Sunday, December 30, 2012

I am not a morning person

I am dumb as a stump for about two hours after I wake up.  Coffee makes me more alert, but not smart.  For example, this morning I had already made and started drinking coffee, and yet I *almost* drank egg beaters out of the measuring cup I had poured it into.  As such, I do quite a bit the night before to try to make sure that I don't have the opportunity to make stupid mistakes in the morning.

The night before, I:
1) Lay out clothing.  This will not prevent me from putting on my shirt inside out or my pants on backward.  No, I'm not kidding.
2) Put out coffee K-cups to make first thing.
3) Lay out a can of catfood, two bowls, and a spoon.
4) Leave myself notes and hope that I read and comprehend them.
5) Put together as much of my lunch as I can.
6) Put anything that needs to go to work into my lunch box.  If it is only lunchbox-adjacent, there is a very good chance that it isn't leaving the house.

I make up my morning vitamins two weeks in advance so I just pop open that day's vitamins.

If things that need to go with me will fit in a grocery bag, I can try hanging them from the front doorknob.  Sometimes that will work.

I try to leave some things until after I have had a while to get up to speed, such as

1) Putting on shoes.  (I have shown up at work wearing one hiking boot and one running shoe before.)
2) Brushing teeth.  (So I don't brush my teeth with something that comes out of a tube but isn't toothpaste.)
3) Answering email.  Or Facebooking.  Either one may end up with completely random output if done before I'm really awake.
4) Talking to people, including my husband.  See 3).

Once I get up to speed I am intensely aggravated at all the stupid things I did in the morning.  As far as I know, there is nothing to be done for it but try to make my morning as pre-prepared as possible.  It gives me sympathy for people who are stupid all the time.  It's not like it's their fault.  Just like it's not my fault that I'm completely incompetent for two hours every day.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Links to all the gluten free products I prefer

It's been four months since I went on a gluten free, cow dairy free diet.  I specify cow dairy because I can eat goat and sheep cheese just fine.  I know that some people go gluten free because it's trendy, or because they think they'll lose weight.  I did it because I was sick as hell, and nothing had worked to make me better.  The doc tested me for celiac disease, which caused me to go read up on celiac disease.  And that's when I found out that even if you don't have celiac disease (or do have it but test negative) you can still have a bad reaction to gluten.  So I girded my wallet and tried it.

I felt better, but not 100%, so on a hunch I stopped having milk or cow cheese.  And then I felt nearly 100% better.  Except when I screwed up and ate something containing gluten or cow milk.  Which really reinforced the fact that those two things were causing me trouble.

My initial symptoms were primarily gut pain (at times so intense that I thought perhaps an ER visit was in order) and pretty amazing bloating.  Like, several months pregnant level bloating.  I had to stop wearing most of my pants because during the day I'd swell up so much that not only did the pants not fit anymore, but there was a five inch gap at the top of the zipper.  The bloating was uncomfortable, as you might imagine.

The gastroenterologist I was sent to was completely effing useless.  After his tests (including upper endoscopy) failed to reveal anything at all, he just looked at me and said there was nothing he could do.  "I can't treat pain", he said.   I said that I had tried cutting out gluten and that I felt much better as long as I avoided it.  And he told me not to avoid gluten!  The fact that it appeared to be the source of my pain was beside the point.  The tests had shown no gluten problems, so I had no gluten problems.  He said, quoted to the best of my memory, "It's very difficult to avoid all gluten in your diet.  You probably shouldn't do that."

I don't care if there are toothy alien heads protruding from beneath my sternum, I will not be going back to that doctor.

Four months is not a long time to heal an overstressed gut, IMHO.  I feel much better, but I don't think I'm all the way better.  I did try eating a roll a few weeks ago, to see what would happen.  I was fine.  So a week later I ate another roll - and this time I felt bad.  So it would appear that at this point I can tolerate a small amount of gluten, very infrequently.  I hope that in the future I can tolerate more, but I'm not counting on it.

