Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Where Is Your Heart?

A couple weeks ago, Caroline over at In Due Time, wrote this post, which inspired me to write this one:

What have you spent time getting to know?  Done research on?  Whom have you spent a lot of time with?  What have you spent a lot of time doing?  What do you find yourself talking about the most; thinking about the most?  What are you passionate about? 

Christ?  Studying God’s Word?  Praying for lost souls; praying for Christ to teach you?  Celebrities?  TV?  Gossip magazines?  Your hobby or passion and everything related to it?  Your spouse and strengthening your marriage?  Your children and making a better future for them?  Homeschooling?  Adoption?  Being healthy; avoiding bad foods; exercising?  Politics?  Human rights?  Equality for all?  Helping those in need?  Your pets?  Pet rights; shelters for pets; spay and neuter?  Gaming?  Organization; cleaning; homemaking?  Making money; being financially secure; moving up?  Cure for cancer or other disease?  Speaking up against abortion?  Food; cooking; recipes?  Flirting; finding that man who validates you?  Music?

I realize that not everything is bad in this very random list.  But remember:  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:21 (ESV)   

“The only way to get to know someone intimately is to spend time with them.  If you are married, think of when you were dating your now husband or wife.  If you are like most people, when you are first getting to know someone you desire to spend every free moment together to get to know them as good as you can, and if your marriage is healthy, that thought should last for your entire life together.  The same is true in our relationship with the Lord.” – Daryl Evans

Have you ever wondered why, as a Christian, you aren’t as passionate about Christ as you’d like to be?  Or do you sometimes feel almost annoyed at how passionate about Christ some Christians are?  Whatever (or WHOMever) you spend time getting to know, you will be passionate about.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Lots of pictures coming up... :)

My birthday was August 12th; I turned 32. 

To celebrate, we had my husband's parents over for a barbeque on Aug. 10th for supper.  We cooked a feast for them and my FIL sang "Happy Birthday" loudly for all the neighbours to hear (thanks, Dad).  They gave me a hammock that I have been wanting for a while and I enjoyed it over the remainder of the summer.

On the 12th, my actual birthday, I had a bit of a crummy day, but in the evening my husband and I went out to a local cafe that we both like.  It was super-busy and loud inside, so we sat outside, which ended up being really nice.  We had hot chocolates which we both decided were the best we'd ever had.

On the 16th we went to the zoo.  I think this was part of my birthday celebrations...but it may have just been because we wanted to; I can't remember!  Regardless, the weather was hot, and we got to see the new polar bear exhibit where you can see the bears swimming over you while you are standing in a clear tunnel, so it was a good time.

On the 17th, we had my side of the family down for the evening.  We had snacks (chips and Rhubarb Upside-down Cake) and here we are playing Probe.

On October 7th my Grandma, on my dad's side, turned 90.  NINETY.  My aunt put together a really nice evening at the care home my Grandma lives at.  She made a meal that was exactly like one my grandma would've cooked years ago.  She decorated the place nicely, there were pictures of my grandma when she was younger, a chalkboard that listed what grocery items cost back in 1924, treats that my grandma used to give to us grandkids, etc.  We took a lot of pictures; my grandma has always liked doing family photos but I think she was a little confused and overwhelmed.  I'm glad we celebrated her, though.  I gave her flowers from my flowerbed; she has always appreciated pretty things.

On the 16th was my husband's birthday; he turned the big 3-0.  We started off the birthday celebrations for him by going out to eat at Red Lobster with his parents and brother on the 13th.  His brother was out visiting for Thanksgiving weekend (from the 10th-13th; we had gatherings on the 11th and 12th).  Hubby really wanted his brother to be part of his birthday celebration, so we tagged along to the airport when Hubby's parents were bringing Hubby's brother there, and went out to supper first.

On the 16th, his actual birthday, he wanted to do the same thing we did for my birthday - go out to the cafe for hot chocolates :)  So we did.  This time it was very un-busy, so we got a couch/armchair corner inside which was nice as they're not always easy to get.  He was pretty tired, as it was a weekday evening, but it was still nice.

