They Are Our Children…

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This is re-posted from my friend Avivah’s blog. She lives in Israel, so she was able to express more eloquently than I would have what I think most of us are feeling right now. For those of you who haven’t heard this story on the news (and don’t get me started about why I think more people haven’t heard about this, because I’m boiling mad about it!), 3 boys- one of them an American- were kidnapped by Arabs in Israel a few days ago in the West Bank. Although Israeli soldiers have been scrambling to find them, as of now they are still missing, and we can only pray that horrible things are not happening to them. This is my friend’s post about the situation, but I’m not sure if I put the youtube parts in the right places or not (sorry about that if they end up in the wrong place in the writing…)

They are our children…..
June 15, 2014parenting
Yesterday, I had several things that I considered sharing with you.

Today, I only have one thing on my mind. My heart hurts, my tears keep coming and I can think of nothing other than the three teenage boys (two 16 year olds, one 19 year old) who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on their way home from school on Thursday evening.

Left to right: Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shayer

Like so many students, my ds15 also attends a yeshiva dormitory school – just like these boys. Like so many others, he also has to find a way home each Thursday – just like these boys. This past Thursday night – the evening they were kidnapped – he called to ask about the bus schedule and told me he was about to set out. I had an ominous feeling and asked him to wait until the next morning to travel, which I had never done before. He told me he really wanted to be home that night, if he waited until the morning he wouldn’t get home until midday.

Logically what he was saying made sense and I agreed he should return home that night but the anxious feeling stayed with me until he finally arrived home. The next morning I gave him a big hug and told him I had been really worried. “Really?” he asked, surprised.

He’s right, why should I have been so worried? He’s been traveling home from school for Shabbos almost every week. Sure, I sometimes wonder if he’ll miss a bus but I’ve never had this sick to my stomach feeling about it.

This morning, as I read the news reports of the two 16 year old boys and their 19 year old friend who were abducted by brutal terrorists, I kept thinking of my feeling of dread.

The Israeli Defense Forces are searching and according to the last update, have said the boys are still alive and hidden in the Hevron area. No doubt they’ve kidnapped them with the intention to exchange them for the release of thousands of convicted murderers who are Israeli prisons, as they did in the case of Gilad Shalit. As a people of peace who place a huge value on the sanctity of life, we are at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with representatives of a culture of death.

Meanwhile, there has been a call from the Palestinian Authority (our ‘peace’ partners) to the Arab community to obstruct the army’s search efforts to find the boys, and the Arab street celebrates the kidnapping. Passing out candies and baked goods is mild compared to the glee being expressed via social media networks at the abduction of children.

As Israelis and people of goodwill around the world wait tensely for news of the kidnapped 3 teenage boys, Palestinians in Gaza distribute sweets in a sick “celebration”. More here: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4530227,00.html We condemn the systemic hate education in Palestinian society that causes people to celebrate such a cowardly act of terrorism. We pray for the safe return of Gilad, Naftali and Elad. #BringBackOurBoys
One of the boys is an American citizen and a petition has been started to demand the American government get involved in his release. (Note – a second petition was started at the same time as this, but this is the official petition to sign. )

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/demand-release-16-year-old-american-student-naftali-frenkel-kidnappers-palestinian-terrorists/Qy2N4R2H

100,000 signatures are necessary for the petition to be considered – please click the orange words and the link will take you to where you can sign. His mother has spoken briefly at a press conference – I have no idea how she managed to get through without crying because not only did I cry listening to her, I tear up just thinking of the emotional agony these parents are going through.

She has said they feel waves of love and support surrounding them and asks for continued prayers, ending by expressing her hope that they will soon be hugging their sons again.

Last night there was a prayer gathering at the Kotel/Western Wall and another at Me’arat Hamachpeila/ Cave of the Ancestors. In the clips of both gatherings, they were singing the same song/prayer: “May God have mercy on us and on them, may He bring us from a place of constriction to place of abundance, from darkness to light, from oppression to redemption, may it be very soon.”

