Friday, July 22, 2011

Problem Solving

...Health problems, that is!
You see, about two weeks ago now I was hit with an 'episode' of sorts. All of a sudden I got this pain around my ribs that kept increasing, it became hard to breathe, the pain settled between my shoulder blades and I almost passed out. I was on the verge of asking Matt to take me to the hospital when... It stopped. Just as suddenly as it came. I had no other symptoms until 6 days later when again I got another attack, this time accompanied by nausea and vomitting, and again, after 15 minutes or so, it just stopped. When something like that happens once you think, "that was weird." Twice and you think, "what's up with this?". Third time and you're thinking, "okay, something's wrong...". Well, my third time came just a few hours after my second attack, but this time it lasted over 6 hours.
So, I went to the walk-in on Monday morning and after hearing my accounts and asking where the pain was, the doctor asked how old my baby was. I assumed that he was being nice and friendly, but he was actually looking into my condition still. He then drew me a little diagram that I recognized: Stomach, intestines, liver... Gallbladder. Yep, gallbladder. Evidently, elevated hormone levels related to pregnancy can cause gallstones (what? The ribs moving in and out during the pregnancy wasn't bad enough???). Anyway, there was another alternative diagnosis that was pregnancy related too. I had awful heartburn when I was pregnant that went away as soon as I delivered Nathaniel and the doctor suggested that the heartburn could have burned my esophagus raw and it's now in spasm. Apparently these two conditions have identical symptoms and you can't tell the difference without testing. SO, I am scheduled for an ultrasound this week, I'm taking a prescription that will help if it is the esophagus, and in three weeks I have a doctors appointment where I'll find out if I need to get my gallbladder removed or not. In the meantime, all I can do is try to avoid another flair up.
In case you don't know what a gallbladder does, it aides in the digestion of fats through secretion of bile. Gallstones block the release of bile and cause me to feel like dying. Therefore, the best thing I can do to try and avoid more of my little episodes is to prevent the bile from needing to be released by not eating fats.
I have currently placed myself on a super low-fat diet until this all gets sorted out. No red meat, no cream sauces, no butter, no rich cheeses, no avocado, no salmon, no artichokes and absolutely nothing that's ever been fried. And even though we do eat fairly healthy in our house, this is going to be quite the shock to me. For the rest of the summer I won't be allowed to have another hamburger, or steak, or any ice cream, or any of my special cranberry-cinnamon goat cheese. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals to go all out on from time to time: sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes... Well, sausage and bacon are definite no's and eggs may or may not bother me but I'm horrified to try them just in case the answer is 'yes'. Frapaccinos are out, so are tortilla chips and any baking made with lard or lots of butter or oil. Incidentally, hot foods can cause a flair up too, so salsas, curries, hot peppers and the like are out. oh, and no coffee.
So what can I eat?
Well, I can eat rice. And I can eat chicken (white meat mostly). I can eat some less fatty fish (salmon's out but sole is good). I can eat most veggies and fruits, although it is recommended that I avoid the cabbage family and citrus fruits. I can do yogurt and low-fat dairy products, and I can drink water. :)
It's really not that bad for a season though. It could be a lot worse in a lot of ways. Even just having this happen in winter instead of summer would make it a lot harder, but as it stands fresh produce is readily available and eating a salad for dinner every night just seems seasonal instead of restricting. And while I have from the start of this season in my life prayed for God's help in managing and avoiding pain, it wasn't until today that I even thought to thank Him for this great opportunity to get back into shape. At least 2 months of an extremely low-fat diet? It'd be hard not to lose weight! Not to mention the potential long-term benefits this season of healthfulness could have on our family. It may encourage us to leave healthier lives overall, and that would be well worth this temporary inconvenience.
However, just because my diet is restricted doesn't mean it has to be flavorless. It simply means I have to turn off autopilot as far meal planning and look up some new recipes. I found a recipe for butter chicken made with yogurt instead of cream or butter so that'd be a fun one to try. My Glorious Mango Pudding recipe will still work for me if I get low-fat ricotta. I love sole baked in a roasted red pepper dressing and I finally invested in some basmati and jasmine rices in our home instead of plain white all the time. And I will make sure Matt is well plied with steak and hamburger in the meantime. It's my issue, not his after all, and while he would eat whatever I made for myself every night with very good grace, I won't ask it of him.
Anyway, if you have any low-fat recipes yourself that you can send me, fire them my way! I could use the help!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My vision

