Food & Stuff ~ by Sam

(in which I swear once, which is not a lot, since I am talking about food & stuff)

Alas, it was not meant to be.

I really thought Marian might pull through, until I awoke one day to find nothing but two bare stalks.  I think, this time, she truly is a goner.  I am so sad.  The next time I was at the nursery, I asked what I might be doing wrong for my maidenhair ferns, and was assured that I have done exactly what I should.  It seems my home just might not be the best environment for them, for whatever reason. It was suggested that I try a different, heartier variety of fern.  We selected this lovely sliver lace fern, which i promised to not to name, just in case…then promptly name Mathilda as I was pulling out of the parking lot.  Apparently, all of my plants will be named after literary characters.

I am going to try to refrain from buying (or killing) any more houseplants for some time.  Instead, I will work on trying to keep alive the ones I have.

In the interest of posting about something other than houseplants ~ ‘though I do love them ~ I thought I would share some of the meals I’ve been eating.  Because no one ever does that on the internet.  It’s a totally revolutionary idea.

I know.  Like, half of you ~ more than half of you ~ already walked away.  That’s okay.  The rest of us are still here, and we like each other just fine, thank you very much.

But food. Well, you know, food and I have a storied history.  I loved food when I was a kid.  I loved some foods other people might find really weird.  I ate stuff like butcher bologna and fried brains (no, really, y’all ~ I tell my kids I’m actually part zombie, as a result of this culinary adventure), and slim jims, and those hot sausages that came in wrappers like slim jims.  I still love red beet eggs,  and my mom’s ziti and shoofly pie ~ all of which I am pretty sure I am not supposed to eat, and that is a travesty, by the way.  I ate crabs and scallops and lobster and shrimp, and clam chowder.  I mean, I grew up in Maryland.  We ate seafood.  It’s kind of a thing.


First, I had an eating disorder.  When you have an eating disorder, you don’t hate food.  I think that’s a common misconception.  Maybe it’s more of a love/hate relationship.  I became positively obsessed with food.  I knew everything about it.  I was obsessed with what nutritional value of everything, how many calories it had, what was the fat content, sugar content, serving size… Not that any of it mattered.  I wasn’t actually eating much of it.  I did love to cook it.  For other people.  And watch them eat it.

Then, I became (and have remained) vegetarian.  That’s working out okay for me.  I mean, y’all can have your brains.  I have to say, I am pretty much over that.  I was vegan for about 8 years, and I felt pretty good at the time, but I’ll admit, it was difficult, especially when I got pregnant with my first child.  That’s about the time I decided to start eating cheese again.  I really like cheese.

Which totally doesn’t matter.  Cheese hates me.  With a passion.  It turns out, I am allergic to milk protein.  So, some years (yes, it took years ~ many, painful years), and many health problems later, I gave up all dairy products.  I miss cheese so much it hurts ~ but you know, not as much as that feeling in my throat when I ingest it, so this is really much better.  (I’m also now allergic to shellfish, which I had already given up eating, for what it’s worth, which doesn’t impact my diet, but is a weird side note considering that I ate it as a kid, I guess.)

Also, (and, well, really, I should have thrown this part in a while ago, because it originally reared its ugly head in high school), I have IBS.  That’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in case you didn’t know, and, as is evidenced by the name, it is just a festival of fun times, as I am sure you can imagine.  I won’t go into detail.  I mean, it involves your bowels, being irritable.  You can figure out what that means.  Or, you know, google it, if you want to, but I really can’t imagine why you would want to do that.

So, here I was going along, doing my thing, trying to be healthy ~ and I was really making a concerted effort, too, because I had some long-standing terrible habits to break.  Habits like not eating breakfast.  Forgetting meals altogether.  Eating chocolate for a quick burst of energy to get me through to the next meal, and then not taking time for the next meal.  Eating things like the crusts of kids’ pizza, the ends of their poptarts, and the few green beans that were left in the pan, and thinking, “That was probably a meal, right?”  Drinking a frappuccino instead of lunch.

I figured this was bad for me, bad for my body, and a terrible example for my kids, and I decided to do something about it.  I started doing things like eating more vegetables and fruits.  I love roasting vegetables ~ broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage ~ especially with lots of fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  I love artichokes.  I don’t like fruit, but berries are good for you.  I ate berries, even though I don’t like them.  I actually like pears, and some kinds of apples, and I can eat about half of a banana, sometimes, but only half.  I was trying with the fruit.  I started drinking coconut water. You hear so much about how good for you it is.  Man, I really bought that.  I used coconut milk in my coffee drinks, instead of soy, because I know too much soy is bad for you, and I already use some soy.  I was eating whole grains.  Oh, and beans.  I was trying to make sure to get enough protein, but from a variety of sources ~ nuts and nut butters, seiten, quinoa, seeds, tofu and tempeh, some commercially available meat substitutes, and beans.  I love beans.

