Two Things I Need to Remember (constantly)

I had a rough evening with Mom this week.  She's 94 and has some dementia, and I help her shower, and tonight, she wasn't very happy.  She didn't like something I bought her, she was impatient with the fact that I've not connected with her physical therapist yet (we keep missing each other), she kept at me about helping her with a letter she's been writing, and she didn't like the towel I used to help her dry off.

On the mile-drive home from my parents' ALF, I felt the pressure of tears. I've been helping my parents (Dad is 91) for five years, and I've watched them gradually decline.  Every month or so, they have a medical issue, or a further slip in mental acuity. Overall, I'm able to cope, but once in awhile...it hits me that these are not the parents I grew up with.  Their lives have become very small.  Their memories are short, their complaints are close to the surface.  They are adamant that they can do everything they used to do, but they really can't.  I am usually the bad guy, the one who sets the boundaries, says no, but behind the scenes, makes sure they are OK. 

I am a caretaker.  I never thought I'd be doing this, but here I am.  I love my parents, and God sustains me.  I'm not complaining.  I'm just realizing that as we age and our awareness/abilities disappear, we are left with what seems to be simply the flesh.  And the flesh is weak and tired and grumpy.

My parents were never like this before.  They are dedicated Christians who raised four children and buried a son when he was 23.  They worked in the church tirelessly all of their adult lives. They opened their home to friends and strangers alike.  Any loving kindness I have ever extended, I learned from them.

The Mom I helped a few nights ago is not the Mom who raised me and became a friend/spiritual guide to me.  But, it's not her intention to be testy; her brain is simply deteriorating. It's wearing down and wearing out, and frequently, misfiring.  This is what the flesh does.  It was never meant to be permanent.  It's here for awhile, and then it turns to dust.  It helps to remember this.

I will meet the spirit of my Mom again one day, when we are both gone from this life.  I believe we will be reunited in heaven, whatever form that takes.  The flesh will be a thing of the past, and we will be at peace.  It helps to remember this too.


Hello Rutabagas

I had some sad moments yesterday.

I put my cookie cookbooks in the thrift shop bag. 

As a baker (my maiden name is even Baker), this was an emotional event. I have loved to bake all my adult life (and will continue to do so, but using things like unsweetened, organic peanut butter instead of white sugar and butter.) I longingly flipped through my two cookie cookbooks that have well-worn pages and butter stains in them. I tore out one recipe to keep, then slid the books in the bag that went to the thrift shop shortly thereafter.  


OK, I'm over it.


I'll still bake sugary treats for other people, which I do often, but eating traditional chocolate-chip cookie dough by the tablespoon is now (I hope) behind me. It has to be. My innards are inflamed, and it's time for the 12 Step Program.

My daughter gave me a great cookbook by Terry Walters last week, and this is my first guide to eating whole and non-processed foods.

So far, I've made four recipes from the book, and they are all very good.  Mostly vegetables, which health professionals have been telling us for years we all need more of.  I'm finally embracing that because I still need my joints to get around in this world.

Luckily, the book has some goodies in it too - I made those first: Chocolate Macaroons, and Energy Bars (recipe below.) They have organic ingredients in them like unsweetened coconut, maple syrup, and brown rice cereal, which I never considered buying before, but they are now on my "buy regularly" list. Who knew. 

Tonight I'm making a spinach/beet/cashew salad with organic beets and greens. I'm roasting the raw beets (rock-hard little suckers) as I write this.  They smell wonderful. I'm also making some pasta and meatballs for the hubs, as his innards are not inflamed, and he can still tolerate typical American fare.

If you've seen the benefits of whole foods living, drop me a line with any tips you've discovered. I feel overwhelmed at times. So, then I munch on an Energy Bar. Whoo-hoo!

Here's the recipe, with some alterations of mine:

1 C. unsweetened nut butter (I used peanut butter - organic is best)
2/3 C. real maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1 1/4 C. crispy brown rice cereal (like Rice Krispies, but with brown rice)
1/2 C. toasted almonds
1/2 C. unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 C. chopped walnuts, or sunflower seeds
1/2 C. ground flax seeds

optional: 1/4 C. of chocolate chips for sprinkling on the top.  I found these bars were sweet enough without them!

In a medium pot, over low heat, whisk together nut butter and syrup until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.  In separate bowl, combine cereal, nuts, coconut and flax. Fold warm nut mixture into dry ingredients until well blended.

Rinse an 8x8 baking dish with cold water to prevent sticking. Spoon in batter, spreading evenly.  Press chocolate chips onto the top of the batter. Refrigerate for 45 min. or until firm. Cut mixture into squares and store in an airtight container (I wrapped each square in plastic wrap for extra sealing.)

These bars are hearty and rich, and on some days, can feel like a meal. I love 'em for breakfast.

Welcome to my world of healthier snacks, rutabagas, and the now recurring question from my family, "OK, now, what is this?"


Apparently, I'm Inflamed.

I'm on a new journey this year - one of trying to get healthy. It will probably be the hardest thing I ever attempt. I've lived with so many bad habits for so many years. I really need to start from scratch.

For loyal readers who check in here once in awhile, you have read that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in May 2014.  By the grace of God, I believe I have found a good solution for that - MSM (METHYLSULFONYLMETHANE.)  It's a sulfur based natural supplement that helps ease a lot of ailments, but particularly inflammation. After just one bottle's worth, my muscle aches and soreness are gone.  MSM does not claim to cure anything, and I don't claim it will cure you if you are dealing with fibromyalgia. But, I'd certainly recommend trying it. I buy the Solaray brand (750 mg) because my nutritionist confirmed that it is a good and solid brand.  I take one capsule in the morning and one at night.

