Picking Up

The last month has been – strange.  Very good at times, not so good at others.  Let’s see if I can recap.

I started Lyrica.  It seems to be helping.  I still hurt all the time, but I have more days of functionality.  I can get more things done before I have to crash. I do sometimes still crash though, and crash hard.  One of the newest developments is back spasms.  For a long time now, I’ve had this one muscle in my lower back/hip that has always been the area that hurts the most.  I thought that maybe a muscle relaxant might help, so I asked the doctor for a prescription for Flexeril, which I received.  It didn’t seem to help a whole lot though, until… I woke up one day and literally couldn’t move.  The pain woke me about four in the morning, and I couldn’t sit up in bed to get out.  I laid in bed, trying to relax it, until about seven, when Murphy woke up, and I called to him to get Dad because I needed help.  Somehow, with a few screams and many tears, he helped me get to a standing position so I could get to the bathroom.  You never realize how your muscles interact until something like this happens, how every movement you make uses muscles you wouldn’t expect.  Anyway, my wonderful guys got me set up in a comfortable chair with a heating pad (thanks to the Ojai Unconditional Give or Take Facebook page), my Flexeril, knitting, coffee and a cane, and they went off to school and work, and I sat there, willing that damn muscle to relax already.  It did, slowly; by the next day I was mostly fine, except a lingering reluctance to move too fast, in fear that it would spasm again, and a residual ache.  I can’t remember if I blogged it, but I did see the Physical Therapist for an “evaluation” to see if I am eligible for service, according to Gold Coast Medicaid.   In fact, I saw him several days prior to the spasm, and I wondered if it spasm-ed because of the manipulation he’d done (not blaming him; there’s something wrong there and it needs manipulation to be fixed).  Anyway, I haven’t heard if I’m eligible yet.  Really hoping I get at least a few visits.

Every now and again, since I started the Lyrica, I have a day like this past Sunday.  I woke up full of energy, not much pain, feeling very much like my old self.  I got a lot of things done that have needed doing for a long time.  Of course, Monday, I woke up sore all over.  But not horrible, which is what usually happens.  Then I settle back into a medium point of  a fair amount of pain but not so much I can’t say, make dinner.   I still have some very troubling symptoms that my doctor has NO clue about and is therefore sending me to more specialists… a daily afternoon tremor/shakiness that is sometimes severe and makes me anxious, which he finally saw and documented, so I go to a neurologist, and a trouble swallowing that he’s sending me to a GI guy because the ENT referral which is like three months old already still could take months more. So all of that, plus (oh joy) my first colonoscopy scheduled this month, means I’ll be getting a lot of sock knitting done in doctor’s waiting rooms.

The Lyrica overall does seem to be helping but there is one concern; it’s making me ravenous.  It’s breaking down the walls I had built around my eating; I’m starting to eat compulsively again and in the month I’ve been on it I’ve gained almost ten pounds.  My vegan lifestyle is breaking down. It’s really been incredibly hard to stick to.  I slip in a chicken nugget here, chicken breast for dinner one night; and I even swiped a couple of my son’s cheese sticks to snack on, the one place I really didn’t want to go.  I’ve got to work on some way of mitigating the compulsive feeling.  Very troubling.

In other than health related news, I’ve been busy.  I’m trying to get out more, get over my people phobia and make some friends.  Through Ojai Barter Bin (another FB page; Ojai has lots!) I met a really interesting woman named Laura.  She and I have a lot in common; the way we think and our values, but a huge difference in life experience.  She spent most of her adult life in Japan, and only moved to California a few years ago.  I really enjoyed the night we spent coloring her hair (that was the barter.)  She’s a little guarded though, and I have a tendency to rush in, so I’m trying to hold back a little, let things progress at her pace.  I’m meeting a lot of people online, and hoping to meet them in person in Ojai at various functions, including a little Occupy Ojai type protest at BOA this weekend.  Bunch of Ojai hippies!  =]

My business is starting to percolate a bit too.  I have currently a small class of kids that I’m teaching about fiber, sheep to shawl kind of a class, and I had an inquiry last night for another.  I’m selling some yarn, and some socks. The name change to Valley of the Moon Fiber Works was helpful, I think, and I’m learning how to get the word out through all kinds of social media; Betterfly, the Ojai Wall, a Facebook page for the business, and word of mouth through FB friends.   Ambitious, but it feels good.

