Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Friends, and Other Beautiful Things

These roses are from Dad. Every girl needs to be a princess in her father's eyes, and I am that, for which I'm so grateful. Thanks, Daddy!

Life challenges have a way of illuminating priorities, which is something else for which I'm grateful. Among my many blessings are my friends. There are "forever friends", those who I may not see for years but with whom it's effortless picking up right where we left off. There are situational friends, those we share our lives with as part of our greater families. And then there are those with whom we forge unbreakable and meaningful bonds through shared experiences, particularly those of a traumatic nature. I am so lucky to have some of each. Today I want to talk about my friends at work. Dealing with the sudden passing of our employer and friend has cemented a bond amongst our little team. The future of our venture is uncertain, but we are hopeful.

Linda, our nurse, is always coming up with ideas for healthy food for me, especially things my family might want to try. This chocolate fudge protein cake, from a recipe she found on the website healthfulpursuit.com was wonderful. Since it is not my recipe, I won't share it, but look for it on the website mentioned if you are interested. It utilizes hemp protein powder. The recipe only makes one little cup-sized cake, so I doubled it and made six tiny muffins. Instead of 20-25 minutes, these were done in 14. Linda replaced the xylitol with truvia. I'm not crazy about sugar substitutes, or sugar either for that matter, so I used a little maple syrup instead. Most folks probably wouldn't like the dark, fudgy, hardly sweet muffins as much as I do, but they are just right for my taste. I think next time I might use molasses instead, and less water with the egg replacers. I love that dark black, rich flavor of molasses. It reminds me of a pint of guinness - yum. I have another recipe from Linda for risotto which I look forward to trying. Linda is mostly vegan herself. In fact the whole staff opts for healthy food. Since we work in a practice where nutrition figures prominently in the treatment of some very serious chronic illnesses, It doesn't make sense to eat junk. We see the results, either way, of the choices people make.

Sue, one of the doctors on staff, brought these goodies for me the other day. They were from her CSA. She had seen my post about the demise of my lovely okra stalks, so she generously shared this bounty. I see caponata and gumbo in my future, and of course the spaghetti squash will be relished, if with only a little earth balance.

Though it is not yet "business as usual", Betsy, an M.D. who worked closely with Dr. Gustafson and who is now the fearless leader of our little team, is busy clearing practical hurdles that presently keep us from continuing in the good work of healing.

In other news, I was looking at some old photos recently and got a kick out of this one:

That's Wynne posing for
me before her 8th grade dance last year. You can tell she was not too thrilled to be photographed. Dressing up is not her thing. But the best part is Emma photobombing her in the background! I was so busy looking at Wynne, I didn't even notice Emma until I was uploading the photos from the camera. A good belly-laugh -- that's a beautiful thing!

Monday, August 20, 2012

R.I.P. Christy

 We lost Christy last week. Just writing that feels like a punch to the gut. The photo shows her in her element, with her beloved Ivan. Longtime AMLV+ readers might remember my extolling the virtues of this amazing woman. Christine Gustafson, M.D., has kept me and thousands of others well through acute and chronic illness. Christy started in Internal Medicine and trained with Dr. Andrew Weil (yes, you've seen him on Oprah) in Integrative Medicine. She has received many additional degrees and certifications through the years to complement her skills. Christy's care has kept me well and able-bodied since 2005, and without the compromise to quality of life that mainstream treatments cause.

Christy stepped in when my precious mother passed in March and offered me a lifeline -- a job. It was a chance to be a part of something wonderful, something different and good, something in which I believe. Working with Christy and her team gave me pockets of respite during the worst parts of my grief, and showed me how good it feels to help others in need.

Dr. Gustafson passed unexpectedly a week ago. Our staff is reeling and unsure of the future of the practice. Christy was brilliant, a forward-thinker with impeccable instincts. She was selfless and creative. She was in touch with something bigger. She was my healer and inspiration. She was my dear friend. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Draco Hortus

"What is this we see?" you ask. These are the remains of two lovely okra plants mulched with large clumps of Emma's fur. The stalks were about three feet tall and crowned with beautiful, spreading leaves, and then one morning I found them like this, with about 18 inches of stalk remaining. The sweet potatoes were completely obliterated with no evidence they were ever in the garden. The Chinese long beans also met the same fate as last year, chewed off close to the soil, leaving abundant climbing vines to die on the trellis. Is it Buster again, the darling, naughty chipmunk? I think not. Buster wouldn't have been able to scale these slender stalks without breaking them under his weight. I thought about deer, but the aluminum fence is topped with pointy tips and the scale of the garden is only 5'x8' up against a brick wall, so there would be no room for a deer to clear the fence without hitting the wall.

Then I remembered his face -- glaring, lurking each time I came out to the garden, and I knew who had been sampling my veggies -- a garden dragon. Unlike the skink-like creatures with the blue tails we often see around here, Draco Hortus (his name, henceforth) has a nubby, horned gray face  and a long tail. Draco is more like a smallish iguana, and would be easily able to climb anywhere he likes. Since I got the bright idea to spread my dog's coat around the garden I think I've spoiled his fun. I no longer see much evidence of his philandering, and I haven't seen his greedy little face in a while. I'm glad of this discovery, since there's no shortage of dog hair around my house. When I sweep, I often imagine I could stuff a pillow or create a new puppy from the pile. It's nice to have a more practical use for it.

In happier garden news, I have had success with tomatoes and cucumbers so far, and the radishes are looking good too. We cleaned up the rest of our yard a bit and here are the results:

A new stone path and a patch of begonias . . .

 The stone steps down to the lower part  of the yard . . .

We trimmed some trees so we can actually see the house from the street now. It all feels much cleaner and was way overdue.

I recently made it through another milestone -- my first birthday without my mom. As expected, the days leading up to it were rough. Every year, a day or two before my birthday, my mom would call me to tell the same story again, where she was however many years ago on that very day. She was heavy with me, and bursting with excitement, and couldn't wait to meet me. Then, on the day itself, I'd get a message on the machine with no speaking, only sweet Jeanine singing, "Happy Birth - day to you!", every last word of it in a staccato cadence. Through the sound of her voice we could hear her smiling from ear to ear. A year ago when she left the message for my 46th birthday, I had no idea it would be the last. I am so blessed to have had each moment I shared with her.