Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's Like Magic!!

I've written a couple of posts about having anemia. What a pain in the neck it's been!! I don't know how long my iron levels were low, but when the blood work came back the doctor said she didn't know how I was able to keep going. (I was really, really anemic.) It got really bad in the few months before I was diagnosed. One of the many difficult aspects had to do with my weight. After losing 40 pounds in 2007, I very successfully kept the weight off for a long time. Recently, hmmm, corresponding to the anemia, perhaps, I found that I would gain weight at the drop of a hat, and then I could NOT lose it again. It was so frustrating!! I kept resolving to cut back, to weigh and measure, to keep a food journal, to go to a nutritionist, to work out more, and NOTHING seemed to work. I failed at everything, especially increasing my work outs, because my body was SCREAMING at me that I needed something I wasn't giving it. I had no energy for work outs. I couldn't get a handle on my portions because my body wanted me to eat more because it was in search of iron. And the scale just kept creeping up. I slowly regained 25 pounds. Seriously discouraging.

But then I went to the doctor. I told her I had no energy and I couldn't lose weight. She said these magic words... "let's do a little digging", and sent me for blood work. I got my diagnosis. After some trial and error (including a round of hives, the worst itch I've ever known in my life, caused by the sulfa in the iron tablets I started out with) I found iron supplements I could handle.

After a few months on the supplements I went back for more blood tests to see how I'm doing and my iron levels have just managed to squeak over the line to normal- hooray!!! Guess what else is happening. No really, guess. Guess, guess!! OK, I'll tell you. I'm losing weight again!!! I'm walking more often and with more vigor. My appetite is more in line with a normal human being's. I can portion control with some success again. I mean, it's still a challenge, don't get me wrong, but it's a challenge I can handle. My body isn't screaming at me anymore!!

It's amazing to me that such a seemingly small thing as how much iron is in my body can make such a huge difference in how I look and feel. And iron, of all things! I've always thought the stereotype of someone anemic was a thin, pale person. Not so much! I'm definitely not pale (I have rosacea, I'm always a little red, and sometimes a lot red depending on the circumstances) and the anemia was making me absolutely hefty.

It's a lesson learned. My mom, a retired nurse, is always fussing that weight is much more than a calories in, calories out kind of deal. She says there must be more to it, and in this case I found that to be oh, so true. While my calories in were definitely too high, and my calories out were too low since I didn't have the energy to exercise properly, (I could barely get through my days at the worst of it) there were driving factors behind it. I had a nutrient deficiency so my body was driving me to eat in order to make up what I was missing. I had cravings (although not for dirt or ice or clay or anything, which I understand is common with anemia) and I felt like I was starving all the time. (I kind of went nuts for peanuts, actually. They have some iron in them, go figure.)

I think that's why a balanced diet is the best diet of all. In the absence of any other medical issues, if you are giving your body what it needs, not in terms of calories but in terms of all of the vitamins and minerals it has to have to function properly, then you should be able to maintain a healthy weight. Michael Pollen sums it up the best for me: "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much". Then, of course, he goes on to define FOOD, which means real stuff, not processed food product that you find in the supermarkets nowadays. If you eat empty calories you will be hungry and you will crave more food due to your body's attempts to get those nutrients, and you will gain weight, which will make it harder to move and burn calories, and so forth. So if you are having trouble with your weight even though you are doing everything you can, have some blood work done and hope for a wonderful doctor who listens to you and says "let's do a little digging".

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New Recipe- Lentil, Carrot, and Kale Soup

DH is on a low iodine diet for a couple of weeks so he can undergo some screening tests. The diet is kind of a good thing, even though he's having fits for cheese, in that it shakes us out of our food rut for a little while. I've had to find new recipes that are completely devoid of any processed food that might contain iodized salt, plus no dairy and no egg yolks. He's also vegetarian, so no meat. We've gone totally whole foods!

One of his favorite things to eat on the low iodine diet (this is his second round) is homemade salsa- yum. I found no salt organic corn chips for him and so he'll make huge batches of his salsa, then we all pig out on it. Salads, stir fries, and roasted veggie packets are also yummy.

Today we tried a new recipe from Deliciously Organic for Lentil, Carrot, and Kale Soup with Creme Fraiche and Dill, only we altered it a bit. (DH and I made it together.) First of all DH halved it- it serves 8 to 10!! Even halving it made a lot of stew. (It was more stew-y than soup-y.) DH also made a batch of rice to serve with it, and we left out the creme fraiche and dill. (He can't have the creme fraiche since it's a dairy product. We would have liked the dill, we just forgot it.) We also used a vegetarian, no salt bouillon cube to make the broth instead of the chicken stock called for in the recipe, and substituted olive oil for the butter. We also left off the wine, and DH meant to put in a splash of a fancy vinegar instead, but we both forgot. We used an immersion blender instead of a regular blender, and some of the kale was blended up by mistake, but kale blends nicely so that was OK. (I started throwing the kale in the pot then remembered it was supposed to go in AFTER the blender step, drat it all.) Oh, and kosher salt instead of sea salt, since kosher salt doesn't have iodine in it and sea salt does.

The next time we'll make it with A LOT MORE CARROTS!!! My family LOVES carrots so we should've put more in the recipe today. DH also fussed about the lemon, but the rest of us liked it. (He doesn't generally like citrus in cooked foods- it's a thing with him.)

