wha?!?!?

 

 

Got inspired today, and made a new recipe, which if I recall correctly, I found on a vegetarian website.  As I was stumbling through the steps, I could tell that not only was I uneasy about the possible results, but so was the man.

 

 

 

 

Luckily, we needn’t have worried.  It was pretty good.  Even the man, whose eyebrows are perpetually raised at vegetarian, gluten-free meals, enjoyed it.  Win for me ;)

 

 

What you need: 

1 1/2 Tbsp Cooking Oil (I used Olive Oil, but the recipe wasn’t specific)

1 large onion, chopped

2 yellow bell peppers, cubed

3 cups cubed Butternut Squash (I cheated, and used a package that my grocery store sells)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp green curry paste

1 13.5 ounce can of Light Coconut Milk

2 cups Spinach, firmly packed

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup dry Ancient Harvest Inca Red quinoa

2 and 1/4 cups water, divided

 

What to do:

1.  Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.

2.  Add onions. Sautée for 5-7 minutes.

3.  Add bell peppers.  Sautée for 2-3 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Add garlic and green curry paste; mix over heat for 1 minute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Add butternut squash and coconut milk.  Mix together as you bring to a simmer.  Cover with lid, and allow to simmer to 20-30 minutes (squash should be soft to the touch).  ]

6.  In a medium pan, combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups water (or veggie/chicken stock).  Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer and allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, until water is absorbed (white line should be visible on individual quinoa).

7.  While everything is simmering, combine chopped cilantro and basil with spinach and 1/4 cup water in a food processor.  Blend well.

8.  When squash has softened, fold in spinach/cilantro/basil mixture.

 

9.  Serve curry mixture over Inca Red quinoa.  Voila! Deliciosa!

random thoughts on a monday

This morning, the last thing I wanted to do was get out of bed.  The weather was gross (although the snow was momentarily very pretty, and Miss Lucy loved it, as usual), the weekend was too short, and my work week seemed to loom ominously before me.

But, as usual, up I got.  I finished my course of steroids on Friday, so I’ve been flying solo for three days, and luckily, my flare symptoms seem to be under control.  I spent a little bit of time over the weekend beginning the research my doctor assigned on the various drug treatments for MS, as well as exploring some other dietary options, and reaching out to a few people I have been connected with who also have MS.

It’s pretty easy to read about lifestyle changes, and adopting new diets ~ it’s a whole different kettle of fish (can I just pause for a moment, and say that this expression always makes me think of “Anne of Green Gables” ~ a book I believe all young women should read ~ I think of it with such love and affection, and periodically revisit the ear-marked pages of my old paperback copy … such a beautiful and enchanting story) to actually do it.  I have been struggling with this.  A lot.

Many things I’ve read have shown that diet is an important part of living with MS.  We’ve started being much more consistent about our Green Smoothies (every morning!) and we have eliminated gluten (slightly more challenging but we’re working on it).  I was referred to another diet completely associated with coping with MS called the Swank Diet, which restricts fats and animal protein.  Some people believe a raw vegan diet keeps flares at bay.

Figuring out how to give up meat (red or any other kind), dairy and basically, carbohydrates has been such a learning experience.  When I first considered it, I behaved a little like a petulant school girl.  But as time has gone by, with the support of the man (and my pescatarian puppy, Lucy) I’ve stopped being childish, and embraced the idea.  I repeat, the idea.  The practice is much more challenging.

So, John suggested I try finding recipes I find appealing without classifying it as either ‘vegetarian’ or ‘gluten-free.’  And I am excited to say that I have three recipes I am fairly bursting with excitement to make.  Watch this space.  Hopefully they are all good!

