Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't assume anything

I experienced a set back. Monday I experienced a pancreatitis attack. It was not as severe as the first attack I experienced in September, but it was painful none the less and very uncomfortable. I left work early after completing some "must get done" tasks, took some Tylenol and dove into bed. I would be home again today, but we had a VIP from corporate arriving for a visit and if I wasn't in the hospital I had to be at work. It always works that way for me. It's never convenient for me to be ill.

This time however, I may have pinned the culprit or at least know I that I am angry and disappointed with my doctors. On my way from daycare to work yesterday morning as I was trying to calm myself from the discomfort I tried to think about all of the events leading to the attacks. I remembered that on the initial attack I just began taking Welchol which is a cholesterol medication that works via the GI track verses being processed through the liver. A couple days later, I'm in the ER.

All of the docs came to the conclusion that it was the alcohol that caused the episode. I was told to not take the Welchol, no alcohol and to follow a drastic change of diet in order to allow the pancreas to heal. My cholesterol went down during this time. However; just recently, my cholesterol went back up again and right back into the danger zone. The doctor's decided it was best I return to the Welchol. I began taking it again Saturday evening. Then on Monday....boom!

I did have my allotted beverages this weekend, but I did not go over what the doctor suggested. Was it the alcohol, the mix or just the Welchol? I'll never know. The doctors, after me calling them Monday morning didn't seem to care and just told me to discontinue use of the Welchol and to return at my next scheduled appointment in eleven weeks to discuss further treatment options. I guess my high cholesterol is no real concern to them either.

While driving to work, I put two and two together and decided I better research this Welchol. Here is what I found (these are just a few):

1. Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); choking; difficulty swallowing; severe constipation or diarrhea; severe or persistent dizziness or headache; symptoms of pancreas inflammation (eg, severe stomach or back pain with or without nausea or vomiting, stomach tenderness or swelling, fast heartbeat, dizziness); throat pain or irritation.

2. The medication may cause an increase in triglyceride levels. It has not been well studied in people with triglyceride levels greater than 300 mg/dL. If you have high triglycerides and are taking WelChol, your healthcare provider may choose to monitor your progress more closely. High triglycerides can be dangerous and may increase the risk of pancreatitis, a serious condition of the pancreas.

3. This medication should not be used if you have certain medical conditions. Before using this medicine, consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have: history of pancreatitis (caused by high triglyceride levels).

4. Discontinue Welchol and seek prompt medical attention if the hallmark symptoms of acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) take place. These symptoms may include severe abdominal pain with or without nausea and vomiting.

5. This is from the Welchol brochure: WELCHOL can increase TG, particularly when used with insulin or sulfonylureas. Marked hypertriglyceridemia can cause acute pancreatitis.

So my issues with acute pancreatitis could have been caused solely from the medication or in conjunction with the alcohol. Either way, none of the doctors seemed be aware of this after my first episode knowing they had prescribed me this medication and more importantly, they decided to put me back on this medication knowing I had history of acute pancreatitis!

What if I didn't do my homework and continued to take this medication? Where would I be? The ER or worse? It's hard not to get completely emotional. I know doctors are only human. But they get paid the big bucks to know this stuff and to follow proper protocol. I make table scraps in their world, yet I can put this simple puzzle together.

Oh, and another thing. My triglycerides have always been a little high, so why would they prescribe a medication to me that would further raise the levels to potentially cause acute pancreatitis? Hello?!

Now I think I am back to square one. Back on the broth for a bit, absolutely no dairy (pancreas can not process lactose when inflamed) and I'm too afraid to touch that Saturday glass of wine or beer. I think I'll have to abstain again for a few months just to be on the safe side. I'm afraid of another attack, afraid to further damage an organ I must have to continue life. It would really be a shame if it was all because of a bad script.

Chris was prescribed the same medication. We are both tossing the bottle. Until the doctors can find a medication that won't kill us verses the potential stroke or heart attack from the high cholesterol, Chris and I decided to try focusing on diet more. Even more than we are already doing. For starters we are going to have an animal product in only one meal a week. The rest of the week we will continue to get our protein from vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, beans & soy.

This will give me the opportunity to practice my skills at more meatless entrees so that we can move to maybe once a month and so on. There is also the idea of testing out going gluten free to see if that lowers any levels for us. We are willing to try anything as we can't seem to trust any of the medicines that have been offered to us.

What have I learned (should have known already)? Don't assume your doctors know everything about the human body or the drugs they are prescribing. Don't assume anything. Do your homework.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We know it's spring when

We know it's spring when Chris's orchids start blooming. My camera decided to run out of battery life before I could get shots of all of his flowers. Thanks to Bella, he's acquiring quite a collection of the little beauties.

It's warming up down here. I can already feel an occasional teasing breeze of really warm air when outside warning that another wicked hot summer is to come. I have been loving the cooler mornings and breezy evenings. Please stay as long as you can!

