Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Grown Up Salsa Chicken

This is a goofy variation of the original salsa chicken recipe I posted here. We'll see how it goes...

4-5 pieces of chicken breast
one sm jar salsa (medium heat)
one can petite diced tomatoes
1-2t tbl dried diced onions
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/3+c cream (I ran out)
cumin & chili powder to your preference
1-2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2/3c Frontier Fiesta Black Bean Mix
Optional garnishes; shredded cheddar, chopped scallions, finely diced red onion, fresh chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 400F
Put chicken in large glass or similar baking dish
Mix all remaining ingredients in a small bowl, allow to sit 5-10m
Pour over chicken, making sure to get plenty UNDER and ON TOP of chicken

Bake 40 minutes, occasionally spooning salsa mixture over chicken to keep moist. If it gets to dry, remove from oven. Add more chicken stock and mix well into sauce, spooning over chicken. Repeat as needed.
Turn oven down to 350 and bake 20 more minutes.

Serve as is with a side dish or serve over rice. Also good sliced and served with tortillas.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Deconstruction of a Huff.

Yes, its nearly one a.m. and here I am sitting on the couch in a huff. Not one of my most mature moves ever, but hey, at least I had a long nap today.

So what the heck happened? I'm going to try writing this out with specifics and then revising it to be more global, not about the minutae but about me.

I had a disagreement with someone and they ignored me rather than acknowledge what I was saying. Sigh.

So why did I get so upset? That's why I'm writing ... to try to figure out my end.

I know a few things really upset me.

~ We had an agreement they ignored it just hours later. This bothers me because I feel like they don't take commitments to me seriously.

I want to matter. I want to be taken seriously and see it in people's actions.

~ Its about a choice, a compromise. If they refuse to compromise to protect their physical comfort, I am caused pain and lose function.

Compromise is an action that shows my needs matter.

~ I feels like they just don't REMEMBER what triggers pain in me.

Remembering is an action that shows I matter.

~ They used silence to avoid showing me they were hearing me, they did not acknowledge my frustration.

Acknowledging that I am heard and understood shows I matter.

~They ignored attempts to discuss it and would not share their side.

Having a dialogue with me, even an angry one, until we reach a conclusion shows I matter.

~ I'm afraid we will end up estranged like we were before.

I am afraid of not being taken seriously. I am afraid of not mattering again.

I'm really hurt from experiencing a period where I didn't matter and not sure how to feel safe again.

Feeling like people take me seriously is something I have always struggled with.

Silver Lining.

This past year has been unspeakably hard for many reasons. A special person asked me, can you see a positive to your illness?

I thought about it. And answered No.

That was unusual for me ... growing up I could always find the silver lining in my illnesses.

Today I had an appointment with a rheumatologist. After having a medical student take a detailed history from me and doing a cursory 30 second exam, she spent 15 minutes mocking me, emphasizing the need for me to 'pursue psychiatric care' and finally going as far to say that I didn't really NEED the cane. According to this woman who did not test my balance or leg strength, I 'felt the need for something comforting to hold onto'. I was using it as a proverbial crutch. No pun intended.

I held my composure and dignity until I reached the hallway ... and then I sobbed for a very long time.

I became angry and I looked at myself. Then I had a really big margarita and took a nap. And then I looked at myself some more.

I am not weak. I am not bringing this on myself. I am a brave strong woman who parented her children alone for months, despite being more disabled than ever. I stood by my husband while he walked through the darkest valleys of his soul. I consciously chose to work on my self issues to better support myself, my children and my husband without enabling. I reached out for professional, spiritual and social support whenever I needed it.

We are a healthy strong family unit because I chose to keep us strong and because my husband accepted my decisions and support.

I'm no longer angry or defiant at you, Doctor.

Doctor, I am grateful to you for showing me the silver lining. I sincerely hope you gently find the wholeness you need to see your patients with more compassion. No one with joy and peace in their hearts could look at a woman who is clearly holding back tears and continue to hurt her. I hope you find what you are missing. Thanks for the perspective.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The hard part. And extra credit.

