Monday, May 14, 2018

Oh Baby, a Hat Fit for an Infant!

Although it's definitely not hat season around here, it's always baby gift season. A friend asked if I still made baby hats, and the answer was "Of course!" And of course I forgot how much these little hats take out of me, I overthink them way too much. 

The main pattern from Repeat Crafter Me is pretty straightforward, and I've made enough of them now that I can whip out the hat part pretty quickly. The issue in the past has been that they turn out too big. Way. Too. Big. For this one, to get a hat fit for a baby/toddler, I made the 0-3 months one, and that seemed to work well. 

After the basic hat is done, the heart wrenching work begins. The nose, the eyes, the ears and - just stick a crochet hook through my heart - the mouth! How I agonize over these little hats, worrying if they look cute enough, happy enough, not funky around the eyes, and of course they must have the sweetest little mouth ever. Perky, but not defiant, happy but not smirky. Well, maybe just a bit smirky. 

This part of the hat crocheting process makes me earn the wage of a sweatshop worker in a developing country, the kind that Bill and Melinda Gates help through their philanthropic kindness. I need to give Mr. Gates a jingle and see if he can be my crocheting patron. You know, for the good of the arts. 

So here was the process for the puppy hat, which took me not long to make, but oh so long to finish. 

I made the hat part pretty quickly.
Then for the nose, the slightly crooked nose.
And the mouth. Is it cute enough? Not snarky?
But just a little smirky?

Oh how I agonized over this little guy's eye patch.
And his eyes,
Then I attached his ears.
The left ear wants to stick up. Way up.
Proving that an ear can smirk.

Then, how long to make the ear flap cords?
I mean, I don't want to choke the poor baby.
But too short looks stupid and not nearly cute enough.
These decisions keep me up at night.

There. A puppy hat, slightly spunky but not too smirky, and fit for a baby.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Our Three Year Konmari-versary 

Just about three years ago now I casually mentioned to a friend that I was going through one of our bookshelves and purging some books. JoLee mentioned the book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I hadn't heard of it. Apparently I was in the middle of the wave of people who were using this method to clear the clutter, dismiss the debris and manhandle the messes in our lives.

I've read so much since about people either loving it or hating it. I mean really loving it, or really hating it. I'm in the camp of really loving it.

I tackled my clothes first, then moved on to general household stuff. That was so refreshing and successful, I went on to find what sparks joy in the kitchen. By then, I had convinced my husband that we would live through the process of tidying up his clothes. Wow, was that ever a game changer! Then it was time to subdue the garage. By then it was the middle of summer and it was hot and it was awful and we had guests and it was awful and can you tell I'm still a bit traumatized by the garage purge? But I will swear on a stack of wrenches and needle-nosed pliers that this method works and that the benefits last.

So where are we now, almost three years after the initial start? Pretty good I would say, but there are areas that still need help. Since I started a bit out of order, we never really gathered all our books in one place and went through them. The floorboards under that pile may need some reinforcing. I never did do anything amazing with all our photos, or really do a good job just keeping the best ones. But at least I got all the really dumb ones pulled out of albums and now I have a lovely spot in my closet for all my shoes that made the cut.

And try as we might, we just can't seem to get our paperwork under control. We have attempted various systems for dealing with incoming mail, something besides dumping it on the kitchen table, or the back of the car, or in some random place that makes no sense. We've tried different folders to keep track of what's paid on line, what is a physical bill, junk mail, really junky mail and mail that doesn't even deserve to be touched once. Every now and then I pile it all up on the floor and try to devise yet one more system that works for us. Paperwork is our nemesis.

But as for the rest of the house, it is joy all around. If I need something, even an ever so unusual screwdriver with the funkiest head ever, I just prance out to the screwdriver drawer (yes, I prance) and find it. Then I go out there when I'm done (no prancing, but still smiling) and put it away in its home. Our garage has gotten a wee bit more cluttered on the edges with random things, but nothing a good spring sweeping out day can't deal with. It worked. It really worked!

Three years later
We didn't clutter it up too much. 