On the 17th we had my family over in the evening for snacks - chips & pop, Skor Trifle (his favourite), and spinach dip (definitely not his favourite).  It was a good evening.

On the 18th the two of us went to the aviation museum.  It had been many years since he'd been there and I'd never been there.  Unfortunately the displays were not all in the best condition and the descriptions needed some serious updating, and there was a wedding going on which pretty much forced us out of there, but otherwise it was good for the most part and I'm glad we went.

So those were the big birthday celebrations in August and October!  In September my side of the family went to a cabin for a weekend; something we do every Fall and it was gorgeous weather and a good time.  One of my sisters & her husband celebrated their 10th anniversary in October by going to Yellowstone; there is a number of anniversaries in my family in Fall.  And of course (for us Canadians) there was Thanksgiving in October as well, so with that came 3 family gatherings.  The next big thing is Christmas, oh my!  Not sure if I'm prepared for that yet... :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy 30th Birthday to My Husband!

HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY to my husband!!!

If you don't like mush, stand aside.  I'm going to let the world know what I think of my man!

I am so thankful for this man and the wonderful husband he is to me.  For someone who is quiet and sensitive, some people may be surprised to know just how strong he is.  And yet he knows he would be nothing without God, whom he relies on.  He has been through incredibly hard times, as he stood by me through antidepressant drug withdrawal, praying for me, helping me keep continuing through it, having to hear his wife say what I can't imagine anybody wants to hear their loved one saying "I don't want to be here anymore".  He has been by my side, sometimes literally catching me, through at least 5 seizures if not more, the first one within weeks of our wedding.  He has prayed for me millions of more times than I know of, and if he hadn't I'm sure I would've had more seizures.  He has given up his dream job of flying to support the two of us - his family.  He has sacrificed dear relationships to stand up for his faith.  I have watched Christ transform him when he became a Christian in his early-mid twenties and watched his faith grow in leaps and bounds.  I can't tell you everything he has sacrificed, but if there is one word I might sum him up with it would be that. 

He is the sweetest man to me.  Absolutely gentle, patient, calm, encouraging - in a word, sweet.  I cannot count the number of times a day I hear or read the words "I love you" from him.  He always asks how my day is going and gives me hugs.  He offers to do things for me to make my day easier such as pick up groceries after work, and doesn't complain.  He even mops the floor and does other things around the house and let me assure you that just makes him more of a man to me, not less.  I am so thankful for the hard worker he is and that he provides for us.  People, this man works 12 hours days, 5 days a week!!  There is no such thing as a lunch break or coffee break in his days; he eats as he drives.  And yet he still spends time with me, knowing it's important to me, at the end of his day.  Now that is what I call love!!  
He loves his three nieces almost as if they were his own daughters.  He loves to hug them, talk about them, show pictures of them, spend time with them, listen to them, etc.  

He is good-looking, faithful, forgiving, a pilot which of course only increases his good looks ;) and I could go on and on as I'm sure I'm forgetting some of what makes my man wonderful.

Happy Birthday, Babe - neither of our dreams for age 30 came true but that is okay because as badly as I want a child and as badly as you want to be flying, we've got what really matters - God's got us in His hands, and we have each other - I love you!    

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Can Eat, Can't Eat

A lot of people have asked me what I can and can't eat.  Unfortunately this is not a quick and simple answer.  I wish it was!  But since so many people seem to genuinely care, and want to make an effort to provide me with the kinds of food I can eat, I will try and explain as best as I can.