You can say tehillim/psalms as a merit for the return of these three teens by clicking here or here – you can say as much or as little as you want in English or Hebrew online while you sit in front of your computer. The names of the boys are:

Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devora – age 16
Gil-ad Michael ben Bat Galim – age 16
Ayal ben Iris Teshura – age 19
Here in Israel we know this could have been any one of our children that was taken. These three teens are our boys, and our entire country is reeling. Throughout religious schools in Israel today, prayers were said for the boys and in synagogues and yeshivos across the country there will be prayer gatherings for them tonight.

Please, regardless of your religious affiliation, if you are a person of faith, pray with full intention that these young boys are returned home soon, alive and healthy.

May we hear good news soon.

Avivah

Mama Lion’s Pride

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A few days ago our family had a milestone. It is one of those things that, at least in our family, would normally pass by with barely a nod of recognition. I know some people will cringe at my lack of enthusiasm for this particular life event, since I have come face-to-face with some people who seem think this is on par with a pivotal day in a person’s entire life, but that’s not really how we roll…

A few days ago I had a child “graduate” from middle school.

Even as I type that, I feel kind of torn between giggling and being embarrassed that it is a Thing. I also feel embarrassed because I know that to some people this is a really super huge deal and I honestly don’t want to seem like I am making fun of that or demeaning that. It’s just that, in my mind middle school is something you age out of. You pass out of middle school because you’ve done your time and haven’t given them any overwhelming reason to either permanently expel you or perpetually hold you back. So middle school graduation is more like getting paroled from prison than earning a degree from Harvard Med. You are happy your kid served his time and you get onto the next thing. And maybe you have some cake.

But when this particular son “graduated” it was a new thing for our family, and here’s why:

When we came to Seattle a few years ago this was a shy, quiet, go-with-the-flow kid. In our old community he was a little fish in a big pond, and that suited him just fine. His default in times of stress was to kind of shrink into nothing and hope to stay disappeared long enough for the storm to pass. We lived on a block with over a hundred kids, but he had one Very Best Friend, from whom he was practically inseparable, and then a few other close neighbors he played with, but he was definitely not Mr. Adventure.

This is our third year in Seattle and he is like a different person. He has become the king fish in the Seattle pond, but he has done it without running over anyone, and without being mean or cruel. He has none of that obnoxious, ‘Now I’m getting mine!’ thing that some formerly mousey kids get when they go in the other direction. He is still the sweet kind child, but now he is a powerhouse. He has taken on every leadership role he was offered, and then he went and invented a few more he could take on for good measure! He became the go-to guy to get things done, and he has more than a few families who call on him when they want a reliable kid to help them with something. He doesn’t discriminate against how he helps, either. If there is a project he is asked to participate in, there he is, stepping up to put his mark on it.

So when the school staff spoke about each graduate, they talked about this aspect of my child.

I guess it helps to know that he is one of our youngest. In our house sometimes he still gets lumped together with the younger kids, and we- more often than we should- refer to him and his younger sibling as “the littles”. Yeah, we should probably cut that out. Since we are a family with a lot of big personalities, it is still easy for him at home to get steamrolled sometimes, so we don’t always give him his due as a young man who has come into his own.

But at the graduation we saw him how other people see him. We saw how people who don’t have history with him look at him. And we were very very proud.

And then he won an award. It is an award given to the student who does things for the community and steps up and takes a leadership role and shows direction… I’m not sure exactly how it is written, but him getting this award- from a community organization, not from his school!- was hugely validating that he has really become an incredible person.

Not that he wasn’t awesome when he was shy and quiet, but he has just totally reinvented himself in Seattle. He has stepped up his game and become such a giver. This middle school graduation was not about him going from 8th grade into 9th, which to me is like going from 4th to 5th, or from Ohio into Michigan, or from a nap into dinner. This graduation was the marking of a milestone in the transformation of a character.

My son is going from an unassuming boy into a man of quality.

And that is something to celebrate.

I am so so proud of him!

:)

When the Ego Hits the Road

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I find it very humbling that we are never too old or too anything to get a good ole’ fashion gut check from the universe.

If you believe in God (as I do), you can say that He is constantly giving you tests to help you refine your character. If you believe in karma, maybe you can say you just deserve an energetic slap once in a while. And if you believe in other things, you can make what you will of this post.