The scene of the Great and Gruesome Garage Purge of 2015.
You would never know from looking.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

That Friday Between the Twelfth and the Fourteenth

Nothing bad happened last Friday, I'll start with that. It's all good. Great. Terrific.


Several weeks ago, our friends learned the date of their baby's heart procedure. It was set for Friday, April 13th. They asked us if their older son could sleep over the night before, and then we would take him to school the next day, because baby heart surgeries start early. We happily agreed, and I was thinking up some fun stuff we could do.

Then I remembered - that would be the morning I was to proctor the engineering exam at Cal Expo, and engineering proctoring jobs start early. Our friends found out and made other plans, because we all needed a good night's sleep. 

The day of the exam had my mind split between the duties of a proctor and the worries of a friend. As we processed the test takers and got the exam under way, my mind was at that hospital, hoping everything went well. During the four hour morning exam, I found myself taking a lot of "bathroom breaks" to go check my phone for baby updates. A hilarious video of the cutie pie on happy juice before the surgery had me laughing in the break room, all looked good so far.

A few more "bathroom breaks" brought no news. Then my phone rang, it was our friend Jason. Had I heard from Ernst? No, I hadn't, but the concern in his voice had me immediately worried. He calmly broke the news that my husband had passed out in the salon chair while getting his hair cut (Jason's mom Lynn cuts Ernst's hair.) At this point all I heard were the words 911, regained consciousnesses, ambulance, EMTs, hospital, and that Jason was headed down from Yuba City. They didn't know which hospital, but I was 99% sure it was Kaiser Morse, the one that's right by our house.

In swift, highly efficient, yet hand-shaking, voice-trembling actions, I told the director of the exam the situation, went back to the proctoring room to tell my supervisor, grabbed my purse and coffee mug and sweater and water bottle and ice chest and all the other things one brings to a 12-hour job and walked out to my car. One of the proctor directors kindly walked me to my vehicle, offering to drive me to the hospital. No, I would be fine, I wanted to be alone.

I was incredibly worried, and had a sinking feeling this was really bad. Really. Bad. All the other hospital visits and emergencies had been bad, but he had never passed out during them. I felt like Jason might be holding back information that only could be found out at the hospital, that this was more life-changing than all the other times.

I drove quickly, efficiently, mostly legally and only yelled at a few drivers, who admittedly cannot know that their choice to go the speed limit was compromising my last bit of sanity. Pretty much the whole way, which was maybe just 10-12 minutes, I chanted Please No, Please No, Please No. Halfway there, I was resigned to face whatever I had to face. I was fairly calm, and except for those annoying law-abiding drivers I was stuck behind, I arrived in pretty good shape.

Things changed when I got to the parking lot. No parking. I had just been there the day before for a hearing test, and walked over because the parking is so bad. I looked near the ER, nothing. I went a little further, nothing. So I went to the farthest lot from the ER and took a tight spot I would normally pass up. I walked as fast as I could in my proctoring shoes, which are made for walking not running, and tried to stay positive.

Then I saw it. A young man with his pants magically hovering below his derriere, with only a thin layer of cotton/poly underwear between him and the outside world. Normally this form of attire just puzzles me greatly, and makes me wonder about the future hip problems this fashion statement is creating, as these men/boys walk with their legs splayed out to keep their pants just at the perfect level right below their rearend cheeks. But something happens when my husband is having a health crisis, and although outwardly I may appear calm to the hospital staff, inwardly I am ready to bite the head off of anyone I see smoking or chowing down a bag of Cheese Doodles with Mountain Dew. Because I know how hard we try to be healthy, and sometimes it just doesn't seem fair at all. 

Anyway, Mr. Droopy Drawers got my blood boiling. What I wanted to do was go behind him, grab his belt loops, yank his pants up where they belong and say "That's how REAL men wear pants." But besides the fact that civilized people don't go around rearranging the clothing on strangers, he most likely had his own sad story to tell of who he was going to visit. He didn't need the fashion police making a citizen's arrest. 

