Under Construction


This next week or so, “working on my blog” is going to take the form of editing and reworking things. I will be writing and rewriting my bio pages and reworking the design some; figuring out how this whole things works. Hopefully, I will be back to regular postings next week. But, if things appear and disappear this week, that’s why. Thank you for your patience….

WIth A Tip of His Hat

I was 16 years old when I met John LeBret. It took over a year for us to actually become a couple, but it was totally worth it. He was the first boy to tell me he loved me, and the first boy I said that to. He was the first person I ever had a knock-down drag out fight with. He totalled my first car. He was there the first time I got drunk. He was the first person I ever lived with who didn’t share my DNA. He was the first boy I ever talked about forever with. If not for him, I might not have met either of my husbands. When we broke up, I thought I wouldn’t survive. When he cheated on me, I thought my heart was broken beyond repair. He hurt me more than anyone ever had (and it would be years before someone else hurt me that much again) because I loved him more than I ever thought possible.  He was talented and fun and everybody loved him. He was one of those people that just took over a room when he walked in. He was Jim Carrey’s Riddler meets Armand Goldman from The Birdcage. Even when things were really terrible, he could still make a joke. Because, why would you ever let tragedy get in the way of a good joke?

It is so weird to think about how much a person can change your life in just four short years, how important that person can become. At the time, it seemed like an eternity and now it feels like the blink of an eye. He was here and then he was gone and now he’s really gone. I guess at the right time and the right place, things just fall together some times. Or maybe there’s just nothing like first love. I would not be the person I am today if I had not known John. If I were memorializing him for myself, I would probably use Garth Brooks lyrics, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance” or “Yes, I do think about you, every now and then”. But, since I’d like this to be less about me than him, I will leave you with words that remind me of the John I knew back in the day.

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”     – Edgar Allan Poe

Salicylate Intolerance: Discovery and Diet

I have a lot of health issues, particularly with regards to food, and, historically, I have almost always either lacked the spoons or the insurance to seek a doctor’s care. So I have spent my adult life just trying to figure out, on my own, what I am reacting to and how badly I need to avoid it. In God’s grace, he has seen fit to make none of my allergies/sensitivities life-threatening. As far as I know, up to this point. Right now, I finally do have insurance and I am grateful for the gift of being able to afford that. But, while I wait for a referral to an allergist, I am on a self-administered elimination diet because I have recently begun to suspect that I am Salicylate Intolerant. So I thought it might be fun to write about how I got to this point and what I find out when I do go to the doctor.

So without going too far back in history, I think it will be sufficient to say that somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago, I started having more frequent headaches and that’s also when I began noticing the reactions which I believe are symptoms of Oral Allergy Syndrome, or OAS(that is another story, for another blog post). By about 5 years ago, when I moved to my present home, I was to the point when it was a rare day when I didn’t have at least one headache (usually multiple headaches a day, of various “kinds”) and I was pretty sure that almost everything I ate would hurt me in some way. But there seemed to be so many things I was reacting to with so many symptoms, it was beyond emotionally and physically daunting to try to figure it out (I didn’t know it then, but this was my lack of spoons). In addition, my new husband’s work insurance would have cost me about half our mortgage in premiums. Not really financially feasible to go to the allergist at that time. So I was trudging along with daily headaches, fatigue, brain fog, standard stuff in the chronic illness world. Then, maybe eight months ago, I noticed that I got a very specific headache when I ate margarine. As luck would have it, a few weeks later, we switched brands due to a sale at the Grocery Outlet. ($0.34/lb! w00t!!) This brand did not give me a headache. I compared labels and the only ingredient different was palm kernel oil. Okay, avoid palm kernel oil. No problem.

Fast forward again to last month. I switched shampoo because I colored my hair. My husband and I are alone in the house one weekend, so we snacked. Excessively. =) Same weekend, my brother in law left an open container of gasoline in the garage which vents into our house. Basically, things aligned just right and my face swelled up enough that my husband could see it. There were no hives, just swelling, which I don’t usually have. And my mouth and lips were burning and my teeth hurt and I was a little wheezy. I thought it might be the gasoline, but, swelling, especially face swelling is one of those things that they always tell you to watch out for.  Eli had it, too, but his went away after the gas was gone. When my swelling stayed around, I started to investigate. Reading labels of all the food I had been eating, what do I find? Palm Kernel Oil. So I go to my Google.

