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Free at last . . .

of gluten, that is!

After a lifetime of tetchy symptoms which sometimes I haven’t even wanted to describe to my family doctor, after ER visits and colon surgery, after still more years of symptoms I finally got a brainstorm:  why not go gluten-free?!  The only other alternative was a colonoscopy—ASAP.

We have a granddaughter, Jamie, with celiac and her dad—our son, Eric—tested positive for that disease.  Although Eric had no symptoms, he immediately went gluten-free upon receiving his test results.  His other daughter, Nicole, had symptoms and has been thriving on a gluten-free diet for several years.  These are my close-of-kin.  It occurred to me that maybe the GI health issues started with my family line—so what not follow their dietary example?

It took thirty gluten-free hours for me to feel better than I can recall feeling for years.  I woke up one morning, and simply laid there in the bed thanking God and being AMAZED at how relaxed and “whole” my body felt.  I seemed (and still do seem) lighter than a summer breeze, and “float-y” without GI troubles.  Never mind my ortho issues which, like true love, go on and on,  When the gut is okay, other things fall into perspective.

And the food is GOOD!  Of course fruit, veggies (including potatoes), rice, dairy, eggs, peanut butter, chocolate, honey, candy and syrups, cornstarch gravies, plus meats are gluten-free.  Additional items—breads, cookies, crackers, gluten free pastas, flours, snack-y stuff, etc. are more readily available than ever before.

I make coffee cakes from rice, tapioca, and sorghum flours—with cooked rhubarb or overripe bananas, eggs, sour milk, salt, baking powder and baking soda, brown sugar, and sometimes chocolate chips.  When I omit the chips, I drizzle a buttercream maple flavored frosting over the top.  Can’t be beat!

And a favorite dinner, Shepherd’s Pie:  a well-buttered casserole of cooked ground lamb and cooked mixed veggies mixed with gluten free gravy and topped with a humungous mound of buttered and seasoned mashed potatoes—baked until the potato mound is deliciously browned.

At this moment our Sunday dinner is in the oven:  a Cornish hen stuffed with onion, brown rice, salt, butter, and white pepper—topped with gravy.  (Gluten free packaged gravy is available, but one can easily bang out gravies and sauces with meat stock or whatever, and cornstarch.)  A whole new world of fun in the kitchen!

Joe enjoys the food as well.  I keep his sandwich bread plus ingredients for his favorite wheat flour desserts on hand.  We are not huge eaters, so the extra expense for special food goes a long way.  In fact, never having a full tummy is part of the solution for my GI comfort.  An occasional piece of fruit for a snack, and tiny meals—VOILÀ.  A new me, at age 82!  ↓  (I’m the one with the long hair.)

Margaret L. Been  —  September 27, 2015

M and D FOR BLOG

Wood Frame 1

Since I hit age 80, I have been giving more advice—breaking my lifetime policy of rarely dispensing unless requested to do so, or in situations where someone’s wellbeing is directly threatened apart from my two cents worth.  Always having found advice-givers to be highly annoying, I’ve militated against joining their ranks.  But now I’m holding forth because I believe that most anyone’s wellbeing is jeopardized without the following, standard bit of wisdom:  Find a passion!  Don’t grow old without it.  And especially if you live with chronic illness or pain.  Don’t neglect those creative aspects of life that make aging and chronic health issues not only do-able, but downright enjoyable in the process.

I’ve been blessed with many passions:  family, corgi, books, knitting, spinning, music, gardens indoors and out, and painting.  The art is new for me; even ten years ago I did not have the foggiest idea that I’d be able to enjoy this lifelong dream.  God had been saving that one for me to launch when—along with all the other passions—I needed it most.

Most essential to my ortho issues is to keep this body moving.  Sitting for any length of time is a huge challenge; I’ve even learned to stay home from church on the diciest of the “no sit” days.  Lying supine is the second greatest challenge, and for those sleepless nights painting is my great friend—along with prescription painkillers which I take at bedtime.

