Gluten-Free Spiced Carrot Loaf

042Although baking is not one of my favorite activities, I’ve gotten reasonably good at it out of necessity. And fortunately, my mom’s recipes convert well to gluten-free. I will admit that there’s a sense of nostalgia in making things I remember from childhood, tasting them again, making them for my children, and continuing a family tradition of sorts. It brings back especially good memories in this season of family time and traditions.
I’ve tried two versions, one simply gluten-free, the other without eggs, sugar, and nuts. It’s a great low-sugar treat any time of the year, and a great way to use up the carrot pulp from a juicer…if you do that kind of thing…. : ‘
I’ve found that pumpkin pie spice works well in place of the other spices, if needed. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Carrot Loaf

Beat together 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 1 cup unrefined sugar or 1/2 cup honey

stir in 1 cup grated carrots or carrot pulp from juicer

mix together in separate bowl:
1 3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix
2 tsp baking powder (I use homemade or aluminum & corn-free)
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Pour mixed dry ingredients into carrot mixture–stir only to moisten.
Pour into 9x5x3 bread pan and bake 40 min or until toothpick comes out clean. let sit 10 min before removing to rack.
Store in plastic bag
Even more Allergy-friendly Version:

In glass or metal mixing boil, combine 2 Tbsp ground flax seed with 1/4 cup hot water and let sit for a few minutes.

Beat together 1 cup apple sauce, 1/2 tsp stevia or 1/4-1/2 cup honey. Add to flax meal mixture and mix

Mix together in separate bowl:
1 3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix
2 tsp baking powder (I use homemade or aluminum & corn-free)
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 cup organic raisins

Pour mixed dry ingredients into carrot mixture–stir only to moisten.
Pour into 9x5x3 bread pan and bake 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Will be much heavier and more gooey than with eggs.

Let sit 10 min before removing to rack.
Store in plastic bag

A Winter Resolution

Thanksgiving is over, and though I endeavor to make a thankful attitude,”Perpetual” as Emerson put it, I am relieved to have checked off another holiday.
Last year I celebrated Thanksgiving from the couch, with my leg elevated, and throbbing from the previous week’s surgery. This year, I am grateful to be walking after a recovery more difficult than I would have imagined.
While I’m determined to get back on my feet in more ways than one, I have decided to take things slow this year. Minimal organization. No Christmas arts& crafts fairs. No extra commitments of any kind. Since I haven’t had an income for the past year, all of our Christmas gifts will be homemade, and I hope no feelings will be hurt if I don’t get to everyone.
I plan to make my health a taboo subject, at least until mid-January-ish. I do not want to hear the words “Ehlers-Danlos,” or “cancer” come out of my mouth unless I am speaking to someone in scrubs. I will not let my illness be a set of ghostly chains dragging me down through the season. I want to celebrate. I want to teach my children Christmas songs and traditions. Not just our own, but the richness of our panoply of friends and families, a wide spectrum of joy.0510151939
I want to eat and celebrate, and I plan to care for myself, but I do not want to let my illness eclipse my life. For the next month-and-a-half, I’ll try to say if I’m feeling less than great, but beyond that, I’d rather not share. I appreciate concern and thoughtfulness, but it’s a season of joy, and I want to keep the focus on joy. I don’t view this as denial, because although I am ill, I think excessive focus on it due to constant medical follow-ups and well-intentioned conversations are causing me to remain in a “sick person” mindset. I don’t believe the constant reminders of my illness are healthy, and I find they detract from my enjoyment of life. I personally believe the body/mind/spirit is a potent connection between attributes of the whole person, and I think that where the mind dwells the body may well follow. The irony of this statement in view of my “dark” style and tastes is not lost on me, but most of us are not so clear-cut or monochromatic enough to be that simple. 🙂
That said, blessings to all in the coming season of Light!

Burned Again

Thoughts on July 20th–A Look Back

I swore a bit after burning my hand on the toaster oven. No microwave for the children & me-especially since the cancer diagnosis. I am back on the quest for the whole-food, nutrient dense diet. But I do swear more than I used to.

