Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Soup, Broth, and Dog Food

I made potato and leek soup today. It is super hard to mess up!

I had two leeks in the fridge, so away I went. I cleaned them via the chopping and soaking method, but I still got some grit in the soup (not the worst thing ever, but annoying), so I'm going to look for another leek-cleaning method for next time. Suggestions welcome! So, sautee two leeks 10 to 20 minutes or until they're soft. Add to that 4-6 gold potatoes that have been chopped into manageable chunks, some garlic powder, a little chili powder, dill, sea salt, and 2-4 cups of broth or water. Bring all that to a boil, then simmer on low-med for 45 minutes. Add most of a can of coconut milk, and season to taste. I'm eating it for dinner tonight over brown rice and I'm a little jealous of future me right now.

I'm making a batch of veggie broth today. Which means I empty the plastic baggies I keep in the freezer of their veggie scrap stash and boil it all up in my biggest pot. I've got leftover bits from mushrooms, kale, bell peppers, chard, and there may be a rosemary stem or two in there too. I simmer it for hours, until the liquid is at least a rich gold, then strain and jar it. If the veggies still have some life in them, I add more water and do it again. I freeze the broth in jars, and in cubes.

I'm also making a batch of dog food today. We do buy kibble, the best we can afford, and we stretch that purchase by cutting it with homemade food. The recipe varies, but it couldn't be simpler: I chop up a couple carrots or squash or other dog-compatible vegetables and toss them in my rice cooker with some brown rice and lentils and double the normal amount of water. If my boyfriend has some meat prepped, I'll add that to the pot, too. I really like making this in the rice cooker because I can plug it in outside if it's too hot to cook indoors, or too cold to open to windows to let the moisture out. Cooking this outside is also appealing because I am free to enjoy the reactions of the neighbors who have commented on the tasty food smells. I gleefully tell them that it's dog food their mouths are watering for and their faces are priceless! Of course, it's all perfectly good for human consumption, but I let them sit with it for a minute before I share that.

Ain't I a stinker?


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Menstruation Motivation

So now I'm chronically anemic.

Two periods ago, I thought I might die. It was day three, the day when things usually start slowing down, but instead, there were unexpected cramps wrenching my gut and it seemed that every time I moved a flood escaped my body. We were prepping to leave for the emergency room. I was passing huge clots, I was nauseated and dizzy and shaking uncontrollably. When it stopped suddenly, I was relieved, but there's been a knot of fear in my chest ever since. My periods have been increasing in their intensity for years, but this wasn't safe, and it was very, very scary.

I finally saw a gyno, and despite the awful IC flare the progestin pill triggered several months ago, she recommended trying an IUD, which also releases progestin, but hopefully at a low enough dose not to anger the renal gods. I'm desperate not to die of blood loss, so I tentatively agreed to consider it. It's not a definite possibility for me yet, because I need to get an ultrasound to check for fibroids, but if that goes well, I may just be scheduling an implantation.

In the mean time, I'm controlling the anemia with iron pills, which take me out of dangerously anemic country and land me squarely in acute town. So, that's better at least.

I'm nervous about the IUD for more than the IC worries though. I'm not looking forward to the first three months, which are supposed to be much worse in terms of bleeding and regularity. But theoretically, after the initial adjustment, my period should be reduced to something barely noticeable.

That would change my life. Or at least, one week of every month of my life.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Chickpea, Pinto, Lentil, Pea: There's a Theme Here, I Can Feel It

This post features more pea soup. Because it is delicious.

That vegan quiche haunts me, so I made another one today, this time with two heads of roasted broccoli, a ton of oregano, nooch (nutritional yeast), salt, garlic powder, and I tried crumbling a little of that cashew gouda into the hot batter, but I didn't plan it out (should have melted the gouda by itself first), and i didn't want to use too much (i'm rationing my cashew cheese, what?), so it's kind of unnoticeable until you get a lucky bite. Still delicious!

