The problem with feeling better

Wow, is that a negon title, or what? I have to go and find something wrong with feeling well!  Sheesh.

But there is a downside, at least for my ADHD self.  I woke up this morning, feeling pretty darn good.  Happy, not in significant pain, reasonable amount of sleep; wow, life is good!  My first thought is; OMG, this isn’t going to last.  Make the most of it!

So; I get up, take meds, eat breakfast.  Read email and check Craig’s list for jobs.  Call about previous jobs.  Then I start thinking big.  Laundry.  Get that into the washer.  Then I remember my intent from yesterday to work on learning to use my combs on the alpaca I washed.  So I get them down, clean them off, and realize I need “C” clamps to use them, and I don’t have any.  Bummer.  Well, I can wash the rest of the alpaca, right?  So I get my wash bucket, get one batch of alpaca in.  Since I can’t comb, I’ll work on the bathroom. That’s an idea!  So I start going through the closet in the bathroom/laundry/dye room and getting the rubbermaid tubbies with all my fiber stuff in them out.  Oh yeah, I should organize my finished objects, make labels, fold them nicely so I can grab them when I vendor.  And I should go through my sellable spun yarn, weigh and label that too.  Put them on the bed for later… But to clean that closet, I have to clean the closet in the kitchen, to put the cleaning stuff into (rug spot steamer, the beloved’s HUGE metal tool box I can’t even lift, other large cleaning appliances, etc…) but that job is HUGE, so I try to work around. But when I notice the floor in the kitchen is an inch deep in cheerios and oak leaves and crumbs, I sweep the kitchen floor, since I found the dustpan in my closet.  Then, the dining room, since it looks really crumby too.  By then, I’m tired, so I sit down to check email and craig’s list again, knit for a while, trying to finish a few more projects to have to sell in December.  I look around and notice that the laundry is on the bed, waiting to be folded, three tubbies are on the bed waiting to be sorted and labeled,  the alpaca needs it’s second rinse, the second load of laundry is waiting to be put in the washer… my room looks way more of a mess than when I started.  This is the story of my life.

I’m not complaining, mind you.  It’s really nice to have a pain free day or two (yesterday was lovely, though emotional; I’ll try to blog that later. Oh man, another thing on the list…) and I appreciate it immensely.  It does recall however, why I need lists, and organization FIRST. Always, if I’m feeling well, I jump in and do as much as I can, because I don’ t know how long it will last, and I want to get as much done as I can, while I can.  Always remembering that if I do too much too fast, the pain comes back more quickly.

Still, it’s a lovely day; the sun is out for the first time in a week or two, it’s not too hot or too cold.  My plants are loving the rain we’ve been having and are exploding with growth, and that’s so awesome!  So I’ll finish blogging and get back to the laundry and alpaca, and see how much of the rest I can get done.  Keep prioritizing so I can find a system to get the important stuff done.  Recruit helpers.   =]  And hope this break cycle lasts more than a few days.

“How To Be Sick”

That’s the title of a Buddhist inspired guide for the chronically ill and their caregivers.  It was written by Toni Bernhard, who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and can be found at How To Be Sick.  I haven’t read the book (though I’d like to) but I have been following her on Facebook.  Today she gave a link to a blog where the post author had taken notes at a talk given by Ms. Bernhard.

I don’t write a lot about how frustrating it is to be sick, especially “invisibly” sick, very much.  It’s too depressing to focus on much, so I mostly try to avoid thinking about it.   This past week I had a pretty bad pain cycle, but there was a lot going on, and I had to make some decisions.

Anyone who knows me knows that the most important thing in my universe is my family.  My husband and my children are my entire reason for existence; the best part of my life.  I often have to make a choice; do I go participate in an activity to be with them? Not as easy a choice as it might seem.  I want to go, of course.  But if I do, will my pain interfere with everyone else’s fun?  Will I drag them down?  Will the pain actually make me crabby, and I take it out on them?  What if I go, and I have nothing left for later, which could mean the next few days?

This past weekend was a perfect example.  Around here, weekends are pretty lazy; cooking, laundry, and a soccer game on Saturday, church on Sunday.  All the rest is TV (football, catching up on the shows I missed during the week,) maybe even a nap.  This past weekend was a little different.  Saturday was Ojai Day, one of my favorite days of the year.  They shut down the main street in the center of town, and fill it up with vendors and exhibits, displays and music and games.  It’s a blast.  I really, really want to go every year.