My last post was an appeal for input to three questions for which I have already received some feedback. I thank you, those who responded. If you haven't responded, go read my last post and then post your input.
One of those questions I did not give a preamble to. The reason was, that question happened to be the most significant one and I didn't want to guide any responses by indicating why I was asking. Now that I have had some input though, I'd like to share why that question has been weighing on me.
The question was, "what is your vision for your city?" (or something to that extent.) I live in a city that I have heard called "Alberta's pee-stop"; a city that tries to pump itself up as a cultural and theatrical hotspot, however just saw one of its main independent theatres shut down due to lack of funding and support. The face of this city is, I feel, very different depending on where you look at it from. High Ups in the city would have you believe we've obtained that status as a cultural leader in our province, most locals would agree that the title still elludes us, and outsiders would laugh at the idea that anyone would confuse this city as a leader in anything other than rednecks and rest-stops.
Now, while I am not, nor do I ever intend to be, a politician myself, I do feel passionately about this issue. For the sake of our community, our economy and our quality of living I feel that we should take advantage of some trends and establish ourselves as leaders in those fields. I have 3 fields that I feel should be focused on, that make up what my vision for my city is: to be a leading player in music in Alberta, to be a pioneer in the "eat local" movement in Western Canada, and to be a center for spiritual revival in Canada.
These fields each fall under a catagory: because we should, because we could, and because we might as well.
Music is under the catagory of "because we might as well". Every year, music festivals pop up all around our city. We have country music festivals, indy music festivals, gospel music festivals... one of our local high schools has a nationally recognized choir and one of our local community choir directors is esteemed internationally. Our local marching band has received many awards and honors and we have copious amounts of untapped talent - or even moreso, talent that moves away to bigger city centers for better opportunities. Really, some focused funding and a bit of hype and we really could be the new "it" place for music in Alberta.
The "eat local" movement is the "because we could" catagory. And boy, we totally could. Within a 100 km radius of us, I can tell you that we have miles and miles of crops, ranches for everything from elk and buffalo to goats and long-horned cattle, an award winning cheese factory, mushroom farms, game-bird farms, potato farms... farms of every kind. What I find so disappointing is that our local farmer's market stopped being a "farmer's" market years ago - there weren't enough booths with real farm products at it for them to keep their farmer's market license. Our busiest restaurants in town are national chains. Most of the produce sold in our grocery stores is brought in from BC or up from the states. We have the potential for so much more and we don't do it. At times I've thought how nice it would be to have coffee roasting classes in town put on by a local business, or to be able to keep chickens in my yard so I can have fresh eggs every morning, or to have community vegetable gardens instead of rows upon rows of border flowers in our city hall park. But none of these things are close to happening. I'd like to draft a plan to propose to city counsel, but I don't know where to begin short of saying, "We should be more like Portland, Oregon..."
Lastly, the "because we should" - being a center of spiritual revival. Why should we? Because we are called to proclaim the good news of the gospel, to live as God has commanded us, regardless of the consequence, and to serve Him in everything we do. If we did that, if we really did that, wherever we were could not help but become a site of revival. I yearn, my soul yearns, for the church to stop drawing their own lines and playing in their comfort zones and to step out and stand up like men. I want to see a church that will honestly and openly pursue God's will in every aspect, not just "the big points". Unfortunately, we are far too apt to call issues "little things" that God has deemed as important to Him. If He gave us guidance and direction in His holy word about it, I don't think it's a "little thing" to Him. If we loved God more than our own plans, and more than our own lives, more than our own money, or comfort, or convenience, we would be shaking our community. Our cities would be turned upside down.
These are my visions for my city. These are things that have been weighing on my head and my heart and that I want to help spur on. I want to see these things become actualized and I intend to research the best way to do that. My intent in seeking input from others regarding their vision for their city was to gleen inspiration and passion from others; to embolden my own vision by the passion of others.
These are my visions and I hope, and pray, that one day I'll actually see them.

