The Research

After I got out of the hospital this last time (a second round of multiple hernias and intestinal obstructions plus diverticulitis), I took quite a while to recover enough for everything to return to normal. I quit eating meat because that seemed to be stressful for my digestive system and I was struggling with a loss of appetite.  I wanted to (and needed to) lose weight, but I knew that not eating wasn’t a good option.

I found that I didn’t miss meat all that much…except for maybe bacon.

I didn’t set out to become a vegetarian.  I definitely didn’t plan on becoming a vegan.  I didn’t even know what the term “whole food, plant based diet” meant.

It just sort of started and didn’t stop.

Then one night when hubby was working late and I couldn’t find anything good to watch on Netflix, I happened upon the documentary section and started browsing…

I don’t remember which one I watched first, but here’s a list of what I’ve watched so far:

  • Forks over Knives
  • What the Health
  • Sustainable
  • In Defense of Food
  • Plant Pure Nation
  • Food Choices
  • Food, Inc.
  • Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 1 & 2
  • Fed Up
  • Super Size Me
  • Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue

Most of these were watched while walking on the treadmill.  I found them to be very motivational!

Some of them seemed a wee bit crazy at first.  A very radical step away from cultural norms.  A lot of that seems more normal now that I’ve embraced this journey.  Some of them are still too crazy for me.

I’m also currently reading (and using recipes from):

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I’ve noticed some benefits other than health related ones so far…

Dishes are much easier when you aren’t cooking with animal based products and extra oils!  They pretty much just rinse clean.

The chickens and rabbit are very happy and well fed and the compost pile is filling up nicely.

And the amount of trash we are producing is significantly less.  We are recycling more efficiently and there is little that actually goes to waste.

Grocery shopping was harder the first couple of times we went after starting this.  Label reading took on a whole new meaning and many previously favorite items were reluctantly placed back on the shelf.  Then it became a sort of treasure hunt as we would read labels in the store and joyfully shout out, “We can eat this!” or “I found something!”.

Even though we thought we were pretty savvy shoppers, I was totally caught off guard at the amount of sugar (in various forms) that can be found in almost everything!  And how many ingredients does it really take to make bread, cereal or salad dressing?

Now the majority of our shopping is done in the produce section.  We shop for a rainbow of colors and I know words like phytochemicals and lycopene.

Our spice collection is growing beyond salt, pepper and garlic.  We still don’t like curry, but we’ll try it again at some point because our taste buds are slowly reawakening to natural flavors.  Smoothies with just fruit now taste too sweet to me and are reserved for dessert status.  Our added salt intake is greatly reduced.

I miss butter…on toast and potatoes and well, everything.  But, I don’t miss it as much as I did three weeks ago.  I’m sure my arteries don’t miss it at all.

This is challenging.

And interesting.

I think my mind is starting to wake up a bit as I pursue more knowledge about my food, my body and my health.

Good food for the body and the mind.

Steps in the right direction on this journey…

New Habits

I guess I was overly optimistic about keeping up with writing here.  It seems that so much is going on that I’m having trouble keeping up with everything.

The moderate depression is continuing with some good days and some not-so-good.  I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continuing with the new plan or rather the new lifestyle…

Oh wait – I never got around to actually writing about that…

In short, I have committed to eating a whole food, plant based diet.  That’s basically a vegan diet with another restriction – very limited added oil of any kind.

If you want to know more, I was first introduced to the idea by watching “Forks over Knives” which is currently on Netflix.  It explains it much better than I ever could.

Why am I giving this a try you might ask?

Well, let me tell you…

When I first realized that I was having trouble with my vision and thousands of dollars later became aware that medical doctors were not going to be much help, I started by reading and researching and removed chemicals from my home…cleaning products, air fresheners, etc.

Then I started looking at the ingredients in our kitchen.  We’d been eating pretty healthy off and on depending on our income and my mood.  I am definitely a stress eater.

I was focused on subtracting items from our home that might be adversely affecting our health.

And that was all good stuff…as far as it went.

I never really stopped to think about what I needed to add.  I’m fairly knowledgeable about nutrition.  But now, I’m learning a lot more.  A lot more.

I believe in the ability of our bodies to heal themselves…if given the opportunity and resources.

