Adjustments

December 1, 2016. My first birthday without my mom, my first seizure. I was at a restaurant with my dad, getting ready to head to a special viewing of a movie. The last thing I remember was him pulling out his credit card. Apparently I continued to talk after that, until I was on the floor.

Eventually, 911 was called, and a woman who was a nurse came and walked my dad through what was happening. I came to in the ambulance. Confused, I told the EMT I thought it was 2009. Perhaps that is because I suspected I was in the ambulance with my mom. I don’t know. But either way, the confusion took about a good 30 minutes to an hour to really wear off.

They took me in for a CAT scan, and sent me on my way. Confused, tired, and very sore. I was aware that I had a grand mal seizure, lasting approximately 4-5 minutes. Luckily, I didn’t urinate, or bite my tongue, or severely injure my head when I fell. The soreness lasted about 2 days. The day after I was weak, and so sore I could barely walk. My jaw… well that is still sore, two weeks later.

That seizure, in my mind, was brought on by lack of sleep and nothing else. I had woke up at 3 am that day, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I then went to work in the morning, traveled three hours to get to my dad, and went out to dinner. The week before I had gotten many lousy nights of sleep, so I was really exhausted.

When I got home I found myself a primary care physician, who referred me for an MRI and to a neurologist. She also prescribed me Ativan. She said she was giving it to me for anxiety, but I am curious if her real reasoning was she thought my seizure was related to alcohol withdrawal. That is how the neurologist treated it as well. Nobody else seemed to believe that it was going to end with a diagnosis of epilepsy.

I, on the other hand, knew that it would. My grandfather was an epileptic. I had never considered this a genetic disorder, nor concerned myself with the possibility that I might have it. But sure enough, my grandfather’s first seizure was when he was 28; mine was on my 29th birthday.

My MRI came back completely clear. But then the EEG results came in. Clear, unmistakably, Left Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Immediately, my neurologist prescribed me 500 mg of Keppra, twice a day. I was disheartened, to say the least. My doctor seemed, well, surprised. I was not. Disappointed, sure, but from the moment I heard I had a seizure, I knew what it was.

So, here come the adjustments… Keppra. This medication is supposedly the least offensive of all of the AED’s (antiepileptic drugs). It isn’t safe for women to take if they are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant. So I guess that is something I won’t be worrying about for a while. It wasn’t really on the agenda anyhow, but it stings to hear that it will be complicated if it ever does become something we can afford, or desire.

But the massive, huge, glaring side effect of Keppra is the “Keppra rage.” It is so common it has a nickname. And there are streams of conversations about it online. At first, my reaction to the Keppra was a giddy feeling. I’d have fits of giggles and feel very floaty and tired. But then, on day 4 of this medication, I fell into a funk. A Massive Black Hole Funk. I was irritable, depressed, angry, frustrated, and every little thing made me feel like I needed to punch someone.

Today is much better. But I didn’t do anything differently, or significantly. So I’m not sure if I’m just in for a roller coaster, or if there is something that seems insignificant that made a big difference? Or, will it just settle down? Some people say after about a month, the side effects mellow out and you’ll be okay… Some people don’t ever get used to it and just suffer with the rage, or have their doctor change their medication.

Today is day 5. All I can tell you is that I will certainly keep an eye on it, track how I’m doing day to day, and see about what I can do to ease things. It doesn’t help that there are a few major issues I have to tackle this month. My stress levels are through the roof… there will be a lot of playing of mantras in my brain.

I have to say, I’m so grateful to have a partner that is sticking with me through it all, and trying his best to remember that I may not be in control of my moods at all time (talk about frustrating to be around!)

Changes

We’ve been away again… we’re sorry! We miss writing for you all and staying connected, but lives have been busy, and we’ve been going through so many changes.

A new school year to say the least, has required a lot of adaptation! Early alarms buzzing, trying to balance working out and eating right (still haven’t gotten the workouts down yet!), and being present in our personal lives. Despite the fact that teaching middle school is a very natural fit for me, it is definitely a new beginning, which means a lot of learning!

We’re also just adjusting to life in a small town – it is so different living in a rural area, when both of of us have spent our entire lives living in the urban hubs of the Bay Area. When we first got here in April it wasn’t so obvious because we spent most of our time on Dave’s family’s land and exploring the natural wonders we are so lucky to live near. But now, we are integrated into the community, and it definitely comes with its own personality! I don’t think we’d ever go back, small town life is for us!

