Archive for November, 2019

November 24, 2019

Just Do What You Can

You don’t need to tell me to call if I need something…just do what you can! It’s been a difficult past few weeks. We received news that my 18-month-old granddaughter has developed an unexpected complication that will require a 3rd open heart surgery. On the heels of that, my elderly cousin whose care I oversaw began to decline quickly and passed away. As this next season of difficulty for my family has arrived, so have the well meaning statements to call if I need something.

I appreciate it. I know some of you will drop everything to help. I also know some of you say to call, but in reality will most likely stay too busy to actually assist. This is the nature of the ebb and flow of relationships.
hospital
So, here’s the thing. What my family knows from the past year is that when hospitalizations grow lengthy and we all grow weary, many times it is simply beyond our ability to ask for something. Our silence doesn’t mean we don’t need help. It means we need it so much that we can’t get our thoughts together to articulate anything specific. We are barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

I’ve been in your shoes, wanting to help and hoping you’d instruct me, take the burden off me, and let me off the hook instead of having to take initiative and figure things out. I’ve wondered whether I’ll be perceived as pushy or intrusive if I take it upon myself to decide what you need. I’ve worried that I’ll accidentally do something that makes you feel worse.

In spite of those reservations, I have taken the initiative to buy groceries after a phone call in which I sensed the stress and overload a friend was feeling. She had moved her mother from a nursing home into her home to die, it was her husband’s busy season at work, and one of her sons was going through a nasty break-up and had moved back home. She mentioned she was out of milk and couldn’t leave the house.

I heard her. I did not ask for a list or permission. I went to the grocery store and bought some basics-milk, eggs, coffee, cheese, crackers, a rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, salad mix, bananas, muffins, a loaf of bread, deli meat, paper towels, and toilet paper. I didn’t worry whether I had chosen her brand of paper towels or coffee. I just delivered enough to get the family through a couple of days, hopefully giving them a chance to rest and rally.

Similar things have happened for my benefit. A few weeks after my mom died, I cooked lunch for a friend. After lunch, I felt really bad. My stomach hurt. I had no energy. All I wanted to do was recline. My friend checked to see if I needed to go to the doctor, then she told me to lie down on the couch and stay there. She cleared the table, washed every dish in the kitchen, and wiped down the stove. She saw in that moment what I needed and did what she could. It was a kindness I will never forget.

Last weekend when I got home from my cousin’s funeral, there was a bag of warm food sitting on my porch. The friend who I had taken groceries those years ago had roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower and steamed spinach with almonds and raisins then delivered them to my home. I had been on the road for three hours. Arriving to this gift warmed my belly and my heart. I am so grateful for friends who seem to instinctively know how to help!

But not everyone has this sixth sense. What if you don’t know how to help? I would say, just do what you can…

When you don’t have time or are too far away to clean the kitchen, call or text. If you wait for me to post something or send an update, it may not happen. It’s not that I don’t want to keep you in the loop. I’ll try, but sometimes my energy is directed toward processing the news that EM is being immobilized and put back on a ventilator or trying to get some work done in the few hours I have before picking up DJ from school. A message saying you’re thinking of us or wishing us a day without bad news is always welcome. I will respond when I am able.

If you want to help and texting doesn’t feel right, consider a gift card for an errand running service. During a 60-day hospitalization this spring, my daughter-in-law’s co-workers purchased a gift card from such a service that was well received. My DIL needed keys duplicated and distributed, but getting to the locksmith or hardware store seemed impossible. Suddenly, she had a solution!
pizza
When you live close but are really busy, think about piggy-backing on something you’re already doing. When you order pizza, pick up an extra one and drop it off at the hospital on your way home. A quick text and we can often meet you at the front door. You won’t even have to get out of your car.

Of course it doesn’t have to be pizza. If you know something specific we like, bring it. If not, when you eat out, carry away a Poke bowl topped chicken and other generally liked topping choices; a salad with a couple of dressing choices on the side; a loaded baked potato with all of the toppings on the side; a baked chicken breast with mixed veggies; a burrito bowl; muffins or croissants. Whatever you bring will be welcome. If we can’t eat it, we will share with another family. It will not go to waste.

You can do the same when you cook at home. You don’t need to prepare anything extra. Drop off leftover mac & cheese, pork tenderloin, squash casserole, chili, enchiladas, pot roast, stir-fry, or steamed vegetables. It doesn’t have to be a full meal. Your vegetables added to protein from the hospital cafeteria will still be a welcome change.

Another easy contribution is a few home essentials you can add to your regular shopping list. Choose things everyone needs or can use that can sit on the porch for a few hours without spoiling – paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, facial tissue travel packs, zip top bags or snack containers in a variety of sizes, hand soap, hand lotion, body wash, dental floss, Tylenol, disinfecting hand wipes or diaper wipes if there are small children in the household, kitchen wipes, unscented laundry detergent, dishwashing pods, a snuggly throw, magazines, trail mix, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, instant oatmeal or grit packets, cereal, microwavable rice, or a variety of pre-made soups.