In my last post I wrote in passing that I was so unwell at one point that I had to resort to using a wheelchair when I went to visit a friend. This past Saturday I had an interesting (read: gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, existential-angst-inspiring) dilemma.

Saturday in our Sabbath, and one of the things we don’t do on the Sabbath is travel by car. Usually that doesn’t pose a problem because I either stay home or walk where I need to go- in spite of the fact that we live in a hilly place, and in this hilly place, we live on an especially hilly street. But on Saturday we were supposed to meet someone, and this meeting was pretty important. Since we also don’t use the phone on the Sabbath it wasn’t an option to call or reschedule, and I didn’t want to send *h alone (for various reasons that don’t matter at all for the purposes of this post). And, in spite of the fact that I am doing waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than I was even last week, I was in no way ready to make a trek up our hill.

So I did the Julie thing: mind over matter. ‘Don’t be a baby. Of course you can do it. It’s a hill, not a mountain; you’ve done much harder things in your life than talking a walk- get over yourself! Pull it together- you’re feeling better; of course you can walk around your neighborhood!’ But as much as I tried to psych myself up, I knew in my deepest heart that there was really no way I could do it. I could barely make it to the end of my driveway. I am doing so much better, but I am still not on solid ground, and the chances of me making it up to the end of my street were precisely zero.

This left me with one option if I wanted to get to the meeting, and that was to use my wheelchair. Again.

Humph.

Here’s the thought process (which makes very little sense): If I use the wheelchair once, it’s an aberration. It was a one-off thing. It was a fluke. I had been crazy sick, and the place we went that week was super far. But if I use the wheelchair again, I am going to get dependent on it. It’s going to be like a crutch (funny irony in that comparison, huh?). I’m going to start getting lazy and then just use it all the time and stop doing things for myself. I’m going to let people do everything for me and become spoiled and over-indulged and expect people to push me around everywhere like slaves and that is just so obnoxious. Forget it. I just have to figure out a way to walk.

If I was honest with myself, here’s what I would have been saying: ‘Holy cow, not this again! this scares me on such a deep and profound level. I don’t want to be disabled again. I don’t want people to see me as disabled again and I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to have to explain myself over and over again, and I don’t want my family to have to be ashamed of me again, and I don’t want to have to reopen all the old wounds which I thought I was over, but which apparently I am not because obviously it is such a struggle for me to use the wheelchair which I clearly need, WHICH SHOULD BE A RED FLAG TO BE THAT MY EGO IS INVOLVED HERE’.

A few weeks ago when I used the chair we left it parked outside of the house we were visiting (I used a cane inside the house). Someone walked in and asked whose wheelchair was outside. I said it was mine and they asked what was broken (looking me up and down and seeing nothing). I said “my brain”. So they said something like, “Hahahahaha no really. Did you hurt your leg or something?” And I said “No, it’s my brain”. And we proceeded to go around in circles with different variations of that same conversation several more times. Now, I suppose in hindsight it would have been more kind to have launched into a more extended explanation of what was going on, because really it just seemed like I was being evasive and stupid/bratty, but also I really don’t want to tell people a huge life story. So it’s a balance that I don’t know how to achieve- especially when I don’t feel well. But it also brought up to me that if I use the wheelchair going forward, there will need to be explanations given, and questions answered- and this is honestly not invasive from people. If a neighbor who looks outwardly fine and normal suddenly shows up in a wheelchair one kind of wonders what’s up. And that’s only fair. The question is how much of my life story is a fair response. It’s not like I’m exactly private about what’s happened- nor should I be. I have no reason to be embarrassed about getting sick; I certainly didn’t do anything wrong.

But there is always that weird thing that hangs in the air once you are out of the closet publicly, right? That people don’t know quite how to just be around you, because now they know stuff, and they don’t know whether to acknowledge it or to just “act normal” around you- as if you have undergone a transformation from who you were before they knew your big secret. And if you were raised to be decent- as most of us were- you feel guilt in the face of their discomfort. And that makes you feel ashamed of having this condition… this circumstance…this thing that is controlling whether or not you can visit a friend without a public show of weakness.

And that’s all hard stuff. Especially when it’s not in a vacuum.