Adjusting to grief in its many forms has also been consuming. Time has definitely eased the pain, though everyday brings its own feelings and its own challenges. While time eases certain feelings, it also seems to dig a little deeper into my psyche in certain respects.

To further add to the many changes we have gone through, I’m currently dealing with a new medical venture. On my 29th birthday I experience my first grand mal seizure. I want to share this new adventure with you. It isn’t fun. It certainly was NOT how I planned to spend my birthday… but I think there are important stories to share in this. Perhaps lessons I can share, so you don’t have to learn the hard way. So stay posted – I’ll be sharing my journey through doctors visits, medical tests, and life after a seizure, soon!

Much love to our dear community. Thanks for all of your support in our ever changing ventures!

Make your own cheese

Dear Friends, if you know anything about me, you know just how much I LOVE cheese. I love it all – the sharp cheddar, the freshest mozzarella, the tangiest-bluest-blue cheese, the creamiest brie with a little slice of prosciutto. I can even dig on some Laughing Cow. I mean, guys and gals, I have an unhealthy cheese issue.

And I might actually mean unhealthy. Sadly, we inadvertently cut back on cheese consumption when we moved. We’ve been eating a much better balanced diet following 21 Day Fix (if you want to know more, ask us, we’d love to share!), but following that means less “blue” containers, which are dairy products.

Recently I bought a bag of cheese chunks – OMG so good – and my face broke out in big teenage girl sized zits, I was bloated and gassy, and I realized – cheese is not my friend. ūüė¶ At least in large quantities. So guess what makes me super happy? The idea of making my own small batches of cheese!

Dave’s dad, Threecrows, passed on an extra 1/2 gallon of milk to us recently right before we were supposed to take a trip. I was thinking about what to do with this milk when it hit me – MAKE CHEESE. So friends… here is how I made paneer and ricotta cheese all in the same night, with just 1/2 gallon of milk, some vinegar and some cheese cloth.

It was *surprisingly* easy.

First, ¬†you put the milk on the heat. I kept it at a medium high, ¬†because you don’t want to boil it, ¬†you are going to bring it just under a boil. ¬†You will want to have a wooden spoon handy to scrape the bottom, ¬†too prevent scorching.

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I used a little thermometer to keep an eye out, ¬†and get my milk just to 200 degrees. ¬†I chose to add some fresh rosemary and oregano. ¬†You could leave it plain. I suppose it depends on what you plan to do with your paneer. ¬†I knew we would just be munching it, ¬†and given the fact that it can be very bland, ¬†I thought I’d like to give it a boost.

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Once the milk hits 200, you can kill the heat,  then add 1/4 cup vinegar,  or lemon juice,  to your milk.  You should notice the curds and whey separating pretty instantly.  Put a lid on it and let it do is science thing,  while you go put your feet up and peruse facebook for 15 minutes.

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Once you’ve run out of fresh content on facebook, ¬†you are going to carefully pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth. ¬†For this step, ¬†you need a pan that your strainer can fit inside. ¬†It will take about 10 minutes to drain. ¬†You can help it along by maneuvering the strainer. After 10 minutes you are going to give your curds a good squeeze.

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Then form your paneer into a round, ¬†flat, hunk of burning love….er, cheese. You will need two plates, and something to weigh it down. ¬†You will want to leave it pressing for a couple of hours. ¬†Then you will be ready to refrigerate the cheese. ¬†Enjoy within a week!

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Here is my finished product.  We had no problem eating this all up within a couple of days!  I cannot wait to make some more and cook some Indian food with it.

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So, ¬†as I went to put away my cheese, ¬†I realized I had a ton of whey left, ¬†abd that I really couldn’t stand to just toss it. ¬†That defeated the purpose of trying to use the milk! So I turned to my handy dandy Internet, ¬†and found out I could basically follow the same process to make ricotta using the whey!

Granted, ¬†with the little bit of whey I had, ¬†it only made a small dish of ricotta, ¬†but it was truly some of the best ricotta I’ve had! ¬†The whey needs to get a heated a little less, ¬†just to about 180 degrees. ¬†And for ricotta, ¬†you are finished after you strain and squeeze!

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Let me know how your cheese making adventures go!

 

 

Choosing to be Gluten Free

Okay, I know already that I have a lot of skeptical friends. And that’s why I love you. You aren’t jumping on the bandwagon, and if everyone jumps off of a bridge, you won’t be right behind them (unless its to laugh and point).

And I know that many of you might be rolling your eyes and sighing, “Gluten Free? That fad? Hasn’t that died out yet?!”

