04 April 2014

Childhood drama for the win!

With exasperation in her voice my mother would admonish me with the phrase, "Don't be such a Sarah Bernhardt!" 
It took some time for my young mind to figure out who this Sarah was and what my mother was really trying to tell me. As you may be as ignorant as my 9-10 year old version of me, Sarah Bernhardt was an actress in the late 1800's - early 1900's, who was known for being very melodramatic. Translated, my mom was telling me to not be a drama queen. What I heard was, 'You're too much to handle!' But I digress... that's another story.

As an aside, while living in the Czech I found a postcard of a painting by the famous Czech artist, Mucha, of a theater poster showcasing Sarah Bernhardt. I have it somewhere around my home. 

This afternoon at work we had a super Jeopardy game combing both teams for three weeks of questions. Nine of us were competing to get our hands up the quickest with the right answer. The questions were quirky and we all were struggling, blank faces staring each other down. 

But then this question came up at the end of round two:

Can you guess what the answer is??
That's right!

Yes!! Childhood drama (and trauma) for the win! Booyah!

Needless to say my co-workers were shocked and awed as I triumphantly said, "Who is Sarah Bernhardt!" To be honest, I was not sure that was the right answer, just the right era and took a guess. 

05 March 2014

February is for Heartbreak

February is the month of love. Thanks to that one singular day smack dab in the middle the whole month is flavored with gushy notions of love. Normally I get caught up in the hype, decorate the house, bake treats – but not this year! Nope. February has been a month of heartache and break-ups. It has been a rough month which has wiped me out emotionally. Saying a fond farewell to a long-term relationship was not easy, and there hasn’t been a day yet that I haven’t thought longingly about reuniting. Fantasized, really. I have gone so far as to live vicariously through others – and I must say it isn’t nearly as satisfying. During a snow weekend a few weeks ago I was out for a walk in the freezing cold, enjoying the beautiful white world, when I caught a hint of my forsaken love and it brought me to a full stop. I stood there on the sidewalk, in the snow, breathing deeply to a point of near euphoria. My resolve to end the relationship was worn thin and stretched almost to the breaking point. It was only a sense of social norms that kept me from walking up to the house from which the heavenly scent was coming from and asking for a cup of coffee.

Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about coffee.

Even though I have an obsessive love for that versatile bean, I decided to have a trial separation which started February 1st. I still long, yearn, and crave coffee.

On February 1st I started the auto-immune paleo protocol (AIP for short) which eliminates all high inflammation triggers such as coffee, chocolate, dairy, grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, nightshades, etc. It’s challenging, especially since it means I am making food from scratch for every single meal. (Although there is an awesome food cart called “Cultured Caveman” that has delicious food that is “safe” and has become my Friday treat.) It is a good thing I enjoy cooking because these days just about all my spare time is spent in the kitchen. But of all the things I gave up, coffee has been the hardest.

To help ease the transition, I have been making this weird “drink” that is surprisingly tasty. I found the inspiration on Mark’s Daily Apple. But have tweaked it to my own liking. Here is my variation:

Niffer's Warming Tea
1 Can of whole coconut milk
½ can of water
½ - 1 tablespoon of turmeric
1 thumb size piece of ginger, grated
½ tablespoon of cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons of honey
(Tip: buy fresh ginger, peel it when you get home then stick it in the freezer. When you need ginger for a recipe, grate the frozen ginger using a Microplane grater and you end up with finely ‘shredded’ ginger.)

Place everything into a pot and mix well. The turmeric will turn it bright yellow – be careful – turmeric will stain!! Heat on a low simmer for at least a half hour. Pour, and enjoy!

I leave the pot simmering and sip on small mugs of it during the day. Sometimes I add more honey when I need a sweet fix. Other days I add less water and have a more decadent drink. I've also mixed it up without the water and kept in the fridge overnight and make a mug by using the coconut milk mix and boiling water.

It sounds like a weird concoction but I made my mom try it and even she liked it (I’m still working on her to give kombucha and my homemade ginger kraut another try). Really, it’s a super healthy drink – coconut milk is chock full of good stuff, ginger is great for your digestive system, turmeric is a wonder spice that alleviates inflammation and can help fight cancer, cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar and is anti-bacterial, honey is anti-bacterial and soothing. Plus, it has a strong taste and a full mouth feel that mimics my coffee and cream. There are days when I actually crave this drink now. 