For some reason, my digestive issues got worse.  At first, I thought, maybe it was just that I was eating meals that were too large, so I started eating smaller, more frequent meals. Then, I thought maybe it was just that was still getting used to eating well ~ maybe my body was adjusting to digesting all those fruits and vegetables and stuff.  Maybe it was too much of a transition all at once.  I even thought maybe it was a medication side effect…or maybe it was a symptom of something else.

The truth was much simpler: my IBS was completely out of control.

So, after one doctor’s visit led to another doctor’s visit, which led to some labwork, and a referral to a gastroenterologist (and more labwork ~ with more to come), I find myself on a very restrictive diet.  I am currently on a gluten-free low FODMAP diet, and it is the most restrictive diet I have ever had.  I am forced to be obsessed with food again, which is a little bit scary, to be honest, and I have to be careful not to fall back in to old patterns.  I think the key, in that regard, is to keep eating the food.  That, and the fact that the goal this time is to keep the food in my body and maybe actually gain some weight, which is really weird for me.  But it must all look frighteningly familiar to people who  have known me through all of this, and it must be worrisome for them, too, because here I am, again, very thin (due to medication) and obsessing about food.  My understanding is that at least some of this could be temporary, and then we can start trying to figure out what foods, specifically cause problems for me.  For now…

Ah, well, it is what it is.

If you are interested, you can look up the low FODMAP diet. For me, it’s basically like this: Make a list of all of your favourite foods. Write: “DON’T EAT THESE” at the top. Now, start eating eggs again.  What?  You don’t like eggs?  Fuck you.  Eat them anyway.  You don’t eat meat, and there are only like 4 other protein sources on this list that you’re allowed to eat.  Eat the freaking eggs.

If you have IBS, or another digestive disorder, you might want to talk to your doctor about whether or not this plan might be helpful to you.  I know, I just made it sound super appealing.  (sorry.)

Here, to entice you are some pictures of things I have been allowed to eat, to prove that it is not actually terrible:
Vegetable curry w/ quinoa

Maple walnut oatmeal with bananas & cinnamon

Baked potato topped w/ veggie chili and avocado

Egg salad, avocado, red pepper & olives

So, maybe I make it all sound very dire, but I am eating a lot of beautiful, delicious foods.  Most importantly, I seem to be getting it right, most of the time.  Eating out is still difficult, because it’s a bit of a craps shoot.  You know, you order the potatoes, and hope they aren’t seasoned with anything your gut’s gonna hate.

Feeding the whole family is a challenge, because my needs often require a little more creative meal-planning ~ and it does get a little bit redundant, sometimes.  I’ve hit on some recipes I can make that we all like, and, at the very least, I can often make a meal from which I can easily adapt something for myself.  If not, I usually have leftovers in the fridge, because I tend to cook for more than one meal at a time, anticipating that need.  I am still learning, but I’m getting there.

In the end, if I feel better, am able to keep the foods I eat in my system long enough to actually process the nutrients my body needs from them, and do important things like socialize with other humans, take my medication and, you know, absorb it so that it actually works, I think that’s a vast improvement.  You know, when things like that start working, the hope is that I will be able to do more of the things I want to be doing.

I would say things are looking up.

Today, for instance, I was able to get up and go with Shane to help sort Girl Scout cookie orders at the warehouse, and bring back all of the cookies Kaia intends to sell this season.  I loaded and unloaded cars, grabbed a coffee, came home and practiced banjo, cooked dinner, sat down and wrote this very long blog entry.  Now I intend to clean up a bit, and try to get my PT done before bed.  It might not sound like a lot, but I think it’s not bad for a Saturday with chronic pain and a digestive disorder.  I mean, let’s be honest: there are still a lot of days when I just want to pull the covers back over my head as soon as I wake up, but, you know, I have a Girl Scout, and those cookies aren’t gonna drive themselves home.  My banjo’s not gonna play itself.  I mean, come on ~ I’ve got stuff to do.




Potting & Repotting ~ by Sam

Well, it’s been all of 4 days since I repotted the last batch of plants, so, naturally, I have assumed it was a raging success and decided to repot every plant I see.

But, seriously, folks…

Sometime before Halloween, I purchased three adorable little succulents in ceramic planters. They  were far too cute to resist: two bright orange pumpkins, and a purple sugar skull.  For quite a while, the plants seemed to be thriving, so I just went merrily along, giving them little sips of water.  Recently, however, I noticed the one in the sugar skull planter looking a bit wilty. I took it out of the planter, because I thought it must not be getting any drainage at all in there (there was an actual flowerpot inside the planter).  I took it out and set in on a little dish so it could dry out a bit and drain better.  Then, it started looking downright soggy.  I thought I’d better try re-potting it and the other two that had come in similar planters, as well as a fern I had recently purchased, which came wrapped in fussy paper, but not in a very good pot.