I think what I’m learning ~and I cannot emphasize this enough … the hard way (if I didn’t feel motivated to protect and preserve my health I might not be so determined) ~ is that for me, making these changes has to be one baby step at a time.  I know that what I’m doing is for the best in regards to my health and future.  And I also know my baby steps need to be in fairly rapid succession.  There isn’t time to waste.  But this is hard.  And it’s way harder every day than it is in theory, at the beginning.  It’s about making the changes, and establishing the routines. And sticking to it.  And not making exceptions.  And it’s really hard.  So, welcome to week #2.

routines

 

 

 

 

Every morning, while the man is getting ready for work, I set about making our Green Smoothies.  Over the summer, when MS was a possibility, but not a certainty, I sat down with a nutritionist, and she gave me so much information and so many resources, it felt as though I was back in college, doing a history term paper.  I mean, the wealth of information out there on self-healing through diet is impressive, and thorough.  I was surprised how little I knew and as I learned more, and experimented, it was hard not to acknowledge the benefits.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t wake up and make a seamless transition to healthy living.  I have much too much love for food (all food, my friends, I don’t discriminate) and wine for any dietary changes to be easy.  What the man and I decided after a few abortive failures at a drastic overhaul was that we were going to start small, and grow.

Green smoothies, it turns out, are a good first step.  My soon-to-be-MIL got me a NutriBullet for Christmas and it has quickly become the number one kitchen accessory we use.  The NutriBullet breaks the Green Smoothie down so that you can pretty much make one in your sleep.  Fill the bottom of the cup with greens (about halfway to the max line), add fruit (good tip: use avocado or banana to even out the texture) to the max line, add your boost (usually, the man and I add a dollop of raw almond butter with flax seeds, and a little scoop of the Green Vibrance pictured above) and then you fill the cup with water to the Max line, twist on the Extractor Blade, pop it on the base, press and blend.

Voila, instant Green Smoothie.

This week, we’ve had banana-strawberry flavored smoothies every day because we are waiting for our avocado to ripen.  I use a 50/50 baby spinach and greens mix for my base, 1 banana & 1 apple (each smoothie gets half) a tangerine each (vitamin C), a few strawberries as mentioned, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice (contrary to natural instinct, lime and lemon juice are very alkaline, so I like to pop a little in every day), plus the boosts and water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was talking to the nutritionist, there was so much information, I absolutely did not retain it all ~ but I did scribble down as much as I could.  The benefit of eating greens is so all-encompassing, I don’t really know where to start.  Needless to say ~ it’s been a change for the better for us, and while I used to be a little lax about it, I’ve gotten pretty hard-core in the past few weeks.

It’s not hard to find information about Green Smoothies and their benefits. I literally just googled it (just to be sure!), and pages and pages of links pop up (some to books and authors I’ve read and others to the abundant resources in existence regarding Green Smoothies).  For me, it’s about more than losing weight, having clearer skin or higher energy levels.  Green Smoothies offer a way to make sure that I am getting the daily benefits of leafy greens and fruits in my diet.   Greens are an incredibly rich source of minerals and are often regarded as the most concentrated form of nutrition.  The darker they are, the more nutritional punch they pack.  Additionally, greens carry elements (phytonutrients) that help protect our body’s cells from damage, and our eyes from degeneration.  At the top of the list of greens’ health benefits is Vitamin K, which, among other qualities, has been shown to help reduce inflammation throughout the body (in my case, when inflammation is part of MS, this is not just a good thing, it’s a great one).  Additionally, greens help regulate our digestive system, and help to maintain a pH balance in our blood (helping our body to stay alkaline instead of acidic ~ this is a whole ‘nother topic for a whole ‘nother day!).

In the past few weeks, as the inevitable conclusion loomed larger on the horizon, I spent a lot of time thinking through what decisions I wanted to make, could commit to making, and which things I wasn’t interested in.  I would lie in bed at night, wide awake as the moonlight spilled in through the window and Lucy and the man snurffled away, and visualize how my ‘new’ life was going to take shape.  It may sound strange, but it was a great comfort to me even to control my life mentally, as everything around me felt out of my control.

Additionally, the man and I talked through different options, what we each believed in, and how we thought it would fit into our life.  There were so many things to consider, and sometimes I had a hard time finding perspective, because I was afraid.  I like to fancy myself an optimist, but in real life, I definitely have my ‘glass half empty’ moments.