So this year, Murphy had a soccer game at noon.  Dead on in the middle of the day; worst possible time.   So I decide to walk down alone early, before the game.  It was cool, overcast, pretty nice, actually.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay long, as I had to get home for the game; so I left about 10:30.  Mind you, it’s only about three blocks from my home.  By the time I got to Libby Park, I already knew I was in trouble; I was sweating, my knees and my back were on fire.  But I was determined!  So I wandered around a bit, saw most of the exhibits (though I was too early for the belly dancing, one of my favorites!) and even bought a really cool thing for my hair. By that time, I was feeling faint and weak, and knew I’d better head home. I just barely made it, limping along into the house, just dying to sit in my comfy chair and medicate.  Instead, I walk in the door and the Beloved says “Ready to go?”  We have to leave instantly for the game.  So instead of crumbling into my chair and reaching for the pain meds, I “run” around the house, collecting the things we need for the game. Hop into the car, get to the school, and face the L O N G walk to the field.  Carrying the backpack full of snacks, water, and knitting.  The Beloved, blessedly, carries our special chairs.  He and Murph walk ahead; it takes me probably an extra five minutes to get there. I’m using the cane because my knees hurt so badly, but today my hands hurt just as much, so the cane is worse on my wrists, so I have to keep pausing to give them a rest.  I’m humiliated when an elderly woman passes me by, comparatively at a run.  I firmly put that thought out of my head, tell myself I’m doing the best I can, and square my shoulders to make it the rest of the way.  I finally get there, and the Beloved has set up my chair so I can collapse, and finally take that pain pill.  The game is really enjoyable to watch; the kids are really starting to figure it out and play as a team.  Murphy is getting better, playing his position well, and becoming more aggressive.  I’m so glad I made it there.  Usually I knit during the game (vanilla socks, so I can still watch) but for a long while, my hands hurt too much. Eventually, I do get my needles out, and knit  slowly.  Unfortunately, they lose the game by one goal, and it’s time to head home.  Oh man, the walk to the car.  I get a head start while they pack the chairs up and talk to the coach, but still they get to the car long before me.  Once home, I collapse in my chair and pass out. Nap time.  I never used to nap, ever.  Now, it’s becoming a regular thing.

After dinner, Murphy wants to have Family Game night.  This is something he picked up at the church (Oh, those wacky Mormons with their family values!) and while I love the idea, I’m in so much pain that I know leaning over a game board is going to be excruciating.  But he really wants to do it, and even the Beloved is willing (wow!) so I suck it up and we play “The Game of Life” which my mother had given Murphy for his birthday.  It was great fun, and Murphy won, which was cool.  Finally; bedtime.  Sleeping fitfully because the pain wakes me up every time I move.

We wake up, get dressed, and go to Church.  Church is a surreal experience for me.  The Mormons have a very interesting faith and lifestyle, and the service is very different from the rituals I’m used to in other religions.  The speakers today are a bit more interesting than usual and the Mother particularly touches a few strings for me.  But the chairs we’re sitting in are tiny uncomfortable folding chairs, and by the end of the service my back is screaming.  We head home for football and knitting.

My hands hurting this badly and this consistently is new, and not welcome.  It hurts to knit and spinning is out of the question.  Since I’m currently unemployed and trying to make a little money by selling fiber related items, this is not a good thing.  So I force myself to do it anyway. I knit a really cool hat from some of the black merino I’d spun a long time ago; I’m really pleased with the way it came out.  Then I remember that I forgot the laundry.  I get that started, and realize that I already thawed the henna to color my hair, and I have to use it tonight or it will mold.  Coloring this much hair is a big undertaking, and once again I seriously consider just chopping it all off.  Then I remember how much I hate my hair short, and I get up and start.  The Beloved is kind enough to try to help when he can; that’s love, ladies.  Murphy is doing his homework.  Homework can often be frustrating for both parent and child.  He comes in to get help and it takes every bit of control I can muster to help him.  The pain, exhaustion, frustration  have me right on the edge of snapping at him.  Sometimes I lose that battle and get to add guilt to all the other painful feelings I have, but tonight I manage acceptably well.  Finally everything is done; laundry folded, Murphy in bed, hair washed and newly tri-colored (not intentionally; roots are red, middle is brown, tips are almost black.  I actually kind of like it though!) and it’s time to cuddle with the hubby and watch the Sunday shows.

