Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Beginning of the End of a Chapter

2018, smokey sunset summits.

Let's talk about time. Not the small moments that continually pass and tangle me up in nostalgia, such as summers winding down, kids growing too fast, and the teeniest of wrinkles creeping their way in to the sides of my eyes (I swear they weren't there yesterday). I want to talk about hefty chunks of time in our lives that feel more like chapters ending as we continue to press on and write our life stories.

Ten years ago this month I sat in an emergency room after being scanned, poked, prodded, and all but turned upside down and shook 'till my tears drained out. I watched as a young doctor frantically scribbled notes, and though his handwriting was upside-down to me and notoriously bad, it was still clear enough to read: MS? Maybe the question mark meant he was hopeful that it wasn't; but as I sat on a cold bed with an open back extra-large hospital gown, I felt anything but hopeful.

2008, MRI fashion.

Now before you think you've been duped into never hearing that I had Multiple Sclerosis, don't worry because I don't have it--I never did. Go back to August 2008, and I continued on with more testing, more doctors, and when no one could figure out what was going on, they needed a box to put me in. The MS box was the closest they could find, so they shoved me in tight with their doctors' stamp of approval and sent me off for weekly steroid infusions and daily self-injections of a medication that maybe would have helped me feel better, had I actually had MS. But since I did not have MS, I continued to be sick. I was achy, exhausted,  and tipped the scale at barely a hundred pounds, but the whole time I knew I didn't have what they told me I had. They were wrong. It wasn't even that I refused to believe it ( I mean, I was only twenty five with a toddler and baby to care for, so I wanted it to NOT be true), but it just didn't sit right with me.

I had a feeling.

After months of questioning and doctor hopping and spending way too much time on the Internet, I had lab work in my hand and found my answer. Lyme disease.

Now we could go on and on--many of you know my story, some of you read it along here in real time when we all blogged back in the day. It's a story that could take up pages on it's own, but for now it's not the main character in this story. Back in August 2008, and the four years that followed of travel and treatments and questions and answers, it was the beginning of this chapter.

*          *          *          *          *

I had always planned on going back to school. I was twenty years old in college and found myself spinning my wheels on what I wanted to BE when one day I became an adult. I mean, even though I was far from adult-ish, I was married, owned a car and a condo, and had job at the local college-town record store, so really how could life get any better? I took classes like zoology, geology, and floral arrangement....and while they were all fun, I just couldn't commit to a major. So I finished a degree in General Studies, and vowed to one day go back to school.

*          *          *          *          *

2010, a day in the life.

2010, PICC line round two.

The whole Lyme hiccup took four years to get through. When I say "get through", I mean to say I've been symptom free since 2012 (can I get an AMEN!). The Lyme still likely lingers deep in the shadows of my body, but next time it comes we will be ready (well maybe not ready, but at least educated), and for now it's just a memory and a little piece of what's made me, ME. In that time I bounced from doctor to doctor, state to state, nurse to nurse, treatment to treatment. I had a PICC line (once for a month, once for three months), and remember sitting with my nurse for my twice weekly dressing change. She cleaned my arm and prepped it for the new dressing. She would scratch and scratch and scratch with the disinfecting oversized q-tip, and that right there was my favorite care that I received throughout the four year process. I remember chatting with her thinking, I want to do THIS. (Ok maybe not sit and scratch people's arms), but I want to HELP. I needed to help--this was for me.

I had a feeling.

2012, "I beat Lyme, and so can you" outside my doctor's office in California. I looked at that message for two years before I sat and posed for a picture because it was finally true for me.

*          *          *          *          *
 January 2014, first day back to school

Most of you know, that after going back to school in 2014, I graduated last year as a registered nurse, and have been working two nights a week in a step-down ICU. I have also been slowly chipping away at my Bachelor's Degree in Nursing, and started up classes again last week--on schedule to finish this December. I used to enthusiastically pack my pens and planner and pose for a back to school picture like an eager elementary student. Last week I put off even looking at my classes until the day the first round of assignments were due, and then I couldn't remember my password when I went to log in. I am burned out on the papers, discussions, and due dates that constantly hang over my head.

However, I was out on the trail last week, thoughts collecting and sorting themselves like they do when my feet are in the dirt, and all these words you are reading came flooding in.  I realized, what is four more months of school, when I've been writing this chapter for ten years?! (And while we are pondering, HOW AM I OLD ENOUGH to have chapters that started ten years ago?!)

Ten years ago when I sat in that hospital gown and read those upside-down letters that the doctor couldn't even say "we will refer you out to a neurologist" he said unsteadily; I had no idea that was the beginning of a chapter that would pave a path into my life I NEVER even in a million years saw coming.

So am I living the dream working nights as a nurse? Am I saving lives--jamming my hand in gunshot wounds to stop bleeding,  and restarting hearts? I'm not. My nights consist of running from room to room of sickly patients who for the most part don't really care that I am there. In the first few months I felt panicky--had I made the right choice? Was all the work worth it? As I'm settling in, and finishing up this chapter, I can see the pages of the next one start to form. As I meet people and come across opportunities, and as I finish these last few months of school, I know that my next chapter will bring with it more surprises and more pathways to follow.

