27 January 2012

Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome

I've come to a few conclusions while I sat down to do this post. . My new years resolution of caring less about what people think is not as easy as I presumed it would be. I mean knew it'd be hard, but it's actually a lot harder than I assumed. I have this fear that writing a post directly concerning health and a diagnosis with what's going on will be interpreted as my asking for attention and hugs or that I'm completely overreacting and acting like a child – neither of which are true. The fact of the matter is that I blog for myself. Writing lets me escape and be free for at least a few moments and whether it’s by some creepy old man sitting in front of his old school computer on a rickety desk in Timbuktu or my friends I'm heard and honestly that's all that matters.

About a week ago I was diagnosed with Superior Mesenteric Artery (SMA) Syndrome. If you know me at all you shouldn’t be surprised that this is something rare. I actually laughed when the doctor said that, I mean of course it is. I think I would have been offended if this was a normal thing like acid reflux or something. Normal disorders are for the uncomplicated and the fact that it takes me at least ten minutes to decide between a Caesar salad with or without chicken lets you know I am far from normal, or decisive, or uncomplicated.

I don’t really know how to explain the syndrome because I don’t exactly understand it. But I'm going to try and explain it to the best of my abilities. The starting issue is that my duodenum is narrowing. This means that I'm not gaining as much weight as I should be in-correlation to what I'm eating (every girls dream, right?). This also means that the artery that goes behind my stomach and out onto my intestines is compressed and dealing with more stress than it should be which is changing its angle. When the angle between the superior mesenteric vessels and the aorta is lower than 18° you have SMA Syndrome. I had an MRA, which is an MRI of your arteries done yesterday and those results determine what the next steps are. A lovely side effect is that I also have the energy levels of a 90 year old now. As soon as I step out of bad I'm ready for a nap. And I've been a running a fever for about a week but I like to think that's because I'm just so hot. -- cue chuckle, smirk and eye roll --

The good, the bad, the mediocre. The good thing about this is that I can eat popcorn with chocolate chips and a chocolate banana milkshake for dinner without being judged or reprimanded or even thinking about my "spring break perfect Victoria Secret model body". Everyone is pushing for me to gain weight (not happening) because if I do get sick I will drop them like a snake shedding skin. Translation? I can be a junk food fanatic piggy and be okay with it. The bad. There's a possibility of a bypass surgery if the angle of my artery isn't good. A sentence with surgery + bypass + myself doesn't really tickle my fancy, it quite honestly scares the pa-tooey out of me. My reaction to those sentences lately are either tears, a joke, quick changing of the subject or being quiet and contemplative, none of which are at all me. The mediocre is that mom found a great surgeon at Wake Forest who we're sending my charts to on Monday. This should probably be in the "good" section but once again, surgery isn't something that I view as "good". Having someone who knows what they're doing on your side is always a plus especially since my doctor left me high and dry as he's left the country on a three week vacation with no one covering him (feel free to mutter some mean thing in his direction).

I wrote this post for a few reasons. Being heard and having something in writing are the forerunners. This will make it harder for me to push away everyone I love most which is something I seem to always do when I think they could end up hurting. It both makes zero and absolute sense at the same time. The other reason was to try and persuade y'all to participate in the national awareness day for SMA Syndrome which is tomorrow (the 28th). I personally like to refer to it as "wear something purple day". No one's going to ask why you're wearing people and goodness know I'll never even know if you really did but I will say while you're sitting there try to pick something to match your fabulous leopard wedges or cute little flats with a bow go for the purple blouse. . or dress. . or hair bow. . or button down and tie (for my male readers, if you exist). A little hope and well wishing, or in this case a little purple, can really go a long way.

Now that I'm exhausted I'll bid you all adieu. I have a cute little puppy waiting to snuggle.

Think purple!

Ciao darlings! xoxox

21 January 2012

My Bucket List

Ever since watching the movie The Bucket List I have had a mini bucket list of my own forming in my head. I have never written it down though so I sadly forget things, or do something awesome like riding a motorcycle on a mountain in the sprinkling rain in Costa Rica, and wonder if it ever was on my bucket list. . it sure should have been. To be honest I partially haven't written it down purely because I was torn on whether I should share it with people, or keep it locked up in a little drawer somewhere. And lets be honest, some of the things I find imperative to do or accomplish before I die may be things that y'all have done a thousand times. Or find absolutely bonkers. But I guess that's my problem, I care about other people's opinions too much. Who cares if you think that my wanting to do yoga on a cliff over the ocean is unrealistic, I think it's fabulous. And I promise you I will do it. . eventually.