Then I had to pass through the Kaiser Friday Morning Farmers Market. the one I never go to because the parking situation is so bad. Table after table of organic and healthy produce, normally something I would be salivating over. But instead of showing the kale some love, I was still in a sad/scared/shocked/slightly numb state of mind, and I wanted to scream "Fat lot of good all these vegetables did us, my husband just collapsed!" Just as I didn't pull up the pants of Mr. DD, I didn't yell at the fruit vendors. I guess I did have a shred of self-control left in me; I'm thanking the green smoothie I had that morning.

Finally I ran/walked my way to the ER and got the room number and name sticker, which I slapped on over my proctoring name sticker. Bed #13, how appropriate. I made my way through the sadness and sickness that is a busy emergency room, and reached the large area where Ernst was. He was sitting up in the bed, looking good, looking healthy, smiling when he saw me, saying "They weren't supposed to tell you." He was fine, a bit dehydrated, with very low blood pressure, but completely fine. I mentally apologized to the slow drivers, the man with his underwear showing and the good people at the farmers market.

It turns out he passed out, badly, in the salon chair for an unknown reason, and his blood pressure dropped a lot. In the ambulance when he was already feeling better it measured 78/60, which for him is incredibly low. His EKG was great, no stroke symptoms, everything checked out fine. It could have been a medication issue, that he was slightly dehydrated, and his sodium was on the low side. He will see his cardiologist for a follow up visit, but they said just go home and take it easy and all is good.

We got some encouraging visits from a few friends in the ER, which always warms the heart. And the news on the baby front? It was all good — our friends' little guy came through his heart surgery like a champ. It was a lovely day, Ernst got released from the ER and now what? Finish the day, that's what. He went back to get the rest of his hair cut, and I drove back to the engineering exam, following all traffic laws, smiling and waving to all the rule-abiding drivers. Not our typical Friday, but it all turned out and we'll take it. 

Jason! Bed #13!

Real men, wearing pants. 

911 Caller.

My 12 hour work day, with just a slight interruption. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

My 600 Pounds of Produce Life

It's been over 3 months since I decided to eat a raw vegan diet for a year, so that means I'm one fourth of the way thru. Here's a little update on how things are going.

Great, but it's killing our food budget! Typically we eat very pure and natural foods with a fair amount of organics. With me not eating the cheaper vegan staples like lentils, potatoes, rice and oatmeal, the cost of this little decision of mine is starting to add up. But I'm really loving the food pattern I've settled into, which is usually a big green smoothie in the morning, with either kale, spinach or Romaine as the green, and frozen bananas and either fresh or frozen fruit. The really lovely organic frozen fruit from Costco has been a budget saver. The cheapest part of the smoothie is the water. I add lots of water. 

Lunch and dinner are big salads, big. I'm so hooked on Kimberly Snyder's Dharma Salad, I'm wondering if I'll ever tire of it. It's so filling and addictive, and I'm changing it up with whatever bits and dabs of veggies that are hanging around. When I bought the container of dulse flakes, I wondered if it would end up in the What Was I Thinking section of the food pantry. But the first container is empty and it's time to get more. And now that Trader Joe's has nutritional yeast, that ingredient is easily accessible.

Have I eaten anything cooked? Yes I have. This isn't a religion, it's just a way of eating, and I have strayed from time to time. I had got myself completely off coffee with vegan "mylk" in the mornings. First I switched to black tea, then I was off caffeine completely. After a big party we had, I had a canister of leftover coffee and that got me back in the morning coffee habit. Way too much. Possibly a combo of the coffee overload, some grainy crackers and spring allergies has got my ears ringing with an annoying return of tinnitus. 

An interesting and weird effect of eating raw vegan is that some people's eyes change colors. Dramatically. But these are usually people who went from eating really poorly and had super bad digestion issues before they changed their diets. That wasn't me, we eat pretty stinking heathy and have for a long time. But last week I saw a friend who I hadn't seen in maybe four months. She looked at me closely, too closely, and said my eyes looked like they changed color. She said they looked clearer. Seriously?