Here is our last pickings from our harvest box from the local organic farm we have been purchasing from lately.

Kale, beets with greens, arugula, spinach,
kohlrabi and romaine lettuce.

Their vegetables are so beautiful! I want to consume them all at once and feel this sense of urgency to eat them as quickly as possible in order to reek the benefits of the freshness. These didn't travel across the country or the world to get here. They came from just a few miles away. Totally awesome!

Tonight we'll make our selection for this week's harvest box. Chris will be picking up right from the farm this Friday. I hope he takes pictures, I have been wanting to see it.

Guess what I'm doing now...

Yup. I joined just recently. I went the Saturday before last when a friend of mine asked if I would meet her there. She has been going in the mornings during the week for some time now. The first visit is free and I figured, what the hell - I'll give it a try. Initially I was very nervous. First of all I didn't have any "gear" in my wardrobe for this kind of thing and second I didn't know if I could make it through an hour of exercise without falling over and needing emergency care.

Well, no one pointed at me while laughing because I arrived in a t-shirt and shorts, I made it through the whole class, it woke my ass up for a Saturday morning and most of all I had a blast! I had so much fun I went again during the week after work, then again Saturday and again this week. They have 6pm classes that I can attend during the week, then Saturday morning. I'll go to as many classes as I can as long as I don't mess up any schedules for others in the family. Meaning Chris or my parents.

I have lost the weight, now I need to maintain it and tone up as well as for cardiovascular health. Maybe this too will help bring down that demon cholesterol of mine that decided to go back up again. Darn you!

What a beauty

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

Monday, March 21, 2011

Persistence may have paid off

We made the mistake of relying on Bella's developmental timing to predict how Kristjan would fare. It took quite a while to get her potty trained and figured it would take just as long or longer (everyone has told me boys are harder to train than girls) for Kristjan. This thinking has so far proven to be inaccurate. Every child progresses differently through life. Kristjan started to walk earlier, he's been adamant about doing things himself (don't even try to help feed him unless he asks) and he also potty trained faster.

Bella was faster in other areas. She's a very cautious being. After a couple of falls when she started trying to walk, she backed off for a while until she felt safer on her feet. Same with the potty. She'll be the one to research before making a decision and be careful. Kris will just dive in.

Bella has been wanting another dog. We thought...well it should take about 4 years for Kris to potty train, that gives us 4 years to save, think about it, try and change her mind, etc. We told her, when Kris is potty trained and we don't have to pay for diapers, swimmies, pull ups or wipes, then we may be able to afford a dog and all of its added weekly expenses. We thought we had plenty of time. No such luck. It's a great thing he's potty trained and I'm so happy with him.

But; at the same time, Bella forgets nothing and now she has Kris helping her on the quest. He too has been asking. With every successful potty experience, we get a "Buy a puppy now?" out of Kris.

We have also been getting envelopes handed to us with family drawings from Bella, reminding us that we need a puppy. She's been wanting a Labrador and continues to push. Her persistence paid off in a big way yesterday.

She expressed how much she wanted a Labrador. Chris's stipulation was a smaller size, non shedding, hypoallergenic dog. She pressed again, with her notes, drawings and pleases until Chris said: "If we get a lab, it would have to be a chocolate lab."

Oh boy. He completely threw out his stipulation and gave her an opening, a big opening for that Labrador. Again, Bella forgets nothing. She now is convinced she will get one and is now looking forward to that "Chocolate" lab someday.

I wonder how this will unfold. So far after doing my research, they are very pricey puppies. Ouch! They are really cute though. Aww...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All the pretty colors

Chris is able to visit the downtown farmer's market held each Friday. He usually picks up any good organic veg he can find while he's there. He recently found a company that offers their organic produce at the market and they happen to have their farm near where we live.

They feature a program where you can either select a few items for pick up each week or they choose the items for you depending on the harvest at that time. We have been selecting 5 items for $12.00. On Wednesday Chris goes on their site, makes our selection and then on Friday he picks up our harvest box of goodies at the farmer's market while also perhaps picking up any other nice looking veg he may see for sale.

They also offer other packages, largest is 14 items for $35.00. That is not bad considering it is all organic and freshly harvested. It all depends on the bills and needs of the week on what harvest box we can select.

I wanted you to see how beautiful their rainbow chard was. I felt kind of bad cooking it, they were so amazing and colorful. The last two batches of kale we got were so deep green and beautiful, I chopped them up for salad. I couldn't bring myself to cook them. It was like they were telling me to eat them while they were nice and crispy. I think I have a problem. I'm sure I do.
Holy cow! I want to scream to the world about this dish! It was just brilliant. Martha does it again with this Red lentil & squash curry soup recipe. You must try this recipe and you must make your own curry powder. Don't use the stuff in the jar. Make your own. The flavor is so much more vibrant. My only change to the recipe was the addition of collard greens. I had them, had to use them and just threw them in.