I'd heard of gluten intolerance prior to getting sick, of course.  It was always one of those "oh please no, not me" sort of conditions.  I ranked it right up there with cancer.  Fortunately, I don't have cancer (as far as I know) but I do have a gluten intolerance.  I think I'm dealing with it reasonably well.  I've found several good substitutions for every-day items in my diet.  Poor JD, who previously had to deal with my fat intolerance and occasional dairy intolerance, has dealt admirably with cooking for my new gluten intolerance.

I'm going to list some of the things I've found that I really like, just in case you have gluten (and/or dairy) intolerance and could use some tips.  Keep in mind that it's only been 4 months so I'm not up on gluten information like somebody with lifetime celiac disease would be.  But so far these things have been making my life better.

Almond Breeze original unsweetened almond milk - so much tastier than soy or rice milk.  Also I see that they have an almond coconut version and I'm thinking thai chicken coconut soup.  Mmmm.

Feel Good Foods has several delicious varieties of dumplings and egg rolls for when I get a dim sum craving.  Not the same as going out for dim sum (no pork buns!) but still pretty dang good.  They're frozen so you can buy them and stash them in the freezer until you get the craving.

Against the Grain Gourmet sells utterly amazing rolls that are an improvement on wheat rolls.  JD wanted one of my gluten free rolls for Thanksgiving rather than a crusty french roll.  That's how good they are.

Schar gluten free pizza crusts - not as good as going out for a good brick oven pizza, but as good as most frozen pizzas in a box.  You have to provide the toppings.  Which works for me, because of my dairy issue.  I've been using Manchego cheese, made from sheep's milk, instead of cow cheese.  That includes on pizza, sandwiches, and omelets.  And plain as a snack.  Schar also makes a variety of pretty good cookies.

San-j gluten free tamari  - regular soy sauce has wheat in it!  Who knew?  So I started using this wheat free tamari sauce.  There are gluten free soy sauces out there as well.  You have to read the label.  But this means we can cook asian food at home, and I got some little packets to take to restaurants with me.  Sushi is tricky, btw.  The dressing on the salad is suspect.  The miso soup is suspect.  The freaking fake crab in the California rolls is full of wheat.  Plain fish is safe.  Anything marinated (including my favorite gourd strip rolls) is not.  The fish eggs aren't safe - some have soy in them.  The eel isn't safe because of the sauce.  Basically I can have tuna and cucumber rolls.  Don't even think about anything with a tempura coating.

Rice noodles are a safe replacement for wheat pasta, and I like how they taste.

Kinnikinnick gluten free donuts are not a replacement for a glazed yeast donut, but they keep me from feeling sad on donut day at work.  If cake donuts are your favorite, they're fine.

I have yet to find a variety of Nut Thins crackers that I don't like.

Popchips are safe to eat and lower calorie, which is a nice bonus.  Plus I like the taste.  They're expensive in single servings so last time JD bought a big bag and repackaged them into single servings in sandwich size zipper bags.  Mmm.

I'm sorry that I have to tell you that Dr. Lucy's Chocolate Chip Cookies are really, really good, because you might develop an addiction to them the way I have.  I have to keep them on a shelf way up high and out of my line of sight.  They're that good.  I haven't tried any of the other varieties of cookies.  I'm scared.

Glutino makes a variety of gluten free products, of which by far the best are the pretzel sticks.  Although to be fair I haven't tried everything else they make.  But the pretzel sticks are excellent.

Van's gluten free waffles are pretty good toaster waffles.  They're sort of Eggo-y.  I haven't tried all the flavors.

Udi's white sandwich bread is sort of like french bread, but in sandwich form.  I.e. I love it.  I've always preferred french bread to sandwich bread, so this is the perfect amalgamation.