While I do hope that my break-up with coffee (and chocolate, and dairy, and nuts... everything that's off limits) isn't forever, for now we are total splitsville. What keeps me going is that I am actually starting to see small improvements. 
Dear Coffee, please just don't say good-bye forever. I miss you horribly. Really it's not you, it's me. I just need some time to heal, but I've never stopped loving you. I hope we can get back together real soon, because breaking up is hard to do.  Much love, Niff  xoxoxoxoxoxo

21 February 2014

Five Minute Friday - Small

Five-Minute Friday writing fun-ercise from Lisa-Jo Baker 
Prompt: Small

Today I was scheduled to be at a conference. I’ve attended this conference for the past three years, but this, the fourth year, my enthusiasm is waning. After dropping 'the kid' off at the airport this morning I started making my way through town to get to the location of the conference. I missed the exit from the freeway. I went the wrong way off the second exit. Siri had to guide me to the location. Once there, it was another ten minutes before I found which building I was supposed to be at. But even after I checked in and was sitting in the second (my first) small group session, I wasn’t sure that I had found where I was supposed to be – not really. I listened to stories and struggled with feeling small. Why am I here? My small life isn’t making an impact. Am I willing to abandon my life and move to faraway lands to make a difference? My faith is too small, my vision too small, my selfishness too big.

Perhaps, I am not too small – but rather I have not found where I belong; I have changed and no longer fit, not too small just a different shape.

Note to self - Don’t compare mandarins to grapefruits, and judge yourself small, you’re just different. 

{side note: I left for the lunch break, and just didn't quite make it back. I found a sunny spot at my favorite tea shop and a warm, delicious sweet mug of chai and decided to take care of myself.}

07 February 2014

Writing as Shoveling

Five-Minute Friday writing fun-ercise from Lisa-Jo Baker 

Prompt: write

Today is a snow day, a beautiful, white, quiet, work from home, snow day. While cozied up under a blanket, working away, and drinking cup after cup of tea. I could hear a neighbor shoveling and my heart was saddened that someone would want to do away with the snow, blemish it, and toss it aside. Looking out the side window of my front door I saw my neighbor Bob, not only shoveling his driveway but our whole alley way. My annoyance at his dislike of the snow was melted by his generous heart to serve all of us in the building. An hour later I decided to go for a walk, to get fresh air and enjoy the snow first hand. Bob was still out there shoveling. We chatted and I teased him that he was fighting a losing battle; the area where he had started was already blanketed with fresh snow. He knew that it would need to be done again in the morning, but that it would be easier than doing it all at once. And it struck me that writing isn’t so very different than shoveling snow. Sometimes it needs to be broken down into manageable tasks, just when you think an area is done you need to go back and do it again covering the same ground again and again, that it can often be an act of service to others, but also, sometimes, it can wait until morning.

05 January 2014

It Could be Worse...

I have a funny fetish. Truth be told, I have a lot of funny fetishes (how many jars of honey do you have?). One of the many is for shirts with thumb holes. Adding over-sized button holes to shirt cuffs and calling them "thumb holes" is pretty much genius in my book. But all too often I have a problem with my beloved thumb ports (that sounds better, doesn't it?); my arms are too long. Now, I don't know with any certainty whether my arms are too long or the sleeves too short, that is up for debate, although I'm placing my bet on it being the shirts problem. Whatever the crux of the problem may be, the result is the same: to use the thumb port, it pulls and pinches the skin between my thumb and index finger to the point of pain, and possibly ripping the shirt. Yesterday while I was running errands a new problem arose from not using the too short thumb ports, they also act as vents for very cold air to shoot up into my sleeve. It really is quite the dilemma.

Yesterday evening as a means of procrastinating and avoiding work, I called my mom and explained my dilemma to her. She responded with a family favorite phrase since childhood thanks to a book of the same name, "Could be worse!" My response:

"You are so right! It could be a whole lot worse. I could only have one shirt, or not clothes at all! I could not have a home to come home to and warm up in. I could be an indentured slave in India working in a quarry who has no hope of a better life. But I do have an education, and options, and have lots of creature comforts. It could be a whole lot worse."

How about that for a little perspectives check? God has been good to me, life is pretty great.