Last week, a friend brought me a couple of things I requested from the grocery store. She threw in a copy of National Enquirer. It was the perfect addition! It made me laugh and gave me frivolous reading plus sudoku and crosswords to distract me from funeral planning.

When you have extra time, lawn care, plant watering, or houseplant sitting can be welcome contributions. Present them as options you are going to do unless there’s an objection rather than asking whether they need to be done. Providing pet sitting, grooming, or transportation to the vet can also be valuable services.

Other ways to help may be to take a shift sitting with the patient at the hospital or taking the other children to the museum, making a Halloween costume, delivering or decorating a Christmas tree. Keep things simple and appropriate. If the family normally has a small, simple tree, stick with that. Don’t bring in a 20ft elaborately decorated monstrosity unless the family has expressed the desire for one.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is make time to listen. Long-term illness and hospitalization are isolating experiences. Very few people know what it’s like to be in ICU month after month. There’s no need to offer platitudes, cliches, or assurances that everything will be okay. You don’t know that everything will be okay and even if it is, we’re stuck in the current moment. That’s where we need you to hear us, now, not in the future when things may be less difficult.

You don’t have to try to make us feel better. Just be there, really there, able to hear and shoulder our pain and loss. That will make us feel less alone, more connected, and therefore better.

If you’re not up to that task, it’s okay. There are many, many ways to reach out, help, and show you care. Just do what you can.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201608/helping-friend-whose-loved-one-is-seriously-ill

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/five-ways-cope-life-feels-like-always-someone-else/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/id-tell-you-but-then-id-have-to/

November 17, 2019

Healthy, Easy Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menu

This year I need a healthy, easy gluten-free Thanksgiving menu. In the past two weeks, my family has lost two members. We have traveled to visit relatives in hospice care and to plan and attend funerals. We are weary from the travel, the organizational details, and the loss. When I was a child in a small town, the community would have been feeding us. Now we’re spread out everywhere with no central place to deposit casseroles. At moments, it is hard to function through the sadness. There’s no way I can face a full fledged Thanksgiving production in less than two weeks.

Conventional wisdom might be to buy prepared food, but I still prefer homemade and with four gluten-free and family members, the research to find appropriate prepared food sounds exhausting. My solution is to create a healthy, easy gluten-free menu.

I often use holidays as an opportunity to test a recipe. That’s off the table this year. I want to serve dishes that can be prepped, or possibly prepped and cooked, in advance so that I can do a little each day for a week rather than have a marathon kitchen session.
green beans
With that in mind, here’s my menu:

Turkey – I’m going to stick with turkey because the cooking time may be long, but the prep time is minimal. I use a roasting bag to keep the turkey moist. That means there’s no need for continual basting. I flour the bag with sweet white sorghum or gluten-free oat flour and stuff the turkey with a halved apple, celery sticks, and a halved orange. The only other prep is to remove the neck and giblets, rinse the turkey, pat it dry, and lightly oil it with olive oil. You can add herbs or seasoning as well, but I don’t bother and the result is always delicious.

Green Beans and New Potatoes – Green beans are available during any season. I wash them. Then I break the beans into smaller pieces using three containers (washed beans, prepped beans, discarded ends) and the footstool in front of my couch. The lack of need for other tools means I can binge watch while prepping. That makes it seem less like work. These can be cooked in advance and rewarmed Thanksgiving Day.

Baked Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are traditional and healthy when served baked rather than candied. Baking can be done in the oven or the microwave. I like to eat these with nothing but butter added, but I will serve them with a bowl of brown sugar in case someone else desires a sweet topping.

Corn – Rather than cleaning corn on the cob, I’ll use frozen corn. It can be cooked in a matter of minutes and only needs a dash of salt and a pat of butter to be ready to serve.

Orange Cranberry Relish – The only ingredients in this are oranges, cranberries, and sugar. My grandmother served it every Thanksgiving and my sister is usually willing to make it.

Rolls – This is not the year for extensive baking. A local bakery sells frozen Brazilian cheese rolls (Pão de Queijo) that we can pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes just before the meal.

Dessert – I haven’t settled on dessert yet, but I’m considering a version of orange pecan cake. It’s simple, low carb, and delicious.
orange cake
Optional
Cornbread Stuffing – I live in the South where cornbread stuffing is the traditional version. It’s easy to make it gluten-free and the cornbread can be made days in advance. Nonetheless, I haven’t decided whether it will make the final menu. I’m going to wait a few days and see how I feel. It complements the turkey and we all love it, but with rolls on the table, it isn’t essential.

