Blank

imgres

Cell phone technology has rendered us blank.

For all the convenience and efficiency that our smartphones promise, they are quickly stripping away all the nuances that make us human.

Look around you when you go to the store. How many people do you hear talking on the phone? Years ago, you had to wait to get that phone call…on your answering machine. Now, people can track you down anytime. Anywhere. And many people pick up that call because they just can’t live without having that phone in their hand.

In a restaurant or at a family gathering, how many people are actually without their phones and are engaged in face to face conversations?

In the car, it’s easy to spot someone on their phone. They’re either holding it directly to their ear or they are looking at their crotch.

Children are given cell phones by their parents to keep them entertained in restaurants or in line at an activity. What has happened to actually teaching your child to wait? Sadly, people jokingly post photos all the time of their children and family members sitting in a room, each with a phone in their hands, and not uttering one word to each other.

Fill all that blank space with real human connections.

It’s the only way to make us smarter.

 

 

Generosity

generosity

Dedicated to my family

I’ve been noticing little glimmers of love and generosity since Lyme has become my best friend and worst enemy. It’s hard to keep a positive outlook at times when you notice new symptoms cropping up, a reminder of how clever and persistent Lyme disease can be. But finding generosity in my life is one of the ways I use to keep myself from going down that dark rabbit hole and never coming back up to feel the sun.

I recently received free samples of soap from two different companies. One is Dr. Bronner’s, and the other is a local company here in Connecticut called Soap What. I had sent out emails asking for coupons so I could try their products, and they quickly responded to me with free samples! I’ve been keeping a loose “soap study” on the different soaps to see how my body reacts. So far, the peppermint Dr. Bronner’s leaves me feeling tingly, but the mild baby one, their shaving soap, and the lavender bar seem to agree with me. I put the bar of Citrus and Herb from Soap What in my bathroom. It smells really nice and doesn’t seem to bother my hands when I wash with it. I’ll continue on with my little study and hopefully find some more positive results and options.

I’ve received so many cards, gifts, and gift cards from co-workers and family. My daughter made me a cute card the other day that I put by my bedside. And I also received two letters from former students last week that brought a smile to my face and made me chuckle. I enjoy these little mementos. They remind me that I need to continue to spread these little joys with others. Taking the time to send little cards and notes to family and friends is a small action that can really lift one’s spirits.

My family and extended family, on both sides, have been very supportive, always asking how I am doing, even though I “look good”.  And that’s the paradox with Lyme. You look good, but inside, you can and often feel lousy. Eating for me is a chore and not a joy anymore, since I am so limited to what my body can handle. Family events can be challenging on my system, but life goes on. I don’t want to be sitting on the bench if I can be out their playing, even if it’s not a home run inning for me at every game.

We had some family here the other night for a little get together. (My husband is the youngest of ten children from an Italian family, so even just a few of his siblings here makes for a big party!) One of his sisters brought a dairy and sugar free dessert for me to try. When we went to her house the next day, she had purchased a special kind of rice chip for me as well. I really appreciated those little gestures. It just affirmed to me that people are thinking of me and are generous with their time in their own way.

When an extended family member was leaving that picnic, she expressed some encouraging and supportive words to me, handing me a Mother Mary stone from Lourdes she dug out of her purse. She told me to rub it and say a little prayer to Mother Mary to help me. I did as I was told, even though I am not officially Catholic. (I think I may go get one of those stones to keep with me. It may just be one of those generous links that will help get me well.)

It’s these little twinkles of love that occur that signal to me of the importance of family connections. I speak with one of my aunts quite regularly, either on the phone or through our Scrabble games on the computer. We check in with each other about our lives and share so many laughs that my stomach hurts. One of my sisters has been sending recipes for me to try, and I keep in touch with other family members via email as well.  My niece and I had a lengthy conversation recently about LUSH, a company that makes all natural makeup, skin, and hair products.  We’re going to take a trip to the mall soon as she is a LUSH expert!  My mother visited a few weeks ago with plants for my garden, and when I visit my parents, they always want to feed me, making sure to ask and prepare  foods I can eat. And my husband has been a great support through all of this. From taking over cooking and cleaning, to buying extra meat for my meals, to checking in each day to find out if I need anything , to just giving a hug or kiss, he’s always there for me and with me when whether I’m having a good day or a more tired one.