I have hypertension, high cholesterol and triglycerides, am obese, suffer with anxiety and depression, have vision difficulties, and have had bad blood sugar readings in the past.  I take 3 medications and my blood pressure reading are rarely in the normal range…they are still high.  I am tired all the time.  I am not very happy.

I was not a winner in the “genetic lottery” of life.  The women in my family start having strokes early and often.  Hypertension starts for everyone on both sides at 30.  I made it to my mid-thirties.  I’ve been told that this is my lot in life.  Even by a doctor once.  I’m going to die from a heart attack or stroke.  That’s just the way it is.

What if that’s not true?

What if this is one area of my life where I can exert some control?

What goes into my mouth is my decision.  That’s been an empowering experience for me.  I’m juicing spinach, kale, carrots, tomatoes, and whatever other vegetable I have on hand for breakfast along with a bowl of oatmeal or whole grain cereal.  I’m eating vegetables, fruits, whole grain rice and other grains.  I’m not counting calories.  I’ve lost about 20 pounds.

I’m hitting at least 10,000 steps on my fitbit almost every day.  At least 30 minutes is continual walking on my treadmill.

I asked my husband to watch “Forks over Knives” with me so that he would have a clue about what I was doing.

To my surprise, he volunteered to join in.  He’s not “all” in.  He indulges some when he’s not at home, but he’s eaten every recipe that I’ve tried out (including some stunning failures).

There’s more and I will be back tomorrow…even if it’s just to say hello.

I’ve finished my bedtime fruit and veggie smoothie and it’s off to bed – hopefully to sleep. Sleep has been somewhat elusive as of late.

Pleasant dreams dear readers…

The Next Step

It’s been more than a month since I’ve posted here.  I’ve written (or tried to write) a few times, but the words sounded negative, without optimism, and frankly, more than a little whiny.

Why did things keep going wrong?  How unfair that the harder I tried to simplify and improve our quality of life, the worse things seemed to get…

  • a car accident that totaled our paid for truck…the only functional car that we owned
  • another emergency surgery adding thousands of dollars to our debt, not to mention the cost of the stress for our family and the damage to my health
  • the auto insurance for the person who caused the accident determining that our vehicle was worth less than two thousand dollars
  • the same company deciding that my husband’s health expenses could total $300.00, but no more
  • my husband still in physical therapy for the pain in his neck and back
  • my husband developing hypertension – possibly as a result of the stress
  • my daughter who is not yet thirty getting blood pressure readings that are way too high

and the list could go on…

See what I mean about feeling like a miserable, whiny person whose life was out of control?

I’ve not been in a good place.  This next sentence is hard to type, but here goes…

I’ve been so depressed and without hope that suicide has seemed like a real and viable option on more than one occasion.  I share that only because I know I’m not the only one out there who visits that “place” occasionally.

I don’t remember where I initially came across the phrase “treating the symptoms instead of the cause”, but I did happen upon it somewhere…probably in researching health and weight loss because I am determined not to have surgery again.

And that phrase triggered some pretty deep thoughts, reflection and insights.

Yes, I can be a victim and take medications for my blood pressure.  And I can blame my health issues (past, present, and future) on my genetics.

Or, I can take responsibility for my choices and choose the type of journey that I want to make.

I can make choices and have some control over my life.

This same thinking applies just as well to the condition of my home.

I can treat the symptoms of a cluttered, untidy home that does bring me peace and comfort…I can clear this counter or tidy up that pile.

Or, I can exert my energy on resolving the cause of the problems in my home.

I feel that my journey has renewed life.

Changes are already being implemented.

Some are scary and against standard societal norms.

I’m working on being ok with that.

The stuff I’ve done so far has been good.

Now, I’m going to the next level.

I’m excited, I’m scared, I’m optimistic, I’m apprehensive…

And I anticipate that I’ll be back tomorrow to post again…

@#$*& and other words that nice ladies don’t say…

I was hanging out last Monday evening thinking that life had been a bit boring…that our life had fallen into a sort of rut and that nothing eventful had been happening.

So, after working all day at another part-time job that I picked up to try and get our financial situation on an even keel, I suddenly felt a couple of sharp stabbing pains in my lower abdomen.  They quickly went away.  No big deal, right?  By 10:00, I just didn’t feel too great.  I headed off to bed.

Two hours later and I am starting to throw up.  And have cramps across my mid-abdomen.