The family is doing well; Peru is playing around town with the band 33 North, and they have a regular gig at The Wrec Room on Thursday nights.  He’s busy with the Montessori kids; they love him.  I joined the Parent Group and may be Room Mother for Murphy’s class, and at the meeting when I said my name they all started talking about how much their child loves Mr. Bob.  It was really cute.  Murphy is playing soccer and is goalie this year; he’s doing really well at it too.  He’s in middle school now (unbelievable!) and loves that too, though having the homework schedule be different this year is taking some adjusting.  He’ll get it though; he’s so smart.  Eric is acting; he’s helping Mr. Slade with the High School production of Romeo and Juliet, playing Friar Lawrence, I believe.  The performance is in December; I can’t wait to see it.

It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but then, I guess it always is.  I’m so grateful to the Beloved, who helps and supports me in every way, all the time, and never indicates a bit of resentment or frustration with my ups and downs, or with the slack he has to make up, and beyond that, still loves me more than I ever expected was possible.  I am a very lucky woman.

Warning; TMI – Girl Stuff

So, today I went to see the nurse practitioner to get my PAP and girl stuff taken care of.

I haven’t been in a few years. I know, my bad.  Last year, I had no insurance, and the year or two before that, well, there was a combination of procrastination, forgetting, being sick of seeing the doctor because I was sick, and more procrastination.  I know it’s important, so as soon as I got insurance, I made the appointment.

While I was showering before the appointment, I thought, wow, probably the cleanest a woman ever gets in a year is the day of her gyn exam. I’m not big on the girl stuff; mostly because I’m too dang lazy.  I shave my legs maybe once a year; I shave my underarms only slightly more often.  Lets face it; I’m overweight and don’t go around showing much skin very often; no shorts, no sleeveless tops, so why bother?  I don’t go in for the grooming of the topiary in that area either; I’m not that coordinated and I don’t like sharp objects near the girl parts. Which is why I find it odd that when it comes time for the annual invasion of the speculum, my razor is in my hand and I go wild with the pumice stone. For the legs, people, c’mon!

I dress and get to my appointment promptly on time.  Stupidly, despite already in pain and having had a sleepless night, I forgot to take any medication whatsoever.  Duh. I sign in and wait to be called.  I always have my sock to knit, so waiting isn’t a problem.  Except that somehow the chairs they have in the waiting room seem to have been built by Torquemada.  I knit a row, get up and pace the waiting room, rinse, repeat.  It wasn’t a horrible wait, 15-20 minutes, maybe. My name is called, and the PA takes me to the vital signs room.  “Step on the scale, please.” I say, I was here last week, and I’m coming back tomorrow, is it really necessary every time?  Why, yes, it is, thank you for asking.  I obediently step on the scale, happy to note I’ve lost a couple more pounds, now making a total of 55.  She takes my vitals, then has me use the Ladies Room, and takes me to the exam room.

Is anyone else old enough to remember when they gave you actual johnnies to wear?  No more; they give you a paper garment, made out of that attractive blue waffle paper I always associate with the dentist.  It’s a crop top now; made to only cover your breasts.  Now, I am a large woman.  I am both overweight and well endowed.  This garment, which is to be open in the front, does not meet in the middle, nor does it begin to cover the bottom of my breasts. Sigh. I am also given a large paper cover to guard my bottom front, and told specifically not to wrap it around me.  I sit on the exam table on the paper disposable chuck, and I’m asked a series of embarrassing questions.  “How old were you the first time you had sex?”  “How many partners have you had in your life?”  “How many partners do you have now, male and female?”  “When was your last period?”  “Do you believe your partner has additional partners?” “Have you ever had an STD?”   I answer the questions, fired at me by a girl younger than my oldest child,  then I wait for the practitioner. (Why am I always tempted to answer with the most shocking things I can think of?)

