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.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Catching a Pee Break

I'm officially experimenting with IC trigger foods! With success!

I'm a little afraid that by writing this post I'll be jinxing myself, but in the past week I've eaten moderate amounts of soy, chili powder, cinnamon, and tart apples and over the next week, if all continues to go well, I plan to try more soy, more spices, and eventually onion and citrus. I am really excited by the idea of being able to have lemon in my tea again.

I really thought that flare would never end. It lasted over six months, and I felt every moment. I'm really trying to temper my hope because I may not be able to have certain foods ever again, and I've got to be prepared for surprise symptoms. Even if every ingredient comes back clear, I'm going to be really wary of acidic and spicy foods for a long time, and will only very, very gradually increase them in my diet. I don't plan to ever drink alcohol again, for both migraine and IC reasons, but caffeine I may consider adding back as a very rare rescue head-med.

I had to pee in the middle of writing this and I expected to feel pain. It's just been going too good. I can't imagine if my migraines ever went away, would I still be psychologically driven to run from light and noise, after so many years of them being intolerable? Nah, I'd go to every outdoor music festival I could, who am I kidding?

And so it will be with the IC. I might just eat salsa again, with some luck and bravery.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hippocrates May Have Been On To Something

I learned to cook out of necessity, and I didn't always enjoy it. It was a chore; I didn't have any real skills or knowledge, so I used a lot of prepackaged foods, and there was inevitably a huge mess at the end of preparations that no one wanted to clean up. Oh, the humanity.

As a child I rarely helped in the kitchen, save for shucking corn or peeling garlic, which I enjoyed mostly. I also was in charge of the crescent rolls on holidays, which felt like an awesome responsibility, though they were the pillsbury kind in the tube so the hardest part was remembering to set the a timer while they baked.

As I got older, and particularly after I moved out and was able to rebuild a real relationship with my stepdad, he and I started shopping for groceries and cooking together. We made lasagnas and soups and ravioli and potatoes au gratin, and I learned to clumsily chop vegetables (I insisted on using a steak knife for ages) and how long to cook them. I made complicated, intimidating dishes by simply following the steps of a recipe, and I learned how to tweak that recipe to suit my own tastes.

I started experimenting a little more in my own kitchen, but was still shy of herbs and spices, and rarely touched the cookbooks on my shelf, instead relying on boxes and cans and plenty of oil for frying. Most of what I made tasted good, and got me more motivated to learn, because I am nothing if not picky about how food tastes, so gaining control of that ability was like magic to me.

But what really got me cooking was getting sick. The more I read about migraines, the more I realized that the preservatives, processed foods, and artificial ingredients I was eating could be having a direct affect on my head. I was embarrassed to note I hadn't intentionally eaten a green vegetable in who knows how long, besides perhaps the occasional dressing-soaked salad.

I wasted so much produce that first year. Cooking it badly, forgetting about it, or being too sick to cook for a week or more and finding it rotten soup in the fridge far too late; I hated throwing food out, but this was not food anyone could eat. My turning point was the discovery of green smoothies, and I went through a phase of several months of drinking my liquefied greens every morning, with fruit to taste of course. It was a revelation, and my body felt so much healthier. I resolved to learn to cook better, despite how bad I was at it or exhausting it was or how big a mess I had to clean at the end of it all, because I really liked feeling stronger, and it was clear food had a power that I'd never credited it with before.

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.


So, I kept cooking and I got better at it. It took a few years of accumulated knowledge - of reading cookbooks, taking nutrition classes, hours and hours of internet research, and even more spent in the kitchen making mistakes - for me to be as comfortable and confident with food as I am now. I'm able to improvise and try new ingredients without a hint of fear. I know how to fix mistakes and when to toss it and start over with no regrets. I'm still endlessly searching the internet for techniques and ideas, new and improved or old and perfected ways of cooking that will make my mouth and body happy. I would even like to take classes, under the right circumstances. That's the best part about this hobby, besides the edible rewards, there's always something new to learn.

