Monday, September 5, 2011

Now what?

I've been so very uncomfortable of late, not because of a bunion or arthritis or any physical maladies. I've been uncomfortable because I'm feeling pulled or led to do something - something - different/new/challenging. In the mail the other day - appropos of nothing - I found a brochure inviting me to look at becoming a Christian counselor, helping others God's way. I've long thought I could do that; make a difference in people's lives by helping them sort through their problems. Is that something I should do? Could I help people? Or would it just be a way of making me feel that I was doing something? Am I too old to do something new? I mean, I'm looking at 55 next month; is this the time to begin something new?

I had the opportunity to hear Seth Godin speak during the Global Leadership Summit from Willow Creek Church in Chicago. He asks the question, "When was the last time you did something for the first time?" I'm beginning to explore all that is behind this decision. Wish me luck. Support me in prayer, please.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Words, words, words

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen...Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." Ephesians 4:29,31

Powerful words for me today. So often I'm aware of words I speak that, frankly, I wouldn't want my God to know I use. (Um, He does.)

On the golf course this morning, I struggled with fairway shots (someone, I'm sure, took all the good shots out of my bag)and found myself on several fairways smacking my 3-wood on the ground in frustration and saying "Go...". My rant went no further than the first two letters each time but I was so mindful of the example I want to set - and that isn't it.

Most of all, I think, is the notion that when I speak negatively I damage others as well as myself. When I berate myself for a bad shot or a bad meal or a bad moment as a parent/nana, when I attempt to denigrate others (usually to make me feel better, right?) the damage spreads far beyond my narrow little sphere. I want to change that behavior and create an environment in which people feel edified by me and valued for their unique gifts and contributions. That's my goal.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Glad to be here!

I had the great opportunity last week to sit in on the opening session of the 48th annual meeting of ASHE. Speaking was John Foley, former lead pilot of the Blue Angels. Having seen the Blues perform on several occasions, it was so interesting to go 'behind the scenes' to watch them prepare for a show. After each flight, the members of the team debrief. Each member of the team discusses what went right, what the individual pilot did wrong or not as well as he intended, takes ownership of the event, then - and here's the important part - states what he will do to ensure that doesn't happen again. Each member of the team ends by saying, "glad to be here."

That struck me on several different levels. First, each pilot owned each and every bobble in their performance. No one said, 'well, this didn't go right, but that's because the wind caught me offguard or the other pilot wasn't in the right spot.' Then, I was caught by the statement each pilot made, 'glad to be here.' The word 'glad' didn't sound to me to be the one to use. I would have inserted 'happy' instead. I turned to my dear friend Webster, though, for clarification. What, I wondered, is the difference between 'glad' and 'happy'? Webster says glad is "experiencing pleasure, joy or delight" whereas 'happy' is defined by my good ol' pal as "favored by luck or fortune". Hmmm, what, I was left pondering, is the difference?

As I don't believe in luck, I thought it was easy to pick 'glad' as the word of choice. Re-reading the definitions many times, however, I noticed what I perceived as a slight shading of terms. Glad is the experience of pleasure, meaning, to me, the perception of pleasure versus the feeling of 'gosh, I'm lucky'. I don't need to be engaged in something I enjoy (shopping?) to be glad but I don't think I would ever describe my state as 'happy' when I'm doing something I don't like, such as cleaning toilets. Could I describe my emotion as glad when I'm doing something I don't enjoy?

Which dovetails with my other musings of late; the difference between 'grateful' and 'thankful'. A friend begins each day posting three things for which she is thankful. Not one to shy from stealing great ideas, I began to note the three things for which I am, and here I changed her word, 'grateful.' My first thought was that grateful sounded more appropriate than thankful. Grateful is defined as 'appreciative of benefits received' whereas to be thankful is to be 'conscious of benefit received.' Hmmm, which is the more accurate definition, I thought, of my emotion? I'm grateful (i.e., appreciative of the benefit received) each day when I arise from my bed on my own. I'm thankful (conscicous of benefit received) I found an optimal parking spot (or one at all some days.) I guess the difference for me seems that grateful speaks of appreciation whereas thankful says, 'hey, thanks, that's cool.'

