Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Best

I love being outside.

I ventured out from under the redwood canopy for a few hours today, felt the sun on my skin, got a little sweat on, hiked some hills that made me proud of the regular exercise I've been putting in, and enjoyed meandering a really lovely, overgrown, occasionally precarious mountain trail with my dogs.

Regaining my physical fitness has been a huge challenge, and the freedom I felt today was the best reward I could imagine. Besides a billion dollars. That would be the best best, but physical stamina and agility are a close second.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lentil Loaf Memories and Spinach Dreams

That quiche.

I reheated it for breakfast this morning, a spinach and artichoke one, and served warm over toast; it's nearly passable for scrambled eggs and I was in heaven.

For lunch, I made potato wedges and warmed up some pea soup with coconut milk. I can't mess with perfection.

Dinner was brussels sprouts, halved and roasted, lentil loaf, and cheezy nooched-up brown rice. I love lentil loaves, they remind me of dinner at my grandma's house as a kid (but that was meatloaf). I would beg for more ketchup-glaze and nothing was better. Except maybe spaghettios. Or mac and cheese with hot dogs. Those childish taste buds are something, aren't they?

So I made two lentil loafs with two cups of lentils already cooked with a bay leaf, a big jar of homemade tomato sauce (so far, no IC reaction! This is extremely exciting!), cumin, molasses, liquid smoke, garlic powder, a little ketchup, and a large handful or so of oatmeal. It smelled like baked beans as it simmered on the stove. I mashed the lentils and tomato sauce chunks about halfway, then poured the whole lot into some loaf pans. I cooked them in the oven at 400 for about an hour to get a nice crust started, then smeared the top of one with ketchup (for old times' sake) and put them back in at 350 for another hour until they were firm.

I'm always looking for new ways to make greens and an idea occurred to me today that made me salivate in anticipation. Creamed spinach, with coconut milk. I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he immediately started talking about cream of spinach soup with coconut milk, which is not the same thing, but also: YUM. So, that's going to happen for sure.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Homeopathy and Supplements

I've got a small cache of homeopathic treatments that I've been sitting on.

Some of these products I've been collecting are clearly junk and some of them I used a few times without any obvious results, so I put them away one day and forgot about them completely for months, sometimes years. Much of this collection was part of a care package the lovely Jessica at Painfully Speaking sent to me, so many moons ago. I used some of her gifts immediately and completely, and others... got dusty in the bin. But all that is changing right now. I received a new supplement to sample, and the ingredients list looks no more remarkable than my multivitamin, but I'm going to give it an enthusiastic try because why not. I can't help but doubt that it will do anything miraculous for me, but because that feeling of amused skepticism reminded me of that dusty little homeopathy bin in my nightstand, I'm also going to spend the month using every single one of these until they are gone. Let the woo begin!

Day 1 - I started taking HCF Happy, Calm, Focused pills. (My full review is at the bottom of the post). I used Head Clear on my temples, and three Migraide pills every hour for three hours. Nothing did anything, but it was distracting.

Day 2 - I'm having a lot of muscle tension in my neck and back. I stuck an Aculief on each hand and felt a small amount of relief. I actually like these, but at over $30 with shipping, if I hadn't received mine from Heather at War on Headaches, I never would have tried them. Call me cheap, but I can always squeeze my own hand for free.

Day 3 - Discovered a hot spot on my dog, my ensuing minor freak-out called for a dose of 911 Stress Control Spray. Just moving to get the spray made me feel more in control, which I think is common for *minor* stress and anxiety. Once you make the choice to feel better, you start feeling somewhat better.

Day 5 - Again, used the stress spray and again noted that the very thought of using it calmed me down. This is really useful information and makes me think I need to be better about self-soothing rituals in general. I've been using the supplements for a few days now, and so far, I see no difference, though I do get to practice a pill-swallowing technique I just learned. If it's a tablet, swallow with your chin up, but if it's a capsule - because they float - swallow with your chin down. These are capsules, and I can't tell you how many times I've gagged on them in the past, but now I have no issues!