It’s the little moments of generosity that make living with a chronic illness a bit more bearable.

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

 

 

 

 

Kale Fail

images

I have a sweet tooth. A big, bad one. No cavities, but a sweet tooth nonetheless.

And I enjoy baking because of it. Although I will readily admit that I am more like a “Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade” baker instead of “Martha Stewart It’s All Good From Scratch” baker.

On my quest for eating better, I am really missing my desserts. I’ve been eating a lot of kale lately (See my post Adventures in Kale), so I decided to research kale brownies.

I came across a few recipes, one that had too many ingredients, including butternut squash and other foods. The one I settled on didn’t have 25 ingredients, and although it listed brown rice flour and arrowroot for the ‘flour’ and no eggs, I figured I could substitute coconut flour and just increase the liquid.20160526_104221_resized

And so began a new kale adventure.

I gathered all my ingredients after making a special trip to the store to purchase the zucchini and coconut milk, more coconut flour, and coconut sugar. Going over the recipe and my ingredients back at home, I discovered I did not have baking powder, only baking soda. Ok, no biggie. I’ll just use the baking soda. It can’t possibly make THAT much of a difference, right?

The recipe also called for kale finely chopped. I had already chopped mine in my Ninja food processor, so I was all set there. I grated the zucchini as directed, and mixed the dry ingredients, which included cocoa, to give it the chocolatey goodness I was after.

When I went to add the coconut milk, I used the metal can opener that pokes holes in the can, only to discover nothing came out when I tipped the can upside down! So, I opened it with the rotary one, and realized I hadn’t shaken it as instructed on the side of the can. I solved that problem with a frustrated “REALLY??!!”, and mixed it in the can with a wooden spoon.20160526_105209_resized

Next came the coconut flour and other dry ingredients to the milk. As is its nature, it sucked up all the coconut milk, so the mixture ended up more like a thick, brown, play dough instead of a creamy brownie mixture. I added half the can of the coconut milk, but now I realize I should have probably added the whole can.

After putting in the kale, the mixture looked more like a pile of dirt and grass from my backyard. I hadn’t ‘finely’ chopped the kale, so pieces of it stuck out from the blobs of brownie mixture. It didn’t “pour into the pan” as the recipe explained the next step. I had to literally plop the mix into the pan and spread it with a spatula. It was pretty bad.

At this point, I just figured, I’m the only one whose going to eat this stuff (you can supply your own expletive here), so I might as well bake it and see what happens.

Well, baking it for a half hour, it smelled pretty good. But it didn’t change in its appearance. It still looked like dirt and grass from my backyard when it was done.

I took it out of the oven, only to be met with a pile of coconut flour, zucchini and kale that didn’t bind together. I couldn’t even lift one whole brownie out of the pan. It just disintegrated.20160526_120401_resized_1

Sadly and happily, that batch went into the pail.

I’m going to try it again next week, but this time add eggs to the mixture and a whole can of the coconut milk to see if that will help bind everything together.

And I’m definitely going to ‘finely’ chop the kale.

No one likes to get a kale leaf stuck in his or her teeth when eating a brownie.

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

Adventures in Kale

Dedicated to my brother-in-law, Kale Bogdanovs

images

I never thought I’d ever have a relationship with kale. Turns out, never say never.

My brother-in-law is named Kale. I can tell you that he is very funny, smart, and always up for a good laugh and a good time. He’s a native Australian, and while he was living and working in New York, he met, wooed, and married my youngest sister. It was a rather quick wedding, held at the New York City Hall, and we met his parents for the first time a short time before the actual “big day”. His parents are truly lovely people, and why not? Kale is a lovely person.

But I digress.   This is not about Kale, the man, but rather, it’s about kale, the leafy green vegetable, the “oh, so healthy super food” that I was encouraged to eat my both my naturopath and dietician, but of which I had clear reservations.

The first time I saw it, I had left my dietician’s office with “Be picky about your liver!” ringing in my ears. (See my post Be Picky About Your Liver to learn more about that meal!)

