Sunday, May 1, 2016

When Acute Becomes Chronic



*tap*tap*tap* Is this thing on?

Ahem.

I've been thinking a lot lately about self. As in, two years later and I'm still not myself. In a grand sense, I'm so very grateful. To remain unchanged after becoming a mother is unfathomable. I don't necessarily miss the self who was a little more "put together" with plucked eyebrows and painted toenails and daily quiet time (okay, I miss the daily quiet time). But let's be honest, I've always been pretty low-maintenance when it comes to exterior perks and that's okay.

I haven't been the same since I had my son. I love him infinitely. He makes me smile like nobody's business-- far more than anything else makes me smile these days. But it's not fair or possible to draw my light from him all day every day. I cry to the Lord, and He hears me-- He's molding my heart to be more like His-- but He's not healing me the way I want. Physically, emotionally, mentally, I'm not myself anymore. It doesn't feel fair to my son, to my husband, to my family and friends, to me... for me to be... not me.

Even my future self, the one I see at the other end of this chain of lights, the one I draw toward me one or two bulbs at a time, on a good day, remains ever far away.

I miss the part of me that had inner vibrance. Some spontaneous, uninitiated joie de vivre, at least sometimes. I get glimpses of her, when I'm clear-minded enough to hold a thoughtful conversation. When I'm spilling over with words that need to find a page. When I have energy to move my body.

I wouldn't say I'm depressed. My counselor concurs, as does my paradoxical response to numerous anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytics. Dare I say? I'm sick. I don't look nearly as sick as I did a year ago, and my level of pain is decreased by at least 80% on a good day compared to this time last year. Once or twice a month, I can muster up a "real" workout and enjoy the adrenaline rush immensely, even though I pay for it for the next 5-7 days. I can have a good "normal" weekend from time to time, but it's always followed by a truly horrible week.

I can't help but feel like I've fallen into the doughnut hole. Of course, there's the political one, where health insurance (which I'm so very grateful to have) only skims the surface when the doctors who are willing to step out on a limb charge by the hour, and don't file with insurance. (Because when you're sick and overwhelmed, it's no big deal to collect paperwork and navigate insurance bureaucracy, right?!)

But this is the doughnut hole where I fear acute becomes chronic. The one where you sense very few people still take you seriously. The one where you doubt yourself, even as your gut tells you, there's more out there! This cannot and will not be how you feel forever!

How long do you have to be a shell of yourself to call it chronic fatigue? I know it has to be long enough and low enough to bring you to a point where you're willing to admit this is a real thing, even though it terrifies you to your Just Do It core.

As a healthcare provider, do I respect my clients enough when they bare their "please tell me I'm not crazy" secrets? As a patient, is it worth staying up late to write a narrative of the last two years for a doctor who may or may not want to read it?

At what point is it optimism to get my hopes up that maybe this next doctor knows that how I feel is real, and at what point is it foolishness?

At what point is is helpful to cut out this food or add that supplement, and at what point does the trying and failing do more harm than good? The kind of harm that makes you feel like this is all your fault even though surely you just drew the short straw. (And how long does it take these dang expensive vitamins to work, anyway?!)

At what point, I wonder. At what point does acute become chronic?



See also: these fascinating essays on women and pain.

See also: the genius spoon theory.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Oven 'Fried' Salmon Cakes

I looove crab cakes, but haven't had them since going gluten-free years ago. I've seen recipes for salmon cakes, but they always intimidated me. After last night, I have no idea why. These were so delicious and so easy!

The original recipe is here. Below is the recipe with my modifications based on ingredients I had on hand:

Salmon Cakes

  • 1 (14.75 ounce) can wild-caught pink or red salmon
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 Tbs diced onions
  • 3 Tbs Tessemae's Lemon Chesapeake Dressing
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter, melted
     

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a large baking pan.