And for those days when the thumb ports don't reach my thumbs, I've got a solution - fingerless gloves! A week before Christmas the gym was having a gift boutique, and on my way out this cozy little gems caught my eye. The gal takes old cashmere sweaters and refashions them into gloves lined in jersey. Because they have been one of the better impulse purchases I have made, I wanted to share her work. Her Etsy shop is called Gasspedals and she is just as darling as her gloves. Although they could be renamed to "thumb port extenders" as they do a marvelous job fixing my problem, there's even photographic evidence. My cousin refers to them as "almost mittens," and that could work too - it's all marketing. 

Sad, cold thumb and vent exposing my limb to the elements.

A happy, cozy hand with the offending vent covered thanks to my Gasspedals 'thumb port extender.' Yay!

16 November 2013

Forty & Fear & Favorites & Festivities & Fun & Fabulousness

Two months have passed since I started celebrating, and I still am celebrating. The event causing so much hoop-da-loo was my birthday. Not just any birthday, this year I rolled over into a new decade. I am now officially part of the Forty and Fabulous club.

To be honest the idea scared me. Forty seems old. I can remember when my mom turned forty. How could I be turning this age and still be figuring out life, confused about career direction, filled with questions, wondering what my place is in this crazy world? Yet, there was no denying the year I was born, and no fancy math formula can change the number of years I have been spinning around on this planet. To kick off my month+plus long birthday celebration I decided to do something that scared me more than turning 40 - go ziplining! I talked my mom into going with me to a new course that opened up this last spring at Skamania Lodge. Considering my life-long (yes, all forty years) fear of heights, my parents were highly suspicious that I wouldn't go through with the outing. With steely determination and a stomach filled with a gazillion butterflies, Labor Day morning mom and I joined several others to fly through the trees. And we had an incredibly fun time! I loved it! Yes, I was scared silly, but then I started having so much fun I didn't notice.

The gals at work took me out to lunch on the Thursday before my day. What better way to start a long birthday weekend than with a boozy milkshake at The Original? It was great time - and delicious!

I had the great pleasure of sharing my birthday weekend with the fabulous wedding festivities of Sharon and Manny. The event brought my brother and sister-in-law to town so the whole family was part of the fun. Sharon is an expert event planner, and her wedding was over the top wonderful. Welcome (officially) to the family Manny! (I'll confess, I love photo booths!)

The last birthday party I had was for my 21st; my mom attempted to throw me a surprise party, that wasn't much of a surprise. Since then my birthday has slipped by mostly unnoticed. Actually, my birthday has passed with minor recognition since early childhood. This year though, I didn't want to let the date be just another day, I was not content to be the wallflower once again. With some friendly prodding, Kate encouraged me to throw myself a party. I am so thankful she did! On Saturday a small group of friends gathered at Helser's cafe on Alberta for brunch - my favorite meal, and then we got creative in a glass-fusing class, each making a fall leaf plate. It was such a delightful day. We had a serendipitous moment at the cafe when a regular patron, over-hearing that we were celebrating a birthday, paid the bill for the whole table. He instructed our waitress not to tell us until after he had gone. Sir, whoever you are, thank you for the wonderful blessing!

The weekend was a trifecta of celebrations - my birthday, Sharon & Manny's wedding, and Amy + Chris' 1st anniversary. Sunday mom put her party planning skills to work again, wisely dropping the 'surprise' part this time, and had an open house for Amy + Chris' anniversary since they and many of their friends were in town for the wedding, and for my birthday. It was a weird mash-up of people from so many parts of my life, but an enjoyable afternoon chatting, eating (my one request was for my favorite cupcake - the PMS from Kyra's), and of course laughing. I even got a photo with me and all my 'brothers' (love these goofy guys). That night, one of my favorite TV shows, Foyle's War, had a new episode on PBS, a perfect ending to the weekend.

On Monday, my actual birthday, there was no way I was going to be working. I haven't worked on my actual birthday for four years now, this was not the year to break that trend. Instead, a friend and I headed to my favorite place - Cannon Beach. The first stop was at my favorite coffee shop, Sleepy Monk, where we waited out the last spitty cloud to pass allowing the glorious blue sky and warm sun to make their unexpected appearance. We walked the beach, I played in the waves (and got very wet), ate at the Lumberyard, and had a most enjoyable day.

The celebrations started winding down after that, but a few more outings with friends have peppered the last month. This summer when I thought about my birthday, it brought on anxious trepidation. Now that it has passed, a smile creases my face at the good memories and fun times indulging in so many of my favorite things. All the celebrating has reminded me, my life is rich with wonderful, amazing, loving, beautiful people. And isn't that what life is really about - relationships? Age is just a number, an accumulation of years, but the people that pass those years with you, that is what really matters. Forty years in, and judging by the love that was lavished on me this birthday, life is hunky-dory good.

