Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Circa 1980.

Unlike the memories my children will ever have, I do remember a time without the Internet. I remember it as being neither good, nor bad; just different.

A time when a research paper or unanswered (and plaguing) question had to be started in the hallowed halls of the public library. Few feelings compared with that frustration of making your way down the alphabetized spines of the encyclopedia collection only to find the singular volume you "had to have" was missing. I remember walking around the tables in the library, hoping against all hope that perhaps some other patron had ignored the "One Volume At A Workstation At A Time, Please" mandate, and had horded the one I sought. Of course sometimes the volume was simply "Missing", a designation that always perplexed me, seeing that research books weren't available to be checked out. (What kind of a person steals a stupid encyclopedia, anyway?)

Then there were the occasions when you'd finally gotten the volume you needed, (whether by hook or crook), found the page indicated in the index, and turned to it only to find the page or part of the page was missing. (Wasn't that just a kick in the pants?)

I don't necessarily miss those pre-Internet days, mind you. But I remember them.

The other night a lightening strike, a little too close for comfort, blasted our family back to circa-1980's, knocking our address of the world wide web.(Gasp!) No Internet at our house means no television, other than DVDs and any pre-recorded shows. It means no weather updates. No telephone (except for cell service). It means no social networking sites. (NOOOOOOOOOO!)

In the first few moments when The Television Went Blank, we stared at each other in awe. Where did it go? It was here; now it is not. What happened? I tried my laptop, but nothing happened. Where the signal strength indicator bars once gleamed in fullness, there was only a sad exclamation mark in a yellow triangle....along with the despised message: "No Internet Access".

The children bounded off to watch a DVD upstairs now that we were back to, what they consider, "The Olden Days", and spent a happy hour enjoying the novelty of a movie that had been trapped on a shiny disk.

My husband and I used the time to catch up on books we've been neglecting, and whose due dates were fast approaching. We, the perfect picture of domestic bliss; Ma & Pa huddled around the glow of the electric lamp, cozied up to our glowing devices, reading.

The situation has since worked itself out. We're back online again and surfing the Internet at our usual intrepid speeds. But our forced re-visitation to the days of yore was a practical reminder of just exactly how far we've come, for the better and (just maybe) a bit for the worse.

And how mightily we are dependent upon something that was, not that long ago, an imaginative piece of science fiction.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Non-Scary Colonoscopy

Due to a vengeful family history, I recently had my very first colonoscopy screening. This is a procedure that I'd been dreading since I found out I would need to get the scope done at the age of 36.

If you're in the same boat, perhaps you've noticed that there is a lot of fear-mongering going on all over the Internet regarding the prep itself. I know I did. Holy cow, I didn't know which part to be more frightened of: the prep or the scope itself. People, in general, will say that the prep is the worst part, and I wondered what exactly that meant. Was the prep so bad that nothing could top it, or was it not a big deal. None of the stories I read did much to ease my mind, so I vowed to write my own version of my experience when I was done.

I chronicled my prep in my post: The Non-Scary Colonoscopy Prep Story . Now that I'm done with the scope too, I figured a conclusion is in order.

The scope went perfectly. Truly. I was a bundle of nerves; I'm not going to lie about that. I had myself completely worked into a mess, after all. But the staff at the gastro clinic where I was going did an amazing job of talking me down from my self-incited worry. They were empathetic to my concerns. They were kind. They were patient. It was perfect.

They told me I wouldn't feel a thing. And I didn't. (Seriously. Nada.) I zonked out as they were putting the meds into my IV and woke up in the recovery room. Just like that. I felt fine--a little bit groggy, but that passed in a few minutes. In fact, it seemed weird that I felt fine. I mean, think of what had just happened, after all. How can you feel fine? But I did--totally and completely normal. I was in and out of the clinic within about an hour and half, with most of that time being the admission part, honestly.

Then I was on my way home---done with my first colonoscopy. My experience was NOT terrible. In fact, the entire thing was perfectly fine. Put another way, due to family history I have to have another scope done in 5 years and (are you ready for this?) I am okay with it. Completely. No worries. At all.

So, if you're scheduled for a colonoscopy and worried, or if you're tired of hearing only scary stories about the whole thing, I tell you this: You can rest easy. The "hardest" part of the entire process is the prep...BUT (and please, please take this to heart), the prep is not bad. It's the hardest part because you are literally asleep for the other part, leaving the prep as the only part you actually do.