Art making would be enjoyable enough if it ended right here, in the bedroom corner studio.  But painting has led to a spate of new friendships and activities in our community.  When God moves, He covers every aspect and brings a whole new quality of life within an already excellent life!

Thus I feel not only justified in giving advice, but actually responsible to share.  Don’t forget your passion (s).  Don’t grow old without at least one—especially if your body is less than top drawer!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, February 2015

If art rings your chimes, you can check out my MESSY PALETTE blog:

https://northernview.wordpress.com/

Late July Garden 2014

Where has Margaret Been “been”?  Painting, making music, knitting, rejoicing with family, celebrating life which is so amazingly good in this corner of the world albeit tragically horrible in many other quarters.

I have four other blogs which get a whole lot more visitors and views than this one does.  I’d like to think that means there are more healthy people around the globe, than sick or hurting.  But frankly, whether we are healthy or challenged it is simply much more interesting to talk and write about things other one’s body’s bumps and grinds.

My ortho challenges go on and on, like true love.  Tests, MRIs etc., are done routinely to make sure there are no hidden causes for pain—no malignant cells or lurking fractures anywhere.  The tests always come out negative for life threatening stuff but loaded with other issues which confirm most definitely that the pain is not “in my head”.  Isn’t that always a relief to know?

My daughter, Debbie, and I have taken to sharing hysterics over the funny names for what ails me.  Like a torn left hip gluteus maximus.  Not to be outdone, the right hip has sprouted a torn gluteus minimus—although “righty” may just as well eat its heart out as “maximus” has got to be more significant than “minimus”—as in “maxi skirts” as opposed to “mini skirts”.

Okay, where in the world is this going?  Oh yes, funny terms.  The funniest is (according to a radiologist’s report—although he or she probably didn’t think it was funny) “Complete hamstring tears from the right ischial tuberosity.”

Ha ha!  I GOOGLED “complete hamstring tears” and came up with site after site of answers like this:  “Complete tears of the hamstring are extremely rare.  But they almost always result in loss of agility on the playing field.”

Oh poo!  That means I’ll have to scale down my sport.  After all, I’m 81 years old while weighing a whopping 95 pounds.  My friend, Vikki, said, “Margaret you are going to HAVE to quit playing football.”

I rarely think on my feet, but this time I did:  “But the Packers can’t get along without me and also, I like the money.”

But the best is yet to come.  What in the world is an ischial tuberosity?  In plain terms, it’s the butt bone.  You know.  Music with a beat:  “The butt bone’s connected to the leg bone, now hear the Word of the Lord.”

Anyway, now I know why I slide forward in my chair at church, concerts, and other hard chair events—so that my avoirdupois is resting on the lower spine rather than on the ischial tuberosity.

My lower spine is also ridden with medical terms, but that’s enough for today!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, October 2014 

 

Little Margaret

It’s been a few decades since the above photo was taken back in the days when little girls wore dresses in boats, and life jackets were only known to be used by sailors, marines, or brave souls crossing Lake Michigan in a rubber life raft (something my father actually did in the 1940s, to test wartime outboard motors produced by the company where he was employed).

I have recently embarked on Decade Number Nine!  And so far, it’s great!  Perhaps it’s great because we’ve long been programmed to expect that old age would be horrible.  And obviously, for some it is!  But for one who loves the Lord and trusts Him for every day, life can be good—all the way home to glory.

Since this is a blog dedicated to finding treasures in chronic illness and pain, here are some gems regarding pain that God has bestowed on me in recent months and years:

1)  Pain is relative.  There is always someone who hurts more, someone who is drastically ill, someone who needs my prayers far more than I need to pray for myself!  Or even think about myself for that matter.

I have just printed out a reprint of a letter from the pastor imprisoned in Tehran, Saeed Abedini, to his wife in the USA.  No, I cannot begin to dwell on my pain!