The consensus? 4 out of 5 of us want it added to our regular menu rotation. As for the 5th, he wouldn't even try it; he made a hamburger. (But that's typical- we don't let it bother us.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Advice to a Beginning Cook

Someone asked for cooking advice on Facebook today. The person is a beginning cook and wanted help with finding recipes, cook book recommendations, etc. A few people recommended Alton Brown; here's what I had to say, and it was long enough that I decided to post it here:

I love Alton Brown too but I think he's probably too complicated for a beginner. (I bought one of his cookbooks but wound up donating it to the library- the recipes were way too hard/time consuming and I have decent cooking skills. I've learned a LOT from watching "Good Eats", though!) The old classics- Betty Crocker, for instance, would probably be better, or Taste of Home magazines, which I believe are fairly basic. You can also check out cook books from the library to see which ones you like without having to buy them right away. It's disheartening to spend money on a cook book then find out the recipes don't work for you for whatever reason.

Plus remember the old adage- practice, practice, practice. The more you cook, the better you'll get.

Also- when trying a recipe for the first time follow it to the letter. After that feel free to experiment and change things up, mix up the seasonings, make substitutions. Don't try that with baking, though- you have to be more precise with following the recipe when you bake, especially when it comes to proportions of one ingredient to another. Look for the websites where you can plug in the items you want to cook with, then it generates a list of recipes for you. There's also and Cooking Light magazine and Southern Living both link to..., I think, and their recipes are fantastic.

Cooking magazines are wonderful- I have a bit of an addiction to them! Finally- focus on the style of cooking you want to pursue- if you want healthy recipes, then Cooking Light or Eating Well would be fantastic, for instance. Vegetarian, then go for Vegetarian Times, etc. Then there's all the cooking shows out there- I actually prefer good old PBS for cooking shows. Julia Child re-runs and Martha Stewart's current show, along with America's Test Kitchen. Even if they are making things too complicated for where you are right now, you'll still learn techniques that will help you out in the long run. And don't forget about Pinterest!! There are about a bazillion recipes on there. Good luck!!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Summer Summary

I wrote about my summers not too long ago, how they all seem to take on themes. I like it best when the theme is TRAVEL, but not much of that happened this summer. What did happen was lots and lots of doctor visits to try and figure out why I'm so drained all the time, more than just the fibromyalgia can explain. My instincts, that there was something more going on, turned out to be accurate- I have anemia. The big question is figuring out why I'm anemic, and the big task is to get my iron levels back up, which has proven trickier than anticipated since I found out that I'm allergic to sulfa, which is what ALL of the prescription iron tablets are mixed with. It's been a lot of tests and a lot of appointments and a lot of phone calls to various medical offices and a lot of label reading to find OTC supplements without sulfa, but yet with enough mgs of iron to make a difference without taking 10 pills a day. There's still more to go, too- another test to check for internal bleeding, a few more tests to see if my iron levels are improving, and tests to follow up on the tests that revealed some minor issues that need to be watched. And a few weeks of physical therapy for my sore knee at the beginning of summer, which actually didn't help much. (Maybe if I did the follow up exercises...)

And then there's DH. He's also had some medical issues this summer, including physical therapy. We got to work out together for a couple of appointments; it was almost like a date!! Good times, good times.

So it's been a medically themed summer; that's my least favorite. :( But I'm perking along taking my over the counter iron supplements, and boosting the iron in my diet since the OTCs aren't quite strong enough. I gave up being vegetarian for now; if I can get my iron levels up to where they should be I'll cut back on meat again. I still don't eat meat every day, mind you, but I will buy a steak from Whole Foods, level 4 on their animal welfare rating program, once or twice a week. I'm also eating... gulp... chicken liver. Chicken liver is about the most iron rich food you can eat, so eat it I am. It's palatable, shall we say, when it's made up as chopped liver with lots of hard boiled egg and sauteed onion. I eat it on matzoh crackers with some tomato to top it off, and it's not too horrible. Oh, almost forgot, OJ on the side since citrus helps with iron absorption.

I bought a new cast iron skillet too, and I'm trying to cook in that as often as possible. Which actually isn't very often since DH usually cooks the meals that require a skillet and he doesn't like it, but I've cooked the chicken livers in it.

With all the iron I've felt a little better so I've gone out a few times to ride my bike to try to get more exercise. I love riding my bike- it always makes me feel like a kid again. That and a 15 minute daily walk for the dogs is the extent of my exercise program, but it's better than nothing. I still get so wiped out I can barely move, especially at the end of a busy day, and the day after a busy day. I cut back on most of the activities for the kids for the summer, but now that the school year has started again that's picking right up.

I hate giving in to it, but sometimes I have to. Back in May/June, when I first really started feeling poorly, I was blaming it on fibro flare ups but they were so much worse and much more frequent than usual. It really started affecting my friendships because I was always making excuses for why I couldn't do things, or why I was late, or unprepared, or whatever, since I was always too wiped out to do things properly. It's gotten to where I hate for friends to ask me how I am, because I don't know what to say. Do I lie and say I'm fine, when I'm really not? Does anyone actually want to hear it if I do tell them I feel like crap? Or do I brush it off with "I'm hanging in there", or something equally non-committal? Or just go ahead and go with the socially gracious option and lie, saying "I'm fine"? Or am I completely over thinking this? (Yeah, probably that last thing.) ;)

Blech- even I don't want to read this post, but it's how my summer went so I'm journaling about it for posterity. Here's hoping it's the last "medical summer" for a long, long time!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy 50th- Here's Your Colonoscopy!