Because multiple sclerosis is characterized by ‘flares,’ which, in the simplest explanation, are spots of inflammation, controlling inflammation throughout my body is now a priority.  Funny the things you just don’t really think about until … well, until you do. In that vein, the man and I have committed first and foremost to two dietary steps that we feel will help to control inflammation ~ Green Smoothies, and eliminating gluten from our diet.  Luckily for me, going gluten-free is pretty trendy right now (and I have an amazingly supportive man).  We can chat more about that tomorrow.  Until then, go get your Green Smoothie on!  They taste good ~ I promise!

day number two

This evening, the man, Lucy and I are curled up on our couch, watching the third episode of “Downton Abbey.”  I am enjoying some delicious spoonfuls of Nutella, following a quick meal of quinoa, roasted cauliflower, pesto and meatballs.  Don’t judge ~ I believe that Nutella can cure most ills.  And the quinoa dish ~ one of our new favs.

In my experience, day #2 is always a slightly more bitter pill to swallow than day #1.  Here’s why (my opinion only, of course!) ~ sometimes you feel very brave and strong and unbeatable that first day.  And then you go to sleep, inspired and full of well-meaning and ideas, and the next day dawns, and the truth settles into your bones … the real reality.  And it doesn’t feel exciting or stimulating, or inspiring ~ it feels overwhelming … a little like an insurmountable obstacle.

Today, I felt it was important to share my news with my extended family.  It didn’t feel responsible to give that burden to my parents, so I did my best to construct an email that let everyone know what was going on.  It’s funny, because I had all sorts of ideas of things I wanted to blog about today (green smoothies, the power of nutrition, etc, etc) but really, it came down to the response from my family.  It was overwhelmingly positive, which was reassuring.  But it was also the sort of ‘stiff upper lip’ stuff so intimately familiar  and comforting that I associate with my British family.

Life hasn’t been especially easy since July 2012 ~ my first MS symptoms reared their ugly and very unwelcome head, but my mother was also given quite a serious diagnosis (which is not my business to share online) so for my immediate and extended family, I am sure it has been something to get their heads around.  Everyone has trials and tribulations, highs and wallowing lows ~ but we have definitely shouldered our burden for the past six months.

It’s hard to know what to say when someone presents to you their bad news. My family did an admirable job of being a beautiful combination of loving, sympathetic, supportive, upbeat and realistic.  I have to give them credit, because it is not easy to be on the receiving end of the email I sent.  I have to give a special shout-out to my brother’s lady love, whose response (restricted by twitter’s 160 character limit … and man, she’s a pro) was my favorite.  Yes, I am admitting bias.

Tomorrow will dawn day #3 .. and the further in we get, the more the novelty wears off, and the reality sets in.  I hope that as time marches on, I don’t lose my focus and my drive, my idea of staying positive.  It’s a new challenge, and there is no guidebook.  It’s just the man, Lucy and I, figuring it out one day at a time.

new beginnings

About eleven days ago, I began the following post (below in italics ~ we’ll get there).  I wasn’t sure I was ready to face the real truth of what was going on, but throughout my life, I’ve found writing to be an excellent outlet.  I wrote that day ~ but faltered, and haven’t been able sit down and write again.  Until today.

Now, as I sit on my couch, drinking gluten-free beer and watching “Grumpy Old Men,” (is there a better combination to combat life-altering news? I think not!) I am contemplating the idea that this moment, this information ~ it offers me a path.  Now, the path would not have been obvious had a doctor not told me matter-of-factly at about 1.45pm that I have a non-curable chronic disease ~ but pish posh, right?  Can’t turn back time ( although I do love Cher’s song contemplating the options if one could).

If you can’t tell, I’m a little punch drunk, and a little bit loopy.  Deservedly so, I say, having spent the better part of 2013′s early days in and out of doctors offices and diagnostic testing.  At least now its been said ~ it’s done.  And I can take that information and run with it.

Folks, I have multiple sclerosis.  Fact.  January 21st, 2013 is the first day of the rest of my life.  I do like the number 21, so I’m okay with it, I guess.  Always looking on the bright side ;) !

I had this moment today ~ when I called to schedule my follow-up appointment following my most recent round of MRIs ~ that I thought maybe the same news would come that came in July ~ no signs whatsoever of any lesions.  In retrospect, that was probably fairly wishful thinking (the symptoms have been much more intense for the past three plus weeks).  But if we can’t be wishful and hopeful, what’s the point?

So, eleven days ago … I wrote this.