Are you going to be skipping around smacking your lips while drinking the prep? No; but I have to think a natural aversion to liquid laxative is not a bad thing. Will you have to gag it down? No. Follow my tips and play music. Walk around while you drink it. Use a smoothie straw. Keep focused on just drinking. You will be fine.

How does the prep make you feel? Honestly, I felt fine. I had split dose Suprep. I had no side effects other than the intended one. The biggest thing is being able to drink 48oz of water in a short period of time. I practiced that a week before my actual prep; I drank 48oz of water at 12:00, and 48oz at 8:00. I felt ready and I had no issues. You'll feel full after drinking the prep, but walking around will move it on through. The extra water hastens the process as well.

Is it horrible when it starts "working"? Nope. Uneventful. I had gone on a soup/smoothie/yogurt/type diet about 4 days before my prep. The less you put in, the less you have to move out, after all. In any case, that part was easy. No cramping, accidents, or serious urgency. You'll spend some time on the toilet, but it wasn't hours or anything. The action started to fizzle for me about 3 hours after drinking the first dose of prep. I had a lull in bathroom trips, and I felt so good that my husband and I took a walk around town. I kept thinking, "Here I am, prepping for a colonoscopy, and I'm out of the house...walking." The second dose took effect more immediately because the first dose had done it's work so well. I was clear and done within 2 hours of it. I had a full night's sleep with no bathroom trips.

Here's the one important thing I will stress, though: be sure to drink lots of fluids during the prep. I talked about my beverage buffet in the non scary colonoscopy prep story and it turned out to be so important. If you're on a similar schedule, you won't be able to drink anything after midnight, and you've just guzzled lots of salt. You will be thirsty in the morning. I truly think that keeping myself hydrated during the prep (in addition to the water you drink with the prep) made this part so much easier. I didn't feel week or off balance or dizzy at all. No headaches or muscle aches either. Remember that your kidneys are going to be working overtime with this prep so keep your body hydrated and you'll feel fine through it all. Promise.

Don't be afraid of the prep or the scope. If you are, I understand; I was right there with you on that. Sometimes it just takes going through it for yourself that first time to ease your mind. Please take comfort in knowing that the prep is not bad at all. You will be fine. The scope itself is a breeze and you'll be on your way out the door before you know it.

This test is so incredibly important, and all the horror stories out there don't do much to get people to sign up for it. I'm hoping people will stumble on these posts and see that it's just not the scary experience some have made it out to be. If you've been in doubt about getting a colonoscopy, please don't let fears of the prep or test itself delay you anymore.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Non-Scary Colonoscopy Prep Story.

"Family History" is an ugly guest in our family when it comes to colon cancer. It's the loud, obnoxious, uninvited guest who is with us at every single family gathering, even though no one remembers inviting them.

So following that old adage of "Better Safe Than Sorry" and, the somewhat less eloquent but equally fitting, "Let's Git 'Er Done", I'll be getting my first colonoscopy screening tomorrow.

In my mind the whole colonoscopy thing is two distinct parts: The Prep and The Scope. Most people tend to say that the prep is the worst part. I just have to say that vague generalities like this tend to annoy me. That can be taken 2 very different ways, and for those (like me) who hang on words, we're stuck in an understanding gap. It could mean: "It doesn't matter what the heck happens during the colonoscopy; nothing comes close to be as horrible as the prep." Or, on the more gentle side, it could mean: "You would honestly think the worst part of a colonoscopy would be getting nooked in your cranny, but since that is not even slightly bad, the default "worst part" (if something MUST be classified as such) falls back to the only other part of the process--the prep."

I've been hoping for the second meaning, but am pretty sure the one and only way to know for sure is to just do it for myself. So the following  is my experience with the prep. The web is full of horror stories....this won't be one of them. I think I wasted hours of my life looking at forums with people in two categories: The No Big Deal folks and the For The Love Of Pete, The World Is Ending group. I figured the first group had it right, but the latter had one collectively louder voice; it was hard to drown them out. My goal in writing this is to help someone else. Let's face it, if they're being smart about health, everyone will do this at least once in their lifetime. Why be afraid of it?  If you're in the Prep boat...don't be afraid. Remember that right at this minute, you are one of many people doing this. It's okay. You'll be okay. Repeat after me: This. Is. No. Big. Deal.