Then for lunch I had chili. I grabbed a lentil loaf out of the fridge (it came out delicious, but I just wasn't feeling the thanksgiving vibe of it. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for a loaf, is that wrong?) and I crumbled it up into a pot with about two cups of pinto beans, a little broth and just a touch of cinnamon. I've been tolerating very small amounts of spices, and cinnamon adds a lot to a dish like this. Luckily, a little goes a very long way. I quickly mashed the beans and let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

I toasted some corn chips to go with the chili, and they were a really nice accompaniment. To make the chips, I cut up some corn tortillas into wedges, laid them on a greased cookie sheet, sprayed them with a little spray oil, salt, and broiled them for a few minutes, until most of them were nicely browned and crispy. They don't come out like store-bought, they're heavier and chewier, but I like them, especially as a chili-delivery mechanism.

A little pea soup again for dinner, with a few heaping tablespoons of coconut milk mixed in and a few tortilla chips crumbled over the top. This wasn't terribly filling on its own so I whipped up a quick batch of potato wedges to go with it. I love potatoes, they're so versatile and easy to work with. I used russets this time, and they were salty and crispy and soft and delightful.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Coping, Not Hoping

My periods have become frightening, and as my latest cycle started, I tried to calm my constitution as well as I could.

To feel more prepared, I spent the first day making menstrual pads from ill-fitting flannel pajamas. It did make me feel better, a little more in control, and now I have several more cloth pads. I love win-wins.

That night I had a vivid dream of nursing my newborn baby. When I woke up, I told my boyfriend about the dream and he asked if the baby was a boy or a girl. I don't know, I said, it didn't matter. I was shattered by the dream, felt absolutely mournful for the baby that was never mine. I curled back up under the covers and cried.

I'm too sick to have babies. My head likes to torture me, and now my uterus might be trying to kill me; but that remains to be seen, it might just be aiming to for grave illness. Actually, my symptoms did improve a bit with the iron supplements and other remedies I threw at it, so that gives me optimism that I won't bleed out before I can get some help from a gyno, at least.

And my migraines have gotten really sharp lately, which may also be period related. I do pretty well coping with the dull and throbbing, but the sharp migraines are a whole other thing. They can easily render me fetal, or turn me into a pacing, panicking ball of distress. I'm keeping the anxiety at bay pretty well though, with various snake oils I've collected over the years, and with meditative techniques. I looked like a woman in labor the other day, I was bent over the bed, rocking and moaning as the pain closed my eyes and brought my head to the sheet. It felt better to move my body as I rested; I can't seem to keep still when these sharp spikes hit, plus I was sort of stretching my back as I rocked. But it was only intermittent rocking, because the nausea shows up for every single one of these parties lately.

However, the cyclical depression I've been experiencing seems to have faded over the last two months, and I'm not sure what I'm doing differently, but I'm relieved for the break.

The IC seems to be under control, I've tolerated moderate amounts of spices and small amounts of acids. I'm definitely still taking it slow, because I really don't want to lose this progress. I can go out to eat again! It feels like a miracle, to have this much freedom in food. Taking the citrus slowly doesn't bother me at all, I'm too busy relishing the lack of urethral pain.

But still, I'm too sick to have babies. That dream really brought it all front and center and it feels like every conversation ends with that conclusion, even if we started at what produce should we get at the store.

If I had more support. My partner is not available for full-time parenting and I can't imagine a financial situation in which he would be. I don't have any family or friends that would be up to co-parenting with me. And dogs are about all I can handle on my own, and let's be real, I need help with them on my bad days, too.

Wanting a child is selfish, sure, but it's also a biological imperative that is difficult to ignore, logic withstanding. If there was a positive trade-off it might be easier, a great career or loads of traveling, but no, just me and my sick.

There's always hope for the future, but I find it difficult to live with hope, at least not too much of it. Hoping can lead to waiting, and of course to major disappointment and maybe sometimes to wish fulfillment, but we chronic migraine people tend to have this for a short while or forever, especially when we're medication resistant, so hope is a thing with feathers that I'd shoot down if I wasn't a vegan.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Precious Privacy

I've really had to detach from facebook, because reading my newsfeed makes me mad and sad and jealous, and I really don't like feeling like that.

I suspect it's a common problem among those of us that are sick, or poor, or both. We have friends who are more able - physically, emotionally, financially - to live life in a way that seems ideal. They post pictures of their family outings, of dinners with friends, of their children's milestones. They write status updates about their day at work, their new hair color, or where they might go for their next vacation.