18 July 2013

My Top Paleo Resources

I am by no means well-versed in "paleo-ese" but I'm learning.
It has been suggested that I list some of my top sources for learning this new language and lifestyle, so here it goes...

For the BIG picture and all the ins & outs...
Robb Wolf @ http://robbwolf.com - The Paleo Solution
Loren Cordain @ http://thepaleodiet.com - The Paleo Diet (Revised)
Both of these guys tend to go in-depth with the science, which I geek out about. If you want a more user-friendly introduction to paleo, check out these resources:
Dallas & Melissa Hartwig @ http://whole9life.com - It Starts With Food
Jason Seib @ http://everydaypaleo.com - The Paleo Coach

If you only buy one book - get "The Paleo Coach" by Jason Seib. It has more than enough information to get started, and if you want to dig into more science later, there is time for that. But get the basics, and most importantly, get the mindset right from the start, by reading Jason's book. He rocks. To be honest, I do train at his gym, but I made that decision because I read his book first; I wanted to train with awesomeness.

He offers nutrition seminars about once a month at the gym which are free and open to the public, the next one is Sunday, July 21st at 10am. I am going, if you'd like to join me.

There is paleo, and then there is auto-immune paleo protocol (AIP) which I try to follow, sorta. If you have any sort of auto-immune issue - Crohn's, Rheumatoid, Hashimoto's, lupus, Celiac, rosecea, lichen planus, eczema,  etc. - chances are you'd see great improvement with just the paleo diet, but if you want to take it a step further to really get your immune system back inline, which I do (or I say I do, but actions speak louder, hmm...), here are some of the better resources I have found, although the ones mentioned above all have a section on auto-immunity as well.

Diane Sanfillippo @ Balanced Bites - Practical Paleo
Sarah Ballantyne @ The Paleo Mom - The Paleo Approach
Both of these gals have podcasts with a partner in crime which can be educational and entertaining (and very girl centric - sorry dudes!).
Mickey Trescott a@ http://autoimmune-paleo.com/ has a great cookbook just for AIP.
A couple other AIP blogs...

Just like there are different 'twists' on paleo, and what it is or is not, and what is "allowable" - the same is true for AIP, although for the most part all of the above resources agree on the major components. Consider this fair warning that there is no one set, agreed upon, official, protocol.

If you are wanting to have me over for dinner, and wondering "What the 'blank-ity-blank-blank' can I cook for you?" there are lots of resources for recipes online. Some are easier to adapt to AIP,  but if you're cooking for me, and it's at least paleo - I won't even care. (Just remember my extremely bad reaction to mushrooms, bananas, and eggs and we're golden.)
http://civilizedcavemancooking.com/ A good looking single dude who cooks paleo - curse the age gap...

For more info, resources, and recipes...
If you are friends with me on Facebook - I have an interest list called "Paleo Highlights" which is a feed of all the paleo related people/companies that I follow. On Twitter, I have a tweet list from paleo-files. And my obsession, Pinterest, has a "Pay-lee-O" board.

And some other not-quite-paleo resources that are great places of information...

26 June 2013

Emerald City Weekend

Seattle may not be home to the Wizard of Oz, but it is the "Emerald City."

While looking out over the city from the 73rd floor of the Columbia Building, both mom and I remarked about how green it was, how many trees softened the lines of the city.

But Seattle has some real gems and this last weekend I was able to enjoy several of them. The backdrop for the weekend was the Rock n' Roll half marathon, which was the perfect opportunity to be a mother-daughter weekend.

We were treated to a coffee date with the adorable Micah. A guy I'm just getting to know, but has been one of my brother's good friends for years. He is quickly becoming another "lil' bro" which makes me happy.

I had a food revelation at Cuoco with  their vegan carrot soup. Seriously. I want to go back to Seattle right now for more of that soup.