Oh yeah, I'm going there. Because we have to talk about these things. I had my first colonoscopy (hopefully the last, at least for a while) yesterday, and since it's so important to have it when your doctor wants you to, I'm going to tell you all about it. First of all, it's not that bad. Even the prep, which I was dreading, wasn't horrible for the most part. When the gastroenterologist said she wanted to schedule me for one, she handed me some paperwork with directions for how to get ready. I gave them a glance then set them aside until a couple of days before, which was mistake number one. There are some medications that you have to stop taking a full week prior to the test! There are some others, like NSAIDS and iron pills, that you have to stop taking 5 days prior, but I was already only 2 days out and had taken an Aleve AND my iron pill the day before- ooops! I called, thinking WHEW, I can reschedule, but no such luck. They said it would be OK just make sure to tell the nurse and not to take anymore.

You also have to watch what you eat several days before the test- no roughage, things like nuts, salad, popcorn, and so forth. Then there's the medicine to really clean things out the day before- some pills and a powder (both over the counter) you have to mix with 64 ounces of liquid, either water, Gatorade, or Crystal Lite. 64 ounces!! That's the hard part. The powder had no discernible flavor whatsoever when I mixed it with Gatorade; as far as I could tell it dissolved completely. Mixing it with Gatorade, however, was my second mistake. See, 64 ounces is a LOT of liquid, and you have to drink it all within a two hour period. The first glass went down, no problem. Same for the second and third, but after that, not so much. Let me tell you, for someone who strictly drinks water, that Gatorade gets cloyingly sweet after that third glass. I couldn't do it! I just physically could not drink down the last quarter or so of that Gatorade. Trying to get it down was the worst part, because my body was reacting to the medicine and trying to get everything back OUT. Everything in me was saying "NO MORE INPUT, NO MORE INPUT"!!!!! I figured I would be able to drink more down as soon as at least a little was back out, but I just gave up, because once, umm, "output" commenced it was pretty obvious I didn't need any more of the medicine. Blech. I was sick to my stomach and going through the worst of the "output" for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half total, then I was fine. (As long as I stayed near the bathroom!) I couldn't take anything else sweet, though- all those popsicles and jello and Italian ice that I bought- the kids had a party because I wasn't going anywhere near it.

Luckily DH took pity on me and made me some broth by throwing a bunch of veggies (carrots, onions, and celery braised in olive oil) in a pot with half a bouillon cube and a bunch of water then cooking it to death. He didn't even add salt since he figured the Gatorade had me salted up enough, and he was right! I strained the broth, then, since I could see the olive oil floating on the surface, I put it through my de-fatting cup. (The directions said clear liquids, so this helped make it as clear as possible.) That was really soothing, but just a little bit went a long way.

As for things I did right, I kept my schedule light and finished up really early the day before the procedure, then nothing on the calendar for afterwards. I was able to eat breakfast the day before so an early doctor's appointment (at an office close to home) was OK. After breakfast it was all liquids so I knew I would be really shaky and wouldn't have the energy to do much, and that's pretty much how it happened, but I wasn't as physically uncomfortable as I thought I would be. The clear liquids (especially that broth) kept me going just fine, especially since I didn't have anything much I was trying to get done. Having some movies and a good book on standby helped keep me distracted as well.

On to the actual procedure. It was absolutely no sweat; I breezed right through it. They gave me an IV in the prep area, then I had to wait just a bit to go back to where they were going to actually do the procedure. (I had an endoscopy too- they looked in both ends!) They had me turn onto my left side and strapped a weird mouth guard in to keep my mouth open for the endoscopy, and put the oxygen tube thing in my nose. (The kind everyone has in those TV hospital dramas- it tickles.) Right after that, the nurse said "OK, you're going to sleep now", and that was that. The next thing I was back in the prep area and roused up enough for the nurse to see I was awake. She brought me an apple juice then things got fuzzy again for a bit, then I was more alert and she told me I could get dressed, then DH came back and they sent me home. I didn't get sick from the sedation at all, which I was worried about since I've seen DH get sick after his surgeries- apparently they don't sedate you as heavily for this as they do for an actual surgery, so I felt fine coming out of it. I was still a little woozy the rest of the day; they don't let you drive or go back to work for the next 12 hours.

The best part- as soon as it was over I could eat!! I had crackers waiting for me in DH's back pack- another good idea. I also had some lollipops which helped my scratchy throat, but one was enough because, yeah, sugar; still not over the Gatorade.

So there you have it- my colonoscopy de-briefing. This is not meant as a substitute for medical advice by any means, and is specific to my experience, especially since hospitals may have different prep directions. But if anything is helpful for anyone else facing their first colonoscopy, then yeah! Feel free to ask questions- I told DH I should do an "AMA" (ask me anything) on Reddit but he said they can run like 6 hours long, so no. But you really can AMA about the procedure; if my experiences can help you get through your own colonoscopy then I'm a happy girl.

PS: And yes, I just turned 50. I had the procedure both because it's recommended when you turn 50 and because I seem to be rather anemic these days, and the doctors are trying to figure out why. The colonoscopy and endoscopy results were perfect, so they have to look elsewhere for the problem. I may get to swallow a camera!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

Ackkk!!! One of my favorite bloggers (hi Kathy!) read my blog and left a comment, on probably one of the lamest posts ever!!! So now I have to redeem myself with something wonderous and witty and amusing to read.... and I got nothing. But I have been reading a lot of novels lately, and the book I just finished is "Skinny Dip" by Carl Hiaasen, one of my favorite authors, so I'll give you a review. Carl also brought us "Hoot", for the youngsters, that was made into a movie my kids watched about a bazillion times over on DVD. He's a Florida author and many (if not all, I haven't researched it) of his books are set here, so as a Florida native myself, (3 generations back on my daddy's side) it's fun to recognize the settings.