Apparently, it is almost impossible to be allergic, in the technical sense, to palm kernel oil. Generally speaking, allergic reactions are a histamine reaction. Anyway, everything I could find said that an allergic reaction to Palm Kernel Oil would be extremely unlikely. But I did find an article where a woman talked about reacting to palm kernel oil because she has salicylate intolerance. So I looked at the symptoms. Many of them were like mine. What do people react to? Many of the things I knew I react to, that aren’t usually included in the lists for OAS.

But, wait, what are salicylates, you ask? One of them you probably know pretty well. It looks like this:Salicylic-acid-skeletal.svgIt’s salicylic acid or Aspirin. We developed it from salicylates found in the bark of willow trees and now we put it in a lot of health and beauty products as well as OTC medicines. It is related to ibuprofen and other NSAIDS as well. It is also a natural insecticide and, therefore found in a large number of plant things, especially fruits and vegetables. Not, however, in animals, grains or most legumes.

So I got a food list. I highlighted the things that were low in salicylates (that I could eat) and then marked the things I can’t eat anyway. The good news is after just a few days of eating this way, I felt much better. For the first time in years, I went days without headaches. I was less tired. The bad news was my list looked like this:



Also, my face was still a bit swollen even after a week on the diet. On a whim, in the shower, I read the label of my shampoo and, sure enough, it had salicylic acid in it. I had been using it for about two weeks. I had been smearing enough aspirin that my husband could smell it all over my head. No wonder my face was swollen. Sure enough, I went back to good ol’ cheap Suave and the swelling went away.

So it’s been about six weeks, I think. I feel pretty good until I decide that it’s probably all in my head and one granola bar (or whatever) won’t hurt me. How much coconut oil (or palm oil or corn syrup) could be in there? And then I’m on my back all afternoon with a dizzy headache. So however much it is, it’s enough.

It is a restrictive diet, but I still can eat meat, fish, rice, cheese, all sorts of sugar (as long as it’s not honey or corn syrup). Almost all the spices and herbs (except chives, parsley, salt and garlic) are out. I can still have soy sauce, which is good, because I’m Filipina. =)  Coffee and all teas are high in salicylates, which is sad. I managed to time my caffeine withdrawals with having the flu, though, so it kind of got lost in the shuffle. I am almost used to hot lime sugar water as a morning drink. As far as treats go, I know that Pepsi Throwback (“real” sugar, no corn syrup) and Haagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream are completely safe.

Right now, I’m still getting over that flu. I still have a cough and a stuffy nose. In addition to that, I’m crashing from having to teach last night. Even given all that, I still feel better than I did, probably any day last year. It is awesome to not have a headache or dizziness or light-headedness or face pressure and to be fairly certain that what I eat is not going to give me any of those things.

Standard note: I am not a doctor and I don’t give out medical advice. Please don’t take my putting myself on an elimination diet as a recommendation that you do as well. Also, please don’t post comments about how I shouldn’t go on an elimination diet without a doctor’s supervision. I would have waited to talk to a doctor but knowing that that would be at least weeks, if not months, I couldn’t not take the opportunity to feel better. I still eat meat, fish and rice. I actually eat a really good diet. It’s nutritionally sound. Billions of Asians, throughout history, support it.

(Edited to change a sentence which said that aspirin is related to acetaminophen to say that aspirin is related to ibuprofen. Because that is what is true.)




Taming the Tongue

I talked yesterday about taking control of my mouth, even if it means thinking about what I’m saying more than I want to. James calls it taming the tongue. He also says we can’t do it and it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. Sounds pretty grim, really. But, then, he goes on to say:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  -James 3:9-12

So it seems that taking control of the tongue means making sure that what you say is consistent with a nature and a heart that praises God. A salt spring can not produce fresh water. So if you curse your brothers who are made in God’s image, then you kind of cancel out your praise of God, I guess. That is better than just not being able to say anything which is kind of what I think of when I think of taking control of my mouth. Better to not say anything at all.