And wait. And wait. And wait. By this time, sitting on the edge of the exam table, I’m in a LOT of pain, an 8, to be exact, judged by the convenient pain scale poster located conveniently on the wall in front of me. I give up, start walking around the room, clutching my paper garments strategically to attempt to cover the most vulnerable spots. I wander, go back to the table, rinse repeat several times. Finally, I say screw this, place my long flowy skirt to cover the more comfortable vinyl chair and sit.  It does help; the pain drops to a 7.

I knit. I check email.  I knit some more.  Finally, I hear the door open, and a face pokes around the curtain.  “I’m so so sorry” the whirlwind exclaims.  “You’ve been so patient, there was an emergency they had to fit in, it’ll just be two more minutes, I promise, then I’ll give you all the time you need, you’re my last patient!” and she’s gone.

I’m not annoyed; I do understand that things happen, and I appreciate that she thought to tell me what was going on. It always helps to know you haven’t been completely forgotten.  She was so cute about it, I just had to laugh.

A bit later she comes back and introduces herself.  She’s really very sweet, and oddly shares the same natal day as my husband.  She rather talked a bit like him too.  She made quite a point of saying that she’s the “safe” place; that it’s her job to make me feel comfortable, heard, and do whatever I need, which included making sure the physician requested any tests and such I wanted/needed.  As promised, she spent a long time with me, discussing girl stuff but also the other things that are going on with me.  She said several times that Dr. Saito was excellent, and that she would happily go to him herself. Always reassuring. She did the exam professionally but somehow also warmly and with compassion.  She told me later that she had done a lot of the sexual assault exams for the county,which explained her focus on feeling safe. And I did.  She’s very good at her job, and very knowledgeable.  I’m to have a pelvic ultrasound and mammogram at the end of the month, then see her to discuss.

I came home completely exhausted and in pretty severe pain, swallowed a pill and took to my bed. The Beloved made me lunch. I’m feeling MUCH better now…

Tomorrow I get to do it all  over again.  Well, not the Pap Smear.  I go to see Dr Saito to discuss the test results from the seven vials of blood they took last week.  I made a note in my phone of all my symptoms, ranked in order of severity, and bookmarked the StopTheThyroidMadness website so I can discuss her theories of treating Hashi’s. Here’s hoping he’ll remain open minded, that I’ll get a diagnosis, and maybe even start feeling better!


The Big Five-0

No, I’m not talking about the remake of the TV show.  Or even about the dreaded birthday coming up way too fast.  I have, as of this morning, lost fifty pounds.

For visual thinkers; picture a one pound box of butter from the grocery store.

Now picture fifty of them.

Or, think of 200 of these:

It’s pretty amazing to me.  Especially considering I normally binge and gain weight when I’m stressed.  I’ve been more stressed this year than I can remember being, at least for a decade or two.  This gives me hope that this time I’ll keep it off.

I really think a huge portion of this is due to giving up dairy.  No cheese, no ice cream, no cream, whipped cream, etc.  I don’t think I realized how much of it I ate.

I’m really happy that my family is eating healthier too.  Since I was laid off, I’m doing most of the cooking, so they eat what I eat most of the time.  I get a few complaints, especially from Murphy, but even he likes some of the things I cook.  And I don’t mean just the baked yummies, either!

Tonight we’re caving in to the 110 degree heat here; I’m making Murphy some horrible packaged mac n cheese stuff; the adults will have a pasta salad and hot dogs (tofu dog for me), and a huge fruit salad.  With some surprises; I hope to get a pic and post it later.

For anyone who cares, my store site is up (still under construction, but up.)  You can buy some yummy vegan treats or warm and cozy things to wear, for yourself, or for gifts.  The site is www.homespundreamings.com.  Drop by and have a look!