There are several restaurants that are gluten-free friendly.  Either they have a separate gluten free menu, or they note the gluten free items on the menu.  Some of the ones I enjoy are P.F. Chang's,
Outback Steakhouse, Silver Diner, and Chipotle.  Also I was amazed and pleased to see that my cafeteria at work has started labeling some of their offerings as gluten free.  I have sent them a couple of comments and they have been very responsive.

There are a couple of cuisines which work pretty well for me.  I can safely buy a variety of Indian and Thai frozen dinners which by nature have no gluten ingredients.  Papadums are often gluten free.  Mexican food may or may not be safe, depending on where you get it.  Taco Bell has virtually nothing gluten free on the menu.  But if the restaurant's main starches are corn, rice, and beans, I'm golden. 

Beer is pretty much out, but there are a few alternatives.  Anheuser-Busch makes Redbridge Beer, which so far is the most beery tasting gluten free beer I've tried.  Most of the other gluten free beers are brewed with rice and sorghum, and they end up with a bit of a sour flavor to them.  It's not horrible, but it doesn't keep me coming back for more.  However new gluten free beers are being brewed all the time, and I intend to keep trying them.  :)  Wine is fine, as is hard cider.  Gluten intolerance has not kept me from being a lush.  It hasn't even kept me from having beer with my crab in summer.  It has, however, interfered with my enjoyment of sig-beer.  I miss having a good porter with my pals.

Of course, there are plenty of foods that don't have gluten in them, even though it seems like it's in everything sometimes.  Fruit, plain meats, plain vegetables, corn, oats (for me - some celiacs have issues), lentils, rice, potato, quinoa, beans, chocolate, cheeses.. there's a whole lot of gluten free food out there.  It's just that things get mixed together, and then they're not gluten free anymore.  Sadly for me.  Even corn cereal (like Corn Chex) or rice cereal (like Rice Krispies) are not necessarily gluten free.  I'm reading labels very intently these days.

I really hope that you don't have to deal with this issue, but if you do then I hope my links above are helpful.  Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

From James Brady to hermit crabs

I have never wanted to be a celebrity.  I suspect this places me in the minority.  But being a celebrity just seems awful.  You can't go to the grocery store without somebody inspecting your cart or disparaging your panty line.  I first realized this when I was a little girl, and somehow had ended up working at a parade in Washington DC.  I'm not sure why it seemed like a good idea to have little girls volunteering to seat members of the public.  Like we had any clue what was going on, and would be able to tell anyone else?  Or would have any authority when said members of the public didn't want to sit where we told them to sit?

That wasn't my point, actually, that was a tangent.

Anyway, it rained at the parade.  We all got thoroughly soaked.  And somebody saw us all bedraggled and sad and cold and decided to invite us into the VIP tent to warm up.  There weren't any VIPs in it, yet.  And Red Cross or some other helpful organization had blankets, so they wrapped us up and we were quite a bit less miserable.  And then James Brady rolled into the tent. 

James Brady had been shot, of course.  I mean, not right then.  Before the parade.  WELL before the parade.  He was in a wheelchair.  And the press followed him in.  He looked harassed.  They were asking him pointless questions, just to make him stumble over words, as they knew he would.  And he slurred out something for them.  To make them go away, I assume, because he didn't look like he enjoyed being on national television with his wheelchair and his brain injury.

Note that since I was standing behind him, this was my one flirtation with national tv.  Wet rat wearing a wool blanket.  No idea why nobody has called my agent yet.

So that was my early experience with celebrity.  Perhaps if my early experience had involved some sort of pampering and adulation rather than sodden misery and embarrassment for the disabled guy sitting next to me, I would think it was fantastic.  But it didn't.  And although intellectually I understand that some people want everybody to look at them, I have a very hard time understanding it emotionally.