I went to the nursery and purchased pots the next day, but, sadly, I don’t think the one little succulent from the sugar skull planter is going to survive.  I set him outside in his pot, thinking the very dry air might revive him.  It rained.

I bought another small succulent to fill the pot I had planned to use for that one, and, if he makes it, I promise to buy him a very good pot of his very own.  And make a most sincere apology for giving away his in the first place.


Again.  In case it wasn’t boring enough last time I wrote about it, I repotted some plants.  I’m sorry.  I apologize to the plants.  They are not boring at all.  They are lovely, and I love them all.

Here they are, waiting to be repotted.  You can clearly see the need.

Also, please note, these two magnificent chairs I scored for 100% free when a guy down the street was giving them away.  They are just waiting to become a future project, which might be a little more exciting than repotting plants, if the repotting of plants does not thrill you.

I had already cleaned out the sugar skull planter and left it inside, so I’m afraid you don’t get a picture of that one.  But look at that little plant on the left?  See the little metal bucket it’s in?  I have a couple of those buckets, now.  I have them because the plants that were in them died.  It is my considered opinion that they most likely dies because plants just don’t do well in things like metal buckets and ceramic planters that don’t allow for drainage.  So, if you get one of these cute things, that’s all well and good.  Enjoy it like that for a brief time, but, if you want to keep the plant, you should probably transfer it to something more appropriate.  At least, I hope that will work.  Based on the reading I have done in preparation for all of this, it should.

I settled on a simple white pot for the fern, whom I named Charlotte, at Justice’s suggestion, since we have a similar fern named Fern, and she thought we should stick with a theme.  For the three succulents, I chose clay pots.  I thought the clay pots would be better at not holding in too much moisture for plants that like a drier environment.  I also bought a plant mister, because I have heard that ferns like to have their leaves misted.  It turns out this is not a great mister.  It’s more of a douser.  I need to find a good mister I can use indoors that actually mists plants instead of just spraying torrential rains inside my home.  The roof already serves that purpose when it rains.
I transferred the plants to their new pots, and dressed the succulents with some decorative pebbles, making sure to place some in the bottom of each pot to ensure good drainage.

I felt to dress Charlotte with anything more would really be quite ridiculous.  She’s come fully festooned already.
I think they all look much happier now.

I promise I will write about something other than plants soon.  I mean, maybe.  Probably.  I do really like my plants.


Weekend Projects ~ by Sam

Monday January 15, 2018:
I have high hopes that yesterday will go down in history as the day that I saved several cacti and a fern.  Maybe if we all believe hard enough…should you all clap your hands or something? Can it be like that moment in Peter Pan when we all saved Tinkerbell by believing in faeries?  Say it with me: “I do believe in planties, I do believe in planties…”

Honestly, I feel fairly awful about the fern.  Her name is Marian, for obvious reasons.  Did I mention that she’s a maidenhair fern?  It’s obvious now, right?  Well, it was obvious to me.  Anyway, when we met, at the grocery store, Marian was rather a lush fern. I brought her home, put her on the table, and faithfully followed the instructions that accompanied her.  I kept her soil moist, and kept her away from the heating and cooling vents.  I misted her leaves, and she just didn’t care.  She dried up, anyway.  So I looked up care tips, and, as suggested, I gave her a good soaking, and waited.  She didn’t produce news leaves, as promised.  I kept trying.  So, this weekend, I decided to give her a new pot.  I even gave her fresh soil, and some lovely pebbles.  Then, I read, too late, that maidenhair ferns don’t like repotting!  I am very distressed about this.  I like Marian so much.  She has only two straggly little stems left.  I will keep caring for her and hoping for the best, but I am going to be very sad if she doesn’t make it.  Perhaps, I should rethink naming my plants, if I am going to continue to massacre them.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  For now, she is resting, apparently comfortably in her new pot.  I think she looks lovely in orange.  Don’t you agree?


Marian wasn’t the only plant in the house who needed assistance.

Hallie had this really adorable little glass terrarium.  You’ve probably seen them everywhere lately.  This one was teardrop shaped, and it had what I think is a ruby  ball cactus (or is it a pink ball cactus?  is that a thing?  it certainly looks pink to me), one other small succulent, and some moss.  It was super tiny and cute, until George the cat knocked it off the table and broke it.  We know he didn’t mean to break it.  He’s just a large guy, and it was a small, delicate thing, on a small table.  It was an accident.  It broke, nonetheless, so we had to figure out what to do about that.  The ball cactus looks like it might be damaged.  I am honestly, not sure it will make it, so not sure, in fact, that I bought a new one, just in case, but we decided to try our hardest to save it.  We also had a dish garden that had been planted long ago, and, sadly, all of the plants but one had finally given up on us.  We decided to get a tiny pot for that last one, and the new cactus I’d purchased.  I was lucky enough to find these absolutely adorable tiny teacup planters at the nursery, and I happened to have one small pot already, so I bought a soil mix that is supposed to be good for cacti, put a few pebbles in the bottom of each, added the plants, and topped with pebbles and/or moss, as the case may be.  I think they turned out super cute, although I didn’t put enough soil in the largest pot, so you can’t even see the plants over the top edge ~ oops!IMG_5169

Oh!  There they are!