Appetizers – On a normal year, I’d have appetizers to snack on while we visit before our meal. Those might include stuffed mushrooms, deviled eggs, sausage balls, party mix or something else that requires cooking. If I offer appetizers this year, they will consist of a relish tray or antipasto with gluten-free crackers.

While I realize there’s no green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, corn pudding, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, or pecan pie on this menu, many of the flavors of the most common Thanksgiving dishes are represented. The preparations I’ve chosen for those flavors are more simple and appropriate for a difficult year.

For me, taking this approach is less stressful than trying to purchase appropriate pre-cooked, gluten-free food. I will order groceries through an online app minimizing my shopping time and further streamlining the process.

Whether you choose an elaborate production or a meal in a restaurant, I wish you a peaceful and happy holiday!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

https://www.reynoldskitchens.com/products/cookware/oven-bags/

https://www.oceanspray.com/en/Recipes/By-Course/Sauces-Sides-and-Salads/Fresh-Cranberry-Orange-Relish

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/does-flourless-cake-have-to-be-chocolate/

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November 11, 2019

Finding Peace in Every Day

Peace and healing go hand in hand. In war torn countries, health initiatives can be used for peace building. In our homes, something similar can happen when we make healing a priority.

Times of illness or recovery can put a strain on families. Exhaustion, shock, sadness, pain, and discomfort make it difficult to be at our best. But finding peace in every day can help create an environment that encourages healing.

After six months of improving health, we recently learned that my 18-month-old granddaughter has developed a quick growing muscle that is obstructing the flow of blood from her aorta. Removal and repair will require another open-heart surgery (her third). If we’re lucky, this will take place in about six months. If she gets sick this cold and flu season, the surgery may need to happen sooner. It will be more difficult than her previous surgeries and will threaten the still fragile heart repairs made last year.

From April 2018 to April 2019, she was hospitalized six times for an amount of time equaling six months. At the time, she had one sibling. Next time around, she’ll have two and one will be a newborn. That means it will take all of us to keep things going. We know what it’s like. We just lived through a similar year.

After trying unsuccessfully to hold onto some semblance of my previous normal, gone are my plans to move to another state. Gone are vacations. I just managed a trip to see my other new grandson, but lying on the beach, a cruise, the NCAA tournament, or a week at a spa are beyond reach for now.

Letting go of some positive activities has been a necessity. I prioritize getting enough sleep, eating reasonably well, working out 150 minutes per week, and grouping work into efficient batches. Most weeks meeting these goals plus family care duties puts me at capacity.

With waves of added responsibility arriving over the past three years, I am beginning to recognize new effects of the relentlessness. I’ve noticed when I feel any slight hint of relaxing into the warm feeling of a beautiful day or happy anticipation of the future, I immediately tamp it down. Then I feel sad, perhaps from a sense of loss.

At this point I’m not able to slow the process down enough to figure out the exact order in which the emotions arrive. Do I feel sad and that makes me pull back happiness, or do I feel happy and that triggers the sadness of loss? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to. I’m aware of the problem and sometimes that’s all that’s needed to find a solution.
sink
What remains when life gets tough are the everyday tasks-finding food, taking a shower, throwing out the trash, putting gas in the car, and choosing clothes to wear. In fact, the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that most of our time outside of work and sleep is spent on everyday tasks.

It’s so easy to dread doing the laundry or the dishes or mowing the lawn, especially when we’re exhausted and stressed. And yet those tasks remain. Even if we hire someone to cook, clean, and mow, we still must bathe ourselves and brush our teeth occasionally.

Logic tells me that when most of the time available is filled with the tasks of everyday living, then that is the place in which I must find peace. I’m not exactly there yet, but I can visualize it-relaxing into the comfort of routine, not wondering what to do next, relying on muscle memory and allowing the mind to drift and quiet.

If you’re concerned that your mind will twist with worry instead, you have not yet experienced the state I’m describing. Neither had I prior to the past year. There is a point at which all energy has been harnessed to deal with the decisions and tasks of a given moment. In other words, the present is too absorbing to allow for speculation.

I wish you the chance to avoid reaching this point in your lifetime, but for some it will be unavoidable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 16,000 infants per year have surgery for congenital heart defects and an estimated 80,000 to 85,000 aortic valve replacements are done on aortic stenosis patients in the US each year.

As I embark upon this next difficult journey through childcare and family support, here is how I will seek peace in every day:

I will create a list for my day of things I hope to do. I will set the intention to feel good about any and everything I accomplish. If I don’t get to something, I will move it to tomorrow’s list, next week’s list, or let it go.

When I wash dishes, I will notice the warmth of the water, the lemony smell of the dishwashing liquid, and the green plants outside the window. I’ll feel my feet solidly planted on the floor. I’ll let thoughts and feelings flow and go.