Now, I wouldn't mind being somebody so awesome that people thought I should be a celebrity.  On account of my new era moon landing, perhaps.  Or my humanitarian efforts, which had ended world hunger, overpopulation, and religious differences.  But I wouldn't want to actually BE a celebrity.  I value anonymity.  At least in a large community context.  I don't mind being in a small community and having everybody know me, and knowing everybody.  I like knowing that people know exactly who I am, that what you see is what you get.  This is me.  I don't put on airs, I don't suffer fools gladly, and I try to be nice to my fellow man.  Also I don't wear makeup, and that right there means I'll never be on anybody's tv screen.

The idea of my anonymity so engrained in me that I am constantly surprised that people remember me.  "Yes, Amy, I've known you for fifteen years."  Oh.. gosh.. I didn't think you had noticed me.

I realize that having people remember you after you've been around for fifteen years is completely unlike being a celebrity.  But in my mind somehow they're connected.  Maybe I would make a good hermit.  I mean, I'm crabby sometimes..

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pervy dog brings our clothes out of the closet.

I just can't hide it anymore. The Schnork has a problem.  She's a perv.

At first she was rummaging in the laundry for my underwear.  Mortified, I brought in a tall laundry bin with a lid and started putting my underthings in it.  Because I'm not comfortable with anybody licking my underwear, that's why.  But apparently it wasn't about me.  Because the Schnork started finding JD's boxer shorts.

And so now I regularly wake up with a pair of my husband's boxer shorts on the sheepskin next to my side of the bed, and not because we've been doing the nasty.  No, the Schnork has been getting nasty.  I can't imagine what the attraction is of a used pair of underwear, but apparently it's obvious to the Schnork.  Sometimes I hear her rummaging around in the laundry, and I sleepily remonstrate.  "Schnork!  You stop that!"  And then she pauses until I fall back asleep.

As far as I can tell, she isn't destroying our underwear.  She's just... licking it.  Lovingly.

I haven't had a dog with this particular perversion before.  I have no idea what to do.  I mean, how do you shame a pervert?  She doesn't care.  She has no shame.  This is the same dog who schnorks at me until I pick her up and stroke her naked belly until she falls asleep and starts shnoring on my chest.  I have nothing to work with. 

Have I mentioned recently how good the Schnork is making Beauty look?  Beauty is a saint.  All she wants is the occasional sweet potato treat and to get scritched behind her ears at bedtime.  The Schnork finally trained us not to make her go outside, which means she excretes indoors at all times.  And she only mostly hits the wee pad.  Sometimes she is only wee pad adjacent.  You know what's fun?  Trying to pick up a wee pad so that the wet parts on the underneath don't drip.  We need to buy stock in the pee-destroying enzyme company.

Do you have  a pervy dog?  More importantly, do you have a previously pervy dog?  What did you do about it?  Did it involve cayenne peppers?  We have questions.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In which my friends annoy me into making a decision

Apparently, I need to see some more doctors.  My loving, helpful, but annoying friends have been harping at me about stopping riding.  (Because I keep being generally miserable about it.)  "Just have spinal surgery" they say.  "I had three and I ride just fine."  I was feeling kind of bad, and kind of sad, and kind of mad.  Because what the hell do they know?  Have they been to the neurosurgeon with me?  Have they gasped in agonizing pain when the back stabs?  Have they suffered through hours of torture in the car because the back can't handle bumpy roads anymore?

But then I googled facet arthrosis surgery.  And also some other things.  Did you know they can pretty much replace a joint in your back?  Not stab it with iron bars so it never moves again, but actually replace it with something else that moves very much like a normal spine?  I watched videos of spines with hardware in them, bending all around.  And I thought about how nice it would be to have a functional back again.  And to be able to ride my horse.

Going by the video, they shave off the ends of your vertebrae and put new fake ends on.  And do something or other to the disk.  Trim it, or replace it, depending.  And they put some kind of miracle joint off to the side.

