Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lozenge-Infused Thoughts on the Year that Was

I had a plan. It was a good plan. I was going to take some time off and as we came closer to the 31st, I’d write a thoughtful post about the past year. There was no reason whatsoever that this plan shouldn’t come to fruition.

Except for Nemesis, of course. Who, I am quite sure, rubbed her hands gleefully, and casually directed a small cold germ my way. It hit before Christmas, but was surprisingly mild and short-lived. And that’s when hubris sat in, priming me for a lesson in Greek mythology the likes of which I haven’t experienced since high school. Because it swanned off, mutated, and boomeranged right back at me. And this time, it wasn’t mild.

Contrary to appearances, I don’t actually have stock in Vick’s. Although if this things keeps going, you may want to purchase some.

Subsequently, the thoughtful post is heavily influenced by an excess of lozenges, cough syrup, and soup. Which makes for something more akin to “whoa, dude…” only with more words.

It was a year of progress. RA research neatly bookended the year in two major developments. In January, there was new insight into the cause of RA, and just recently, a new study created a blood test that can detect RA up to 16 years before it develops. I heard about something like this several years ago in a speech by Dr. Keystone. He said that rheumatology would soon (in research terms) make the shift to turn off RA before it happens. He talked about a cure.

I am continually reminded that for most of my life, I didn’t think we’d see medications like the Biologics. Now I believe we will see a cure in my lifetime.

Imagine that.

This past year was the 10th anniversary of two very important events in my life. The first was the 10-year mark of me taking Biologics. The ten words in that sentence sum up the most momentous, eventful, and joyful period of my life. There were hard times, too — it wasn’t all bliss and that shouldn’t be forgotten. But most of the time, I let that go. Most of the time, I feel like I’m flying.

The second big thing that happened in 2005 was the birth of this blog. It has been an integral part of taking flight. It’s taught me honesty, helped me develop my writing skills, connected me to a community of friends, and listened whenever I needed to talk. Does it sound weird to say that it, too, became a friend?

Not that I anthropomorphize much.

This past year has been so eventful, and it went by so fast. I stumbled across a quote by Dr. Seuss that sums it up exactly.

I know I say this next thing every year around this time (as well as several other times), but I remain astonished that I am still getting stronger. This year was amazing in so many ways, both professionally and personally, but what stands out is what is possible if you push just a little bit past your limits on a regular basis. It’s how you discover just how much you can do, it’s how you build strength, and it’s how your life grows.

It’s traditional on this day to promise yourself and others all sorts of specific improvements for the coming year. I’m not going to do that. Instead, I will resolve to do more of the same. To continue to push myself just a little past my limits and see what happens.

Wishing you and yours a very happy new year. May it be full of discoveries.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Cherry Jelly and Other Christmas Disasters

It all started with the cherries.

Cherry sauce is required for ris a la mande, the special Danish Christmas dessert. It has a French name, which apparently makes no sense at all in actual French. Every couple of years, we freeze 5 pounds of black Bing cherries in the summer and come November, carry them to my mother’s to make cherry sauce. It’s a long, involved process resulting in the most beautiful concentrated dark cherry sauce dotted with whole cherries. You drizzle that over the ris a la mande and… Heaven in a bowl!

My mother insists on using a Danish product to thicken the sauce just a little, and followed the usual procedure this year. No need to look at the instructions on the back of the package, right? I know you can hear the foreshadowing.

Turns out the product had changed, becoming much more concentrated. With the result that as the cherry sauce was being poured through a sieve, what came out on the other end of the sieve was a jellied cherry-sicle. Alas, there are no pictures of this event, but the end result looks like this

Photo by Janne Andersen
We should have known this was an omen. Instead, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to say “you f*cked up again, mom,” laugh, and move on.

Until it was time to make the ris a la mande. Which is not supposed to be mushy, but when you can’t get the right rice, you have to improvise. Tip: the addition of half a bottle of Madeira and a significant amount of whipped cream makes everything better.

Ken says that the secret to the deliciousness of Danish cuisine is to add sugar, whipped cream, and alcohol to almost everything.

Two days before Christmas Eve, The Boy’s cold returned. By the big day, it was obvious that aside from briefly making an appearance to help lift the roast into the oven, he was going to be sleeping through Christmas (he’s better now).

And speaking of the oven… A little while after the roast the been placed inside, these words were uttered:

“Why isn’t the oven getting warm?”

My mother’s stove chose Christmas Eve to shuffle off its mortal coil. If you have to go, might as well make an impact with it.

Thankfully, the co-op has a meeting room with a kitchen and, more importantly, an oven. We still had the Best Meal of the Year, albeit somewhat delayed.

The rest of the evening went well, until shortly before we all left. At which point, my joystick somehow got trapped under the table top of the dining room table. I was freed after much bucking and carrying on, but not before the joystick box got tilted off its base, leaving access for dust, rain, and cat hair to the motherboard. With days to go before the holidays were over, I closed the gap with duct tape.

Because duct tape fixes everything.

How was your holiday?


Friday, December 25, 2015

#ChronicChristmas Day 25: Enjoy

It’s here. By the time you read this, you’ve probably done the big rip (especially if you have kids) (or you still retain the childlike wonder about pressies).

I’m all about the latter. Maybe even the childlike wonder about the magic of this particular holiday. It’s what gets you through a busy, emotional day. Connecting to the feeling you had as a child, seeing the excitement in the faces of the children that are part of your day, or just enjoying that warmth in your heart.

No doubt you’re exhausted. Even if you followed every single tip in the #ChronicChristmas Advent calendar, you have likely burned through every bit of energy you have. Take some painkillers and slap the fun filter on it for the rest of the day so you can enjoy the festivities. You can crash tonight. 

And when you do, know that you’re not alone. I’m crashing right along with you, and so is everyone else.

Thank you for following along with for the last 25 days. Creating this Advent calendar for you has made my life much more fun and helped me get into the Christmas spirit. A.k.a. Julehygge.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas. May it give you peace and love.

Let me know how your #ChronicChristmas went. Nudge me on Twitter or Facebook.

#ChronicChristmas is an Advent calendar of tips for a sane holiday season with a chronic illness. Check back tomorrow for the next tip. To see all the posts in the series, click the #ChronicChristmas label below this post.