I'll stick with my goal of expressing my gratefulness each day. What do you think? I'd love to hear your take on this...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring is coming!

Actually, I realize the whole 'weather-changes-every-five-minutes' thing IS spring, but today just feels like spring.  Shoot, I'd almost say it feels like summer but I don't want to overstate things too much.  It's a balmy 60 degrees on the patio where I was just sitting reading my newest cookbook.  At an estate sale today I found a copy of The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book.  I remember seeing Laurel's Kitchen on shelves w-a-a-y back in the 70's, but they (the authors) were vegetarians and that was some crazy aberrant way of eating, at least to this farm-bred girl. 

Anyway, now that I'm fully into vegan cooking (note I didn't say a vegan lifestyle) I've been thinking I need to bake breads with whole grains.  I've found chili made with bulgur wheat tastes great and the bulgur takes on the texture of ground beef, at least if you squint and cock your head to the left.  Try it.  You'll see.

So when I saw the pristine copy of This Book with it's heretofore uncracked spine (clearly the housewife who owned it was of the same 'I'll bake bread this winter' mentality as my mother.  I don't think it ever happened for her either)  I snatched it from the shelf and noted the exhorbitant price sticker - $2!  Really?  For an almost brand-new cookbook!  Would you take $1?  I asked the apparent Woman Running the Show. She said yes!  I grabbed my book and the Krups coffee grinder (just like the two Art and I  had and surrendered to the Salvation Army because both were at least 10 years old.  Such foolishness.)  With my items tucked safely next to my chest I raced back to the car and treated myself to 20 minutes of reading about bread baking with whole grains.  Who knew it was such a very different proposition than regualr bread?  I can't wait.  Mmmmm all that heavy, whole grain goodness.  Hot.  Right from the oven.

Papa always said I should bake bread for a living.  Who knows?  Maybe I will. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

May I have a tissue?

I had a meltdown today.  The first, and, while I realize it's probably not, I hope it's the last meltdown I have surrounding this whole MS thing.  I've formed a team to participate in the Portland 2011 MS Walk.  As I was working on my personal page within the national MS Society page, I ran into a problem.  I couldn't figure out how to create a hyperlink; you know, a cute little, underlined "click here" directive.  I tried and tried and with each attempt I grew more and more frustrated.  Almost desperate for a solution, I called my eldest daughter.  I had every intention of stating my issue in an adult manner until I heard her voice.  Out of no where tears and stifled sobs arose.  I kept asking myself  'where is this coming from?'  (Yes, Daddy.  I know I should never end a sentence with a preposition and should, instead ask, 'whence does this come?'  But really.  Who talks that way?  Sorry, Daddy.)

So what precipitated meltdown?  Besides the frustration with the hyperlink?  Um, I am beginning to realize this, I mean, THIS is the new reality for us, for me.  And it's hard for me to deal with. (gee, I'll bet it's easy for Art, right?)  So many plans are changing.  So much is different.  We have Art's bicycle and accessories for sale (seriously, the bike has less than 20 miles on it) and I'm having a hard time acknowledging that we won't get to, among other activities, ride our bikes through Italy.  I guess we could if Art rode a recumbent, but do you ever see recumbent touring bikes in Italy?