I started thinking today that taking control of one’s words isn’t just about behavior. I mean, it’s never just about behavior, is it? I think that having a mouth that praises rather than curses starts with, as Peter would say, having a quiet and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:4). And I think that is humility. It seems like humility is a good place to focus. I mean, it’s the opposite of pride and that’s the first and most popular sin, as I understand it. So I looked up humility and I find this:

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.                                                              -Matthew 22:39

So that’s pretty cool And straight from Jesus. As for a picture of humility in action, I find this from Paul:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.                                                                                      -Philippians 2:3

I always struggle with humility. I guess we all do. I start thinking I’ve got it figured out, but a lot of the time, when I am acting on others’ behalf, I’m thinking about what an awesome job I’m doing at this humility gig. So I think that kind of ruins it. *sigh* Luckily, God’s grace covers us all.

Writer’s Not-Really-Block

I actually have a lot of things to write, I’m just not sure if I should write them. That is, I have a lot of things on my heart. I’m just not sure if I want to air them in so public a forum. (Though, to be fair, I’m not really sure how “public” I can call this forum, given the population of my readership,=) but you know what I mean.) The issues I am having are very sensitive and involve other people, and I don’t know how much is too much to expose.

So I guess I will just discuss what could either be extremely personal and relevant to what is going on in my life or purely hypothetical. I’ll just leave it a mystery.

I was thinking about whether a person has to be intentionally hurting someone for them to be an “abuser.” I know that behavior can be traumatizing even if the actor doesn’t intend it to be, but can you call that person an abuser, if they were not intending to hurt or, especially, intending to help? I know that their intention doesn’t change the affect on the recipient of their behavior, but shouldn’t it have some impact on how those actions define them? I’m not talking about pedophiles who think they have consenting relationships with their victims or people who think it’s a good idea to beat their kids until they do their homework or get A’s. I am talking about people who act from the very best intentions and, in acting from a place of humanity and brokenness and pain – just like we all do – they make mistakes.

For the record, this may sound a little defensive because it is. I’m sure I have done this to people. But, to be fair, I could be talking about people who have sinned against me as well. I know that there are at least a couple people who have done this to me. So, I suppose, it really is more of a hypothetical than a specific thing going on in my life right now. At least, that’s not all it is.

Hm. Apparently, I’m not that good at leaving things a mystery.

NaBloPoMo, Day 4 (Sort of)

Okay, it took 4 days. It took 4 days for me to completely forget to post. Well, I didn’t completely forget. I thought of it once, planned on doing it after I did this “one other thing” and then forgot about it completely. I’m not going to let this discourage me or use it as an excuse to just quit the rest of the month. I said that I was going to post once a day everyday in November. If I can’t do it literally, I can at least do it “on average.” So today will be a two-a-day, as my football playing brother used to say.

I had a doozy of a day yesterday. A doozy of a weekend, really. I know that all kids break their parents’ hearts. I know that just the fact that our kids have to leave and can’t stay babies is a little heartbreaking. I also know that even the best parents hurt their kids just as much as their kids hurt them. Sometimes more. It’s impossible to not hurt each other and parents have to make decisions that kids can’t possibly understand because of lack of maturity, wisdom, perspective, information. Whatever. Parenting has never been this hard. And step-parenting is a whole other thing, entirely. I will say, that, though I still feel like some things have been characterized unfairly, on both sides, this is a sobering reminder to me that we can only control what we do and how we act. And the wrong behavior of others does not excuse our own. Nor does it excuse bitterness or harsh words. James was right when he said:

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. – James 3:5-6

I made a decision a long time ago that if I can’t think about what I’m saying and talk at the same time (which I can’t), I would rather be the chatty, witty, somewhat thoughtless girl, rather than the girl who spent less time talking and more time staring and stammering because she can’t put words together or just can’t talk at all because Brain and Mouth don’t play nicely. My children are helping me see that the more prudent choice might have been not talking at all. Luckily, God is a god of redemption and endless – not just second – chances. This is amazing grace.