I don't have very big eyes, so it's not like they are a big part of my photos. But I looked back at a closeup of my eyes from just last summer and then did a way too up close examination in front of some way too bright light in a way too magnifying mirror. Way too many wrinkles! But I think my friend might be right, they looked different than the older picture. Way too weird. The power of kale? In three months? That's eye opening. Hopefully clearer eyes are a good sign, so I'll keep on keeping on with this budget busting eating plan as planned.

Cuties in a salad are so yummy.

Dharma Salad, the new normal.

This was a cheat meal...

...but when a Moldovan makes a vegan meal just for us, we say Amen and chow down.

Another day, another Dharma Salad. 

A smoothie still life.

I have no words...except that it was organic.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Eight More Days of HUH?

Hearing aid technology has come a very long way. The modern hearing aid is super sophisticated and sleek, and more and more Baby Boomers are wearing them. Those two facts, their transformation into a digitally advanced instrument and their increased need by a generation that has some spending power, has made it a common occurrence to see hearing aids either in or on people's ears.

But there are many more aging ears out there, and younger ears that have been blown out by music (can we call them ear bads, not ear buds?). If everyone who could benefit from a hearing aid got one, they might become the new tattoo. I can see it now - bejeweled, Steam Punk, neon, Goth, camouflage, clear, shabby chic, blinking, glow-in-the-dark - hearing aids as the latest way to express our individuality. 

Years ago I was told I wouldn't benefit from a hearing aid to deal with my (at the time) moderate hearing loss from Menieire's Disease.  It was only in 2015 when my Mom offered to purchase one for my (at the time) severe hearing loss that I got one and leapt for joy at the wonderment of it. Now at this time, with profound hearing loss in my left year, that amazing little device is not helping one bit, it's just annoying me. I wish I had got one years ago, I wish all the What's That? Huh? Could You Repeat That? and Excuse Me?s could have been helped, but for whatever reason I was told otherwise. I should have got a second opinion. Oh well.

If you're on the fence about getting one, if your spouse/kids/friends/coworkers/pet are getting frustrated with your hearing loss, my advice is to at least get your hearing assessed. You can't fail a hearing assessment, it's not a test to pass or fail. It's just to see what situation your hearing's in. There is no harm in that, knowledge is power, right? If money is the issue you may be helped by some of the cheaper options becoming available. If you're a razzle dazzle kind of person, there are some razzle dazzle options available too. From barebones to top-of-the-line, it's worth it. It is so fabulous to spend time with people not straining to hear what they're saying, but rather to spend the time listening to them. Once you can hear, you can listen. 

My hope is to get back to where I was two and a half years ago when I got my first hearing aid. This week I'll meet with a surgeon to talk about a Cochlear Baha 5 Attract. That's my dream situation at this point. But trying to find a good little chunk of time to recover from even that minor procedure is looking dicey in the next couple of months. In the meantime, I need to hear... at my appointment in eight long days from now, my audiologist will take the Widex Dream 440 (which I now wear on my left ear) and turn it into a sound receiver I'll wear on my right ear. (This is one of the benefits of purchasing a razzle dazzle model. When I was in Connecticut getting my Widex, I was telling Frank the hearing aid guy that I would get the cheaper model. My sister and Mom yelled out from the waiting room "Order her the best one!" and that's what they did. Now I'm glad of it, because it can now serve me in this new function.) I'll buy a new transmitter to wear on my left to send the sounds to the right. Single Sided Deafness no more, now Single Sided Hearing. A glass half full vs. half empty sort of situation. I'll take it. 

I'm going to get real technical here.
See the thing that looks like a snail?
Thats the part of my ear that's all messed up.
In reality it's the size of a pea. Amazing. 

The one on the left will be on my right.
The one on the right will be on my left.
It looks HUGE!!
I may need a bigger left ear. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

To Borg or Not to Borg...

...the Phonak Cros vs the Baha 5 Attract

When did I know it was time to do something drastic about the hearing loss on my left side?