First off, let me clarify by saying that I by no means expect people to go out of their way to buy specific ingredients for me (often expensive ingredients that they will only use once) nor cook dishes specifically for me.  I don't feel entitled; like people should cater to my needs.  If I am at your place for a meal, and I cannot eat something that is served, I will not make a big deal of it.  That only makes you feel bad and makes me look bad.  We live in a first-world country after all; if I don't get full at your place it is not the worst thing; I can eat when I get home.  In fact, I am often prepared for not being able to eat everything that is served and I often eat a snack or even a small meal at home before I come!  If I am feeling courageous enough, I may call ahead of time and ask what the person is planning on making, and that way, if you don't mind, I can bring whatever I need (salad dressing, for example).  Sometimes, if I feel comfortable enough, I may ask if you can change a small part of the meal (put the salad dressing on the side, for example) and that way I may be able to eat the meal.  But I just want people to know that I am not going to be upset with them if they don't cook according to my needs because I think that is just conceited; you are not my servant; you have been gracious enough to invite me over for a meal.  But please also know I may not be able to eat everything, and not to feel sorry for me.  I'll be okay!

Second of all, let me say that my reasons for avoiding certain foods are very real, and actually quite serious.  It's not just because I don't like something or am concerned about gaining weight.  Neither do I do it to get attention.  Rest assured, I would LOVE to eat the foods I am avoiding!!

Thirdly, let me say a genuine "thank-you!" to the people in my life who have cared enough to ask what I can and can't eat.  Most of the time, I admit, I assume that my health problems are a hassle and a nuisance to people, and even that they think I am making it all up.  It always amazes me when I find out some people really don't mind going out of their way to provide food I can eat; that they actually want to.  So thank you for caring.  It means a lot to me, it really, truly does.  

So, three things:  why can't I eat certain foods?  what foods can't I eat? and what foods can I eat?

For starters,  I have a couple more minor health concerns that I prefer not to talk about in a public forum like this, but they do somewhat influence what I can and can't eat.  There's no reason really to go into deep detail here, so I'll just say that I try to avoid anything acidic or spicy - so things like orange juice,oranges, and lemonade are a definite no-no, as is hot salsa.  I also don't drink carbonated beverages.  If I ever do have anything acidic or spicy - such as tomato-based products, a bit of pineapple, fruit juices in general, too much pepper or vinegar, etc - I make sure to drink lots and lots of water.  And water's always a good thing! :)

Okay, now to the critical stuff!  I will tell you what I can and can't eat, to the best of my abilities, but first the 'why'.  I have epilepsy (specifically, Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy).  If you do research on JME as I have, you will find that very few people have food sensitivities that affect their epilepsy, or at least there are very few who have tried dietary modifications to help their JME.  But for epilepsy in general you can definitely find information.  The main source of my information has been this website; my neurologist was very interested in my experiences and so I passed on to him the information that I had found helpful.  However, neither my family doctor nor my neurologist have been overly helpful.  My neurologist had me tested for gluten sensitivity and I am not gluten intolerant.  Otherwise everything I have learned has come from trial & error and research online.  If I could afford it, I would go see a nutritionist or naturopathic doctor.  My neurologist is semi-retired now and I have been told I have to find a new one, so hopefully my next one will have some insight.  What I would really love to see is an epileptologist; unfortunately my understanding is that there is only one in my province.  Anyway, most of that is an aside to the fact that I have epilepsy and what I eat affects it.  This was not always the case.  I had JME for approximately 9 years before food became a problem (I believe triggered by sudden changes I made to my diet for an unrelated problem).  Now for the last 5 years life has been a learning curve of figuring out what I can and can't eat, where I can buy alternative foods (some expensive, some delicious, some gross), and trying new recipes (sometimes pretty much inventing them!).  So what happens if I eat something I shouldn't?  Do I immediately fall down and convulse wildly?  No.  (Btw, I never convulse wildly, lol.  I have 'jerks' - muscle jerks in my arms, which I remain conscious during, and I have grand mal (or tonic-clonic) seizures for which I do lose consciousness and will fall if I am not already lying down in a safe place (which I usually am because I know it's going to happen) but even for these I am told my body pretty much just gets very stiff and only jerks slightly).  When I eat something I shouldn't, my body's response is very hard to describe - it is somewhat like a feeling of pressure in my head combined with a feeling of grogginess.  It is somewhat similar to the feeling I feel before jerking (which almost always occurs upon awakening too early; the hallmark of JME).  At this point I immediately quit eating whatever I was eating, and if possible I will go lie down til the feeling goes away.  The real danger comes if I eat something very bad for me, or if I eat bad things in too large quantities, or if I eat bad foods too frequently, or if eating something bad happens to coincide with another one of my triggers.  Then I am likely to jerk, usually starting the next morning and potentially lasting for hours, and if I jerk too much, for too long, have big jerks, or don't get the rest I need, I could have a grand mal seizure.  With a grand mal seizure comes the risk of hurting myself or others, feeling like I've been put through a wringer washer physically & emotionally for a day or two, causing my husband stress, and of course the minor inconvenience of losing my drivers license for a year.  So why don't I just go on a different medication or a higher dose of my medication, you ask?  Well, that would not take care of the problem completely.  I have yet to hear of a case where medication completely controls a person's JME.  Also medication, particularly brain-altering ones like anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), always come with side effects, a number of difficult ones that I already live with.  Also I have already made a huge sacrifice in my life by switching to the medication that I am on - not being able to get pregnant on this medication - so that I could be on the best medication for controlling my epilepsy so that I could be the best mother possible and hopefully start a family through adoption.

