Sunday, November 13, 2016

The waves of sadness and hopefulness that lead me home

I have been experiencing the strangest feeling lately and it's hard to describe.  The most I can make sense of it is that I feel like I need to go home.  But I am home, so it's a confusing feeling. This has me thinking a lot lately about what home means to me and our little family.  I keep hearing about setting roots, but  I also wondering if that fits for us.  This is the longest we have been in one place and I am definitely ready for a change.  For me I think home is where I am with my love wherever that me be.  When we are together and connected that is when I feel like I am home.  So it becomes clear and evident that I need to be turning toward my sweetie for support, and maybe that will fill that sense of longing for home. Sometimes you think you are doing something but when you look a little deeper you realize there is more work to be done.
 
It's hard to believe it was just over a year ago I was at my convocation celebrating the completion of my Masters degree.  I remember after all the celebrating was over looking at the pictures and noticing the beautiful totem pole behind me of a woman holding a baby, and I thought how amazing given my little baby was growing inside of me.  It was like the totem pole and I shared a secret.

I have been riding some pretty significant rolling waves of grief these days. One day I feel okay and then next I feel like I can barely get through the day.  I will admit some days I feel like a zombie just going through the motions of the day, but I figure at least I am doing it.  Hopefully in time I will be fully present and once again my authentic self.  It is so exhausting carrying on with the every day and pretending that everything is a-okay when it feels like there is a giant hole in your heart that will never mend.  It is seriously exhausting... Over the spring and summer I felt I was given messages from Amy to be strong and carry on, but with the end of summer and no more butterflies I decided it was time to get my own permanent reminder that I can get through this.  So a couple of weeks ago I got a new tattoo!  It's pretty inflamed in this picture that was taken the day after I got it, but when it is done healing it will be a beautiful work of watercolour art.  With the ever evolving grief process and a shift back into some pretty deep trenches of grief this is the first thing I see in the morning, and it reminds me I need to get my butt out of bed and carry on with the day, and it's okay if the authenticity follows later. 

This journey through grief can just knock the wind out of you at times.  It has been so hard, and all I want to do is call my Aunt who was always my rock of support, but having lost her it feels like a deeper kick in the grieving gut.  Some days I am not even sure how I managed to fake my way through the day.  Authenticity is a value I hold dear, and it is a struggle to feel like you aren't living your own values.  I have come to understand there comes a time when you just have to do what you can to get through.

Despite all the sadness and emptiness I still hold hope in my spirit.  That tiny bit of hope has been keeping me going despite my lack of caring for self.  It reminds me I need to return to my yoga practice and find more movement.  The glimmer of hope reminds me it's okay to cry until there are no more tears.  It reminds me I don't need to zone out and watch Netflix but can engage myself with conversation or just being mindful and present.  This hope has reminded me there are things I have been neglecting that I should be giving energy to.

I am down to the last 3 weeks of my wheat free, dairy free, refined sugar free living.  There have been some bumpy patches but I haven't strayed too much.  I did have a 7up this weekend, but that's really the most I have cheated since going on this diet so whatever!  I am so happy to be on the home stretch and am looking forward to slowly reintroducing some of the things I miss and trying to keep them to a minimum level (aka do not go on a cheese binge).  I have been feeling annoyed with this diet as we are away form home a lot and traveling with these eating restrictions is tricky, and I am so over salad!  To try and change things up a bit, I have been on a bit of a Pinterest recipe kick and will share some winning recipes with you:
Chana Dal simmering in the dutch oven.

Served in a bowl on basmati rice & topped with fresh cilantro & slices of lime.

 Dairy Free Chicken Tetrazzini casserole with a wheat free spin.

I opted for gluten free rice bread crumbs, and gluten free spaghetti.

 It was pretty tasty but the leftover were quite dry so I would make extra sauce next time.

Lentil Marinara with Zoodles.  I would also like to try this with carrot ribbon noodles!

 Barbecued Huli Huli Chicken with a baked yam topped with black bean & corn salsa, cashew cream, sliced green onions, & cilantro.

One of my quick go tos is quesadillas, which I don't eat nearly as often when I am eating wheat free, as I am not a fan of the rice wraps.  But it has been long over do and I was hungry for some Mexican inspired fare.  I had mashed yam with black bean & corn salsa, cooked ground chicken in homemade taco seasoning, and a sprinkling of Daiya pepperjack shreds. 

They never look very appealing, but are bursting with flavor!  I like to make it with half and fold over the wrap, but you can't do that with the rice wraps because they break. It's also much easier to flip when it's half a wrap!  I cut this full sized one into 6 and we each ate 3 slices.  I serve them with homemade guacamole, cashew cream, and my sweetie likes salsa with his too.

These past few weeks have probably been the most cooking I have done in several months and it feels good to be getting back to something I have previously enjoyed so deeply.  I am not finding the same joy in it just yet, but I am hopeful that will return as I continue to push forward and keep mucking about in the kitchen.  I know Amy would want that for me and my own wellness so I will keep pushing myself to do it and also be easy on myself when I really don't.