I want to say that the list goes from trivial and expected to unique and unusual but it doesn't. It's in an order straight from my head so it's jumbled. I'll be continuously adding to this as more things pop into my head and hopefully crossing things off as I'm able to accomplish them.

  1. Make creme brulee
  2. Go for a long run on the beach 
  3. Have a house with a white picket fence
  4. Positively effect someone's life
  5. Have two kids: a boy and girl 
  6. Go to Ireland
  7. Go to Bora Bora
  8. Go to Greece
  9. Go to Alaska 
  10. Run in a 5K and finish respectfully 
  11. Run a marathon 
  12. Cross stitch a quilt
  13. Paint an oil painting 
  14. Do karaoke 
  15. Successfully do the Duval Crawl in Key West
  16. Have a wine weekend in Napa Valley 
  17. Come up with a perfect gluten free cookbook of fabulous desserts
  18. Sew a dress 
  19. Make a snowman
  20. Ski!
  21. Horseback ride on a beach
  22. Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef 
  23. Skinny dip in the ocean 
  24. Live in a cottage
  25. Own a pink beach cruiser 
  26. Live on the beach 
  27. Have a cabin
  28. See a bear in the wild 
  29. "Own" a star
  30. Get a massage on a secluded beach  
  31. Go to the circus
  32. Have floor tickets to a basketball game
  33. Sit in the front row at a concert
  34. See the Northern Lights 
  35. Have a tulip garden
  36. Be in a hot tub during a snow fall  12/11
  37. Have an MRI (in the full tube not the half one, yes it's weird but whatever)
  38. Swim with sea turtles 
  39. Jump off a cliff into the ocean
  40. Cave dive
  41. Go to a hot spring (Costa Rica 2010)
  42. Go to the Army/Navy Game

15 January 2012

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few weeks ago, right before Thanksgiving to be precise, I discovered I cannot consume gluten without getting sick. We've discovered it isn't Celiac disease (which is a severe gluten allergy where even if your food touches some amount of gluten you're getting sick) but rather a gluten intolerance caused by __________ (to be entered when we figure out what is wrong with me) where I am still unable to consume gluten but I'm okay using the same silverware as my family who does.

Before this happened I found much joy in baking. Whenever I would get stressed I would bake chocolate chip cookies, eat most of the dough, and go for a long run. Perfect routine. Since wheat is a main ingredient in any cookie I have now been forced to only eat overpriced gluten free cookies from Publix or Whole Foods. I have found three kinds that I like but none of them compare to homemade chocolate chip cookies. After a long day yesterday I decided I wanted to try and make some gf chocolate chip cookies. Well every recipe I found called for at least four kinds of flour (tapioca, brown rice, a bunch of names that I cannot pronounce nor remember) which are each sold separately and way too expensive but then I fell upon this fabulous flour free recipe. I was in heaven. I changed some of the ingredients because. . . . well because I can so here's my adaptation of the recipe:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups of peanut butter (I use Jiff)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract
1 tsp of baking soda
2 eggs
A ton of chocolate chips (honestly, you can never tell anyone how many are "correct", it's like wine, eat and drink the whole bag)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients minus the eggs together, add the eggs and stir until nicely mixed.  Grease the cookie sheets (I use butter) and put cookies on the sheet. I sprinkled with sugar on top. Bake for 12-14.

It should make about 24 cookies and according to my brother in law and grandfather who ate 3/4 of a tray on their own, they taste damn good.

Happy baking! Ciao! xoxoxo

Christmas Break

Christmas break itself was. . . interesting. The only way to adequately describe this Christmas is as odd. . .very odd. . . and different. Unlike other breaks I wasn’t living over Nic’s house. I only went to his dad’s house twice, one of the times he wasn’t even in town. But also unlike other breaks Nic got to spend a substantial amount of time at my house and with my family which everyone loved. I do understand why, but my family has truly gotten shafted in the “spending time with Nic” department so it was nice to have it be a little more even for once.