There it was, a red leaf variety, in a cute wicker basket, just waiting to be plucked by me. I am not an adventurous cook, so at first, kale didn’t have much fun in my kitchen. I’d merely just chop it up and toss it in my salad, measuring it out so I’d be sure I’d be getting a healthy amount of the magic green stuff. It took a few salads to get used to the taste, but I found that if I chopped it up finely in my Ninja processor, it really didn’t bother my taste buds too much.

On Monday, a friend of mine read another post about my new “research life” in dealing with Lyme and the Wahls Protocol diet. This particular diet advocates for 9 cups a day of specific fruits and vegetables. I admitted that eating 9 cups of anything didn’t strike me as feasible, but she suggested cooking the kale with garlic and olive oil. “It cooks down to nothing and it will be easier to get the nine cups in.” Ok, I’ll bite.

The next day for lunch, I removed a fresh mound of kale—if you’ve ever purchased kale, you know what I mean—from my fridge. As I removed the leaves from the stems, some of it I put into my Ninja to chop up for salads, and some I put in my beautiful All-Clad 12 inch frying pan, covering the bottom. I roughly chopped up two cloves of garlic and drizzled the kale and garlic with olive oil, turned on the gas, and waited for it to cook down.

While that was cooking, I fished around my fridge to see what else I could add to the meal. I found 3 lone slices of uncooked bacon, one left over baked chicken tender, and some broccoli. Perfect.

Once the kale and garlic were almost done, I threw the bacon in the pan to cook, cut up the broccoli and chicken and tossed them in to heat up as well. I added a little bit more olive oil as well.

Fairly soon it was all ready, and wow! I was impressed with myself! It actually looked rather appealing in my pretty terra-cotta edged dish!20160524_120119_resized

But tasting it was even better. The kale absorbed the olive oil so it didn’t have as bitter a taste, and anything with garlic and bacon is a sure-fire winner.

Today, I made kale with sweet Longhini sausage and garlic for lunch. Again, it was another delicious meal.   I baked the sausage first in the oven, (work smarter not harder here!) then sliced two links and threw them in the pan to brown once the kale and garlic were done. Since my kale had already been chopped previously, it cooked down rather quickly this time. I had cut the garlic into thin slices today, anticipating a quicker cooking time. Next time I do this, I’m going to remove the sausage from its casings and just brown it with the garlic, then add the kale. But I have to remember to keep more bacon on hand. That would have been dynamite! And add more kale!  I only cooked three cups of kale, but it definately could have used more in this dish.

20160525_121345_resized

I’m really dying for some kind of dessert. I did find some recipes for kale brownies. I’ll have to try that next week.

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

Learning

 

johnson-celebration-of-learning-Thinkstock

This winter and spring have been full of learning about myself when I was expecting to keep on living my life as usual.

Hit with a chronic illness, I had to learn to let things go from time to time, like housekeeping and yard work, as truly, they tasks will always get done. The only “house police officer” that is checking in on the status of my laundry, or if my windows have been cleaned, is the one inside my head. And he or she needs to learn to take a break!

The Western medicine medical community has given me very little to rely on to get well, so I’ve reached out to friends and family, even strangers, for advice and guidance. I’ve tried some unconventional methods that don’t align with what I’ve come to learn as mainstream medical treatment over the years and yet, these ways are small, important steps to healing my sickly cells.

I’ve learned how to advocate for myself, and I still have messages to share with the various doctors who have misdiagnosed me through their narrow lenses.

I’m out of work right now, so I’m learning how to fill my days with reading and writing. My colleagues and principal have been so supportive and caring. It’s made my transition to being home more tolerable and less guilt-ridden.

I’m learning about my body and what it needs to function in a tolerable way. I’ve changed my diet, and I’m learning to eat different foods that I’d never eaten before being afflicted with a chronic illness.

I’m still learning how much activity is too much. I need to learn to say no and how to gauge my energy levels against upcoming events.

I’m learning about Lyme and symptoms and supplements and nutrition.

 

I’m learning about me.

 

Isn’t that enough?