Another visit

Another list of foods to avoid.  This one was sort of expected; but then a lot of things I didn’t expect too.  Focus on leafy green veggies; no problem; many fruits I can have, grains, fine.   But I have to avoid garlic, raw onion, and a LOT of spices.  Makes it hard to cook.   Cinnamon, powdered ginger, pepper of any kind, chili, curry, garam masala, rosemary, wasabi, horseradish, salsa, mustard.  Instead, I’m supposed to use parsley, mint, lemon juice.  Some basil, turmeric, coriander, cumin thyme.  So Indian cooking is mostly ok; mexican is out.  Asian if I’m careful.   He also does not want me to lose more than a pound a week.  That one I’m going to have trouble with. I’d like two pounds.  I know that I’m doing it healthy; I’m simply reducing portion size to normal, eating healthy foods, minimizing the snacks between meals, and trying to get a wee bit of exercise.  I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing; it’s working for me, it’s healthy, and it’s already tapering down on it’s own.  The lower I get, the slower it’ll go, and the last thirty pounds will probably be less than one pound a week.

Everything else is plodding along. Yesterday I spent the day in the kitchen; I made Indian red lentils and homemade naan for dinner; everyone LOVED it.  Really good.  I also made my now famous Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles and some Lavender Shortbread for gift packages at work.  They looked really lovely, and were a big hit.  Maybe I’ll get that vegan bakery off the ground yet…

Busy, sore, tired, but pretty happy.  Not bad, for a Monday.

Continuing Journey

I had a lovely moment today when a friend I hadn’t seen in a month or two exclaimed “You’re melting away!”  I’ve lost over forty pounds by the scale, but I don’t feel any different, and my clothes were always so baggy that it’s hard to tell, so I never really think about it.  It was very nice to hear, and as always, very motivating.

I’ve been taking my herbs, and I am sort of getting used to them, though they still make me wince.  I find that just holding my nose and chugging them in two LOOONNGG gulps, followed immediately by a sesame cracker chaser makes it well, doable.  I have been feeling better this week (until today) but it’s hard to tell if its the treatment or just the waning cycle.  I’m hoping.  Today the pain was creeping back; my arms especially were sore in the joints, but it wasn’t horrible.  The itch kinda is though; but I’ll get over it.

Haven’t been writing much about food; this week has mostly been leftovers, quick catch, and repeats (meatless loaf, General Tsao’s sauce on seitan, ate out one night) and the freezer is still semi functioning, so I didn’t get to the batch cooking last weekend.  I AM, this weekend, going to make an attempt at making my own seitan again.

I have also been asked to make some special cookie packages for welcome gifts to our referring agents at work.  That’s pretty awesome. I may try to make some lavender shortbread cookies along with the Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies for some variety.  My co-worker Jenny never misses an opportunity to help people on various levels, to network them and help (me at least) put myself out there.  She is an inspiration to me in many areas I need to grow.  She knew of my fantasy of having a vegan bakery someday, and she finds ways to help.  Awesome.

Thinking a lot about things; feminism, spirituality, my life and purpose, you know, nothing too deep.  Right now it’s all spinny and jumbled; but as it becomes more clear, I’ll try to get it down here.  No promises though, it may never become clear.  But there’s always hope.

It’s official!

I have now lost 40 pounds!  WOOT!

One quarter of what I want to lose.  In just under three months.  That’s about  three and a half pounds a week, just perfect for a healthy, sustainable long term weight loss.  The nice thing is it hasn’t been that hard.  A little, at times, like this past weekend, but I don’t feel like I’m starving all day every day. When I eat more than I really want to, it’s not because I’m hungry; it’s emotional or distraction eating, which has always been a problem for me.  I am learning, however, that I can eat healthy food when that emotional eating need arises, that I don’t have to eat an entire box of cookies or cake or other high fat, high sugar foods.  Giving up dairy has been the biggest boon to my weight loss, I think; it has removed many of the foods I used to binge on.  The benefit of some of the replacement foods for my favorite junk foods (speaking specifically of Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream Chocolate Obsession) is first, they’re so rich tasting that I don’t usually want to eat more than an actual serving, and second, they’re so expensive, I feel the need to make them last!