I consider myself really lucky to have the comfort I do with cooking, especially after being diagnosed with IC. So much of this illness revolves around diet, if I didn't know how to cook I'd be miserable. Either I'd be eating nothing but questionable veggies and rice or I'd have given up entirely on the diet and gone the route of drastic medical intervention. I'm not trying to judge or look down upon people who do live like that, because we've all got our own circumstances and make our own choices, but I'm truly appreciative that I'm able to manage my IC (and my migraines, for that matter) the way I do.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015


I am fed up with other people.

While I often feel lonely and isolated way up here in the forest, the interactions I have make me want to never leave.

Whether I've gained, lost or maintained the exact same weight for years, there are some people who greet me every time with, "You look thin!" or some derivative, as if it's a compliment. This is not how I want to relate to people in my life, but I'm not sure how to get them to stop without making it awkward.

I mentioned I just turned 36, and everyone I've told in person is making weird age comments like, "Is that all?", "36 years young!", and "It's just the anniversary of your such-and-such birthday." STAHP, everyone, let's not making aging weirder than it already is! "Happy birthday" will suffice. Really.

I have also been recently inundated with helpful migraine advice from people who have no reason to give me advice. They aren't medical practitioners, or even friends of mine; these are people who hear about my disability second or third hand and take it upon themselves to google or ask their neighborhood witch-doctor and then force print-outs on my boyfriend for magnet clinics in other states I can not possibly afford to visit. One perfectly nice but terribly misguided old lady sent me a long note containing a numbered list of things I should and should not be doing, as a migraineur, like avoiding caffeine. Honestly.

There's been a shift in my house. We're both more serious suddenly, trying to wrangle our lives back from our respective chronic conditions but without the usual two steps back. So maybe that will mean something positive for the future. I've been feeling stagnant for so long, some forward momentum would be wonderful.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

On the Eve of my 36th Birthday

Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm feeling a little weird about it.

This is the first age that's really hit me in the mortality, and I'm a little uncomfortable with being this close to forty. I mean, I'd be lucky to be 40, and 50, and 110, aging is inevitable, sickness or accident can take any of us at any time, and immortality would be a huge bummer, anyway. But at forty there is absolutely no girlishness left to most women - in truth it disappears for most of us in our early thirties - and by forty, almost every one of us is a grown-ass adult woman without a bone of naivete in our bodies.

Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I have been really enjoying the confidence that comes with knowing my own mind and not feeling so much pressure to perform femininity in the way younger women are sort of required to. I had some good times in my twenties, and yes, my thirties have definitely been harder to enjoy, but I have definitely lived them, and I'm sure my forties will be nothing but not interesting; but I do wish I had more time.

For example, I'm not quite ready to have kids, but could see it in my future. Unfortunately there's an expiration date looming over my uterus that I suddenly have to be thinking about. I could adopt, of course, but I don't like having my options taken away, when I'm not even done deciding if I want to use them.

So today, the day before my 36th birthday, I've spent some energy in the kitchen and made myself a vegan quiche and a bunch of dolmas, so even if I'm not able to go out tomorrow for the ideal beach and lunch experience, it will still be a relaxed and happy day with plenty of good food to help me appreciate and celebrate my life, however I'm able to live it.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Progress is Perfect Enough

So, I made it through xmas without too much pain or stress, and it's mostly due to avoiding everything.

I have this tradition with my grandfather that we go shopping together for xmas, I help him pick out gifts for my parents, brother, and boyfriend, and of course he prompts me repeatedly to pick out things along the way that I would like. He's a sweet man, kind and patient. He's always been supportive and empathetic and is one of my few family members that hasn't completely disappeared from my life since I got sick. I make a point of being well enough to go out with him, even if I'm really not, because he's one of my favorite people in the world. I skipped several events this holiday season, but his and my annual shopping trip was not one of them. And it was great, as expected.

And then I saw him again at my parents' house xmas day and he told me his new years' resolution was to get up to see me more often! I need more people in my life like him, this can only be good for me.

Xmas eve was at home, and it was very quiet. My boyfriend had a spine procedure during the day, so we took it easy, watched Trading Places and opened stockings, which were stuffed with little things we'd gotten each other and ourselves at the dollar store.

