Archive for January, 2010

In the Shelter of His Eyes

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I spent the first three weeks of the year in my husband’s tiny, tiny apartment. As I was working at home, I rarely left the apartment. I was cocooned in this warm safe “nest” with a full-length window out into the courtyard where daily I watched the snow pile up higher than the rails that should have led down to the complex’s swimming pool.

It was a wonderful way to start off the New Year. It allowed me to ground myself as I made some additional changes into my daily routine. I hesitate to call them New Year’s Resolutions as most resolutions are destined for failure.

I added yoga or Kettlenetics (modified version of working out with a Kettle bell) into my daily exercise routine. I also made additional modifications to my diet because the gluten free made me pack on pounds.

There is something funny about living with someone after you’ve been apart for two years. One day I almost had to chase Mr. J down after work: “Are you going to kiss me or what? Do I have to move back home for a week and then come back to get you to notice me?”

He had a few choice words for me, which I won’t repeat here. But it is interesting how quickly we fell back into taking each other for granted.

In all fairness I should point out that I wasn’t exactly model perfect when I was demanding a kiss. Sweatpants, no make-up, hair barely combed…..suppose that had something to do with it??

After the first few days of living with one another, our interactions quickly fell into those of an “old married couple.” While it wasn’t exactly “familiarity breeds contempt” I am here to say that “absence (really does) make the heart grow fonder.”

On the other hand, there is something to be said about having a warm body next to you in the middle of winter, about limbs brushing under the covers as you turn over half asleep, secure in the knowledge that someone is right there beside you: someone who loves you and whom you love in return.

I grew accustomed to long days spent on the computer and on conference calls, to quiet evenings of simple dinners and watching Criminal Minds or playing games together on the computer.

I enjoyed the stark winter scene outside our patio window, evoking the photography of Ansel Adams. For the first time since moving to the Snow Belt I appreciated the beauty of winter: the sheer unadulterated stillness of nature in repose was there whether I was working on projects for work or working on my Tree Pose during yoga.

As the time came closer for me to return home, I had mixed emotions. I was returning home because I had two new hires starting and I needed to be there to walk them through the onboarding process with our company. Yet, I knew that living “in the real world” wouldn’t be as comfortable as living in the sheltered world of my husband’s home.

I took the title of my blog today from a Don Williams’ song that my father used to play when I was a child. I hope Mr. Williams forgives any copyright infringement as I post a couple of stanzas of those lyrics here: For Mr. J.

“In the shelter of your eyes
I have finally learned the song
It took so long to realize
I just can’t make it all alone

And I’m, gonna stay,
right here ’cause I’m
In rhythm with your mind
Tune out the world
and rest my head
‘Neath the shelter of your eyes”


And Then I Set the Cat on Fire…

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Ever have one of those days? From the moment you reached your hand out from under the warm cozy comforter into the dark, freezing bedroom to shut off the blaring of the alarm you just knew: you were going to regret getting up.

You shiver into your robe and a dull throbbing in your temple taps a rendition of “All My Trials,” and your joints ache; a voice in your head whispers: “go back to bed.”

But you ignore it.

This was my day earlier this week. By 10am I had burned my wrist with my curling iron, I’d dropped almost everything I picked up: including my laptop bag, with laptop inside, of course, and I’d been late to a meeting – something I can’t stand. My father used to say he’d rather turn up 30 minutes early than five minutes late.

By noon I’d slammed my knee on my desk and almost hyper-ventilated during another meeting.

At 1:30p, after gritting my teeth through yet another meeting I went into the well-appointed women’s restroom, tried to stand so as to not activate the automated faucets which can (and have) splash my suede jacket. I took a long, deep breathe. Twice.

“Everyone can’t be an idiot, Lara. The common denominator is you. Get. A. Grip.”

The afternoon was little better and by the time I got home I’d had more than enough.

A warm bubble bath and a well worn copy of one of my favorite novels was calling my name. I lit a candle I’d received for the holidays, preparing to disrobe and slip into the luxurious warmth of my garden tub.

Just as I reached for the faucet I remembered I needed to call my father. He’d started physical therapy and I wanted to get a progress report.

I Skyped my parents on my laptop and we talked for a few moments.

In the middle of my relaying my rotten day I suddenly smelled something horrible.

Something was burning!

Immediately I ran for the dryer: after all when was the last time I’d cleaned out the lint trap?? Try September.