It also means that if I keep up this average (which is unlikely; I know that the more I lose the harder it will get as I get closer to my goal) it will be another nine months before I make it to goal weight.  Best not to think of that.  This is a lifestyle change, not a diet, and it will need to be maintained for a lifetime.  And it’s fun!  I’m having a blast learning about foods I’ve never tried, cooking things I’ve never imagined I’d eat, and best of all, teaching my family to be healthy too.  That’s the real payoff; being able to watch my children grow up healthy and smart about food.

My boss teaches his son to “Eat with your Head” not with your tongue; and that’s becoming a catch phrase around here.  At first, I thought, blah; ok, you have to eat healthy, for nutrition only, and sacrifice taste.  Again, I’m finding that to not be true.  You can eat healthy AND deliciously, and you can be empowered to choose to eat healthy portions without  being deprived.  My best friend talks about eating mindfully, and that truly is the basis for a long term change in eating habits. Thinking about what you’re putting in your mouth, and why, and knowing it’s okay to choose less than perfectly on occasion.

Time to go make breakfast.  Reaching this landmark will help me to choose well today. Yay, me!

Pain, or how my body messes with my head

There are days when this journey is easy, and days that it is incredibly hard.  Physically this week has been very tough; I’ve been in a pain cycle, which means that I hurt.  A lot. Everywhere. All the time. My muscles ache, my joints ache, my fingers and toes ache, my back and knees are beyond ache, and even my hair hurts.  Added to this the last couple of days has been itch.  It’s a sort of burning pain sensation, again all over my skin, that just makes me want to scratch constantly.  I’ve talked to doctors about this before, and no one can seem to find a reason.  I have blood work markers that indicate an auto immune process, but it’s never been narrowed down and named, so who knows.  But what I found this week was the stress and distraction of the physical symptoms made it really, really hard to stick to my plan.

When it’s time to eat, I want to eat NOW, and want to just grab whatever is at hand.  Whatever.  No matter how unhealthy or unvegan it is, if it’s there, I want it.  When it’s not time to eat, I want to eat anyway. I think it’s the distraction factor; eating distracts from the pain and the itch.  I also want to drink.  Heavily.  I am happy to report that this week, I managed pretty well.  I kept vegan, and even did fairly well with non hunger eating (though one night I did eat WAY too many Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles).  But it was HARD.  And I was so lucky to have so much support from my family and friends, and even co-workers. And have I mentioned that my husband is a saint?

The more I think about my health, the angrier I get.  When I tell a doctor about some symptom I have, the response is always “lose weight.”  Now, I understand that being overweight is unhealthy, but simply being overweight is not going to cause the overall pain I have, or the itch.  I know that being overweight will complicate any problem I have, but it is not always the cause.  I have now lost one quarter of the weight I want to lose.  While mentally I feel better, and I have slightly more energy than I had before, the pain, the itch, the hair falling out, the exhaustion without cause, the pain in my chest (not heart related); if anything, have become worse.  It’s frustrating.  Especially now, since I have no insurance and therefore avoid the doctor as much as possible.  Pain makes it hard to focus at work, and hard to exercise. And it’s wearing. And sucks the joy out of life.

So I’m going to end this post, because focusing on all this crap is making me mentally miserable, and I just want to get over it and get on with my life. I may break my coffee rule (no coffee on consecutive days; trying not to let it become habit again) and have some lovely coffee with So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer.  And come to think about it, yesterday’s coffee with just soy milk was so dreadful I don’t think I drank half of it.  So it doesn’t count, right?

Image and Self

Losing weight is a good thing.  And not just because I’m less fat, or am healthier.  It also does a number of nice things for my mental state as well, which may be even more significant.  First, I get to feel proud of myself, for carrying through on a plan.  For being successful.  Caring about my health makes me start to care about ME in general, and I start doing things that show it, like say, coloring my hair.  Today was an example.  The totally white/gray roots of my hair had grown out to a disturbing length, and some henna touch up was in order.  Since henna application takes all day (at least for less than coordinated, creaky old me) I started doing all sorts of girlie, self maintenance kinda things that I NEVER do.   Shave.  Pluck. Moisturize.  I even painted my fingernails.  Ok, I painted them clear, but I still did it!  All of which started me thinking why don’t I do these things normally?  Most women do, right?  So why don’t I?