  • When the very first thing I thought of when I got invited to proctor in Chicago again wasn't the flight or the hotel or the good food or the time with friends or even all the walking and hard work involved. The very first thing I thought of was the dread of wearing the walkie-talkie headset to communicate with the other staff. The idea of trying to wear that thing slightly perched over my right ear while still allowing sound in because my left ear is so useless almost made me cry.
  • Coming home from a morning spent with my Moldovan friends, and realizing not only did I not understand much said in the car, but even the conversation with the only English speaker in the group was so exhausting, such a strain on my brain, that I was glad to say goodbye to them. This formerly gregarious people-lover pulled into the garage, turned off the car and bawled my eyes out. I cried for my lost hearing, my currently shelved extroverted personality and all the wasted energy I spend straining to hear, pretending to hear, and mis-hearing.
  • The fact that now to me the perfect day is spent at home with the dog, with my pretty-much-useless hearing aid put away. The hearing aid was a miracle for me for two years, I loved it. But now with my hearing on the left so deteriorated, the hearing aid basically just keeps me from getting hit by a bus and would alert me to a jet engine a few feet from my face. (I'm exaggerating. It helps, but only turned up to a volume that produces feedback.) I also have very small and oval shaped ear canals which makes wearing it almost painful. Why put something painful in my ear to hardly get any benefit when I can just choose to stay home with a dog that doesn't talk?
  • When binge watching cochlear implant activation videos on YouTube is viewed as an evening well spent. 
I'm not a candidate for a cochlear implant, but I did find out I'm a candidate for something very intriguing. On my last visit with my lovely audiologist, she sweetly informed me that my suspicions were correct, I had indeed lost more hearing on my left side due to Menieire's Disease. She recommended I go back to Kaiser Head and Neck Surgery for a consult. I almost didn't go, what would they say, "Yes, you are really deaf in your left ear. Let's go with two devices, one for transmitting sound from the left and feeding it into the right. Two hearing aids, just what your tiny little oval shaped ear canals were dreaming of!"

The ENT doctor did mention that setup, referred to as a CROS system. But he also recommended I get tested to see if I would be a candidate for a BAHA device, or a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid. He explained that hearing can be transmitted through the bones of the skull to the good ear. I pictured this.

"Can you tell which is my good side?"
Of course I immediately got out to the car and Googled Baha hearing device and freaked out a bit. The original Baha devices, still the ones that work the best, involve a titanium screw in the skull and this snap-on device protruding out from the skin. 

"Yes, I have a screw in my head.
No, I am not going to listen to your Frankenstein joke."
After digesting that idea and reading about some of the skin issues involved in caring for the post, or rather "the abutment" as it is so affectionately called, I saw there is an alternative. Instead of the Baha Connect with the Frankenscrew, there is another option called the Baha Attract, which uses a magnet. I was immediately attracted to the Attract.
Actual size may be smaller or larger, depending on your screen size.
The magnet is about the size of a quarter. 

I made the appointment with the Kaiser audiologist, and my hopes were high to see if I could even use the Baha. The audiologist fitted a very tight, very uncomfortable headband around my head, with the Baha processor pressed tightly (I cannot stress enough how tight it was) to the left side of my head. She turned it on. She sounded like a robot. My hair sounded like giant ropes scraping my head. She adjusted it. Less robot, more person. A few more adjustments. I could hear her. She sounded almost normal. She put me in the testing room to have me listen to 25 simple sentences that were going to become progressively softer and softer.

The man has a yellow car
The girl is walking with a puppy.
The blue lamp is broken.

Simple stuff, so simple that at any moment I expected to hear:

See Dick! See Jane! See Dick and Jane run with Spot.

I tried not to laugh, it all seemed so funny. Maybe the super tight headband was cutting off air to my brain. 

Yet the puzzling thing was this - "Why is the audiologist testing the hearing on my right? She has my last hearing test, she knows my right hearing is super good. When will she get to the left side?"