While I was doing all of this, shane was busy putting together the new tv stand.  He got some help deciphering the instructions:


But Leia wasn’t a lot of help when it came to actually assembling the thing.  He asked George to help, but all he would do was pose for closeups.

So, finally, I pitched in an helped with one little shelf.  It was awesome.  I fastened roughly 17 screws.  Are you proud of me?  I put in, like 36 of those wooden peg things, and I even covered the heads of the screws with little plastic discs because, let me tell you, we buy the only the classiest prefab furniture.

No, seriously.  I like this piece.  I think it is pretty stylish, for the price.  It cost just over $200, and shipping was free, which always makes difference when you have to order something heavy to be delivered.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

….and then, I fell asleep while writing this.  Not for, like, days, but then, you know, the days all kind of happened.

Days in which I had a very sick kid staying home from school, and other kids not staying home, and a husband whose car needed to get to and from the shop, and groceries that needed to somehow be purchased and get home from the store ~ I mean, I know they have delivery services for that; but I drove to the store and got them, and brought them home, because that’s what I felt we could do right now.  I did have the farm box delivered from Imperfect Produce, because I think it’s a really great thing they’re doing, and, even if I can’t always afford to get a lot from them, I like to give them the business, if I can.

Oh ~ I don’t mean I like to “give them the business!”  I mean, I like to patronize them.  As in take my business to them.  I am not patronizing to them.  I prefer to purchase items of produce from them when I am able, because I find them to be a reputable company that is striving to do good in the world.

Why is the English Language so difficult to navigate?

But, I digress.
I’m sorry.
But not really.
I mean.  It’s not that big a deal…is it?

So, anyway, we got the new tv stand put together ~ or rather, Shane got the new tv stand put together ~ and I think it’s just brilliant.  I love the look of it.  We do need some supplemental shelves, as you will see in a moment, but it’s got a very interesting shape, and it came together quite nicely.  The old one was very blocky and dark. You’ll have to trust me, because I completely forgot to take “Before” pictures.  Hopefully, at some point, Shane will chime in with some insights on his assembly experience.  He certainly had a few words to say about it during the process.  Hopefully, he won’t repeat all of them in print.

But seriously folks ~

Here is the new tv stand, in all her glory, as we launch her with the customary Ross family viewing of Star Wars!

Shane was so exhausted by the time he finished putting the thing together ~ and it was so late ~ that he didn’t make it through the whole movie.  I mean, he made it.  He just fell asleep.  Justice had already gone to bed.

This wasn’t exactly the customary Ross family Star Wars viewing at all.  I think we need a do-over.

However, I did catch this one really important photo of Princess Leia (kitten) and R2-D2 (pez dispenser) with Princess Leia and R2-D2.  It’s blurry, but I thought the world should know.

So, that’s what we were up to over the last weekend.  Sorry the pictures are a bit low light.  We really need to work out the lighting situation in that room.

In closing, in the interest of giving equal(ish) time to equal cats, I give you Lucille Louise, a.k.a., Lucy:

Isn’t she just the Queen of Everything?

A Good Egg ~ by Sam

I keep trying to convince myself that I like eggs, because they are approved for my diet. The thing is, I don’t; and, to be honest, I am not convinced they like me. They are high in protein ~ although the reasons for this freak me out somewhat, and I am probably a wannabe vegan, having been one for about 8 years in my youth ~ and the rest of my diet is so limited that I feel I really should give it the old “college try” (but not “college,” really, because some of college would account for part of my vegan years).
I’m trying. To like eggs. I like egg salad, but I am very particular about it, I have to be in the mood for it, and it probably has to be my egg salad, in just the right amount, and probably on toast, maybe with a tiny bit of lettuce. Usually. The other day, I scrambled a single egg with all of the vegetables I could find that I could possibly eat, and some fresh herbs. I added salt, pepper & nutritional yeast, then put on the lid and let it sort of steam a little at the end. It took on an almost soufflé-like texture. The only reason I could tell there was egg involved was because it stuck together. That was okay.
Today, I cooked diced potatoes, carrots, and Beyond Meat grilled chicken strips in a skillet. Then, I cooled them and mixed in finely diced egg and all of the ingredients I would to make a curried chicken salad (except that I didn’t have any chutney, which I am not sure I could have anyway, which would be tragic, so let’s not think about that). So, it’s basically like egg, potato & (vegetarian) chicken salad all rolled into one ~ and seasoned with curry.
I scooped some in to half of an avocado, and put away the rest to have tomorrow. I think the potato, chicken strips, carrots, curry and dressing did a fine job of disguising the flavour of the eggs. I will eat the rest tomorrow. I am pretty sure the combination of egg and chicken strips must be fairly high in protein.
I am still not convinced I like eggs.
The jury is out on how they feel about me.