Drain the liquid from the salmon and crumble the fish into a large mixing bowl, removing the bones. Add the pumpkin, eggs, almond flour, onions, dressing, salt, hot pepper sauce, paprika, and black pepper. Mix well and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Brush the pan with some of the melted ghee, then use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop the cakes and drop them onto the parchment. Flatten slightly with the back of a spatula. Brush the tops of the cakes with ghee, then bake for 20 minutes. Then carefully flip each patty with a spatula and return to the oven. Bake an additional 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and your sauce of choice.

Amazing!


Monday, February 29, 2016

Life with a 20 Month Old

I've been starting and stopping one of these every few months, and when the narrative starts to get so absurdly long, I quit halfway through the day. However, today I'm committing to embracing the crazy and documenting it in my meticulously sentimental way, because somehow Noah is on the downhill to two. Like C.S. Lewis says, "Isn't it funny how day to day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?" I can't believe my last day-in-the-life post was in June! So much has changed since then.

0536: Noah is awake. I turn the volume off on the baby monitor and Ross and I pretend to get a bit more sleep before our alarm goes off (we have literally never ever ever woken up to an alarm for the past 20.5 months. It was wishful thinking to set one last night!)

0600: Alarm beeps and Ross gets Noah. Since we dropped morning nursing a few weeks ago, we've been trying to find a new morning rhythm. I miss staying in the warm bed and snuggling a baby while Ross did his quiet time, and then handing Noah off while I did my own quiet time! This morning, Ross gives Noah some hemp milk, changes his diaper, and offers him breakfast while I do some personal Bible study and read a parenting essay (I need to remember why it's so important to be concise, direct, and loving with my boundaries when I'm picking up a boneless child mid-meltdown and all I really want to do is scream). Noah used to be on a muffin, smoothie, AND banana kick at breakfast, but now he's down to just the banana. Who knows.

0630: We trade off. I hang out with Noah and warm up my own breakfast and coffee while Ross has some quiet time.

0700: I run to the bathroom really quick and come back to Ross vacuuming up the dried thyme from the bottle that Noah swiped from the pantry, unscrewed, and dumped out.

0730: I throw the cloth diapers in the washer to start a load. Noah keeps begging for a popsicle from the freezer, so I distract him by letting him play with pots and pans while I attempt to eat a warm breakfast. Ross leaves for work. I give Noah a Larabar because he's acting hungry now.

0800: I finally finish the last of my coffee and breakfast, read to Noah, and browse for couches on the NFM Leap Day sale website.

0830: Pack to go to the gym. Noah immediately finds his applesauce pouch in the gym back and wants to eat it. I open it and he slurps it down.

0840: We leave for the gym.

0900: I check Noah into childcare and breathe. Whew! Joining the community center last month and going twice a week was seriously the best thing we ever did with Christmas money. Since we don't have family in town, 3 hours/week of gym childcare is literally my only respite when I might otherwise have a meltdown of my own some weeks. I love Noah, and I'm a much better mom when I get a tiny breather. I still feel a little guilty, but I also feel a whole lot more relieved and energized on the days we manage to get out of the house to get to the community center. Noah always says, "'rains and nunnels! Oh my!" (aka "trains and tunnels") and runs to the childcare room when we arrive, so I know it's hardly a chore for him. He likes the change of scenery, too!

0905: I sit in the hot tub (my aching back is a huge fan), go through my email, and study a bit for the IBCLC exam.

0930: I jump in the cold pool really quick and see Noah running around in the childcare area. He seems me, and a look of total delight and surprise crosses his face as he pounds the glass and shouts, "Mama!" I wave and blow him a kiss, and the older kids in the crowd Noah quickly gathers around him blow kisses back at me. Thankfully the childcare lady ushers the kids away from the window, and she later reassured me that no meltdowns were involved after the Mama sighting. Goober!

0945: I've changed into gym clothes and I do a quick workout.

1015: I get Noah out of childcare quickly because we have to rush to the chiropractor to make it to our 1030 appointment. On the way out, Noah tries to escape, runs into the garden, trips, and very narrowly averts a more serious kind of doctor's visit. Thankfully instead of smacking his head on the rock wall he tripped on, he twists at the last minute and manages to only scrape his cheek and get woodchips everywhere. We say thank you to Jesus, and hustle to the car.

