Monday, October 27, 2008


I haven't mentioned it much lately, but I have been making slow but steady progress on the new bed spread. Isn't it fun? The picture is lousy (as usual), but the colors are much brighter in person. I figure I'm about 1/10th done. At this rate it should only take me another three or four years to finish. That's what I get for making such a big project with such small yarn.
The gluten-free project is going well, too. I think my guts are a little happier than they used to be. Once you get used to it, it's not that hard. No harder than any of the other dietary changes I've had to make in the last year and a half. Just one more set of ingredients to watch out for. I tried a gluten-free bread mix in my bread machine this week. Not bad. Not as tasty as what I used to make, but it's bread. At $4.99 it ain't cheap, but it's better than the $7.99 a loaf that Whole Foods charges for gluten-free bread. And I'm sure it's fresher, considering those loaves are in the refrigerated section.
Another big change in the last week- I got my hair cut! This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I haven't had a hair cut in almost a year. I've worn my hair in a standard short bob for at least 15 years. No more. She cut in layers and added blond highlights. And I've discovered why I was having so much trouble with my hair. (Before this hair cut I looked like a white Don King. For real. It was scary.) I always had a little bit of wave in my hair, but mostly it was straight. I now have curly hair! There are swoops and waves everywhere, and I have actual ringlets forming at the back of my neck. It's unreal. My stylist says that hair texture changes over time. The meds could have something to do with it, too. It still blows my mind every time I look in the mirror. I look like I've had a perm!
I have a ways to go yet, but I am getting ready for NaNo. I've read through my notes from two years ago and familiarized myself with a few of the minor characters. I still haven't read through the whole story yet. This week, I promise. I want to make a few notes, do a little brain storming, and be ready when the time comes. I won't be able to start right away- my mom is coming for a long weekend and I'd rather spend the time with her than write. But she leaves on Tuesday, so after I drop her off at the airport and vote I want to dive right in. I'm losing the first three days of NaNo, but I've missed a lot more than that it years past and still made it through.
I managed to get a few referrals for new GI docs today, too. I'm not satisfied with my current medical team. I just don't accept that this is as good as it gets. There's got to be something better out there, some better treatment or combination of treatments, that will give me back my energy and make it possible to go back to work and lead a semi-normal life. I hope to get a few new ideas at an IBD conference this weekend. (That's why Mom is coming in for the weekend- to go with me.) Keep your fingers crossed. I'd love to report some more progress in the healing department soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eulogy for a House Plant

I'm sorry, plant. I'm sorry I never fed you and rarely remembered to water you. You were a gift, and you cheered me up at a time when I desperately needed cheering. You lasted for 16 months- longer than any of your predecessors. I forgot to water you before I left town for a week and a half for Hurricane Ike, and though I watered you and even tried to feed you when I came home, you were never the same. Slowly, one by one, your leaves drooped, turning yellow and then brown. Where once a lush green houseplant stood (OK, you haven't been "lush" for at least a year, but you looked pretty good at first), now there is nothing but brown stalks in a basket with a jaunty white bow. You will be missed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gluten Free

It's been two weeks since I started my gluten free experiment. I think it might be working. It hasn't been the magic cure I was hoping for, but nothing else has either. Maybe if I combine enough magic cures, they'll add up to me being healthy again. It's a hope.

I did slip up once this past week. (Can you call a deliberate bad choice a "slip up?" Maybe I should say I fell off the wagon.) I had a couple of kolaches on Tuesday morning, and I was miserable for days afterward. Tuesday and Wednesday were both high stress days. Way high, like stratospherically high, stress days. So that certainly could have had something to do with it. The evidence is suggestive, if not conclusive. I think, for now, I'll stick with the gluten free program.

There is some other good news- my short term disability was approved. Thank God. The check arrived yesterday. I'm no longer broke, desperate, and sick. I'm just sick. And desperate to get better, I suppose. But it's a different kind of desperate from worrying about the money and how I'm going to manage going back to work full time when two hours of running errands puts me in bed for the rest of the day. And most of the next.

I do feel like I'm starting to get the hang of this gluten free stuff. I've read three books on the subject so far. (Well, read one and dipped heavily into the two others.) Usually I turn to the web for research like this, but for some reason I'm not finding the information I need this time. I know it's out there, I just don't seem to be finding it. It's striking to me how each book seems to have a different take on what's safe and what's not. Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern is certainly the most strict. And in some ways the least helpful for my situation. It's filled with recipes using ingredients I can't have- nuts, seeds, vegetables that I can't digest. It's also the newest book, and you'd think, would have the most up-to-date information.

The other two books are The Complete Idiot's Guide to Gluten-Free Eating and The Gluten-Free Bible. At least one of the authors of the Idiot's Guide apparently doesn't have Celiacs or gluten sensitivity. The Bible was written by someone with years of experience, but it was published in 2005.

Girl suggests that everything that might possibly have the fainest trace of gluten, no matter how unlikely, requires contacting the manufacturer. It has a lot of information, which other sources suggest is out of date, and reads more like a memoir or collection of essays in some parts than a guide book to gluten free eating. Idiot's Guide explains FDA and USDA labeling laws, the likelihood of various ingredients containing gluten, and says it's up to the reader to decide if it's an acceptable risk. They also point out that in our litigious society, some statements are made to cover the manufacturer even if the possibility of contamination is practically non-existent. Bible has a lot of helpful information, including the low down on various restaurants. Did you know (at least, as of 2005) that IHOP adds pancake batter to their omelets to make them fluffier? I never would have guessed that. The eggs are the one item on any breakfast menu that I would have assumed was safe for me to eat.