I've also had joint pain over the past 16 months. This could also be some fibro, but fibro tends to affect muscles and connective tissues, not bones. For my joint issues, I've seen three rheumatologists. I didn't plan to see three; I thought I only needed one.  #1 told me I had one blood marker for rheumatoid arthritis, but she did not see it in my joints; therefore, I did not have it. 

I changed primary care physicians over the summer, and he ordered new blood work.  When he saw that one high blood marker for RA, he referred me to rheumatologist #2.  She said she did not see RA in my joints, but wanted to start me on meds immediately.  She said I would only get worse and I needed to see her regularly, and she wanted to give me a script that day.

I was stunned.  Didn't #1 say I didn't have RA? I told #2 I needed to think about it.  When I returned to my PCP, he asked me if I would be open to going to Mayo Clinic for a clear diagnosis, either way.  Mayo Clinic is three hours north of me. I thought you had to be really sick, or have some puzzling disease to go to Mayo, but I was wrong. Anybody can make an appt. online, and go. 

I signed in to the Mayo Clinic website and made an appt. two months away, the soonest I could get in.  I was OK with that, because, holy moley, I was going to Mayo Clinic.  I didn't even realize we had one in Florida.  Thank you, Jesus.

My daughter and I drove to St. Augustine the night before my appt. and stayed with my son and his wife.  We got up the next morning at 5:30 and drove to Mayo, 50 minutes away.

We were so impressed with Mayo. Dr. Oliviera spent an hour with me, looking at all the test results I brought with me. RA cannot be diagnosed from one blood marker, he said, and suggested I not go back to rheumatologist #2. She was premature in her conclusion.

He then ordered blood work, joint X-rays, and some nerve testing on my wrists due to carpal tunnel issues. The next day, he discussed with me the results of everything.

1. I now had two more blood markers for RA, which put me closer to a diagnosis of RA.
2. My joints showed some osteoarthritis, but no swollen synovial membranes, the definitive symptom of RA.
3. The MRI on my wrists revealed some wearing down of two small bones, but not definitively from RA. He said it was OK to pursue surgery on the wrist that had severe carpal tunnel.
4. Upon a clinical exam, he (like the first two docs) did not see RA in my hands or feet (where it starts.)
5. On an "established diagnosis of RA" chart, I had 5 of 7 markers.

Hmm.  So, did I have RA or not? This is the question. Dr. Oliviera recommended starting meds for RA, because it seems I'm heading in that direction. However, he did say that these blood markers prove only a lot of inflammation - which can be caused by other things (but usually RA.) I asked if I could have three months to change my diet/lifestyle to see if I can reduce or eliminate this crazy inflammation. (From my blood work, I think I should look like a puffer fish.)

puffer fish pictures

The doc agreed.

So that's the journey I've started as of a week ago. I'm going to write about it here, because we are an inflammation nation, and maybe my journey will help someone else. All my inflammation has to be good for something.


A Grinchy Christmas

It's January 9!  Where has the year gone!?

Last time I turned round, it was December 24th, and I was at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL (three hours north of us) being evaluated for rheumatoid arthritis.  I was referred up there after some blood work came back high for RA.  My days have been up and down since, and Christmas didn't really happen around here in the usual way.  Expected family didn't come, because I wasn't home in time, and a few gifts were handed out over a week's time.

I didn't prepare a holiday meal, and we didn't have the whole family around for the 25th.  I made a cherry danish for Christmas morning breakfast, something I'd never done, and we watched Miracle on 34th Street, a movie I had never seen from start to finish. We had a meal with my parents in their assisted living facility, and called it a day.

Christmas came anyway. Without a fat turkey, pumpkin pie, or even a Christmas tree. It came without our "grab bag" activity, or trays of sugar cookie cut-outs I usually bake. We didn't even get to church, we were so exhausted from the trip up and back to Mayo.

But, you know what? Christmas came anyway.

Which made think about the first Christmas.  It had no glitz or sparkle either.  A frightened, unwed teenager spilled her blood onto hay and dirt in a cold stable with smelly animals nearby.  Her fiance, Joe, was probably just as terrified.  What did he know about birthing a baby?  And then royalty arrived with some valuable oils that brought healing and restoration to aliments and wounds. They were probably exactly what Mary needed for her cold, labor-weary body.

And that was it. The King had arrived. The angels sang as a divine child entered our filthy world. The world would never be the same. But, then...time to pack up and get back on the donkey for an arduous trip.

The greatest, and simplest, story every told.

As unusual as this Christmas was for us, I loved it.  With my injured foot and extra doc appointments, I didn't have the time or energy for all the regular preparations, and, in the end, it was liberating. I spent more time pondering the Christ child and his humble appearance on Earth than I ever have before.  Without all the hoop-la, Christmas still came.

"It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." 

The Grinch got it right.



Who's the Cake?

I read a facebook badge last week that really spoke to me.  Then I wrote a short piece about it for MMW and Friends called WE ARE THE ICING, NOT THE CAKE.

Click on the title link to check it out.  Let me know what you think. You might think you're the cake.  Or someone you love is the cake.  We're easily confused when it comes to desserts.