Pre-Prep: I should mention that I started a pretty liquid diet about four days out of my actual prep day. Brothy soups and smoothies. It wasn't hard for me to follow that. I have no idea if it helps in the process, it was just something I felt like doing to give myself some control over a situation that made me feel kind of powerless.

1. I was supposed to start the first dose of Suprep at 12:00. I started at 11:45---it made me feel like I was in control. Sounds like a silly thing, but I felt like a rebel. "Hey. No one's gonna tell  me when to take the poop medicine."

2. The taste isn't great---but it's not horrible. Get a smoothie straw and a really fun glass. Add a liberal amount of lime juice. The biggest issue with the flavor of the Suprep is the sweetness; cutting it with lime helps a lot. The smoothie straw means larger amounts per sip. Put it flat against your tongue, way in the back of your throat. Every sip will magically pass right over your taste buds. You'll still get a bit of the flavor, but it will be tolerable. I promise.

3. Don't stand still!! While you're drinking the prep, walk around. It will take your mind off what you're doing. (Seriously, half of this game is a mental one....you can absolute overcome that.)

4. Make a motivational play list and blast it while you're drinking. (You can apologize to the neighbors later.) My husband walked behind me with my play list at top volume. Music has a way of erasing the physical and transporting you to another place. Take advantage of that. I was so busy being mentally engaged in the songs playing that I didn't even notice when my glass of prep was gone. Seriously. (A watched pot will not boil and a watched glass of prep will not empty.)

5. Don't be afraid of "The Go". One of the big worries that plagued me was: "What is it going to feel like when the magic starts happening??" I envisioned  trauma and torrents and all manner of sad things. Here's the reality: It's okay. No worries. You'll just have to "go". Nothing major. Nothing traumatic. (Rather anticlimactic if you're like me and had worked yourself up into a tizzy.) Yes, you'll make it to the bathroom on time. No, you won't be on the toilet for hours. It's just...fine. Really. I stocked my bathroom with my laptop, video games, books, and even some crafting stuff. (Yep, that's me..I crafted during my prep.) Also, make sure you have some ointment and wet wipes on hand. And this is a time to splurge and get the really cushy toilet paper. Do you "need" it? Nah, but it makes you feel pretty darn special.

6. Eventually the "going" will kind of fizzle out. I was on a split dose with 8 hours between doses. After about 2 hours, all the excitement had passed. In effect, you'll end up biding your time for round two. Spend your "down time" well---get caught up on TV shows (especially the guilty pleasure ones that you'd never actually admit to anyone that you like to watch). I found that having a variety of activities on hand was best for me--I tend to have a really short attention span in the very best of times and it's darn near non-existent at others. So I just sort of hopped around the house from here to there, doing whatever I wanted. Bliss.

7. No matter what...KEEP DRINKING. You won't necessarily want to, but it's really a good idea to keep the liquid libations flowing. (Be kind to your kidneys). In an effort to promote actually wanting to take a sip of something, I gathered several of the prettiest glasses we had and set them out on the counter. I filled each with something different: tap water with fruit juices, sparkling water with a squirt of lemon, white grape juice, apple juice, Gatorade, Ginger Ale, etc. I put a straw in each glass. Every time I passed by the counter, it was easy to snag a glass and take a sip. If the contents didn't do anything for me at that moment, I had a plethora of others to choose from. It was like a beverage buffet. Stupid, I know, but it worked for me.

8. And when you've drunk that last gulp of prep...CELEBRATE. It's a victory. You did it!!!!  I celebrated by squashing and stomping on the box my prep came in; I crushed the cup into bits; I destroyed the 2 little bottles. All while listening to Katy Perry's Firework. Whatever works, right?

Prep is not something to be afraid of. Remember that. It's one moment out of your life that could SAVE your life. It's worth it. I have lived for 7 years in dread of this first colonoscopy prep. Absolute dread. Finishing that last bit of the second dose literally was a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. I did it. The prep drinking was over.

You will be okay through it. Know that. Take deep breaths. Smile. Laugh. You will be fine.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Time I Had Braces, Before This Time That I Have Braces.

I had braces back in the day. Four long years of them, actually. In fact, I tend to think about this period of my life as "The Time I Had Brace For Four Long Years."

It left an impression.

I really thought I "remembered" the whole braces thing too. After four nearly unending years, it seemed like I would be some sort of bona-fide expert, surely.

So when my daughters got their braces, about 2 years ago, I appointed myself to the esteemed position of Fount Of Orthodontic Wisdom.