Let’s fast forward through the next couple of hours.  (I wish I could have).  Emergency room, abdominal hernia, intestines where they aren’t supposed to be, incarcerated colon, diverticulitis and a mightily impressive white blood cell count that bordered on septic.

Five days and one surgery later, I am back home and doing okay.  I’m resting and walking and trying not to think about the medical bills that will soon come rolling in.

My mantra – All shall be well…

There’s probably more that I could write, but I hear the recliner calling my name.  I’m not really moving forward in any discernible direction right now, but I am trying to stay positive.

Let’s just say that I haven’t given up.

All Shall Be Well

All in all, this has been a successful week.  It’s necessary to look back on it as a whole though.  Picking it apart makes it possible to focus on what didn’t work…and more things worked out than not.

I have followed through with my plan to eat a more healthy diet overall this week.  Lots of veggies and fruits and whole grains.  More plant based protein and less meat.  Cutting out sugar and anything overly processed.  My neighbor did make us a deliciously awesome, totally homemade, absolutely decadent cake this week.  I may have had more than one piece.  She is the best cook ever and does everything from scratch.  And the cake had fruit in it and maybe some carrots, and nuts…so it wasn’t a total oops.

This is lunch.

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Ummm.  I have to say the picture on the box looks better than the food in the bowl and it smells a little funky, but it tastes ok.  It’s not a Sonic cheeseburger or a chopped bbq baked potato from Smokey-Mo’s, but I am learning to like it.  There are some good flavors in there.  Old habits are hard to break.  And I was drinking a big glass of ice water with it, but I set it down somewhere and now I can’t find it.  Sigh.

The decluttering effort is back underway.  This all went to the thrift store yesterday.

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Most of it is from my youngest daughter’s room.  She is growing up and parted with quite a few of the formerly cherished toys from the back of her closet.  I had more problems with it than she did.  When I asked her if she was sure about such a drastic purge she replied, “Mom, some little girl is going to have so much fun when she finds this stuff at the thrift store.”  True words and ones that I will replay in my head as I tackle my stuff.

Speedy, the dog is recovering from his back injury.  It only cost $200 (sarcasm intended here) and he is almost back to his old (slightly annoying) self.  He is not yet following my every footstep, but he does manage to whine when I move out of his line of vision.  He has a lesion on his spine and is basically “a ticking time bomb” according to the vet.  Bassets are prone to back problems so we will just make sure his remaining time is good and take each day as it comes.

The rental car is being returned today although we haven’t actually gotten a check from the insurance company.  I’m not sure what they think we are supposed to drive while we wait for dispensation, but I guess it’s not their problem…in their opinion.  We do have my sister’s car to use, but one car for 3 drivers who all have different schedules is not fun.  We can make it work, but it’s still extremely frustrating.

I am still making paper and having a lot of fun doing it.  It’s become my “go to” thing when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life.  This is just part of what I’ve created so far.

 

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Some ideas for using it in projects are percolating, but real life is taking a lot of time and there hasn’t been much left over for artistic pursuits.

I haven’t heard from my son in over two weeks.  Last time I talked to him he was still in the hospital.  He said the medical discharge from basic training could take up to a month. I’m assuming that he is doing okay.  It’s hard not to know what’s going on.

I keep telling myself to be patient.

Things will work out.

The healthier diet and regular exercise will improve my health and the way I feel in noticeable ways.

The house will become even less cluttered and easier to manage (and maybe I’ll find my missing glass of water).

The vehicle situation will work out even though it seems hopeless right now.

There will once again be time for art and creativity.

And all the other realities that are crowding in and making things challenging will be dealt with and resolved…

some to my satisfaction and some in ways that I will learn to deal with.

Patience brings peace

and peace births happiness

and happiness brings joy…

and none of it comes easy, but it is doable.

Life is good and all shall be well.

 

 

Going Back to Move Forward

I read somewhere that if you get stuck in a problem, physical activity can affect your brain and make physiological changes that result in new perspectives.

So, since I feel somewhat mired in multiple challenges (my positive word for problems), I’m going to travel back to the beginning and try a fresh start.

I had figured out our budget so that it was working somewhat.  The bills were getting paid even if we weren’t making much progress in getting out of debt.  It was working.

