Blogepilogue

So I never came back as I promised to, did I? Until now.

Where have I been? At the end of 2007, right after Christmas, I very suddenly became bedridden. It happened almost literally overnight. And I thought I
 would bounce back some, as I always had up to that point, but I 
didn’t. So two weeks into 2008, I resigned from my job, which I had been 
doing from home since mid-2006.

What caused it? I stopped being 
able to sleep in October 2007. One night I went to bed and I just
 couldn’t fall asleep. Same thing the next night, and then the third
 night I slept for two hours. Then two days without sleep and then
 another two hours. We started trying over the counter stuff, which
 didn’t work, and then prescription stuff. After a few months of almost
 no sleep, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand, couldn’t sit up. Bedridden.

In
the process of trying to find something to get me to sleep, a doctor
 who failed to warn me what I was getting into had me on 2 mg of
 Klonopin, which quickly turned on me. I started a six-month hell of
 withdrawal in March of 2008. In May, we moved me from California to my
 mom’s house in Indiana, via air ambulance. And I went downhill all the
way through 2008. In the fall of that year my sleep drugs failed and I
 again went months without sleeping. Already totally bedridden, I believe
 I came pretty close to dying. I couldn’t lift a glass, couldn’t move my 
legs, my heart was going crazy, and the lack of sleep and another poorly-tolerated drug threw me
 into a sheer hell of paranoia and delusion.
 
At the beginning of
 2009, because of a fortunate leftover forgotten prescription for a
 soporific muscle relaxant from that same stupid doctor who’d prescribed
 the Klonopin back in California, I survived a couple months by finally
 getting a little sleep. Then in spring of 2009, with the combination of
an off-label prescription for an anti-psychotic and a new beta blocker
 (both of which I’m still on), I started to get some full nights of sleep
 for the first time in a year and a half.

Soon after that, we heard from Dr. Cheney,
 a prominent ME/CFS doctor whose waiting list I’d been on for a year and
a half. He could see me in June. So in June 2009, we took me – lying
 down in the back of my mom’s SUV – from Indiana to his clinic in 
Asheville, North Carolina. I spent two full days with him. He told me 
that of all the patients he’d seen in his twenty-five years of treating
 ME/CFS, I was among the half-dozen most severely affected.

When
 we left North Carolina, we took me to Pennsylvania, where Chimp had 
bought us our first house, near the college at which he’s now teaching. 
Once we got there, it took me a couple months to recover from the trip.
 While that was going on, it took about 90 days to add each medicine and 
supplement Dr. Cheney had prescribed, carefully, one by one, to avoid
 confounding any negative reactions.

Slowly, after about another
 three months, I started noticing tiny, tiny improvements. After six 
months, a little bit more. I could pet a cat a little. I could type a 
sentence or two. I could participate in a conversation for a few 
minutes. By Christmas Day 2009, I was able to walk the twenty feet from
 my dayroom to lie down in the living room to visit with my in-laws,
 who’d come up from Maryland. By March of 2010, I was able to walk to the
bathroom again – something I hadn’t been able to do since 2007.

At
this point – a bit more than halfway through 2010 – I’m still
 technically bedridden. But there are gradations of bedriddenness,
 believe me. In 2008, I literally could not get out of bed and walk
 across the room. Right now, I wake up in the morning in my bed, walk the
20 feet to the couch in my dayroom, and lie back down there, where I
 spend my days. Most days, if I want to, I’m able to get a snack out of 
the pantry five feet away. I can walk to the bathroom a couple times a 
day. If I’m having a particularly good day, I’m able to get up and walk
 10 feet or so to the kitchen table and sit there for a few minutes,
 talking with Chimp. I’d say I’m about 98% bedridden.

So all of
 that’s why I’ve never been back. And because I remain bedridden, I don’t 
have any plans to start blogging again. I miss the food business. I
 miss cooking even more. I miss the grocery store and my friends at the 
farmer’s market. I miss blogging somewhat less than all of those things,
 I’ll admit, but I did enjoy it.

Someday – hopefully soon – 
there’ll at least be some treatment for my illness, and those of us who
 are suffering will be believed – and vindicated.

 

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Might Not Post For A Bit

(Squeamish alert: kitchen injury described below.)

I accidentally got some fingertip in the fennel last night (bad hand positioning; I know better but was tired and was not being careful) and my left ring finger is out of service for a while, rendering me unable to touch type. I can still write longhand, but as my Tablet PC died a couple months ago and our scanner no longer has a working driver, that’s not much of a posting option.

This is, would you believe, in all the years I’ve been cooking, the first time I’ve had a mishap like this. I feel like an idiot, because, as mentioned above, I know better.

The initial adrenaline rush and subsequent stress of the situation were exhausting enough to knock down my functioning a bit – I had to send Chimp to the market today, as I just wasn’t feeling well enough to stand up for that long.

So I have been laying low, keeping my hand elevated to reduce swelling, watching cooking shows on PBS (ah, how I love the obsessive-compulsive nature of America’s Test Kitchen…makes me feel not so alone in the world…), being grateful for these and generally feeling sorry for myself. Well, mostly for my finger.

Hot Plants

My rosemary is recovering.

I nearly did it in this summer. The combination of July’s heat wave and my relapse – the first of which coincided with and seemed to have a hand in the other – both put forth their best effort to snuff the spiky, resinous life from it.