Mrs. Vander Leek

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Earnestly Seeking Input

There have been a number of things whirling through my head lately that I can't seem to get figure out. Some are big, multiple-faceted issues, some are more simple and some are probably a lot easier than I am making them. I am, however, at the point where I just keep repeating questions to myself and I'm not getting any new answers out of my own head. I have therefore decided that it is time for me to seek counsel. There are three main questions that I am going to pose, each of varying degrees of consequence.
The first question is the 'fluffiest'. It doesn't have much to do with deep reflection, tales of morality or anything like that. It's moreso about personal opinion and just brain-picking, really. The question: what sort of items would you like to see at a silent auction? You see, I volunteer with a local charity as a member of their Public Relations Committee. One of my tasks right now is to find silent auction donations for their main fundraiser this fall. I actually quite enjoy this task, however sometimes I second-guess myself and my own taste. I've already approached a hotel for a 'date night' package and some local jewelry artists for some original pieces. I'm by no means out of ideas, but I wanted to hear other peoples' ideas as well. Can you recommend somewhere or something to try for?
My next question is the one I'm probably over thinking. In fact, I'm sure I am. All the same, here's the question: how do I go about introducing myself to a neighbour? The background story on this one is that there is a little old lady who lives all by herself in a big house around the corner from us. She drives a pickup truck that she washes herself, mows her own lawn and spends her days tending to her potted plants. Now, when I say old, I'm guessing around 75 - 80. I've also never seen company at her house. It breaks my heart thinking about this lady all alone in her big old house just going through her day to day routine. I want to get to know her, but for some stupid reason I'm afraid to take the first step. Granted, if I were walking past her house one day and saw her outside it would be easy enough to strike up a conversation, however I only usually see her when I am driving past and she lives far enough away from our house that I can't necessarily contrive to be outside when she is since I can't see her house from here. At the same time, I'm afraid of weirding her out by randomly walking up to her door and introducing myself. What is the best, least-awkward way I can start an acquaintance with this lady?
This last question will have the least explanation along with it: What do you want the city you live in to look like? What's your vision for your hometown?
Please help me. Answer one, answer all, but please answer at least something for me. My head will thank you very much!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Craziness