“Was” is the operative word.  The insurance company’s quote for our truck is a tiny bit more than the “blue book” quote.  The appraiser did deduct $50 from it’s value because of the flat tire.  Hmmm. The tire that is flat because their client caused an accident that totaled our truck.  I don’t think so.  And he deducted $60 because the seat had a rip in the upholstery.  Right.  Because it was our idea to sell you the truck in the first place.  The wear on that truck didn’t affect it’s ability to transport us anywhere we needed to go.

So, the person who caused the wreck gets a nice, new car and we don’t even have enough to even make a down payment on something that we can afford to pay out.  All because my husband actually stopped at red light while she chose to run one.  We lose the rental car on Friday and have no way to replace the truck we lost. In case you can’t tell, I’m a tiny bit pissed off.

Most of the time I can deal with the fact that the world isn’t fair.  Today is not one of those days.

But where was I before I started ranting.  Oh yea, the budget.  Today, I am starting a new budget.  Working with where we are and playing with numbers to see what I can make work.  It’s the grown-up thing to do.  It’s moving in a positive direction.  And we all know how much I like working with numbers.  It’s okay.  Doing something is better than sitting around being pissed off.

And, I have realized during this bout of depression that the house has remained relatively together.  Not ready for a magazine photo shoot, but just slightly worse than “lived in”.  That’s got to be the result of the decluttering efforts of the past.

So, we’re going back to the beginning and doing another round of clean-out.  Life is changing again.

Youngest daughter is growing up.  She’ll be 14 in the fall.  Her interests are evolving and she is working on decluttering and organizing.

Oldest daughter has moved back home to do some evaluating of her life goals.

Son is coming home from basic training at some point.  He is receiving a medical discharge and will be back here to figure out his next step.

For now, we are moving folks and stuff around in the house to re-configure the best use for our family.

So far, lots of things are in the give-away pile.  Pictures to follow…

Life happens…good stuff and bad stuff.  That’s how life is, if you are actually living it.

And I love quite a few things about our life.

Mostly, I love our family.  I love how close we are and how supportive we are of each other.  I didn’t have that growing up.  My siblings were older than me and were grown before I was really aware of what family could be.  My parents struggled with a lot of personal issues.  Emotionally, I was on my own.

If I have done nothing else right, I didn’t suck at building a family.  I wasn’t a perfect mom and we aren’t a perfect family, but we are making it work.  Together.

And we will get through this rough patch.

We will keep moving forward.

Even if we need to take some steps backwards to do so.

But wait, there’s more…

When I wrote last Monday, I was coming to terms with life.  I was looking on the bright side.  I was maintaining a positive attitude.

Everything is going to be fine.  Tough times come and they go.  Life is still good.

By Tuesday, I was even making a gratitude list.  I managed about 20 things on that list without getting too trite.  Good health for my family and reliable(ish) transportation that didn’t require a monthly car payment in our extended budget were on that list.

Have I give away too much information?

Can you guess what the rest of the story might be about?

Tuesday night my husband jumped in his truck and my youngest and I jumped in our car (that really belongs to my sister, but she lets us use) and headed off to clean the offices that provide a bit of extra income.

We got the job done and bid adieu to my husband as he set off for work.  Youngest daughter and I headed home.  Five minutes later, I got a phone call as I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change.

It was my husband.  Turns out that as he was sitting at the intersection of Hero’s Way and Highway 183A waiting for his light to turn from red to green there was a horrible accident.  And he was part of it.

A car coming up to the light on the opposite side of the intersection failed to stop at the red light.  She was going pretty fast.  The truck moving through the intersection at 65 plus mph swerved to miss her.  Hit her anyway, went airborne taking out all the signs at the intersection and bouncing off of the hood of my husband’s truck slamming it against the curb and traveling on.

My husband said all he saw when he looked out the window was a truck flying through the air and then his head hitting the inside frame of the window.

Did I mention that my husband has had a previous broken neck and that his neck is fused solid?

He’s okay except for some neck pain.  We’ve visited the doctor and physical therapy is in the works.

Four or five feet further back and the impact of that truck would have been fully on the passenger cab of our truck.

My husband was lucky and blessed and so are we.  That’s the bright side.

The down side.  There is no doubt that our truck is totaled.   The front passenger side tire is somewhere in the middle of where the engine used to be.  It’s a really big paper weight.

