It seems the only thing consistent about my blogging is my inconsistency. I remind myself of my children when they were toddlers and we would go to visit friends or infrequently seen family. At first, they would sit in my lap. Then, they played at my feet. As they grew more comfortable, they ventured further and further away from me, even out of the room I was in. However, every few minutes they returned if only to touch my leg or lay their head briefly in my lap, touching base before bravely allowing more distance between us.
It’s been a month since my last post and another month might have gone by had Carolyn Thomas not referenced a post from here on her HeartSisters Blog. Thank you Carolyn! and welcome to all her readers who venture here for even a moment.
At least for now, I have grown bored with writing of food. The more I wrote of eating a plant-based diet, the more I learned of others doing the same and doing it so well! Every recipe I concocted could be found somewhere else! I still experiment with recipes and we still try to stick to the extreme vegan way, but others things call for my attention and energy.
The birds are back. Like a group of old friends, they have returned to our yard. Twenty pounds of bird seed a week barely keeps them fed. The deer seem friendlier too, or more bold at least. Twice in one day this week they grazed in the front yard. I pretend I don’t see them. They pretend they don’t see me. Only when I aim a camera at them does the largest doe stomp her foot at me, telling me to leave her yard! We planted a few marigolds (the only flower the deer don’t seem to like) a few more herbs and three tomato plants.
And, we walk. Our little islands have been discovered by others as the days have warmed. Many mornings we have found piles of empty beer bottles left by revelers. Some days, we find broken vodka bottles, large shards of bright blue glass scattered around the rocks and pieces of clothing. We guess someone lost far more than a shirt on that spot the night before. We pick up trash and know that others who live nearby do the same, a silent effort to protect our little paradise.
Sometimes I feel patient and tolerant. Other times I feel angry. Mostly, I feel sad when we find evidence of such disregard for the earth, for life, for ones own life.
I was watching a show on Oprah’s network the other day about autistic children. One father said, “Who are we to judge her quality of life?” He was talking of his own autistic daughter and his wife’s grief over the life his daughter would never have. It reminded me of when the surgeons have tried to talk me into having the aortic bi-femoral bypass, stating how it will “improve your quality of life.” I always respond, “My quality of life is just fine.” That father was saying that to base the quality of his daughter’s life on his own or his wife’s experience was unfair. The surgeons are doing the same, basing the quality of my life on their own experience. What they don’t realize is my experience has allowed me to be incredibly grateful. I have an appreciation for my life, however limited or limitless it may appear, that perhaps they do not have. That little ah-hah made my shoulders drop a tad. This appreciation of life did not come easy. I left my own bits of broken glass and lost more than a few shirts in my life.
One more pastime has begun to consume us. A friend gave Lee a ukulele. We had so much fun with it that very night that the next day we had to go out and find another so we could both play. I always thought it was impossible to hear a ukulele and not smile. We find it’s also impossible to strum one and not smile either.We sing and strum and laugh and…It’s a Wonderful World
My dear friend Donna posted a comment to my last entry that has settled all over me like an old soft quilt. Her writing and thoughts joined the place Carolyn had made ready by her comment. It is a place of commonality. It is that realization that shatters both uniqueness and separation. When I get sentimental, deep, reflective and even sad, I almost always believe I am the only one. Even statistics (which I love by the way) showing me how un- unique I am, do nothing to break that shell of solitude I create in my mind. It is not a lonely place, but it still feels sometimes as if I alone am there in it, at least in that moment.
Anyway, what all this rambling is leading to is that Carolyn’s and then Donna’s post shattered that shell, at least for today. I write and write, saying the same things I’ve said for years but meaning something entirely different than I did before. Sometimes I feel I need another language, new words because to say these same things I’ve always said falls far short in my mind when trying to describe what those same words mean to me now. Those comments reminded me that many know exactly what I now mean. Anyone who doesn’t, couldn’t know just by my telling it anyway.It’s certainly fine if they think I mean what I meant before (and who’s on first anyway?).
So, here is Donna’s comment and my response.
