the course of six years I have progressed from “Augh! Why are there blades strapped to my feet? Augh! Now why am I on slippery ice??? *hangs on the edge for a while before ungracefully shuffling feet in an attempt to glide*” to being able to make actual skating motions with my feet and move in a slow but continuous gliding motion (until I freak out that I might be going to fast, because I still haven’t learned to stop, and let myself slow down to a stop before I start going again).

In the past six years I’ve learned a few other things as well, such as not being embarrassed to grab one of the plastic skate trainers (meant for little kids who are learning to skate) for my first couple of laps around the rink, so that my feet can remember what they’re supposed to be doing without having to balance at the same time. Such as knowing that I’ll have fun once I get out there and remember how to skate, even though it always just sounds stressful and terrifying when I’m thinking about trying to do it. Such as NOT stressing about my assumptions that everyone else is wondering why I haven’t figured it out by now, after seeing me shuffle around the rink for six years in a row.

As it turns out though, not bothering to stress about it was a good call, because no one told me I looked dumb, and I got a couple of comments about how much my skating has improved in the past few years.

I’ve been turning over in my head lately the ramifications of my 30th birthday coming up, and I keep coming to the conclusion that I’m really happy to be leaving my 20s behind. Not that my 20s were all bad, but the parts that stand out in memory are things I don’t mind leaving behind. I’m no longer single (as I was for the first half of my 20s), I’m less afraid of looking stupid when trying new things, and I’m more willing to say no to guilt related to having different skills and priorities and quirks than people around me.

As much as I sometimes feel like I’m still just bad at everything I’d like to be good at, the fact is, I can now skate around an ice rink in less than half the time it used to take me. (Even if most of the people on the ice are still passing me.)

 

On Mathematics: Base Not-Ten Systems and Abacii

Chapter one (that is, the chapter following chapter zero) of Here’s Looking at Euclid started off with an extensive analysis of the base 20, base 12, base 2 (binary) and other number systems. Aside from the brief realization that when converting between TBSP and cups or cups and gallons I can actually think in an essentially base 16 system, I find it hard to wrap my head around non-base 10 systems of numbers, so on that subject I simply refer you to Toby’s defense of the base 12 system: http://geekofmanytrades.blogspot.com/2014/03/math-and-sciences-monday-cheaper-by.html

The more intriguing (or at least less brain bendingly intriguing) part of the chapter was the discussion how becoming proficient with an abacus (specifically a Japenese style soroban, with five beads to a row) can improve the speed of mental calculations. I’m beginning to wish that I learned how to properly use my childhood abacus instead of arranging the beads into patterns and rolling my eyes at manipulating the beads to show answers to basic math problems I could already do faster in my head.

After reading about the intensive mental calculations achieved by school children who master the soroban it seems like a very good way to teach basic math skills. Manipulating physical objects as a way of doing math changes which parts of the brain are used, which means that not only could it make basic math concepts much easier to grasp for more creatively and less logically minded children, but even for logically minded children, the crossover of using multiple parts of the brain should improve their ability to recall what they’ve learned. Add to this the fact that soroban then becomes a basis for much more complex calculations later, and I’m a bit tempted to go back and learn to use a soroban in my spare time myself.

Maybe right after I finally tackle quantam physics.

On Mathematics: Approximation and Exactitude

The first chapter of Here’s Looking at Euclid (which is numbered at Chapter Zero) deals with the cultural differences between dealing with numbers and instinctive human reactions to dealing with numbers, which leads to a lot of discussion of approximating numbers versus exact counting.

The author ends the chapter with the conclusion that numbers are a human construct imposed on the outside world as a way to try to make sense of it. I find this conclusion baffling as it follows on the heels of this question, “If our brains can represent numbers only approximately, then how were we able to ‘invent’ numbers in the first place?” Perhaps the whole thing would make more sense if one assumed that God created numbers and mathematics, and that even our attempts at exactness are derivative from His truly exact calculations. (Pi, anyone?)

To me, the most interesting part of this exploration of the human brain and numbers was the idea that we innately tend to think logarithmically rather than linearly. That is, we tend to think in terms of comparisons and ratios rather than exact numbers as laid out on a number line. Don’t believe me? Which sounds more drastic, the difference between one and a million or the difference between one million and two million?

See what I mean?

Even those of us who lean toward logic and precision of calculation still have a human inclination to view numbers in an approximate and comparative way. (Possibly because this is more useful in everyday life, as people who tend to get caught up on precise calculations are often reminded. Counting how many items are in the carts of each person in each line of the grocery store isn’t going to save you any time, even if you do manage to calculate which line is mathematically shortest, but a quick estimate and comparison of heaping full carts vs one nearly empty cart might save you quite a bit of time.)