Let's move on to the facts of what I can and can't eat.  First of all, what I can't eat.  Note that some of these ingredients I need to avoid 100%.  Others depend more on the factors I mentioned earlier - the problems occurring not only if I eat something very bad for me, but also if I eat bad things in too large quantities, if I eat bad foods too frequently, or if eating something bad happens to coincide with another one of my triggers.  These are things you can't necessarily know, so I need to be the judge of whether I can eat something or not at a certain time.  It may be confusing to you sometimes.  It is to me, too!  I am constantly listening to my body and evaluating and re-evaluating what it's doing, thinking about what I ate and what I will eat, plus taking into account all my other triggers.  It can be very wearying as sometimes it feels like things are not consistent, but I am very thankful to have discovered natural ways to help control my epilepsy.

What I Can't Eat
  • Soy - Soy is a huge one for me.  And you would be surprised what soy is all in.  You pretty much have to become a label-reader for this one.  I avoid all types of soy - soybeans (edamame), soybean oil, etc.  Soy can be hidden under other names, such as hydrolyzed soy protein, textured vegetable protein, soy isolate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), etc.  I am wary of any product with the ingredient vegetable oil, and sometimes contact the manufacturer to find out what that is specifically (for example, Tostitos tortilla chips lists vegetable oil on their bags, and when contacted they kindly told me it was 50/50 sunflower oil and corn oil).  The majority of chocolate out there has soy lecithin in it.  I have found this to not be the hugest of problems, perhaps because of the small quantity, but I still try not to eat it too frequently (I have found a few soy-free chocolate bars out there).  Common foods that you will find soy in are salad dressings including Miracle Whip and all mayonnaise's except for Hellmann's (even Miracle Whip's Olive Oil mayo has soybean oil) - you can buy salad dressings from the refrigerated section (like Renee's brand) that don't have soybean oil, but some have other bad ingredients; obviously soy sauce; a lot of prepackaged/processed foods like canned soups; some frozen chicken breasts; margarine; I cannot think of everything that has soy in it right now but there is a LOT!  A number of flavours of potato chips have MSG.
  • Grains - This is another big one for me.  I avoid all whole wheat, oats, barley, and rye.  I used to be able to eat white flour occasionally in small quantities but it started to become a problem so now I don't eat it either (I have occasionally put a tiny bit of white flour in as a thickener for sauces but prefer not to).  There are some gluten-free flours that I can eat but not all of them.  I haven't learned yet exactly which are safe or not (there are so many available with this gluten-free craze going on right now!) but as of now I also avoid oats, bran, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat until I know for sure.  So the obvious places one would find grains are baked goods like bread & buns, hamburger & hotdog buns, cakes & pies, muffins & cupcakes, desserts & cookies, waffles & pancakes, etc.  More hidden places are things like canned tomato soup and wieners.  Also don't forget the breading on chicken or anything that has breadcrumbs, as well as breakfast cereals, crackers, pasta, and pizza crusts.  Of course I am just scratching the surface with this one as well!
