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The Winding Road of Recovery

Happy Sunday Folks

I wanted to pop on and share some hilarious(?) news. It’s been a challenging time with Matt’s recovery hitting snags and also dealing with a horrible project at work. Sometimes you can get (well, I can get) so wrapped up in the stress and the worry that I overlook signs that could relax and ease my mind. Ever have that happen to you?

Well… Ben and I are now entering our 4th Spring in our home. I can’t really believe the time has gone as fast as it has. Every year I eye up the chaotic flower bed in the front of the house and try and rip out the weeds while saving anything that looks potentially like a flower. Usually that means the grass gets calf-high before I rip it out. Whoops.

I identified years ago a large cluster of tulips, a rapidly-spreading bleeding heart, two daylilies, bell-shaped blue flowers, and some recent Asiatic lilies that managed last year to avoid the chew of the neighboring fauna.

and then this year… something new…

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I have little clusters of crocus! This is amazing because in year’s past I’ve seen the odd two-tones leaves sprout up and I’ve left them untouched but they’ve never ever bloomed. This year the same 5 spots sprouted the cluster of leaves but they actually bloomed.:-)

I’m thrilled! It makes me also very afraid to weed anything in the garden ever again!! Ha ha.

It was a chilly and rainy weekend. We managed to get the first mowing of the season done yesterday but today we stayed indoors and let the rain drizzle on down. Alex injured his ankle a few months ago and has been babying it while he rehabs (which isn’t easy for a guy who is always on the run). But this past week he was officially “back” to the machine we all know:

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Who DOES that!?? I think my record was 19,000 steps when we were in LA walking all over for the World Games.

Then in the cold 40s and drizzle, he picked off his first half marathon of the year. Not his best speed but a great sign that he’s recovering well.

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Alex and some of his running pals are getting stoked for their now-annual 50 mile relay in a few weeks. They are ready!

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I’m getting antsy about this upcoming week of work. I’m starting to feel like the stress is getting to be too much for me. Ever work with someone (or more than one person) who makes you feel like you’re doing a terrible job no matter what you’re doing? Someone who robs you of all your confidence and makes you worried and paranoid? That’s me right now. It’s an exhausting place to be. I’m hoping things can calm down in a few weeks and Ben and I can steal a day away for a long weekend somewhere. It would be nice to have a break away.

But for now I’m hanging in there. I have my lunch all prepped and bagged so it should be easy getting out the door tomorrow. Mondays are the worst for getting up and in the office on time so anything I can do to help shave a minute or two is a good thing.😉

Wishing a fantastic week for all that exceeds expectations. May your weeds sprout beautiful flowers too. Tee Hee

 

It’s Been a While

Hi everyone,

I’m sorry it’s been such a blogging hiatus. Have you ever been through a period of time that seems to simultaneously fly by and never move at all? I’ve been fixed in this odd paradox of dread and worry over my brother’s health concerns while trying to manage the back-and-forth visits and being busier than I ever have before at work. Of course, all at the same time. I haven’t been this busy in the office for maybe 2 years. What are the odds? We’ve been managing the long drives and I’ve chewed through my cell phone data plan at an alarming rate trying to keep things afloat in the office with everything that was dumped on me in the last month. And do it all with a smile.:-)

So blogging has, unfortunately, been on hold. It’s hard because anyone who blogs knows that it takes months (sometimes years) to establish a blogging base and community and if you stop providing content you lose all of that effort. But, as Ben so often reminds me, I blog first and foremost because I like doing it for me. With all that, here’s what’s been going on behind the scenes of my little world…

I mentioned before that dealing with the hospital has been nothing short of a nightmare. I couldn’t dream up the things we’ve gone through. It’s horrifying and appalling. We’d hoped after several conversations with some of the dept heads that things would be better once the process got moving but instead we would up with so much more misinformation and a lifetime of ramifications Matt will have to deal with as a result.