Now, here’s one of the interesting bits: Teenagers who were tested on their ability to rapidly compare groups of dots and accurately estimate the differences in sizes of the groups varied greatly in their ability to make these estimates. The ones who scored highest on these tests correlated to those who tended to score highly  on their school test in the precise calculations of formal mathematics. In other words, the better you are at estimating and comparing, the better you likely are at precise calculations.

This brings to mind teaching approaches that focus on the natural developmental stages of children. Perhaps rushing children past the early, colorful, comparative stages of learning math into ‘proper’ academics actually slows down their progress in the long run. I have no idea off the top of my head what that means about teaching math as specific ages, but it does seem to lend general support in the direction of allowing younger children time to focus on creative play instead of formal academics.

This chapter of the book sparked one last ponderable thought for me: If most of our formal mathematics are based on a logical, linear scale, are there similar levels of advanced mathematics yet to be discovered along the path of more intuitive, logarithmic scale?

Best Birthday Freebies in the Peoria, IL area

Before my birthday last week I signed up for a bunch of birthday clubs and such for restaurants in the Peoria area. A lot of the coupons you get with these are BOGO, which is nice if it’s for a place you frequent anyway, but not really worth for places you only go on occasion. I did collect a few nice completely free freebies (most of which I still need to use as my original plans were derailed by have having so much fun shopping with friends that I lost track of time), and I promised a couple different people to post about them here so they’d know which birthday clubs are worth signing up for.

(There are a lot of lists of birthday freebies on the internet, but I got tired of having to wade through a bunch of chains that don’t have locations near me in order to find the pertinent deals, which is why I figured this list would be useful to others in the area.)

Pro tip: you’re going to get a LOT of promotional e-mails if you start signing up for a bunch of clubs like this. Gmail now has a separate tab for promotional e-mails, which helps, but if you’re an obsessive notification checker, or just really like to cut down on e-mail clutter, I highly recommend getting a secondary e-mail address someplace (I use Yahoo) to use when signing up for offers like this. I also use that e-mail address when registering at most store websites, when signing up for freebies, etc.

Baskin Robbins: free 2.5 oz scoop of ice cream OR 3 oz soft serve swirl

Format: printable only

Fine print: free + applicable sales tax

Expires: mine expired 5 days after my birthday

I got my offer over e-mail. I don’t know if the text club offer gives you anything additional or different for your birthday or not.

UPDATE: I have now used the Baskin Robbins free scoop coupon. We presented the coupon after ordering and were informed that the coupon is for a kid’s sized scoop, but he did go ahead and take off the $2.09 value of a kid’s sized scoop, so we got my scoop of ice cream for $0.40. It was still a very pleasant experience and a good deal, but I’d suggest showing the coupon before you order, or specifically ordering a kid’s size scoop to make sure you get your ice cream free.

Caribou Coffee: free medium drink

Format: present Perks card (or account linked phone number)

Expires: valid only on your birthday

I’ve used this one without any problem on previous years, though this year I had a little problem with remembering which phone number was linked to the account, so I was sadly not able to use my free drink reward.

Culver’s: Free one scoop sundae

Format: printable only

Fine print says: Sundae includes two toppings, Additional charges may apply for nuts.

Expires: two weeks from when they send your coupon (they sent mine on the day of my birthday)

I joined the e-club so I got my offer over e-mail. I don’t know if the text club offer gives you anything additional or different for your birthday or not. I haven’t used this coupon yet, but I’ll try to come back and update the post if and when I do, and tell you if there were any additional restrictions or hassle with using my coupon.

Denny’s (click join now in the Rewards box): Free Grand Slam breakfast (the picture shows two eggs, two small sausage links, two strips of bacon and two pancakes)

Format: printable only

Fine Print says: Present ID upon ordering to redeem coupon.

Expires: Valid ONLY on your birthday

FYI, there are no Peoria locations for Denny’s, so you have to go to East Peoria to use this one. I haven’t used this coupon yet, but I’ll try to come back and update the post if and when I do, and tell you if there were any additional restrictions or hassle with using my coupon.

IHOP: Free order of Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity pancakes OR of World Famous Pancakes (second option listed in fine print)

Format: printable only

Fine print says: Valid ID required to redeem. Dine-in only. Limit one coupon per table.

Expires: two weeks from when they send your coupon (they sent mine the day before my birthday)

I was a little disappointed to see they have a limit of one coupon per table, because we also got a coupon for free pancakes for signing up for the e-mail list, and I was hoping we could use both in the same visit. Though, realistically, my husband I would probably both be fine doing a light Saturday breakfast of splitting the order of pancakes and just do lunch a little earlier… I’ll try to come back and update the post if and when I do use this coupon, and tell you if there were any additional restrictions or hassle with using my coupon.

