Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Reluctant Vegan...Maybe

The results are in...Eosinophilic Esophagitis.  I am still learning what this all means.  The next step is seeing an allergist/immunologist.  My appointment is in a couple of weeks.  Until then, I take medication to help with the inflammation and try to quell the occasional bouts of foodie panic that goes something like this:

My Husband:  Wow, the cat is really getting big.

Me:  What if I am allergic to peas?  I can't be allergic to peas!  I just decided that I actually do like peas.  I grew up in a family that didn't eat peas...not ever...and it turns out that I actually really like them.  I can't give them up now!  What about my Shepherd's Pie?  I love Shepherd's Pie!  I make a damn good Shepherd's Pie!  How can I move to England someday like the psychic said if I can't eat peas?  What about mushy peas?  I have never even eaten mushy peas!  How can this be happening to me?

This is usually met by a moment or two of stunned silence, then with awkward attempts to placate me.  Typically, I grab a Kleenex and try to regain some composure.  I try to ignore the raised eyebrows of those that are forced to deal with my hysteria.

Sirius Black

My Husband:  Yeah, he is definitely getting bigger.  And his fur looks better...remember how funky his fur looked when you first brought him home?

Me:  Holy crap?  Do you think it is bacon?  Could bacon be doing this to me?  Dude, no...not the bacon!

Two more weeks of this; I am not sure he can take it.

I read online somewhere that the average person with Eosinophilic Esophogitis has 3.4 food class allergies (something like that).  Personally, I am hoping against hope that one of my allergies will be to wheat.  I figured that since my daughters have Celiac disease, and our home is already gluten free, well, it would be very convenient...  Therefore, this possibility has become decidedly more remote.  I simply don't have that kind of luck.

I need this shirt from Cafe Press
No, with my luck I will probably end up being allergic to sugar...and honey...and molasses....and pumpkin.  (Damn, I love pumpkin...) 

And don't forget the bacon.

What is really funny (funny/mean not funny/ha-ha) is that I had been toying with the idea of going vegan.  Depending on what the test results show, I may become a reluctant vegan.  I would definitely prefer the option of doing this on my own terms rather than having all my food options removed against my will.  I would rather embrace the option due to philosophical and/or moral reasons rather than having it forced upon me.

With the whole "Celiac thing," I have already mourned many a family recipe.  Beloved dishes, prepared lovingly each holiday, the recipe passed down from generation to generation...the memories of the flavors fading, the combination of spices forgotten.  Don't get me wrong, some recipes were modified...close approximations of the original...  How many more recipes will be lost, or changed, or will simply fade from the family table? 

I wanted to save all the recipes, to preserve the new version that had been lovingly converted into foods that my family could safely eat, recipes they would be proud to continue to pass on.  A dear friend and I even started another blog to share the recipes. The recipes I had planned may now all need to be reworked again...

I feel like I am in Foodie Purgatory.

I will let you know if I descend into Foodie Hell.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ginger In Waiting...for Test Results

St. Blaise, Patron Saint of Throat Illnesses

"Well, we have the results of your biopsy...and the doctor recommends that you come in so he can go over all the  results with you," the voice on the answering machine intoned.  There was a similar message on my voice mail.

I called the number and got the "Appointment Line" and did as I was told; I made an appointment.  The appointment was over a week away.

After commisserating with several friends at work over how unbearably long from now that was, I decided that the only prudent thing to do was to call the "Medical Records Department" to have a copy of the result promptly faxed to me at work.  I called the department and left what I thought was a very casual sounding request on their voice mail and waited.  Medical Records Lady called back within the hour; she was wise to me.

"I got your voice mail," she chided, "but I am not allowed to send you any results now.  You will have to wait until you come in.  You will get a copy of the report when you come in for your appointment."

"Yes, but that is over a week away," I whined, hating myself for whining, and feeling for all the world like my seven year old.

"I know," she said briskly, "but you'll be able to go over everything with the doctor then, okay?"