Saturday morning I woke to clear blue skies and a bright shining sun, not a shred of clouds left from the night before; perfect race weather! Since I was in corral 41 (and that wasn't even the last corral!) the estimated start time for me was 8:26 am, so I didn't even plan to be up at the start line until 8 am - an hour after the first corral started the race. As I was leaving the hotel, a gentleman looked at me and with a tone of pity asked, "Oh, could you not finish the race?" Panic set in - was I too late?? I quickly responded, "I have an 8 am start time." And then took off as fast as I could in the general direction of where I thought the start line was at the Seattle Center. As I topped the hill of Denny Way, approaching 5th Avenue, there were a stream of runners in front of me, mostly with bib numbers in the 35-38 corral, but low enough that I panicked even more - the waves were going faster than anticipated. I finally found my way to the start line and walked a little ways down and just jumped in a corral. I was warmed up from running to the start. With a few minutes to wait until starting I tried to stretch a little, but in no time I was off and running.

My goal for this race was simply to finish; I haven't been training like I should be for an event of this length. As long as I finished, I could pick up my "heavy medal" - the "Pacific Peaks" medal only available to those who completed the Portland and Seattle Rock n' Roll events. I do like my bling. :) But the only requirement was finishing, there was no need to go all out. But I am me, once on the course that hyper-competitive side comes out. I was keeping a great pace, my splits were looking good for setting a record (or at least matching my best time) - that is until mile 9ish. My second toe on my right foot started cramping and curling under, pulling on my Achilles so that I couldn't run.  It was the strangest sensation. I had to slow up, my pace slipped, ambition had to surrender to wisdom. Regardless, watching my average pace time grow on my watch with each mile split was disheartening. Although slowing down allowed "Dr. Dribble" to catch up with me. Have you heard of him? He is trying to set a record of some sort for doing the most marathons while dribbling two basketballs (or the fastest, or something). I kid you not, look him up. He didn't even stop dribbling at the water station, but had a gal pour water down his gullet all the while dribbling. And I thought I was crazy.
I ended up finishing right about my average time. I still got the Seattle finishers medal, just like the first person across the line; I still got the Pacific Peaks medal. (But dagnabit!! I was doing better!) Aren't they pretty?

Post race I indulged in not one but TWO venti iced coffees from Starbucks. Have I told y'all lately how much I love coffee and miss it horribly? Because I love coffee, in case you were wondering. And it was as delicious as I was anticipating for 13.1 miles. I may just possibly be back on the coffee wagon. We sat outside and ate our lunches from Whole Foods, basking in the glorious weather, and making new friends with Travis and his dog Daisy. With a touch of sunburn, we finally went up to the room which had an enormous soaking tub, perfect for muscles already sore and tightening up.

With an hour to kill before dinner plans, we headed downtown to the Columbia Building which has an observation center on the 73rd floor. Even though clouds and haze obscured the peaks of the Olympic range, the views were really great; it was a fun new adventure.

For dinner we met up with Julie and Rob for a fabulous evening of drinks, chips n' salsa, and conversation. Rob is one of those "lil' brothers" whom I have known since he and my brother became friends their freshman year of high school. He has grown up a lot over the years, but he still calls my mom every Mother's Day which makes him truly a gem in my book. Even though he and Julie have been together for years, and married last year, I haven't had a chance to get to know her, but Saturday evening was a great opportunity and I just adore her. I'm so thankful they made time to visit with us.

Sunday morning we were up and out of the hotel early to get across town to meet another gem of a friend at Starbucks. (More coffee!!! :} ) We blitzed through the highlights of the last year or so getting caught up on each others lives in the one hour before church started. Michelle and I decided to do a walk together sometime soon; I'm looking forward to having her delightful company for the miles - if you know of a good event coming up, let me know.

Church filled my heart with joy, because this church is the blessing of God on precious friends who started it last fall. Darren and Kelly have been through some rough times, and periods of uncertainty where it wasn't clear what God was doing. But He was preparing them and making the way for Imprint Church, where they are thriving and it is obvious God is blessing this work. I just love that family!

With one more Starbucks stop, we started the trek back south. A short detour in Tacoma to the Museum of Glass gave me my Chihuly fix that I missed in Seattle. We didn't go inside, except the gift shop, (and to use the facilities, after all that coffee, you'd need to go too!), but there is enough to see in public spaces to satisfy my art loving side for the time being. Although, I am planning to go back to Seattle this summer to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Seattle Center; who wants to join me?

It was a wonderful weekend, filled with wonderful people who I truly love. But the best of them all is my momma. We stopped in Lake Oswego for dinner at Burgerville and I sat there delaying the end of our quick trip, not wanting to drop her off. I'm so thankful to have such a great friend in her. Watch out San Fran - we are hitting you next - with my Momar as well!! I'm so excited I can hardly wait for October! Now that trip will be epic!

