Tuesday, January 20, 2015

First attempt.

So today I made my first attempt at machine piecing using the sewing machine my mother passed my way at Christmastime.

Wait, back up: it was not my first attempt at sewing with this machine. When I got home, I immediately took it in for servicing, but once I got it home, I took a stab at a drawstring project bag for my knitting.

I mean, how hard could that be? Just seam two sides of a fat quarter and make the opening for the drawstring?

It turns out that reverse engineering, even for something so simple, is not so simple. That is one thing I learned that day.

Another is: do not sew the body seams for the bag before making the long seams necessary for the drawstring part.

Another is: you have to finish off the ends of that drawstring tube.

Another is: do not sew shut the opening of the drawstring tube.

All of which add up to maybe I should use a pattern instead of trying to reverse engineer right out of the gate.

But my seam ripper and I are good friends now.

Today, though, today ended with a satisfactory result:

First, there were some learning experiences. Such as when, in making one of those nice strips of squares, I sewed the seams so that one was on the wrong side, as it should be, and the other was on the right side.


And then I did it again.

Seriously, seam ripper?

But now it looks pretty good. Here is the back:

You can see there is one wonky place where the seams did not quite line up right:

My cutting could have been more perfect, but at least I did not lose any digits or parts of digits to my razor cutter.

My seaming could definitely be straighter, but I'm getting the hang of looking at the edge of the foot instead of the needle. And sometimes I can even maintain steady pressure on the pedal.


Monday, January 20, 2014

This is a story about control.

Pem wrote yesterday about letting go of control, and about the challenge of learning to let go of control. I thought I would follow her good example, and try to put some of my own thoughts about this down, too.

Go read her post, because I want to write in response to it.

She writes, and I'm quoting selectively here, 
The letting go of control I imagine is letting go (though not completely) of my role as researcher and advocate. … I realized I need to some extent to let Hospice be the ones who know what John needs.  But then I have to face my own powerlessness instead of hiding it behind a front.
This resonates with me, although my situation is extremely different. Instead of being a care-giver, I frequently need a care-giver. Instead of struggling with a partner's illness, I am struggling with my own. And while I do not believe that I am dealing with an illness as extreme as John's, it has proven to be something beyond my control.

I have long been invested in my ability to exert control over my situation, whether that situation is financial, academic, professional, athletic, or even (at least sometimes) emotional. I had gotten quite expert at not losing control--at being able instead to see what a situation requires and then take those steps. I keep a careful calendar. I turn off the lights. I watch my weight. I watch other drivers vigilantly. I listen for noises at night and when I hear something unusual, I devise a careful plan for dealing with it. I can swim 20 50s of freestyle on a fairly tight interval and keep my pace even, with a second's time.

I think I believed that by taking control of things I could control them.

This illness has taught me otherwise.

I can monitor my sleep, my diet, what I drink, my activity, my meds, my workload, etc., etc., etc., and still not control how I will feel. I have studied and studied and studied. I have tried many things (and indeed), and I have not figured out "the answer."

Because of my desire for control, this inability to control makes me crazy. I think I am not trying hard enough. I think that I have been a lax patient. I think I need to try harder, read more books, study more websites, see what I am missing.

This has been an unproductive path.

Now I exist in a strange double-consciousness, where I continue to "seek the solution," as a former swim coach of mine says, as though this is a clear path with a definitive answer at the end. But I also practice letting go of control, accepting that there may not be an answer.

I say practice, of course, because I need a lot more practice. Another former swim coach used to say (probably still does) that practice does not make perfect--perfect practice makes perfect.

I have decided that that, too, is a false hope. When I practice acceptance, I draw on some of the techniques I have learned in swimming. I know, for instance, that a new skill feels rotten at first, like you are swimming wrong. And I know that "at first" really means "for a good long while," particularly when the skill you are trying to learn replaces years and years of doing things some other way. And I know how good--how deceptively good--it feels when you slip, and do it the old way, the wrong way.

And I also know that there comes a time when you "get it," and the new skill finally clicks. There is still room for back-sliding, of course, but this is a big moment.

Anyway, practicing giving over control, and accepting how things are can be something like learning a new swimming skill, and like swimming, an effective practice is an attentive practice.

But at the same time, there is this double-consciousness, and that need to seek the solution is there, too, which makes the acceptance complicated. And there is the chorus of voices recommending various cures that they have read about or heard about or that someone they know had success from. This chorus does not want to accept things for what they are. They seem to want me to remain in control (or at least this is the intention I tend to project on them). I get mad at them, this chorus, but really I think I am mad about my own dreams of a cure, and the ways that they hinder my letting go of control, my accepting things for what they are.

