Looks Like it’s Time for a Meme…

I came across this meme on my friend Carla’s blog, and I thought I’d bring it over here.  I’ve read some good books I could tell you about.  I went to see my Grandma again, and I could tell you about that.   I could even dredge up some thoughts on the horrid flooding in Texas and the horrid drought here, and tell you how it doesn’t rain in California this time of year, so if we DO get any, it will be tiny amounts and not help in the greater sense at all.  No real rain until September if we’re lucky, more likely November or December. 

But no, all you get is a meme.  Sometimes my brain just works that way.  As in, hardly working at all, lazy lazy brain.  So, here goes.  The rule for this meme is that you must come up with an answer to each silly ‘question’, and the answer must begin with the first letter of your first name.  So all of my answers will start with J.

First name : My first name?  Or just A first name?  My first name is J.  Duh. Or, as we used to (so eloquantly say in Jr. High, “No Doy”.)

An animal: Jaguar.  Jackel.  Jackass.  Jellyfish.  Have I told you about the time Maya and I found a jellyfish washed up on the beach in San Francisco, and I could see its pulse (which makes no sense, because I don’t know that they have a heart),  and Maya convinced me to pick it up and get it back to the water.  I used a plastic bag to protect myself if it should sting me.  SF has now banned plastic bags, so I don’t know what would happen today.  Or if the bag would have proteted me if it had stung.  But it was a happy moment, watching it float away on the tide.

A boy’s name:  Justin. Or Jack.  My two nephews. :)  There’s also Jeff, and Jason. Or my friend Cherry’s son, Jacob.

A girl’s name:  Julia.  Janet. Janice.  Jane.  I know, I’m only supposed to give one.  So what.  My great-great aunt, for whom I was named, was Julia.  One of most darling best friends is Janet.  Maya used to have a toy cat named Jane, who had wings.

An occupation:  Judge. Janitor. Jailer.  Justice of the Peace.  Jellymaker.  Journalist. Juggler.  Jockey.  There were a few years there that I really wanted to be a jockey, despite not having spent time around horses.  Or, not enough time.

A color:   Jaundice.  Is that a color?  Jet.  Jade.

Something you wear:  Jeans.  Not Jeggings.  Never Jeggings.  Jackets and Jodpurs and Jewlery.

A drink: Julip.  Jaggermeister.   Blech to both, though I’ve never had a julip, so I shouldn’t speak to that.  I don’t think I’ve ever had Jaggermeister, either, actually.  

A type of food:  Japanese.  Jello.  Jam.  Jerky.  Jalapeno. 

Something found in the bathroom:  Jean Nate after bath splash.  OK, not MY bathroom, but there was a time when I was a kid that I used to buy this for my mom.  And my Great Aunt has some in her bathroom that is probably 30 years old.  I’ll bet that smells lovely.  As in, not.

A place:  Jet plane.  On a jet plane, on my way to Paris or Milan or somewhere wonderful and lovely.  Or, conversely, Joliet Illinois, which I remember passing on I-80 on our drive from San Francisco to Philadelphia, back in ’94.

A reason to be late:  Stuck in Joliet.  Not a GOOD reason, but a reason certainly.  Or perhaps, stuck in a traffic Jam.  Or, Just because.

Something you shout out:  JESUS!  If you’re religious, it could be, “PRAISE JESUS!”  If you’re not, it could be something you shout out in exasperation when someone almost rear-ends you on the freeway.

That’s my list of J.  Perhaps not worth much, but at least it got me to post something.  Whew.

Life’s Both Sweet and Sour

Yesterday was Ted’s birthday, which was a milestone year, as he turned 50!  We had a lovely party, with family and friends, laughter and perfect weather.  Perfect weather was important, as we had not the room inside, and most of us ate at tables in the back yard.  He received a LOT of bourbon, his favorite spirit, and we ate drank and were merry.  It was a great day.

It was especially nice for me, because my brother Richard was here.  I haven’t seen Richard since our mom’s memorial in 2008, and it’s been far too long.  He lives in Juneau, Alaska, which is an expensive flight and hotel combo, so we haven’t been able to make it up there.  I do hope we can make it sometime, as Ted has not yet been to Alaska, and Juneau is fairly stunning in the beauty department, with lots of lovely hikes and amazing views, and the best fish I’ve ever had.