Because I also have my kids who are heroes extraordinaire, and just want me to be happy and have the best life possible, but who also have feelings around having a mom who is physically unpredictable. They have a long history of their own struggles with seeing me in various states of illness or wellness and this brings up hard issues for them too.

And as much as *h has stepped up a million times over in the last month (and even pushed me up these gargantuan hills!), and hasn’t expressed even the slightest hint of anything negative about me being- um, let’s say ‘compromised’ for the last little while- he’s way too young and healthy to not have any feeling about seeing his wife in a wheelchair- again…

But truthfully on that day my struggle wasn’t with any of these things. If I am very honest my real angst on that day was that if people saw me again using a wheelchair I was going to be a disabled person again, and I was struggling with whether or not I was ready or able to embrace that identity. Unlike someone who has never walked this road before, I have spun these tires.

When I lived in Detroit, plenty of people knew me before I got sick. They saw the vibrant functioning person I was, so even after I lost most of it, they were still able to keep a picture in mind of the old me.

In Seattle, I am just Compromised Julie. I Don’t Do Things. I Can’t Do Things. My son told me the other day that I am unreliable, which isn’t quite true. I try hard to be scrupulously reliable once I commit to something- it’s just that I barely ever commit to anything because I never know how I will be feeling from one day to the next.

So I feel like going back to the chair here is taking the next step down into the vortex. Back in Detroit I had the strength to pull myself out, but here I’m afraid I might get sucked all the way in (that’s totally fear talking- anyone who knows me for real knows that I have a fighting spirit and I only question myself when I don’t feel well…).

I guess the bottom line is that I still have things to learn about humility and grace and who-knows-what. I thought I was way past whatever I could have learned from being in a wheelchair, but apparently that isn’t the Grand Plan for my life right now. I can’t say that whatever happens I will make the best of it, because I am not really a make-lemonade-out-of-lemons kind of girl.

I’m more of a toss-the-lemons-in-the-air-and-use-them-for-target-practice-as-a-method-of-stress-relief sort of person, but hey- sometimes I say, whatever gets you through the day ;)

Sometimes all you can do is just take things as they come and do your best to hope you get it right.

Really, what’s the other option?

illness 1, julie 0

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As hard as it is to believe that just a short while ago i sat here and blogged about how terrific I was doing, now I am sitting here listening to music while I type (which I never do)- hoping to drown out the reality of what I am saying. Which is that I have been in a major health crash.

Boom.

I have had to give away my last chicken because I can’t even take care of her on a consistent basis and it’s at the point where it just isn’t fair to keep pushing that job onto my family (who was never on board with the whole chicken thing in the first place).

I have given up both dairy and coffee, which has left me feeling physically spent and in intractable pain. It has been over two weeks and rather than feeling the healing spirit wash over me I have felt beaten up and beaten down, but I’m sticking with it out of a deep sense of desperation that something just has to change for me or I will really just fall apart.

I hurt in places that are so illogical that my pain doctor and I are equally perplexed and are both left wondering why my nervous system seems to all-out hate me. I tried a new pain med the other night which seemed potentially promising but then kept me up all night throwing up so that was not a winner. But, I chalk it up to a learning experience that next time I need to try it in conjunction with an anti-nausea med on board and maybe it will be better. That, I think, is a medical low point… And it has left me so weak and depleted that today I had to use my wheelchair for the first time in literally years. Not a great memory to rehash for the family- but it is what it is, and things could always be worse…

On a happy note, we went to a wonderful family for lunch today and had an awesome time. I was mostly cognitively present- which isn’t always a given these days (yes, I have been in bad shape). I talk a lot of rubbish lately, not because I have an agenda, but because I open my mouth and nonsense spills out.

Out of the last hundred things I have cooked and baked I have gotten perhaps 40% correct and the rest have been missing ingredients although on any normal day I could make these things in my sleep.

Have I mentioned that I’m a little ragged lately?

Even this blog post is a chore. I have typed and re-typed a massive amount of the words because so much of it is jibberish. I have some sort of thoughts but they are more like free-floating bits of lint on the either that I’m struggling to grab before they dissolve like vapor…

So. I have wanted to post just to say hey, I’m alive. Here I am in all my lack of glory. I know this is super-temporary, which is why I’m not having a total freak-out- but I’m not me living in the shell of me.