2)  Pain can be a friend.  Pain reminds me to hang back rather than jump full speed ahead into some new and unnecessary responsibility or job.  Pain is that friend who says, “Rest!  Take it easy today, so that you will feel better tomorrow—and more able to do whatever the calendar has in store for you for the rest of the week.”

Pain is that buddy who affirms that I’m still worthwhile in God’s eyes, even though I am not the busy and productive person I was for many years.  This week we celebrated Thanksgiving.  Whereas for decades I fixed most of the meal and set our table for from 18 to 30 individuals, this year there were four of us—actually five, but the fifth is 5 months old and she sat on her mother’s lap while eating.  The meal, company, and conversation were wonderful.  Dishes for four plus a few pans are not overwhelming with two of us, our daughter and me, in charge of washing, etc.  The home is never dismantled or rearranged for two extra adults and a baby.

The day was PERFECT, except that I crashed immediately after our company walked out the door to go home.  All of the next day, yesterday, I was a zombie.  I slouched around around our home, walking like Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo due to pain.  My GI system was down like the early weeks of Healthcare.gov, due to the abuse of 4000 some calories added to my 94 pound frame which normally consumes (and feels full after) about 1000 per day.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked my husband.  “It didn’t used to be like this.  I used to feel fine the day after Thanksgiving.”

Joe just smiled and commented, “We’re old!”

Then my friend, Pain, agreed and said:  “Just go to bed and quit trying to be so productive all the time!  Give yourself a break!”

How delightful it was to go to bed at 3:00 in the afternoon with my knitting, my art books, and Charles Krauthammer’s amazing Number 1 bestseller, THINGS THAT MATTER.  Thank you, Pain!

3)  Pain is nothing compared to the future glory in store for those of us who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:18, KJV

What more do we need to know?  At age 80, I’m contented—and oh so thankful!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013 

Country Roads

Many of us experience Acute Pain at some time in our lives:  that pain which comes with injury, surgery, a specific illness, or that happy pain occasion known to the female gender—childbirth.  (Happy despite its intensity, due to the normal outcome of childbirth pain.) 

Acute Pain is frequently unbearable; we cannot stand it—and something must be done.  In fact, nature’s purpose in Acute Pain is to send out an alarm when drastic action is needed.  Thus when my wrist is scalded by steam rising from my teakettle, I rush to the cold water tap and let the water run for many minutes.  I’ve suffered fractures, one in an ankle and two more simultaneously in an arm bone (accompanied by a dislocated wrist).  The ensuing pain and shock from these fractures left no doubt about the necessity for emergency treatment. 

However the most severe Acute Pain in my life was caused by a blocked colon due to diverticulitis.  When someone asks me what that was like, I enter the Frozen Silence Mode.  I pray I’ll never have to go back there, even in memory—and certainly not in conversation, except to comment that I’m eternally grateful for those large doses of morphine administered to me in the ER.  Viva le coquelicot! 

With the obvious exception of childbirth throes, Acute Pain is an uninvited guest—and a terrible one, at that.  Most Acute Pain doesn’t even have the decency to knock on our door, or ring the bell.  Some Acute Pain may come on gradually, but more often it just appears out of nowhere—without warning.  One moment we are living our routine lives, and the next minute there it is.  We hate it, we fight it, and that is exactly what we are supposed to de.  A rude, uninvited guest has no place in our life—and the sooner it leaves, the better! 

However there is another kind of uninvited guest that comes to stay.  This guest may be related to Acute Pain but it is vastly different.  Frequently less intense, it is apt to arrive quietly.  It doesn’t barge in demanding immediate attention.  Instead it moves with stealth, yet with all its baggage.  The quiet guest is prepared to hang out with us in all seasons, while planning to accompany us everywhere we go—gradually, insiduously attempting to wear us down inside and out until we accept its presence and determine to rebuild our lives on its terms. 

The silent guest may go from room to room, hiding in one area and emerging in another.  There are days when we can actually ignore it, but then it surfaces again, reminding us that it’s here to stay.  This uninvited guest is called Chronic Pain. 