But there must be some good news in my gloomy world, right?  Well, we had a wonderful, wonderful cruise.  There were close to 1000 college students on Spring break with us, (Hey, travel agent, you're the best.  Thanks for warning us.)  I mean, when you were in college, your parents sent you on a spring break cruise, didn't they?  Yeah, me neither.  It was kinda fun for me to watch Art NOT watch the young women.  These little girls, (for most of them did wear a size 0 I'm sure) wore bikinis fabricated from gauze and dental floss.  Art commented there was so much eye candy he thought his eyes had cavities.  Truly, these must have been Children of Privilege for they drank with abandon (both on the ship and in port).  Art heard the young man at the table next to us one night complaining that he'd dropped $400 in the casino the night before.  Shoot, we began our night in the casino with $40 and walked out with $90.  That's how seriously I take gambling - with my money, that is.  Heck, I'll gamble all night with YOUR money...

It was a perfect stateroom, too.  We had a lovely little balcony where we took our coffee every morning, cocktails in the evening and cigars after dinner.  We decided that on the next cruise (for there will be a cruise next year - just not during spring break) we'd like to find an itinerary that allowed us to spend several days in port as opposed to 8 hours.  We'll see what we find.

Let me end this by saying how very blessed Art and I are.  Not only do we have each other we have great children, beautiful, perfect grandchildren and such amazing friends!  Thank you all for being our friends and supporting us.  We couldn't do this without you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

So much to learn!

I keep thinking I'm trying to accomplish too many things at once of late; I'm trying to learn about plant-based meals and trying to get myself up-to-speed on MS and treatments and associated information.  I feel as though my mind is running a different direction every few minutes.  I've begun making a list of websites I want to look at, a list of things to do today, a list of medications to research, a list of cookbooks to look at.  Then I'll remember something I saw yesterday (or the day before) that I never checked out and wander off in that direction for a while, then finally steer myself back to what I was doing originally...but that brings up other things to learn and investigate and I'm off again.  Am I trying to accomplish too much?  Am I trying to learn all I need to know, or feel I need to know, too quickly? I don't know.  All I know is that I feel scattered and disjointed.

Art returned from his visit with his mother armed with information about 'alternative treatments' from his sister.  I love his sister. Like me, she's a powerful advocate for anyone/anything in whom she believes.  She's a tireless worker and formidable foe, I'm sure.  (I've never been on the 'foe' side and I can assure you I don't want to be.)  Surprisingly Art is quite interested in all we are discovering, too.  I say surprisingly because he's never been very good about getting involved in his healthcare - he has me for that, right?  Nice change to see. 

We had dinner with Art's son last night.  As my son, Art's son is overweight.  Both young men eat fast or convenience foods to the exclusion of all else.  I don't think either has tasted a raw vegetable or a piece of fruit in ages.  Art made the comment to his son that he seems oblivious to the amount of food he consumes and the quality of that food, i.e., overly processed.  We talked about Starbucks beverages; because of the ever so handy app on my beloved iPhone, I showed David the hot choclate he drinks has an obscene 800+ calories!  I know, nobody want to have someone tell them how/what to eat, but I'm afraid for our sons.  Niether gets any sort of activity and neither realizes they're doomed to die young.  Sigh.  I need to step off my soap box, right?  Ok...stepping down.

As I opened the menu last night the first thing I saw was the filet with cabernet demi-glace.  Yum!  I was shocked that I would have that thought first.  I'm not and never have been a huge beef eater (save for the occasional veal)  Is it because I'm consciously avoiding meat that I was so drawn to it last night?  I opted instead for the tilapia with a side of roasted squash.  (Virtue is my middle name.)  Surprisingly, too, Art had a meatless pasta dish.  He affirmed he, too, just feels better avoiding meat.  Strange to hear, especially from my heretofore carniverous husband. 

Best news?  I've lost 3, count 'em, three pounds since this whole thing started!  Potato soup for dinner tonight (I'm cold and it sounds good) with fresh bread.  I need to work now on finding recipes for bread made with whole wheat flour.   I know that will change the texture and the complexity of the bread...more research for me.  I think I need to add a page to my 'to do' list today.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow and Dr. Ornish's Chili

Not in that order necessarily but that's what's up for today. 