Major surgery in the best of conditions terrifying. You pray constantly, try and distract yourself, and “think positive thoughts”. Really, what more can you do? Ben and I took three vacation days to be over with the family for surgery and immediate recovery. We had everything packed up the Monday before surgery and left right after work. It was a five hour drive and with one quick dinner stop we arrived in Minnesota at 9:30 pm. The whole next day was spent waiting. We had Matt’s processing appointment at 10 am and would have to sit and wait until his surgery at 5 pm. That’s a long time to wait in a hospital before anything even begins to happen.

Matt’s surgery was the latest planned surgery of the day so once he was actually wheeled down to the OR we were able to spread out in the family lounge and wait without any other people there. We watched Wheel of Fortune, put together a puzzle, and kept family and friends posted via email.

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We were told to expect a 90 minute surgery and waited and waited and waited. By the time 8 pm went by we were all beyond exhausted and cranky from worry. Finally at 9:30 pm we were able to go and see him. There’s a lot of things I could say but I owe poor Matt a little privacy. He’s really been through the ringer on this. We stayed and stroked his arm and I was able to track down some paper towels to wipe the dried blood that was all over his non IV’ed arm and hand. Matt wasn’t coherent enough to really talk to us so we left at 11:45 pm with the nighttime schedule in place of who would stay at what time.

The next morning Matt was up and more alert but couldn’t really talk. He was very puffy from all the fluid they pumped him with during the surgery to test the kidney functions. I could tell though that although he was in a lot of pain he was really relieved to have the surgery behind him.

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While we were chatting we got word that a huge snowstorm was coming through town. Ben, Alex, and I were going to head back early the next day (I had some “important” meetings come up at work that somehow couldn’t happen without me). We kept a worried eye on the radar and soon realized that we wouldn’t make it home in time unless we went today.

I tearfully said goodbye to Matt and we took off during the beginning of the storm. Our hope was to keep ahead of it enough that the roads wouldn’t be too bad. Meanwhile we received random pictures from Matt of his first meal and I cried for almost the entire first half of the drive because I didn’t want to leave him so soon.

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Poor Ben had to try to keep me distracted and also deal with the increasingly poor visibility and road conditions. We left during rain and then it crossed over into sleet before turning back to snow again. Here’s a picture of a farm field we passed and you can see it looks more like a lake:

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The 5 hour drive took almost 8 hours but we made it back in one piece! Wouldn’t you know it, all those people who had those pressing meetings ended up not even coming into work the next day because of the bad weather. Sigh.

The first couple of days were really long. I was working 10-12 hr days and then coming home and chatting with Mom and Matt about the recovery. There was always some new challenge that we hadn’t been told or made aware of and nights were spent researching, ordering, and helping with whatever we could do from home.

Matt had a major setback the Saturday before Easter and we drove back to be there with him. He stabilized and then we drove back late Easter Sunday. I have zero pictures for about a week and a half because I was just too exhausted to even take a picture of my coffee cup.:-) It happens.

Boy is Matt one brave guy. I so admire how calm and brace he’s been through all of this. It’s incredible and I can’t imagine doing half as well in his shoes.❤ What a fighter.

 

Mom and Matt have been staying in a transplant house a few blocks from the hospital. Some transplant patients are allowed to stay there during their initial hospital recovery and it offers a full kitchen, private bathroom, and a place where the patient and caregiver can stay in a safe and sterile environment. Post-transplant, the immune system is completely suppressed so the new organ is given time to settle in and not be rejected. So it’s critical that the patients be away from anyone with any kind of illness.

Each patient gets a shelf in the fridge so they can complete the strict dietary guidelines required. (Matt & Mom had the top shelf) It didn’t look like some of the folks were doing much cooking at all. lol

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The transplant house is brimming with baked goods that people from the community bring in. I find this so heartwarming that folks would bring in casseroles, lasagnas, and plenty of treats for these people. Most of the food Matt couldn’t eat but Mom said it was a morale booster to know that strangers were thinking of them during a really difficult time.