Assignment 1)
Make a list of the ways this physical condition is serving you.

(Gah. Can't I stall some more? Fuss with the spellchecker and formatting a bit?)

~ I enjoy being with my kids.
~ I am afraid of failing at "being a grownup" ... being ill gives me an excuse for not having to do certain things, for mistakes I make.
~ I'm used to things as they are, its comfortable ... I am afraid of failing if I am forced to try new things
~ I have a thirst to be different, to stand out in a crowd. I used to be that person because of my carriers. I don't know who I will be if I am healthy. Who will like me? What will be my buffer?
~ I have always had trouble concentrating on a job, succeeding at a job, finding my niche. I'm so tired and beaten down by years of feeling listless and mediocre in my jobs.
~ I have a childish craving (image: three year old sulking and stamping a foot) for playtime, me-time, indulgence ... I've tried to fill it by goofing off at work, shopping too much. When I'm sick I can goof off. But for some reason it doesn't fill the need. I don't feel better. I just feel empty.
~ When I'm sick I don't have to do deep self-work.
~ When I'm sick I have less home/family responsibilities.
~ When I'm sick I can insist we all stay home.
~ Maybe there ISN'T a niche for me - when I am sick I don't have to feel lost.
~ Maybe there is something inadequate, lacking, dependent in me - when I am sick I am protected from looking at that.
~ I feel like I am playing dressup as a grown up, like I don't really know what to do, how to do it. I'm afraid people notice if i'm not sick.

There may be more - it makes me sick and jittery to look at this. Part of me wonders if I am really SEEING all there is or just quickly glimpsing into that black pit and drawing a rough sketch of what I see because I am too weak to really climb down there and LOOK at it all.
~ When I am sick I have an excuse for being weak.

Now, for extra credit.
1b) WHY does revealing this disturb me so intensely?
~ I'm horribly afraid of not measuring up
~ I'm desperately, nauseatingly afraid of my friends and family thinking of me as "less", "lazy", "not trying hard enough", "immature", "unreliable", "needy", "selfcentered", "dependent"
~ I'm afraid healthy people will misunderstand this. I'm afraid people won't understand that these are normal, common feelings for someone in my kind of limbo.
~ I'm afraid they will think I am bringing this on myself, mind over matter, psychosomatically ... and that they won't understand that I desperately want to live to see my children grow up. I don't WANT to miss their lives. I don't WANT to have these tests come back with a scary prognosis.

If you have read this much, please know that you are looking into a little basement closet. We all have them ... most people just aren't brave enough to clean them out. I DO want to be healthy. I want to go to the zoo with my kids again. I want to chase them at the park and push them on the swings. I'm not a monster who wants to be ill because they gain from it.

But I am an honest person. And I admit that there is that small closet, full of bits of me that benefit from my being ill.

Self Discovery ... facing the ugly stuff.

A very special person has given me some homework. Something many disabled or chronically ill people would never admit is that there is a tiny part of them that doesn't want to or is afraid to be healthy.

I know that sounds disgusting ... like its implying people who are happy to get that golden goose back injury and "enjoy" disability payments. I'm not talking about those (mythical?) people. I'm talking about everyday folks who live with depression, bipolar disease, fibromyalgia, MS ... BIG life altering conditions. I'm sure almost all would jump at the chance to recover but there is that tiny little voice/fear/reluctance...

I've thought about that little voice for a while but didn't speak it out loud until my firewalk this summer. Now I need to explore it more.

It's anxiety provoking to look at ugly parts of yourself. Its really scary to post it publicly, but I kind of do well with facing big things head on. I walked on hot coals after all :)

Yes. I am stalling.

I hope those who read this can accept this me being brave ... and not see this as a gratuitous sharing of something ugly....