Then the test was over. "She isn't going to test my left side? Wait, that WAS the left side? I heard all those sentences from the LEFT?" Suddenly all those simple sentences that almost had me giggling with embarrassment were on the level with War and Peace. They were the most profound phrases ever, because they were coming from the left and I "heard" them with my right ear! Through my skull. It was completely wild. We went for a walk down to the lobby. Even though I was wearing a headband that made me look like Janis Joplin meets Iron Man, I didn't care. I could hear my footsteps and the return air unit and people talking on my left and the rain outside. I wanted to walk out with the headband of torture and never take it off.

Next we tried another processor, this one connected to an equally painful headset. The left dug into my head, the right dug into my temple, but I could hear. We did another test in the little room. I got 22 out of 25 sentences correct. We went for a walk down the hallway again. More lovely ambient noises that you don't appreciate until you lose the ability to hear them. And of course, the constant "Am I talking really loud?" question that needs to be asked every other sentence. 

Since the audiologist had about 20 more minutes left in our 90 minute appointment, she wanted me to also try on the CROS system. I went into the appointment totally against the idea of wearing two devices, one in each ear. But, it was pretty amazing to understand everything from the left with absolutely no distortion. If I choose this system, on the left I would have a microphone in a hearing aid-like device, the right "hearing aid" would simply transmit the sound, no amplification. It would still allow sounds to come in on the right.

So now the choice. Get surgery to have a titanium anchor installed into my skull with a magnet that holds a processor onto my scalp, but that doesn't go inside my ears, or wear two devices in my ears? Oh, major consideration, the surgery with the Baha 5 Attract system is covered by insurance, the Cros system is not. One decision wouldn't rule out the other down the line. MRIs are an issue with the Baha magnet, but we also need to look into the danger of transmitting sound across my brain via the Cros. What's worse, zapping my brain daily or not being able to get my brain zapped with an MRI?

The only thing I know for sure is that I'm not going with Option 3, which is to do nothing and live like this. I can't take the emotional drain anymore, I want my personality back. Lots of research ahead of us, a consult with a surgeon and a consult with my regular audiologist. I'll keep you in the loop and shout out whatever I decide to do. If you have any input or personal experience regarding these technologies, please email me in the link to the right. Thanks for listening. 

This is me at the next big proctoring event, I hope.
"You can talk to me on any side!"

Team Left is down, got to get it back in the game.

Hearing aid humor from Pinterest. 

Maybe if I wear this around, the Baha Attract will seem tiny in comparison?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Getting in the party zone

Before we moved into our house, we spent many hours here at parties our friends threw, They were and still are great at hosting a party with tons of people while still managing to make you feel special. Hadassah would sit and talk to me as if it were just the two of us. In fact, if her girls came up and started interfering too much in our conversation, she would say "OK, either sit down with us or go play, I'm talking to Jessica." Cool as a cucumber, a true party person.

I'm still trying to catch the cucumber vibe. When we plan a party and I find myself the day before cleaning the mirrors in a room no party attender will go in, I remember that I haven't given much thought about food. Or ice. Or what people are going to drink. But wow do those mirrors shine!

We had a going away party last Sunday for some friends. And for once I think I got my priorities straight. I didn't clean one mirror, except of course the bathroom mirror, and the glass sliding door, and possibly some picture frames and I had to clean the microwave door. But other than that, glass surfaces were out of my mind and I only concentrated on the number of glasses and cups we would need.

After many parties at the house, I'm finally learning how this house flows with lots of people in it. Most everyone ends up in the kitchen, so I decided to create three food zones there - Pizza, Coffee & Tea, and Booze. These were Moldovan guests, so we got to put out our homemade alcohol concoctions with no fear of turned up noses. The Pizza Zone was a great idea, the boxes just got stacked up on the area around the stove and didn't take up precious buffet table space. For sure going to do that again.

There's another area of the yard that many of our guests congregate in, and I don't know why. Every big party we have there's a crowd in our garbage can area. I usually look over in horror to see people gathered around our garbage cans, sometimes using the Recycle bin as an ad hoc standing bar of sorts. This time I was ready. I made a line of chairs on the patio blocking off that area, only to see halfway into the evening that once again, there was a crowd over there. Some guys brought their barbeque and that's where they decided to set it up, right by the trash. Oh well, I'm not going to fight the lure of the garbage cans, it is strong.