 

Phase

20160523_084535_resized

My days phase in and out. I’m much stronger now than I was back in the winter, thankfully, but I still have my weaker moments. I remember looking out at my perennial garden back in the winter, sadly thinking I wouldn’t be able to work in it this spring. Happily, I am able to move around and get out there, set up the sprinkler to water, and observe the daily changes of my plants as they come back to life. Some of my purple irises that I transplanted last year have started to open. They are tall and regal, their dark petals dainty and full. It’s a beautiful sight to see, and yet they remind me of those not so far away thoughts from a few months ago.

The worst time of day for me is at night, when the cravings for something crunchy and sweet hit me. Advertisers know their consumers, and I am their best target! Their ads spring up on my television screen, teasing me with foods that I crave but simply should not eat.  My stomach gurgles longingly at the sight of Dairy Queen ice cream or Lays potato chips. I pine away for the day when I can actually eat something so good, but yet, so bad for me, again.

Instead of working for my students, I am working for Lyme. I read books and food labels, go to doctor and holistic practice appointments, try to eat healthier than I’ve ever done before, take multiple supplements over the course of the day, and write about my experiences. I make batches of kale, romaine, and spinach for my salads that I eat at lunch and dinner. I eat eggs and other meats for all of my meals. And I drink water. Lots of water–like 100 ounces a day of water. I’m surprised I haven’t floated away yet.

My latest phase in my ‘get healthy’ regime is to slowly change out many of the toxin-filled products in our home that I use to “greener” ones: toothpaste, hand and body soap, shampoo, facial cleansers and house cleansers, make up, and laundry detergent. It’s another way to try to get healthy and lessen the toxic load on my system, but who really knows if it will help. And yet, nothing beats a failure but a try, right?

Every night, I go to sleep and each morning I wake up, thinking that this may be my way of life for me forever. Even with my latest trip to a new holistic practitioner, my body may be beyond repair, and I will have to live with the joint and muscle pain when I eat anything with carbohydrates.

I can only take each day one at a time, and anticipate that this too shall pass. Much like the irises in my garden, I hope my future will yield a different phase, one which will include my new healthy habits, as well as some of my old yummy ones, too.

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

 

 

 

Research

imgres

Dedicated to Michelle Armstrong, Shelton, CT

When I was in college, I became enthralled with a computer game called Tetris, thanks to my roommate Michelle. The object of the game is to create rows of lines using geometric square and rectangular shapes. A four-line group is called a Tetris, and the computer would start slowly dropping pieces from the top of the screen and increase speed until the pieces were flying down, the player frantically trying to place them correctly to make lines. I recently found another version online, and I am once again obsessed with the game. Only in this version, you are playing against another person, and each time you complete a line, it sends another line to your opponent. You still need to clear lines and try to beat the other player in a 2-minute time frame, but it moves more quickly since your opponent can easily send over more lines than you are ready to handle if they are really good at placing their pieces before you.

This game requires you to be able use what you have as well as think ahead, much like addressing a pressing problem. Right now, my problem is Lyme disease, and it’s a tougher puzzle to figure out than a Tetris game.

In my research about Lyme, I’ve come across different books. My go-to book right now is The Top 10 Lyme Disease Treatments by Bryan Rosner. The 11-chapter book is clearly written and has sections about antibiotics, detoxification, and detailed information about supportive supplements. What I really love about this book is that it gives a holistic approach to treating this disease. Rosner has a detailed portion as well about how there are two very different views in the medical community about how to treat Lyme. He advocates for being knowledgeable about Lyme and to use all available resources, both traditional and non-traditional. Relying on one particular therapy will not help treat or cure your condition, since Lyme is a multi-faceted disease that mutates and has co-infections attached as well. He does state that it is crucial to find the right combination of therapies and also realize that time plays an important role in healing.

I’m also reading Terry Wahls book, The Wahls Protocol. She reversed her debilitating MS symptoms through diet, after researching cellular growth and health. And what a diet she has! It’s all healthy fruits and vegetables, and you need to eat 9 cups a day each of sulfur rich vegetables, leafy greens, and colorful fruits. Not an easy task! The most of the leafy greens I can do a day is 4 cups. My body can’t handle any fruits right now, as much as I’d love some grapes or pineapple, or even an apple, which is not my favorite fruit!  She does advise building up to the 9 cups, however slowly you need to do it, but she urges to just start eating the right foods now to rebuild your sickly cells.