In this world where we schedule, plan, set goals, and assess progress, it is always challenging to let things unfold as they will, to surrender control. I am not a person who believes in "God's plan," but I do know that the universe is a bigger and more complicated place than I can understand, and that by trying to control it, I can only misunderstand, and so misdirect.

Or, as T. S. Eliot has said,
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Whoa! Caffeine!




Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Candida Cleanse, Day 15: Not about Candida.

So this year I have been serving on an important committee in my department, and back before I had to pull out of my classes, I agreed to chair it. I have continued to participate in and run committee meetings by Skype, but I decided that my chairing this committee is really not good for me or for the department, so I asked in December for other members to consider stepping forward.

At the end of today’s meeting, after we had selected a new chair, one of the members made the joke, “The chair is dead. Long live the chair!”

So fucking hilarious.

And so typical, I think, of people who have no idea what is going on but can’t pass up the opportunity to crack a joke.

Would it be that hard for someone who is quite intelligent to see that saying this while the dead chair is in the room, the dead chair who is out on sick leave, might not be quite as hilarious as they think?

I suppose he doesn't know, since I've not really mentioned it, that the likelihood of my returning to work is pretty small. Or that, in all likelihood, or for all practical purposes, my academic career, or at least my career in teaching, is dead.

But even so. Even without that detail, how hard is it really to realize that this is not the thing to say to the person who has just explicitly said that she is stepping down because of sick leave?

So, just as I forgive all those people whose response to chronic illness is to say "Hope you get well soon!" as having good intentions, even though their little toss-off comments offers me and my definitively-not-getting-better self yet another--because I get these comments over and over and over again--reminder of how not getting better I am, soon or not. 

Just as I forgive them, I need to forgive this little hilarious asshole, because he doesn't know better.

Well honestly: when can we start expecting people to know better?

How hard is it, after all, to get beyond your own limited world-view and consider where someone else is coming from for a change?

And this from people who pride--yes pride--themselves on being enlightened about difference coming from race, class, gender, and sexuality, but wear their ableism like an arrogant badge of Don't Bother Me With Your Problems.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Candida Cleanse, Lucky Day 13.

It is the second to last day of this cleanse.


One thing I am really looking forward to is being able to take Metamucil (which has maltodextrin in it--a no-no). The magnesium supplement I used to take seemed to counterbalance the constipating effects of the verapamil, but the new one, recommended by my enviro-doc, does not. I planned to start the Metamucil back at the first of the year, but the ingredients said no.

I am also really ready for a beer, or a glass of wine, or perhaps a scotch.

And I have been pondering a small slice of cake. Or one of the Christmas cookies in my freezer.

And truffle parmesan fries.

And pizza.


I suppose I am at that part of the process where I can start to look forward to the "after," without just feeling bad to be in the "during." It reminds me of the late stages of a knitting project, when I am so so ready to be working on something else, but also committed to finish the thing I'm so close with.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Candida Cleanse, Day 12: It's All in the Stock.

Last night I made some ass-kicking soup, and I will tell you about it here. But as my title suggests, soup all depends on the stock, and this was righteous stock.

I made this stock the day after Thanksgiving, with a carcass from a smallish heritage breed turkey, along with a lot of leftover vegetable parts and herbs from my Thanksgiving stuffing project, including onion skins, which gave it great color. And some added carrots. And a couple of bay leaves from my bay tree to surpass all bay trees. All in all, I got a pretty decent amount of quite delicious stock.

Then over Christmas, our basement flooded, knocking out the motor on our chest freezer. Of all the things in there, I was saddest about losing two different batches of wonderful stock.

So you can imagine my joy when we were unloading the dead freezer and taking photos of the perished food and I found that my containers of stock, since they were all pretty large, all had big chunks of ice in them, and could be refrozen.

No, maybe you cannot imagine. My joy was immense.

So I have been relishing this stock even more than usual. With half of the older batch of chicken and pork stock, and some beef bits from Greenbrier Farms (also a near loss of the freezer catastrophe) I made a Mexican-inflected beef stew. With the other half I made a chicken, veggie and lentil soup, but I went a little overboard on the carrots and parsnips and so the soup is a little too sweet for my taste. But still: it's hearty and wonderful and it has the magic stock.

Last night I used the larger portion of the Thanksgiving turkey stock, along with chorizo, kale, and beruga lentils to make a very yum soup. Proportion-wise, there is a lot of kale in there, but it works, since the kale takes on the flavor of the stock in its little curly tendrils. And the Broncos won.