…and in with the New

While we were busy getting ready for the evening’s celebrations, it seemed like we might never get there.  Just one thing after another seemed to keep getting in the way, hindering our progress in one way or another.

First, the washing machine decided to start making that horrendous noise AGAIN, and then just quit about a minute before the cycle ended, but a minute early was nothing.  The clothes were done, so we put them in the dryer, and moved on to the next load.  We weren’t so lucky with that one.  The second load stopped mid-cycle. The machine was locked.  It refused to let us reset it, turn it off, unlock it, open it, change the cycle, stop it.  It was just stopped there, and we could do nothing.  I got the brilliant idea to unplug it.  That should work, right?  I mean, you would think.  At this point, I jus wanted to get the clothes, which Justice needed, out, and take them to the laundromat.  I plugged it in again. Still locked.  Everything still the same. I tried again.  This time, it wouldn’t let me turn it off, but it did at least let me reset the cycle.  Since it had stopped during the rinse and spin, I set it to rinse and spin only.  Luckily, it finished rinsing and spinning, and, miraculously, unlocked.  I have been terrified to use it since, and we desperately need to do laundry.

I planned to make two treats to take along to the usual New Year’s Eve party: Fantasy Fudge, and Amaretti.  One, I had made dozens of times, so it was a no-brainer.  The other was a brand new recipe, but one I had long wanted to try, and had been reading about for some time, so I had a good idea of how it should work.  I felt confident enough to give it a go.  I was all set…except that I didn’t have sugar.  So, I decided I would have to run out and get some sugar. Since the store is just up the block, and everyone else was home, I turned on the oven to heat, while I ran up the street to get the sugar I needed.  Then, I went to grab my purse from the bedroom where I’d left it.

That’s when I smelled it.

There was a very strong, obvious gas odor.  I first noticed it as I approached the door of our bedroom.  My first thought was to ask Hallie to check all of the burners on the stove, which, in retrospect, was silly, since I was nowhere near the kitchen.  They were all off, but we made sure, and decided to turn off the oven, too, after Justice confirmed that the room did, indeed, smell strongly of gas.

Kaia, who was resting in the room with a heating pad, had been complaining of a headache, and I started to put two and two together at this time.  I texted Shane, who was out front, checking a few things on his new (used) car.  He brought in the cat carrier.  Justice started opening windows and turning on fans;  and we let out the two cats who are allowed to go out, and everyone set to work trying to find the one who isn’t allowed out while I called the gas company.

While everyone tried to wrangle Leia, who is still a bit skittish, has no interest in going outside, and doesn’t especially like to be picked up, into the carrier, I talked to a representative of the gas company.  We realized that the closest gas appliance to the odor was the fireplace.  I made sure the pilot was shut off, removed the key; and, at some point, they managed to get Leia into the carrier.  We all went outside to wait.

Luckily, the guy arrived quickly.  It seems the key that turns on the pilot to the gas fireplace had been left in, and had been accidentally tripped slightly.  He also replaced a couple of fittings that were incorrect.

Finally back int he house, we had only lost hours and hours to washing machine and gas woes.  Shane let Leia out of the carrier, then ran to the store for me.  I think I was doing something, but I can’t remember what it was at this time.

At some point, much earlier in the morning ~ and really, it had come up days before, too ~ Justice had told us that, this year, for the first time ever, she would be spending New Year’s Eve celebrating with friends who were home from college, instead of hanging out with the family.  Of course, that’s totally fine.  She’s an adult, and can celebrate New Year’s Eve however she wants.  It is a big change, however, and one of those things about raising kids ~ they grow up, and one day they are adults, and off doing things on their own.

And Hallie was busy with school stuff, so we decided that Shane would come to the party a little later with Hallie, and I would go earlier with Kaia.  So, I made my Fantasy fudge and Amaretti (they’re little Italian almond cookies, in case you don’t know), and got myself a little bit gussied up, and Kaia and I headed out to the party.  Then, later, Shane and Hallie joined us.

As always, it was a fabulous time.  Our friends, the Foxes, always host a marvelous New Year’s Eve party.  I feel like it was a smaller crowd this year.  I know we weren’t the only family who was short a kid.  There was no shortage of desserts!  (I brought, like, four pounds of fudge, you guys.) But, as always, we all had a lovely time, and it was a nice crowd.  The “core group” was all there ~ the 5 families who were all in that MOMSClub playgroup together many, many years ago, when our kids, who are now Seniors in high school, were babies.  The youngest kids are freshmen in highschool now.