One of my favorite mantras that I gleaned from my graduate work is, “Work smarter, not harder”. And I’ve tried to put this into practice whenever I can, especially with my Lyme issues. A few months back on a more healthy day, I had visited the bookstore and was astounded at all of the gluten-free, vegan, and paleo cookbooks out there! But I refused to buy even one cookbook as my food sensitivities made it hard to actually use any of the books I’d seen. I’d made that mistake early on, buying a smoothie cookbook, only to find out after a big swing of a healthy yogurt and strawberry smoothie, my body couldn’t tolerate the fruit or the dairy. Live and learn.

So, I hit my library instead. After first searching the internet for book titles, I’d then go and peruse the stacks, leaving with about 10 or so cookbooks, thinking that maybe one of the books would be helpful in finding some recipes that my body could tolerate. Many cookbooks later, I was able to photocopy 10 or so recipes. There are just so many foods that my system is sensitive to right now. Sugar free recipes include sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Gluten free ones include flours made out of almonds or rice, which I can’t tolerate. But I haven’t given up yet. I’ve got two more books on hold at two different libraries–one called Recipes for Repair and another Breaking the Vicious Cycle–that I am hoping will be returned soon. It seems like I’m not the only one with food struggles!20160413_103853

My Lyme adventure is just like a Tetris game: some of the pieces fit, and some don’t. There are gaps in my healing that need to be filled. I keep hitting a wall, but someday, I’m hopeful be able to clear out the lines with the right combination of building blocks.

I’ve already had some success when I started with my naturopath and my dietician back in March, and I just recently went to another holistic practice. The owner who runs it has given me some extra supplements to try. He has helped other people with Lyme, as well as a particular client with very similar issues to mine, so that gives me confidence that I am on the right track.

I am anticipating even more positive results with the start of this new regime of mine. And with the inclusion of more books, of course! I just have to keep finding the right ones to help with my personal Tetris puzzle!

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

 

 

Chemistry

skunk

I never had any issues with smells or tastes. Even when I was pregnant with my daughter, I can’t ever remember getting sick to my stomach from a scent, as I have heard can happen. But this morning was very different. And I can only attribute it to my tick sick blood.

When spring weather arrives here in Connecticut, I like to leave a window cracked at night. Our home faces a busy street, so I tend to leave the backyard-facing window open, instead of the front-street one. People are traveling as early as 5 am on that road, and I like to keep sleeping as long as I can without being woken up by a truck or car zipping past.

But noise wasn’t a problem for me this morning. It was a smell. A typical spring, skunky smell that always manages to slip into my cracked bedroom window and wake me up.

It was 4 am when my nose encountered the nefarious scent. It was one of those “Do I stay in bed or do I get up?” moments. Kind of like when you wake up and have to use the bathroom, and you’re debating between your bladder and your bed. Instead this time, I was dueling between a distinctive, invisible stench and my warm, comfortable bed.

I stayed in bed for a few minutes, but sadly, the wicked odor won. I had no choice but to get up and shut the window because the smell was so strong to me, it was giving me a headache! When I looked outside, the yard was clear, but the critter had already left his or her calling card, much to the dismay of my nose and brain cells.

I turned my ceiling fan on and opened my bedroom door to circulate the air to get rid of that noxious odor. Thankfully, within a few minutes, the unpleasantness left the premises. I was left wide-awake, however, pondering how in all my years living here, I’ve never gotten a headache from skunk perfume!

Chemistry is amazing.  But I hope that skunk doesn’t come back tonight!

Yours in Lyme Adventures,

TWL

 

 

 

 

Buddy

best_buddy_by_ivofajardo-d5zie8m

Dedicated to Kate Nolan, Milford, CT

I started teaching Kindergarten in 1999. I was a late hire; the district needed to open two more full-day classrooms, and I was one of the two fortunate teachers that was hired that September.

Just like any kid starting in a new school, I felt a little out of place, especially since I was hired after all the teachers had started and probably knew each other from previous years. I was in Room 6 at the end of my hallway, and Kate’s room was across the hall from mine.

Over the school year, we became teaching buddies. Not by necessity, but more by luck. And what great luck it was! She was a tall, curly haired blonde and very organized. I am a short curly haired brunette and not as organized. I like to say that she is Type A and I am Type X…but between the two of us, we work buddy magic like nobody could ever imagine!