My mom's recovery from spinal surgery was fairly horrifying, so I'm not fooling myself that I would have a quick and/or easy recovery.  But if I got another, say, ten years of reasonably normal use, would that be worth a couple weeks of agony?  Maybe yes.  I mean, I got ten years of normal vision out of Lasik and that was worth it.  Plus in 10 years Pluto would be 23 and started to get slower.

I don't particularly want to go to the neurosurgeon all the way out in Annapolis, though.  It's not like there aren't doctors hiding in every crevice of Greenbelt.  I'd like to find somebody closer to home.  Especially as it seems likely that neurosurgical consulting is going to be a repeat thing for me.

First, though, I have a new patient appointment next week with a regular doc.  I actually like my old doc, but her office staff is horrendous.  Just to get test results I'd often have to call several times and finally drive over and stand in their office until they gave me the paper.  And they completely failed to get me authorizations for medical testing this year.  I finally paid out of pocket because I didn't have any more time or patience to screw around.  This doctor was recommended by a good friend, and she also vouched for the office staff.

I have made a list of my medications, and my various bizarre ailments (think zebras, doc.)  So I figure I'll go in there, smile, bombard him with all my weird health problems, show him my xrays, and ask for a referral to a neurosurgeon.  Piece of cake, right?

If this works out, and I do find a doc who can and will fix my back, and I endure PT and get better and can ride again, I'll have my friends to thank.  Thanks for being a pain, guys!  It was helpful.  Eventually.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dietary experimentation

I have big news.  Big, big news.

I ate a roll.

You probably expected something more grandiose, like "I got a new job!" or "Andy contracted fatal acne".  But to me it's big.  I've been living gluten free, with a few accidental exceptions, for four months.  I wasn't sure if this was going to be a lifetime change, or if a few months off might heal me up enough to be able to handle it again. 

When I went hiking with DeLee a couple of weeks ago, I accidentally ate beef jerky which had been marinated in soy sauce.  I stopped as soon as I realized what I had done, then waited.  And no pain.  So this past Monday, I bought a wheat roll to eat with my lunch.

Man, that was a good roll.

I waited nervously all afternoon for the stab of massive pain.  And it never showed up.

So, that was nice.

I'm planning another experiment next week.  Perhaps soy sauce.  I'm not jumping back into the world of gluten too vigorously, because it hurt too much for that.  But it would be nice to be able to be less careful than I am right now.

Beer.  Right there, beer, is a thing it would be nice to be less careful with.  Some of the gluten free beers aren't awful, but none of them are fantastic.  And you know I like me the fancy beers.  It's porter time of year.  You really need a good porter when you make chili.  It brings out the deliciousness.  (I mean, you put the beer in the chili when it's cooking.  But drinking it is also nice.)

Am seriously hoping to be able to report in another week or so that I ate another gluten thing and I still felt fine. 

Oh, gluten.  I hardly knew ye.  And I'd like to get back in touch.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Starting the long, hard, boring search for a new vehicle

My car, Eddy, will be ten years old next month.  I just spent lots and lots of money getting his 90,000 mile tuneup on the theory that I would have him several more years.  But small problems are creeping up.  The "multifunction switch", i.e. the stick on the steering wheel that controls the various lights, started malfunctioning this weekend.  The dents where he got shot are growing larger and ever more rusty.  The seatbelt doesn't retract like it used to.  The driver's seat wore through to metal several years ago.  Also I am reminded that maybe he has started going through oil, and I need to check the level now.

Basically I need to start thinking about a new vehicle, because at some point Eddy will either to be too expensive to maintain, or too annoying to continue driving.  Or both.

I would buy an identical replacement, except of course they quit making them.

It's hard for me to shop for a new car because there are so many of them, and none of the sites have an option for "not awful", "comfortable", or "good for back pain".  Also "cheap to have work done".  I used to have a requirement that I be able to transport a ladder in it, but now I can use JD's truck so it doesn't really matter.  My car seldom gets used to ship large object anymore.

Do they have an option for "doesn't make my dog carsick"?