Day 8 - I've got a stubborn headache; not my worst ever, just persistent. So, I'm using everything today. I've got an aculief on each hand, I'm popping Migraide every hour, spraying anti-stress spray whenever I start feeling anxious or irrationally angry, and I started out with just a little head clear on my temples but cracked the roll-top open and have escalated to smearing it all over my neck and shoulders. Aaaahhh minty. Unfortunately, the aculiefs only lasted five minutes before they became excruciating, a problem I have on my allodynia days. Nothing else seemed to effect the migraine, but again, the process of administering all these treatments to myself was sort of soothing on its own. The migraine lasted a few more days, eventually petering itself out overnight long after I ran out of Migraide.

Day 13 - I still like the aculiefs, but their claim that you can wear them during normal activities is a bit of a stretch. Because these things don't. Stretch. And when they do, they don't relapse quickly enough to keep them from popping off every time I use my hands for anything.

Day 11 - So the headache oil officially does nothing for me, but I'm using it until it's gone because i like the minty-lavender smell.

Day 15 - I can't tolerate the aculiefs at all right now, I'm so tender. I don't normally have trouble sleeping - in fact I'm nodding off at 9 pm every night - so I hadn't had a chance to try these homeopathic lozenges for better sleep called Moon Drops. Oddly, it was the only night all month that I woke up suddenly in the wee hours, feeling physically restless and anxious, though I did fall back to sleep quickly.

Day 18 - My boyfriend was nervous for surgery so I made him use the Stress Control spray and he scoffed, but used it and then stopped complaining about being nervous, so hmmm.

Day 20 - The really nice thing about the Head Clear is that is doesn't make me break out, like so many commercial products do. It's a lovely massage oil, and I'll likely refill it with my own diy version when it's gone because I love the smell. I miss scented products, so I can't help to indulge when I find something I can tolerate.

Day 21 - Used the moon drops again last night, I was amped up from a long day and evening with friends and couldn't relax enough to sleep. Like, it was 2 am and I was scrolling compulsively through tumblr as if I hadn't already absorbed possible every meme and otp into my eyeballs six times. But it finally occurred to me to take one and I forced myself to lay down with Jumbline (an anagram game for smartphones, i love it), and was asleep within half an hour.

Day 25 - I'm disappointed that I'm not feeling a difference with the capsules, and I feel silly for feeling disappointed. Per my limited searching, the amino acids in HCF could be very beneficial to a person, but I think that person needs to be deficient in those amino acids for it to matter.

And the rest of the month was uneventful. Here's the supplement review, which I also posted on Amazon.

HCF Happy, Calm, Focused contains a variety of minerals, B vitamins, and amino acids. The two amino acids, DL-Phenylalanine and L-Glutamine, do reputedly have restorative properties, but have not been proven in clinical settings.

I tried HCF for a month; three pills every morning, half an hour before breakfast. I don't normally have a problem with pills, but these capsules were determined to float and nearly every time I took them I felt like they'd lodged in my chest. It was only after I'd eat (at least half an hour later) that the feeling would go away. I normally take a multivitamin, but I replaced it with HCF for the month, though I still took an iron pill daily, because I'm anemic. I noticed no changes in mood, nor in my concentration. If anything, my chronic migraines have been worse. I do recommend vitamins to anyone who has a vitamin deficiency, or even if they just make you feel more secure in your health, but I can't recommend HCF. It's not a complete multivitamin, it's not USP verified, at 30 bucks per bottle it's more costly than equivalent supplements, and ultimately, I saw no changes in my mood or concentration.

I was given a free bottle of HCF to try, in exchange for this review, and I've been advised that I'll receive another once the review is posted. With that bottle, I'll try a higher dose, and I'll report back any significant findings.

All in all, this was not the worst experiment ever. There were no side effects, and that stress spray actually has a pretty good record! I'll continue to use the products I didn't finish and will update if anything interesting happens.

Ever onward!

As always, my opinions are my own and can never be bought. I've provided links to the products I tried but I don't receive any compensation if you click them or buy the products. I just thought a reference would be helpful since I didn't want to take my own pictures.


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.