So coming up:
1) Make a list of the ways this physical condition is serving you.
2) Make a list or consider other ways you might get these needs met.
3) Journal to the healthy part of you and ask her what she needs to feel safe. (you could do this as a free writing exercise, in other words, begin with an intention to dialogue with that part of you that lives in health, and begin with writing a question to her like "what is it that you need to feel safe?" and then disconnect from the rational part of you and let the pen go wild not worrying about what the words are or where they are coming from.

I tell my children that being brave is not the absence of fear. It is doing what needs to be done DESPITE fear.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

TMI. Now what?

I'm watching my two little girls play house in our living room with too much information in my hands.

I recently had another MRI - a redo of the first because they weren't able to get enough information from it. In my area of the US, standard practice for diagnostic test results is that the testing centers do not release the results directly to the patient. In most cases, the patient has to wait until they hear from the doctor - by phone, letter (for good results) or at their next appointment.

After the MRI had a week and half wait for my appointment :

I devised the perfect plan ... I called the MRI center and told them that I needed printouts of all of my reports for my disability application (true). The nice lady there said SURE, in fact I'll be sure to get your report read today so you can pick up this afternoon.

I called that afternoon however and the story had changed.

"I'm sorry ... it is center policy that we cannot release test results to the patient. You must wait to get them from your clinician."

Sooooo ... one of two possibilities had occurred. 1) She got hollered at by her supervisor, or 2) the smudges I had seen on my MRI were not just smudges.

I asked if she could drop them in the mail to me so that I could get them to my disability claims person. She agreed ... and she did.

So now I am sitting here, looking at this paper ... which is quite clearly Possibility #2.

Now what?

Before you go scolding me on being a non-medical person who shouldn't try to interpret my results,you should know that I'm not. My undergrad degree was in Behavioral Neuroscience. My grad degree was in Child Life in Family Centered Care - helping children cope with medical issues. I've worked both as a researching Medical Librarian and as a Certified Child Life Specialist. And I *know* not to interpret my results.

I know that I have no idea what an elevated C-RAP blood test result means ... and it stops at that.

But I can read a report and understand clinical findings. Especially when it is written in plain english that they found X, and that it is consistent with A, but also possibly consistent with B, C, or D.

And A, B, C and D aren't fun. They aren't cancer, but they kinda suck. Big time.

I'm not going to try to sit here and think about the future ... what this could mean, which one I might have. That is what my appointment in 8 days is for.

Right now I just have to cope with a tiny conundrum ... TMI. TMI in my hot little hands. I don't dare post on Facebook about it - my whole extended family is on there. I don't dare tell my mother and don't really want to burden my siblings about it. I honestly don't feel the need to "unburden" myself right now, so that's good. It's just weird to be sitting here on my brown ikea couch that I bought with Tina, watching my children play and knowing there is something wrong in my brain.

It actually a bit comfortable ... to know that I don't have to deal with it yet. I don't HAVE to tell my mother yet, and watch her pain. I don't have to start researching treatments.

I have eight days where I can relax ... I know EXACTLY what my results say and I don't have to live that life yet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I've never understood our society's weird perception of grief.

Media ogles unique and exotic griefs. Empathetic strangers share, remotely, safely, the griefs of celebrated popular figures. Yet when it comes to our own griefs, our own losses ... we have no blueprint.

During my graduate degree I was blessed to intern with a children's loss/bereavement homecare program. The words of my advisor resonate with me daily.

There are many griefs in our lives ... the loss of a dream, the loss of a love, the loss of someone we hold in our heart. Many folks think "sadness", "death" when they hear the word grief but for me it is less ominous. Griefs can be those disappointments that hurt our hearts, the fear of pain to come...

There are many ways to cope with grief - too many to count - and no one person can judge the healthiness of one over the other.

One thing my advisor pointed out to me that is irrefutable, however, is the impact that grief has on our Circles.

Who is in your circle? Do you have a large family, a few very close friends, a spiritual community? Are you active in online communities? How does your grief affect your Circles?

When grief strikes most people respond in one of two ways ... some reach out to their circles, often even reaching out to create wider support circles. And others close their circles, connecting closer with those safest for them.