We rang in the New Year, watching the ball drop on TV, and toasting with champagne for the adults and sparkling cider for the kids, just as always; but it seemed, this year, everyone lingered a little longer.

Leftovers were packed up by one family, who will be distributing them to homeless people, so they won’t go to waste.

We all said our goodbyes, “Happy New Year’s!” and headed out into the crisp night air.

Shane and Hallie hopped into his car, and Kaia and I into mine.

As we drove off, Bob Dylan sang over the car stereo:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.


Out With the Old…

I am not going to pull any punches, 2017 was a tough one.

I know, at the end of a year, we are supposed to stop and count our blessings, and, as always, our year has been filled with those; but I would be lying if I sat down and wrote a post about how great the year has been, and pretended it hadn’t been hard.  It’s been a hard year, in a lot of ways, for a lot of people I know.

I am not talking about politics.  I know that the social and political climate has been difficult for a lot of people to navigate, and that has put real strain on familial relationships and friendships.  I know there has been a great deal of social upheaval, and stress, and anxiety, and real life consequences as a result of what is happening in the political arena, because those things impact us all every day.  I don’t want to discount that, or for anyone to think that I am not taking those issues into account ~ they are part of the reason this year has been difficult for a lot of people.  In fact, for some people, that is the primary reason this year has been so difficult; because, for some people, those issues directly impact their daily lives so profoundly that they can’t help but think about them every single day.  So it’s hard for me to come here and say, “but that’s not what I’m talking about.”  Perhaps what I meant to say was, “That’s not all I’m talking about.” I would be remiss not to mention it at all.

There were deaths in families, and deaths of long-admired celebrities, as there always are.

Here, in California, we recently had the fires, and so they are fresh in my mind, but all over there the world, there has been disaster, and violence, and so much suffering, anguish, and frustration.  It’s difficult to even know what to say.  Some days, it felt like the world had gone mad.  It was hard to want to read the news ~ there was a genuine fear there.  What else could possibly have happened?  

On a very personal level, it’s been a difficult year for me, in regard to my health.  If I were to say, “I don’t talk about my health much,” you would probably think I’m being ridiculous.  It seems I talk about my health all the time.  But, really, I don’t.  Or, perhaps, I do more than most people, but there’s a lot I keep to myself.  So, when the CRPS started flaring up, I didn’t mention it, because, frankly, I feel like all I ever do is complain about my health issues, and, quite frankly, people must be tired of listening.  Nevertheless, it did start flaring up.  I figured it was probably because I had slacked off on my exercise routine.  I wasn’t doing my PT every day, and I wasn’t walking as much as I should.  Oh, and also because I had cut the dosage of my daily medication down just slightly because, in combination with the other medication I take daily ~ for that other issue that I am still reticent to discuss, because I STILL don’t have a diagnosis, so I feel weird about actually saying much about it ~ it was making me VERY SLEEPY; but only at night, after I took it, and upon waking, but this matters, when you have school-aged teenagers, who might still need your help, sometimes…and they do, sometimes, and I am their mom, so I want to help. (Do I win an award for that run-on sentence?  I think it was fairly spectacular, ‘though I am not convinced it was actually a sentence.)  So, I decided, first, to try doing all of the Right Things.  I exercised.  I took my medication.  The CRPS kept flaring.

I did the logical thing.  I kept going to my class taking kids to school, doing chores, attending performances, meetings, shopping, driving all over town, picking up, dropping off, running errands… You know, all of the usual “mama” stuff.  I kept tie-dyeing things, and playing my banjo when I had time, but it kept feeling like I had less and less time.  Everything felt like it took so much longer.  You know, because it did.

While all of this was happening, other things were happening, too.  I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.  Other people I knew were having hard times, too; and, while I am not at liberty to share other people’s hard times, you know, when people you care about are having hard times, you want to help, and you probably try to, and I hope that I did.  I think, at least, I tried.  I keep trying, and I will keep trying.  I feel like, a lot of times, I fall flat on my face, or my back.  Sometimes, I feel like I started there, and, if we are both there, maybe we can just lie there, hold hands, look at the stars, and know that, whatever is going on right now, it will all be better someday.  It will.  I promise.  It always is.