Kate is a special education teacher. By law, identified children need a certain number of hours with non-disabled peers as outlined in their individual education plan. Kate and I were well above the curve on this! We would get our children together for stories and songs after lunch, we had recess and center times together, and we would plan whole team teaching units.   We would do Buddy projects on Fridays, where we would pair up the kids to create a theme based art project. We would marvel at how well the children would work together, nodding in agreement and saying to each other, “THIS is what they should be doing!” instead of the mandated reading , writing, and math work and assessing that gradually was taking over the curriculum for both regular education and special education students.

As each school year progressed, her kids became mine and mine became hers. We’d take pictures of our kids early on and keep them in our classrooms all year. Sometimes, my students would include hers to attend birthday parties, or hers would include mine. That’s when we knew we’d done our job at creating buddies! We’d share gifts around the holidays for and from each of our classrooms, and we created great memories. Our units on the Food Pyramid with Chef Mario and Chef Luigi were always great fun to teach. The Weather Girl video, when we were allowed to show videos, always put us in hysterics, but the kids really liked it! One year, we hosted our own Olympics complete with speed skating and medals, and another year, we worked with our extra active kids to race around the playground multiple times before actually going to play on the playground.

At the end of each year, I’d host a ‘show’. The kids from our classes would select their favorite songs to sing, I’d put them on a CD, and we’d make patriotic t-shirts and sing the songs for the parents. It was always a highlight of my year, and the integration of our kids always brought tears to our eyes when we’d sing songs like “It’s A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong or Celine Dion’s “God Bless America” using sign language.

We have been through many poignant life events together, too: 9/11 and the death of a dear friend of hers, my marriage and birth of my daughter, her daughter going off to college and getting her first teaching position, the death of her dad, the Newtown shootings, her nomination for Teacher of the Year in our district, and the death of my niece. All the while, we would comfort and support each other and carry on with our jobs as teachers.

When the school district was reconfigured to a K-2/3-5 model a few years ago, we were moved to a new school, and we were informed that weren’t going to be teaching together in order to integrate new staff and build a new school community. We understood, but we were devastated. We cried like little kids in front of our new principal when we heard the news. Even though we were going to be right down the hall from each other, it wasn’t going to be the same. We were buddies! How could we be separated? It was heartbreaking to us. Still, we soldiered on in our own classrooms, waiting for the year when we could work our team teaching magic again.

This year, we were finally given the “ok” from our principal to teach together again! The buddies were back! We were overjoyed!

But our new-found joy was short lived when I became ill with Lyme. I had to take a leave of absence from work that started in January 2016 and will continue to the end of this school year.

I have never had to take a leave like this. Even after the birth of my daughter, I was back to work within a few months. Kate has been a buddy to me through all of this. She’s sent me cards and emails. We’ve spoken on the phone, and I know she has been behind the scenes helping my subs (I had two because of the uncertainty of my coming back this year) with my kids.

It’s not often that you find a buddy at your job. But when you do, it’s a magic that can’t ever be replicated.  Love ya, Buddy!

 

 

It Can Always Be Worse…

I just found out yesterday that a friend from middle school, Alex, died suddenly on Saturday.

She was an only child, and I can only imagine what her parents are going through. She was married with two boys, one in elementary school and one in high school. She volunteered at her sons’ schools and supported her sons’ love of hockey and baseball, and her younger son’s fashion sense. She also taught religious education, and was always a happy Mom and wife. Their lives are forever changed. Her parents, her sons, and her husband have had the gift of time with her, which can both heal and hurt all at once.

When I struggle with the few foods I can eat, the inflammation that is in my body, the itchy or painful or red skin reactions I get from eating a “new” food,  I get frustrated. The need to constantly  maintain my blood sugar testing and track my meals and water intake is tiresome.  Taking my numerous supplements and remembering which ones to take and when is difficult, and sometimes I make mistakes. And being on the hunt for a new doctor or remedy breeds hope and helplessness.

But then I remember that my tick sick blood pales in comparison to what Alex’s family must endure today and in the future. It can always be worse.

Rest in peace, Alex. You will be missed.