Logan’s Roadhouse: Free Dessert OR Appetizer

Format: printable (not sure if you could show the coupon on a smart device or not)

Fine print says: Good on any menu item $7.99 or under OR one full size dessert. Not valid on alcoholic beverages.

Expires: thirty days from when they send your coupon (they sent mine one week before my birthday)

I haven’t used this coupon yet, but I’ll try to come back and update the post if and when I do, and tell you if there were any additional restrictions or hassle with using my coupon.

Panera BreadFree pastry

Format: present Rewards card (or account number)

Fine print:Cannot be redeemed for bulk pastries, souffles or bagels.

Expires: mine expires nearly three months after my birthday

I haven’t used this coupon yet, but I’ll try to come back and update the post if and when I do, and tell you if there were any additional restrictions or hassle with using my coupon.

Red Robin: Free Burger

I didn’t complete my sign up (which requires getting a call or text with a verification code) in time to get this coupon so I don’t have any details on it. Do note that there are no Red Robin locations in Peoria, so you have to go to East Peoria for this one.

Ruby Tuesday’sFree Burger

Format: printable, or show code on smart device

Fine print says: Recieve a free burger (up to $9). Not valid on limited time offers or daily specials.

Expires: mine was valid from the day before my birthday until two weeks later

FYI, there are no Peoria locations for Ruby Tuesday’s, so you’ll have to go to Morton to use this one. I haven’t used this coupon yet, but I’ll try to come back and update the post if and when I do, and tell you if there were any additional restrictions or hassle with using my coupon.

In case you’re interested, here are additional birthday clubs in the area that give you a discount (usually something free with purchase):

Applebee’s: BOGO entree

Auntie Anne’s: BOGO pretzel product (Auntie Anne’s also has a perks app which offers a free birthday pretzel. I don’t know if that’s also a BOGO offer or not.)

Dairy Queen: BOGO medium blizzard

Einstein Bros Bagels: free breakfast sandwich with drink purchase (We used this coupon because Einstein Bros is a favorite breakfast spot for us anyway. On the same visit we also used the free bagel and schmear (with other purchase) coupon we got for signing up for the e-mail club, and between the two coupons we ended up paying about $12 for two breakfast sandwiches, a latte and a bagel with schmear. No hassle whatsoever about using the coupons, and they didn’t even make me show my ID to prove my recent birthday, though the fine print said they would.)

Famous Daves: Buy one entree get one 1/2 off

Flat Top Grill: Free ‘birthday bowl’ with purchase of equal or greater value

Hometown Buffet: BOGO dinner buffet

Longhorn Steakhouse: free dessert with purchase of entree

Red Lobster: $5 off purchase of two dinner entrees

Sonic: Free medium tater tots with purchase (I also got a coupon with the option of free creamslushie or tater tots, but I think that one was for the anniversary of my signing up for their e-mails. It’s a little confusing though, because both used the word ‘birthday’ in the coupon.)

Here are a couple more non restaurant coupons and freebies that seemed worth mentioning:

Driscoll’s Berries: .50 coupon off your next purchase of Driscoll’s Berries. I’m a fan of coupons on fruit, but this would would be more awesome if my birthday happened while berries were in season…

Famous Footwear: $5 off $5 or more shoe purchase coupon (Officially only ‘Gold’ members get a birthday offer, but I haven’t spent enough there to possibly be a Gold member, and they still sent me this coupon. It’s not valid on accessories, slippers or a few select shoe brands. Oh, and limit 21 pairs of shoes, in case that was going to be a concern with a $5 coupon…)

Redbox: free movie rental (near your birthday they’ll email you a code that’s valid for two weeks)

I’d love it if you would comment below and let me know of any good birthday freebies in the Peoria, IL area, or of any experience you’ve had redeeming the above birthday coupons (restrictions, etc). I’d especially like to hear of any local restaurants or coffee shops that have some kind of birthday reward, because I’d often rather get a small discount at a favorite local place than drive out of my way for a minor freebie at a chain restaurant I never ordinarily go to.

Curtains

On this crisp almost winter morning, I thought perhaps I’d throw back the curtains, let what light there was come streaming into the house, and enjoy the cusp of the new season. On opening the blinds I discovered that not only was this cusp of winter the usual drab snowless transition one might expect, but some bird had a case of diarrhea so intense as to manage to hit my window through the screen.

You know what’s really lovely this time of year? Curtains. Curtains are a great look. I think I’ll stick with those.