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Matt’s 31st birthday fell in the middle of the week and unfortunately we weren’t there with him. We attempted some Skype video chats with Matt/Mom and Alex/Dad so we could sing happy birthday and watch him open his presents.

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The biggest excitement so far is that Matt’s neck IV was finally able to be removed. Matt said it was horribly uncomfortable taped all around his neck and side of his face, plus the old tubes that were no longer in use were smelly (eww). And, of course, showering was a challenge when you can’t get any of it wet!

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I don’t think I realized just how big that needle was until I saw it removed! Yikes. Yes, Matt was ecstatic the day they removed that!

We’re now coming up on 4 weeks post surgery. The water retention is now gone (Matt gained 9 pounds during surgery – all fluids!!) but we’re in that tricky stage of trying to get the right combo of meds. You wouldn’t believe how many he has to take.

Each day I pray for quick healing and less negative side effects. I think most people assume once you get a new organ you are “fixed” or something but his previous issues combined with the new medication cocktails are going to be a lifelong worry. He caught one of those nasty bacterial infections in the hospital and we’re focusing on fighting that now. Don’t get me started on that subject!

But though the days and weeks have felt long and exhausting for me I know they’ve been much worse for Mom and Matt. Mom’s been with Matt every minute since the transplant and has been doing all the caregiving these past weeks so she’s seen and has had to deal with all of the things that have happened up close as well as be the moral support Matt’s needed.

We’re getting through, one day at a time. I think we could all use a vacation and some relaxation time though! It’s been pretty stressful and I’ve been feeling light chest pains on especially difficult days. Not great but just means I need to find a way to breathe more through this process.

So that’s what’s been going on around these parts. We got another little snowstorm on Friday and I think all the birds and flowers are confused about it. All of last week was overcast and gloomy and I think a lot of people are feeling the effects of Spring not being here yet. I could use some warmer weather and clear streets – a short walk during the lunch hour at work would really do me some good – but it looks like we may have one more week to go.

Thanks for sticking around. It’s been a heck of a month but we’ll get through!

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Welcome Distractions

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I still haven’t fully adjusted to the daylight savings time change – it’s tough getting old and missing out on that precious hour of sleep.😉 It’s been looking sunny outside but it’s windy and in the 40s so there isn’t much we can do. I’m waiting for the ground to soften up a little more before starting to tackle any projects.

We got up this morning and were welcomed by a thick layer of frost. It was really beautiful twinkling in the morning sunrise…

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This past week has been filled with lots of random and putzy things – basically anything to offer a little amusement and distraction at home. We’ve rented movies, I’ve cleaned all the bathrooms (twice!), and I’ve even started three baby blankets for expecting friends.

The start of blanket #1:

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We’re on the clock waiting to find out when my brother is going to get his new kidney. It’s a process I wouldn’t wish on anyone but I’m thankful Matt has a loving family to get him through this. We’ve got all the “plans” set, our bags are packed, and I’m working extra hours both nights and weekends to get ahead so I won’t be behind when we’re at the hospital.

Ben’s been a rock – and doing little things to keep me upbeat and from going insane with worry. He’s been leaving random sweet pictures for me on my phone:

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And sending me funny screen shots from his latest video game:

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(you don’t see Alison spelled correctly much anymore!!)

All in all, we’re doing as well as anyone could in this type of situation. I’m praying continuously and am doing my best to stay positive. I had been spending some free time working on those blankets and watching an older TV series on netflix – but had to stop because one of the main characters is in renal failure and needs a new kidney. What are the odds? A little too close to home on that one – I’ll save the rest of the series for later!:-)

We’ve been trying to cut back on dining out but we went for nachos and margaritas this weekend and it was just delicious. I’ve been on a major nacho kick lately. Maybe I just miss Mexico. Ha Ha I’m still in the hunt for that perfect work-from-the-beach job.

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So I’m still struggling with finding time/energy/etc to do more frequent posts. I feel bad blogging so little but our days are so repetitive and boring right now. Plus, with all that’s going on it’s just a lot of stress that I don’t really like writing about. My fervent hope is that this all gets done SOON and goes AMAZINGLY WELL so things can go back to some sort of order.