10373734_10154235617285430_243059777382781641_n

“Hope” Mixed Media, By Marlane Quade Cook

The burn didn’t bother me after the initial shock of pain, but I did remind myself they always hurt worse later. Marching alongside this thought was the nagging accompaniment that I’ve been such a wimp lately, going back on my pain meds for knee strains and slight “twinges” in my abdomen–post-surgical souvenirs I make too much of. To my surprise, the burn barely registered on my pain scale, even though it began to ooze and a small piece of skin had come loose. When I accidentally stuck it in hot water I was reminded of its presence, yet it was nothing compared to the constant throb of my ribs, back, pelvis, the yanking tug-snap in my knee, and anything else that has been recently stressed. Maybe I’m not such a wimp after all, I reflected, dabbing aloe vera onto my seared skin. Maybe my doctors just don’t have a clue what I mean when I say I’m in pain.
It hasn’t been much more than a month since I was in the E.R., screaming in agony as I tried to manage my post-op pain. That was my ten. Anything less is usually accompanied by a shrug and a ballpark, “oh, five or six…” Only a few days ago stabbing pains in my side kept me in bed all weekend and then sent my to one of my OB-GYN’s on-duty colleagues, who belittled and dismissed me to such an extent that I was too stunned to argue the matter or stand up for my rights as a patient when he foisted procedures on me I would normally have refused, especially from a male practitioner. Live and learn. Chalk up another bad experience, add it to the life experience, and return to the internal certainty that “this is just me” and “I am weird.”
In fact, for someone with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome as well as Fibromialgia and God Knows What Else, this kind of seemingly random pain is not uncommon. After my first child, I was to experience painful pelvic subluxations for over a month. After each birth I hemorrhaged. And took a year to recover.

I simply don’t heal right. Nearly every cut or burn leaves a scar, Nearly every bump leaves a bruise. I need phenomenal amounts of protein–animal protein, ideally–to function without experiencing weakness and lightheadedness, and to forestall injury. I was attempting a vegetarian, low-fat diet when I experienced my first catastrophic injury: a torn ACL that has been my achilles heel for 16 years of my life. When I finally lost the use of my knee last fall and had to have the ACL replaced, it baffled my orthopedic surgeon that I simply could not get back on my leg. I could not strengthen it to the point of weightbearing, even though I started Physical Therapy (PT) a week after the surgery and did daily exercises at home. At times, my other joints would flare up and I would be unable to assist my weak leg enough even to leave the house, so there were many times I had to miss PT, and more than once I had to use a wheelchair because of joint instability in my knees and hips. The therapists could not all understand my good day/bad day ratio, and pushed too hard during flare-ups. The result: a worsening of flare-ups. This cycle continued until I began to call in sick on my bad days and work myself at home within my limitations. My dancer’s mind rebelled at these cowardices, but they were effective in combination with regular PT (and the addition of advanced rehab), and I slowly regained my strength. A mere eight months later I was able to begin walking unassisted, though recurring bad days always felt like a setback.

The hardest thing about living with Ehlers-Danlos Type III could be the persistent “weakness” in the joints and the difficulty in building and maintaining muscle, and therefore, overall fitness. It could be the loss of my passion: classical ballet. I am now to the point that even sitting and instructing a class for an hour or two is so far beyond me. Even leaving the house on a bad day is beyond me, unless it’s an absolute emergency. Yet I don’t think those are the worst. The worst would have to be when I see my six-year-old son is simply too worn out to play, when I see his or his sisters’ knees extending beyond their normal range of motion as mine did for so many years. It’s seeing bruises on my four-year-old daughter’s baby skin because she bumped her knee or fell or because another child was playing too roughly with her. It’s seeing the sensitivity of my children’s skin, the scars they already have, my daughter’s love of dance that may be as unfulfilled as my own, my son’s extreme reactions to pain. Genetically there is only a 50% chance that my children have inherited the gene for EDS, but the signs are discouraging. They are too young for evaluation, which prolongs the uncertainty and worry for me as a parent. Nearly as bad is the fatigue and joint instability that keeps me from being there for them as I would like to. Gone are our excursions to the park or going for walks, play days with friends are limited to those families who understand our situation, which are few.