“So, here’s the thing.  Yesterday, when my home nurse was visiting, she pretty much distilled what’s going on in  my life down to one sentence.  She said, ‘After the sadness, and the anger, and the feeling-sorry-for-yourself feelings pass, remember that it’s a life-changing diagnosis, not life ending.”

And even in the microcosm of yesterday, when my mind raced up and down the mountains of possibilities and fears and all manner of other things, that one sentence was worth remembering.  And remembering often, and with conviction.

When multiple sclerosis was first mentioned as a possibility, back in July (remember that month? yeah, it sucked), I wasn’t really ready to admit the truth of it.  I was completely convinced that my case of optic neuritis was one hundred percent not a pre-cursor for MS.  Naive, perhaps.  But I think anyone who receives what feels like, and on many levels is a pretty dire health diagnosis has to work through the denial and the fear and all the other feelings that come bubbling to the surface of your conscience.”

So I got stuck after that, because there was no end, no neat ribbon to wrap things up with ~ no pithy or witty thoughtful query.

It was true, and raw, and real and … well, scary.

I googled MS and read some really not uplifting stories of other people who thought what I did ~ my eyesight was a detached retina, nothing was wrong with me, I was healthy … etc, etc. etc.  And over the past eleven days, as I geared up for the inevitable diagnosis, I began contemplating how I was going to choose to deal with my new life path.

So far ~ and I’m not far into this at all ~ but, so far, I’ve felt a little bit alone, and as though while everyone has a friend, or knows someone (and thinks I should talk to that person/call/consult, etc) ~ the people who are writing about their experiences are less than upbeat.  (** Sidenote, I am not the most tech savvy or google-happy person out there, so I guarantee I have not read it all, or even close … Sidenote x2 ~ Montel Williams information was by far my favorite and most encouraging to find).

And I get it ~ when I started to lose feeling in my feet (amongst other, not-ready-to-share issues), and then slowly realized that getting it back would not occur with a magical pill ~ it was highly discouraging.  And the truth is ~ from the little I have learned ~ MS is pretty unique to each person.  Everyone’s symptoms and cases are individual and manifest per person.  So no one’s story is going to answer my questions, or completely assuage my fears.

I said to my mum on the phone today ~ for a person like myself who has always existed in a black and white world, it’s wildly ironic that I got a disease that exists only in the gray area.  I want rules to follow ~ I want a sequence of steps that will cure things … but MS doesn’t work like that.

Having an answer ~ even a very dreaded answer ~ eases some of my anxiety but it opens up the door to the unknown.  How will my life change ~ what are my next steps?  My neurologist gave the man and I a stack of information on various drugs that we have been tasked with researching and exploring before our next appointment.  I’ve already decided the one I like (packaging is everything ~ and whoever did the packaging for my new meds definitely knew the way to this girl’s heart … haha!  I am certainly not going to choose life time medication via packaging … but it does give one an edge!).

What I’ve been contemplating is that documenting this  journey ~ beginning today ~ may be a way for me to work through all the unknowns, but also potentially allow me to reach someone else who is struggling and scared and unsure.   Who knows.  Maybe even reaching myself will be enough ~ goodness knows, I’m struggling and scared and unsure.

Here are the facts ~ I have brain and spinal lesions (aka, my immune system is mistakenly attacking my nervous system at various spots).  I have been on high potency IV steroids to calm the ‘flares’ since last Friday (nothing teaches you what you are capable of like injecting yourself with meds, saline and blood thinners) and I will most likely be on self-injected medication for the rest of my life.  Pretty heavy stuff for a thirty-three year old woman who has a list of dreams she hasn’t fulfilled yet.

Here’s how I feel.  I refuse to choose to be ho-hum doll drum about it.  It sucks ~ if anyone has the audacity to contradict me on that, please.  Lemme know your ‘genius’ logic.  It sucks, and that’s that.  But it doesn’t have to suck every second of every day, and I refuse to believe that there aren’t strong, proactive choices I can make to lead as normal a life as possible.  I have been given the gift of knowledge regarding nutrition and the benefits of dietary choices and fitness choices that have been shown to help others suffering from MS.  That, in and of itself, is incredibly encouraging.

Welcome to my new blog, and my new journey.  I’ll see ya tomorrow.