Hello My Friend! I am so glad you are feeling better today. I also had to learn to live “in the moment” some years ago. After my By-pass I was nervous, very nervous…..but not enough to quit smoking yet. (For all of you who follow this blog: “I know, I know…) My condition is different than yours, mine is complicated by COPD & Emphzeimia (you would think I could at least spell it by now). My issue comes with sudden attacks of not being able to breath. I am fine, and then suddenly I cannot get a breath…..it happens without warning. I can be sitting quietly and reading, driving the car, or walking from the car to my door. I can work all day at my job…walking all over hotels…8 or 9 hours…nothing happens. It is not logical. Sometimes I have pain in my back and I think “this is it!” “There will be no more breathing”….and then it is gone again. I live on for another day. This is my second go round with a fatal illness….37.75 years ago I almost died from my primary illness, alcoholism. I am reminded of this when those attacks come. The gift of one more day has come for 13,779 days so far, so when that last breath comes, how ungrateful would it be for me to complain. I have to push aside the fear and remember that during those thousands of days so many remarkable things have come….my daughter, my grandaughter, my friends and my spritual growth. The flowers, the oceans, the sunrises, the places I have traveled. The moments with my family and friends. The sunsets…..the laughter and yes, even the tears. I have learned, as you seem to be learning, each sunrise is a gift. As an old man once told me….everytime I wake up on the top side of the earth is a very good day. When my final sunset comes, I will haven received much more than I deserved. Today, you and I are both here, and you are one of the gifts I am grateful for. We are both on the top side of the earth together, and that makes me smile.
Thank you for your wonderful addition to this post! You are so right, each sunrise is a gift…as is each moment. I wish sometimes I could freeze the moments, the big ones, the small ones, the ones I hardly notice as a sideways glance in the periphery of my mind and sight. I want to freeze each breath too, to take it in completely and hold it in my chest and heart tightly and gently and fully before letting it go.
I had to get out the calculator, 1123 days. 26,952 hours…it’s really no different that anyone’s life, fragile. As ridiculous as it seems when I say this, I still need reminding. If I forget, I lose at least a moment I could have relished more.
1123 days and so much has taken place. Just like you said, so many smiles and hugs and laughs and tears. So many events and times of doing nothing but being with those I love and who love me, so many deep looks in the eyes and touches of the hand. 1123 days of being grateful. 1123 days of knowing contentment. 1123 of the sweetest days. So much music! and quiet and chaos. 1123 days of silliness and less seriousness, less striving and more thriving, less seeking and more being. More love, so much more love and knowing, in an entirely different way, that love is all that really matters anyway. So many talks and songs and meals and so much to be grateful for. I am grateful for you, too and to be on this side of the dirt with you!
I really thought I might post regularly about food. I envisioned sharing all my culinary efforts. I thought I would remember to take pictures as I cooked, making it really easy to duplicate the finished product. I imagined this helping family and friends who might want the recipes, and also helping me to remember exactly how I made somethings that we liked and would like to have again. Alas, I have fallen once more from the wagon of plans.
My fall began with the recurrence of the pesky cardiac symptom. At first, it was a random moment I thought a mere fluke. The next day, it was a few random moments. By the third day, I knew I needed a medication tune-up.
Of course, this wasn’t my initial thought. Though heart disease is never far from my current train of thinking, I can easily live and breathe within the comfort of denial. I can forget in the blink of an eye just how scary it can be. I can move seamlessly between devastation and endless hope. I can latch hold of good days as if a bad day had never happened. This redefined living in the moment I considered and consider still a tremendous gift. However, when the not so good day returns, it is a jarring fall from the grace of momentary bliss. Carpe diem can quickly turn to a not so magical ride on a carpet-of-impending-doom.
Fortunately, I had a routine appointment already scheduled with the cardiologist. I explained the sudden recurrence of angina as well as our now month-long walking expeditions.
He gently patted my hand as he drew on a scrap of paper a nonsensical graft of how exercise elevates blood pressure. He added to his graft figures of percentages of resting heart rates and resting pressure, somehow explaining that increasing either beyond a certain point pushed me logically into the land of chest pain (sweating, back pain, throat fullness, jaw pain, shortness of breath and all the other strange sensations caused by narrowed arteries and compromised blood flow).
Next, he reminded me of why I love him so. Instead of sending me to a cath lab, he suggested changing two meds, one at a time. I’d try increasing the Imdur to 90mg twice a day for a few days. I’d found the use of long acting nitrates no less than miraculous, so he humored me by suggesting this change first. I liked this choice best too because the Imdur is inexpensive, an ever-present consideration. If that didn’t relieve things, I’d double the Bystolic, the beta blocker. I was to monitor my blood pressure daily.Only if these medication changes failed would we “need to consider another cath and the possibility that there is a new blockage.”
I tried the Imdur increase and though things did improve, I was still having frequent “break-through” angina. Three days ago I doubled the Bystolic instead and finally am almost symptom free again.
Now, I’ll clarify what that means. I live within the confines of an ever-expanding field of vascular limitation. My space grows bigger, slowly, gradually but surely. I push until I experience pain. Then I rest. If the pain subsides with a few seconds, I resume whatever I was doing. I can anticipate when this will happen. I know the limits and I push them gently but frequently. If I take longer to recover, I know I pushed too far. I constantly push the limits, but not foolishly. Slowly, very slowly over these three years I’ve progressed from not being able to brush my own hair to the daily walks we were now taking.