It was iffy but the weather held. We had a fire inside and a bonfire outside, and for once I was relaxed enough to just let things flow. There was enough food without it being too much, the perfect amount of pizza and the children brought me flowers to add to the daffodils I picked from the yard. If I stick to the zones for the next few parties, I may just be relaxed enough to sit down and talk to our guests. Either that or go clean some mirrors.

The Utensil Zone.
We ran out of forks.
Let them eat from the Cake Zone with spoons!

The Alcohol Zone.
Helps hide the dirty mirrors.

Party goals - no more Styrofoam cups.

The Patio Zone that leads to the Garbage Zone.
Maybe next time some police tape?
Young Tony brought me these, it's a Moldovan party tradition.

Little Adela brought me the roses.
Heart touched.

The Morning After Chair Zone.

The Basketball Zone.

No, the hats were not because of the Alcohol Zone.
It's just become a thing at the end of our parties for the last
guests to take a silly hat photo.
Until next time...

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Greens make you cute!

Since trying to downsize our life and declutter, I'm not one to buy books anymore on anything diet related, I tend to just find the answers on YouTube. That can be a daunting task - trying to filter out the whacky content, the people who can't speak without swearing, and the people who just really need to take the advice of Thumper's mommy as told to Bambi, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." If Thumper's mommy had a YouTube channel, I would subscribe, because she certainly would know how to prepare rabbit food.

I found a person who posts lots of raw vegan recipes on YouTube, she doesn't swear and she eats lots of healthy foods while keeping on a real person's budget. TannyRaw uses the term "Greens make you cute", which it seems to have done for her. I don't know if cuteness is in reach for me at this point, but I'm hoping at least for a bit more perky. I'm incorporating tons of greens in my diet, and feeling pretty good. In fact, as I go to sleep, I can't wait to wake up and have a green smoothie, even on the cold mornings we've been having. 

The hard part has been gauging how many to buy, because when I get home from produce shopping I can hardly find room in the refrigerator (we have a small one). But then a few days later I'm scrambling to find enough for the dinner salad. Keeping all the scraps has helped, the innards of kale leaves are pretty tough, but the Vitamix doesn't know the difference. And the ends of herbs that were too woody for a salad are also getting thrown in my morning green smoothies. Sometimes Ernst has a hard time choking down the weirder of the concoctions, and yes the radish greens were a bit bitter, but greens are greens, as I'm sure Thumper's mommy would tell him.

Found a ladybug in the organic celery. I let her free, poor cold baby.

Nori wraps are green, right?

Green and blue makes a yummy breakfast.

Dandelion greens.
I had to fight off some mommy bunnies for these.

Kale salad is my new must have dinner.

That's what my green smoothie looks like with a full amount of produce,

The last of the greens.
They are ugly.
But they are green.
And greens make you cute.

There is green in there, I promise.
Time to go shopping.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Year of Living DangeRAWsly 

Back in December we had dinner with some friends, and we got to talking about our diet. That’s typical because although we try our best to not be annoying and picky guests, we do have some pretty strict food requirements.

Plant-based, whole-food, low-oil, low-sodium, whole-grain – that’s a lot of hyphens. Usually if people don’t know us, we just say we’re big salad lovers. A BIG salad, please, and we’ll just eat a bowl of hyphens for dessert. Of course, if it’s a pot luck, I tote along some menu items we can chomp on to our hearts’ healthy content.

These friends were totally cool, and had dealt with their own health issues themselves. We happily dug into the bowl of edamame and a lovely crudité tray, and then enjoyed a tasty bowl of lentil soup. Fruit for dessert, along with some really edifying conversation, and we called it a wonderful evening.

During the conversation about food, I found myself telling our hostess how wonderful, fabulous, great, awesome and energized I feel on a raw food diet. She didn’t bat an eye. She’s had a life-threatening health scare, and she did alternative dietary treatments along with conventional medicine. She's now doing great and is very inspiring.