Don't get me wrong, I may be a little jealous at times, but I truly am happy for them, want them to live their lives, and would never want anyone else to censor their joy because I'm struggling. But it can be hard to be as pragmatic and logical in the moment when I'm stuck in my chair and painfully envious of the pregnancies and holidays and parties other people are cheerfully uploading.

Myself, I don't post much at all. I feel very scrutinized by people in my family who think I'm just lazy, or something to that effect. I don't know the details of their assumptions, and I definitely don't care to, I just know the vibe I get when I'm around them and how little support I receive. My good times are precious, so precious, and rare lately, and I don't want the comments, or non-comments, to diminish whatever happiness I might have surrounding a photo or thought. So, I keep my pictures and my thoughts private, share them with the few people I know who truly do care, and live my life a happier person.

That sounds so bitter! I would think I was bitter, reading that. Maybe I am. I actually feel a rant about what family means building so I'll take that as confirmation and wrap this up before twelve paragraphs have gone by and it's dark and I haven't eaten in six hours.

I think I also avoid facebook because I don't feel I can be myself. I complain about migraines and detail the awful bits here without guilt, but I can't bring myself to be honest with my friends and family the same way. While they are getting married, going to football games, and vacationing in Disneyland, I'm likely nursing my head and pushing myself to the limit to get a few loads of laundry done. It's not an optimal experience, and I choose not to frame my life through the lens of inspiration-porn, so it's honest or bust. And who wants honest? Really? I think I've found the one man and five friends who do, but no one else wants to hear my sad stories without apologizing to me or blaming me for it.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Coconut Milk, Maple Syrup, and Pesto: The Important Things in Life

Mmmm rice and beans. Or are chickpeas peas? No, they're definitely beans. Beans that are called peas. That's not confusing at all!

Breakfast was a macro bowl! I wasn't feeling the tortilla this morning, so I went wild with the fillers and ate it straight out of a bowl, with a twist. Sauteed some mushrooms until they start to look seared, then added chickpeas, brown rice, pre-cooked bell peppers, and raw kale, seasoned it with salt and garlic powder. When the kale was done - brighter green and wilted - I finished it off with several tablespoons of coconut milk. This is creamy, savory wonderfulness, is what this is, and in about ten minutes.

I had an urge for pancakes for lunch. It's not a frequent event, but I definitely enjoy a stack on occasion. I don't know where I got this recipe, it's so simple I've had it memorized for ages, and I'm normally terrible at anything involving leaveners, but these pancakes always comes out great for me, despite my total inability to measure ingredients properly. So, prep a cup of whatever nut milk you like (I'm using soy and my urethra isn't screaming!), add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and whisk it together. Then, combine a cup of flour, 1/2 cup of brown sugar (we don't have white rn), and a couple of teaspoons of baking soda. Always mix the dry ingredients completely, the wet completely, then mix them together. The batter should be the standard pancake viscosity (thick-runny) and you should cook according to your common pancake procedures. I go for a med-high cooking-sprayed griddle, and don't flip the pancakes until the bubbles have popped. Eat with your topping of choice. I like them with maple syrup, and a lot of it.

Dinner was chickpea quiche on homemade bread. The quiche I made this week features spinach, artichoke hearts and pesto, and I've made this particular combination three times now, it's spectacular.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Just Keep Swimming

I feel like I'm always playing catch-up lately.

The migraines have been at a constant low-level thrum, despite how much sleep I get or how easy I take things. I'm tired all the time, and unmotivated. I'm irritable, but not so that I feel depressed, more cranky from feeling crappy.

Our dishwasher died a few months ago, and while I'm doing a good job keeping up with hand-washing the dishes, however the kitchen floor hasn't been properly cleaned in a very, very long time.

Vacuuming too, we've got half the forest in the carpet and I just can't summon the energy for all the bending and moving of furniture and the noise.

My boyfriend put some time into the house yesterday, sorted out a bunch of things that were leaving me stuck, so there's progress being made, it's just not me who's making it.

I've been really good about getting the dogs exercise, which means I get as much exercise as I can take, every day. That sounds impressive until you know I can only go hard for about thirty minutes without dire consequences, but my slow and steady stamina continues to improve.