Red Lentil & Squash Curry Soup

2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 recipe Curry Powder (see below)
12 ounces red lentils
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
214 1/2-ounce cans low-sodium canned, or homemade, chicken stock, skimmed of fat (you can also use vegetable broth)
2 cups water

Combine salt and curry powder; set aside. Rinse lentils; set aside. Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add curry mixture; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add onion, garlic, and ginger; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add squash; cook until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add stock and water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in lentils; cook until soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Recipe for the Curry Powder (Makes about 2 tablespoons):

2 teaspoons coriander seed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add coriander and cumin. Toast seeds, tossing constantly, until fragrant. Transfer to spice grinder. Add cayenne, turmeric, and cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Use immediately.

There are countless varieties of curry combinations. Garam Masala is pretty popular and is used as an ingredient in other curries.

Garam Masala

  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon, broken up
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron (optional)

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.
Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

I am going to try this Maharaja Curry recipe and let you know how it goes. From what I can see from the ingredients. I'm sure it will be mouth watering. I think I'll try some shrimp or extra firm tofu instead of the chicken.

Maharaja Curry (allrecipes.com)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
5 peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast meat - cubed

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cumin seed and cook until they start to pop, 20 to 45 seconds. Stir in onion, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Season with turmeric, cayenne, garam masala, garlic, and ginger. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.

Puree the mixture with the tomatoes in a blender until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan, and add the chicken. Simmer gently until the chicken has cooked, about 20 minutes; add water as needed while cooking to maintain desired consistency.

Monday, March 14, 2011

We have an obesity epidemic in America?

No. Not us.

Look! Now we don't even have to exert the energy to walk over to our vehicles to fill up on fast food. They will come to you!
I didn't scan all of the brochure. You can get jumbo combos of breakfast sandwiches, chicken nuggets by the truck load and even better...
They cater! You can feed your entire office or home party delicious sugar, fat and salt filled goodies from your favorite fast food restaurant. Just imagine. All of the Angus burgers and Big Macs you can eat, pile them up any way you want. Instead of eating their prepared fat filled portion, make your own double or triple sized version. This marketing idea will help aid in our growing obesity, diabetes and heart disease problem along with plus sizing their bottom line.

Way to go McDonald's.


Last week had its rough spots. A friend's funeral and some long work days. Roland's passing was so very sad but it also brought a lot of people together. I saw friends I had not seen in years and our hugs were long and strong. It was a time to remember, to forgive, to promise to share our lives together and to be thankful.

My mind is spinning, and things are changing. For the good! I'll fill you in later and I promise more food as well. For now, I wanted to share how thankful I am for my little family and that I love them all with everything in my being. They bring me such happiness and love.
My little helper Bella. She's been loving to help out in the kitchen and I adore her. All she wants is to make us happy. She had some tooth fairy money saved up to spend this weekend. She got herself an outfit and then bought Kristjan a toy. She's always so giving.
Wee man! He's a big boy now. No more diapers! He's doing so well and growing way too fast. He's my little romantic. Always good for a long snuggle and every night gives me a kiss, tells me goodnight and tells that he loves me. In between times he's just being a wild and healthy little boy. Fearless with a smile.
My main man. My best friend, the best father and my everything. May our quest for better health allow us to live as long as we can together - healthy and vibrant.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hockey Event

We held a customer appreciation event for work last night. We had a box suite at a hockey game, which included food and open bar. We also had several vendors and a raffle with prizes like Hp net books, digital cameras, digital frames and signed Tampa Bay Lightning gear. I don't normally attend these functions as I my position is mostly accounting, HR and operational. It was nice to get out and play with the sales staff and experience how the other half lives for a night.

I went along to help set things up, greet and sign in guests etc. When the event was over, we had some issues getting our gear back to the van. We ended up taking some routes through the arena that were pretty cool. We passed through the locker room area where we saw players passing by, the press areas and also the VIP lounges.

It was a very long day, since I got up at 5am for work and then didn't arrive home until after midnight. All in all, I had a great time. It's kind of nice to do something different to break up the hum drum of the normal work week.

Here is a view of the arena from the suite. View of half of the suite. There was enough room for entertaining and then some seating for the game.
Some of the food offered. Nice to see some fruits and veg!
Here is a shot of my manager on the left displaying one of the gifts during the raffle while Dave Andreychuck pulled the names. Dave played for the Lightning and helped them win their first (and only so far) Stanley Cup. He is also the league's all-time leader in power play goals. Before the Lightning, he played for the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche.