1033: We made it! Noah plays with the toy kitchen at the chiropractor's office while I get adjusted. Then it's Noah's turn. Man he loves the chiro. Today he so sweetly climbs right up on the table, facedown, and so docile-ly lays his head down and waits for his adjustment. He must know he needs it! Last week he fell 4 feet down head-first onto tile and earned a lovely goose egg. He's been running diagonally ever since! He's full speed (straight) ahead after his adjustment.

1130: We are home for lunch and we obviously crammed too much into our morning, because it's meltdown city for my tired, hungry toddler. I change him into his naptime diaper and then put him in his high chair for lunch. He inhales gluten-free chicken nuggets, gluten-free pretzels, and plantain chips, all dipped into either salsa or almond butter. He loves dipping things! He totally discards the roasted butternut squash. I thought he would love it since it's so similar to his beloved sweet potatoes!

1200: I move the diapers to the dryer and take a quick shower. Can't handle gym germs.

1220: I have no one to blame but myself for the fact that the house is in total disarray now. Noah has also wiggled enough to make another stinky diaper, so I change it and rinse it out while more chaos ensues.

1230: Noah is shouting "nuk and 'nuggles!" and I'm finally able to acquiesce since we're all cleaned and fed.

1245: Noah is asleep. He almost NEVER used to fall asleep in my arms until he dropped to 1 nap at 15 months. Now this is my favorite part of the day.

1310: Noah wiggles and wakes up briefly, so I put him in his crib and he drowsily curls up to resume his nap. I love it.

1330: I eat lunch and watch 2 episodes of the Mindy Show on Hulu. I would love to say that I'm a productivity wizard during naptime, but that's SO not the case. I need a break, too! Every now and then I'm 100% lazy or 100% productive, but it's usually a mix of the two.

1415: I text with a friend a bit, look up two recipes online, and then sit down to start typing this epic novel. I'm hoping Noah takes a delightfully long post-chiropractor nap (like, the elusive 3 hour nap I always dream of).

1520: I close the laptop and start to tidy my perpetually messy desk. I literally have nowhere else to place paperwork, so it piles up quickly. #smallhouseproblems

1521: Just kidding. Noah's up.

1530: Noah runs straight to the freezer asking for a Pedialyte popsicle. I have no doubt he remembers me telling him this morning that he could have one after his nap, so I give him one while I get the diapers out of the dryer and throw some laundry in the washer (THANK GOD for modern appliances)!

1600: Noah and I bake some granola bars for a friend. He simultaneously drinks coconut yogurt out of a cookie cup and adds pepper to the yogurt dregs so he can cook, too.

1615: Change Noah's diaper and clothes.

1630: Play outside! We noticed the first robin of the year in our yard yesterday, and when Noah went outside today, he just stood and looked up in amazement and said, "bird tweet tweet... in the tree!" I love his little voice. And that "tweet" is the cutest!

1705: Head back inside (to Noah's chagrin) to start dinner. Noah and I sample one of the homemade granola bars we made and I start dinner (Mel Joulwan's salmon cakes and Trader Joe's broccoli and kale salad).

1740: "Yay Papa back!" Ross takes Noah back outside while I finish dinner and start tidying up.

1810: We all eat. Noah took one bite of salmon cake, and kept trying to eat the kale but couldn't chew it. Ross deemed the salmon acceptable enough to eat sans modifications, so yay! The recipe is a keeper.

1835: Ross takes Noah to shower while I do the dishes.

1845: We tag-team diaper, Aquaphor application, and pajamas. Noah insists on wearing PJs that are a size too big, but they have trucks on them so they win (and I'm shocked that they're really not that big on my baby!)

1855: Nursing session.

1910: Brush teeth, read stories, put Noah down in his crib. He sits and drinks water for a bit but lays down pretty quickly. Today wore both of us out!