As we drove away I thought - Why would I tell someone there’s a way of eating that makes me feel better and more energized and less prone to the inflammation issues I battle – and then NOT choose to eat that way? I mentally checked off the answers:

·      It’s really hard
·      It’s really expensive
·      It’s so much work
·      It’s wintertime

That settled it - for a week or so. But then I started tossing around the idea of going raw on January 1st. We don’t celebrate the holidays, so November and December munching for me gets no worse than all the seasonal vegan treats at Trader Joe’s, plus a bit of wintertime slothdom. So while I didn’t think of putting it off because of holiday pressure, it just seemed easier to put it off...because being a raw vegan is hard, it’s really expensive, it’s so much work and let’s not forget it was wintertime.

It started with looking up some recipes, and thinking about dusting off the dehydrator and getting out the spiralizer, and before I knew it I went raw the last week of December, ahead of schedule. I wasn’t super prepared, but I did it and have no regrets. So far.

The initial decision was to try it for a month or so, to see how things progressed. Meniere's Syndrome, has wreaked havoc on my left inner ear and hearing. I had a very depressing hearing test that confirmed my fears – my left ear is just about totally shot. The good news is that the hearing in my right ear is really good, excellent in fact. "Thank you right ear, you’re my hero. Left ear, What do I say, you can still hold an earring and keep my hair tucked behind you, so don’t go away completely." My hearing specialist, who has a doctorate in audiology, firmly believes there is a strong connection with diet and hearing. She is very supportive of my efforts to protect my right ear’s hearing with all reasonable practices.

What’s funny is I don’t even “believe” in raw food eating, it just feels so incredibly good when I eat this way I would be a fool to not keep it up. Tremendous amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, in their whole form, plus nuts and seeds and sprouted grains seems to work well for me. I’ve tried this before, and the results were great, but just never sustained it. Why? See the bulleted list above.

My hope is to not be a freak about this, I already realized one of the salads I was picking up at Trader Joe’s wasn’t even vegan, let alone raw vegan. We were somewhere and the only salad option had quinoa in it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Another salad we were served had garbanzo beans, and it was yummy. Coffee is still an occasional treat, although I’ve gone back to just tea in the mornings. There's been some roasted nuts and bits of cooked foods, but by and large, I’m buying large amounts of raw produce and products and eating only that. Next up is finding a natural addition for smoothies to cover all the amino acid and nutritional bases.

So my month-long plan is now a year-long goal. Challenges thrill me, I thrive on them. Next January I’ll reassess and see if I felt there was any change in my inflammation issues. By then I’ll know if feeling better on this eating plan is just in my head. Spring is just around the corner with all the yummy spring and summer fruits and vegetables ripening. By the time fall comes around, I’ll be totally in the groove and then it will be just a few more months to go.

My challenge now?

·      Not to look at this as hard, but as a doable challenge
·      Find ways to make it cheaper
·      Streamline the prep work
·      Try not to dread next winter

One of the difficult parts of this eating plan is the explaining it to others awkwardness. We are in a congregation full of Moldovans, many of whom experienced true food deprivations in their life. How do I begin to explain, even if I could come up with the proper wording, why I am not eating cooked food?  My trial run was dinner at our friend Galina’s house. She loves to entertain. She serves cooked food. That food is delicious. She goes to great lengths to adapt her thinking and her cooking to accommodate our plant-based diet. What would she think if I only had salad on a cold January evening? A salad I bought from Trader Joe’s? A cold, raw salad?

She didn’t bat an eye. She didn’t look at me weird, or raise her eyebrows or purse her lips. She just said, Wow, that sounds great! Well, actually she said in Romanian something like “Bravo Jessikutsa!” You’ve just got to love friends who trust you to do what’s best for your own body. Maybe this is terrible for me. Maybe it’s just a waste of energy and money and time spent buying, washing and prepping vegetables. But it’s only a year. I can’t do too much damage to myself in that amount of time. Hopefully I’ll do some good.

One week of produce for the two of us

Lots of leafy greens!

A new tool, this makes veggie confetti.

Now if only every McDonalds could become a Chopt