I just have a feeling.

August 2018, us just being us.

 the end. but really the beginning.

For more of my story, you can read old posts HERE

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The one where I admit I forgot how to blog.

Blogs are so 2012, am I right? I'm not even sure if I remember how to do this--and who is really reading this besides my mom (and only because she feels obligated)? All I know is that I was typing out an Instagram caption and I got so excited about the health benefits of my breakfast, my caption became waaaaaaaay too long, so here I am. I posted just ONCE last year--a passionate letter about public lands. Why not post about oatmeal in 2018?

Consistency is not my strong suit.

I am an artist. I don't paint (I want to try!), I can't draw to save my life, but I have to be creating SOMEthing or I will shrivel up and die a million deaths (artists are known to be dramatic). For years it's been photos and words that fulfill my need to create, but I've felt uninspired lately with our brown soggy landscape and lack of winter. Most of you know we moved a few months ago and have spent all of our free time emptying out and remodeling this great old house. Now that everything is functioning (notice I said "functioning"....because I'm pretty sure we will never be DONE), I have been back in my kitchen and it feels so good to get my hands dirty--I love to create simple and nutritious meals for my family to eat.

I also started working as a nurse in the fall, and I tell you what--it's given me a whole new appreciation for life, health, and taking care of our bodies. I have loved exploring nutrition these past few years, but recently I'm immersing myself a little deeper, and I am so excited about what I've been learning (and eating)--I have to share it with someone! Most of my patients are too sick to care about the benefits of broccoli and tumeric, but maybe you want to pull up a chair and listen? I guess you can say this is my attempt to save the world, one bite at a time.

I've been slowly chipping away at the book How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger. I don't have a ton of extra time to read right now, but I try to sneak a few pages in each day. The book is written in two parts--the first part details different diseases and how we can avoid them by eating right; the second part breaks down the author's favorite food groups and why they are so good for our health. The book promotes a fully plant based diet--I'm still eating meat (although less), and just trying to find ways to add more plants to every meal and snack. (And don't worry I still eat cookies, you know, for balance).

So let's start with breakfast. I love oats, and eat them almost every single day whether for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. Lately I've been loading them up with as much nutrition as I can fit into the bowl.

[Go ahead and skip this paragraph unless you want to realize how nerdy I am....I have been studying up on antioxidants lately, and why we need them in our diets every day. It's so hard to explain in a quick blog post, so do some googling, and you too can be a nerd as you read about electrons, DNA, and superoxides and.....blah blah blah I lost you, didn't I? How I explained it to my kids was like this: think of something rusty. Why is it rusty? Because it's lived a long life out in the elements. Oxidative stress (or "rusting") also takes place in our bodies at the cellular level--this is what causes us to age. Sunspots and wrinkles on the outside, memory loss and worsening organ function on the inside. We are all slowly rusting. But antioxidants help slow this process--so eat up! I look at this breakfast as a big bowl of goodness that keeps me from rusting].

Morning Oatmeal
buckwheat (cooked in almond milk) I like two switch it up from time to time from rolled oats.
cashew butter stirred in when it's still hot--this makes it extra creamy and more filling thanks to the healthy fat in cashews.
almond milk (just a splash more if needed to thin it out)
spoonful of ground flax (omega-3s, antioxidants)
2 spoonfuls of chia and hemp seeds (more omegas, hemp seeds are a good source of plant protein!).
shake of cinnamon (super high in antioxidants)
 teeniest tiniest pinch of cloves because they are SO strong, but super good for you, and they make your oatmeal taste like Christmas.
berries-go crazy! This time of year fresh berries aren't always so great, so I keep the freezer stocked with frozen berries and I'll throw those in halfway through the cooking process. Not the same as fresh, but still good for you, and better than plain old oatmeal (if I use frozen I'll usually throw in a spoonful of coconut sugar since they tend not to be as sweet as fresh). The more pigment a plant has = the more antioxidants, so eat ALL the colors! Berries are also good for your immune function which is so important to me right now since waaaay too many of my patients have the flu.
nuts on top for more healthy fat and (you guessed it) pecans are high on the list of antioxidant rich foods (top 10 list HERE).
cacao nibs (or lets be honest most of the time those are dark chocolate chips).

And that my friends, was the longest recipe for oatmeal you've read, and probably one of the most unexciting blog posts ever. Keep in mind I've been writing long boring papers for the last four years (I'm stressing out I didn't cite my sources). So maybe blogging isn't my thing anymore....maybe I need to write a cookbook for food nerds.

*What do you think? Does anyone still read blogs? If I want to get back into sharing recipes, it has to be here, unless they are super short and easy (my favorite kind)--I can post those to IG. I've had so many requests to share house updates, and I will....haha someday (insert shrugging emoji). On TV they make is seem so easy to have your before and after pic all in the same month....we may be waiting a while for those "after" pics ;) But we really have made so much progress, I should share just to remind myself how far we've come*

Thanks for reading! Enjoy your oats!