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Chips and Dips

October 8, 2010

I had lunch yesterday with my younger daughter. I took us leftovers from our meal the night before to eat for lunch. She said she loved it all, including the mushrooms which she’s never really liked before. She wants to know more about how to cook this way. She is the only one in our immediate family without high cholesterol. She is twenty five years old.

Dinner at my older daughter’s last night was wonderful, too. She cooked green beans with no fat added, baked sweet potatoes, corn on the cob with no added fat, fresh fruit and chicken for everyone else. Though it wasn’t extremely flavorful with no extra spices added, it was satisfying and filling. Neither of us ate anything else when we came home. The fruit (watermelon, honey dew melon, cantaloupe, strawberries and grapes) really helped, but having it right after eating the vegetables I believe gave me a bit of a belly ache. It didn’t last too long though. I was so touched by her willingness to alter her cooking for us. No one complained about the way the vegetables were prepared, not even the children.

For Mother’s day, I made both my girls a cookbook and included many of the dishes they loved as children along with many of the fabulous recipes for things my mother made. She was an amazing cook. Of course, most things in the book involved copious amounts of real butter and all the other things that have made food so delicious for us in the past. I think I’ll give them some new recipes this Christmas, new pages for their books of recipes that have no fat but are still delicious and filling.I plan to have both the girls and theirs over for dinner soon to demonstrate for them some of what I’ve learned and show them we aren’t starving.

Today, I’m cooking two cups of brown rice to have for tonight and to have on hand for the weekend. We’re having soup and salad for supper. I’m making lentil soup (lentils are soaking now), using  vegetable stock, garlic, onions, a couple of carrots and a little celery added to it. The salad will be a mix of baby spinach, iceberg for crunch and romaine with sliced onions, carrots and tomatoes. We’ve bought a couple of no fat and very low fat salad dressings, but I might use the rest of the hummus instead.

Did I tell you how good that hummus was and how easy? Cheap to make, too. When I go out today, I’ll pick up another couple of cans of chick peas so I can make more and experiment adding other ingredients.

I’d like to try and make cornbread but I’ll have to scour the books for a suitable recipe. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go to the internet. Surely there is a way to make cornbread without fat! The recipe I normally use has an entire stick of real butter in it. It is so yummy!

One surprise gift in all this is how easy it is to wash dishes. Granted, there are a lot of dishes to wash, but without using any sort of oil, clean up is a breeze. It’s a lot like flat ironing my hair now that I have had that keratin treatment. Before, it too at least 45 minutes to flat iron my head of thick, kinky, course and curly hair. Now, even two months after the treatment, I can flat iron it in 15-20 minutes. It’s the same with the dishes, no scrubbing is required. My hair use to take three or four runs through each section with the iron to straighten. Now it takes just one. It only take one pass on the dishes with the dishrag now instead of rubbing and scrubbing each dish to get the grease off. Mary, I can indeed imagine my arteries becoming equally squeaky clean as our dishes.

Though it took me awhile to go to sleep (the belly ache didn’t help), I slept better last night than usual. I didn’t even hear the alarm go off this morning or hear Lee get up. Coincidence maybe, but…

After the bypass, I had a marked decrease in my short term memory and other more subtle changes in cognition. This has slowly improved over time, but I still believe I have a slight challenge with my memory and occasionally have difficulty finding the words I want to use, blurting out a word entirely different from the one in my mind. While all this could be related to my clogged up arteries (the ultrasound of my carotids last year was “normal”),  perhaps it is still overwhelm like the overwhelm I experienced those first few months.

Lee and I had a lengthy discussion about this last night after we came home. She, too has a chronic illness and spent several years completely disabled and at least a year in a very critical condition. She still experiences pain every day and has to be very careful of her stress level, not allowing herself to get overtired. After the bypass, I was physically, emotionally and mentally overwhelmed. It took every bit of energy and strength I had to stay alive. I realized then that part of the mental overwhelm that I found so upsetting was due to the intense effort it took to survive. Nothing was normal. Every little task took planning and so much more work and effort than before. Modifications had to be made to everything I did. I was also terrified of dropping dead. Every moment, every action, every encounter, every thing was shadowed and even covered by my physical condition.

As I’ve felt better and learned what I can and cannot do without harming myself, I’ve assumed that the emotional, physical and mental aspects of my life had once more assumed their more separate states, not so all wrapped up in my physical condition and not so controlled by it. As we talked last night though,I realized that how I feel and how my body behaves and responds continues to flavor it all. Just as I have learned what I can and cannot do physically, I am just beginning now to learn what I can and cannot do mentally and emotionally.

Early on, I compared my available energy to having energy chips. I had so many available each day and between times of rest. After the big heart events, I had far less available. Also, where before it might have only taken 1 energy chip to shower in the morning, it now took 19 chips of the available 20. It takes only 10 now and I can get dressed and put on my makeup before I need to rest. It hadn’t occurred to me that I need those chips to have a conversation, post on this blog, pay attention or even think about things.

When I try to carry on a conversation with someone and I don’t have enough chips left, I forget  more. When I try to pay attention but I’m overtired or hurting (and I am always hurting at least a little), again, I am likely to forget at least part of the conversation or event. Conscious or unconscious awareness of that pain, of my body, or my depleted physical state, takes my attention whether I want it to or not. It also takes even more of my energy. Multitasking, something I was so horrible good at before is now impossible. If I try, I miss things. I forget things.

This was difficult to realize. I’ve have let go so much from my life wanting to use the energy and time I have only on the things and people who matter most to me. After coming so close to death, there is nothing I want more than to be fully present with my loved ones. I want to savor, relish, bask in every drop of love I can squeeze from my life and my living. To realize I have not been fully present and have allowed my attention to wander, for whatever reason, is painful to admit.

Perhaps this should have been obvious to me all along. Maybe this habit of dissociation from my body helps explain how I could have been walking around and working 60 hours a week with three blocked coronary arteries and blocked iliac arteries to begin with. And, perhaps I do have permanent cognitive changes from the surgery or new blockages in my carotid arteries. Either way, I’m reminded to be kind to myself; to give myself a break and to stay on this eating plan. My family deserves my full attention. I do, too. If I pay better attention to myself, I can pay better attention to them.

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