Whereas Acute Pain serves a purpose of rousing us to immediate action, the role of Chronic Pain is very clearly to change one’s life—often forever!  And the life change evoked by Chronic Pain can be either dismal and devastating or wonderfully liberating, depending greatly on choices made by the individual experiencing the pain.

I know of sad instances where Chronic Pain has caused people to give up trying to live.  Recently I sorrowed to hear a woman who suffers chronic back (and generalized arthritic) pain say “Life just isn’t any fun anymore”.  I sorrowed because I also have these considerable pain issues—a legacy from my maternal grandmother.  I watched my Grandma Rose relax, accept, and live stalwartly through arthritic pain—and also my father and sister, my only sibling.  They never said, “Life isn’t any fun anymore” because they chose to affirm life to the very end. 

My sister was wheel-chair ridden for several years before she died, yet she never lost her verve and her spectacular sense of humor.  Ardis always was a raving beauty, and she maintained her classy (and classic!) grooming throughout her most difficult days.  She went through life without a hair out of place, literally and metaphorically speaking.

It’s evident that some recipients of Chronic Pain will either hate it or (as odd as this may sound to some of you) love it!  Since Chronic Pain is my legacy and inescapable reality, I have chosen to accept and love it and it has loved me back a thousandfold.  Here are just a few of the ways in which my uninvited guest, Chronic Pain, has changed my life—and consequently loved me back:

1)  Chronic Pain has lifted me from preoccupation with my own physical health and well-being.  When attacked by Acute Pain, even those of us who know that God is in charge of our every moment are apt to forget in the stress of the moment and pose the question “Why me?”  But to respond affirmatively to either Acute and/or Chronic Pain we can more properly ask “Indeed!  Why not me?” 

We realize that we are a part of a continuing human story which devotes vast chapters to documenting suffering in terms of illness and pain.  So why not me?  Why should I be exempt, and how could I ever have presumed to be so unique as to never suffer while on this flawed and fallen planet earth?

2)  Chronic Pain (along with Acute Pain as well) has rendered me extra sensitive.  My pain has made me a kind of “raw nerve” which responds to the pain in others:  a family member who suffers incredibly hard living conditions, a dear friend who is recovering from an accident resulting in surgery and much pain, those families in the aftermath of the Boston tragedy who are enduring incredible sorrow and loss.  When these people come to mind, I sometimes stop in my tracks and weep—and I pray.

3)  Chronic Pain has caused me to grab ahold of life and hang on with all my strength—deriving joy from every moment, and responding with gratitude for every person in my life, and every blessing—large or small.  My pain is not whom I am.  I am not dominated by my pain.  LIFE is whom I am—abundant life in Christ.  I am dominated by Him, and His abundant LIFE!!

4)  Chronic Pain has motivated me to seize a dream and bring it to fruition.  All of my life, I have loved the visual arts—especially painting.  Schooled in music and language, I pursued those arts with a passion throughout the years—yet I thought that paints and paint brushes were for other people, those who had “talent”.  

Then 7 years ago, with the silent, insiduous onset of chronic pain I needed a new dedication.  Something snapped inside my head, and I decided to forget about “talent”.  The time had come to do what I secretly wanted to do, which was to paint—even if my attempts would result in total failure.  The result of this resolve has been a pastime yielding joy which defies description—a pastime which has amazed me by drawing me closer to others, as well as piloting me through many a pain-punctuated day or night.

Occasionally I hear someone attest that pain, either acute or chronic, is not God’s plan for believers.  I certainly agree that God did not create pain.  He does not make us sick, or cause us to break a bone or live with ongoing infirmity. 

But does God allow pain?  Most certainly, yes—ultimately for our good and His glory.  Some Christians will promote the idea that healing is always God’s will, but I fervently disagree with that!  There are cases where God works mightily (and especially!) through our illness or pain—in unprecedented ways.  

