Gallstones and Bleep.

I was in undergrad, probably twenty or so when I was first awakened in the middle of the night feeling like I was being stabbed through my right ribs and out my shoulder blade in the back. It was my gallbladder. I've lived with its antics for over a decade now. I limited many of the trigger foods (fatty, greasy, spicy, fried) and things got better. And then I went vegan, and things got waaayy better. I've become a bit complacent about my eating habits since going back to work full time and eliminating gluten from my diet. It's like whatever isn't the flesh of an animal or doesn't contain gluten goes.

And so went my gallbladder. It's been acting up in the last month. I was actually puzzled by it on Sunday. It didn't present as usual. I was short of breath and my whole chest/back/shoulders/neck hurt. It takes A LOT to get me to the doctor, and the pain I was having wasn't something I associate with my gallbladder. By the time I rolled up to the ER, and got out of and back into the car twice (I'm indecisive), I went in, quickly made my way through triage and was in a bed in the hall in no time. About 5 minutes after being in my new spot, the pain centralized, and I knew without a doubt Gally was acting up. Yes, I've dealt with my gallbladder so much that those who are close to me know that I lovingly refer to it as Gally.



If I would have known it was Gally from the get-go, I likely wouldn't have gone in. But now I'm kind of glad I did, just because now I know what I'm dealing with. And what I'm dealing with has me on the fence. They were pretty close to emergency surgery-ing on Sunday night, but I'd passed the stone I was passing, and ultrasound confirmed it wasn't stuck anymore, and the pain was subsiding (Thanks, Morphine!). Ultrasound also showed that there were more stones where that one came from. My liver enzymes were elevated, but the one they extra worry about was not elevated enough to warrant emergency surgery, so five hours later, I went home!

Now I have a choice to make. I visited with my PCP this afternoon and got a referral to a surgeon. I've lived with gallbladder attacks for a pretty substantial amount of time now. I know what living that life is like (except for the weird way the pain presented on Sunday - but now I know that too), what I don't know is how my body will react when I no longer have a gallbladder. For some people, the relief is heaven sent. For others, they essentially become chained to the toilet, or need to be in really close proximity to one after they eat. That sounds terrible. And if there's even a tiny chance that my life will look like that without a gallbladder, then....

My gallbladder wasn't enlarged, and I have no infection. All good things. That's not to say a stone might not get stuck someday and wreak havoc, more than the terrible pain of it passing through my ducts (my cystic duct was quite inflamed), but it hasn't done that yet.

Another thing that showed up on ultrasound: a kidney stone. Bleep. That's new.

My consultation with the surgeon is on January 3rd. I'm glad I have plenty of time to think about things and more time to read up on life without a gallbladder. If prolonging our time together in a non-painful way can be achieved by being more aware of what I'm putting into my body, I'm cool with that. If things flare up in a way that feels out of my control, the ER is always open 24/7, but I'd really love to keep all of my organs if possible.  

PS: I really need Kimbra, Lana Del Rey, or Florence + The Machine to set some tour dates.

Pumpkin Muffins

These are the best ever.

I woke up knowing I needed one. When I went to Post Punk Kitchen for the recipe, it wasn't there. Well, it was. Sort of. The link took me to nowhere. Over and over again. The website is transitioning to a new domain name that bears the name of the brilliant vegan recipe maker, Isa Chandra. I feared that my favorite pumpkin muffin recipe was a casualty. After a few failed google searches, I reached out to a friend to see if he happened to have the recipe. He did not.

As panic was setting in, I did a few more searches, trying to remember anything I could from the recipe. Finally, I got a hit at Vegan Peace. What a relief!!! I am documenting the recipe here (and I printed out a hardcopy) so that I will never again face the fear of not having the perfect pumpkin muffin.

Without further ado....

The Best Pumpkin Muffins. EVER!!

Ingredients

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour*
1 1/4 C sugar
1 TBL baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 C pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 C soy milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 TBL molasses

Directions

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly grease a twelve-muffin tin.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, soy milk, oil, and molasses. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix.

Fill muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy it with all your heart!

*I substituted Trader Joe's gluten free all-purpose flour to make the muffins gluten free. Vegan and gluten free. Winning!!

Reflections on Sleep and sleeping next to someone

Jake is in Canada. This means I have the rare opportunity of sleeping alone. Admittedly, in the past, I have reveled in the opportunity to spread out across my bed and sleep in stillness. Jake and I have always had a full-sized mattress. What's more, both of our children slept with us on a full mattress. (Rarely both of them at the same time, but we were co-sleepers.) Being able to spread out is a luxury.

The last few times, however, I haven't had my magical, euphoric sleep-alone experience. It takes me a while to fall asleep, and I get cold. Sleeping with socks is a must. I'm not super sentimental in the "Oh, Darling, I just can't sleep a wink if you're not here" department, but I have grown rather fond of [just about] falling asleep next to someone. (I stay pretty close to Jake until I'm almost asleep, and then I retreat to my side of the bed until I wake up.) I'll be interested in seeing how the next few nights go.