The reason he was in California was very sad, however.  My mom’s younger brother, my uncle Forrest, passed away on April 21st.  He had been sick enough to worry his daughters for a couple of months at least, but only sick enough to really scare us for a couple of weeks, and to be honest, we’re still not entirely sure what went so wrong as to kill him.  He was only 67.  He left behind a wife and his two daughters, all of whom are broken hearted, as well as three grandchildren, and his dogs, who are missing him and wondering when he will come home.   We are most worried about my Grandmother, though, who has been in poor health herself for the last several months, and has now outlived 2 husbands and all 4 of her children.   We’re worried this last loss will be the undoing of her.  She is holding up the very best she can, and says that at least she had her children with her as long as she did, and she is thankful for the time she had with them.   She’s the strongest person I know, in her 92 lb body and broken heart. I do hope she can recover from this.   His memorial was Saturday evening, and was a lovely chance to celebrate his life with family, friends, and his coworkers, all who loved and respected him greatly.

So this has been an emotional time, full of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears.  I’m glad Richard was able to stay long enough to celebrate Ted’s birthday with us.  I’m glad we had a chance to come together as family and friends to celebrate Ted’s first 50 years.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Avo Bagel
Look at that awesome breakfast. Bagel, toasted, with avocado and lemon pepper. That’s it. So delicious. Served with OJ and tea (PG Tips, a bit of milk and sugar). One nice thing about Facebook is that some people post pictures of their food, and you can choose to be inspired by their pictures. I’m not sure I would have come up with this combination on my own, so thank you Facebook!

Then there’s this…the Gluten Free Museum. Famous paintings, with any offending gluten removed. Click the link to see more awesomeness.

Are you a fan of the ‘Little House’ books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder? If so, and if you like knowing the background behind these fictional books, I recommend the newly released “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography“. It’s an amazing amount of research into almost every detail of Wilder’s unpublished autobiography, “Pioneer Girl”. Wilder first put her memories down and tried to publish them as “Pioneer Girl”, which is the story of her early life. The story is not written for children, and has some darker elements than the ‘Little House’ stories. The decision was made that the stories would better be told as children’s books, and Laura and her daughter Rose worked through the same material, and they turned into the ‘Little House’ stories that we all know and love. The difference between reality and fiction is sometimes jarring. That she had a little brother, who died as an infant, I knew. That the infamous Nellie Oleson was a composite of several girls in Laura’s youth, I knew. But that Jack, Laura’s beloved brindle bulldog and constant companion, was actually given away when Laura was 4…that was too much for me, and I thought I was going to have to breathe into a paper bag to keep from passing out.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I really enjoyed ‘The Precious One‘, by Marisa de los Santos. I’ve read a couple of her other books, and I really enjoy them. They’re light enough to be an easy read, but I love her writing and her lovely use of language.  Without giving anything important away, this is the story of Taisy and Willow, sisters 18 years apart in age.  They share the same father, who is imperious and overwhelming and towers above their lives. They’ve only met once before, when Willow was a baby, when Taisy comes to stay for a short time at the request of their father.  Taisy is determined to find answers to how her father turned out to be the man he is, the kind of man who would leave her, her mother, and brother, and start over with a new wife and daughter.  Willow is focused on her dislike and jealousy of Taisy, and trying to navigate the treacherous waters of High School, after a life of being home schooled.

Ted and I went to see ‘Wild Tales‘, which was in town for about 15 minutes.  We’re fortunate that there’s one theater in town that plays independent and foreign films. I knew nothing about the movie going in, except that I wasn’t interested in any other movies that were playing, and that it was a foreign film. It’s a series of stories with a common theme, and that’s all I will say. Also, fairly dark, but not horrific, and pretty laugh out loud funny in some parts. Ted thought one woman in the audience was going to choke, she was laughing so hard. I’ll be watching for it to come to Netflix or something, so I can see it again.

Whew.   Now you’re all caught up.  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted…I blame my iPad.  I don’t really like the WordPress app on it, so I get frustrated and don’t bother.  For this post, I pulled out my old laptop.  I should do this more often, clearly. I’ll leave you with the knowledge that Maya is now 19, and that we had a lovely weekend celebrating. Also, if you like to laugh, go look at this.