For some communication is therapeutic ... the worse it gets the more they reach out, lean on their widening circle. For others communication is draining ... the worse it gets the more the griever needs to just cuddle their children and turn off the phone.

I observed families through many variations on these themes. Over time I began to observe my own habits. What are yours?

When my griefs are wrenching but I can wrap my head around them - miscarriage, a bone graft, the loss of trust in a loved one - I reach out, widen my circle.

When my griefs are harder to grasp - the impact my health will have on me and my family - I close my circles.

I wish we talked more about grief with kids, with each other. I have so many dear friends who want to know what they can do, how they can help ... its especially hard to grasp if you have never closed your circles yourself. I just need them to know that I love them for loving me and that I am doing ok. This type of coping isn't about denial - neither denial of the problem nor denial of our need for support.

I'm not sitting here grieving over my fears. I'm loving my children, enjoying the energy I have. It's scary, not knowing something so big, that will impact my babies. But I know you are there if I need you :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wacky snacks and experimenting on my kids...

My sweet friend Jenn has been kind enough to drop off extra CSA veggies every so often this summer and we have been absolutely gorging on tomatos, peaches and the like.

Tonite I felt a bit fiesty, however.

On the menu are:

Dinosaur shaped PB&Js (no I am not that artsy - I found a dino sandwich cutter in the dollar section)
Fresh edamame (instructions)
Fresh beets (instructions) ... and yes, I know there are a million other scrummy ways to serve them (you say) but see below.

Why is this so wacky?

A) I have never even SEEN fresh edamame let alone cooked it ... and my Audrey hated it the one time she tasted it 2 yrs ago.

B) I. Hate. Beets. Not only do I hate beets, but I have never prepared beets AND some of the more academic members of my family once did a bit of research and concluded that there is actually a genetic predisposition for disliking beets. For more info and some neat homeschool resources, check out this info on Super Tasters - members of the population who taste differently than others.

When asked not one single biologically related member of my family on the Portuguese side liked beets ... the general consensus was "GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLRGH - they taste like dirt!!" . Of the family members who had taken a super-taster test (commonly done in highschool biology these days), ALL were super tasters ... and ALL hate beets.

So here I am cooking up a pot of beets *insert maniacal laugh here* and experimenting to see what my kids think. Of course they have no idea of the icky shuddering factor here.

Not looking so positive as Audrey just asked me if I was boiling the dirt off the beets ..., "Momma, I smell dirt cooking." Sigh. Chip off the old wacky momma.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Looking for a roadmap.

I'm stuck.

I hopped in my car, packed up my family, drove down the roads I drive on everyday, aimed for the same familiar places we are used to haunting. And wouldn't you know it ... we're lost.

The roads have been under construction quite a bit for the last three years so we have become very adept at finding new routes ... sometimes we find ways to get to our favorite places with a little extra planning. Sometimes the roads are just closed and we have to find new places to go.

At the end of July, however, I came home from two back-to-back family vacations and found out that there was apparently an earthquake or something.

Almost none of the roads are open now ... and no one can tell me what happened. Oddest thing.

I keep hoping that construction will be done soon, but the powers that be have no idea how long it will take. I lean on friends and family and thankfully we can get to our have-to's and some of our want-to's. We're finding new ways to bring the joy back ... a market we hadn't found before, a library that can come to us even if we can't get to them.

I just don't like driving around too long without knowing where I am going ... I'm afraid of running out of gas.

So if you happen to be talking to the folks who build the roads, tell them I understand it takes time and I know it is completely unpredictable ... just drop me a map once in a while and I promise I won't complain.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Num num num...

Happiness is having leftovers I actually ENJOY eating.

A couple nights ago I made a sort of braised beef for the girls. They thought it was ok but my husband and I swooned.