Though I have not lost hope, the past year has been discouraging in the extreme. It has changed the way I view myself and my abilities. As someone who valued few things more than strength and health, I have finally admitted to myself that I am not physically strong, and may never be. And yet, to put it in words feels self-indulgent. Whiny.

I can usually deal with the pain. As my individual pain scale may indicate, I’m used to it. I don’t know if I can deal with the increasing need for surgeries, and now I have the unrelated diagnosis of cancer to add to the mix. Yet I am one of the most stubborn people I know, and I am reasonably sure that in spite of the temptation to give up I will almost certainly persevere to the end. Because I have a family. I have children. And my children need to see me live with as much dignity and courage as I can manage.

Ehlers-Danlos: What it Means

10343534_10152041629146090_7165326251678691062_nI was recently persuaded to blog my experiences with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III, with the idea that it may be helpful to others.It seems to be it could be a downer for a personal blog, but in the hope it may be helpful, I’m giving it a try.

I’m used to a blank stare when I tell tell someone I have Ehler-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), even in a doctor’s office. When I try to save time by using “EDS” I end up having to restate, leaving me with a sense that many of my health practitioners don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, let alone going through. They don’t understand that fatigue and depression are part of the condition, that cross-system symptoms can all be due to an EDS flare-up, and that, yes, it keeps me from functioning.
My Primary doctors are actually the best at empathizing, even when they don’t understand. I often can’t believe the luck I have in finding this husband-wife team with an open-mindedness unusual in the medical profession. And they have quite honestly told me they don’t know much about EDS. They don’t try to bluff their way through an appointment like some of my more specialized doctors do.
Family, friends, and strangers can seldom be expected to understand why I can go for a hike one day and then be flat on my back for a week. Or can handle the hike, but a family BBQ will put me out of commission for a month because going up and down patio steps flared up my hip joints and now they won’t support me. Or that I can manage to injure myself swimming, usually by popping out a knee, ankle, or shoulder.
I educated myself about EDS through a consultation with a genetic specialist, and subsequent googling. Aside from that, I’ve unknowingly lived with it for a lifetime, with symptoms increasing in severity in my 20s and 30s. Although the diagnosis seemed looming–a condition that would never go away and may very well worsen with age–it was a relief to know that the crazy things that always happened to my body were explainable.
My two children have “rubber joints” that make me wince, just as my own used to worry my mom. I doubt she had ever heard of EDS, though I think she may have had it as well, but her intuition and experience with her own joints led her to warn me to be careful with mine. Thus I was deprived of ballet lessons as a child, and likewise kept out of gymnastics class. I begrudgingly saw the logic when I would twist, flop, and sprain several times a year, but unfortunately I also have a stubborn streak, and ballet has a seldom-acknowledged allure…
That’s where my story really begins.

Afterthoughts

Lately when I write, I think I’ve said everything I have to say…Then all I have to do is hit “publish,” “send,” or simply start doing something away from my computer, and inspiration strikes again, or I realize I forgot a vital point, or that I quite simply flubbed a cover letter.
As a less-than-mobile person for the last five months, this can get a bit exhausting, especially if it’s something I want to write before I forget.
I’m supposed to be working at putting full weight on my weak leg with every step, but when I’m in a hurry, I resort to the tested and reliable method of the crutch swing: click, swing, click swing, holding up the leg that hold me back.

I feel a little like a three-legged dog sometimes: a bit bedraggled, a bit slow, not sure I’m really wanted, overcompensating to do what needs to be done.

But as long as I can do what needs to be done. Then again, rehabilitating this leg also needs to be done.

But there are so many afterthoughts..

Thoughts on Writing

Blogging is a lucrative undertaking for many people, but it is also a field that is somewhat…swamped!
(It saddens me that while I know what “lucre” is, and am familiar with the named Lucretius and Lucretia, I seem to have forgotten how to spell “lucrative.”)
The blogging field is so vast with so many sites, blogs, Zines, Mags, and, you know, mag-a-zines, there is a flood of potential work, but also an Aegean Stable of work to find it (If you’re not familiar with the 12 tasks of Hercules, please look them up & be enriched by the allusion). 😉
I think the most grueling work I have done to date is not, as many writers say, sitting in front of the blinking cursor and blank page willing the words to come, it’s

A) my own perfectionism (nothing on my personal blog makes my grade, FYI)

B) The research, reading, and tampering trying to find the right “fit”

C) The submissions process

D) The waiting for a response, many of which simply do not come. Rejection implied.