I opened the lint trap and pulled out a 3-inch pile of who-knows-what….but that wasn’t what smelled. I walked over to our gas fireplace. No smell there either.

“The candle,” I remembered. I walked into the bathroom, took a whiff of the candle: there wasn’t any particular smell, good, bad or indifferent. “What a dud,” I said, blowing it out, hurrying back to my laptop to my parents who were concerned.

“No idea,” I said, as way of explanation.

Just then Alex, my long haired (previously) long tailed tabby cat came into view.

His tail was a disaster!

Luckily, thankfully, the fire had gone out before it burned down to his skin. He didn’t seem to be hurt at all, in fact, he didn’t seem to even be in distress.

I almost collapsed with panic at what could have happened: how Alex might have been painfully burned. Or when getting away from the flame, his long tail could have brushed against the cotton shower curtain or my bamboo-fiber robe.

The next time I wake up and feel like I should stay in bed I’ll probably still get up. But I’ll make sure there are no open flames…which Alex will appreciate. In the meantime we’re calling him Stubby……


You Might Be Old If……

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Just a short blurb: I’m getting my (grey) hair colored when a song on the PA system catches my attention. The musicians sound familiar but I don’t recognize the song.

I ask my stylist who the artist is and she says, “Scissor Sisters”.

“Oh,” I say…..never having heard of “Scissor Sisters” but thinking how appropriate that a group named the “Scissor Sisters” (I just like typing the name) is playing in a salon.

I cock my head to catch more of the group and to see if I can place why they sound familiar.

It comes to me: “They sound like the Bee Gees,” I say.

My stylist says, “I don’t know who the Bee Gees are.”

I may cry.

Posted in LJ's Story |

Calling All Food Allergies: A Look Back at the Holiday Season

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Oh the holidays. A time when everyone gets together and eats too much, gorging on sugar cookies with butter cream frosting, rocky road fudge, almond bark pretzels, rum cake…..and that’s just for breakfast!

This year was different however. This year food allergies and medical issues reared their ugly heads and almost everyone in the household had something they couldn’t eat.

With each arrival to my family home, there were more and more things that had to be avoided worked around or segregated so as to not contaminate someone else.

On the list of things people couldn’t eat:
Wheat (gluten)

What exactly was left that we could all eat? A turkey but no gravy? Vegetables but no butter? Pumpkin pie but no crust? Egg, but no nog?

Bear in mind I said these are things that people COULDN’T eat, not didn’t want to eat. We’re not talking any odd diets (that will come later). We’re talking about food their bodies cannot currently tolerate.

My sister and I are the ones with the gluten intolerance: no traditional stuffing, gravy, pie crust, dinner rolls, etc for us.

For me, the almond bark covered pretzels were the thing that kept calling my name. I knew it was bad when I was fantasizing about covering sesame crackers with stuff that is little better nutritionally than flavored liquid paraffin!

My mother, on the other hand, was on a “white” diet: no spice, no whole wheat, no pepper, caffeine or alcohol….sucks to be her.

On 12/23 a mini food war almost broke out when someone in the house asked if we were going to be eating our “traditional” Christmas Eve dinner: chili and cornbread.

My sister and I stared at each other in disbelief. Hello? No spice? No gluten? No way! There might have only been 2 people in the household that could have actually eaten that meal.

Due to health issues my parents were mostly housebound during this holiday season. My sister and I were the ones doing the shopping. Every time we’d go out my father would ask us to pick up bologna and white dinner rolls.

My sister and I, admittedly, have some eating quirks. As such we could not understand why the heck anyone would want to eat full fat pork bologna.

Twice, we forgot it and the dinner rolls. We did not purposely forget. I mean we didn’t sit there and discuss the fact that we weren’t going to pick them up. However, people in the house began to eye us suspiciously when we returned without the requested items.

Then: Christmas Eve sailed in on the wings of an ice storm.

As the ice and snow mounted tension around the Christmas Eve & Christmas dinner meals rose as well, “Are we eating chili for dinner?”

“No one can eat it!” I responded, testy.

“Well I can!” Came the snappy response.

“You’d be the only one!”

Another “discussion” broke out. Certain individuals were threatening to get out on the slick roads in order to get the @#$% dinner rolls. My sister and I had already promised to meet a friend at a local restaurant for lunch. We assured the household that we would pick up the stupid dinner rolls.

“Like you’ve done every time you’ve gone to the grocery store?” Was shot back at us as we left.

As we’re standing at the lunch meat counter of the neighborhood grocery story I picked up a 2 lb log of bologna and measure the weight of it in my hand.