There are a lot of reasons, of course, but the fundamental reason is apathy.  As in, I’m so fat and so unattractive, that why even put any effort in, it won’t matter.  There’s also a huge part of truly not caring; I do not judge people on their appearance, and I don’t think people should judge me on mine.  I know I’m a good person; I’m kind and generous and caring; honest, hard working, reasonably intelligent and thoughtful; even funny sometimes.  So appearance shouldn’t matter.  I also do not want to be someone I’m not, and I’m just not a girly girl.  So most mornings it’s brush the teeth and hair, toss on the most comfortable thing I can, and beat it out the door.

Every once in a while, however, I start to care.  When I lose weight, I tend to care more.  There is an element of lightness that creeps into my brain when I feel good about myself and I want to jump on that upward spiral of self esteem.  So I start to care; I do my hair, I wear makeup, I care more about  my wardrobe.  The problem is, it’s kind of like a drug; I care til something makes me crash and I feel worse than before.  There’s also that protection thing;  I have very concrete and rational reasons for not wanting to be attractive; and losing weight threatens that protection.

I’m very much hoping this time is different.  That I can care a little about my appearance, with reasonable expectations, that I can keep the upward spiral part without losing my integrity, that I can feel safe enough to continue the good things I’m working on in my life.  I’m lucky enough to have several good influences in my life that encourage and support me and help me through.  It feels strange to be approaching 50 and still “finding” myself, but I guess we’re all still works in progress, right?

Vegan Win!

Just used this site to find that Samuel Adams Ales (all but two, which contain honey) are vegan!  WOOT!  Lists various beer, wine, and other alcohol as to whether they’re vegan friendly or not, and even has a place to email your favorite brewery if they’re not listed.  Nice!

Oh, and the weight loss continues; I’m now down 38 pounds in ten weeks.  Hit a major milestone for me, I’m pretty thrilled. What’s really nice is that I don’t feel like I’m dieting, really.  I’m focusing on eating healthy and in reasonable portions, and I can eat anything I want.  I’m pretty happy about it.

Cashew Alfredo

Tonight’s dinner is Cashew Alfredo from VegWeb.  Not bad at all.  I’m still not a nutritional yeast fan but there isn’t a lot in this sauce. I’ve also discovered that while I don’t normally cook with salt, preferring to season to taste at the table, nutritional yeast sauces require it.  I sauteed some kale with a little lemon and added that to the pasta with the sauce, and sprinkled a few chickpeas on top.  The chickpeas gave a nice crunchy texture to the dish, where everything else was creamy and chewy.  It’s a nice, quick recipe; only takes as long as the pasta takes to cook, so it’s good on those “I need food NOW” nights.  I will most likely make this again.

I hadn’t really intended to make pasta.  I’m trying to stay away from refined foods as much as possible.  Today, however, I was hungry all day.  Really, truly hungry.  I learned long ago to stop to think: do I just want to eat, or am I really hungry? Most often, I just want the hand to mouth action, or I’m thirsty.  Today, even after I ate a little, an hour later I was still stomach growling headachy hungry; so I decided that despite the heat (don’t even get me started on the freaking heat) I needed something more substantial.  That’s what this journey is about, really; learning to listen to my body and filter out the emotional stuff, the societal stuff, and give my body what it’s asking for.

So now that I’ve eaten, it’s saying “Sleep… I want sleep!” Unfortunately, with the heat wave going on, sleep is fitful at best.  We’re only a few days in to this triple digit mess, but I have Had Enough Already.  The good news is that our freezer got some needed work, so at least we’ll have cold food.  All that batch cooking I’ve been doing has been at risk of heatstroke; but hopefully we’ll get back on track soon.

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