In the meantime, I’m taking deep  breaths and sending my best to all of you. Have a wonderful week – start it out strong and make it a week to be proud of!❤

Watching the Snow Melt

Ok, has Daylight Savings Time messed anyone up this morning besides me? I made the mistake of sleeping in Sunday morning so I didn’t force myself to get up and begin adjusting. It is also pitch black out. I’m sort of over driving to work in the dark. But each day the days get longer, right?

It’s been a speedy transition to Spring around here and I love it. It’s so hard when the days get longer and you want to be out enjoying the light but it’s still cold or too sloppy to do much.

Just three weeks ago we had this going on in the yard:

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It’s strange but we never knew there were deer anywhere around here until last Winter. They then disappeared all Spring / Summer / Fall… and came back again this Winter.

Last week almost all of the snow was gone in our yard. It’s super-duper soggy so we weren’t walking on it and I was itching to get around to check on the garden and see if the rabbits gnawed away at my plants.

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I was hanging on excitedly about Spring. I used to love Fall more than any other season but in the last few years it’s been harder and harder for me to handle impending Winter and I feel a huge weight lift off when Spring is close. Maybe that needs to be my new favorite season?

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Then on Saturday we had the most glorious day ever – and on a weekend to boot! It was in the mid-60s and we were out hanging clothes on the line:

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And Ben tackled a bunch of projects in the garage. Everything is looking OK in the yard – except for all the evil shrubs that look terrible. There are so many to remove and each quote we’ve gotten has been incredibly pricey. If our backs were better we’d take them on ourselves. I think maybe we’ll try one on our own and see how that goes…

My front flower bed is looking a little worse for where from last year’s chipmunk burrowing underneath:

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It’s hard to tell from the picture but there’s a huge pile of dirt in the middle now. I also need to figure out the best way to weed some of these flowers out. There’s just too many. I’m thinking the daylilies should vacate in favor of something smaller.

Oh and this lovely hole keeps coming back:

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I dread what kind of damage is being done underneath where I can’t see. We need to get rid of these guys ASAP.

But there’s all kinds of fun flowers sprouting up. I love this time of year so much! Hopefully we won’t have a bunch of rabbits getting in the way so my stuff can bloom. It still seems like they attack so much that I haven’t seen everything bloom yet – some flowers I still haven’t been able to identify!

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All cleaned up! Ideally we want to make this bed bigger and then cover with a nice layer of mulch so it is less muddy when it rains out.

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Ben and I had a wonderful walk Saturday night and made the 2.5mi loop around our house. I’m pleased to say my leg and knee held up really well and I did the entire thing without any pain! I’m hoping that’s all a thing of the past now so I can enjoy more activity this coming year.

Excited for some blooms soon!!

Spring is Just Around the Corner

Hello beautiful sunrises…

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My mom just sent this picture over to me today. It’s from her front living room window this morning. How spectacular is that!?

Can we raise a glass and toast the groundhog following through on his promise of an early spring!?

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We had a few inches of snow to start the weekend but today it was almost 50 degrees and we’re back to seeing ample grass in the backyard. The forecast has a few days in the 50’s and one even supposed to hit 60 (with rain). If that doesn’t give Spring a nice boost, I don’t know what will! I’m really looking forward to lunchtime walks and taking advantage of the increasingly long days. Once I start to notice the days getting longer, I feel a little more stir-crazy when it’s too cold to get out and do much with it. But, I’m excited at the thought that we’ll soon be seeing Spring flowers popping up. Hurray!

My mom saw a fun new special at our local specialty market in town. We have a small little store that offers organic, transitional, and grass-fed meat options along with a host of other healthier foods. They were offering a “date night” 4-course meal that you pick up and then just heat-and-serve when ready. We thought it might be fun to shake up the cooking around the house.