So what’s the point of all this?  I’m not looking for sympathy or pity or anyone to feel sorry for me. I choose this.  Not the pain part, obviously, but I choose to do the things I love, even when they make me miserable.  Which is sort of empowering, I guess.  I want to be a part of my family’s doings; I want to be there for my kids. I want to enjoy the little things like playing board games and going to soccer.  It’s the focus on that which keeps me from being totally maudlin, losing myself in self pity and depression.  And I’m proud. I’m proud of the strength of my family, and most especially my husband, who never complains, never makes me feel bad about being sick, never seems to resent the things I can’t do.  I’m proud to be aware enough to make the choice to go to that soccer game; I could have easily stayed home and wallowed in the pain after Ojai Day, and I know Murphy would have understood.  But I can hurt at home alone, or I can hurt away with my family, and on the whole, I’d rather be with my family.  I’m proud of  me, when I can make these choices consciously and manage not to take it out on the people I love by being a “negon” but by being as loving and participatory as I can.  That’s what will get me through this.

So now it’s Tuesday, and the pain cycle seems to be winding down.  I have a bit more energy, though working just a little on the house yesterday made last night pretty uncomfortable. I’m always worse at night, and I honestly can’t tell if it’s worse because it’s nighttime, or because I settle down and there’s less distraction so I focus on it more, or if just getting through the day aggravates it by night.  Maybe all three.  I just know how lucky I am to have my family and to love and be so loved in return.  It makes everything worth it.


I was doing pretty well til about Friday; then the pain started to crank up. So did the exhaustion.  I took a FIVE HOUR nap on Saturday, after going to Murphy’s soccer game in the morning.  Sunday and Monday I tried to take it easy, but the pain just builds, no matter what.  Today has been the worst.  I’m forcing myself to knit, but my hands really ache.  Ended up taking some pain med and taking another nap.

Yesterday, I took it slow, and made vegetarian chili for dinner.  I love  my crock pots.  It really helps when I’m not feeling well; I can do a little, throw it in the crock pot, then go rest til I feel up to doing more.  I didn’t use a recipe. I just wandered around the kitchen looking for things that looked good to throw in.  I started with TVP, for the protein; soaked in hot water and kitchen bouquet.  Onion, garlic, celery, carrots chopped fine, sauteed in oil with chili powder, cumin, and coriander. Added a huge can of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste, as well as some frozen pre-cooked black beans.  Then I decided to get daring; I chopped a can of chipotle peppers in sauce and tossed them in.

After simmering all of that for an hour or so, I noticed my lips tingling.  I thought uh oh; I didn’t wash my hands well enough after I chopped the peppers; so I washed them again, being very careful to not touch my eyes.  Then Murphy said that HIS lips were tingling; that he could taste how hot the chili was; and he hadn’t even been in the kitchen!  A tentative taste of the brew brought tears to my eyes.  Hmmm. Perhaps using the entire can of chipotles wasn’t a good idea…

Remediation was in order.   Two more cans of black beans, one of refried beans (no pinto beans available), two cans of corn, another can of tomato sauce, and a few more adjustments to the seasoning, and it was still hot, but edible.  My crock pot was so full I could barely stir it!  I also made some cornbread as emergency back up.

Some Tofutti sour cream and a Sam Adams lager rounded out the meal nicely.  Very spicy, but not so hot Murphy couldn’t eat it (though he’s becoming “mas macho” and is liking spicier food these days.)  Lots of flavor.  I really enjoyed it.

Sunday I made my favorite lunch; spring rolls.  They’re so much fun to make, so easy, and so delicious.  You can fill them with whatever you have on hand.  I used fake crab, spinach, carrots, nori, and napa cabbage.   I use Yoshida’s sauce for dipping; it’s so good!  Along with the spring rolls, we had watermelon.  But what’s that you say?  It doesn’t look like watermelon?  It’s yellow flesh watermelon, purchased at Underwood Farms roadside stand.  Unbelievably sweet.  I love to try heirloom fruits and veggies. I have some yellow pear tomatoes growing in the garden right now, and I can’t wait for them to be ready to eat!