But you love me, so I know you will at least hear me out, right? ūüėČ

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The “fad” is dying out a bit, but that’s because a lot of the people that choose to be gluten free for health purposes, have found the resources they need, and are just rocking and rolling along. And a lot of times, nobody is any the wiser. Did you know we’ve been gluten free for 2.5 years? That’s a while – half of our relationship now that I think about it! Whoa.

Neither of us are diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease, though neither of us were tested. My understanding is you have to have consumed wheat products within two weeks of testing, so I’m just going with, “No thanks!”

Okay, so the backstory: I decided to try going gluten free based on a conversation with a dear friend, who had done it for about a year. It helped her clear up a lot of issues, including some gut-related stuff, so I decided it was worth a shot. Dave decided to join me, I think mostly out of love and convenience.

At first, we didn’t really succeed at being gluten FREE. We were gluten REDUCED. And that just doesn’t cut it. So for about 6 months, we noticed nothing. Then we took a look at our diet, and realized just how many gluten products we were still consuming (namely beer). So we agreed that if we were going to take the Pepsi Challenge, we had to actually be all in. We buckled down. We became “label readers.” We discovered that gluten is snuck into so many products.

Some of the things that surprised us, or at the very least snuck up on us:

  • licorice/Red Vines/other gummy type candies
  • soy sauce/teriyaki sauces
  • mustards
  • lots of canned foods, like chili and soup (soup is less surprising)
  • lots of foods that have soy sauce as a part of their ingredient list, which you may not realize at first
  • probiotic yogurt smoothie drinks

I could continue, but it’d require more thinking than I feel like doing at the moment. It’s a warm day. Brain needs breaks.

Ultimately, once we actually checked all of our labels, and really had extended periods of time without gluten in our diets, we discovered we were feeling a lot better in a myriad of ways:

  • No more nightly antacids to attempt to alleviate the heartburn. I mean, this was so bad I thought I had an ulcer once! Now, I really only need to reach for Tums when I’ve cheated and eaten a bagel.
  • Reduced odor flatulence. No joke. I mean, we still fart. They just don’t make the cats leave the room.
  • No more injured wrist and back. I have arthritis in my wrists from old injuries. I used to need a wrist brace one or two weeks out of every month. Now, I’m not even sure where my wrist brace is. And Dave injured his back in car accidents back in the day, had to have surgery, and since then has had a sensitive back – to the point where it could go out just lifting a basket of laundry, and he’d be laid up in bed for a few days. Guess who doesn’t have a valid excuse to laze about anymore? ūüėČ

We also see side effects when we sneak, knowingly or unknowingly, gluten into our diet:

  • Diarrhea. A couple of days.
  • Heart Burn. Almost instantly for me, but Dave gets it sometimes.
  • STINKY gas. I mean. EW.
  • Lethargy and Irritability, and a severe penchant for snapping at each other.
  • Bloating, massive huge belly bloat. Can you say uncomfortable?

See, gluten is a great thickening, binding agent, so it gets used in a lot of things as filler, or as a binder, or a thickener. It’s also an inflammatory. I don’t expect these products to change to meet my needs, but there are so many available products that naturally don’t utilize this cheap ingredient, so we just go with those. We avoid buying products that are processed specifically to be gluten free, but occasionally treat ourselves to some pasta, bread, crackers and the like. We’re only human. But honestly, for the most part, we just switched up our diet to include other sources of carbs, including more veggies. Actually, that’s recent. At first, we just switched up our diet to include ‘TATOS. Tons and tons of potatoes. I’m Irish ya’ll. That wasn’t that great for its own reasons. Like, 50 pounds worth of reasons, HA! Anyway, here’s some of the products we do dig, and might even eat if we weren’t gluten free. They’re THAT good:

  • Van’s Gluten Free Waffles
  • Tamari Soy Sauce
  • Koop’s Mustard
  • Annie’s Gluten Free Bunny Cookies
  • Mary’s crackers
  • Breton GF crackers
  • Glutino’s (lots of stuff, some better than others, but overall good)
  • Udi’s frozen thin pizza CRUST (they changed their recipe for their pizza and now it’s too soggy)
  • California Pizza Kitchen GF frozen pizzas

So if you are contemplating giving gluten free a go, I hope these resources are helpful. If you are experiencing IBS, heartburn, inflammation issues, it might be worth a shot. Give it a good two months before you discount it, and again you have to be diligent. But I see no turning back in our future. When you find something that alleviates so many symptoms that you have put up with for so long, you stick with it!