For the first time since we moved to Seattle I am not going to the Mother Earth News Fair.

That’s so sad, and I can’t even get sad about it. I’m just too out of it.

This is me on neuro-shut down.

Like a brain on drugs without the drugs.

Not pretty, but real.

Looking forward to better times ahead.

and I have to quit typing and go back to bed.

Love and hugs to you all- so send me some back- I can use them!

For Grant

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In a previous post’s comment section, Grant said this:

“Meanwhile, I am excluded from learning many things I want to learn about. I want to learn Kabbalah but am not Jewish. I want to learn about horses but am not Amish (I live near Amish country). I want to learn about farming but own no land. I want a race car but can’t afford it. “

Since he is such a good guy, and since what he said really piqued my interest, I decided to use his comments as the basis for a post. So, thanks for the inspiration, Grant, and I hope I do you proud.

Sometimes in life, for whatever reason, it seems like many doors are closed to us. But to paraphrase a famous saying, when a door is closed, a window is often opened. The trick to being happy and living a fulfilled life, i think, is in finding that window…

I know that Madonna and Michael Jackson both learned Kaballah, and neither one of them is Jewish. I am pretty sure I have seen a book along the lines of Kaballah for Dummies, and while I do not endorse that book (Kaballah, or Jewish mysticism, is quite a deep and profound subject that is best learned from a qualified teacher. It is really only partially understood even by those who have tremendous backgrounds and have spent years studying it, so I can’t even imagine how someone would attempt to distill it for popular consumption. But I digress…), it is certainly possible to get an overview and maybe even learn some of it on your own. I would guess that with the state of the internet being what it is, you could probably find resources to learn just about anything, regardless of your race, religion, hair color, or whatnot… This is one reason that, even with all of the perils of the internet, I am still happy we have it in the house. It puts so much information right at our fingertips- some days I am like a sponge just ready to soak it all up :)

I love that when you talk about horses, you think about Amish people. I also hold up the Amish as the experts on just about everything they do. Luckily, there are some good books about them by people who have studied them, and some good books by former Amish people who can speak authoritatively about all things Amish (just be careful not to read too much into the accounts of disgruntled former Amish or Mennonite folks who have an ax to grind…). If you check for books on major websites, that will give you an idea of what is available and you can then request those books from your local library. Additionally, I find that most farms are owned by folks who are delighted to speak with people who are curious. Even Some Amish people will answer questions from the “English” (meaning all of us non-Amish) if you approach them with respect. Are you by any chance near Kidron? If so, try going into Lehman’s- I’ll bet they could hook you up with some people who would be happy to teach you whatever you want :)

A farmer with no land, you say? Well now you know you are after my heart! As soon as I discovered the joys of gardening, I read about all I could get my hands on that had to do with farming and homesteading. The plan if we ever moved (who knew we would get a job offer so soon? The bureaucrats in Oak Park must have been praying really really hard to get rid of us! hahahahahahaha) was to get some land and to do things right. Secret confession: British *h would love to have an orchard… Anyhow, for several reasons, we ended up moving into a suburb and NOT having land per se. But I kept reading and building up my knowledge base, because you never know what the Grand Plan will be. When some Major Newspaper (might have been the NY Times, but I don’t remember) did a story about front yard gardens, and they commented in passing that I had chickens in Seattle but no front yard garden, because my front yard here is concrete (which is true), I felt like an awful hypocrite. But then I felt motivated. We have a narrow strip in front of our windows that had some flowery bushes. So I put an ad on Freecycle that if someone was willing to come and dig them up, they could have the bushes, which were very pretty if you like flowery bushes, for free. And within a few weeks all of the bushes were gone and I was left with a space to put in two raised beds (which you know I brought with me from Oak Park!) and 3 raised tub things (also from Oak Park)- yay!!!!