Think I’ll go see if there’s any more of that corn bread about…


And I thought New England Weather was weird

One week ago, it was 113 degrees. Today, it was low 60’s, damp and cold.  Weird.  My poor toes and fingers were throbbing all day. Flannel shirt, wool socks.  Started to think about knitting hand warmers again. Strange.

So I seem to be on a bit of a plateau; haven’t lost any more weight, but I’m not freaking about it.  The main goal is to eat healthy, which I am doing.

Last night I had my first experience with millet, as a grain.  I was cooking it for a recipe I intended to use tonight, but since I didn’t follow directions, and the grain swelled to about 50 times it’s original size, I added it to last night’s plan as well.  We had fishsticks, millet, and zucchini sauteed in panko, as well as a big salad.  Peru said it was one of his favorite meals  ever.

I probably overcooked the millet.  I didn’t measure water at all; just dumped the half cup or so of millet that I had from a bulk bin into a saucepan added a lot of water, and simmered.  For a long time.  The end result was sort of like polenta; all the water was absorbed.  Buttered and salted, it was delicious.  It went really well with the rest of the meal.  Homemade tartar sauce from which I abstained, but the Beloved cannot eat fish without it.  The zucchini was pretty good too; onions, garlic, celery sauteed in oil, added chopped zucchini, at the end of cooking added bread crumbs, continuing to sautee a couple of minutes more.  Simple and delicious.

The dinner I was planning to make tonight, using the millet, got revised.  Since the Beloved is not here for dinner, I’m less inclined to cook; so Murphy got a frozen pot pie, and I had peanut butter crackers and a salad.  Should have made soup, it’s so dang cold! Perhaps tomorrow.  Though, the weather is supposed to start heating up again, and by Saturday’s soccer game, should be close to 100 again.

Whoever said that New England had the corner on labile weather needs to spend some time in the Ojai Valley.

Back to Cooking!

Soccer practice night in our house is always hectic.  Back and forth to school, homework, lunch, the trip back to school because someone forgot to bring their guitar home… you know what it’s like if you’re a parent.  Then comes soccer practice, right at the time you want to collapse and have dinner. So what do you do?

In our house, sloppy joes were reserved for practice nights.  All that energy expended running around deserves something yummy and filling, and they did the trick.  Hold the phone though, how do you make sloppy joes vegan?  Vegan, but still yummy to the anti-vegetable, picky children you really want to reward for all that activity?  Here’s my method for vegan sloppy joes, or as we call them, Sloppy Steves.  The beauty part is you can hide a ton of veggies in them, and the kids never know!

The first order of business is to find a substitute for the ground beef.  TVP works beautifully. I used two cups, soaked in two cups of hot water, with a tablespoon of Kitchen Bouquet added to the water.  This gives the TVP a meaty flavor and color, and makes it even more like ground beef.  Soak for about ten minutes or longer, while you prepare the veggies.

I start with onion; one medium onion, chopped fine.  Then the fun part begins.  You can add any kind of veggies you want; the secret is to chop them really really fine.  You might want to use a food processor.  I’m lazy, and would rather chop them by hand than wash the processor.  I used a couple of big handfuls of spinach.


I heated some oil in a huge pan, then added the spinach and onion.  If you’re using other hard veggies, such as broccoli, add them in now too.   Then I added my liquid ingredients – one can of tomato sauce and one bottle of chili sauce.

Next, I grated some carrots. Again, I used the fine side of my box grater; I used about eight baby carrots.

Next, drain any extra liquid from the TVP (I didn’t have any, but you might, depending on your conditions) and add the TVP to the pan.

Next comes the seasonings, about a tablespoon each of chili powder and Worcestershire sauce.



You’re done!  Put the heat on low, and let it simmer for a while.  The longer it simmers, the better.


Now comes the fun part; the eating!  Grab a bun of your choice, load up the Sloppy Steves, and eat. YUM!!


Then, in less time than it took the chop the onions: