always something (there to remind me)

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Image by Rooey202 via Flickr

Now that I’m nearly vegan—and my lactose-intolerant insides thank me for finally going back to being dairy-free—I’d noticed that I was still feeling gross sometimes after eating, the way I would after I would down some ice cream before, and I couldn’t figure out why. But then it hit me: I felt awful after eating stuff with gluten in it.

So, that’s what I’m trying next: going gluten-free. As I was doing some research as to the best way to go about this, I ran across an interesting study published in 2001 by doctors at a Swedish university (here’s a WebMD article that breaks it down) that had some really interesting findings about gluten and autoimmune arthritis, namely that a significant minority of people with (in this case) rheumatoid arthritis round relief in a gluten-free diet.

That’s really exciting to me; going vegetarian and then vegan has helped somewhat, especially in the face of the six-month Enbrel effectiveness dip I always seem to hit. If going gluten-free was even as effective as that, I’d be feeling pretty darn good. Of course, it won’t be easy; being a vegan already restricts what I can eat, and obviously going gluten-free would be even more restrictive. Still, it can be done (and I found a vegan GF cookbook!). And, even if it doesn’t help, it’ll certainly be healthier, which is another benefit.

But for you GF folk out there: What are your favourite resources?

just desserts: vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

I love peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Love. Them. Before I went vegetarian/vegan, I would get these delicious cookies from the local grocery co-op near my work; however, as they were made with dairy and eggs, I had to give them up.

Then—inspired by Chocolate-Covered Katie—I realised I could just turn my favourite peanut butter cookie recipe vegan. So, I did. And the results are delicious! (Except when I get too impatient to eat them, and I take them out before they’re fully done. They’re still tasty, then, but they don’t stay together very well. Oops.)

Amazing vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

2/3 cup peanut butter

2/3 cup vegan margarine

2/3 cup brown sugar (I’ve also used agave, with yummy results. Use less and reduce the liquid if you go that route)

1-1/2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I’ve used soy and almond)

3/4 cup non-bleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

non-dairy chocolate chips to taste

 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix egg replacer and water in a small bowl. (I use a whisk. You really need to make sure there aren’t any hidden lumps, which is fun.) Set aside.

2. In a big mixing bowl, cream together peanut butter, sweetener and margarine.

3. Mix in soy milk, egg replacer and vanilla.

4. Sift in flour and baking powder a bit at a time. Add salt.

5. Add chocolate chips.

6. Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

7. Bake for 8 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned but centre is still soft.

8. Let cool and enjoy!

 

blue bird

I must be insane.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for me, professionally. My newspaper is small enough that we run the pictures of all the graduates in a keepsake edition, and that means hounding the school district PIO for the pictures, editing them (greyscale, curves, resize, save as!) in Photoshop, matching the student ID number (which is how the pictures are named) with the master list and renaming the files alphabetically, double checking the names, putting mug shot boxes on the pages, filling them with pictures, resizing the pictures again, putting the names under the pictures, double checking the names again….

Plus, you know, we still have all the regular, small-town stuff to cover, which is a lot since the weather is finally turning nice.

So, what do the Professor and I decide to do? Paint our apartment, of course!

Sigh.

It’s going to look awesome when it’s done, but it’s definitely exhausting me. Painting is hard work on the joints! And, since we’ve been doing it after I get home from work, it makes for some long days. But, I have tomorrow off for Memorial Day, so we’ll do some more then—after I sleep in some. I can feel it in my bones; if I don’t start taking better care of me, I’ll be paying for it.

(Also, for those wondering how the cake batter shake turned out, it. was. awesome.)

i’m loving … chocolate covered katie

As you know, I’ve been doing the vegetarian thing for awhile now. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling as though I should go the extra mile and banish all animal products from my diet, including eggs (no big loss there) and dairy (nooooooo!). The thing is, I love cheese. And (milk) chocolate. And cheese. Did I say cheese?

Anyway.

The other day, I found a pretty darn good non-dairy mozzarella cheese substitute to put on my whole wheat flatbread pizzas (which I call pita pizzas because it’s just catchier). So, the cheese objection crossed off my list, I moved on to the chocolate conundrum.

via Chocolate Covered Katie

And then I found Katie.

Everything she makes looks amazing—and it’s all vegan. She’s even got sugar-free, gluten-free and even raw variations.

But the proof is in the pudding—or in my case, in the blondies (that’s them in the picture; mine didn’t turn out that pretty looking, but they sure taste good!). I’d had some problems making conventional (from-a-box) desserts and subbing in egg replacer and soy milk instead of eggs and cow milk, so I was ready to tackle making some desserts from scratch. And, honestly? These were easier to make than Betty Crocker’s brownies. Including the prep work and bake time, it took me maybe 50 minutes to make these—and I had them in the oven for 38 minutes.

Oh, and the taste? Out of this world. I made them last night, and I’ve already eaten half the pan.