Also, while all of this was going on, I was having increasingly terrible digestive issues.  I’m not going into detail, because nobody wants that (and also because I don’t have all of the answers yet), but, basically, it breaks down like this:  I was diagnosed years ago with IBS.  I hadn’t had a lot of symptoms for a very long time.  Then, in recent years, I started having trouble again.  This year has been the absolute worst.  (This is NOT the undiagnosed issue I’m not talking about.  That’s still something else.  Sorry to keep being cryptic about that.  If you know me, I’ll probably talk to you about that ~ I just feel weird putting stuff down in writing and out on the internet about that one.)  So, I saw a gastroenterologist who has put me on a low FODMAP, gluten-free diet.  I was skeptical, but cautiously optimistic.  I have to tell you, after two weeks on the new plan, not only are my digestive problems virtually a thing of the past ~ as long as I stick to the plan, which is very restrictive, and difficult to stick to when I am away from home, and can’t cook my own food ~ but, now that my digestive issues are under control, the medication I am taking for that other (cryptic) issue seems to be working well again, because my body is actually able to absorb and process it.  I still need to return for a couple of tests to make sure we aren’t missing anything, but the good news is, things are much better.

So…back to the CRPS:

While I was busy getting everything else under control, it was still flaring out of control. To the point that I was having difficulty getting around to complete simple tasks like a trip to the grocery store.  Pain was interfering with my ability to concentrate, focus, sleep, eat, remember things.  It was bad.  Worse than it had been in a long time.  I contacted my neurologist and my pain management doctor ~ to see if there was any way we could change either medication, since, in combination, they made me SO SLEEPY.  To make a long story short (and remain as cryptic as possible), neurologist said something like, “This medication is controlling your symptoms, so NO.  We won’t be changing that.”  Upon reviewing that situation, we all agreed, this was a good plan.  After an examination, my pain management doctor determined that the CRPS was not just flaring up, it was progressing.

As you can imagine, this is not the news I was hoping to hear.  He scheduled me for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, as soon as possible, in hopes that I would get some pain relief, and that we might stop any further progress.  That would be December 21st, and I would need to rest for several days after the procedure.  Perfect timing.  I hadn’t been able to accomplish much shopping, due to pain, and now, I had to be completely done by the 20th, so I could rest until Christmas Eve.

But, there was nothing else we could do, and just that little glimmer of hope that, maybe, we could stop it from progressing…or, at the very least, get a little bit of relief.  So, I agreed.

It’s been 10 days since I had the nerve block.

I think I must be in that “might get worse before it gets better” phase.  This hasn’t happened to me before, but I am trying to be optimistic.  They say you might not know until at least two weeks after how effective it will be.  So, I am waiting.

During all of this, there was this whole swirl of life events going on around us, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep up.  I tried.  I tried to attend to events I could attend.  I went to the performances and parties, I smiled, I chatted, I tried to make small talk, but, you guys, I am an open book.  I’m not good at this.  I am a terrible liar.  I don’t just wear my heart on my sleeve; it’s stamped all over my face.  Which is weird, because I’m an actor, right; or, well, maybe I was, many years ago.  But I think that’s different.  I like to think, in my real life, I’m not assuming a character when I interact with people for whom I actually care; and so, it’s different.  In real life, I am an open book.  If I am upset, or angry, or tired, or sick, or sad, or anxious, or lonely, or in pain, the whole world will know just by looking at me.  I thinkI have been every one of those things this year.  I suppose we all have, at some point, every year.

Some great things happened this year, and others are still in the process of happening.  Justice finished her Child Development certificate, and CPR and first aid training, and was accepted to the Music Performance program at her college.  Hallie is a Senior in high school this year, and is busy earning A’s in classes like AP lit and Digital Imaging (things I couldn’t even grasp in high school ~ and let’s review the fact that I didn’t make it through Senior year of high school, so kudos to kids who do), and looking into art schools for after graduation.  Kaia finished middle school and moved on to high school where she is participating in and loving Marching Band. She finished her Computer Science class early, and was allowed to move on to the AP course in independent study.   I took my first ever ASL (American Sign Language) class, and finished with an 87%, which is a B, but a high B, so I’m cool with that.  I probably can’t take another class just yet, but I will keep practicing what I have learned, so I don’t get too rusty before I can continue.  I do plan to continue.  Shane has worked on so many projects that I just can’t name them all ~ and I probably shouldn’t here ~ but I can say that he was recently able to purchase a used 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4×4 that appears to be in very good condition (fingers crossed).  I bought him a repair manual, so he can maintain it.  It’s a vehicle he’s wanted for a long time, and it means that, with Justice’s busy schedule, and with us on the brink of having a 4th driving in the household, we finally have a 3rd car.  I think it should make think easier for everyone.

There have been weddings, and engagements.  There have been children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews ~ oh, heavens!  Not all mine!  I just mean, in the world, there have been these things. In lives of my friends and family members, I have watched them unfold.

So, as I look forward ~ ever forward, never back…well, occasionally, wistfully, back, but never, ever with regret ~ it is with the very highest of hopes.

Here’s to 2017, and all of it’s challenges. Here’s to the tears we’ve wept, and the losses we’ve suffered.  Here’s to the lessons learned, and to every victory, every happy memory, every blessing and every joy this year has brought with it, as well.  For some, this might have been the best year yet.  For some of you, this was the year you were married, or the year your child was born, the year you finally bought your first home, or brought home the pet that filled that hole in your heart and made your life complete.  So here’s to 2017, for everything it’s been to every one of us.