"Um, no," I said quickly, sensing her desire to wrap up the call and get off the phone, "It would be different to wait that long if I knew it was okay, you know?  I mean, if I just had something to hang my hat on, if I knew it was nothing...serious..that would be different..." I said trailing off, hoping she might offer some reassurance.  When she did not, I continued, "...but its over a week away!"

"I know," she said, sounding falsely bright to me.

I said nothing, hoping to wait her out.  There was a long pause and another sigh on her end of the line.  Finally she spoke, "When do we have you coming in?"

"Next Thursday," I replied, trying to pour all the desperation that was building within me into those two words.

" about Monday?" she asked.

"Monday would be MUCH better," I sighed, relief spilling over me.

"Oh, Monday won't work.  Tuesday?" she chirped.

"Tuesday would be fine," I said quickly, before she changed her mind.

"Okay, then...Tuesday...but we will be working you in, so you need to be on time or you'll have to wait," she admonished.

"Of course," I said gratefully. Then I blurted out, "Isn't there anything you can tell me?  Anything?"

Another sigh.

"No, I don't understand all...that," she said, "You wouldn't either.  There are a lot of big words.  It would just scare you.  Better to wait until he can go over it with you."  She hung up.

I stared at the phone.  Stunned.  A lot of big words?  Really?  What. am I stupid?  I mean, really...I can google things.  I can!  Don't think that I haven't already!  Hmmph.  Scare me!?  Right, like that statement in and of itself wasn't not knowing isn't scary.

So here i am...up at 2:06 a.m., eating a toasted English muffin with butter, and drinking a diet Canada Dry ginger ale.

My husband assured me that the doctor just wanted to collect another office visit co-pay.  If this is the case, I can assure you that he will be dealing with one PISSED OFF red-head come next Tuesday, the likes of which he has never seen.

Until then, I will wait...and pretend I am not worried.  I will drink my Canada Dry and eat my English muffin.  I will try not to google too much, because googling without direction can take your mind to places that there is no sense going unless you just have to, and I will wait.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lessons from a Storm

It stormed today, and it is storming still.  Not a few showers, but huge waves of rain, strong winds, and quite a bit of hail. 

There were tornado sirens blaring when I walked out the door after work, so I abruptly turned back around and (very reluctantly) went back inside.  My children were safe with my in-laws (and, undoubtedly, in the storm cellar), so I knew that I had to keep myself safe until the storm let up and I could get to them safely.

Any pretense of working evaporated as people congregated around computer screens to track the storm's progress.  Other groups gathered around windows to gaze at the blackened sky.  The thunder rumbled menacingly and vibrated the building.  After about an hour of hunkering down, people began to brave the elements and venture home.

The drive to gather my children and head home alternated between clearing skies one moment and driving rains just a mile further down the road, but there comes a point when you decide that the only place you can be at the moment was home and damn the consequences.  My husband sent a steady stream of messages to my phone encouraging me to be safe, and advising me of the weather conditions where he was...

Now, I love rain, I really do.  I love all kinds of rain...the driving rain that beats against the windows and rattles them defiantly, the light drizzle that tickles the flesh, the huge cold drops of an autumn rain that hints at  the first chills of winter, and the cooling summer showers that drive away the sweltering heat.  But there is something about a storm that separates me from my family that makes me feel...helpless, and exposed, and unbearably vulnerable.  Now, rationally, I realize that each and every  member of my husband's family would lay down their life for my children without a second thought, and yet the idea of not being able to be there, to comfort them, and to see tangible evidence of their well-being causes me indescribable distress.

As I drove through the rain, ticking off each landmark as I pass by, driving--perhaps a bit faster than prudent--toward three tear-splotched faces, who rushed to meet me at the door with a barrage of "we were so worried" and "what took you so long" lamentations, I realized how much is left to something bigger than ourselves...whether we call it God, or Fate, or Chance...there are things over which we have no control, things that keep us awake at night, things which we do not speak of aloud for fear of inviting their inevitability. 