Within these tried and true limits, I was symptom free. Only beyond these expanding walls, did I experience symptoms. The “break-through” angina that began a few weeks ago, happened far within those limits, at times when I hadn’t been experiencing symptoms at all. It happened lying in bed, watching TV, cooking. It resumed as it had before the last medication change in the fall, when I’d have episodes as often as 30 times a day.
Needless to say, blogging about dietary efforts to reverse heart disease was not my focus right then. Instead, had I blogged my real thoughts, I might have written about the anger I felt or the fear or the depression that tried to grab hold of my mind. I could have written about my fear that the recent months of feeling so much better were over forever. I can be such a fatalist. I might have instead, written my family one more set of “just in case” letters to replace the most recent stack of letters by that name I have bound with a rubber band hidden in a drawer. I might have blogged about how I might refuse another cath. One more stent? Three more? Another bypass is out of the question. They said that already. I’ve had enough radioactive material injected in me to be labeled a bio hazard.
So, instead of blogging or writing at all, I busied myself with other things. I continued to walk almost every day. The walks were shorter and I was more diligent in remembering to put the baby aspirin in my pocket, just in case. Lee and I spoke little of it. “You having a spell?” would be the only mention other than a silent taking of the blood pressure.
Two brief “spells” during the night last night were the only symptoms in twenty-four hours. The increased Bystolic seems to be working. Like the shining sun and singing birds after a storm, it is so easy to forget how scary it can be. I do love living! I have an incredible life! I am so glad it is so easy to forget. I think that’s how life is supposed to be.
Our puppy Sam is almost five months old now. She lives like that. Just this morning, I took her out and the garbage truck came down the road and stopped at our neighbor’s house just as we walked onto the grass in the front yard. It scared her. She took off up the front steps for the front door, pulling on the leash ahead of me. She ran in the house and tried to climb up Lee’s legs. Before either of us could begin to comfort her, she had forgotten the scare and was chasing Birdie around the room. The scare was past. The threat was gone. Life was good again. Life was good, still.
So, today the sun is shining. Spring has arrived early. The trees are already wearing baby leaves. The wild onions are tall in the yard. I fill the bird feeders every morning. The lake is rising, threatening to cover the sandbar that allows us access to the islands. Today though, I will walk along the shore, now stained with the yellow pollen of the pine trees, washed onto the sand by the water. Sam will dig for smelly treasure and romp and splash at the shallow edges. It is our third Spring here.
I will cook us plants to eat and day-dream of cheese. No, sesame seeds with nutritional yeast do not even come close to tasting like cheese, by the way. Does this diet help? I have no idea. I only know that today I feel good. Today, I am thriving. Whether it’s from drugs, stents, surgery, luck, plants, diet, love, grace or some predestined plan, I am grateful.
A friend took Lee to a Vietnamese restaurant a couple of years ago, called “What the Pho.” Since then, we’ve gone there every few months and always eaten the same thing. I can’t remember the name of the thing we eat though. Lee is somehow able to figure out which item on the vast menu it is once we get there. It’s part soup, part salad, resting on a bed of rice noodles. It’s also massive, but light. It’s filled with all sorts of vegetables with a thin as water ginger dressing. We top it with a sauce mixture Lee concocts from the bottles of sauces on the table. It is to-die-for delicious.
I’ve tried to duplicate it a couple of times, replacing the rice noodles with thinly sliced cabbage lightly steamed with a bit of soy sauce.
Here is how my latest attempt was made.
I started by slicing some green and some purple cabbage super thin.
This was to trick our minds and bellies into thinking we were eating noodles.
I put about 1/2 cup of water and a generous splash of low sodium soy sauce in a saucepan with the lid on.
I brought the cabbage to a quick boil, gave it a good stir, then turned the burner off. I didn’t touch the lid again, letting the cabbage steam while I prepared everything else.
I let them slowly saute in a skillet with a little soy sauce.
This was pretty, but lacked a bit in color.
I’d never had home-grown broccoli before. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?
I added all these vegetables to the sauteing onion, carrot and turnip mixture, for a brief steam.
I wanted them to keep the majority of their fresh, crunchy bite.
Then I made the sauce.
In a small bowl:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup lite soy sauce
1 tsp peanut butter
2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry
1/4 tsp black pepper
lite sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp of this wonderful stuff called General Tso’s Sauce and Glaze, though I think the sauce would have been equally delicious without it.
I heated the mixture in the microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each one, until it was well blended and hot.
Finally, I sliced a cucumber.
To the cabbage I added a generous spoonful of the sautéed veggies.
Then a nice drizzle of the sauce and topped each with a few slices of cucumber.
It certainly isn’t much like the delicious dish we’ve had at that restaurant, but it is incredibly tasty and still leaves us feeling rather righteous.
Any vegetables would work and though I never make the sauce the same way twice, with the honey and the soy sauce as the base, it’s good every time.