  • Cow's milk products and Casein - Another big one.  If you're wondering what casein is, it's a protein in milk, and it's very concentrated in cheese.  I avoid all cow's milk cheeses.  I used to occasionally eat small amounts of mozzarella, but have since found it to be troublesome as well.  The WORST cow's milk cheese is Parmesan.  I really need you to tell me if you have sprinkled a little of this in a salad or mixed it into a casserole or what not.  Cheddar is also very, very bad.  But I don't eat any cow's milk cheeses - Monterey Jack, Swiss, Feta, Ricotta, Cottage Cheese, Cream Cheese, Havarti, Brie, I could go on and on and let me assure you, I miss them ALL!  I am a HUGE cheese lover!!!  I used to be able to eat other cow's milk products, just not cheeses, without too much difficulty, but things have gotten worse, so now I try to avoid them all for the most part.  This includes milk, butter, sour cream, yogurt, cream, ice-cream, etc.  I am not as strict (yet) with these items as I am the cheeses but I do exercise caution with them.
  • Beans - Just like the soybeans, I can't eat any beans.  So think of things like refried beans, bean dip, chili, etc.
  • Nuts - I can't eat any nuts, the worst ones being peanuts, cashew, pistachios, and almonds.  Well, actually I have heard that almonds are not quite as bad, but I prefer not to test this out.  So no peanut butter for me, nor treats made with nuts in them.  (Please note: I am not allergic to these foods.  So, unlike if a child had a nut allergy, you can have nuts in the house, etc, and I will be fine.  I just can't consume them.)
  • Seeds - Seeds such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.  I don't know if this includes sesame seeds or not.  Also includes lentils, although I've never eaten them in my life anyway.  This is not a super critical one; I should just not consume seeds in large quantities.
  • Aspartame - I don't have a hard time with this one at ALL, because I have always found the artificial sweetener aspartame DISGUSTING, lol!  Aspartame is, of course, found in diet drinks.  It's often called NutraSweet or Equal.  It is in most foods labeled "sugar free".  I have no idea what I would do if I became a diabetic, lol.
  • Meats - I don't avoid meats, but some of them should not be eaten in large quantities or too frequently.  These include turkey, rabbit (I don't ever plan on eating one anyway, lol), and grain-fed meats.  As of this point in my life I don't check to see what my meat ate when it was last alive, lol.
I think that is all!  By now you must be wondering, what DOES she eat?!?  Actually, I've had people ask me that.  Well, I will tell you as best as I can.
  • Mayonnaise & Salad Dressings - For mayonnaise I eat Hellmann's mayoBoth the regular one and the olive oil one do not contain any soybean oil.  For salad dressings I either buy a refrigerated brand such as Renee's (first checking the ingredients to make sure it doesn't have Parmesan or anything else bad) or I make my own.  It's actually really simple to whip up a vinaigrette, especially when you have seasoning already on hand (Epicure makes a really yummy Italian one).
  • Rice Pasta & Gluten-free Baked Goods - I have gotten totally used to pasta made with rice, and for that matter so has my husband!  Our grocery stores all sell a very wide variety of different pasta shapes (still missing manicotti, but hey).  I also buy Udi's gluten-free hot dog buns and hamburger buns (they cost an arm and a leg but thankfully not a brain, haha).  I have not yet had success worth talking about it when it comes to baking with gluten-free flours, and I can't eat all of them anyway.  Just because it says "gluten-free" does NOT mean it is safe for me!  I have also bought some gluten-free mixes (cake, waffles, muffins, etc) and most are wonderful, especially Betty Crocker's GF cake mixes; I swap out the butter for canola oil and it works just fine.  On occasion I treat myself (it's expensive) to a small loaf of gluten-free bread (I can't remember the brand; it's from Safeway) - it needs to be toasted to taste good, but at least I can have some little sandwiches!!  I can eat coconut, so if I go to Tim Horton's with a friend (where I can pretty much not eat a single thing) I can get those DELICIOUS coconut macaroons they have on hand there.  I also buy Udi's gluten-free pizza crusts on rare ($) occasions.  Breadcrumbs for chicken I make using a combo of Cornflakes crumbs and tortilla chips crumbs plus seasonings and it is delish.  