Do you ever look at your life and just laugh? I do. Usually I laugh when I think about what's coming. Sometimes I laugh when I look at where I am today. Lately I've been laughing at how crazy things are right now.
Since having our second son 3 and a half weeks ago we've gone out of town visiting family, we've had numerous people over for dessert dates and I've had lots of girlfriends over for tea. In fact, last week the only day we didn't have people over was the day that we went out for a staff party with Matt's work.
I made serrano stuffed shrimp as part of a meal for company (should've used bigger shrimp I must say), I made butter tart bars for dessert that night, rice krispie squares the next day, date squares the day after that and individual mocha cream tortes for dessert one night.
I started reading some books again; I finished Jane Austen's Mansfield Park a few days ago and I'm about halfway through Persuasion again. When I'm done those I'm going to read a book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan and then I may take another stab at John Calvin's Institutes of Christian Religion.
Nathaniel is pretty good about giving me at least one 4 hour sleep a night, but typical is still on 3 hour feeds, which means that I'm still pretty tired consistently, or at least tired enough that when I wake up at 7 to feed him I go back to sleep instead of getting up and starting my day.
To add to the craziness, Gabe got a cold this week which he ended up giving to Nathaniel. Just so you are aware, when little tiny babies get colds, they swallow the mucus which ends up curdling the milk in their stomach and they spit up. Alot. I think I've also done record amounts of laundry this week.
Matt's been doing side jobs lately on the weekends and has hardly had a day off this month.
And to top it all off, I'm now having some medical issues. It looks like my elevated estrogen levels from my pregnancy may have given me gallstones. Fantastic, eh? I'm on a prescription right now to see if that helps and I've got an ultrasound next week to confirm the theory and from there we'll see if I need surgery or not.
Ha ha.
But really, what more can I do than laugh? I could freak out. I could stress. I could break down crying. And if you look at that list, it's not all bad stuff. It is all 'stuff', but some of it is good: company, baking, kids, improvement of the mind through reading and studying... all good. Just maybe a little compacted into an otherwise hectic routine :)
Granted, I will be making some changes over the next little while to help my craziness levels. First off, I'm going to limit my number of guests per week :) I should give myself at least one day of not having to be ready by a certain time. It will make my house cleaner, too! Secondly, I've finally started using some of those 50 million bibs that one seems to acquire when one has children. Gabe wasn't a spitty baby so we never needed bibs for him until he started on real food. Now, however, putting a bib on Nathaniel will save us from going through two or three outfits, 2 sheets and 5 receiving blankets a day.
Next, I plan to go to bed early a couple of nights this week to catch up on my sleep. I really do enjoy getting up bright an early and shouldn't have any problems working that into my routine assuming I start out well rested.
Lastly, I really need to change my diet. This one is a bit of a reluctant change. I'm not a particularly unhealthy eater (please disregard above mentioned list of desserts prepared this week). I crave fruit very regularly, can't stand the thought of potato chips lately, would much rather prepare a fresh meal at home than order in pizza (most nights) and you won't find anything resembling store-bought frozen meals or snacks in our house. However, that's not enough. In light of my medical issues, I have been informed that it would be advisable for me to cut out many foods that would otherwise be conducive to a healthy diet. Artichokes, avodacos, milk/cheese, citrus fruits, eggs, broccoli, red meat, nuts... all could aggrevate my symptoms. So tonight's dinner was supposed to be a goat cheese pizza with chicken, peaches and artichokes. Yah, that could kill me. Well, not really, but it could hurt me very badly. I was going to make a batch of egg salad to put on some mixed greens for lunches this week. That's out. Usually if I need to grab a quick snack I grab a handful of almonds. That's out, too. And while all of these won't necessarily make my symptoms worse, if you've ever had a gallbladder attack you know it's not worth the risk.
In any event, my diet will be changing drastically for the next few weeks. I'll be eating alot of whole grain wraps with alfa-alfa sprouts, cucumber and tomatoes. I'll also be eating a lot of rice and chicken. Yogurt seems to be safe and I think I'll make up some nutless granola to throw in that for my breakfasts.
These restrictions don't necessarily mean that my life will be tasteless - just require a bit more thinking on my part. For example, eating white rice every night for dinner would make me go crazy, so last night I picked up some basmati and some jasmine rice, as well as some turmeric. Add a teaspoon or two to a batch of rice and it tastes amazing without increasing sodium or fat levels. Hamburgers are a no-no for me, but that's no reason why I can't have a chicken burger. I have a great recipe for a figgy barbque sauce that would go great on a chicken burger. I'm far too prone to put loads of cheese on pasta, but if I use a vinegar based sauce for the pasta, like a roasted red pepper vinaigrette, no cheese needed - or at most the tiniest dusting of fine grated asiago.
So while I may have to forego the Mocha Cream tortes for a while, I'm sure that I'll survive, and perhaps be a better cook for the experience. At very least I'll now feel justified in ordering that subscription to Cooking Light!

Mrs. Vander Leek ;)