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  In minutes the big fluffy flakes had been replaced by teeny-tiny ones, then nothing.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?