The driver that caused the accident had the least amount of insurance to meet the requirements of Texas law.  Her car is probably totaled from what I saw.  The other (much newer) truck is totaled also.  The truck’s passengers were transported by ambulance.  I doubt that there will be any payouts by the time it comes to our turn.

Luckily, we have underinsured driver insurance.  That will help.  The blue book on our truck isn’t much, but it meant the world to us in terms of financial life.

What next?  It’s up to the lawyers at this point.

And the doctors if my husband’s neck injury turns out to be something more serious.

Time will tell.

Nothing serious went wrong on Wednesday and Thursday.

Let’s all breath a sigh of relief.

Oh, wait…the week isn’t over.

Remember Speedy the basset hound?  The nine year old that (for some crazy reason) I adopted because he was surrendered to the pound because his family didn’t want him anymore?  The one that had surgery for the anal tumor.  The one that is incontinent because of said surgery. The really annoying one that follows me everywhere (and I mean everywhere).  The one that needs so much attention that if I won’t pet him, he will simply stand by my chair and rub his own head against my foot.  Yes, that dog.

This morning he woke up and is having trouble walking and whimpering.  It’s probably a spinal problem.  That’s common among older bassets.  He’s on pain meds for now and will go in to the vet on Monday for x-rays.  Then I get to make that decision.  You know the one I’m talking about.  The how much can we afford to spend decision.  The one where you get to place a value on a life…

Other things are sorting themselves out well enough.  Not ideally, but they involve the situations that caused me to invoke the Serenity prayer on Monday.  All I can do is aim for peace and make the best of whatever happens.

…because it is my circus and they are my monkeys.

And all shall be well.

 

 

I am writing today because writing is a good thing for me to do…not because I can think of anything that really needs to be said.

That parallels my day today also.  I am doing what needs to be done although none of it seems to be particularly important or relevant.

I washed clothes so that my husband has something to wear to work and as a result I am rewarded with an empty dirty laundry basket.  Looking at that empty basket brought a small smile to my face.  A “win”.

And so life is.

I long for peace and serenity and joy right now.

What I have is chores and responsibilities and a total lack of control over circumstances that I can’t even talk about here.

I feel like I’m trapped in a little bitty life and that none of it is particularly important or relevant.

But our little bitty lives are important, aren’t they?

A load of laundry, a note in the mail, the right word at the right time, a simple meal…

We may never know the significance of what we do…but we do it anyway…

and trust that somehow it all weaves together for good to make a difference in the lives of those we love…

somehow.

And we do it because it’s what we do…

because we aren’t great big people with great big answers.

We are just who we are

and we keep trying even when it doesn’t seem to matter

and it doesn’t seem important

and we keep breathing

and struggling

and looking for that little “win”

Peace

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Our lives have been hit with a series of unfortunate events in the last couple of day and I’ve been really tempted to respond by curling up in my recliner and watching stupid TV while eating junk food.

But what would that solve?

I’d feel miserable and angry with myself and the problems would still be there.

So, I’m just feeling miserable and wanting a cupcake really, really badly.

That’s part of life, right?  Not a good part, but definitely part of the experience.  It’s not all good…and we don’t have control and we can’t fix everything and sometimes there are no answers.

Mostly it’s just time.  Waiting for decisions, resolutions, answers, change…whatever has to happen for unfortunate events to move from the present into history.

We can’t magically fix some stuff.  We just have to endure it, live through it, survive it…

We don’t have control…and for that reason, The Serenity Prayer has been running through my head today:

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.  Amen

Growing up with a recovering alcoholic and attending weekly A.A. meetings does have one small advantage…

I don’t have serenity, but I do have some control.  I can choose how to react to the situation.

I’m going to eat one cupcake, but not all of them.

I’m going to make lots and lots of handmade paper because it is the ultimate busywork and it accomplishes something.

And I’m going to pray…although most days lately I’m not sure that I believe that it helps. But it just might.

I don’t expect a perfect life, but I am kind of tired of unfortunate events  I know that I shouldn’t complain.  Relatively speaking, things could be much worse and are for so many.

I am grateful for the blessings in my life.

I know that everything will work itself in time.

But right now, I could sure use a little bit of that serenity that I’m praying for…

Peace.