Usually our house is decked out with Christmas decorations. We have the “fun” tree up in the loft, the “serious” tree in the living room downstairs and our “old fashioned tree” on the patio. Well, the “serious” tree turned into the “church” tree this year as it only had lights on it, the patio tree remained normal and the upstairs tree got decorated only two days before Christmas Eve by Nicholas, my nephew Kaiden and I. If there is one thing that can make me smile it is how adorable Kaiden is. And just how much he loves his “unc”. It can melt your heart. We've always given each other ornaments on Christmas. I got this fabulous one of our "family" painted from a vendor on Etsy. I'm obsessed with how perfect it came out. Click here to go to her "store". It's totally worth it. Nic's ornament really hit the entire mood of the break on the head.

Really different about this Christmas was the fact that mom, dad and I were still wrapping presents Christmas morning to the point where I actually got to put some presents under the tree. (Santa usually puts them all there while we are asleep) It was extremely weird. Unlike normal Santa also forgot to label some presents so everything had a “open the corner and show to mom so she can make sure it’s yours” disclosure leading to a very interesting and hilarious present opening.

A very pleasant thing did occur this Christmas. Nic surprised me on Christmas Eve and drove from his grandparent’s house in St.Petersburg – two hours away – to Orlando at 1 o’clock in the morning Christmas Day. For the first time ever we were able to wake up in each other’s arms on Christmas morning. After that there were few things Santa could have given me that would have made me any happier as that’s all I have been wanting for such a long time. While he had to leave at 8:30 to make it back before everyone woke up I can’t complain. Soon it will be our time and soon we’ll be able to actually have a Christmas together without other people being selfish and throwing fits and trying to push consequences on things that should never be viewed as something “bad”.

While it was weird and different Christmas was also about exactly what it should be about. I have never needed my family as much as I did this Christmas and they were there. And Nic made sure he was there too. Sometimes people do terrible malicious and hurtful things and there really is no excuse that you can provide them. Instead you just have to realize you have the support of so many loving people around you who will do anything to make sure you’re okay and you’re allowed to cry, or smile, or drink an entire bottle (or five) of wine. You just have to remember it’ll all be okay, and karma is such a bitch.

The week after Christmas was spent getting cat scans, a colonoscopy and just feeling terribly sick. Nic was able to go to an appointment with me and be there for the colonoscopy. It was nice having him and my mom there to make me laugh when I went in and laugh at me under my anesthesia when I got wheeled back out. Having him to cuddle with while I was feeling so run down definitely helped out a bit as well. All of my medical appointments and procedures over break made me realize a couple things: my veins roll and collapse, some nurses just suck, I would only wish the colonoscopy prep on three people in the entire world, I’m a medical anomaly, some people are just selfish, and the contrast for cat scans is absolutely atrocious and will make you sick.
Nicy keeping me amused and calm
We’ve spent the last six New Years at my house playing cards, watching tv and just hanging out with my family. We have wanted to do something different the last two years but just haven’t gotten around to really planning anything and the fact that neither of us are twenty-one makes it extremely hard but we came upon a lovely solution; a date night at The Melting Pot. I tried out a red dress, Nic got all dressed up and we had a much needed romantic date night and we were still back in time to play a game of scrabble and watch the ball drop with my family.

Full of trials and tribulations, yes, but it was still a very lovely break. And while our drive down was one great vacation as soon as we both realized how hard it was going to be to be back in Orlando with the hatred and “competition for time” we began to bicker. On the other hand the drive back to Annapolis was perfect. We didn’t bicker once, played car games and just laughed and laughed. Nic got to visit, and be disappointed in, South of The Border for the first time.  While he had to be back on Friday I stayed until Sunday night and we were able to have some fun Annapolis time which of course included The Wild Orchid for brunch. Which was weird because they carded. . . awkward. And I wasn't able to get my Spinach and Crab souffle! :( But I did get a crab omelet, which was still darn yummy.

Brunch at The Wild Orchid

09 January 2012

A Cabin & The Beach: Our Vacation

Oh Christmas break.  I knew you were going to be interesting but I never expected what occurred. I’ll take y’all back to the beginning of the break though. That’s really only fair.

Nic and I have never really been on an actual vacation together. We’ve gone on overnight beach trips and trips here and there with our families but never a legitimate vacation just the two of us. After Nic got his car we decided I would fly up and then drive down with him for Christmas break; a fun little road trip. That somehow escalated into him finding us a honeymoon cabin on a mountain in West Virginia and us spending three days there.

When I say it was amazing, I mean it. We both have been dealing with so much between school, my crazy health, the drama with his family. . we really needed “us” time and we knew we weren’t going to get any once we got back. When Nic first booked the cabin he showed me a picture entitled “Winter Wonderland”. Everything was all white, and new, and just magnificent. Needless to say we prayed that it would be like that once we got there but snow wasn’t in the forecast until that Sunday, the day we were leaving.