This past summer I planted two cherry trees in our backyard. This was my way of deciding that, whether we stay here or not, I am committed to taking positive actions to do what I can to live in concert with my principles. I may not be able to plow up our driveway or get a cow (yet), but I can darn well plant a few trees (and then maybe in another year a few more) and take micro-steps in the direction I think is best. I tend to think in all-or-nothing terms, and it is very easy for me to feel like if I can’t do something “right” then I shouldn’t bother thinking about it. So it’s a big paradigm shift for me to do something piecemeal. But sometimes something is better than nothing. Sometimes it takes thinking about something in a different way. We can’t have an orchard, but we can have two trees. We can’t have a farm, but we can have as many garden beds and planter boxes as I can squish into the space in front of my house.

Oh, and we can have the chickens!

I LOVE my chickens!

Grant also wanted to know how the chickens are doing. The truth is that right now I am down to one chicken. We just came back from being out of town, and high on my priority list is getting a few more, because Lacy is lonely. We had some raccoon attacks (I think I wrote about this on the blog), that left us almost chicken-less. But we are rallying and coming back strong. I had almost convinced *h that we should get a peacock to guard the flock until he read that a peacock’s screams could be heard for up to 4 miles. I thought that was great. *h, not so much. I told him that if we didn’t get a peacock then we would need a donkey (this is Julie logic at work, folks). *h didn’t buy that. I looked into feral cats, but they can be hurt by raccoons too, so that won’t work out. If you have an idea for a perfect guard animal, I am all ears, Until then, we will just need to be more vigilant and hope for the best.

And Grant wants a race car… that’s a tough one. Sometimes the closest we can come to flying is to feel the wind in our hair when our feet are firmly planted on the Earth. The question is whether we focus on our feet or on the wind. I remember when I was in physical therapy long before I learned how to walk again. One of the therapists had me use a machine for my leg muscles where you sat down near the floor and just pushed against a metal plate with your legs. But as fast as you pushed, that determined the speed you could keep going (kind of like how you pump your legs on a swing, I guess). Since I hadn’t been really using my legs effectively, and certainly not doing anything FAST with them, I remember the pure exhilaration of just going faster and faster on this machine and remembering what is was like to run full out… and I was just transported for those few minutes right there in the neuro-rehab unit. The physical therapists were laughing and laughing and they were like, “slow down!” but I was so excited to be MOVING that it was pure joy. For those few minutes I wasn’t someone with no balance and no coordination who couldn’t stand up. I was someone who was moving fast, gathering speed. I was the former gymnast tearing down the mat, getting ready for a tumbling run. It. Was. Awesome.

And I guess that’s how it is with a race car. Sometimes the closest we come is driving our 1985 Ford Fiesta down the highway with the windows down and our favorite song on the radio blasting- and that’s our race. Sometimes we bike down a path with autumn leaves swirling around and smell the breeze and go faster and faster until we are just about to lose control because we are going so fast and this is our race. And sometimes we take our tired aging bodies somewhere that nobody else sees us (like out into Amish country) and we just run flat out even if it’s just for 50 yards because we can (even if we’ll pay for it tomorrow).

Because life is too short to never race, even if you can’t afford the car.

Distance From Cows

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Yesterday I went to my naturopath, who I am crediting in large part to helping me to be feeling better. Now, before you throw up into your mouth about how groovy I’ve become since I moved to Seattle, or how I’ve thrown common sense to the wind and am now just being carried away on a cloud of witch doctory, I will tell you the following: I am still extremely skeptical of anything I hear from anyone. I still research anything I am told, be it from a “western” doctor or from the naturopath.

Recently the pain specialist (a new one, who is more aggressive than the first one, who I am two-timing with the second one. Yeah, I am mercenary like that when my needs are not being met medically, but you kind of have to be…) prescribed me a specially compounded cream to use on my neck. This cream had such high-level pain stuff in it that I literally felt ashamed to be using it. I felt like the DEA would kick down my door at any second, or like I would appear on some list of People Who Use Super Hard-Core Meds. I used it once, twice, three times and it didn’t help. I cautiously used more and it still didn’t help. I gave myself a very firm talking to along the lines of, “Now look here! This is Very Strong Stuff! Of course it is helping! Of course it will work! For some reason, I am not noticing the benefits of it, but it is CLEARLY working, and maybe I just need to work on BELIEVING it is working!” So I worked super hard to put my remaining brain cells toward that task. I was going to believe my way to success with that cream. I was going to get pain relief! The problem was that it really didn’t help me. And then it started to eat my skin off. No joke. I felt like my neck was burning one night, and the next morning I checked in the mirror and an entire section of my neck was totally burned away. Hunh. I guess that was my body’s way of saying enough with the cream. So I stopped using it and a few days later I happened to be at the doctor who prescribed it and I showed her my neck and she was more horrified than I expected (have you ever noticed that it’s really hard to horrify a doctor?) and she told me she had never seen that before and I should stop using it right away and I told her it was fine because it didn’t help anyway…