Random facts:
I prefer to sleep with the blinds/curtains open. That can get a bit tricky depending on where windows are or if there's an ill-placed street/porch light that shines in my window, but living higher up here gives me ample chances...but I only sleep with the curtains open here if Jake isn't home. In Dot, one of our bedroom windows looked out onto our front porch. I usually closed those blinds. But "my window" looked out to the east and was tucked away behind our sunroom, and because I'm a side sleeper - always on my left, though I always [just about] fall asleep on my right side before switching over last minute to sail away to dreamland on my left side - I fell asleep and woke up staring out my window. Our window here also faces east, but our bed is on a different wall so I have to lay on my right side to look out. Perhaps all of Los Angeles gets to be my stand-in for Jake during my falling asleep phase.

I rarely wash my face before bed, and I only have white sheets, so there are always little black mascara smudges on my pillow. I try to be conscious of this when I sleep on other people's pillow cases, but sometimes I fail. If I've ever left a mascara smudge on your pillow cases, or if I ever will, I'm sorry.

Unless I'm sick, I hardly move at night.

I LOVE sleeping with Alice. I've been missing her tremendously lately.

I'm currently reading Polygamy in Primetime, Hillbilly Elegy, and The Mind Of Jesus (again and still).

This has nothing to do with my sleeping/reading practices, but I'm working hard at not thinking about the fact that Jake is on the job market right now. So much anticipation goes into big unknowns, and I know that eventually I'll know where we'll be, but in the meantime I'm reminding myself of all of the really great things that exist here and now. The one thing I know right now is my job. I love it dearly and still feel so lucky I get to show up there everyday. And not just that I get to show up, that my girls get to show up with me.


PS: This is really unrelated to anything in this post, but I am terrified of mountain lions. It's been on my mind. Now you know.

Locker Room Talk and Trauma

This post isn't about Donald Trump. It's about Women. It's about you, and it's about me, and it's about sexual assault.

I don't give Donald Trump credit for much. I'm still in a place of holding out for someone to say "Haha, j/k, Trump's not really running." I know it's not going to happen. He's definitely running. I do my best not to get riled up by anything he says because I don't take him seriously as a candidate. I was not surprised when his "Locker room talk" video was released. To me, it's par for the course for him.

What I was surprised about was my emotional response. I've been writing this post in my head since it became the number one topic of conversation. For anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual assault, myself included, these words burn. Despite reliving the trauma, I'm really glad that it's opening up a dialogue. The amount of women who have been sexually assaulted is staggering; in fact, I don't know any women who haven't been verbally assaulted at the very least. But here's the deal: NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT IT.

Let's talk about it.

I've addressed verbal assaults twice on my blog. You can read them here [Enough is Enough] and here [What I wish I would have said]

I'm not going to go into any detail of the times I've been physically sexually assaulted. My social media accounts, including this blog, are all public, and there are too many pervs who would get off on the details.

When it happened when I was younger, I thought it was my fault. I used to try and rationalize it away - "He didn't really mean to." "I could have done something more to stop it." "What did I say/do that allowed this to happen?" I've come to terms with those things - I came to a place where I could say with a surety that I had been assaulted (even claiming abuse was difficult for me). I'm not angry about those times anymore.

What I am angry about is the most recent time it happened.

It was in June of this year. I was a thirty-one-year-old woman riding a bus home from UCLA where I'd spent several hours in Powell Library writing comments for my students' final progress reports. A man got on a few stops after UCLA and ended up right next to me. As the situation unfolded, I felt the blood drain from my face. I kept thinking over and over again, "Is this really happening?" The bus driver kept telling people to move back because the bus was filling up. He didn't move. He was the one who needed to move because he was blocking the aisle with plenty of room behind him. I kept waiting for him to move. He never did.

I'm angry because I said nothing. I didn't know what to say. Have you heard about assuming positive intent? Sometimes that's the wrong thing to assume. When I realized there was nothing mistaken about what was going on, when what was happening really sank in, I removed myself from the situation. I went to the back of the bus and waited for my stop. I was shaking. I was scared. I was embarrassed. I was furious.

WHY DIDN'T I SAY ANYTHING?!?! Why didn't I yell at him or push him away? I'm a strong, confident, intelligent, independent woman. But in that moment, I was paralyzed.

Is this really happening?

Is this really happening?

Is this really happening?

Yes. It really happened. It happens all the time. And perpetrators get away with it all the time. It catches us so off guard. There is shame, even though victims shouldn't be the ones who carry the shame. Why would anyone ever think that violating the comfort and safety of someone is okay? That's what's shameful. But I still can't shake the shame of losing my voice when I most needed it - losing my voice when using it might have meant saving someone else from an assault.

While I hope there isn't a next time, the likelihood is that there will be. The way we talk about women is deplorable. All over the world. The way some women talk about themselves is devastating.

"Locker Room Talk" is NEVER okay. "Boys will be boys" is not okay. For the most part, people can't control their thoughts, but they can certainly control their words, and especially their actions. I am the mother of two daughters, and I know that the odds of them facing some form of sexual assault is just about 100%. It makes me sick. It has to stop. We have to stop giving perpetrators passes.

Nearly every woman in the world carries trauma from sexual assault. I'm reliving that trauma right now. Many are. Please, please, please, let's not stop talking about it. Let's stand up for one another. Let's take the shame away from victims and put it where it belongs.  

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