Sunday, March 16, 2014
This is a picture of my sister, Kym, and one of her dogs, Odie, snuggling up with her, but being very careful not to touch her belly. I am officially on Spring Break. I drove nine and a half hours to come be with my sister in Ohio while we await the arrival of her first child. My sister is 47 and has been trying to have a baby for about twenty years. It's astounding that this is finally happening for her. It's also scary. The baby is doing fine, but this pregnancy has been really hard on my sister. I won't go into any details, I will only say I've never heard of anyone else who's had as many complications, suffered as much pain and stress in any pregnancy I've known of, and she hasn't complained at all.
So we're here waiting. We hope the baby comes soon. I can only stay until next Friday. Another sister is flying in from Massachusetts on Wednesday. The doctor said she will induce next Saturday if she doesn't go before then. That won't help me any. I haven't waited for a baby to come in about twenty years. We're all very happy for my sister and her husband, but also worried. They will be 65 by the time this child turns 18, I can't even imagine. All the first cousins to this child are in their 20s to 30s. This child is coming into an already grown family, people who have grown up in or experienced much of the family's history. In some ways it feels like this child is arriving late to a party.
We all plan to love and be there for this child, and we're all so happy and excited, but I feel a little off kilter, like this is new territory and not simply an addition to the family.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
All that said, I've spent the past week searching for vegan versions of dairy products so I could follow doctor's orders. I've known for a couple of years I am allergic to a whole host of items, such as wheat, potatoes, dairy, beans, latex/fruits (avocados, bananas, kiwi, cantaloupe), airborne pollens, dander, etc. I even got off wheat and dairy last May for a whole month prior to surgery. Right after surgery, however, I went back to my bagels with cream cheese and hot buttered bread. I knew I was allergic. I knew it was bad for me.
The dairy caused all sorts of sinus and breathing problems for me. The wheat caused me to retain pounds of excess water, caused wheezing, and worse, horrible arthritic pains. You would think anyone in their right mind would avoid something that caused them so much pain and health issues. You would think, but I didn't. I downplayed the discomfort and health problems. As far as I was concerned, the bad was worth the taste of the foods.
I went to see my allergist a little over a week ago. My constant nasal drainage and inflamed sinuses were really annoying M. Not to mention, my increased snoring. I went in with the idea that I would ask the allergist to remove the inflamed cysts in my sinuses and call it good.
He asked me, "are you still consuming dairy?" Um, yes.
"Are you still consuming wheat?" Yes.
"So what do you expect of me?" Um, surgically remove the cyst?
"It will come back. You are consuming poisons for your body. Anything I do surgically, you will undo with what you're eating." Can you prescribe any nasal sprays?
"Yes, they will cost you a fortune each month, and you will still have sinus problems."
He gave me one of those looks your parents give you when you're doing something incredibly stupid, so stupid, they shouldn't have to point it out to you. Then he said, "get off the dairy and wheat and come see me in 6 weeks."
His tone had a finality of "or else." I sighed, wheezed as I got off the examining table. I'd gotten off them the year before, I could do this again, but what was really dawning on me for the first time was that I couldn't just get off them for 6 weeks. I had to make this a permanent change. Give up buttered bread?! Cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, milk on my morning cereal. I grew up in the heart of farms and dairies, they were a part of the fabric of my life. I couldn't imagine giving them up, not when I already had so many other food allergies. What would be left for me to eat?
So I began switching things out. Might as well go cold turkey so I wouldn't be tempted to backslide. First I had to give up the staples of my breakfast. One of my "go-to" meals is Shredded Wheat with milk. I could no longer eat either. I'm perfectly happy with steel-cut oats with coconut milk, but that takes preparation and time that some mornings I just don't have. So I needed to find a cereal without wheat for those mornings when I was pressed for time. Go look at the cereals in your grocery store aisle, about 90% contain some sort of wheat product. There are the gluten-free Chex cereals, I never cared for them or how they got soggy in milk. Granola was my option, even there I had to find a granola that didn't contain wheat. I also enjoy toast, bagels, pancakes, and waffles. Luckily I could go to the health section of the grocery store and get gluten free items such as those. Although even there you have to be careful. There is a difference between a wheat allergy and a gluten allergy. Some items that are gluten-free still contain wheat. I'm allergic to a different protein in wheat, not gluten, which is why I can have other grains that contain gluten. *sigh*
The next issue with getting gluten-free items to substitute for my breads, is that often gluten-free does not also mean dairy-free. Remember, I've got to get off that too. So on the weekend I experimented with making my favorite bread recipe with wheat-free flours, coconut milk and vegan butter. It was a success, but I don't have time to be waiting for dough to rise and making everything from scratch everyday. I was please to find a very few items that were labeled wheat-free and dairy-free at our local grocery store, but the number of items could be counted on one hand. I couldn't find any dairy-free cheeses. There were vegetarian cheeses, which surprisingly contained casein, the very protein in milk that I'm allergic too. Son of a bitch! This was not going to be easy.
I reached out to my vegetarian and vegan friends and they gave me pointers where to find items. M and I took a day trip to the big city across the Bay to stock up on items that could only be found at Whole Foods grocery store.
So this is the new path I am on. It's not easy. It's annoying sometimes, like the other night when I had to go to a dinner party and there was not one item, not one, that I could eat. Everything either had dairy, wheat, or both connected to them. I was starving by the time I got home a few hours later and had dinner alone, M having already eaten at the party.
The good side is I'm not retaining excess fluids in my body. I can breathe really well with no need for drugs or my inhaler. I can move around and not be in constant joint pain or feeling like I'm bruised all over, and I have lost 6 pounds in 7 days, even though I'm stuffing my face (it seems) trying to find things to satisfy my hunger.
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