But the best part (beside the taste and the vegan thing) is they’re healthy. Everything on Katie’s site is. And that means dessert doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure anymore; it can just be something to enjoy. Awesome.

Next up? I’m going to try the cake batter shake.

#HAWMC day one: acrostic

Though I am a few days late, I’m jumping on the WEGO Health Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. To rub? Write a post a day on a topic decided by the lovely people over at WEGO Health.

The first post? Write an acrostic poem using your disease. For once, I’m kind of jealous of Kerri for her diabetes. (Because it’s short, people! Geez.)

Without further ado, Psoriatic Arthritis: The Poem.

People often think psoriasis is contagious,

Something that can be caught from shaking hands.

Oh, how I wish they’d wake up and realize this:

Read my lips: The stupidity is more than I can stand!

I didn’t get the P because I don’t shower,

And PsA isn’t something that afflicts the old,

Tis true, they are both the result of the same power: an

Immune system that’s totally out of control.

Caring people can still make my burden lighter,

Although most days I need lots of pills, too;

Rarely predictable, this has turned me into a fighter,

To seem normal, a lot of acting I must do.

Help—though I may need it—is hard to ask for,

Running fast, just to stay in place.

It may seem strange to work so hard to go nowhere,

To use all my spoons to stay afloat,

It all seems worth it when I can be there

Stuck between the healthy and those in my same boat.

poetic license

I was reading Sharon’s blog this evening. She mentioned Laura Hershey in her most recent post and a poem Hershey had written. After getting lost in Hershey’s writings and mourning her loss (she was only 48 when she died in November) and the fact that I stumbled across her work too late, I went on and read the poem. It definitely hit home for me—I’m going to print it out and tack it to my wall at work—and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.


You Get Proud by Practicing
By Laura Hershey

If you are not proud
For who you are, for what you say, for how you look;
If every time you stop
To think of yourself, you do not see yourself glowing
With golden light; do not, therefore, give up on yourself.
You can get proud.

You do not need
A better body, a purer spirit, or a Ph.D.
To be proud.
You do not need
A lot of money, a handsome boyfriend, or a nice car.
You do not need
To be able to walk, or see, or hear,
Or use big, complicated words,
Or do any of those things that you just can’t do
To be proud. A caseworker
Cannot make you proud,
Or a doctor.
You only need more practice.
You get proud by practicing.

There are many many ways to get proud.
You can try riding a horse, or skiing on one leg,
Or playing guitar,
And do well or not so well,
And be glad you tried
Either way.
You can show
Something you’ve made
To someone you respect
And be happy with it no matter
What they say.
You can say
What you think, though you know
Other people do not think the same way, and you can
keep saying it, even if they tell you
You are crazy.

You can add your voice
All night to the voices
Of a hundred and fifty others
In a circle
Around a jailhouse
Where your brothers and sisters are being held
For blocking buses with no lifts,
Or you can be one of the ones
Inside the jailhouse,
Knowing of the circle outside.
You can speak your love
To a friend
Without fear.
You can find someone who will listen to you
Without judging you or doubting you or being
Afraid of you
And let you hear yourself perhaps
For the very first time.
These are all ways
Of getting proud.
None of them
Are easy, but all of them
Are possible. You can do all of these things,
Or just one of them again and again.
You get proud
By practicing.

Power makes you proud, and power
Comes in many fine forms
Supple and rich as butterfly wings.
It is music
when you practice opening your mouth
And liking what you hear
Because it is the sound of your own
True voice.

It is sunlight
When you practice seeing
Strength and beauty in everyone,
Including yourself.
It is dance
when you practice knowing
That what you do
And the way you do it
Is the right way for you
And cannot be called wrong.
All these hold
More power than weapons or money
Or lies.
All these practices bring power, and power
Makes you proud.
You get proud
By practicing.

Remember, you weren’t the one
Who made you ashamed,
But you are the one
Who can make you proud.
Just practice,
Practice until you get proud, and once you are proud,
Keep practicing so you won’t forget.
You get proud
By practicing.

i’m here standing

 

via Toothpaste for Dinner

It’s kind of funny that my last post was all about heels and my enduring love for them, because today I spent the entire day in a pair of pointed-toe pumps.

 

But let me start at the beginning (and explain what makes this unbelievable occurrence even more extraordinary).

Saturday and Sunday, I worked my final two shifts at the large retail establishment at which I had worked for about three years; I worked eight hours on Saturday and nine hours on Sunday. It was kind of insane and illustrated just how far I’ve come since that first (again) shot of Enbrel a few weeks ago; the four or five hour shifts I worked around Black Friday left me exhausted and unable to move for the rest of the weekend.

Not this time.

After my shifts this weekend, I felt a bit sore, but nothing outrageous: My feet hurt a bit and my legs, but nothing more.

Today, I had an interview for a promotion within my company; to me, professional attire (and especially interview attire) will always mean heels. So, this morning, instead of looking sadly at my pumps before putting on a pair of flats, I put on my long pants, a silk top and a blazer (the tan one, not the black one; my psoriasis is acting up) and broke out a favored pair of more conservative pumps. Though I know they really had nothing to do with it, I’d like to think my heels—and the increased confidence they gave me—helped me nail the interview and get the promotion.

More likely, it was my hard work throughout the year and, if I’m honest, how much better I’ve been feeling lately. I would not have been able to drive for two hours, sit through a 30-minute interview, drive for another two hours and hang out at my office for six hours before driving 30 minutes home. No. Just a few short weeks ago, just getting up and going to work would have taken away so many spoons, I wouldn’t have many left over for much of anything.

Regardless, it was nice for my efforts to be lauded, nice to be able to wear heels again and so very nice to feel well enough to be up to both of those things.

and now, for something slightly different

Sometimes, even if you really, really, really, REALLY want something, it still doesn’t happen. One of my good friends from university is getting married in June. I would love to go, as I haven’t seen so many of these friends since my wedding two years ago or since I left that university in 2004. That’s a long time to go without seeing some great friends. Still, we are not able to go, despite how much I would love it.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Instead, I think I’m going to treat my town — a veritable ghost town now that all the college students have gone home for the summer — like a vacation. I’m going to see it through a tourist’s eyes, something I have never done before despite wanting to. This, though, is a more manageable dream. I can visit all the coffee shops and lunch spots I’ve been dying to hit, wander through museums I’ve only ever walked by, hear live music in all the great venues my town has to offer.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but somehow I never got around to it. This is the perfect chance, though, to do it. Not only does it serve as a substitute to not one but two friends’ weddings I would love to attend, but it also provides my husband and I the chance to make new memories here, to make this town our own.

Suddenly, I can’t wait to spend the summer here. Imagine that.

me first

I met Nicole through my job. (I don’t know if she read my blog or knew about it before now, but I bet she’ll be able to figure out who it is. If so, hi!)

She is the one who introduced me to the idea of People First Language. It’s an easy enough concept, though one that will require a pretty radical shift.

Instead of saying, for example, Adam is autistic, as if it is a trait like brown hair or blue eyes or freckles, you’d say Adam has autism. Adam, then, is not his diagnosis.

I would say the same thing applies to others with illnesses or limitations that may lead them to be considered “disabled,” even if they don’t consider themselves to be.

We may not be able to do certain things the way we used to, but we’re still people first. I know I don’t define myself as PSA. When I think of what makes me me, that’s not usually something that comes to mind, though even I’ll admit it has molded me into becoming the person I am today.

But.

I am lucky and unlucky, in that most of the time PSA is invisible. I don’t use a wheelchair, I don’t have features that give anything away, I don’t require extra time to take a test. But, there are things I have to do differently than anyone else. And maybe that makes me sensitive to the idea of People First Language, to the idea of recognizing people for who they are, not what they have or what they can’t do.

But I think it’s a great idea, a wonderful cultural shift, and I’m glad I learned about it.

So: Thanks, Nicole.

mini vacation

I had slacked off recently from reading my “chronique” blogs, the blogs I read when I need to feel like I’m not going through this alone or when I need a bit of grace or humour to get through what is now my reality. I’m bummed that I hadn’t discovered this blog before, “Everything Changes,” about a woman with cancer. Still, I’m glad I found it now.

In a recent post, an upcoming trip to San Fransisco reminds her of times she’s been too sick or poor to travel.

Lucky me that my husband has a kagillion frequent flier miles from work. We’ll be spending time in a cabin stowed away by a fire, napping a ton, and reading to our heart’s content. But I haven’t always been this lucky. There have been many times when I’ve been too sick to travel or could not afford it.  Instead of the luxury of travel, I’d get crafty spending moments around my house or my city that felt like vacations.

Some of the things she liked to do was read (me too!), visit a special coffee shop and sit in a greenhouse. It got me thinking. I’ve been jonesing for a vacation for some time now; I haven’t had one since my honeymoon, really, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be lucky to go on one anytime soon.

That was really bumming me out, but this blog altered my perspective a bit. I mean, I like in a university town surrounded by culture, great parks and amazing coffee shops. Why couldn’t I do some of these things myself? Why couldn’t I figure out something to do that feels like a vacation, but isn’t as taxing or as expensive?

I’ve been to the Morehead Planetarium, but not to look at any of the amazing things they have there. I’d love to stroll around it inside, and maybe even catch one of the stargazing shows. I’ve yet to hit up the Ackland Art Museum, but I would love to go there and just look at all the beauty it contains. The Coker Arboretum is a great place to get back in touch with nature, as are the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Tim and I love to go take pictures at Duke Gardens, but it would be fun, too, to take pictures somewhere we could take the bus to, somewhere that much closer to home.

There are several other places I’d love to go — for instance, caffe Driade and I love, love, love Open Eye Cafe — so there is so much to do around here. Maybe we should approach our town like tourists, and see what we can find here that makes us love it even more.