What amazes me is that writers keep at it, even when it’s discouraging. I think we have to be very determined or a little obsessive, or maybe both.

The silver lining is that, there always seem to be more submission calls…

The Blog Journeys On…

My children went to bed early tonight, thanks to their fascination with the Redwall animated series and the wonder of glow sticks. Time for writing…

And researching.

Blogs, blogs, blogs–they’re everywhere! And so many of them are paid opportunities, which look so good as the bank account trickles lower…

I still have about 50 tabs open on my laptop. At least half of those are submission requirements. The rest are health, nutrition, educational stuff for kids, podcasts on my faith…

I have two optimistically loaded literary journals. I’ve been told my writing is good enough, but the fit–the f___ng fit is so hard to find…

Everything I read on writing and blogging is so relatable. “Don’t write for free–unless you really need to get your work out there.” “Don’t give up on submitting just because you’ve been rejected…but don’t keep querying/submitting the same place.” Aw, phooey, I thought I had such a good niche all mapped out…

I’m actually finding it fun. More lists to go through…

At Night

It’s a stormy night. The wind is howling outside, and a windchime tinkles softly, a bit brokenly. My children have been asleep for hours now, but I cannot sleep. It’s after 5:30 a.m., and I still feel agitated. I have paperwork to do, healing to do…I want to avoid taking any more medication tonight, but my slow-healing knee is aching sharply. A pair of crutches leans against the wall by my bed. Pain twinges through my leg. Weather changes have always affected that old injury, and it would seem that surgery hasn’t changed that. One more thing the doctor can’t explain.
I wonder if it will be a rainy day tomorrow. I wonder what my children will be interested in doing. They’ve been asking to go to the library and the park, but it is almost impossible for me to get out of the house on my crutches. I hate to ask my overworked husband if he would like to take them. He is already so tired.

I try not to resent my situation. Resentment won’t make me heal any faster, it won’t help my husband get any more rest. I hate that he has to take all the extra work on. There is so little I can do right now, and so much that I want to do….

I finally become sleepy, but the rush I feel as I unintentionally pull myself out of sleep is an exhilarating one. A draft in the house intensifies the chill I feel. The medication I take makes me shiver easily.
The windchime sounds brokenly again, beautifully broken. I hear a tree branch crackle in the wind, and hope that doesn’t mean a power outage is coming.
I reach for a sweatshirt from a pile of clean laundry my husband brought me. Now, like a quiet butler, he is nowhere to be seen. I wish he would stay in our room with me. He’s afraid of bumping me in the night–hurting me. I am tired of being fragile. It’s been four months since I’ve picked up one of my children without being seated. I haven’t gone on a walk for more than six months.
I have to recover, we have to get our lives back.
I hear a branch fall outside and the wind picks up even more. I want to check on my children and make sure they’re covered up warmly. I’m so tired that moving at all is an effort. A glance at the crutches exhausts me. I remind myself that the kids are old enough to pull their blankets back on. I still feel remiss.
The windchime sings in the gusts that sweep our porch now.
I wonder what tomorrow will be like.

Ravens of Thought

serveimage

“There, through the broken branches, go
The ravens of unresting thought;
Flying, crying, to and fro,
Cruel claw and hungry throat”
–W.B. Yeats

A few nights ago I was musing, and my WiFi was in and out–actually, the neighbor’s WiFi was–I recalled The Two Trees, a favorite poem by William Butler Yeats, and one line in particular, “The Ravens of unresting thought.” And since I was being kept awake by restless thoughts, it was great fuel for pondering.

This is also a favorite song, as adapted and performed by Loreena McKennitt, another of my out-of-the-way artists I like so much (I have realized most of them are classified under “New Age” or with slight confusion under “Celtic/World,” which might be a bit more accurate).

To me ravens hearken back to old Norse stories, especially the ravens of Odin: Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory). These thought-ravens are echoed in the poem of Yeats, as is the tree imagery which is ominous in Odin’s case, as he suffered hanging on the tree Yggdrasil to gain knowledge.