We woke to such pretty snowflakes this morning.  The snow was falling down, then left, then falling up (I didn't know snow could do that).  In minutes the big fluffy flakes had been replaced by teeny-tiny ones, then nothing. The sun is out now and things are beginning to melt, but as it's only 33 degrees, I don't know what will happen.

Watched a hummingbird looking for food on the neighbors house a bit ago.  The bird, all gussied up in his winter greys, was flitting from siding board to window edge (I'm sure there are technical terms for these things, but I don't know them).  By the time I had the camera ready, he was gone.  Gotta learn to have it out more often.  So many missed opportunities when I have to pull it from the closet.

Art is visiting his mother in Sacramento this weekend.  He'll take the time there to tell her of the MS diagnosis.  She seems pretty strong typically (it's that good Norwegian blood, I'm sure) but he's concerned about her as she's just finishing up radiation for breast cancer.  I'm urging him to spend as much time with his mother as he's able to at this point.  She is 83 and beginning to show signs of age.  He commented that over the past year he's become aware of her voice beginning to sound frail and old-lady-ish.  Again, more concerns of mortality for him. 

Owing to what I'm reading in The Kind Diet, I decided to make Dr. Ornish's Chili last night for dinner.  Art was at the Blazer game (such a sad thing when your team leaves the floor before the game ends) so, instead of going out, I created a big pot of hearty chili.  Seriously, no meat but with the addition of bulgur wheat I didn't even notice it.  Crazy, no?

Part of Alicia Silverstone's explanation for meatlessness is that we are not designed to eat flesh.  Our teeth are not pointed to tear meat (save for the four canines) and our molars are made for grinding plants and grain.  Interesting thought.  Also, she says, our gut doesn't have the enzymes for breaking down and digesting meat.  It all makes sense to me.  I mean, after only three days avoiding meat (am I doing this for Art or me?) I just plain feel good.  Lighter, maybe?  Not as though I've lost weight (although the thought that might happen is a pretty powerful inducement) just that I'm not weighing myself down digesting heavy stuff.  (Of course, I did have a pretty hefty dose of Pirate's Booty after dinner but, hey, that's vegetarian, right? Oh, and ice cream - definitely not a vegan treat but I added fruit so that all balances.)

There is nothing planned for dinner tonight.  Art is, as I said, gone and I'm having cocktails with a friend, assuming the snow stays gone.   Off to the airport to deliver my beloved into the caring hands of Horizon Air. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Will we? Won't we?

Snow is Portland is such a mixed bag.  It's pretty, to be sure.  Sometimes, it's downright beautiful.  Unfortunately we have snow so seldom in P-town people forget what it's like to drive in snow.  So we have the day long onslaught of "fresh footage from your StormTracker team atop Sylvan Hill", which is usually just the most junior member of the news team stuck on a freeway overpass, either "updating live" wearing a sodden down jacket (because the storm turned out to be rain) or trying to crawl through the stranded cars to GET to the Sylvan overpass.  The fun just doesn't stop on those days.

Today, I have a list of things to accomplish - most of them at home - but because of the 'impendling blizzard' I'm making the things outside the house priority.  I'm told by local plant people I can still plant hardy flowers (pansies and primroses) because they can handle the cold.  I'll take the chance and plant pretty flowers because the entire world just seems so dreary to me today.

Back to the plant-based cooking.  Monday's Butternut Barley risotto was wonderful.    The squash carmelized in the oven, I used fresh mushroom stock to cook the barley and found it had the most delightful, dare I say toothsome,texture?  So very different from the ultimate comfort food, risotto.  Served it with olive bread I pulled out of the freezer (who knows when I baked it but it was almost as good as fresh). 