This one starts out on a cruise ship that docks at Port Everglades in Broward County, with a murder. Or at least an attempted one, so it's a mystery. I'm not usually a fan of mysteries but I make exceptions when they are also funny and/or quirky, like this one. It's very "Tell Tale Heart" but with a lot of twists and turns, because it's a novel and not a short story, and well, not much remorse on the part of the murderer, except that he... oops, no spoilers! And the humor- Carl Hiaasen cracks me up! He amazes me with how he looks at things, and how he can take so many different threads and weave them all together, wrapping everything up at the end.

The characters are all interesting- the likable ones and even some of the initially not so likeable ones are all, well, likeable, and the bad guys are really slimy. Joey (the intended murder victim) and her husband Chaz are the main characters. Chaz is the bad guy who gets caught up in the "Gaslight"-like scenario cooked up by Joey, who wants revenge and closure. There's a whole ensemble of additional characters to follow including a hermit, a corrupt farmer, a good cop who just wants to move back home to the frigid north, an estranged mistress, a New Zealand sheep farmer, and the bumbling bodyguard/hit man with the heart of gold.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one; if you're looking for a fun read, give it a go!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Figuring Things Out

So, yeah, I mentioned taking care of my own health care issues this summer. One of the things scheduled was to see my GP and get orders for blood work, since the last time I had it done was almost 10 years ago. Well, I had the blood drawn and the results were released to me today via e-mail, and as it turns out I am anemic as all get out! I knew my iron levels weren't great since I can never donate blood, but they would reassure me that my levels were OK for my health just not high enough to donate based on the quick tests at the blood mobile. More in depth tests revealed a very different answer! The doctor hasn't gone over the results with me yet but it's pretty darn obvious given the numbers.

It explains a lot, really. I've been so tired lately but I was writing it off as fibro flare ups that just seemed to be getting more frequent and severe. My daily walks have been extremely difficult to maintain, although I've tried, and I can't seem to get anything done around the house. Taking the kids to their various activities and running errands has been exhausting.

I'm looking forward to seeing the GP again in a week and half so I can get going with treatment. I've been fighting the energy drain for so long now; I'm almost in tears realizing that I'm going to feel better soon. In the meantime, more "Kalicious" smoothies from Whole Foods are definitely on tap!! (They are LOADED with iron.) I'm also thinking I'm just going to give in until my appointment and chilax for a while. I've been fighting this for so long, pushing myself when I was too tired for words, that giving in for a little bit sounds heavenly.

My take away from this is, if you have fibro and you're feeling lousy, don't just assume it's the fibro. Get yourself checked out for other issues that may be causing similar or worsening symptoms.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer Rhythms

Even homeschooling families can find their lives quite a bit different once the traditional school year is over. Our summers always bring something new, sometimes good, sometimes bad. For the bad years, we lost loved ones in the summer of 2007 and 2008, and a very close family member was hospitalized for months after a serious medical emergency in July, 2010 so I spent a lot of that summer at his bedside. (The kids didn't miss me too much- we got our first dog the day after he was hospitalized and the second one about two months later.)

As for the good years, my daughter and I went to Europe in 2009, technically in the spring but close enough. The Wild Child was diagnosed with his reading disability in July, 2011, which was actually a good thing because then he started getting the help he needed. He finished with his reading tutor just a couple of weeks ago and he's turned into a bookworm! I know he's not technically at grade level yet but he's so close, and he loves books and reading so much that I consider it only a matter of time until he catches up then surpasses his reading level entirely. (He's always loved books- he used to grab encyclopedias off the shelf and drag them around the house when he was a toddler.)

Martha, Jr. and I went to Washington, DC last summer with a bus load of Girl Scouts and the pace of the guided tour just about killed me; I spent the rest of that summer in physical therapy for my back!! (Totally worth it, though- it was an amazing trip and WE SAW ALL THE THINGS.)

Going way back, two of my three children were born in summer. Their due dates were pretty close together but The Eldest was born a little early and The Wild Child was born a little late, so they're a couple of weeks apart. (Martha, Jr., aptly enough given her personality, was born EXACTLY on her due date in the fall.) And, well, I was born in the summer, come to think about it. (Now that really is waaaaaayyyy back!)

So as summer begins this year I'm wondering what it will bring. I have some projects lined up, one of them being my own health. I tend to put off doctor visits for little things during the school year- I'm too busy running around with the kids to schedule anything for myself, so if I can put it off until summer I do it. That means stacked appointments once the school year activities slow down- three doctors this past week. It looks like physical therapy again, this time for some tendinitis in my left knee, the result of a fall a year and a half ago. (NOT during the summer!) It's not too bad so hopefully I won't be in therapy for long, and the doctor said I shouldn't have any long term problems from it.

I went to another doctor for restless leg syndrome and she said, yes, I have it, and I can try a few over the counter supplements, and if they don't work she can prescribe something. After talking to her I realized it's probably my own darn fault about the RLS- I used to take a multi-vitamin then I stopped because the only ones I could find without soy (I have issues with soy) give me gas. (The stinky kind- not fun.) But the multi-vitamin had iron in it, and on top of that I was taking an iron supplement every other day. I continued the supplement every other day, but I didn't do anything to make up for the iron in the multi-vitamin. Since I have a history of low iron (not terribly low- in the range where the level is OK for my health but I usually can't donate blood) this probably wasn't the best idea, and it's probably why I developed RLS. Hopefully taking more iron again will alleviate the RLS symptoms, so that will be a problem easily solved- whew!