The holiest of holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart: The secret anniversaries of the heart. ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



Monday, October 24, 2016

October 23...

October 23, 2015, the day we thought our lives were going to change forever.  Little did we know we were right, it just wouldn't be the change we expected.  That morning I had gone to get blood work to find out if I was pregnant and I had been checking for the results online all day. Longest. Day. Ever.  Finally the test came back confirming my pregnancy and my head began to spin.  I excitedly told my husband, and so began our dream of being parents.  We talked about decorating the nursery and already had names picked out for a girl, a boy, and a gender neutral name. We were excited and as ready as one could be when scared as hell about being responsible for a little life and helping develop that life into an adult.

We were well aware of the statistics so kept things quiet other than our immediate family, and a couple of very close friends.  We decided to hold off on announcing until we made it through the first trimester.  The second trimester came and I was feeling very positive.  I told some of my family and close friends.  It was Christmas time and I was preparing to tell my coworkers and the rest of our family and friends when we found out there may be a problem, so decided to hold off on the big announcement.  Less than a month later we found ourselves telling family & friends who knew about our pregnancy that we had to say goodbye to our daughter Amethyst Emerson.  It was heart wrenching and my heart literally felt like it was being ripped from me.
One year since that precious gift was given to us, and life is not as I had hoped.  I thought I would be focused on this little baby, forming positive attachment, yearning for sleep, and all the other things that come with a little one, the joys, the excitement, and the fears.  I was ready to feel the fear and embrace it; I knew I was scared because it was so important to me.


So October 23, 2016 I find myself remembering life a year ago and all the excitement and joy we felt.  Today is a stark contrast of a year ago.  We continue to feel such a deep emptiness.  I find myself every morning willing myself to get out of bed, and some days let me tell you I am not sure I can do it.  Those are the days I have to remind myself that I know she would want me to carry on.


Today is one of those days I am fighting the hardest...
So tonight I light a candle for our little Amy...


What's broken can be mended. What hurts can be healed.And no matter how dark it gets, the sun is going to rise again. ~tinnybuddha.com

Monday, October 10, 2016

Thanksgiving...

It's Thanksgiving weekend.  A time we give thanks for the bountiful harvest, and reflect on the gratitude we have for our life, those in it, and the blessings we enjoy.  I can acknowledge the wonderful people we have in our life, our home, being blessed with many 'things', a stable job, someone I love who loves me in return, my health, and all our other privileges.  Even with all those things to be thankful for I struggle to feel a deep sense of gratitude as I reflect on this time last year and being blessed with knowing our little Amy was in there and that gave us so much to look forward to.  This time last year I was imagining our life as parents and all that I wanted to be and provide for our child. I miss those hopes and dreams, and would be lying if I said that I don't feel resentment for the emptiness we feel this Thanksgiving.  I miss our little Amy and all the dreams we had for our little family.  Don't get me wrong I have an appreciation for what I do have, but there is still this empty hole that feels like it will never go away.  The grief continues to evolve, but hurts just the same.
 

I am still working at feeling grounded and it has been a challenging time, but I am still working at it.  Last week we were traveling so my physical activity was pretty minimal as we sent a lot of time in the car and sitting.  We did however get some time out in nature to enjoy all it's beauty and splendor.





Being away there hasn't been much cooking, but here's a couple things from before we went.  I was craving a tangy bean salad, so I put together this one using a can of mixed beans, a can of yellow beans, a can of green beans, a can of baby corn, and sliced celery. For the dressing I used olive oil, apple cider vinegar, xylitol, & fresh dill. It was super tangy just the way I like it!  For lunch I serve this in a quinoa buddha bowl, and use the liquid as a dressing.

We were getting ready for a week vacation so I had to use up what was in the fridge.  I had some local chicken & sage sausages, and fried up some sliced brussel sprouts, carrots, red onion, and celery. Random yes, still yummy, yes!

We have spent the last week on a road trip to Oregon.  Traveling when you have eating restrictions can be pretty stressful.  I try to minimize the stress by bringing a cooler with food so I know for certain I will have something to eat.  I brought along cereal, almond milk, coffee, almond milk coffee creamer, trail mix, rice cakes, almond butter, gluten free bread,  earth balance, chicken pepperoni, and some veggies.  I would be lying if I said it was easy and I didn't get frustrated from time to time & come very close to crashing off my eating restrictions.  But somehow I made it through, and came home down another pound and only 4 pounds away from my usual healthy weight.  That's pretty exciting and helping me keep on track.  Although losing weight was not the reason I decided to do the 3 month wheat free, dairy free, refined sugar free thing, it has been a nice byproduct and I m averaging about a pound to a pound & a half a week:)  My stomach has been pain free and happy, my energy level is up!  I am nearly at the half way point and know I made the right decision.  I have reintroduced a single serving of greek yogurt and it hasn't bothered me so I am going with it.  