After all that righteousness (and I hate to admit this to you!), and all our efforts these past few weeks, we had a double cheese pizza last night.
It was so good! I moaned with every bite! I didn’t want to brush my teeth because I didn’t want the taste to go away! I could eat another one today. I won’t, but I could. I would love it, too.
I like to think this blog helps someone now and then besides me. Once I started writing about my fat-free food attempts, I hoped someone might find that helpful as well. I hope my admission of caving to the craving inspires, too. If not, I hope you at least find it amusing. I’d love it if this was easy. However, it seldom is. On the best day, I believe I can do this perfectly from now on. Most days, I just try to avoid the pizza.
Happy eating, whatever you eat today.
It took just two hours to chop and mix all the dips and such for our Super Bowl snacks. In that time I also pre-baked the veggie burgers so all I had to do was heat them up. I made hummus, bean dip and guacamole. I sliced carrots and cut up cauliflower.
The big hit of the night was the chips. They were fabulous! Crispy, salty and very tasty. I don’t know if I’ve ever had better in any Mexican restaurant. Lee said it was my best cooking day ever and believes now we stick to this plant-based eating forever.
Amazing what a little chip and dip will do for a couple of chees-o-holics!
Mix everything in a food processor
1 can chick peas with 3/4 liquid
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of fresh parsley
1/4 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
3 Kalamato olives
2 slices sun-dried tomato
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
mix all in food processor
1/4 sweet onion
handful fresh parsley
sprinkle of garlic powder
Mix in food processor and serve warm
1 can refried beans
1/4 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
2 squirts hot sauce
sprinkle red pepper flakes
generous sprinkle chili powder
dash chipotle chili powder
Mix in food processor
1/4 cup peanuts
1/2 cup oats
add to above and mix in food processor,
3/4 can black beans- drained and rinsed
1 can chick peas- drained, save liquid
1/4 sweet onion
1 clove garlic
2 grated carrots
1/4 tsp chili powder
dash chipotle chili powder
Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining 1/4 can black beans, gently stirring in whole beans
Form into patties and bake on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray at 300 for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
It made 11 4 1/2 inch round “sliders” which I reheated in dry frying pan just before serving. We ate them on Arnold Sandwich Thins Minis. These little buns have 1 gm of fat and 100 calories per two!
The highlight of the night, though was the chips.
1 package corn tortillas. Check the package and make sure they have no added fat. All they need to be is corn and water.
I cut each one in 8 sections
I sprayed a cookie sheet with cooking spray
spread out the tortilla sections
I spritzed each panful of chips lightly with oil
Sprinkled all with salt
baked at 300 for about ten minutes, until crisp
The PERFECT CHIP!
I also learned a couple of things for future reference. One, I think I’ll add a little pinto bean to the hummus next time. The bean dip was as creamy as a custard, so maybe the pinto bean will add a bit of missing creaminess to the homemade hummus. The veggie burgers I’ve made in the past have had far more ingredients. I’m still not sure how these held together, but they did. They weren’t gooey inside either. I like them being the right color, too, the color a burger oughta be. I suppose that is the essence of my food preference. I don’t mind a little strangeness now and them. I love trying new things. Still, I want my food to look like “my” food.
Our Super Bowl Fare looked like our food. It tasted like our food. It just lacked a gazillion fat grams and all animal protein. We didn’t even miss the cheese. Yea us!
Along with our renewed commitment to plants, we are also walking. We live across from one of the most beautiful lakes in Georgia and can see water from the windows on three sides of our home. Less than 1/4 mile away are two parks, one in each direction. At one of these parks, a sandbar exposed by the drought of the last year, connects the land to a couple of islands that could only be gotten to by boat in rainier times. We’ve been driving to that park and walking across the sandbar to the island.
That island now connects to another island and then to another by drought exposed sand. I stop often and rest, sitting on rocks or fallen trees. We watch the sailboats while the water gently laps at the shore. We watch the sun rise and set and sometimes the moon. We visit with other walkers and meet other doggie friends for Sam. Summer’s crowds are absent and the sandy beaches of the piney isles are occupied by only the birds and the deer and the squirrels and a few grateful humans and canines humbly passing through. We catch ourselves whispering , as if we are in a church or even invading a space we aren’t really supposed to be. The sandbars and the season has allowed us access to an untouched place humans haven’t been allowed to deface or pollute. Our noise and our convenience haven’t “improved” these few dozen acres. We don’t take this gift lightly, but tread lightly there instead.
I have never loved the Winter so much. By now, I am usually counting the days until Spring. I don’t take the gift of this season lightly or the ability to walk it at all. I walked it yesterday between the chopping and the ballgame with one of our daughters and her boyfriend. She asked me how it felt to be able to walk again. “Triumphant.”