Before the raffle I was at my booth just outside of the suite greeting the clients when my helpers left to have a smoke while it seemed quiet for a while. I had maybe two more clients I was waiting on, so I was out there alone just fiddling with my phone. Next thing I know, this very tall fella is standing next to me (Mr. Andreychuck) and asks what he can do for me. I ask what company he was with (to see if he was one of my last clients) and he chuckles.

He shakes my hand and then introduces himself as some fans pass by asking for an autograph. I finally get that he must be former hockey player, coach or something (feeling a little embarrassed as I am ignorant to hockey). After signing some hockey pucks for me, I directed him to our suite where he then went in and obliged other autograph requests from fans. He returned later to visit again and help with the raffle. Seemed like a nice dude.

I have my own signed hockey puck and intend of giving it to a friend of mine that is a huge fan. He goes to most of the games and his sons know all of the player's names and stats. I know they will love it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Return of the Jedi - Bella Style

Get ready for a quick rundown of Star Wars - The Return of the Jedi. Just in case you haven't seen it. Bella did a quick story with pictures of the scenes she remembered most.

Return of the Jedi - by Bella
In this scene Princess Leia is removing Hans Solo from his cryogenically frozen state. He's on the right, and I believe the sparks are flying as she deactivates the machine.
Here is the scene where Jabba the Hut is above with a chained up Princess Leia (looks like Boba Fett is next to her) watching Luke Skywalker battle the giant monster named Rancor. Luke wins the battle and they all escape.
We jump to the Forest Moon of Endor where the Ewoks live. Here they are hiding behind a log as they react to the new comers that have arrived.

Here up in the tree houses of the Ewoks, Luke Skywalker is using "the force" to levitate C-3PO in order to persuade the Ewoks to listen to his instruction to release the visitors. The Ewoks believed that C-3PO was a God and were going to cook Hans Solo, Luke and Chewbacca for a celebratory meal. See the guys all tied up over the fire pits and then on the upper left, C-3PO is levitating with a look of surprise!

We now jump to the scene where Darth Vader has realized he still has some good in him and loves his son. He fights with the emperor and above you see the evil emperor falling as he was thrown down by Darth to be destroyed. The swirls are actually supposed to be the electric bolts you see in the movie.
She had an alternate ending. The final scene shows Jabba the Hut's son (he had a son?) floating to the Forest Moon of Endor to apologize and live happily ever after with the Ewoks.

The End.

Please remember to wear your seat belts

That small gesture of clicking that belt may make the difference between life and death. This past Sunday evening we lost a friend to a car accident. He was not wearing his seal belt. He was only 42 and left behind two beautiful young children.

Rest in peace Roland. You were a cool dude indeed. We'll always remember your smile, your energy and those lovely curls. I'll see you again on the other side.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I did it!

I did it! I reached my weight goal and also reached my "skinny jeans" goal. I lost 42 pounds and can fit again in the jeans I wore in Malta in 1992.

It's been an eye opening journey for me. I found myself and lost someone else. That someone that I was, I don't even recognize anymore. She was scared and needed a push to break through, and that warning from the doctor to behave or else, was the push she needed.

So now, after losing four dress sizes it feels nice to be me again. The same me that can again raid my mom's closet! She always has cool stuff to wear. She let me borrow a bunch of skirts, and I love them. Seriously though, it feels so good to be lighter, to fit into clothes and feel that you actually fit into them. The belly isn't trying to escape out the sides and I'm not trying to find the biggest, baggiest thing I can to hide what I felt was unsightly.

Then to notice I take more time to get dressed, to do my hair, even some makeup. To feel good about yourself again. To want to do even better, to do more to aid in how you look and feel. I'm not 20 anymore, but I can better accept what I look like at the doorway to 40 than I did before.

Then to go beyond exterior. Most importantly is how much healthier I feel. Eating better does change your life. You ARE what you eat. It's not just this cliche' saying you've heard a hundred times. It's the real deal folks.

I took away all of America's high concentrate of mechanized sugar and salt and found the strength to control myself. It's that simple really. Remove the soda, juice, fast food, processed food, junk food, restaurant food (chain restaurants) and too much alcohol and you get a human being thriving on whole foods. I was merely surviving before and it feels so much better to thrive.

So now, I start another project. Now that I lost the weight, I need to maintain and tone up! Mom and I started walking again, Chris has been teaching me about hand weights, push ups and crunches and my pal Janet mentioned perhaps a marathon? It would be cool to work hard, and accomplish another goal.

It feels so good when you reach them. ;o)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

School picture

Thought I would share the actual school picture for Kristjan. This is his preschool class. Can you find him? He's doing so well in potty training. Wearing big boy undies now and doing great! They grow so fast...

We told the kids we would get a puppy when he was good and potty trained. That way we would trade out the expenses of diapers and such for dog food and vet bills. They remembered. Kris keeps asking after every successful bathroom break. "Puppy now?" I would prefer to wait some more and actually experience what it's like not to spend that extra money, but perhaps we should start looking around.