Yay, soup!

Swimming this morning taxed me. I was feeling pretty depleted of energy going in, since I've still not figured out how to feel nourished on this diet, and since there seems to have been a raucous cat party from about 3 a.m. onward this morning. So I suppose it should be no surprise that I got hit with a whopper of a headache. I am now, some seven hours later, no longer in bed and feeling more human.

But I have soup for tonight, good nourishing, tasty, hearty soup.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Candida Cleanse, Day 11: Sigh.

I hate to say this, but I fear I may be reaching the point where I see that this approach to my migraine disease is not working any more than any of the many other approaches I have taken.

These include, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something:
Calcium-channel blockers
Topamax (actually, this might have worked, but I couldn't tolerate it)
Magnesium supplements
Melatonin supplements
Muti-vitamin supplements
DHE injections
Steroid pack
Lidocaine injection up my nose

Eliminate alcohol for a designated period
Eliminate caffeine for a designated period
Eliminate gluten, eggs, and dairy for a designated period
Stop exercising
Start exercising again
Exercise every day
Maintain very regular sleep patterns
Drink gallons of water
Go off hormonal birth control
Acupuncture (with and without TENS)
Cranio-sacral massage

Granted, there are variations: Currently, I am not having much trouble with vertigo, and to be fair, I don't know whether this is one of these no-vertigo phases (since it comes and goes), or whether the cleanse has done away with it.

And I have generally been sleeping better--less likely to wake up in the middle of the night. I don't recall this happening during any of the other eliminations I did, which makes me think that the mid-session sleep disruption may have to do with simple carbs in my diet. When I gave up gluten before, I found non-wheat carbs to eat in its place, so this is the first time I've really purged carbs from my diet.

Speaking of which, it really surprises me that I can have a lunch, say, consisting of a good bit of white-meat chicken (with skin) and roasted brussels sprouts, and almost immediately feel like I am hungry again. Perhaps since I am not usually a huge meat eater my body has not yet found a way to satiate itself on protein.

But what it feels like is that my body is eating itself, all the time. And I guess it is, given that I am down 6 pounds in 11 days.

And I can say with certainty that of those 11 days, I have had migraine symptoms at a level that they slow me down on 6 of the days. Granted: I am not working, so I may be quicker to decide to lie down when I don't feel well than I would if I were working, but still. I'm not pleased with those numbers.

Since I am getting to the point where the end of this two-week period is in sight, I'm beginning to wonder how to proceed at the end. I do know that I do not want to continue with this diet completely. But in one book that I read, the author advocated maintaining the diet 80% of the time, as a way to keep Candida from coming back. (Side note: since there was never a test, I do not really know whether I had it or not.) And I do think that a diet very low in highly processed carbohydrates is a good thing, generally.

But I am not interested in continuing to lack the possibility of a glass of wine with dinner, or a cup of caffeinated tea when my head hurts (it does help), or eating in a restaurant once in a while (very very difficult given all the classes of food that are currently excluded), or excluding an entire class of nutrients.

And while I am glad for the weight loss, and know I could stand to lose quite a bit more, the feeling of my body eating itself is not something I want to continue.

P.S. Dreams: Last night I had a long dream about relishing a big frosting-laden cinnamon roll. In the dream, it was endless, as was my ability to keep eating it. Later in the night, I had dreams about friends sending me frosted doughnuts, and how happy I was. Still later, I dreamt that I was driving home from somewhere, a long drive at night, and I was drinking a Coke, but then realized I was having sugar and caffeine.

Earlier in this cleanse, I had dreams about cinnamon rolls, but they were kind of awful, like Oh no! I ate some of that cinnamon roll! Now my cleanse is shot! This time, in the cinnamon roll dream anyway, there was none of that.

I do not typically have food dreams, but I used to when I was training seriously for triathlon, and so riding my bike 4-5 times a week, swimming 3 times a week, and running twice a week. Back then, the dreams involved walking through bakeries or buffets with endless platters and baskets of beautiful pastries, and wondering which one/s I would choose.

So I do not know whether the dreams now are like sex dreams, manifestations of cravings I try to suppress during the day, or an indication that, like before, my body is short on sustenance and pleading for help.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Candida Cleanse, Day 8: BANANAS.

According to the rules of my Candida Cleanse, I can have 1-2 fresh fruits a day, starting today.


Yesterday a friend suggested that if they allow one piece of fruit, why not make it a watermelon? I see his point, and yet. . . .