My period's coming and last month's was a little scary, so I'm taking all the precautions I can to make sure I'm not anemic and am as healthy as I can be going into it. I've been taking iron pills all month, have been eating tons and tons of produce, and am planning to use ibuprofen around the clock for the first five days. I've also got some raspberry leaf tea and have been applying castor oil packs when I remember. I've got a gyno appointment soon as well, so it's not all otc and home remedies all the time. I do still have some faith in western medicine. Some.

I've been learning Spanish via duolingo on my smartphone, and now have added rosetta stone to my learning (it was free! life is sometimes generous), and it's been fantastic. I grew up in a latino neighborhood, and my country of birth (via US military) is spanish-speaking, but I've had absolutely no formal education, so it's been neat to see how much I already know, just by osmosis. And, it gives my brain something to spin on since I'm still not back in school. I am a happier person when my brain has something to do.

My head has not been as cooperative as I expected this winter. I thought that once the weather cooled down I'd be able to hike the hell out of our hill and I'd have more energy to get stuff done around the house, but I don't feel like my head's eased at all since summer. That's not cool! Especially if I can expect my usual summer peak in pain, but without a winter dip to compensate, I'm looking at a brutal several months once the heat hits.

Ever onward.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Food: I eat it. Do you?

I had a friend suggest that I should write about food. I didn't immediately disagree with the suggestion, so I'm going to give it a try.

There will be no guarantee of pictures, because an extra step when I'm not feeling well or my camera is being difficult might mean I post nothing at all, and formatting posts makes my head hurt, so more than likely I'll just describe what I ate and how I made it.

Starting with today.

I had a burrito stuffed with pinto beans and brown rice for breakfast! Exciting! but really, this is one of my staples, with a million variations. The flavors are easy to change, it can be a burrito or a bowl, and most importantly, it's easy. Reheating and assembly can be done in five minutes with the microwave, and if I have more energy to invest, it can be quite the flavorful meal. Today's burrito was simple, but tasty. I started with about half a cup each of (all pre-cooked) pinto beans, brown rice, and a small handful of red bell pepper. I added just a few tablespoons of broth (or water) and seasoned with salt, garlic powder, nutritional yeast and a little oregano. I let that simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently until it smelled enticing and the broth was cooked off. No one likes a soggy burrito. Once the filling was ready, I wrapped it all up in a standard flour tortilla and enjoyed.

I was craving sugar for lunch, so I went for another tortilla-based meal, a peanut butter and jelly 'dilla! Not a quesadilla, but a pb&j 'dilla! I swear I feel ridiculous every time I explain that to someone, but I continue to use it, so. The only jam flavor sanctioned by the world of Interstitial Cystitis is blueberry, so that's what we have, despite my forever being much more of a strawberry or raspberry kind of girl. Ideally organic, no sugar, preservative free, and seedless, if we're shooting for the moon, but IC. Actually this is an experiment; since my urethra has been pain-free for about a month, I've begun very slowly introducing foods that have caused me pain in the past, starting with ones I wasn't sure about. This jam is the first one that I was fairly certain caused me pain (citric acid is the culprit) so I'm really hoping the good streak continues. What if my flare is over?! Dare to dream, kids.) So, I smeared my plain peanut butter and my risky blueberry jam on a tortilla and dry fried it for a few minutes on each side. Do be modest with the jelly or it'll ooze out the sides as it cooks. Unless you're into that sort of thing, I don't know your life.

I snacked on Miyoko's cultured cashew cheese, that stuff is so good. The only varieties they had at our local whole foods were the smoked farmhouse, which tastes like smoked gouda heaven, and the herbs de provence which is a smooth, tangy, cultured farmer's cheese covered in herbs.

For dinner I'm going to eat split-pea and lentil soup, and I'll make some fries. For the soup, I cooked a whole bag of dried split peas with a cup of lentils, a few bay leaves, oregano, parsley, a little liquid smoke, salt, garlic powder, and the teeniest touch of onion powder. That's another dangerous ingredient, the onion, but I wanted to see if I could tolerate trace amounts, and so far so good. I also add coconut milk to taste at each serving. Sometimes I want it creamy and sometimes I don't, it's good both ways.

For the fries, I chop a potato of any variety into sticks, place them on a greased cookie sheet, salt, and bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Flip them over and bake for another ten or until delightfully crispy, turning them every ten if necessary. They take longer the thicker you make the sticks, at 1/4-1/2" they're usually done in 30.