Antibiotic Therapy

I’ve been doing some research into the treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the options are mostly crummy. Even the more innocuous drugs seem to have long term use risks, which don’t thrill me. I’ve been on sulfasalazine for several months now (I think I started in October), and I’ve not seen any good results yet. It takes time. So I looked around some more, and found a somewhat old school yet unconventional treatment, which is long term tetracycline use. You take a low and slow approach, taking 100mg of a specific tetracycline 3 days a week. Like other RA treatments, results come about slowly slowly slowly, often 6 months or more, sometimes a year or two. When I looked at the roadback website set up for followers of this protocol, I saw a ‘current protocol’ and an ‘historic protocol’. Current says take 200mg daily, historic is the more intermittent dosage. So I took this information to my doctor, and said I’d like to try it. She doesn’t have a lot of faith in the treatment, doesn’t think it will likely work, but she is willing to let me try it, and wrote me the prescription that I wanted. She prescribed it for 200mg daily, which I took for a week. I felt like crap. Somewhat sore, but really nauseous and sick to my stomach. So I looked a little more closely, found the intermittent dosage, and decided to try for that instead of the amount prescribed.

No difference is pain as of yet, but the feeling like absolute crap is gone since cutting back on my dosage. I’m glad for that. I gave myself a treat this weekend, and took some prednisone Friday and Saturday, which really is wonderful and takes away so much pain, and gives me a reasonable amount of energy. I cleaned up the back yard. I did some other chores. I felt like myself. I love that stuff. I do wish that I could stay on it, but I cannot. It’s too dangerous. So I took a smaller dosage yesterday, and a smaller still dosage today (you’re supposed to taper off, not just go cold turkey).

So now it’s back to no prednisone, giving the antibiotics a chance to work. Apparently tetracycline does not give you issues that some other antibiotics give…no resistance to antibiotics, no yeast issues. I am taking a probiotic to help my gut.

A lot of the people on the website say they get marked relief from going gluten, sugar, and dairy free. I tried those, and saw no difference. I had some blood work done awhile ago to look for food intolerance. I’ll wait to hear what the test results say before I decide whether to give these another try or not. I’m happy to eat more healthfully, but am not eager to eliminate entire food groups, so hopefully that won’t become necessary. I do see that for many people, they only need to restrict these food groups when in a flare, and most of the time it is not necessary. So that’s another consideration. A lot of people on the road back website discuss lyme disease, leaky gut syndrome, and so on. I don’t have any symptoms of lyme nor leaky gut, except for my RA.

I’ve tried several things to help. Acupuncture is known to give some relief, but didn’t help me. Vinegar and honey helps some people, but I haven’t noticed relief. Diet changes have made no difference. Yoga helps some, at least to relief stiffness. It doesn’t do a lot for pain. Swimming helps with energy and stiffness, but again, not much of a pain reliever. I’ve gotten into hot tubs twice, once with immediate relief, another time not so much. I even resorted to taking a bath (with epsom salts), but I hate baths so much, it just made me tense, which is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. I’m taking turmeric, fish oil, and vitamin D. I’m thinking I should try some kind of meditation, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I have had a couple of massages, which generally feel good, but don’t help my joints. I am hoping that the antibiotic treatment works, that I can get off of the sulfasalazine, and get my groove back.

I’ll tell you, this whole thing has been an education for me. Not necessarily one that I wanted. I feel sort of like I’m bouncing back and forth between snake oil salesmen and big pharma. I don’t ally myself strongly either way. I’m all for figuring out the least harmful way to help yourself, and trying to go from there. Wish me luck.

The Drought Continues, and other news

It’s hard to complain about the drought when the rest of the country is dealing with unheard of amounts of snow, stupidly cold weather, and ice storms. It’s 4:00 on Presidents’ Day afternoon, and it’s 71 degrees here. The birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, kids are running around outside enjoying the sunshine. I went for a swim this morning that was lovely and warm. We’ve grilled outside twice so far this week. I drove to Stockton yesterday to see my Grandma and Great Aunt, and the scenery was lovely, with green hills and fields of wildflowers. It’s a great time to be living in California, and those of my readers East of here are probably using the F word about me right now. I am sorry for your misery, and even more sorry that there isn’t a way to ship some of that excess water, which you CLEARLY don’t want or need, out our way. We had a lovely wet few days last weekend, but then that goddamned high pressure system came back, and it’s been nothing but gorgeous ever since, with nothing but gorgeous in our foreseeable future. We’re so screwed.