This morning I cut up half a banana and put it under my usual oatmeal concoction. Delicious!

Also, I feel hopeful that since I successfully followed the rules for 7 days, I can do it for another 7 days.

Left-over pork green chili (made by the PP on Sunday--delicious) with corn chips
Fizzy water with lime

2 cups rooibos tea
Oatmeal with butter, sliced almonds, and BANANAS

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Candida Cleanse, Day 7.

Today is officially the last day of the first week of this cleanse. That gives me hope that it also has an ending.

We got a lovely dinner invitation from some wonderful neighbors for this weekend. Do I go, but eat first? Go, but first ask what they're making? Not go? Somehow the prospect of being invited over by someone had not crossed my mind at all, so not entered the planning at all.

I awoke feeling very weary today. Not really sleepy: I slept fine last night.

But with this illness I have learned that there are days where it is just harder to deal with the symptoms, even though the symptoms themselves may not be any worse. These are the days I find the hardest--where I most feel that I should buck up and do better.

But I am trying to practice self-care and self-forgiveness, so instead of forcing myself through work, I am taking an easy day: catching up on the season opener of Downton Abbey, knitting on the lace scarf I'm making for my local yarn shop, watching a DVD I got from the library.

These are the days when I find it hardest to imagine encountering other people, because I don't feel that bad physically, but it is still hard to explain that that does not make it a good day.

These are the days that help me understand how people with illnesses and disabilities withdraw from the world. It is not that I feel depressed, but I just don't feel like living on the world's terms today.

This is the kind of day that makes me grateful to be on sick leave, even though I am also extremely aware that everyone else is going back to classes. And if I'm being honest, also sorry for myself that I am in this situation.

But mostly it's not that: I really like being able to live my own rhythm, a rhythm determined not by an academic schedule--though that is there, too, as a kind of rhythm against which mine pushes. I notice the changes in the sunlight more, and what it feels like that today is so much warmer than yesterday.

I am conscious of living in my own head quite a bit, but not sorry about that. Granted, the realization can be jarring: I find myself almost offended by other people's opinions, once I hear them, as though they are an intrusion.

I am content with windows, not really wanting to put out the effort to dress in outside clothes, or move myself beyond the house. I am glad that I walked to the library yesterday, to remember what 11 F feels like, but the fact that it is warmer today does not create an imperative to get out in it again.

I decided not to swim this morning, because I did not feel up dealing with people, or putting out the big effort of a workout, or putting on goggles for that matter.

None of this is to say that I want this for every day, but for today, I am OK with it.

Taco Night!
Blend of ground beef and pork with a spice blend adapted from here (though I added 1 Tbsp green chili to her concoction, because I had it, and I used fresh onion and garlic instead of the powder: for about 2 lbs of meat, I used the entire spice recipe)
Taco shells
Rotel tomatoes with green chilis
Black olives
Fizzy water with lime

Oatmeal with butter, almonds, nutmeg
2 cups rooibos tea

Taco salad, with leftover taco meat from last night, lettuce, rotel tomatoes with chilis, and olive oil and lime juice for dressing

Sweet potato chips

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Candida Cleanse, Day 6: The Polar Vortex.

In between work today, I have spent entirely too much time on Facebook cracking jokes about the Polar Vortex. Is it a good name for a bar? A super-villain? A super-power? A starship? The Borg? A Cylon? (Does it have a plan?) Something akin to the Force? The name of a girl gang? And so on and so on and so on and then it hit me:

I have not really been thinking about my Candida Cleanse today.

That is a good feeling, because last night I got pretty weepy and sorry for myself about having to limit what I eat and drink (Water again? Yes, thank you), not really being able to go out to eat or order in because I have to be so careful, what a drag it is to have to cook every single meal, and all while I'm already trying to fight off feeling sorry for myself because I AM ON SICK LEAVE FOR PETE'S SAKE and am already struggling with an unpredictable and generally crappy disease.

So to not be thinking about food is awesome.

Less awesome is that I have kind of gotten tired of the few snacks I can have, and so have the cats. The PP likes to share food with the cats, so they are always checking out what we are eating, with their little hopeful eyes. And they keep turning away in disgust from my carrots and celery, hummus and almond butter. In fact, one of them even snorted her disgust.

I feel your pain, little spoiled cats.

But for today, I am enjoying the hell out of the Polar Vortex. And I understand tonight is Taco Night!

Oatmeal with butter and almonds
2 cups rooibos tea

Celery with almond butter

ANOTHER SNACK (scheduling SNAFU meant no real lunch):
Carrots with hummus