As for the third doctor, I went to her about my fibromyalgia symptoms. I was diagnosed about 13 years ago and haven't had much in the way of medical attention since then, at least in terms of the fibro. I don't want to take the prescription medications so I've tried to manage on my own. Well, I decided I should probably at least talk to a doctor about my symptoms and what's going on. What if the diagnosis wasn't accurate, (although I think it was based on everything I've learned about fibro) or there are some other underlying problems that could be addressed to make things better? Sleep apnea, for instance, or some sort of vitamin deficiency similar to the RLS problem- something that can be addressed without the meds. The doctor took my concerns very seriously and ordered all sorts of tests, including a sleep study, so it will be interesting to see what happens with all of that. I have to go sleep in a hotel for the sleep study; I don't know how much sleeping I'll actually be able to do, but I'll give it a try!

Alright, enough with the dreaded "wall of text"! Here's a picture of how we spent our day today; just because it's summer doesn't mean we can't still learn things, especially when the learning is fun!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Martha Jr. is struggling with writing a haiku. She gets this way sometimes- she is a very capable student, but sometimes she puts up a wall in her brain when she doesn't immediately get a concept. The rest of us were encouraging her by writing haikus of our own; they were too good (ahem) not too share!!! (Well, "good" may be stretching it...)

Here they are:

Orange sunset bright
Beautiful color hues
My favorite time

Orange blossoms fall
Writing Florida haikus sucks
But then maybe not

The Eldest:
This is really hard
Haikus are pretty silly
Nature reference

Cherry blossoms fall
Streets of Washington shimmer
Fabulous field trips

(DH said there was a haiku meme on the internet a while back where you had to start every haiku with "cherry blossoms fall". That reminded me of our field trip to Washington, DC where they were celebrating the cherry blossom trees that were gifted to the city from Japan 100 years before, thus my haiku.)

The Wild Child:
Minecraft really rocks
I am digging for diamonds
Creepers explode BOOM

I'll post an update when Martha Jr. stops being her own worst enemy and writes one of her own!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Frustrating Limits

Fibro stinks. One of the reasons it stinks is because of the limitations it puts on my life. I'm handling it as well as can be expected, some people are completely disabled by fibromyalgia after all, but I am frustrated that I can't do everything I want to do. I love the various groups I've been involved with, Girl Scouts, 4H, political campaigns, a local non-profit for kids, and a greyhound rescue group to name a few, but I can't do as much for each of them as I'd like. I constantly find myself saying "NO" when I would so dearly love to say "YES", just because I don't have the energy reserves to take on the work. This week was one of those weeks. Monday and Tuesday were both busy, busy days, up early and running around with the kids for various activities, and by the end of the day on Tuesday it was catching up with me. I struggled through a trip to the grocery store, then about passed out after I got home. On Wednesday I was bed ridden. I had a full "to do" list but just getting up out of bed made me tired, so I mostly didn't. I feel terrible that I'm leaning on my husband so much- he picks up the slack when I have those "fibro days", but I just can't. It feels like when you have the flu and you're over the worst of it, but you still feel lousy and weak, so you know there's a few more days of recovery and bed rest left to go. That's the exact feeling I have when I get a bad flare up. I stand up and immediately feel like I need to lay down again. Sometimes I can push through it, but that's hard to do. Sometimes I need to just give in, cancel everything, and rest. Thanks to DH, when I have those days I usually can get the rest I need; I can't imagine having to work for a paycheck while dealing with this.

So when you ask me to help out with something, and I say no with some lame excuse, it's because I'm feeling a flare coming on, or I know I'm over-scheduled, or I've taken on too much already, and I just can't. I rarely say it's because of the fibro, I'm not sure why, but that's usually what it is. Maybe it's because I hate acknowledging it myself- if I admit that's why I can't do something, then I'm admitting I have a disability. Blech. I want to feel healthy and alive and in control of my life, not limited and weak, but it is what it is. I can't say I'd be a Type A personality if I didn't have fibro, but I would be a much more active go-getter if I could manage it. Sigh.

Oh, well; we all have to handle the cards we're dealt, so here's to life and making the best of it. :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Jane Austen Read Through!

I don't know if "read throughs" are a thing, but "cook throughs" are, made popular by the Julie & Julia blog. Lots and lots of bloggers have cooked through various cookbooks since then; too much work for me, so don't expect that here! What I am reporting about, however, is my Jane Austen read through. I read all of her novels (not that many, but still) a couple of weeks ago. I started with Pride & Prejudice, then backtracked to Sense & Sensibility, then read the rest in the order of publication. I followed that up with Lady Susan and the unfinished Sandition. This wasn't the first time I've read her work; she's one of my favorite authors.

As I've grown older, I've valued her work for different reasons. Originally I liked the stories- they are very charming and so easy to love. I still adore the stories, but now I feel a deeper connection to them. Not because of the stories themselves, or any feeling of connection to the author, but more of a connection to the generations of women who've read them before me. When my grandmother was alive I once mentioned my fondness for Jane Austen and she said she read her work too; my mother said the same thing recently. That made me realize how many generations these books have touched- 200 years of women. Countless women have taken time out of their busy lives to stop and read these very books. I wonder at the clothing they might have been wearing, from the popular dress when they were first published to women in the last century wearing the fashions of their day, to now, the 2000's. Where were they sitting? What were they in the middle of when they stopped to read? My Great Aunt Peg, who died young- I don't know much about her, but I do know she frequently babysat my mom and aunt, and that she liked apples and reading. Did she grab an apple, find a cozy spot, and open a beloved copy of Pride & Prejudice while my mom and aunt played nearby? She never could have envisioned the way I read these books recently- on my electronic reader. What would she have thought of that, I wonder!!