In reading through the book Jasmin gave me,"The Kind Diet" written by Alicia Silverstone, (yes, the same Alicia Silverstone of "Clueless" and "Adventures in Baby Sitting" fame) I'm thinking there are a whole bunch of reasons to give up meat.  Sorry, folks, not a one of them is philosophical or cruelty-free.  I still love veal.  I will certainly miss chicken and the occasional steak, to be sure.  But so much of what she says in re: how our bodies weren't meant to process meat is clicking...that and the weight loss benefits of a plant-based diet.  We'll see how we (I) do long-term. 

We attended a friend's funeral yesterday.  It was tough for me because Charlie is only 18 months older than I am.  Makes me all the more anxious about what the next 10 years will bring for us.  Talked with a friend there who has the same concerns.  As with Charlie, her boyfriend is a BIG drinker.  Not that there's anything inherenly wrong with drinking.  It just that...well, we all know the dangers there.  I don't need to elaborate further.  Charlie's former wife, who had remained one of his closest friends even after their divorce, died in January.  In the eulogy offered by his brother, he said Charlie truly died of a broken heart.  Sad, sad, sad day. 

BUT, in my zeal for less meat-ness, (not to be confused with meatlessness, right?) I picked over the buffet following the funeral and found those things I felt were likely to have little or no meat: spanikopita, stuffed mushrooms, vegetables.  With that and the chicken stir-fry (lots of fresh ginger, too) I feel downright healthy.

I'm still trying to find other spouses of MS patients.  Anyone have any help here?  Yes, I know I'll find spouses in the support groups we're being directed to, it's just that I'm not patient...I hate waiting for much of anything.  Maybe God is teaching me something here?  We'll see. 

I'm going to play in the snow and watch the young newscaster from Florida as she broadcasts 'live from the Sylvan overpass where the wind chill is now 2 degrees.'  Nothing like that so far but I can hope, can't I?

Monday, February 21, 2011


All that stewing and consternation was apparently, for naught.  The grandkids came, we played, we ate, we, well, they bathed, they slept (I decided not to, just in case someone needed me, I guess).  They had fun, we had a ball and, save for the unfortunate incident in my closet, they emerged unscathed.  Maybe Art and I should have had a child after all...(just kidding).

Sweetest surprise came today in the shape of my dear friend Jasmin.  When first we met I was certain she was going to be, well, unpleasant would be a nice word (and we all know I'm not very nice, right?)   Well, I was so very wrong.  That's a gross understatement, in fact.  She is one of the most genuine people I know.  Smart, funny, compassionate - did I say she's gorgeous? - and oh-so-humble.  Well, after I took my meanderings public she responded with some very good meat-less-not-necessarily-vegan suggestions.  Then today I asked her if she was free...maybe a walk or something?  "How 'bout some stairs?" I think was what I asked.  Um, I think she was/is trying to kill me.  Maybe because of my less-than-charitable thoughts several years ago?  Who knows.  She took me up the stairs at 12th street and Cardinell.  All 179 of them.  Twice.  No, I didn't count them, (I was too busy trying to remember to breathe and keep up my end of her sprightly conversation.)  The tally comes from a brilliant, tiny volume, "The Portland Stairs Book."  I don't think Jasmin was even breathing hard.  I, on the other hand feared my lungs would catch fire.  (Oh, then we went for lunch and had a glass of wine, but still...) Next Crazy thought?  Yeah, I found myself saying "I can do that again."  And I will.  Tomorrow.

Recipe update: now that we're focusing on plant-based foods and I'm learning to cook differently, my dear, sweet husband bought a new knife for me.  Ooooh, it's a 5.5" Shun santoku's so pretty.  And can it chop vegetables.  Oh my goodness!  This meatless stuff may be fun - especially if I get new knives.

Up for tonight is Butternut Barley Risotto.  I'll post a review tomorrow.  Hmmm, maybe I should focus my ramblings on 'kind food' and our transition to same.  I'll let you know how the risotto goes; the squash is roasting at the moment; smells de-vine!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

They're coming!