Xmas day was at my parents' and we spent hours talking about nothing and hanging out. Everyone was in a good mood, I brought my own snacks (these amazing veggie chips I found at 7-11) and there were nuts I could eat, so it was pretty much a perfect day.

I'm having quite the migraine hangover today though; so much nausea, confusion, and overall malaise, I can hardly move. I've been soothing my addled brain with Gilmore Girls, and they aren't a bad remedy for what ails me. At least, they are a light-hearted distraction.

I expect the new year to be quiet as well, and to pass as any other day. I feel like I spent much of this year being frustrated and anxious, and I'll be glad to see the end of it. Not that it was a total loss, I set some boundaries in my life and have been successfully reinforcing them, I've continued to exercise every day I can, I've maintained my mostly vegan diet, and I've even been writing a little. But, I've been very bothered by not being in school lately, and the feeling of aimlessness is not a comfortable one.

I hope 2015 is more focused, more productive, and I'd like more control, more freedom, and I could probably stand some clarity. Couldn't we all.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Self-Indulgence, A Panacea

This has been a trying time for me.

I started this blog to deal with the 16,000 stages of grief that I was going through with the chronic migraines. I detailed my symptoms and treatments, worked out my every thought and emotion about being chronically ill and relatively young, and just as I was starting to feel like I had a real solid grip on living this altered life, the IC got all serious on me, and now I feel like I should start an IC blog, detailing my every thought and emotion, symptom and fear, and how goddamn irritating this diet is and how terrible I am at following it.

I mean, I'm pretty good at it, but if you ever eat anything from a box, jar or can, there's a 99% chance that it violates the IC diet somehow. When my head hurts or I'm depressed, I forget to read labels, and it's practically guaranteed that after I've eaten enough to hurt, I'll remember and find soy lecithin or citric acid or cinnamon. I'm so tired of being in pain.

It doesn't help that I've been waking up with migraines every other morning for the past week, and this morning seems to be a juicy one. I feel a little depressed, but not too bad, because I have two things to hold onto right now, and I'm holding them tight.

1. I decorated for xmas. For the first time in years, I put on some holiday music and slowly set up our wee, two-foot tall tree, decorated it with the tiny ornaments I could hardly remember having, and hung the stockings by the chimney with care. It's a little thing, it only took me an hour or so, but it's the first time that I've decorated my home for christmas, and enjoyed it. I even found a few bells in the ornament bag (a sandwich ziplock lol) and hung one on each of our stockings, so we'll hear if St. Nick puts anything in them.

2. I'm writing a story. I haven't written anything like this ever, so it's exciting and scary and all those emotions we get when we do something we're not sure we can do.

They're little things, but I'm doing them both just for me, and that makes them both feel very indulgent, which I think is good for the soul.

As the wise Donna Meagle says, "Treat. Yo. Self."


Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Complicated Holiday

It won't be the typical Thanksgiving this year, and that's probably a good thing.

I read that there are going to be protests and fasts today; people are mad about working for sub-living wages, they're mad that a police officer shot an unarmed teenager and is suffering no consequences, and of course, they're mad because this holiday is a hypocritical mess of pretending white people were friends with the natives of our country and didn't actually commit genocide.

And it's not the same at my house this year, either. We don't have money for groceries right now, so I'm making what I can with what we have. Lentil loaf for me, chicken for him, instant potatoes, mushroom gravy and whatever veg I throw in there last minute.

Despite the hypocrisy of the holiday and the frustrations I may have in my own life, I do like to try and be thankful, it's a good plan to appreciate what we have.

So, I'm grateful for the lucky combinations of food in my pantry and fridge that is allowing me to make something resembling a thanksgiving meal. I'm thankful for the roof over my head, the people who care about me, my dogs, and the internet. I'm thankful for justice, when it happens, and for those who stand up when it doesn't. I'm grateful for the trees and the quiet, the clean air and peace that living in the country provides me. I'm lucky in a lot of ways, and it does me good to remember it.