  • Meats - Wieners I buy Schneiders Naturals brand because it doesn't contain any wheat.  For frozen chicken breasts we buy Dunn-Rite because it is soy-free and gluten-free.  There can usually be hamburger patties found that don't contain wheat or soy; just read the ingredients label.  I've never been a huge meat-eater and most meats are okay; it's the additions that can be a problem. 
  • Goat Milk & Goat Milk Cheeses - Goats have become my friends, lol!  Seriously, though, I am SO thankful there are goat dairies around here and that our local grocery stores provide these products.  I can get goat milk at Sobeys and Safeway; goat mozzarella at Sobeys and Superstore; goat cheddar at Sobeys (and if not in stock there, at De Luca's in the city).  Of course every store carries soft goat cheese, which I mix together with goat milk to create "sour cream".  It is a very rich version of sour cream and I don't use it in big quantities.  In place of Parmesan cheese, we buy Myzithra, which is a sheep's milk cheese.  We have to go to the city to either De Luca's or Fenton's in the Fork's for that one, but that's okay because we buy a large amount, grate it all and freeze it.  Goat feta is another one that's easy to find.  I even found goat Gouda (at De Luca's in the city) which I have bought once; it was so good and I used it in place of Fontina cheese in a recipe.  I would LOVE to be able to find butter, yogurt, sour cream, ice-cream, cream cheese, and cream made from goat's milk but this hasn't happened yet.  I learned how to make Ricotta using just 3 ingredients - goat milk, salt, and lemon juice - and it turns out great every time I make it.  Recently my husband bought me coconut "ice-cream" (Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss) and it was AMAZING!!  It is soy-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free (I can't eat all their products, though, as some contain nuts). 
  • Beans, Nuts, Seeds - I haven't found any replacements for these yet, and I do miss them.  They are such a great source of fibre and my new motto has pretty much become "an avocado a day keeps the doctor away" when it comes to getting enough fibre!  Seeds are not the worst thing, though, and I have discovered I can make a homemade pesto using pumpkin seeds and Myzithra cheese, instead of pine nuts and Parmesan (which is what most recipes call for; store-bought ones usually have soybean oil).
  • Other things - I can eat - and I like - the majority of fruits and vegetables.  So I consume a lot of them.  I also eat a lot of potatoes, eggs, and I can also eat rice.  "Plain" food is really the best route for me as it is the additional ingredients that are usually the problem.  For example, yes I can eat potatoes, but if I go to a potluck and there is scalloped potatoes (because we know those have to be at every potluck, right?) there could very likely be canned cream of soups in there, or sour cream or butter, or cheese.  So something like a baked potato is a much better bet for me.  Some people put soya sauce in their rice, or fry their eggs in margarine.  So I always have to ask what is in food.  This is something I just have to get used to, and it is very difficult for me.  Going out to eat is a struggle beyond words.  I've learned what dishes I can eat at which restaurants, and I don't get much variety!  But that's okay; I am SO thankful that God has provided me food that I can eat!
Here are 3 recipes that I have posted in the past.  I will try to post some more safe recipes in the future.
Thank you for taking the time to read this; I know it was long!

And It's Mid-October

So I have missed another "Motherhood Month".  I have been feeling so overwhelmed lately; there is so much to do and I feel like my brain is rather over-stuffed, to put it mildly.  I am working on a number of posts - one I'm in the middle of actually writing; the others are in my head and will hopefully make it to "paper" yet.

Hope all my fellow Canadians had a good Thanksgiving weekend.