14 June 2013

Periodic Status Update

Over a month has passed since the grand auto-immune paleo experiment began, which means it is time for a self-reported check-in.

General paleo compliance -- 94%
Auto-immune paleo compliance -- 83%
(my very scientific & accurate guesstimation)

It is not perfect, but I'm okay with that. The goal is to have a straight 30 days of 100% compliance to the auto-immune protocol at some point soon; it will require more lead time to work up to that. There are a few hurdles to cross that just keep tripping me up. They are named: nuts, paprika, caffeine, and a tiny hurdle the size of Andre the Giant of cocoa powder.

And then there were a few instances that were not paleo, and therefore, obviously not AIP either. Absentee-brain moments. My sweet, thoughtful mother had bought me some groceries after my trip to Washington, D.C. One item was an organic heat & eat beef roast from Trader Joe's. She had made the comment, "It is organic, so I think you can have it." Awww... you think it's hard for me trying to figure out what is on the yes/no list, my poor mother is having a heckuva time! It seemed logical, but it wasn't until I was tossing the packaging into the recycle bin that I noticed soy was listed in the ingredients for the sauce. Dang it! I ate it anyhow. That blasted soy is insidious and is in e v e r y t h i n g. It is really hard to avoid. It is even in tea! TEA!?!?

Giving up coffee has been one of the hardest aspects. Harder than chocolate!! I started drinking more tea (lots more), which I love equally as well, but it just doesn't have that same texture and "kick" that coffee does. I counted down the days to day 31, when I would try reintroducing coffee. Attempting to stack the odds in my favor, I even made cold-brew coffee the day before hoping the lower acidity would help. Just the smell  of it in the house was euphoric. Giddy with excitement in the morning I made my first cup of coffee, and it tasted odd (had I lost my taste for it?). After finishing off the first cup, a fresh cup was made, and drunk. And then, my body told me NO MORE COFFEE!! Oh, coffee... how I love you. Why, WHY won't you love me back???

Even though nuts have sporadically been eaten, I have stayed away from them enough that when I do have them, I notice it - and not in a good way. Once I get more into a groove, and get this whole AIP thing more ingrained, I will eliminate the nuts completely until I can get my gut healed. First, I need to find a substitute for that glove compartment "emergency snack."

Has it been easy? Oh, heavens to Betsy, NO! But does it seem worth it? Yes. One of the hardest aspects was my cocky assumption that I would transition with ease. My logic was that I was mostly paleo already, becoming a little more restrictive wouldn't be so bad, cutting out my occasional indulgences wouldn't have much impact. I read a couple 'what to expect in the first 30 days' kind of blog posts and sort of blew them off with, "So little is changing, I'll probably just skim right over these phases." Reality is the opposite, not only have I gone through the 'slump' stage and the 'I crave everything - even things I wouldn't have normally eaten' stage, but they have lasted at least twice as long as the norm. There is a lot more balancing, tweaking, and experimenting to do until I figure out what my body needs. (And with my luck, right when I figure it out, it will change.)

I was hoping the results would be nearly instantaneous, miraculous even. Although I knew that was far from likely, I'm still a little disappointed it didn't happen. Yet, my main flare spot - my right middle knuckle has calmed down some. When I make a fist, there are four distinct knuckles again instead of one normal and one massive blob. It is going to take time, patience, and persistence in following the course. Other issues are starting to improve as well; my sinus allergies are improving, my energy level is more even, my (ahem!) digestive issues, etc.

Onward, ho!! 

08 May 2013

Lab Rat, Table for One!

It was probably around ten years ago now when I sat in the exam room, meeting with my Rheumatologist, discussing options and the effectiveness of the latest drug I was trying, and I asked 'Are there any recommendations for nutritional therapy?' Brusquely she answered, 'Diet doesn't have any impact on the disease.' I tried to explain that I had noticed a correlation between my symptoms and certain foods, which was quickly dismissed. Not long after this incidence the same doctor told me that I needed to go on to a level 3 drug - a biologic modifier - since I had exhausted all of the options in class 1 and 2 with no significant improvement. Considering I had been on a variety of drugs and experienced minimal, if any, benefit, but most of the side-effects, including the really odd and rare ones, I was not eager to start a new medication (Humira being the one pushed) that a frequent side-effect was leukemia.
So doc, you want to put me on a drug that may help alleviate the symptoms of the rheumatoid arthritis, but I also will have a good chance of developing cancer. Yeah, that sounds like a great plan.
I don't think so.      