Easy Braised Beef in tomato sauce

Butter or oil of your choice for browning
1- 1.5 lbs steak*
Emeril's essence (this adds a spicy kick, go easy on this or make your spice mix without cayenne if you dislike spice)
1/2 - 3/4 jar of tomato sauce or 1-2 cups homemade sauce
1-2 cups beef stock (as needed)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small-to-medium onion, chopped
red pepper flakes

Cut your meat into a few large pieces (3x3 in or so). Sprinkle both sides well with Emeril's Essence spice blend.

Heat a sturdy high sided skillet (I like my lodge 3inch cast iron best) over medium heat. Add butter/oil. When butter/oil is hot, add your meat and brown on all sides. This step adds alot of flavor and only takes a few minutes.

Add a cup of stock, the tomato sauce, onion and garlic. Bring to a high simmer and then turn down heat until just simmering. Add a SMALL amount of red pepper flakes at this point if you want this to have a spicy kick, omit if you don't. Since this sauce will simmer a while and reduce the heat of the red pepper gets concentrated.

*Cover and simmer for as long as it takes meat to be tender and cooked through - this varies based on cut of meat and thickness. If sauce is getting too thick, add more stock as needed.

I served this for the kids over mini-penne pasta but my husband and I liked it better over shortgrain brown rice. It's a warm cozy meal that reheats great. I refridgerate leftovers but they will freeze well as well. If saving as leftovers keep meat and sauce separate from rice or pasta and package separately.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


A mother spends years, if not decades trying to help their children understand waiting. I have a five year old and an almost three year old ... its always interesting for me to watch them process things similarly, differently.

Some things never change.

Children and adults of every age all have times when they just feel little. Small. I think alot of things that are hard for small children are just as difficult when adults feel little. Frustration, anger, loneliness, fear. We forget our coping skills.

I'm waiting right now. On thursday my neurologist will give me my most recent test results. I say most recent because another battery will follow this appointment. I'm trying not to focus on the fact that she moved the appointment up two weeks and just keeping doing the things I do everyday... and that usually works.

But every once in a while, when I get too tired, too hungry, to overwhelmed, I just feel small ... and I suddenly feel alot more compassion for my two little girls, learning all these things for the first of many times.

Tina's Famous Salsa Chicken - base recipe

You will find me using this recipe (or the theories behind it) as a hopping off point for alot of entrees.

6-8 boneless chicken breasts
1 jar salsa*
1/2-1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400F

Moosh together in a glass baking pan. Cook one hour. Serve over rice or pasta. Also lovely with steamed veggies or corn on the cob.

* Your choice of salsa can turn this into as many meals as you can think of. I make mild for the kiddos (the spice intensifies with cooking) and medium if I am just cooking for spice lovers. My father in law suggested a sweet one would be nice and I keep meaning to try it with a peach salsa...

The big one cleaned her plate ... one outta two ain't bad...

Tonight's dinner was a hit with the big one (hey, better than nothing). I did a skillet variation on Tina's famous salsa chicken - see next post for THAT recipe - and Audrey inhaled it.

I'm going to warn you - my recipes are vague and imprecise...

Skillet salsa chicken...

2 chicken breasts, Thin cut or pounded a bit as you like
1/2 jar salsa
1 cup chicken stock (add more if needed)
1/4 cup heavy cream, light cream or similar

Take a room temperature skillet; Add all ingredients, moosh them around until mixed. Put over medium heat until sauce is at a simmer. Turn down to med low (or whatever is required to keep sauce at a simmer) and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through and sauce is creamy, slightly thickened. If needed, add more stock to thin.

I served it with shortgrain brown rice - I cook 3 cups at a time in my ricecooker and freeze the extra in single servings.

Welcome to my little hideaway...

I often say to my friends that I live under a rock. So welcome :)

I'm a stay-at-home, sometimes work-from-home mom to two little girls who make my eyeballs spin round in my skull with such frequency that I keep waiting for someone to film it and post it on youtube.

I'm living a slightly wonky existence, adjusting to a disability that changes frequently so you may see alot of food posts here. That's because when I actually can cook a meal, I get pretty proud of it :D

So thanks for peeking in ... we have plenty of room!