In other news, I heard about this guy on the radio awhile ago, and keep meaning to tell you…he’s got an issue with the expression ‘comprised of’, because ‘comprised’ means ‘composed of’, so when someone says ‘comprised of’, what they’re really saying is ‘composed of of’. and that gets his inner grammarian all ticked off. So he goes through Wikipedia, page by page, finding where the term ‘comprised of’ has been used, and replacing it with ‘composed of’. Not everyone agrees with his interpretation of the rules, and some are perhaps offended that he is going in and making changes to their entries, but I kind of like his dedication and persnicketyness. Rock on, Mr. Grammarian, let your freak flag fly!

Grumbling about my teeth

Today was a new experience for me, and not one for which I am thankful. Well, perhaps I’m a bit thankful*, but it was unpleasant. What could it be? A crown on my tooth. One of my teeth cracked, which exposed a bit of root, and made me very sensitive to both hot and cold. Blech. So off I went to the dentist, where she filed down my poor tooth, fitted a temporary crown on it, and sent me on my way. I have to say, I wish I didn’t know that they file your tooth down. The whole time that stupid file was in my mouth, I kept picturing my poor tooth being worn down to a nub. Not pleasant.

We have a new dentist, and this was my second trip to see her. My first was when she diagnosed my problem. I like her well enough, she’s gentle, which is a good thing. But I do miss my old dentist, Dr. Ochikubo. Dr. O was such a sweet guy, and had been practicing dentistry for many decades. He would sometimes tell stories about when he and his family were put in an internment camp during World War II, he being Japanese and living in California. Not a fun story, but interesting, and such a part of our history. He retired last year, not because he wanted to and was going to travel the world, but due to health issues. So that’s sad, and at least at this point, it brings a whole level of sadness to going to the new dentist, who is in his same office. Sigh. So now I have a crown, which somehow feels like a moral failing to me. Like I failed to care for my teeth or something. I know, I’m weird. I sometimes feel guilty when my eyesight gets worse, too. Everything that’s wrong with me is surely my own fault, and if only I had done things differently, I wouldn’t have these issues. Never mind that it’s all hereditary, and I’ve always taken good care of myself (except perhaps for my soda addiction, which I finally quit in late 2013). None of that matters in the face of the guilt.

You know what would make me feel better? If my ‘Downton Abbey’ DVD would hurry up and get here. It’s supposed to arrive today, and yet here it is, almost 8:00 at night, and NO DVD!!! Uncool.

*A bit thankful, or should I say, very thankful really, that modern dentistry exists, and there is help beyond just yanking a painful tooth out of your head. That would suck.

All The Light We Cannot See

Marie-Laure is a young blind girl, living with her father in Paris, 1940. Her father is the keeper of the keys at the Natural History Museum, and he builds her a miniature replica of their neighborhood, so that she might memorize the details and learn her way around. When the Germans invade Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris, for the coastal town of Saint-Malo, where they live with his brother Etienne in their childhood home.

Werner is a young orphan, living in an orphanage with his sister, other children, and their care keeper, a woman who speaks French and tells them stories of France. Werner and his sister discover an old radio, on which they listen enraptured to a French scientist describing the wonders of the world. Werner discovers he has a gift for putting together and repairing radios, a skill that takes him out of his coal mining town and frees him from a life underground.

Nazi fervor sweeps through Germany, and carries Werner along with it, though he is less interested in the goals of the Nazis than he is in his radios and his job of finding illegal transmissions. Along the way, he comes to question his own bravery and morals.

Marie-Laure finds a small role in the French resistance, carrying messages and wishing that she could be reunited with her father, who was arrested and taken away soon after their arrival in Saint-Malo, though not before he has time to build her a miniature replica of the city, so she can once again find her way outside of her door and through the streets.

All the Light We Cannot See travels between Marie-Laure and Werner, travels backwards and forwards in time, and lyrically spins a tale that is lovely, horrid, and suspenseful. I liked this story quite a bit, and I highly recommend it.

Friday Randomness

I had such high hopes for this month and blogging. I posted on January 1st, and again on January 2nd. I was on a roll. Sure, they were both just recipes, but still. It was momentum. Then I lost it. And here it is, 3/4 of the way through the month. Sigh.

Guess what? I’m a human pincushion. I’ve decided to try acupuncture for my non-rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve heard it can help. I went for my first session last week, and it wasn’t horrid, but I didn’t feel any relief. I was told that it sometimes takes a few sessions, so I went back today. I do feel a little better now. I also have Chinese herbs that I’m supposed to take, though I keep forgetting.