It's not all bad news. I've canvased the local grocery stores in the last few days and figured out who has which products and for the best price. Of course, the closest store has the highest prices- by a dollar or more on some items. But their meat department is nasty, so shifting most of my shopping to other stores isn't that great a hardship.

Some of what I've tried has been quite good, some has been meh. One item has made me very happy- it's a regular, non-specialty food that recently made a small formula change to become gluten free. Being a major national brand, it's much cheaper than the specialty gluten free stuff. I've got a lot more products to try. Next time I'll come back with a list of what was good and what wasn't.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

10,000 things

This week I've been following an online discussion about weight, and somehow in the last day or so it's morphed into a discussion of stuff. Clutter. One poster said that the average American owns 10,000 items. I would not be surprised. But, have mercy, that's a lot of stuff.

Of course, I couldn't leave a figure like that alone. So I spent about 15 minutes and wandered around my apartment taking a surface count. I didn't open the pantry or any of the kitchen cabinets. (Most of the dishes are dirty on the counter anyway.) I didn't open any boxes. I checked the coat closet and my bedroom closet, but not the linen closet or the very scary storage closet behind me. I did not open the refrigerator and count the sodas or the freezer and count the waffles. This was mostly just a wander around the house to count what was clearly visible. The total came to over 1000 things. I have a lot of crap.

That's not how I want to live. I've been working, in fits and starts, on clearing the clutter for several months now. I'm getting better at weeding out the flotsam- the store coupons for items I never use, receipts I'll never need, stuff that looked important but was really junk mail. It's a constant battle, but one that can be won.

Now it's time to move down a level. To the things that aren't clearly junk. I need to start making decisions about what is useful vs what is just sitting around collecting dust, and then I need to start acting on those decisions. If it's useful it needs a place of it's own. If it's not useful it need to find it's way out of my home. In the past I've done pretty well with making the decisions, but find myself out of the emotional energy necessary to follow through with the actions. The piles may eventually be dragged out to the trash, or if it's really good stuff and I can find the energy and time, to Good Will. But more often than not they will sit all over my living room floor for a week or two, mocking me, until I gather it all up in a bundle and throw it all back in the closet to deal with later. I feel better, briefly, about my clean floor and avoid opening that closet for the next six months, if possible.

To make things interesting, I've decided on a new plan. I'm going to get rid of (and not replace) 1,000 things. Many of the things I counted this afternoon are of daily use or hold sentimental value for me, so I'm keeping them. But I've got at least 3 junk drawers in the kitchen that weren't counted at all. I'm sure they'll yield some treasures. I've knit two blankets for Project Linus, with a third on the way. They can be washed and delivered. On the bookshelf next to my desk I have 3 phone books that are at least two years out of date. Recycling!

I'm getting ready for NaNo next month- I wonder if this is a bizarre version of nesting?

Moving on, I've been gluten-free for 9 days now. I'm feeling a little... different, but I wouldn't say I'm feeling better. Certain symptoms- which are gross and you don't want to hear about here- are better, while others are worse. I'm hoping that going off gluten is like going off caffeine- you feel like crap for a while, until it flushes it's way out of your system, and then you feel better. Come on, better. There are two books about going gluten-free, including recipes, on reserve at the library. Hopefully that will help. I made a lovely, junk-foodie macaroni and cheese with brown rice pasta for dinner last night. It helped tremendously, as I was having visions of driving to the nearest Panera and buying up all the left-over bagels and whatever baguettes they had on hand. I'm sorry, Elaine Gottschall, but giving up all starchy carbs is not for me.

Well, I'm off to bed and the audio version of Komar by Lois McMaster Bujold. If it's wrong to be in love with a fictional character, I don't want to be right.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

So, it's been a while....

Many things have happened in the last two months. I'll try to hit the highlights.

I'm on medical leave. Have been since the end of August. Now if only the company where I have my short term disability insurance would approve it.... You have to start the leave before you apply for it, without knowing for sure if they will approve it. If they deny the claim I'm going to be completely out at least 6 weeks of pay at this point. Better or not (and unfortunately, the answer is not), if they don't get me a check soon I'm going to have to go back to work. My savings account is emptying at an alarming rate.

Hurricane Ike came for a little visit. I got out of town. Call me a wimp, I need power and a functioning bathroom. My area was minimally effected. Lots of trees down and roofs damaged, but the power was back on here first and homes weren't totally blown away or under 5 feet of water. I had some water damage in my apartment, which I still haven't strong-armed the management company into fixing. It's only cosmetic, but I don't like opening my eyes every morning to a stained and pealing wall. Things are still pretty screwed up in Houston. Lots of stop lights were messed up, and three weeks later traffic is still a disaster.

I've changed my meds, increased other meds, and taken time off work, but the Crohn's is still kicking my butt. A friend, who has had Crohn's for 20 years and who I look up to as a mentor, gently recommends going gluten-free every time I talk to her. I finally decided to try it. I've been gluten-free for... about 24 hours now. No change so far. I don't expect this to be the miracle cure. But then, at this point I've stopped hoping for the miracle cure. I don't believe it's out there. I think I'm going to have to find all the little pieces that work for me, and put the puzzle together all by myself. Unfortunately, someone lost the box top with the picture on it. And someone else mixed pieces from a bunch of other puzzles into my box. So it's taking a while. I know what I want this thing to look like when I'm done. I just don't know if that's possible with the pieces I have available.

In more cheerful news, National Novel Writing Month is coming up again. My plan (always with the plan!) is to re-read my 2006 novel, and then starting Nov 1, pick up where I left off and finish the damn thing. I shouldn't call it "the damn thing." I really like this story. I think it has potential. It just, like so many other things in my life right now, seems like the impossible task.

Gotta work on that attitude.