"Yes, you can still chew with your mouth closed, thank you muchly."
"You absolutely CAN still eat those baby carrots. Chomp away, kiddo."
"No, brushing your teeth has not gotten harder. You just need to do a better job."

All of my wisdom was prefaced by snappy little anecdotes that generally began with the immortal phrase: "When I had braces." I truly thought I remembered what having braces was like. I did. Really.

Well let me tell you, Karma is a fickle lady, my friends. She likes to poke us in our behinds when we get a little too high and mighty.
(Or when we're just plain wrong.)

I decided to jump on the orthodontic carousel of fun once again; this time by choice. I now sport a shiny row of brackets on my lower teeth. As they put the brackets on, I smiled to myself even as my teeth were being chained into a tightly locked cage complete with coils.
"I've got this," I thought. "I remember all of this. This will be nothing."

I smiled the whole way home. "See girls? Like I said: this is nothing."

And I really thought that---

until I tried to eat the first carrot.
until I tried to chew with my mouth closed without ripping up my cheeks.
until I tried to get away with just simply "brushing" my teeth the usual way.

Turns out folks, some things just aren't as easy with braces. And apparently I had selectively forgotten some other little gems about having brackets in your mouth. (Did you know that you can brush your teeth for a full 5 minutes and still have crud tangled up on those things? Go figure.

So now I'm relearning this thing that is braces. (And I am remembering some of the stuff I forgot.)

Changes have been made around here too.
Veggies are offered raw or cooked.
Proximal brushes have been added to our brushing routine. (These things are nifty, by the by.)
And we have instituted a "Chew With Your Mouth Open (as long as we're at home and no one else is with us)" policy at the table.

I have also retired from my position of Fount Of Orthodontic Wisdom. That title is still open at our house. I think it will remain unfilled for quite a while.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Honestly Whole Wheat Sandwich Buns.

Back in January my husband and I decided to ring in the new year with some healthy diet changes at our house. One of the first things to go was white flour. For those of you who know me, making bread and eating bread are favorites of mine. Dumping that canister of white flour was incredibly hard. (So was getting rid of all the white pasta and white rice. But that's a story for another day.)

Nearly five months later, we're still going strong: no white flour (and very little of any type of flour, actually), no white starches, no cane sugar (and little of any sort of sugar), no high fructose, and little-to-no dairy. (A lady has got to have cheese every now and again, doesn't she?) We feel great and have incorporated the changes easily into our daily life.

But sometimes, a girl has got to have a real-life bun. Just sometimes. I've been playing around with creating a recipe for whole wheat buns that works: it must use only whole wheat, and must, must, must have a texture that is edible. 

I think I've finally figured it out. These use a blend of whole wheat flours. They are soft and not overly dense. Best of all, you can make the dough in your bread machine. Give them a try and see what you think.
They're not dense. Light and quite yummy.

See that texture? No sawdust here.

What you'll need:

1 cup water
3 TBS milk
3 TBS honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3 TBS butter
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast

What you'll do:
Add ingredients to your bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer. (For mine, it's the order listed above.) Choose the Dough Cycle and enjoy an hour and a half or so sitting and reading a book or something. Be sure to congratulate yourself; you are making healthy buns from scratch, after all. 

After the dough cycle is complete, separate the dough into smaller pieces: 8 if you want really big buns; 10 if you want small-medium sized buns. (Be aware that the dough may be on the stickier side. Dip your hands in a little more flour and you'll have no problem shaping them, though.) Place them on a parchment lined (or greased) cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each. Spray lightly with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap or a light towel. Allow to rise until double--30 minutes to an hour, depending on humidity levels. 
**I like to use my oven to proof bread. If you don't have a proof setting on your oven, you can still make it work as a professional "proofer". Set a bowl of warm water on the floor of the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees F. and then turn the oven off. Place covered bread in the oven and close the door. I find this usually knocks some time off the second rise time.

After buns are doubled in size, you can brush them with an egg wash and top them with sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, poppy seeds, herbs, or any combination thereof. (But you don't have to.)

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Start watching for the dreaded over-browning at around the 10 minute mark. The smaller the buns are, the quicker they'll get done. When golden brown, remove from oven and let cool. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

When The Water Came Back Again

In the end we were without water for one month.