Mom put in 3 “date” orders so the whole family could partake and then enjoy little tastings of some of the courses that were larger. I love having more options to sample!

we got to select our foods from a fun listing of menu options. For our first course, we selected French onion soup:

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It was a departure for both of us but we decided to give it a try. The broth was really rich and flavorful but neither of us are a fan of large cooked onions and this soup was packed with them.

Our next course was the salad course where we had the blue cheese wedge salad:

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They served it with some amazingly tasty thick bacon and a nice sampling of tomatoes. It was a fun choice but I think this maybe could have been better with a spring mix salad instead of a large chunk of iceberg.

Our third course was a citrus pecan sweet potato – served in an actual orange rind!

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This was absolutely delicious. I thought the presentation was adorable and the combo of crunchy pecans, feta and orange combined with creamy sweet potatoes was out of this world! (bottom left of picture: sampling rosemary garlic fingerling potatoes – delicious too)

We were worried about not having a main course. The store recommended making your own main dish entree but honestly with the other courses we didn’t need any more to eat. It’s not often we eat like this! Oh, and there still was dessert.:-)

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Half the family chose red velvet cupcakes with a cream cheese buttercream frosting while I went with this decadent cream puff with a 5-star custard center and a rich chocolate ganache on top. I need to hope they don’t serve those at the store often because that could be dangerous!!! Wow, just amazing.

I thought the whole dinner idea was so much fun. It’s nice to mix it up and it felt more like restaurant food than your usual take-out. I’ve been a little preoccupied reading about whey and trying to figure out good food substitutes. There are a LOT of other choices, don’t get me wrong, but it takes time to sort out the best taste, best ingredients, best value, etc… I think it will be a work in progress for a long time. I’m not planning on totally eliminating whey from my diet but I am committing to some severe reduction. It was probably a good and healthy thing to do anyway.

Meanwhile I have my final load of laundry tumbling in the dryer and the crockpot all ready to plug in tomorrow morning. We’re trying out a new recipe for an enchilada soup. If it’s tasty, I’ll be sharing!

Good night all:)

 

 

No Whey? No Way!

Hellooooooooooo middle of the week! Is this week cruising for anyone else besides me? We had a mini snowstorm that’s all but disappeared now and you can still see large spots of grass in the yard. Springtime; I hear it coming!

I’ve been not-so-anxiously and yet uber-anxiously waiting for the results of my food sensitivity test. It doesn’t measure allergies but rather foods that can cause sensitivity/pain. I’ve been noticing more and more that I’ll get terrible stomach pain after eating but I haven’t been able to trace it back to a definitive food (or foods).

When my co-worker talked to me about how much better he felt once he took the test and eliminated the foods he was most sensitive to, I thought it was worth some investigation. I’ve been nervous that all of my favorite foods will light up and I’ll be left biting on kale and spinach leaves!

So – my results are in and I am sharing the entire document so you can see what it looks like. The test breaks down each tested food into red (avoid), yellow (moderate), and blue (low) buckets. They say a good starting point is to tackle the reds (most sensitive foods) first and then see how that goes rather than removing every high and medium item on the list and becoming frustrated with all the restrictions. For people with few reds, they then suggest tackling the moderate allergens next.

Here’s how I “scored”:

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It’s not the easiest to read but, surprisingly, I only had two items come back as red and then just a handful of yellow items.

Highest sensitivities: Whey and Candida

Moderate sensitivities: Cow’s milk, sardines (what a shame, ha!), peanuts, pineapples, and kidney beans

It’s a pretty short list, so I am also taking a little notice of “low” items that are borderline in the “low” section – which would then include green beans and pumpkin.

Here’s a better look at the ranges and my particular scores. You can see my Whey score is 1046 – putting me way into the “Avoid” column. Yet, interestingly, cow’s milk (which does contain whey obviously, is on the lower side of the “moderate” range.057

So the biggest issues are obviously the Whey and the Candida. Whey is in just about every dairy product but you can see that when separated from the curd, I’m OK with all of the tested cheeses.