I feel such a sense of nostalgia when I read these books now. It wasn't my first time reading them all, and I'm sure it won't be my last. Jane Austen endures because she is a thread that connects women through time; I hope that thread continues for many more centuries to come.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Learning Disabilities

The Wild Child is progressing well with his reading specialist. He's been working with her since his reading disability was diagnosed two years ago and he's almost ready to "graduate" from her program; he's reading with confidence so all it's going to take is more practice. We are so fortunate that we had the availability and proximity of the facility where he was tested and tutored- and the monetary resources to afford it- so that he could receive the help he needed to learn to read.

It's been hard on him- going to the tutor when his sister doesn't have to, even daily during the summer, and the frustration he felt when he knew he was smart but yet he couldn't master this basic skill much younger kids had no problem with. There was some teasing from the neighborhood kids back when he was first diagnosed. He's worked hard, though, and he's come so far- no more teasing, that's for sure.

One explanation I came up with for him when he was diagnosed was comparing his reading issues to a pair of binoculars. Most kids have plain old ordinary binoculars, capable of focusing on the written word with no problems, so they learn to read easily. My Wild Child, however, has an ultra fancy pair of binoculars that take time, care, and a lot of hard work to get them to focus properly, but once they are working right they'll read just as well as any other pair, maybe better since he'll know how to use them so much more effectively.

In the meantime, he continues to rely on his Kindle with the text to speech feature. He walks around with that thing all the time; the sound of my son is the sound of the Kindle automated voice. His comprehension is much higher than his reading level so I'm thankful that the Kindle has opened the world of books up to him. I could probably stand for it to break now, though, and I wouldn't replace it if it did. His reading level is getting much closer to his comprehension level, although there's still a bit of a difference, so that he doesn't really need the Kindle for a crutch anymore. It's like his blankie now though- he even falls asleep to it at night. As soon as he finishes a book he begs for the next one; I can't even begin to say how many books he's read thanks to the talking Kindle.

So many things to be thankful for, but most of all his reading tutor, his Kindle, and his ability to compensate for his disability with the proper help. We are very fortunate.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Back on Track... I Hope!!!

As you may know (since I've written about several times), I lost over 40 pounds way back in 2007. I was still eating meat then but I stuck with lean meat, gave up all junk and fast food, and controlled portion sizes. I also logged a lot of time outside walking, taking just under 30 minutes to walk just under a mile and a half (once around the block) most days of the week. I developed my own eating plan but it was based on a weight loss class I had taken years earlier. (The LEARN program.) I kept my weight down for a long time, but I gained 9 pounds on a 19 day vacation to Europe with my daughter in 2009, and before I got all of that weight off I went vegetarian.

Only I didn't do it right! I didn't know how big my portions should be if they weren't meat, and all of my protein sources were now cheese, occasional eggs, and lots of starchy carbohydrates. (Lots and lots of beans and rice, soy until I realized it hurt me, quinoa, etc.) I basically gave up on portion control because I didn't know what my portions should be, plus plain old diet fatigue- I didn't want to deal with measuring out everything I ate anymore. I did continue to weigh myself every day, and I have watched with great frustration as my weight has gone up, and up, and up. It's six years later, and I've regained about half of the weight I lost.

Which is still beating the odds, I must say in my own defense!! Most diets fail and people regain ALL of the weight and then some within a discouragingly short period of time; it's depressing if you look at the statistics. The ray of hope is that there are people out there who beat the odds, and I am determined to be one of them. To that end, I've continued to search for solutions- how can I re-lose this weight? I tried meeting with a nutritionist at one point, but she said it couldn't be done as a vegetarian unless I basically went raw, or something. I actually happen to love a lot of raw food recipes (which are WAY more inventive than just salads, by the way) so that gave me something to think about. The only draw back is the intensive work required for raw meals- no cooking, but lots and lots of prep time, you need excellent knife skills, and you have to keep really fresh produce around, which can be difficult since the good stuff is both seasonal and spoils quickly. Not an insurmountable problem, but a challenge nonetheless.

So, no solutions yet, but I continue to try. I've made gradual inroads with figuring out portion control on my own; for instance, I've learned that I can only eat half of a quinoa quesadilla if I don't want my weight going up at the next morning's weigh in. Same for our occasional take out meal from the local bagel place- half of a whole wheat bagel/egg/swiss sandwich is enough for me. Just like before going vegetarian, that half cup measure is my best friend. If I'm having a beans and rice meal, then half a cup of beans and half a cup of rice is the best portion for me. (These may not be the best portions for anyone else, but they are working for me!!!)

Also just like before going vegetarian, the most dangerous part of the day for me is dinner prep and any time spent in the kitchen in the evening. Carbs in the form of things I buy "for the kids", ahem, (whole grain tortilla chips, whole grain cereals, bread, crackers, etc.) are readily available for grazing, and oh-so-easy since they don't require washing or peeling or chopping, but even those whole grain carbs can pack on the pounds when eaten indiscriminately, I've learned.