{To recap, we'd had 2 separate people suggest that the frozen water line we were dealing with was not our own. Thus, we couldn't do anything to fix it. When made aware of the situation, our city's initial response was to take no action on our behalf. They hooked us up with a hose from our neighbor's house, so we had "running water", but were told not to use that water for anything other than toilets and laundry due to possible contamination. In addition to the restrictions with the hose, it kept freezing in the frigid temps, despite our keeping a steady flow of water going through it.}

After being told to "wait until it thawed" and not to worry since it was, "just until spring", I took my plea to our city council members. Surely someone in our town must think our situation deserved a little concern. No sooner had my email reached their collective desktops than a flurry of activity followed. First, the city provided us with bottled water. (Finally we had a healthy supply of clean water available for kitchen use and cleaning. That was the first step towards feeling normal.) Next,they sent out 2 additional technicians to attempt to figure out where in the line (and on whose side) the freeze truly was. Both parties determined the freeze was not on our line.

On Tuesday of this week the city sent a street crew to dig the pipeline in the road, hoping to get to the root of the problem once and for all. They arrived early, anticipating a quick find and easy fix; they stayed for the next 5 hours. It turned out the freeze was located right off the main, very much not anywhere near our line at all. Adding to the turmoil was the discovery that the last generation who'd worked this particular stretch of pipe had placed it just 2 feet under our brick street. It lay vulnerable and quite freezable ever since.

When the street crew announced that they'd found and repaired the freeze, I was hesitant to believe them. When they told me to go check our faucets, I was weary of any hope that this had somehow worked. I tentatively turned on the kitchen faucet, wincing in anticipation of yet another failure. The torrent of water that I saw surpassed my wildest expectations.

It was back. Water had found its way into our house again.

The sight was beautiful. In a very strange way, we'd gotten used to what we called our "Situation". But here I was, looking at water flowing through my faucets, from our own pipes. It was amazing. Honestly.

One month doesn't set any records. I know that. But what it did do was give me an appreciation for those faucets in our house. I have new understanding of just how much water I use to do simple things: wash produce, wash dishes, brush our teeth. That's what happens when you are doing all of that with gallon jugs of water; it's all highly measurable.

In a way, I'm thankful for our little misadventure because I know we're taking something out of it. We've gained a little bit of gratitude for something we absolutely took for granted before. I'm not going to sign up for it again, mind you, but I am grateful for the chance to be made aware, just the same.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

We Are Not Just An Address.

I wish I could say we had the cool waters blissfully flowing in our house again. But we don't.

In an interesting plot twist, we did find out that the frozen line isn't actually ours at all. It in fact belongs to The City. We can't touch it because it is their responsibility.

Furthermore, in a sinister plot development, when told that they had a frozen water line that was negatively affecting households on our street, the response was "They will have to let it thaw".

Does that sound right to you? Because it doesn't sound right to me. In my way of thinking, when you know that a service you are charged with doling out and are responsible for caring for is broken, you need to apply some method to fix it. Waiting for The Thaw is simply not acceptable in my mind's eye. And one only has to glance at a long range forecast for our area to see how truly disheartening that pronouncement really was. (It appears Spring is going to be very late to the party this year).

Without intervention, we are looking at weeks or months before the frost line ebbs enough to loosen its grasp on whatever do-dad is frozen under the cement. Weeks and weeks of this constant interruption; in your face, always reminding you. "I'm still here."

It's not just the "inconvenience" factor that has my feathers ruffled here. Running water in the house is, after all, a First World problem. But there is a bit of a safety issue as well. We have a garden hose supplying our water. A garden hose with no federal regulations behind its manufacturing. Lead? Chemicals? Microbes? All of the above? That's our water.

Until "It Thaws."

I don't even want to go into the amount of water gushing down our drain right now. In order to keep our "hose-lifeline" from freezing (which it's already done twice now in the 9 days we've been relying on it), we have to keep a strong stream of water flowing. 25-30 gallons of water per hour. Do the math on that and it's staggering. Thousands of gallons of water absolutely wasted. Down the drain.

Until "It Thaws."

My husband trekked down to City Hall today with one purpose in mind: to put a face to a situation. We are not an address. We are a family. This is very real to us and has consequences for our family. He was able to speak to the manager of city utilities, and although we don't know yet what (if any) impact his conversation will have on the situation, at least City Hall knows we exist. Whether they do anything about our problem, or sweep it under the rug (out of sight out of mind), we are here. And we deserve a whole lot better than being a forgotten casualty of an extreme winter freeze.