The world views illness and pain to be handicaps and less than desirable, but those are not Christian views.  We live in a fallen world, yet God has brought redemption and restoration in the midst of those conditions which reflect the fall!  What better witness to God’s creativity than a joy-filled life in less than “ideal” circumstances?

The Apostle Paul’s infirmity was not removed from him, regardless of Paul’s prayers.  Instead, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  And God says the same thing to us today.  His grace is sufficient, to turn what some consider to be a scourge and a curse into a beautiful state of existance—living graciously above the circumstances of poor health or Chronic Pain.

I have shocked a lot of people by stating what I fervently know to be true:  that for the Christian believer, illness and pain are Holy Ground.  Of course all of life is to be Holy Ground for us.  But when we reflect God’s peace and serenity in the midst of what the world considers to be undesirable and unpleasant, we really are claiming Holy Ground. 

Some of my friends pray that God will heal my Chronic Pain issues, and I appreciate their concern.  But I never, never pray for my own healing.  Of course God could heal, if He so desired.  But at my age of nearly 80 years, I know that a much more appropriate prayer is, “Lord, help me to live joyously and victoriously on this Holy Ground of Chronic Pain, which you’ve entrusted to me.” 

A curse or a blessing?  Chronic Pain will be whatever we choose.  I love the pain which God has allowed me, the pain which is constantly blessing me by loving me back.  It’s Holy Ground! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

Always Time for Tea

Not a shoulder of mutton—a shoulder of Me!  The pain was sporadic for weeks, and I kept ignoring it (always my first line of defense against anything going on in my body).  Then last week I had a tea party, and I kept lifting my most beautiful, large and heavy teapot to pour tea for my guests.  It was all I could do to lift that baby off the table with a right arm and shoulder which were suddenly becoming an emergency.  (How silly was that!  I could have asked someone else to pour.  Duh.)

Over the weekend I paid for my foolishness with severe pain that would not quit.  I was thankful to have a routine appointment scheduled for earlier this week, with the pain management doctor who treats me for pain caused by my spinal issues—so I gutted it out until Tuesday when I could go.

The doctor kept moving my arm hither and thither, saying “Sorry!” every time I winced or rolled my eyes.  “Sorry” notwithstanding, he kept on inflicting pain and moving that arm in places that I wouldn’t dream of putting it—and in several instances the arm just wouldn’t go.  Diagnosis?  Frozen shoulder.

My medical adventures get to be borderline hilarious sometimes, and this may be the funniest one of all.  Physical therapy has suddenly filled a lot of blank spaces in my calendar:  two appointments per week, into mid-April.  Then if I still have an arm, we’ll assess the damage.  My husband and I have been laughing at the idea of PT.  What can be done when every move is an OUCH?  Maybe the therapist will borrow from THE MUSIC MAN, and use the “Think Method”.

If the PT would actually work (none ever has for me so far), that would be wonderful.  Otherwise the next move is steroid injections.  Those are the Medicare hoops one has to go through en route to surgery, which would fix the arm if there are tears or floating debris around the rotator cuff.  Since I had rotator repair in the other arm with a great outcome in 2007, I tend to think in that direction.

Today our daughter, Debbie, and I cracked up over the phone about the frozen shoulder.  Debbie finished the conversation with, “Well, if you give us the cold shoulder we’ll understand!”

Here is a given in life:  You just have to keep laughing, whenever possible.  And let someone else pour the tea.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

A La Charles Reid

I’m going to point all four fingers and two thumbs at myself.  My friends and family members have been so kind and considerate to me throughout my recent years punctuated with health issues, that I can only point to myself.  Before being (at least somewhat, I hope) “humbled” by a dicky back and other chronic concerns, I was quite the full-steam-ahead and often blustery/blatant person.  So here are some of the boo-boos I made in the past.  To any who have been intimidated by my former style of relating, I’m begging—PLEASE forgive me!  🙂

1)  Frequently I used to say, “You don’t look sick!”  This was intended as a compliment.  I really didn’t mean to prevaricate, and if a person is my friend I tend to always think he or she looks pretty good no matter what.  But the statement:  “You don’t look sick” implied that I suspected the person was just imagining the whole thing—or worse yet, pretending. 