Today's diet was distinctly lacking in green vegetables, because we don't have much in the house right now. I'm taking my multi-vitamin every day, a habit I've maintained for several weeks now, and that will compensate for any gaps until we can go shopping again.

Some days I eat healthier than others; a lot depends on how I'm feeling, what I've got pre-prepped in the fridge, and if we've been able to get to the store, but my goal is a plant-based, IC-friendly, vegan diet, and I absolutely want everything I eat to be delicious.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Anger and My Head

I can let my anger get the best of me, and boy howdy does it.

This morning started slowly. I've been feeling tired due to iron and vitamin D deficiency (again!), but am slowly seeing improvements since beginning supplements. Despite these improvements, mornings have been awful. I wake after a full night's sleep feeling like lead, like I could sleep another day or so, like movement is not something my body naturally does. I wrestle myself up and it's easier once I'm already moving, but I feel like I'm carrying an extra person on my back, and my migraine is more sensitive too.

So, this morning, when my head was starting to needle me and my nausea was starting and my limbs felt like they were trying to become one with the chair, I flipped my everloving shit when I couldn't find my lighter to medicate because my boyfriend had borrowed it without returning it.

This is one of our things, too. He's messier than me, careless with his possessions, and tends to lose everything. I'm not a neat-freak, but I know where all my stuff is at all times, put things back when I'm done with them, and was raised an only child, so sharing is really not my forte.

I can't change him, though I am trying to guide him towards better habits when he expresses interest. I do try to be patient if something of mine goes missing because 1, he's not doing it on purpose, and 2, it's not as big a deal as my only-child brain tells me. However, when his carelessness interferes with my ability to care for myself, it becomes a problem.

This morning, I let that problem send me into an all-caps rage of throwing clothes and yelling at air. Which of course made my head hurt worse. I found a lighter, eventually, and am now recuperating and writing this post in reflection. Looking through his mess would have triggered me on its own, which is why I got so pissed off, but my anger definitely amped up the pain, so now it's my own fault again. I am a passionate person, I feel things deeply and express myself enthusiastically, but I sometimes wish I was one of those placid, ever-calm people who never seems to get ruffled or excited over anything. It would be so much less painful.


Monday, February 16, 2015

A Cookie for Court

My little brother had a birthday. I was almost normal.

He participates in a mock trial club and had a competition on his 18th birthday, which was perfect, because I'd been wanting to see him in action, and I definitely wanted to wish him a happy birthday on the actual day, if I could.

So, we made the (nauseating) drive and I medicated with half a large cookie, even though I had no idea what I was getting into. I was anxious, but it was important to me to try.

There was a huge line outside the building and through the glass windows I could see metal detectors and security checking people and their belongings for dangerous items. We funneled slowly inside and I was horrified to find a huge crowd waiting for the elevators. They were packing us in like sardines and it was not ideal. We looked for stairs, but they were inaccessible (which seems really unsafe, doesn't it?), so we found our way to the end of the line and waited to be mashed in.

I really hope I never have to be in a full elevator again.

We made it to the courtroom and found it packed, but there were two chairs available in the back, which we took gladly. My brother took his turn on the stand early and played his part well, and I was a proud big sister. Those several minutes were glorious as I sat in rapt adoration of the impossibly grown baby I'd seen born 18 years ago. He's such a blessing to me.

The small room became stuffy with the heat of a hundred bodies rather quickly and I wished they would have left the door open. But that's not the way of the courts system, even the mock courts.

Perfume is a steady smack in the face, even when it's subtle, and when there are fifty different combinations of scent in one room, it is not usually a good place for me to be. The uncomfortable chairs, the bright overhead lighting, the shrill edge to some of the more radically pubescent students' voices; I was under assault the entire two hours. But I'd taken that marijuana cookie, so I wasn't nearly as reactive as usual. I was uncomfortable, definitely, but when the usual response to that kind of situation is sobbing pain, I can't complain.

I stuck it out for over two hours, because I'm a saint obviously, and because I needed to be there for my brother, at least once. Even if he didn't need me, it felt really good to be a family member in the audience, to be supportive. It's been so long since I've been able to be there for someone else.

Happy birthday, Bub.