2018, we see you on the horizon, and we have pinned our hopes on you.

We’ll see you soon.



All That Glitters ~ by Sam

IMG_4854This morning, while Shane took George the cat to the vet, and found out that he is, most likely, allergic to plastic, making him even more perfectly suited to our family, with all of our allergies and specific dietary needs, I decided to take a long-awaited bath.

I mean, well, that is to say…

I had bathed recently, for heaven’s sake.  I just hadn’t, like, soaked in a hot bath.  After the recent nerve block, I was told I had to wait for a couple of days ~ or maybe it was only one day, and then time got away from me, because it was the Holidays, and I would say I was busy, but, actually, I was lying around doing next to nothing, because I had recently had a nerve block, and was under doctor’s orders to lie around and do next to nothing for a few days…but THEN it was actually Christmas, and I was actually busy, SO, as I said: I had bathed, as in had a shower, but I hadn’t taken the time to relax and soak in a bath.  It’s a completely different thing.  This morning, I decided to run a bath, and relax, for just a little while, before driving Shane to work.

We only have one bathtub, in the kids’ bathroom, and I happened to notice, before I ran the water, that there was some glittery residue left from a silver bath bomb Kaia had used the last time she’d bathed.  It looked like the tub had been rinsed, but there was just some glitter left behind.  So, I gave it a quick once over, rinsed it again, and ran my bath.

I’ll tell you, that glitter is tenacious.

To my surprise, floating atop the water, was a fine glittery film.  Now, I suppose I could have emptied the bath and started again, but I’ll be honest: by this time, I had already cleaned the tub once, Shane was already at the vet, so I was running short on time and already starting to feel a little less relaxed, and I kind of like glitter.  For those of your worried about how sanitary this might be, I will say this once.  I was in a bathtub with hot water, literally washing the glitter.  It’s all going to be okay.  I promise.  Also, if you are uncomfortable with me and my glittery bathtub, that’s totally okay, and you can leave.  I promise we can still be friends.  Or not.  Or, I mean, if we weren’t ever friends, that’s okay, too.  I mean, sorry.  I’m not trying to be mean.  I mean, it’s all okay.  Me, my glitter.  You, your uncomfortable feelings about my bathtub glitter.

You know what?  I’m just going back to my story now.  You can work out your own issues.  I’m sorry.  I tried.

Okay.  SO.  I got in the bathtub, with the glitter, because, honestly, I was too tired to start over, I really needed a bath, and I just wasn’t going to get one any other way.  And besides, it’s glitter.

I slipped into the bath.  I figured, what’s the worst that could happen?  I was right.    Nothing bad happened. I just…took a bath.  I came out a little bit glittery.  Sparkly, you might say…or “farkly,” a little girl I knew would have said, many, many years ago, when she was very, very small.

Then, I cleaned the tub again.

Thinking it was funny, I told Kaia about my glittery bath, and sure enough, she apologized, saying she, too, thought she had washed away all of the glitter.  Glitter is like that.  You never really get rid of it.  Tenacious, I tell you.  I think there’s still glitter around my house from projects the kids did in preschool.  I don’t mind.  Glitter always makes me smile.  I told her so.

I think there’s something in the tenacity of glitter that touches me.  Something in its ability to reach back to the recesses of my mind, where memories aren’t always so forthcoming, and find them.  Something about its ability to elicit a smile, something about that tiny twinkle of uplifting light.  That sparkle.  As I said, it’s tenacious.  Some of our glitter came home from preschool on art projects and survived, like, 8 moves.  We’re still finding it in our pillowcases, even though the kids are practically all grown.

Good grief.  Are they really?

They are.

At least they are still leaving glittery rings in the tub.  For now.

Later, I happened to sit down at my computer to check my email, read a little news, check my messages…and that’s when I saw…it was a reminder that popped up as a Facebook “memory” from a year ago today.  If you use Facebook, you’ll know that they do this thing, where they remind you of posts you made on this day a year ago, 3 years ago, 5 years ago, etc.  This particular memory happened to be of a post I made on this day one year ago today with a link to an article about Carrie Fisher’s death, and I thought, Well, then.  How appropriate that we should find ourselves accidentally covered in glitter on this of all days.  

I said something to that effect to the kids, and wondered aloud why it was that people started #GlitterforCarrie in the first place, and we decided to look it up.  Do you know?  If you don’t, you should.  We did.  Look up why people wear glitter for Carrie Fisher.  There are some great stories, and I won’t bother retelling them here, because they aren’t mine to tell, and they are already all over the internet, anyway.

This is my little story.

I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you find ways to make your world sparkle.