But the point is that I tried to believe… I wanted a placebo effect. I would have been delighted to trick myself into having something work just because it was supposed to.

Now flash over to the naturopath. I went to her because I was like, “Why not? At least I can say I tried that and it didn’t work and people won’t bug me about it any more…” But she was totally on target about so many of the things she said. She had insights about how things were connected that were so spot on I was electrified by her. She asked me about things that led me to think about them in a different way. She explained things to me so that I could find out more about them. She wasn’t afraid of an educated and informed patient (like so many MDs); in fact, she embraced it!

But I went to her yesterday and she pulled out some blood work and she said my body is having an immune response to cow’s milk and it was like that moment in a move where you hear “SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECCCCCCCCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH”
and I was like, “Oh no… that has to be wrong.”
Yeah. That was my response to a blood test. Very brilliant, huh? I may as well have fallen to the floor and flailed around and kicked my heels up and down and ripped out my hair and threw it around the room- which, quite frankly is what I felt like doing. But I just sat there slack-jawed with no good response except, “Uuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”.

Just to clue you in fully as to why that is so tragic, here is a snapshot of my typical daily diet:

breakfast: coffee (the international foods kind, which isn’t really coffee as much as chemicals + sugar that tastes like delicious creamy vanilla heaven) with milk

lunch: are you kidding?

supper: if I eat, it’s most likely pasta of some sort with cheese of some sort. I also love pizza, although that’s a rare treat. If we have vegetables in the house, I inhale them. Often, I am too nauseous to eat supper, though.

evening: I realize I’m starving because I haven’t eaten all day, so I grab some cheese or a hard-boiled egg, followed by some chocolate or some ice cream.

On the weekend, I have fish once and chicken once. I have lots more salad-type things. So I think that’s when I fill my tank for the week. Mostly I survive on anti-nausea meds. (This is obviously not how my family eats, and not at all an indication of what I cook for them, just in case you are sitting at home right now plotting how to come and rescue my children from this nutritional void…)

So you can see why getting rid of dairy from my diet pretty much cuts my food intake down by about 90-95%. That’s not a good thing, since I’m one of those people who eats based on what sounds good rather than being hungry. So even if I’m starving, if I’m not in the mood for what’s being served, I’ll pass. That poses a big problem for changing my eating habits. But it also poses a big problem for my health.

Because if the one doctor who has been right on target so far- who by all indications I should really trust- is telling me that dairy is causing me problems (not like lactose intolerance, where I can just say okay, so I’ll feel bloated, but real immune system stuff, that I can’t afford to have right now…), then I really need to man up and listen.

So here’s where you come in. I would like you to help me out with some dairy-free main course recipes. Ideally they will be meatless. Extra points if I can make them in a crock pot, and/or if they are not too expensive to make. I am not super-adventurous about hard-to-find ingredients, so if the recipe relies on acquiring a rare north African leaf, or an exotic Vietnamese spice, chances are I’m not going to make it.

What I do like: chocolate.

hahahahahahaha

I just wrote that to throw you off :)

I love soups, so even though those don’t make great main courses, I am always open to good recipes. I think I will need to start using more beans and legumes, so if you are handy with those that’s great. As far as everything else, what are your go-to recipes? What are the things you make again and again because everyone loves them? What are recipes that feed a lot of people or that are easy to double or triple? Right now I am very much craving the creaminess of dairy products (I think that’s because I have ulcers), so do you have any recipes that mimic that? My naturopath suggested I drink coconut cream and I was like, “Are you crazy? That’s like drinking motor oil…” But I think she had the right idea maybe. I have a potato soup recipe where you smash up some of the potatoes and it makes a fake cream of potato soup, so I am thinking there have to be other such recipes out there…

And other than that, I dunno. I will leave it up to you. Maybe this will be a post where some of the people who read this blog but don’t comment will finally come out of the shadows and help me out (hint, hint ;) ).