I never went back to that doctor. Instead, I started seeing a naturopathic doctor. It has been helpful, but it hasn't solved the problem. While experimenting with different supplements over the past 8 or so years, I have also learned a great deal. One thing I have become convinced of: I can 'cure' myself of the rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease, through nutrition. God made our bodies incredibly intricate, and with an innate ability to heal - if we give it the proper building blocks. Yet, knowing this and implementing it is a different story; it can be very confusing to know exactly what is the proper nutrition for healing. There is a lot of information out there on the interwebs, a lot of conflicting information.  I'm sort of a weirdo in that I really enjoy researching nutrition and health issues. The list of blogs that I regularly read, the books highlighted and lining my shelves, the food based documentaries watched, the podcasts I listen to while commuting should be worthy of a degree in nutrition. Seriously. But all the information can lead to info-paralysis, a state I know all too well.

Two years ago I was stuck in a vicious cycle. The RA raised my systemic inflammation, which told my body to store fat, which raised my inflammation, which aggravated the RA, which raised my systemic inflammation, and around and around it went. Around the time I realized that something had to be done about the excess fat I was carrying if I ever hoped to get the RA under control, several friends were losing weight. Polling each of them about how they were doing it, I got the same answer: Take Shape for Life. So I jumped on the bandwagon. And it worked, for about six months and 50 pounds. Then I went to Honduras for a week, and then Czech Republic for two weeks. It was a huge struggle to get back on track that I couldn't quite master for more than a month at a time, and even during those month sprints the scale wouldn't budge like it had before. Part of this is because I started training hard and exercising too much for the program. Another part was that all of the program's foods contained at least one or multiple ingredients that I knew I reacted to badly. I have my theories about why it didn't bother me at first, but then started being a problem, but I won't bore you that much. And the stress component fought me too.

While thinking of New Year's Resolutions this past January, I asked myself the question - 'If I were at a healthy weight and didn't need to eat weird packaged powdered food-like substances, how would I want to eat for my best health?' From my research, it was pretty easy to describe what seemed to be the best way of eating, but I wanted to drop more weight before starting to eat that way. Making wholesale changes at once is overwhelming, and often not lasting, so I made a plan to adopt one change a month towards my ideal while sticking to the Take Shape program to lose the weight. Good plan, right? And it has been (except the weight loss part-that wasn't happening).

Three weeks ago I was working on my Bible study while eating breakfast before work and my knuckle was so painful and swollen that I could hardly hold a pen to write my answers. That was my breaking point. No more lying to myself, my RA was not under control, the flare-ups were too frequent, a new hot spot had developed in the last six months. In addition, auto-immune begets auto-immune, and the last time I had my thyroid checked the results had some suspicious numbers pointing to the beginnings of Hashimoto's disease, and this last winter I started having symptoms of Reynaud's disease. This is not okay.

It is time to make some changes. Time to make my health - and regaining great health - a priority. Top priority. What does that mean? No more incremental changes. I'm jumping in cannon ball style into the paleo lifestyle pool. But not just any ordinary variation of it, I'm going to follow the auto-immune paleo protocol. And let me tell you, it is going to be TOUGH. My month-by-month resolutions were leading me to a paleo lifestyle already and by March I had almost given up all sugar (my vice is Endangered Species Black Panther 88% dark chocolate bar), ditched all dairy - even cheese which I doubted I could do, and every grain & legume - including soy. And I was feeling much better. Then I went on vacation last week and after the race tossed all my good eating habits out the window - and suffered.  The auto-immune variety of paleo cuts out all nightshade plants and their derivatives: tomatoes, tomato paste, eggplant, peppers, paprika, chili powder, etc. Pretty much all of the main-stays of my cooking. Brutal. Oh, did I mention that it suggests (mandates) avoiding coffee? Shoot me now. Is this going to be the magic bullet? I don't know. This is all experimentation. But if the anecdotal results others have shared can be even partially true for me, it is worth it. Feeling good is better than coffee, right? RIGHT??!!??

I can do it.
I know I can.
Because I am Streger Strong!
We don't quit, we persevere!

But prayers are very much appreciated.
No coffee. {whimper}