When I do laundry, I’ll take a moment to bury my face in the warm towels from the dryer and breathe in their fresh scent.

I’ll make sure to breathe when I’m on my yoga mat and consciously relax large muscle groups in order to stretch my fascia.

When I water the plants, I will savor the smell of rosemary and mint.

I will wear clothes that feel good.

I will lean into hugs.

I will say yes to help when it’s sincerely offered.

I will absorb comfort and compliments.

I will cut short phone calls or visits that do not feel supportive and will be willing to put friendships on hold or let them go when they feel draining.

While I may not take the time to record gratitude, I will take note each time I feel grateful.

I will count progress toward a goal as accomplishment.

I will trust myself, my judgment, and my shifting priorities.

I will let myself change.

Significant life events may mean we are never again the person we once were. This can feel like loss. That loss must be grieved. But all loss is also gain of something new and different. What we make of that gain can mean peace or turmoil. I may not get there immediately, but I am committed to using hard lessons as steps on a path toward peace.

This moment is all we know we have. If this is as good as it gets, then I have to let it be good enough. I will begin with finding peace in every day and trust that peace can lead me to joy.

I wish you both peace and joy in life’s easiest and most difficult moments.

https://www.nursingcenter.com/journalarticle?Article_ID=1580903&Journal_ID=54009&Issue_ID=1580838

https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/atus.pdf

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.592089

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November 3, 2019

Choose Easy-to-Adapt Recipes

It’s easy to create delicious gluten-free food when you choose easy-to-adapt recipes. We all have favorite homemade foods. Many are family traditions that connect us to comfort, loved ones, and happy memories. We don’t want to lose those connections when we change food selections in order to be healthy.

While some family recipes may be difficult to replicate in exact texture and taste, many will require only minor substitutions. I like to start with those. Beginning with simple adaptations builds confidence and creates a more soothing transition to a new lifestyle.
soup
If you’re beginning a gluten-free regimen and hope to create your family’s holiday favorites, consider easy-to-adapt recipes for:

Casseroles
If you make broccoli, corn, green bean, or squash casserole thickened with flour, try substituting corn starch, sweet white sorghum flour, or oat flour as the thickener.

Stuffing
For those in the South, this one is easy. Most likely, your family stuffing recipe uses cornbread as a base. All you’ll need to do is make cornbread that does not contain flour. Everything else can stay the same.

Desserts
Custard, panna cotta, and crème brûlée recipes are usually gluten-free without any adaptation.

Pudding recipes will most likely use corn starch to thicken. Vanilla pudding can easily be turned into banana pudding. If you aren’t comfortable making the cookies for banana pudding, purchase gluten-free arrowroot or sugar cookies.

Many pie fillings are traditionally gluten-free–pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, cherry, apple, chocolate, coconut cream, lemon meringue, and key lime. If you’re new to a gluten-free diet, just make the filling at home and purchase a packaged or frozen gluten-free crust.

Cheesecake filling is also normally gluten-free. If your recipe is not, Cooking2Thrive has one that is. You can serve cheesecake without a crust or choose a pre-made gluten-free graham-style crust.

Since cookies do not need to be fluffy, they’re easy to adapt. Before trying flour mixes, start with peanut butter cookies which can be made without any flour. Another easy-to-adapt option is chocolate, peanut butter no-bake cookies. Substitute gluten-free oatmeal for regular oatmeal.

Soups
Broth based soups like chicken with rice or chicken noodle will normally only require a substitution of gluten-free noodles. If your recipe begins with store-bought chicken stock, there are many gluten-free brands available.

Tomato soup and chili do not need tomato paste to be thick. Substitute Pomi tomatoes for canned or fresh tomatoes in your recipe.

The potatoes in potato soup provide an automatic thickener so no flour is needed. Many potato soup recipes do not include flour.

Clam or seafood chowder can be made using only potatoes as a thickener. If you feel you need a little something extra, use corn starch.

Make the roux for gumbo by deeply browning some sweet white sorghum or oat flour in fat.

All the Rest
The most common holiday entrees will not need to change. If your family chooses pot roast that is dredged in flour, use sweet white sorghum or oat flour.

Bread based stuffing or bread pudding can be made using store-bought gluten-free bread if you’re not at the point at which you are comfortable with gluten-free baking.

When the family gathers for breakfast, consider frittatas, roasted potatoes, and fresh fruit or omelets, grits, and smoothies. You can easily add frozen gluten-free waffles, muffins, or donuts.

As you can see, adapting a recipe can be incredibly simple. When you begin with easy changes, switching to a gluten-free diet will look less daunting and feel more user friendly. That’s why I like to choose easy-to-adapt recipes!

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/gluten-free-basics-a-review/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/2892-2/
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