I’m temporarily frustrated because all my go-to, easy to whip together work breakfasts and lunches are either: yogurt (whey), protein shakes (whey powder), or protein bars (whey powder)… It’s a lot of whey and maybe that’s why my body is reacting to it and screaming for me to introduce some nutrient diversity. So I’ll need to scratch my head on this one and do some research for easy to pack meals.

Candida wasn’t surprising to me; I was a silly kid who adored eating raw yeast bread dough. Weird, I know – but that was me! It’s extremely hard to get that out of your system. I remember…maybe 5 years ago I tried a yeast cleanse. (*Warning, graphic story to follow*) I wasn’t knowledgeable and just took the pills as the box indicated. One day in the middle of the night I woke up and couldn’t breath. Something was restricting my airways almost like a hand choking your throat. I was in my apartment all alone and waking so abruptly like that was absolutely terrifying. I remember grabbing at my throat thinking something was there and stumbling to the bathroom. I turned on the light, opened my mouth, and saw these huge white deposits on the sides of my mouth – blocking my airway. Now all of this was probably 20 seconds or so but when you are less than coherent, scared, and panicking, I thought I was going to die and didn’t know what to do. This sounds horrifying (and was) but I spotted my nail clippers, pulled out the nail file, and used that to aggressively jab the deposits on my throat. It was just as bad as it sounds and after gargling with a little salt water I curled up on the bathroom floor shaky and too scared to go back to bed. The next morning I went into the Dr – who ran a strep test on my tender and ripped up tonsils (OUCH). The test came back negative but she was POSITIVE that was the issue and gave me an antibiotic prescription. Bad idea.

It wasn’t until a few months later casually talking to my massage therapist when she gave me a questioning look and explained that one of the ways candida exits the body is through the tonsils and it was the cleanse “doing it’s thing” aggressively. I had stopped the cleanse immediately upon starting the course of antibiotics and in my fragile cleansing state just flooded my body with crap instead of letting the rest of it work it’s way out. But hey, I am not sure I can go through another one of those cleanses again!! This lady likes to breathe.:-)

Overall, I think my  test results looked pretty good. I was worried about a huge list of foods to avoid but this seems manageable once I get a new groove worked out. I know how bad dairy is anyway (but it’s so delicious!) and maybe this is just another push to get me to remove it from the diet.

It’s fascinating to learn more about this though and I’m glad for the new information so I can work on tweaking the daily diet. Hopefully this was interesting to you!

Massages and Stew

Ben surprised me with a late Valentine’s day trip to the spa. We had a fun little evening together that started with a rose petal foot soak with fizzy salts and a mango-butter foot rub which we got to enjoy while sipping moscato and eating a couple pieces of chocolate. After that we had a 60 minute couples massage. I love it when they use amazing smelling products and she used another face moisturizer that smelled terrific… I may need to get some! I try not to order anything liquid during the winter months so it won’t arrive at my doorstep and turn into a solid brick while I’m away at work. Anyone else have that problem?

As we were leaving I noticed they have a whole section of “stress” products. Maybe those would be worth a try… do you think they actually work? Sometimes I wonder if they just pop a trigger word on a box to make you buy it when it’s no different from any of the other products.

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We need to win the lottery so I can enjoy a spa day every week. How amazing would that be!!!!:-)

With a few days home this week and a few more away at the hospital, we’ve been trying to keep home meals healthy despite being short on time. Ben helped me make a large pot of beef stew that we’ve been enjoying. I’ll say it again; I love my crockpot. It feels like you can’t do anything wrong with one. Just dump veggies and broth in along with meat and you’re good to go.

My charming potato-cutter:

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veggies…

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I tackled the meat. Just a little cutting and tossing in a flour/salt/pepper mixture before lightly browning:

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And after a day of slow cooking, our house smelled amazing and we were set for several meals.

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We’re settling in for a nice weekend.I’m glad this week is over! I am totally sleeping in tomorrow. Maybe until noon. Ha Ha Ha😉

Have a wonderful day everyone!!!

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