Wish me luck, and I will try to keep you posted. I don’t expect this to be a smooth transition, and I don’t even know honestly if I can do this; dairy is for sure my drug-of-choice. I guess we’ll all see together, huh? (I say this here to give myself extra incentive to try to be good- let’s see if it works!)

Happy 500th!

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Guess what, friends? This is our 500th post together!

To celebrate it, I wanted to write a really seminal post about something major. I wanted to wait until i had something extraordinary to say, or something profound to express.

On Friday I was cleaning the bathroom, and as i was scrubbing out the toilet (what a great setting to really learn a deep life lesson!) I realized this: we notice so much more readily what is not done than what IS done in life.

Very rarely do people walk into a bathroom and say, “Wow! What a sparkling clean toilet bowl! What a shiny faucet! Someone must have recently bleached out that bathtub too- nice work!” But I know that when people walk into a bathroom that’s nasty it for sure stands out that things have NOT been done.

And it hit me that this is a good allegory for life. What we really notice at the end of the day is what we have NOT done. Very rarely do we regret what we HAVE done (“Gee, I never should have taken that vacation; it’s so much less relaxing than I expected.” or “Hunh. What a waste of time hiking up that mountain; the view just isn’t as pretty as I thought it would be…”). But we often regret missed opportunities. We look back over our lives and the chances we didn’t take are as glaring as a filthy toilet. We say no so often when we should just say yes.

I got a copy of a report that one of my doctors sent to another one of my doctors. In in, she describes me as “grouchy and frustrated”. She notes that I engage in no meaningful activities. When I first read that I got a bit of a jolt. But then I very quickly realized that she was absolutely right. When she met me, I was grouchy and frustrated. I was in a very bad head space, and although I told her that I was feeling lousy, and that this was not typical for me, she really had nothing else to judge me on. So she wrote her honest impressions of the person in front of her. And when I described to her what I was doing on an average day- sleeping, taking pain medication, laying on a heating pad, and staying in bed, I can see absolutely why she thought my life was pretty purposeless. So she wrote that too.

But what was different about my reading of that report from all other times I would have read something like that is this (and it’s a biggie for me): I was totally at peace about it.

For the first time in my life I felt like I didn’t have anything to prove. I didn’t feel like I had to launch a crusade to prove her wrong, or that my life was indeed worthless, or that this was proof that I was actually worthless. I saw it for what it was: a snapshot of a bad day frozen in time. And oh well.

And that was so freeing I can’t even put it into words.

I wish I could share with you some big secret about how I got to this place. I think it’s a combination of age and medication and being broken.

But I feel like I have been broken the way a seed is broken before it sprouts. If you look at a seed under the ground, it looks like it is dying and decaying. It cracks open and bears no resemblance to the neat little package you first put into the soil. As it continues to decompose something wondrous happens. It sprouts a tentative little shoot. And that shoot, if nurtured in the right conditions becomes a strong and hardy plant. That seed is destroyed in order to become something so much more.

And I feel like a seed.

I have been utterly destroyed by my illness. The person I was has been decimated. For so many years I have struggled to piece together a patchwork quilt of who I used to be with who I wanted to be with who I thought I might be and I just failed and failed and failed. I was helpless against a brain that stayed broken.

But now I feel new. I finally feel hope on the horizon that who I can be going forward doesn’t have to be the old me minus something. It can be a new me reinvented. And that feels liberating. It feels like saying yes to life instead of no. It feels like looking at what I can do instead of what I can’t. It’s about the life I have and not the life I don’t.

This is the 500th post on this blog and it is a milestone for me, not because I have anything Earth-shattering to say, but because I am in a good place on this day and in my own skin. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but at least in this moment, I am okay.

And that is worth celebrating.

Truth be told, there is nobody I would rather celebrate it with than you guys :)

Happy 500th!

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