Also on the arthritis front, my doctor increased my dosage of my meds. I think that’s finally helping a little, too. I dislike the side effects, which include a nasty taste in my mouth, and often feeling queasy. Plus many my tinnitus is getting worse, but I’m not sure on that. But the pain isn’t as bad as it was before, and I’m not as worn out, so that’s a good thing. I can’t believe this has been going on for 6 months now. Miserable. Is this the rest of my life? I hope not.

In other news, Ted again received DVDs to watch so he could vote in the SAG awards. Last night, we watched ‘Cake’, which came out in theaters today. I liked it a lot, though it was fairly depressing, and I found myself watching Jennifer Aniston walking around in such pain, and wondering if that’s how I look. Stiff and careful and miserable all of the time. Ugh. Aniston gives a pretty amazing performance as a pill popping drunk trying to cope with her physical and mental pain.

Are you watching Downton Abbey? I am, and I’m loving it. Looks to be a great season. I do wish the seasons weren’t so short. Will Mary find love, now that she’s gotten lust out of her system? Will Granny find love with the Russian Prince? What about Tom? He seems to be leaning back towards his more socialist roots. Personally, I think he should move out of the abbey, and live in a cottage in the village. Certainly there must be a fancy house he and Sybbie can live in with a nanny. His school teacher friend is lively and pretty, but I don’t really see a romance between them. We’ll see if I’m right about that. Sigh. I do love the clothes. My brother gave me a copy of the Season 5 DVD for my birthday, and that will be coming along any day now. Then I’ll binge watch, and will have to refrain myself from spilling all.

On the recommendation of my dad and step-mom, I downloaded the NYTimes bestseller, “All the light we cannot see”. I’m about 1/2 way through, and am really enjoying it. I also downloaded “The Goldfinch”. I got that one from the library first, but it was so amazingly thick and heavy, it was uncomfortable to hold and read in bed, and that is my preferred place to read. Also because it was so thick, I doubted I could finish it before it was due. One of my Christmas gifts was a gift certificate to Amazon.com, so I went ahead and ordered these two books as gifts to myself.

Lastly, I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I dislike it when people use the wrong ‘there/they’re/their’ in a sentence. You know what’s worse? When I see it in a work email. One that I wrote. Ugh. It’s not that I don’t know which one to use, but my fingers are sometimes confused. I blame the arthritis. Really.

Potato and Onion Gratin


photo and recipe found here

Trudy, the lovely 99-year-old lady on my Meals on Wheels route, sometimes enjoys perusing the weekly insert that comes in her paper, Relish, with me. We also get a daily paper, but ours is a San Francisco paper, while Trudy’s is local, so we don’t get the insert. A while ago, I came across this recipe, and liked the look of it so much, I made it for dinner that week. I made it with a roast chicken, and it was delicious. It was enough of a hit that Ted requested that I make it for Christmas dinner. Christmas is a bit of a pot luck in our family, and while the main dish was to be rack of lamb (YUM), I was in charge of side dishes. The gratin was a big hit, enjoyed by all. I opted for thyme rather than rosemary, though either would be delicious. You should likely give this one a try.

Potato and Onion Gratin
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

1/3cup olive oil
2large onions, cut into halves and thinly sliced
1teaspoon chopped thyme or rosemary leaves
2pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Golds), thinly sliced
1teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a shallow 6-cup baking dish.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in thyme.
Arrange one-third of the potatoes in prepared pan. Top with one-third of the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat layers twice, ending with onions. Pour broth over top. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour. Remove foil and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Monday Morning Cooking Club’s The Feast Goes On (Harper Collins, 2014).

KISS and Brussels Sprouts


Back when Ted was a kid, he was a fan of rock divas, KISS. How appropriate then, that this long lost Folgers commercial appears online, at around the same time that Ted decides to make me Brussels sprouts for my birthday dinner. Watch the video, it’s too funny. I guess it was filmed in 2000, but never aired. I like how into the song he is.

Ted and Maya are not fans of Brussels sprouts, and Ted hates dried fruit in general, but for some reason even he really liked this recipe. Maya ate 1/2 of one Brussels sprout, and declared it not bad, but not something that she would actually order on purpose. If you’re at all a fan of Brussels sprouts, give this a try. It’s delicious. For my birthday, it was served with a wonderful roast duck, mashed potatoes, and delicious tarts that Ted purchased at our local store.

RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPROUTS À LA STANLEY

Serves: 6
INGREDIENTS

Brussels sprouts
Prosciutto, cut into half-inch pieces
Dried cherries
Hot pepper flakes
Aged balsamic vinegar
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt to taste
Zest of one lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

First of all, don’t measure out the ingredients. I don’t stress about that kind of thing. Cut a nice amount of Brussels sprouts in half and set aside, whether or not you even like Brussels sprouts. These are off-the-hook delicious. Steam until a little soft.
Next, fry the prosciutto in olive oil until soft. Remove for later.

Put the steamed Brussels sprouts into the pan and brown, turning frequently.

Add dried cherries (I use Mariani) into the pan and cook with the Brussels sprouts. Add the cooked prosciutto and hot pepper flakes.

Stir in high-quality, aged balsamic vinegar. Add enough to coat all ingredients. Don’t be shy.

Add cheese and salt to taste.

Serve in a large bowl and top with lemon zest.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday!  This is the last year of my 40s, and next year I’ll be 50, which seems so much older than I feel.  Then again, with the arthritis that’s been plaguing me, I am feeling a lot older than I did 6 months ago.  Oh well, I’m treating myself to a prednisone, which should help somewhat and allow me to have energy for the things I want to do today.  Which include:

  • Going to breakfast with Ted and Maya.  We’re going to a place in Pleasanton that is known for its omelets.  I love eggs, so this seems like a great idea to me.
  • Going to San Francisco, to the Yerba Buena Center for the arts.  I thought of going to the Legion of Honor or the DeYoung, but neither of them have exhibits I really want to see right now, and we’ve been so many times…so we’ll go somewhere new for a change.  Fun!
  • Shoe shopping!  A DSW opened in our neighborhood a few months ago, and we’ve not yet gone.  I’m not sure what I’ll find, but hopefully there will be something interesting or comfy or pretty (or all three, how would that be?)
  • Nice dinner.  Ted’s making duck, per my request.  We’ve never cooked duck at home, so this will be a treat and an adventure.
  • We may or may not stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year.  It’s rarely my favorite thing to do…I generally like sleep more, but who knows?  Could happen.

I’m looking forward to my birthday gifts, which are mainly in the form of delayed gratification this year.  My brother got me Season 5 of Downton Abbey on DVD (can’t wait!), but that isn’t released until near the end of January.  Ted got me the annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which is on back order and I’m not sure when it will come.   My parents sent me money, which I am going to use to go to the hair salon.  That won’t be as long of a wait, I just need to make an appointment.   I got a gift certificate for a massage for Christmas, which I haven’t used yet.  I haven’t decided WHEN I want to use it, yet.  Maybe on a warmish day, as the spa is connected to a gym, and they have a nice outdoor pool.  The shoes, should I find them, the breakfast, the day with my family, the duck, those are all no-wait treats, and I know that I’ll enjoy them mightily.  One nice thing about a New Year’s Eve birthday is that I always (at least since I left hotel work) have the next day off.  So that will be nice.  Oh, and Maya has a job now, which means that she has spending money, and bought me very nice Christmas gifts, and there’s something under the tree from her for my birthday, which I look forward to opening.  (A birthday near Christmas often means birthday gifts under the Christmas tree!)

There’s something about birthdays that tends to make one reflect a bit, and a birthday on the last day of the year likely enforces this proclivity.  So I’m reflecting today on all of the things I am thankful for…my beloved husband and daughter, my family, my friends, my home, my job, my health. I feel so fortunate to have so much.

I miss my mom every day.  I miss her on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and the anniversary of her death (which sometimes falls on Father’s Day), more than ordinary days.  But the day I miss her most is my birthday.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps because of everyone on Earth, she knew me the longest.  We were together before I was born.  She knew me for all of my childhood, my ups and downs, successes and failures.  I’ve lived with Ted now longer than I lived with my mom, which is a crazy thought.  So likely he knows me more than she did, or at least, the adult me.  But there’s something about that mother/child relationship that is unique.  I miss her uniquely.

Deciphering Arthritis

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give the whole ‘gluten free’ thing a try, to see if it helps with my inflammation and non-rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis.  I have mentioned on Facebook that I’ve been having this pain, these problems, and several people mentioned to me that their pain was significantly managed by going either gluten free, dairy free, or both.  I’ve also talked to people for whom these options did not make a whit of difference, but they at least gave them a try.  The first two weeks I was gluten free, and now for this last week, on the recommendation of a friend for whom the combination of gluten and dairy was the issue, I’m  going gluten and dairy free.  Yesterday was day 1 of this horror, and today is day 2.  My fear is, what if it helps.  Will I then need to go entirely gluten and dairy free, for the rest of my life, in order to keep this condition at bay?  Ugh.  I hate that thought. I’ll do what I need to do, but seriously, gluten and dairy are two of my favorite food groups.