Now I realize that some issues, especially the auto-immune diseases, don’t always show.  Whereas my sinus infections cause raccoon eyes and hollow cheek bones, my asthma, GERD, and GI challenges do not show on the outside.  Neither do orthopedic issues, when I wear my makeup to mask the pain and remember to move circumspectly.

2)  I formerly tended to altogether avoid the subject of a friend’s illness, thinking I was doing her a favor by not mentioning it.  But my avoidance, like the comment “You don’t look sick”, comes off as a denial.  We appear to be deliberately denying something very real when we refuse to mention a friend’s illness or pain, and offer a bit of encouragement.

While we certainly do not want to belabor our health issues or drive people to distraction with blow-by-blow descriptions, when we are ill we do need validation from other humans.  It’s theraputic when people recognize our limits and appreciate our determination to stay on the planet regardless of how we feel.

3)  Once upon a time, in my clueless past, I offered “free” advice.  I was quick to recommend a doctor, a treatment, or any info that happened to be lodged in my head.  This may be the most obnoxious “No-No” of all.  

Now when someone asks for input, that’s different; then the dispensing of information is entirely appropriate.  But to offer unsolicited advice is insulting to the person who has to listen.  The advisor is setting herself up as a “know-it-all”, and we all know that “know-it-alls” rarely know much of anything at all!!!  (How’s that for an example of redundancy?)  I was cured of my unsolicited advice-giving the day a woman tried to insist I should rub oregano oil on my spine, to “cure” those ruptured discs which were inpinging on nerves.

3)  In my full-steam-ahead past, I brought unsolicited gifts based on whatever I thought I might like to receive if I were the sick one.  Hence, friends got loaded down with books I thought they might read, food I thought they should eat, and a plethora of houseplants. 

Reading is a personal matter.  Now I understand that not everyone wants to be burdened with a 750 page English classic that I have read and loved—or a lengthy documentary on shipwrecks or pandemics down through the centuries.  

Since my faux pas years, I’ve come to realize that we eat far less (and much more selectively) when we live 24/7 with illness and pain.  What others might think I should eat are the very foods which cause major trouble in my GI system, so accordingly I now ask whether or not food would be welcome—and if welcome, what kind of food(?)! 

Small houseplants do make a nice gift for the person who loves plants.  But because I cherish everything that grows in soil, I was issuing greenery to individuals who either killed plants by overwatering—or simply let them die of thirst.  Now I evaluate the future of a green gift, and only present such a gift to those who truly enjoy nurturing plants.

4)  Finally there is the subject of humor, and whether or not it’s helpful to include funny comments in messages and conversations with those who are ailing.  I love humor and I come from a long line of humorous folks.  I married a person who loves humor.  Together we have raised six humor-loving (and often very funny!) children. 

Humor is to be aimed at ourselves—never at another person.  I get a huge bang out of poking fun at myself.  Thus, when I do discuss my illness or pain it will often be with whimsical overtones.  I cannot stand for anyone to say “Oh, you poor thing”, or perform a Greek tragedy act where my health issues are concerned.  Yet I’m learning that there are individuals who prefer the Greek tragedy thing, people who cannot brook humor in any form when they are ill—and sometimes when they are healthy—even though my funnies are always directed at me and not them.

I will never take another person’s illness or pain lightly, and I do not take my own health issues lightly.  But God has given me a sense of humor, so that I can take myself lightly.  My illness and pain are God’s Holy Ground—allowed in my life for His glory.  I must never let physical challenges (or any challenges!) drag me into a bottomless pit. 

I pray I’ll always take myself lightly enough to laugh at myself, yet exercise discernment in the presence of those who don’t welcome my self-directed witticisms.  Above all, my goal is to encourage others who suffer.

Margaret L. Been, ©2013