For now, though, we are safe (knocking on wood).  As the thunder crescendos outside, I tug the blankets a little tighter around three sleepy faces and smooth furrowed brows back into innocence.  For now, we huddle a bit closer, mumble another prayer, and wait for the clear skies of morning.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mom's Don't Take Sick Days...and Other Lies

I have a cold, or maybe an upper respiratory infection; it is one of those head and chest things that saps your strength and leaves you gasping for breath (and I am asthmatic so that complicates things), and I am a I don't have time to be sick.  But I am.  There.  I have admitted it.

Yesterday as a bit worse than today and, for once, I actually let myself rest.  I did cook meals (hey, the kids had to eat!), and I kept the dishes washed (because it is ant season in my neck of the woods, and I freakin' HATE ants).  But I ignored the laundry, and I overlooked the dust, and I even let the kids skip their baths.

I spent the better part of the day on the sofa.  I watched The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring with the kids piled around me, and I watched Eat Pray Love while the kids pretty much trashed their rooms, and I watched other things that I guess I must have dozed through (and which I now, apparently, have no recollection).

I never do this.  I don't take days off like that.  When I had my gallbladder out a couple of years ago, the day after surgery I resumed my routine of carrying my then-five-year-old middle child up the ladder to her top bunk each night after she fell asleep in the chair in the living room (as was then her custom).

But yesterday, I realized that I spent so much time making sure that everyone else was rested, fed, bathed, medicated, educated, and everything else, that I never took time to make sure that my needs were taken care of, and I secretly resented it when no one insisted that I take care of myself.  Then it dawned on me...I was not impressing anyone by being a martyr...I was merely created some unsatisfying ideal that my daughters would assume that they had to live up to.  Shit.  Who wants that?

I made myself homemade chicken noodle soup (with homemade gluten free noodles).  It was a bit ambitious, considering how I was feeling, but when I am really sick I really want chicken noodle soup.  I put it on early in the morning, when I first realized how bad I really felt, and I let it cook all morning.  When we all finally piled onto the crowded sofa with steaming bowls of soup, there was a collective silence as we all relished the restorative powers of the much-esteemed comfort food.  It truly did nourish more than my stomach.

So, there...I admit it: I took a day off.  I proclaimed to all the kids that I was not feeling well and that I needed to rest.  My son, the youngest, had been recently ill himself (with the same type of crud), so he relished playing the role of caretaker.  He brought me blankets, heating pads, and thermometers.  He brought me cold drinks and extra pillows.  He learned to be a caretaker...something he would not learn if there was never anyone who needed to be taken care of.  Hmmm...never thought of it quite that way.

Today, I felt moderately better.  I had more energy, and I got up and got the house pulled together.  We had the last of the soup for lunch today.  It still tasted good, but today it no longer seemed like a magic it was just soup.

This made me wonder what it is that makes an ordinary day feel like it is somehow more than ordinary.  I realized that there is a certain feel in the air some afternoons.  I tend to notice it on weekdays, around 2:45...when I should be at work but, for whatever appointments, or vacation days...I am not.  There is a certain sense of freedom.  The sun seems a bit brighter, the air a little fresher.  The perfect song seems to offer itself up on the radio...some song from high school that inevitably makes me feel young and free.  Now, I know that 2:45 in the afternoon rolls around every day, but I certainly don't feel this way every day...just those weekdays when I find myself in the car rather than at work, just those days when I normally shouldn't be out driving.  Perhaps it is the unexpectedness of it.  You see, 2:45 used to represent the end of the school day.  Now it represents nothing more than the time I tend to get hungry at work.  But, one upon a time, that time was magic...that time meant FREEDOM.

Days off are like that--now they are quite few and far between, now they are magical.  So to decide to grant myself one...well, that was something.  I felt a bit like I did when I was a kid and faked an illness to stay home and watch soap operas (ahhhh, Bo and Hope's wedding), or read all day, or mourn the loss of some boyfriend whose name I can no longer recall.