We finally made it to the cabin around 11 on Friday evening. I was inside taking pictures of everything while it was still perfect and all of a sudden Nic starts yelling for me to come out. It had started to snow. I honestly think we would have been as happy as can be if that’s all it snowed all weekend. We sat outside kissing and hugging and smiling in the little snow flurries knowing everything was going to be just a-okay.

I woke up earlier than Nic Saturday morning and looked outside to find snow sticking to the ground. I was so excited.  I made a pot of coffee, grabbed my gluten free gingerbread spice cookies and just sat in front of the fire watching the snow fall. I haven’t been so content and just happy with life in a long time. I (and we) didn’t have to worry about anything else, or anyone else. The weekend was truly just about us. We decided to do a “no cell phone” rule which was partially implemented by us and partially by the overall lack of reception. It really helped out to not hear the constant “ding” of a text coming in. It also didn’t stop snowing the entire time we were there and by the time we were getting ready to leave Sunday morning the ground was covered and two inches had accumulated. It was gorgeous.

I need to tell y’all about the cabin before I get carried away on a tangent. We were on a mountain West Virginia. We had complete privacy. It was absolutely amazing. There was a hot tub outside that had a privacy fence around it so you were free to skinny dip ;) and oh, be in a hot tub in the SNOW! That has always been on my bucket list and I was able to do it.

As far as the bathroom is concerned, I want my bathroom to be modeled around this one but with an old fashioned tub in it as well. The floors were heated so your feet didn’t freeze as soon as you stepped out of the shower and they had a towel warmer. Yes, a towel warmer. We literally had towels that felt as though they just came out of the dryer. I was in heaven. The shower was set up for two, but there were six shower heads. You had the one that was above your head, one for your upper back and than one for your lower. Have I mentioned I was in heaven yet?

The entire house was heated by the fireplace. You set the thermostat and the fire periodically came on to keep the house at the correct temperature. While I would have loved to roast marshmallows, having a fire that maintained itself was nice.

The kitchen was superb, the dining room, living room and bedroom were gorgeous. It was a studio type cabin but everything flowed and was separated classily and flawlessly. It was perfect.

We decided to have our own Christmas and do presents at the cabin. We had tossed around the idea of getting a small little Christmas tree but after the cost of the cabin, an unexpected $100 grocery trip to Whole Foods, and everything else was calculated it didn’t really make sense. So we just used theirs. Nicy got me a gorgeous pair of pearl studs which I’ve been hinting at for the past few months and that match my pearl ring and necklace. And an apron. While some girls would have probably gotten offended by this I was ecstatic. I have wanted one but never actually took the plunge.

Our own little "Christmas" tree
I really didn’t want to leave.

Coming down from the cabin was the most atrocious part of the entire drive. Living in Florida I haven’t had to deal with winding roads much and am therefore not at all accustomed to them at all. We almost died at one point while we were going to the most windy road ever and assumed it must be a one way since the road itself was so tiny. We realized we were wrong when all of a sudden a car was coming at us.

In order to break up the 18 hour drive home we decided to stop in Myrtle Beach Sunday and Monday night and continue home on Tuesday.  While trying to get to Myrtle Beach the garmin also decided she was going to take us through a field. A legitimate dirt road called “Log Cabin Road” in the middle of the night where there were no lights and quail were flying up from the remainder of the cotton fields because our car was frightening them. I found this absolutely hysterical, Nic didn’t think it was nearly as funny.

We tried to find a dinner at 10 p.m. on a Sunday. In the off season. We found “Big Willie’s Diner”. It was the most sketch place EVER. We waited the hour and a half left to Myrtle Beach and went to Applebee’s instead. Life saving decision in my opinion.

We have also developed a love for antique shops – more I have converted Nic into a lover of antique shops as well. On the way home from Myrtle Beach we stopped at this darling little antique shop where he bought me the most precious little thimble as I was cross stitching a gift for my niece and kept poking myself.
A theme that stuck with us throughout the trip was the Navy. The cabin was on “Anchors A Way” which was off of “Nautical Lane” and the hotel we stayed in at Myrtle Beach had anchors everywhere. It was really cute.

We went from the snow to the beach in a day and got to experience both on our first vacation. I guess I can’t really complain that much. But let’s be honest, I would do anything to go back to the cabin.