We get to have grandson Conor and his baby sister Finley with us today and tomorrow.  While I'm so very excited about all that time with those beautiful babies, I'm worried about all that time with those beautiful babies.  I've said it often and believe it fully, we have children when we're young for a reason.  But it's a beautiful day - the first after weeks of grey and rain - so we'll be able to play outside.  Art is in meetings all day with his partners, so it's just the kids and me.  Wish me luck!

Friday, February 18, 2011

...and now I'm outing myself

I've been dabbling in this blogging world for several months now, at first as an anonymous avenue for me to vent frustrations and concerns.  Now, with diagnosis for my handsome husband and life changes required by that, it's time to become real.  My handsome husband is Art, the man for whom I waited far too long, the man I love with my whole heart, the man I can't imagine not having in my life.   He has just been diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS).  We are dealing with this and I'm struggling with patience.  (really?  Me?  Impatient?)

Doctors and researchers tell us we need to move, for Art's health largely, to a plant based diet.  What does that mean?  I'm thinking it's essentially a vegan lifestyle.  Not that we are philosophically opposed to eating meat - I  love veal, remember - so I am reluctant to refer to us as vegan.  I prefer to think of this as simply a plant-based diet - and not a diet as in "I'm on a diet this week."  This will become our chosen lifestyle.  (Can you tell I'm trying to talk myself into this?).  I asked people for suggestions and received some of the most random, poorly thought out responses, thing like, "oh just wrap your vegetables in lettuce leaves.  You'll never miss meat."  (No, wait.  I'm not going to complain for this is a no-whining zone.) 

That's part of the reason I'm going public with my heretofore private blog; I need help and support in this lifestyle change.  I'm asking people for suggestions/recipes/mindset changes to adopt and adapt to this meatless menu plan.  I'm also looking for support as I deal with this terrible disease ravaging my husband's body - and now his spirit.  He made the comment last night he'd shared with his partners and associates that he won't be around long.  MS, while it won't kill him directly, WILL shorten his life expectancy by 5 - 11 years,  (I don't  know who establishes these figures; they're on the MS website.)  Depression and suicide, however, are a big factor in the shortened lifespan of an MS patient.  Sad.

There are effective treatments out there for MS sufferers, however, not for people with PPMS.  What that means is that he'll just continue to decline.  We're very fortunate though, because of the PPMS, the MS Clinic at OHSU has accepted Art in their program.  As a teaching and research hospital, his treatment team is on the cutting edge of this disease.  Art's physician (a scary-smart woman) has applied for, and he's been approved for, a medication that may improve his function.  We're waiting now to see what the insurance company says; without insurance the medication would run about $30,000 a year.  He's been prescribed Ampyra which has been shown to improve walking ability in patients.  Again, here we wait for insurance approval.   The insurance is more likely to approve Ampyra as it's shown to help restore walking function.  The whole notion of the insurance company pretending to be educated and second-guessing his doctors makes me want to move to Canada...but that's the subject of another post, I'm sure.

So, despite my gray outlook, there is good news out there.  I  just need reminders and encouragement.  And recipes.  I need to find a way to convince my handsome husband, reared in Montana by North Dakota-bred farmers, that MEAT (read: beef) doesn't need to be part of every meal. 

And so I repeat my plea:  recipes, please.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The fun just never stops, does it?  Just when Mack and his estranged daughter (estranged 'cause he chose me over her apparently) experience a bit of less-estrangement (ok, let's be real here, she saw him because he had presents for her) he receives an email from her saying 'this is just a courtesy email because Brandon and I were married yesterday.'  Kinda felt like a kick in the gut for him.  The question from him a moment later caused me to wonder about his mental state.  He suggested that, since we'd given money to my daughter for her wedding, we needed to give the same amount to her because, as he said, we have to keep everything fair.  I don't think we need to keep it all fair, do we?  I mean, do other parents feel compelled to give equal amounts to all children or do we give according to their needs?  Can I have some feedback here?