1920: Sadly, Ross had to go back to work for a bit, so I grab a snack, catch up on texts, add to this post, etc. I know that today isn't anything special to other moms of toddlers, and heck it's probably calm compared to moms with multiples! But dang even reading through this makes me tired. Perspective is always good for me: instead of focusing on everything that I DON'T do, or don't do right, or don't do well, I get a glimpse of what I DO do, which is love this silly goose.

2100: Dude I didn't mean to waste so much time. I'm so tired! I always have grand plans of being productive once Noah's asleep, but I'm always too wiped out. (But too cute... He's asleep with his bear, puppy, quilt, water, and one of his books tonight!) I do physical therapy and then get ready for bed.

2145: Ross is home again, poor guy.

2245: I finally go to bed. Why do I do this to myself?! It's like I'm so tired by the end of the day I can't even do what I need to do to go to bed on time. Whew!




Thursday, February 11, 2016

Crockpot Buffalo Chicken

Super easy, super flavorful, super healthy. Win-win-win.

2 lbs boneless chicken thighs
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
12oz bottle hot sauce (any brand that has just aged cayenne pepper, distilled vinegar, and salt as the ingredients)
1/4 cup Tessamae's Ranch dressing (optional)
1-2 Tbs ghee (optional)

Dump the chicken, onion, pepper, hot sauce, and Ranch (if using) into the crockpot and mix together. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours until the chicken shreds easily with a fork. When the chicken is cooked, add the ghee or butter, if using, and stir it in as it melts. Then remove and serve as desired. Ross ate his on a tortilla, and I served mine alongside a roasted sweet potato. Yum!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Homemade Hemp Milk

I'm not usually one to sit down with a cold glass of milk-- dairy or otherwise. But homemade versions are just so much tastier than the store-bought versions, that I always find myself sipping on a glass when I make a fresh batch. Hemp milk is possibly the easiest ever, because you don't even have to strain it.

Hemp Milk (based off of this recipe)

1 cup shelled hemp seeds
3 cups filtered water
2-3 pitted Medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla

Blend all ingredients on high till they are smooth, and enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lemon Ginger Meatballs

Another Whole 30 recipe we loved this week! I served these with some roasted yams whipped with ghee and fresh lemon zest (a nice change from the usual coconut oil and cinnamon that I tend to default to). Even Noah inhaled this dinner!

Lemon Ginger Meatballs adapted from Homegrown Paleo
(served 2 adults + 1 toddler for dinner, and leftovers for 1 adult + 1 toddler for lunch)

1 lb ground turkey or pork
4 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and minced (I couldn't find any, so went without this time)
1 tsp dried mint (or 1Tbs fresh)
1 tsp dried basil (or 1Tbs fresh)
1 tsp dried Italian parsley (or 1Tbs fresh)
1 egg white
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl, and combine until spices are well-incorporated. Form into 18 meatballs and place them in a glass pie dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, and dig in!

Sausage and Veggie Roast

This is barely a recipe, but we inhaled it this week, and I'm making it again next week... that's how much we loved it! I'm on day 12 of the Whole 30, and these meals have been a great change from the norm for us. This one was particularly simple, and a perfect winter meal. We couldn't stop picking bites off the baking pan!

Sausage and Veggie Roast (Paleo, gluten free)
makes 3-4 servings

4 bratwurst (we used Gilbert's chicken brats)
1.5lbs fingerling potatoes, rinsed and dried
1 10oz bag frozen green beans
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 Tbs olive or avocado oil
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1-2 tsp Cajun spice blend, or Italian spice blend
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the sausage into bite size pieces. Add sausage, potatoes, garlic, and green beans to a large jelly roll pan (something with sides, as opposed to a cookie sheet). Drizzle with oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with spices as desired. Mix together and bake for 45-60 minutes, flipping once or twice during cooking, until potatoes are cooked through.

The veggies, sausage, and seasoning are basically endlessly adaptable. I can't wait to try more combinations!