I felt slightly guilty but restored.  I felt a sense of freedom.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2:30 a.m. Seed Check

Lately I find myself noticing more and more bits of myself and my husband in my children.  One in particular has my voracious love of books, they all (to varying degrees) have his love of music.  One is more melancholy while another is more pragmatic.

I don't know how much of "us" seeped into "them," but I do see huge chunks of our personalities reflected in theirs.  This makes me both proud and worried.  I love when I see one or another of them at the table, with pen in hand, working on a new story.  I am grateful that my middle child can laugh things off with a toss of her golden hair and a smile.  I worry when one of them sacrifies too much of themself to buffer the pain of another.  I wonder if they inherited that nasty martyr streak that is too often passed from mother to daughter.  I wake up in a cold sweat wondering if the melodrama that I am all too often a witness to comes from some childhood phase or from genetic code.

Don't get me wrong, I really wouldn't change a thing...because to change a part is to change the whole.  But there is guilt (isn't there always) in knowing that just as my son's red hair and asthma came from from me, so did his "suck it  up" attitude...for which I doubt his future wife will thank me.

The good and the bad--we pass them both on to the future, in our words, our actions, our beliefs.  We propagate them in our children.  This knowledge has led to more than sleepless nights than I care to admit.  I find myself taking inventory of my imagined "Sins of the Mother," and every mistake, every sharp tone, and every moment of maternal imperfection come into sharp focus in the dead of night.

I have always seen myself as a "glass half full" kinda gal and, since we are being brutally honest here, my husband is a decidely "the glass is half empty" kinda guy.  I tend to, in general, take things in stride.  I believe in making the best of things.  My great-grandmother taught me that "if something had to be done, that you were the person to do it, that it was best to get on with it."  And this has worked well for me.

My husband told me once that he was really annoyed by the "Nike Ad Approach to Life"--those people that say that we should "Just Do It."  (This approach, however, makes perfect sense to me.)  He points out that if Just Doing It were so freakin' easy that everyone would be successful.  (But they can be! a part of me screams silently...ok, maybe not so silently, I am not particularly good at silence.)  I realize now, though, that maybe that is what he saw...that life was hard, that the world was out to get them, that they were cursed...whatever seed that was planted so long ago and ultimately came to fruition inside him...his inheritance and his demon...this thing that tangles him up everytime he tries to take a step forward.

I want to plant seeds of love, faith, tolerance, dedication, hope, determination, gratitude, self-worth, compassion, many things.  I hope I plant the right seeds.  I hope I nurture them.  I hope to see them grow to fruition.

I hope I can sleep tonight.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Birthday Wishes, the Universe, & Bad-Friend Guilt

One of my dearest friends' birthday is tomorrow.  I have had all kinds of fabulous ideas of what I would like to get her.  She likes Edgar Allan Poe, and she loves Lisa Snelling's gorgeous artwork, so THIS seemed perfect.  But when the time came to be able to order it, the money was nowhere to be found.  There were bills that demanded attention, and a leaky roof that is still weighing on my mind, and empty cupboards that needed filling...  I contemplated a dozen other gifts, all so very perfect, and all so very out of reach at the moment.  I felt very much like a failure as a friend.

I went out this weekend, after scrounging what bit of money could be spared, and got her a few gifts...none of which feel "worthy."  I lament all that I so desperately wish I could give her--she who has been the best of friend to me and has steadied me so many times, especially over the past year.

Now, I realize that gifts are not a measure of friendship.  I do.  But that does not make me feel any better right now.  I feel this way when it comes to giving gift to anyone I care about.  I feel totally inadequate.  I just do...I will psycho-analyze it later.

But, for now, I weave together these words--also so very unworthy--but at least they are a testament to all I wish I could do; and I offer them to the Universe... the hopes that in some way, at some point, it will give to her all that I cannot...and that her true worth will be showered upon her in great abundance.

Happy Birthday, my dear friend.