Another way I've been trying to figure this all out is by buying vegetarian diet books, specifically The Kind Diet and The Engine 2 Diet. I've glanced through some of the others written by various vegan/vegetarian doctors but the recipes seemed too clinical and spartan. Others rely too much on soy and soy products, which is an issue with a lot of raw food recipes as well. (Many of them call for soy sauce or "liquid aminos", which is a soy based product.) Because of my soy issues I can't really follow a pre-set vegetarian "choose from this list for breakfast, this list for lunch, this list for dinner" diet since they all include a lot of soy/tofu products. But I have to do something!!!

Sometimes the answer is something I learned or read about some time ago, but it has to kind of stew around in my brain before I'm ready to put it into practice. (Like the years between going through the LEARN program and putting those principles into practice; I'm slow sometimes!) For a while during the summer I talked to a nutritionist over the phone through our health insurance plan. (Yes, we have great insurance!!) With her, I set some realistic, practical goals... and didn't follow through, so I let the phone sessions go. One of those goals was to find some healthy recipes to get out of our current meal time rut, maybe some quick ones that would allow me to get out of the kitchen faster to reduce potential grazing time. From talking to the real life nutritionist, not the phone nutritionist, I remembered what she said about vegetarians, how they had to be practically raw to be successful with weight loss. Well, what if I don't go raw, but I do put more emphasis on eating vegetables, especially those green leafy ones? What will happen then? And what if I find some quick and easy recipes focusing on green leafies? How about that Engine 2 diet book that's been collecting dust on the shelf?

Yeah, it seems to be working!! For the past three days I've eaten "plant strong", as the E2 author calls it, focusing on getting more green leafy veggies (mainly kale and collard greens since I have both growing in my garden) in my diet, and getting back to portion control for my carbs and starchy proteins, and NO GRAZING unless it's on something that has to be washed, chopped, or peeled.

Results? Well, it's only been 3 days since starting my new program, but I'm down about 3 and a half pounds already. I realize some of that could be water weight, but still, I'll take it! The challenge now is to keep going, but I feel like I have it finally figured out. I know what to eat (MORE VEGETABLES, especially non-starchy ones and greens), what needs to be portion controlled, (carbs, starchy veggies and proteins), how big those portions should be, (half a cup, half a bagel, half a quesadilla, etc.) and where to find recipes. (E2, raw food recipes, salads, etc.) It's like pieces of a puzzle coming together for me, and I feel that this time will be different from the last 20 times I've tried to tackle this weight. It takes confidence and readiness, and I am feeling both of those right now.

Wish me luck! :)

PS: Thanks to Chloe Coscarelli for her quick, easy, and tasty soy sauce substitute! The Eldest made a batch for me and I'm going to use it to try a lot of those raw recipes that call for liquid aminos or soy sauce; can't wait to see how it works out.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I'm not big on quotes in general, but there are a few that I've heard here and there that strike a chord. Here's one of them, from the movie "Hello, Dolly":

"Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It isn't worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow."

Love that!! I wish the 1% elite in this country would follow that principle instead of hoarding all of the wealth to themselves. We'd all be a lot better off if that were the case!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Placebos Cured My Cold!!!

I caught a cold. I didn't want a cold, so I decided to fight it with everything I could possibly think of to fight it with, placebo or not. (DH has a tendency to sneer at anything not scientifically proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, but I have more of a "what the hell" attitude about these things.) Here's what I did:

1. Zinc lozenges
2. Vitamin C supplements
3. Time in the sun to soak up extra Vitamin D
4. Ginger shot at Whole Foods (takes some balls, let me tell you)
5. Visualizations, where I spent a few minutes imagining my immune system as full of cellular sized knights in shining armor KICKING some virus BUTT!!
6. Lots of OJ and water to stay hydrated (although all the running to the bathroom every time I got settled in for a good rest wasn't fun)
7. OTCs: Nyquil, Benadryl, Tylenol (not all at once, only as needed)

.... and it seemed to work! This was about the shortest cold I've ever had. I had a couple of days where I was flat out miserable and didn't want to get out of bed, but then everything started to clear up and I feel almost back to normal now. I had a few bouts of bad coughing but not days and days of it like I normally suffer with when I get a cold. It's just been better!

So there, anecdotal evidence that those crazy placebo cures might actually help, especially when you try ALL of them all at once!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Quinoa Bowl

I've been eating quinoa for a while now, but usually only in a quesadilla. I can recognize the potential, though- it's a great base for adding other flavors. I prepared some the other day for my usual quesadilla but then I didn't want it that way after all, so I made a quinoa bowl instead. I threw in a lot of the fixings I would have used on the quesadilla and a few others- here's the throw-it-all-together recipe for one serving:

Quinoa, cooked, about 1/2 a cup if you're going for portion control*
Organic canned corn, rinsed, about 1/4 cup
Canned black beans, rinsed, about 1/4 cup
Diced plum or Campari tomato (or about the same amount of a larger tomato, although you can add more if you have a really good tomato sitting around!!)
Small Hass avocado, diced
Diced sweet onion cooked with a little olive oil until translucent
Diced bell pepper (any color) cooked with the onion
Shredded cheese, about 1/8 cup

Extra virgin olive oil, maybe a couple of teaspoons to drizzle
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix everything together up through the cheese, salt and pepper to taste, drizzle on the olive oil, then dig in!

I thought about adding a dressing of some sort, other than just the olive oil, but the avocado I had when I made this was so creamy it acted as a dressing. The drizzle of olive oil was all it needed. It kept well in the refrigerator over night so I also had it for dinner the next day when a take out meal from a new restaurant left a lot to be desired. This would make a great picnic or travel meal.