It had seemed to be holding its own in the heat, and then one morning before breakfast I looked out the kitchen window while washing my hands and noticed it had become yellow, dry, and sickly-looking. Nothing else looked that great around that time either – the sage was getting leggy and sunburned, and even the mint looked a bit peaked. The two basil plants I’d put in the week before everything went south with my health and the weather had looked so green and hopeful when they first went into the ground and had been promptly chewed down to the roots by the local roof rats.

And I, my fever roiling, having lost another five pounds I didn’t have to spare, and only able to summon the energy to shower every third day, caught a dim glimpse of my reflection in the pane’s glare as I replaced the oversized cake of olive oil soap in its wood and wire holder with a small clatter and lathered my hands in an unconscious rhythm.

I wasn’t looking so hot either.

I always wanted to grow rosemary, and Fresno was my first real chance. My mother-in-law, a formidable gardener who has the sort of graceful, unstudied-looking yard full of exuberant azaleas and lush greenery that is the result of more than 20 years of diligent, thoughtful work and smart plant choices, told me that in the mid-Atlantic, where I grew up, there are two ways to overwinter rosemary.

“You can bring it inside and kill it, or you can leave it outside and kill it.”

Not so Fresno. I’ve been amazed to see rosemary, huge boxwood-sized amounts of it that clearly take the better part of a decade to grow, acting as a hedge. You could roast all the potatoes in town and not use half of a plant that size. And you can hardly find one – let alone two – ways to kill it. It loves this climate.

So I’ve been growing some in a container since last summer. I probably should have moved it out of the sun somewhat when the heat wave came, but I never had the energy to do it or direct Chimp to do so. Really, he didn’t need another thing to do, what with trying to keep me fed and somewhat comfortable and from constant tears. When I asked him about its fading appearance, he told me he was watering the plants; even constant watering wasn’t enough to prevent ill effects from that streak of 115-degree days.

After the heat broke, after that string of ten days during which I didn’t leave the house, after I got back the ability to sit up, and bathe, and stand for a minute or two, I started watering the plants again from time to time. It wasn’t much of an herb garden this year. It seems like I was too busy with and tired from a schedule full of research projects during the spring, and I hadn’t gotten around to planting dill or summer savory or parsley or cilantro or even basil early on. But I did have what had overwintered – the sage, and the mint, the two kinds of thyme, the Greek oregano, the winter savory – and the rosemary.

Week by week, the rosemary sheds a few more of the yellow leaves it was nearly overcome by. I find them in the chips and on the ground around the container when I turn the hose toward it. I set the sprayer on “jet” to blow out the webs that the spiders seem to love to build in it, and a few more dead leaves come off. The fiercely propelled water raises its piney fragrance, and I run my hands through the plant, plucking off a discolored piece or two and picking up its aromatic gum on my skin in the process. I bring my hand up and inhale deeply.

I’ve seen this plant through a summer and a winter and another summer. Actually, that’s not quite right – I’ve watched this plant through that time, and I’ve given it a bit of supplemental water and a better-than-average soil. It keeps going, den of weaving spiders and heat waves notwithstanding. It is made for this place. I wish such adaptation and resilience for myself.

I Know It’s Love: He Insulted Me And It Was Funny

Me: (shaking a sauté pan full of summer squash) Look at this! Look at how even I cut this!

Chimp: (washing dishes; looks over his shoulder briefly at the pan)

Me: No, look! It’s beautiful! It looks great!

Chimp: (affecting Phil Hartman’s voice) People try to tell you that the secret to Pepper Steak is the seasoning. But we know differently, don’t we? It’s getting all the pieces the same size.

Me: I am not the Anal-Retentive chef! This takes knife skills! And spatial skills! And practice!

Chimp: (leaving the room)

Me: Get me the camera! I’m taking a picture of this, it looks so good!

Note: We don’t usually insult each other, even in jest like this. It wasn’t really about how evenly I cut the squash – I was just happy that I have the energy right now to chop and sauté something, and it brings me joy to do something I’m good at. Chimp was happy about it too – enough so that he felt free to rib me about it.

Sloppy Mobys

Eh, the lighting needs work in that, but the important part of the lighting task is accomplished: you can see what it is that’s being photographed. My Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Internal Regulation System says: “That’s good enough. Sit down and eat now.”

A few years ago now – yikes, it was probably 1999, back when I was working for Whole Foods, because it was when Play was first out – I made a hot lentil sauté on hamburger buns, inspired by the idea of Sloppy Joes, which I never liked as a kid, but the idea of that kid-ish-inspired food seemed like fun. We called them Sloppy Mobys, because they were vegan, and Moby was very much the uber-vegan symbol at the time. This isn’t meant to strongly resemble actual Sloppy Joes made of meat; it’s the idea I liked.

The idea came back to me recently, so we had something like that this past week, tucked into whole-wheat pita instead of on burger buns, because I couldn’t find any whole-wheat burger buns, and I am that insufferable whole-grain type.

I didn’t even eat most of this as sandwiches, either – after one dinner with it that way, the rest of it I added a little water to and ate as soup – and it was great.

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Red Pepper Sauce

I really like using vegetable-and-nut sauces. Things like this and the Sorites Paradox Pesto add tons of color and nutrition to a plate, and variety to a vegetarian diet. Plus, because there’s little chopping and prep work, they’re usually manageable for me to assemble and contribute to dinner unless my energy is really, really poor.

This can be used to top fresh vegetables (it’s especially nice on green ones, as it’s a bit like a shortcut romesco sauce, except with red peppers instead of tomatoes), liven up a salad dressing or toss with pasta.

Continue reading “Red Pepper Sauce”