“Don’t you think he wants pre-sliced?” My sister asks.

“I was thinking more of a slap upside the head,” I say, deadpan.

She stares for a moment and then we break up with laughter, like the 12 year olds we used to be, giggling all the way to the register with our 8 oz of Oscar Meyer pre-sliced Bologna and white bread rolls!

The moral of this story? The holiday season is not the time to try and change people’s eating habits. On the other hand: sometimes people can’t help the food “choices” they’re making. A little tolerance practiced by all would be a good thing.

Do me a favor: tell me my family isn’t the only one with strange food hang ups tied to holiday meals.


I Hate the Food I Eat…

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

The relationship I have with food has always been complicated. I’ve been an emotional eater since early childhood. I’ve been as much as 150 pounds overweight and am currently 40 pounds heavier than I’d like to be.

My mother’s type I diabetes meant that in my household: food = life. When her blood sugar would take a dive, we fed her a cookie or orange juice. What I learned was that when scary things happen ingest sugar!

At various times in my life I’ve eschewed:
Processed food
Red meat
All meat

None of these ever created permanent weight loss unfortunately and over time I gradually drifted back into eating all of these food types.

I named this post for a quote out of a Police song: “When the World is Running Down.” ‘Same food for years and years, I hate the food I eat.’

As of late, the food I’ve been eating now hates me back.

In October I “suddenly” developed gluten intolerance. I say “suddenly” because for 18+ months I’d been having symptoms that I thought were other things. But when I developed pain so acute I thought I might die and my sister (the poster child for all things “non-mainstream food plans”) suggested that I try cutting gluten from my diet I didn’t even know what gluten was.

How many of you know what gluten is? Basically it is all wheat and barley products. Gluten is in the usual places you’d expect to find wheat: pasta, bread, cereal and virtually all baked goods.

Even more insidious are the places you wouldn’t necessarily suspect to find gluten: almost every frozen prepared meal, soy sauce, some ice cream, some chicken broth, some prepared frosting, beer, meat replacements such as veggie burgers and even in my favorite green enchilada sauce.

Off of my dining list:
Neighborhood bakery
Takeout pizza
Pad Thai at my favorite Asian restaurant
Eggplant Parmesan (bread crumbs)
Gourmet hamburgers or grilled brats (pesky little bun)

If you consider what the typical American eats and having to cut out all wheat products, basically my dietary choices are honed to the following:
Animal meat
Wine (so all is not lost)

What about diary? You might be thinking. Is there gluten in milk??

No actually, there isn’t. But I couldn’t just develop gluten intolerance, could I? Suddenly I developed a dairy intolerance as well.

You’d have thought I’d have dropped 10 pounds since I could no longer eat bread, milk, cheese or anything processed. But instead I gained 15 pounds. Perhaps eating almond butter by the spoonful wasn’t the best idea….

Did you know that there is such a thing as Gluten Withdrawal?

There is.

Imagine the worst gut wrenching (literally, like someone was twisting my insides) pain, almost explosive flatulence (sorry, real life isn’t always pretty), heartburn, acid reflux, a headache that felt like a I had a steel band around the front half of my head and dizziness and vertigo every time I stood up.

Of course the timing couldn’t have been better. The initial pain that caused me to cut out the gluten occurred two weeks after I started my new job. The subsequent withdrawal took another two weeks to live through and dovetailed with my stepson’s H1N1 diagnosis and his entry into the ICU.

Luckily, my darling husband was terrific about my sudden departure from what most people would consider to be “normal” food. He suffers from his own food allergies and so understands what it means when your body starts treating certain foods like it is poison.

In fact I’ll say that without his support my transition to a gluten-free diet would have been markedly harder.

Learning to eat out, grocery shop, and to eat while traveling has been an experience. However, it was completely worth it.

Once I survived the withdrawal I felt amazing. Things were suddenly clearer, the colors of the world were crisper; it was like a veil had been lifted. The tummy troubles and the headaches all went away as well; I felt buoyed and happier than I had in years.

If anyone has their own gluten intolerance stories to share or want to ask me further questions, please feel free to share and/or ask. I’d also welcome any good gluten-free tips: recipes, places to shop, places to eat etc. that you can pass on.

BTW: I have done research on Celiac disease. I know that the medical tests are all but useless unless you are actively eating gluten when you have them. But I was in such acute distress that there was no way I was going to keep eating wheat just to be tested.