*How to cook quinoa: when I first posted the microwave recipe for quinoa (thank you Melissa D'Arabian) I tried to get all fancy and use vegetable broth as the liquid, but it never turns out when I do that for some reason. It always has crunchy bits when I use broth. Just use one cup quinoa to two cups water, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil, microwave in a glass bowl with a lid (and put the lid on it!) for 9 minutes on high. (Results may vary depending on your microwave.) Let it sit and finish absorbing the liquid for a few minutes then you're good to go!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Food Fight

I remember the days when buying food was an easy task. I had a list, I went to one store, I bought the items on the list, paid, and went home. No more. Now I shop at three different stores (a local grocery, Whole Foods, and a warehouse store) and get different items from each place. When the opportunity presents itself I also try to shop farmer's markets, but unfortunately those are few and far between in my neck of the woods.

Awareness of food issues makes for a slew of complications, too. In addition to trying to avoid GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, and anything packaged in BPA- (or is it BPH?) laced containers, I have to avoid soy. I'm also mostly vegetarian, but not a strict one, married to a strict vegetarian, with two mostly veg daughters and a full on carnivorous son. Then there's the dogs- they are totally spoiled with a home cooked meat "top dressing" for every meal. So I get meat for the dogs from the warehouse store but meat for my son from Whole Foods, where I look for a "4" animal cruelty rating so he won't get Mad Cow disease. I buy almost everything processed from Whole Foods because I am more likely to find organic and soy-free items there. (Not that we use a ton of processed food, but we do use some.) I can get certain organic items from the local grocery (thank heavens they are carrying organic now!!) like milk and some of my produce. I get my bottled sparkling water from the warehouse store because I can get it in glass containers instead of polluting plastic.

Sometimes I long for the days before "Food Inc." and everything I've learned about the negative health affects of food purchased from major suppliers. It was so much easier! Driving through McD's or Burger King when the kids were hungry for a quick and easy meal... sigh. I can't even remember the last time I went to a burger chain, but I can tell you this- although I've gained back part of the weight I lost in 2007, I am still beating the odds because I've only gained back half. Almost everyone else who loses weight regains it all and then some, so I think it's worth it. I'll keep reading those labels and avoiding the fast food joints, because I'm healthier and my husband is healthier and my kids are healthier, even if it is more work.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fibro Flare Ups

Mostly I can keep my fibromyalgia under control- I walk for exercise but not too much, I try to eat right, I try to live a low stress lifestyle and keep my schedule under control, but it still flares every now and again. Flares are the pits. I have friends who suffer from migraines (I don't, thank goodness) and it is debilitating for them. My flare ups are about the same- debilitating. I had a bad flare up yesterday from over-doing things the day before; not fun. It's like having the flu with the muscle aches and fatigue; it felt like I was trying to walk under water. I forced myself to get up and get some things done around the house but I would have to lay down between even the most minor chores. I cancelled everything I could cancel, which stinks since that meant the kids had to miss out on their activities, but I just didn't have it in me to drive them around.

Today is a busy day too and I'm still in the midst of the flare, but the activities are close by (driving is tough when I'm flaring) and don't involve much in the way of moving around. My family is pitching in to help out, too so I think I might make it! Having a good support system is crucial to getting through a flare; I think that helps more than anything to get me back on my feet.

It's frustrating because I have so many things I want to do! The fibro slows me down, but it can't stop me, so here's to carrying on!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Keeping Up

I'm letting my blog go; it's suffering from a terrible case of neglect. I open it up almost daily to get to my favorite links- I can see who's posted among the blogs I follow and click on the games I like to play; very useful. But posting? Not so much.

After the roller coaster that was our November and December, I was hoping January would slow down so I would be able to write more but that hasn't happened, obviously. DH and I did find a day to spend roaming around a small town some distance away and, I think I'm half crazy for taking this on, we decided to purchase a rental/vacation home. As if I didn't have enough on my plate already!! It's something I've been thinking about for a while, though. We went house hunting once about a year ago and didn't find anything so we gave it another go when we had the chance and found a house we liked. We made a low ball offer and the sellers accepted it- I was shocked!! It needs work but not too much so we should be able to rent it out after we get it fixed up. The area sees a lot of snow birds so the idea is to rent it seasonally over the winter, then we can use it during the summer months. The yard is about 4 times the size of our yard at our main residence so I'm looking forward to planting fruit trees. We can't do much as far as vegetable gardening since we won't be there during veggie season, but I'm happy with the idea of getting an orchard going. It will be so much fun to take the dogs up there and let them run around in the huge fenced back yard!

As far as getting it ready to rent, the main thing we have to do is paint, furnish and decorate the place. It's a 4 bedroom house so we have to buy a lot of furniture really quickly. We also want to put in a dock (it's on a lake) and maybe a pool. DH doesn't want the pool but I think it will attract more renters so it's an investment that should pay off in the long run. It's not something we have to do right away, though. Prioritizing is key at this point- this is a small business venture and I want to do it right, but yet still exercise some budgetary caution and common sense.

Pinterest is coming in handy, that's for sure! I've been browsing decorating and furniture websites since we made the offer. It's frustrating, though; I get all of these great ideas on-line but it's so hard to find the things I'm interested in purchasing at a reasonable price and quality level. We're going for a tropical, beachy feel since we want it to say "VACATION" the second you walk in the door. Lots of ideas out there, but not a lot of stuff to bring the ideas into reality.

We'll close in a few weeks, then the fun really begins. We'll take air mattresses and camp out that first weekend and just get to know the place; I'm looking forward to that part of it. After that, the work begins in earnest. I'm sure it will give me plenty to blog about!