Yesterday, I also tried a yoga video that I get as part of my Amazon Prime membership, “Easy Yoga for Beginners with Christine Wushke”  I woke up stiff and in pain, as I do most mornings.  After the yoga video, I still had my pain, but the stiffness was markedly reduced.  That’s a step in the right direction, I’d say.  If you’ve ever done yoga, you would likely say this is the easiest yoga sequence EVER, and mainly works on stretching your back and legs.  There are a total of 2 downward dogs, a few warrior poses, and a lot of resting poses.  The J who used to take yoga regularly and could do all of the poses fairly easily would laugh at today’s J, barely able to get into the posts.  Today’s J can’t do a downward dog properly, because it hurts my wrists far too much.  I can modify the pose by being on my elbows and forearms rather than on my hands.  So this yoga sequence is a good thing, basic and forgiving, and I think I need to make it a part of my daily routine.  See what that does for me.

At my last appointment with my rheumatologist, she doubled my dose of one medication.  You have to ease into it, as it is sometimes hard on the stomach.  So I started with 1 pill a day, then was up to 2 pills a day, then she put me on 4 pills a day, and said if that was too much, back off to 3 for a bit.  4 pills a day was horrid, my stomach felt like crap all day, and I pretty much wanted to throw up.  Gross.  So I pulled back to 3, which was much better.  Today I went back to 4, and thus far I seem to be handling it fine.

So, I’m feeling a tiny bit better.  Is that due to the yoga?  The medication finally starting to work?  Just a good day?  The no gluten/no dairy diet?  I don’t know.  I sure hate the idea of no gluten or dairy forever.  But a friend on Facebook, who I did know in real life back in High School, said that her husband also has an auto-immune issue (gout in his case), and he deals with it by eating some gluten and dairy and red meat when he’s feeling well, and then if he has a flair, he cuts back to a super limited diet until it goes away.  That’s something to consider, at least.  Of course, that only works if these foods are a trigger for me, which I just don’t know yet.  The key is to get to where I’m feeling better, hopefully, and then reintroduce these foods one at a time, and see if the symptoms come back.

For now, I just want this current flair to subside, so going shopping for an hour doesn’t bring me home in so much foot pain, so doing every day things doesn’t leave me worn out at the end of the day, and maybe I can do a proper downward facing dog, arms and all.

Wild


Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman destroyed by the death of her mother. Cheryl has fallen into a seriously self-destructive spiral, shooting up heroin, having sex with strangers, sabotaging her marriage. One day she hits her own version of bottom, and while in a drug store, spies a travel book, for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and she sees some sort of peace there. Her mother was that rare, truly good, happy-in-spite-of-it-all person, and told her many times to find the beauty in life, to let that beauty find her and wash over her. So she decides that the way to come to terms with the person she has become is to hike this trail…from the Mexico/U.S. border up into Oregon. She has no experience hiking, no experience with her camping equipment, no knowledge of what she is getting herself into. But into it she must get.

Along her journey, we are shown many flashbacks of her life up to now…life at home with her mother and brother, her mother’s illness, her marriage, her self-destructive behavior. She is struggling with these memories, and not so much trying to absolve herself or find forgiveness for her sins, but rather to come to terms with who she is, and see if there is a glimmer in there of the woman her mother wanted her to be.

I really liked the movie a lot. Reese Witherspoon is definitely an Oscar contender for her performance as Strayed. Laura Dern (who isn’t that much older than Witherspoon) did a fabulous job as her mother. Go see if it you get a chance.

Still here

In years past, I have often, if not always, participated in NaBloPoMo, posting on my blog every day for the month of November. This year, it didn’t even occur to me. What did occur to me was to not post even one blog post for the month of November. “What if I take the entire month off?” I thought, “would the world end?” Of course not. If I don’t care, then why should anyone else? Those heady days of busy busy blogging are long gone, at least around here, and no one worries if I don’t have anything to say for a week or two. Or maybe a month.

But tonight I’m sitting, sipping wine, watching old reruns on TV. Ted’s at work, Maya’s upstairs doing homework. I’ve got a good book next to me that I’ll dive into after I finish this, so I thought I’d say hello.