In Yeats’ poem the ravens circle through the broken branches of trees, stirring the observer to bitterness and despair evoked by a magic (cursed?) “glass” or mirror…

I likened the thought-ravens to the thoughts we have when we are agitated, eating away at ourselves, letting our thoughts pick at our confidence or our certainty like mischievous, even cruel, scavenger birds. The logical conclusion is that we may be short-lived, if they are circling and pecking already. At the time it seemed particularly applicable to writers. In my research and queries and reading and blogger-advice seeking, and reading the struggles of other writers and bloggers, I began to see common trends, pitfalls, hindrances. It seems most writers struggle, whether it is to find time to write, to know where to pitch, to select only one topic, but the more I read, the more it seemed their struggles came down to one thing: their thoughts. It was as if a curious sort of overwhelm was their real obstacle to writing as they wanted to do. I was right on board with them. I was hobbled by my lack of confidence in my own writing. I made excuses that I needed to “shake off the rust,” since i hadn’t written for publication in years, much less for pay. It is a daunting world of editors, submissions teams, cover letters and queries, and gnawing self-doubt is perhaps the worst of all. There are our thought-ravens. And I think all of us who are pestered by them, writers and others, need to find ways of dealing with them. Otherwise we may end up frantic as Poe’s character in The Raven: tormented by thoughts (of loss, in his case), and unable to rid ourselves of our pesky harbinger, who ends up lurking forever, casting a shadow we cannot lift ourselves out of. We would be far better to follow Odin’s example, who (perhaps stemming from his wisdom gained on Yggdrasil), made allies of his ravens, who did his biing and brought him news of the world, sitting contentedly and helpfully on his shoulders, no trouble at all.

Though they say Odin was sometimes worried Hugin and Munin would not come back…

 

Writing to Music

When I really delved back into writing like I meant it, I happened to come across some music I liked–way back when. It’s a way back when that feels like yesterday, anyway, so I assume that means I either haven’t matured or I’ve been in some kind of time bubble wondering why the world has changed and why people around me have gotten older and started having kids. Then there are these two adorable but feisty little goblins who keep flinging themselves on me and calling me Mama. They’re kinda cute, so I accept it. I feed them, and play silly games with them and cuddle them and stuff. And then there’s this amazing guy they call Dad. I think I’ll keep him too. He’s kinda nice to have around–indispensable, in fact.

So, here I am in my time bubble. The ’80s going retro has been terribly confusing. But at least the music I loved in college is still as un-retro as ever. Garmarna’s remix of Hildegard Von Bingen’s ethereal chants, miscellaneous classical pieces I love because they are still and uplifting at the same time, and let’s face it, when I was a snob I listened to classical music simply because it was classical. Nostalgia is a big factor, lifting me out of present-day frustrations and stresses to reminisce about I time I no longer remember as difficult or stressful, though it was more so.

The music is timeless, anyway, and soothing. A few tracks stand out, if I can remember composer’s names (another trait that went by the wayside with snobbery). Delibes’ Song to the Moon,  Alhambra by somebody else, Lascia Chi’o Piangia  by someone I certainly should remember, but don’t. I wouldn’t remember Delibes if my students hadn’t done a simplified dance from Coppelia last year. If I mutilate spelling, please comment and correct me. None deserve it better than I, believe me.

Well, point being, the music helps me write. I wrote better in college–I think. I’ve been impressed by what I’ve found laying around. Sometimes things I can’t believe I wrote. Some I’m pissed because I can’t remember how it was supposed to end and it was never finished.

I think I’ve finally, after far too many years, gotten to the point I am done messing around. I’m writing almost every day now, or rather every night. Short on sleep, but at least I feel like I’m accomplishing something for this family that seems to be mine…I’m entering my fourth month of Invalidship, and I don’t like it. So while I bust my britches to get walking again, I might as well be productive while applying ice packs.

One of these days, a blog will accept my writing. One of these days, I will finish one of many stories and find some way to publish it–and I think blogging will at least open up that thought realm for me. I have to watch my idealism, I may find myself trying to puff thought bubbles into the ethers, hoping a book will materialize.

Writers, honestly….