In my last post, I mentioned several books that I had put on hold at the library. As sometimes happens, three books came in at once. This is a situation that can stress me out. The books are all due in three weeks, and what if I can’t get through the books in time? When the books are popular, I can’t renew them. Rats. The first one I read was “Let me be Frank with you”, by Richard Ford. It’s 4 novellas in one book, all around the same time. Frank Bascombe lives in New Jersey, and the stories all take place in the months after Hurricane Sandy, though they don’t all relate to the storm. They’re internal stories. Not much happens. Mostly Frank observes and considers what is going on around him, trying to figure out his place in the world, how to do the right thing when he’s not always sure what that is. I liked it a lot, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether or not they’ve read any other of Ford’s books about Bascombe.

Next is “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”, which is a series of essays by Ann Patchett. Thus far she’s writing about the experience of being a writer. I’m enjoying it, and I think there’s a lot of good advice there. Next up could be short stories by Tom Perotta, or it could be the new Felix Francis book. I’m looking forward to that.

It’s that time of year at work, where things get busy. Busy busy busy. I like being busy, but I don’t like everything about it. I don’t like how we sometimes are made to feel guilty for wanting to take time off on weekends. I don’t like how my company, this year, decided that the day after Thanksgiving is not a company holiday. Jerks. Thankfully, my immediate boss isn’t a jerk, so I have that day off.

Maybe you’re wondering how the arthritis thing is going. It sucks, is how. Here I’ve been healthy my entire life, and suddenly I feel pain almost all of the time, in various parts of my body, and I don’t know how much worse it is likely to get or if it will ever go away. I finished the prednisone two weeks ago, and the pain has been coming back ever since. Actually, it started coming back when I was tapering off of the prednisone. But since I’ve been off entirely, the pain is worse. I hate it. It’s not nearly as bad as it was before I started the prednisone, but the fear of whether it will come back is scary. I’ve read about rheumatoid arthritis, and everything I read sucks. I try to keep focused on the knowledge that every person’s body is different. Every person reacts to medications differently. Sometimes issues like mine mysteriously go away. I cling to that, hoping that will be my story, and that this almost-but-not-exactly rheumatoid arthritis will go away and life will be pain free. In the mean time, swimming helps. Ted bought passes to our local community pool, and days that I go are generally better than those that I don’t. Did I mention work is busy right now? Sigh. Also, sleeping with my wrists in braces helps. Also, wearing my bite guard helps, because the discomfort in my hands seems to make me grind my teeth, which make my cheeks hurt, and also maybe gum recession gets worse. I feel very sexy, with my hands in braces and teeth in a guard. Blech. Taking some new meds that so far I’m not allergic to. They take a couple of months to kick in. So let’s see. I sure hope they work, and that things get better on this front.

What else. Maya’s liking her job at her elementary school. She’s starting to think about where she’d like to transfer when she’s finished at the local junior college. She isn’t enjoying her time there, sadly. She does have several friends nearby, but no one at school to hang out with. I hope things get better there.

Thanksgiving is coming. We’re going to Ted’s parents’ house, where the plan is that we all chip in so no one person has to do everything. My contribution is cranberry sauce, yams, rolls, and vegetables. Pretty easy stuff. Really, none of the Thanksgiving dishes are that complicated, so I’m not sure why some people get so stressed about it. Maybe if it were at my house, and if it were anyone but loved relatives, it might be more stressful.

I was supposed to go see my Grandma yesterday. We got a call at 7:30 in the morning, that Grandma had been in too much pain all night (arthritis in her back) and hadn’t slept. Ugh. My poor Grandma, tiny like a little bird, in so much pain. I don’t know why her being tiny makes it worse. She just seems so frail and vulnerable, I guess. Which she is. She’s also amazingly strong. Strong in her spirit and heart, frail in body. She told me that the only way to avoid this crap is to die before you get to be her age. I need to put some thought into this whole process, and what I want when I get to be old.

The plan right now is to go see Grandma next Saturday. I hope so. Maybe even if she’s not feeling better, I’ll go. A difficult decision. I should likely leave her alone and let her rest, so she doesn’t feel like she has to be up and feeling well when I’m there. On the other hand, sometimes having someone come and visit makes her feel better. I know it would make me feel better.

That’s it. Nothing else here. I hope you’re well, that November is treating you well thus far.