I thought I would share some of my favourite buys that help me get through the bumpy patches of living with eating restrictions.  I only buy cereal when it's on sale because I think it's ridiculously expensive, but there are 3 I keep my eye on: One Degree Veganic Sprouted Brown Rice Cacao Crisps, Kashi Indigo Morning, and Nature's Path Sunrise.  I have my cereal with almond milk, and I find this an easy breakfast when I am traveling.



In place of butter I use Earth Balance, which is a switch I don't mind at all.  Even when we aren't dairy free this is usually in the fridge.  I have said before it's a fine line when using Daiya shreds, but when you need something 'cheese like' I prefer the pepperjack style shreds above the others.

One thing I have missed desperately is hot chocolate, I love me some cocoa!  I found this awesome dark chocolate almond milk that is great and I warm it up for a hot chocolate fix.  YUM!  The other struggle was missing cream in my coffee.  I couldn't find anything that tasted equally enjoyable to coffee creamer, until now!  This almond milk hazelnut creamer is delicious!

We all need a treat from time to time, and for me it's Coconut Bliss.  This makes giving up ice cream completely doable.  They also have some very delicious coconut bliss bars either plain or covered in dark chocolate!  All of these may or may not be in my freezer right now....

The sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise again from the darkness, that we too can shine our own light. ~ S. Ajna






Monday, September 19, 2016

Trying to Get Grounded


I have found myself trying to get grounded.  I am not sure when exactly I lost my sense of grounding, but it has been quite evident to me for some time, so I have been paying particular attention to it lately.  Being outdoors really helps me to feel grounded.  Sitting in the garden in the backyard when it is quiet and peaceful, spending time in the forest or by the ocean fills me up and nourishes my soul!


I know grounding is a very important part of my healing process as I move through the process of grief and loss.  I find when I am taking the time to be mindful and grounded it takes a lot more to overwhelm me, and I am more able to go to a place of gratitude.

I have also shifted my focus on a physical goal, an overnight hike with my sweetie.  This will take a bit of preparation for me, both in regard to getting the right gear and getting physically ready.  Getting out walking is a good start, but I have a long way to go before I am ready.

This past weekend we went down to Victoria to get away from home and just focus on rest and relaxation.  I find when we are at home all the to dos are staring at me and I find it very difficult to not get either overwhelmed and nothing gets done or I get on the to dos in an unbalanced way and end up tired for the work week ahead.  So we got away and did just that rested and relaxed.  On our way home we took the scenic route through Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan.  I love this beautiful Island we call home!



So I am nearly at the 3 week mark of wheat free, dairy free, refined sugar free living.  The first two weeks were so hard!  The greatest struggle for me has been dairy.  I miss yogurt and cheese!!!  I knew greek yogurt would be very difficult for me to cut out because I find it helpful with my IBS issues.  I have decided when I reach the one month mark I will reintroduce my one daily serving of yogurt.  I am looking forward to having my overnight oatmeal back once I reintroduce greek yogurt as I can eat it wherever and don't need to warm it. I find myself struggling with breakfasts on the go and lunches.  I get so bored when I eat the same things over and over again and that seems to be what lunch has fallen into. This way of eating requires so much prep, which doesn't always fit with the pace of our life.  If I am home for the weekend it's not a problem at all because I can use Sunday as a prep day and get veggies cut up for the week, a batch of quinoa ready for on the go, and prep done for a couple of breakfasts and dinners.  The problem is that we go away a lot on the weekend, which leaves me scrambling for work lunches that week.  Luckily there is a cafe around the corner from my workplace so that if I just can't get it together I have a go to place that works with my eating plan.

My favourite meal of the day is dinner! Oven roasted veggies are a regular thing around this house.  I love nothing more than tossing veggies of all varieties in olive oil, sea salt, & pepper and roasting them at 425.  This time I did a portobello mushroom, cauliflower, zucchini squash, and asparagus.  Alongside half of a baked yam with black beans and corn tossed in lime juice and cilantro, a generous dollop of cashew cream, and a sprinkling of green onions.


Quiche is a quick one for me that I will default to when I know I can throw it together and not eat until the next day.  If I know I won't have much time to get home and put dinner together I make this the night before and just warm it up.  I have no recipe I just throw these together, and doubt I ever make it the same twice.  This time I sliced sweet potato with my mandolin for the crust.  I sauteed mushroom and spinach along with zucchini squash.   I mix together beaten eggs and almond milk and pour it over top.  I used a mix of Italian seasoning and herbs de provence, sea salt, & ground pepper.  This time I also added some black pepper chevre.


On to a couple of Pinterest recipes that have been on our table lately...
So I have an amazing husband!  One of the many things we share is a love of food and excitement to try new recipes.  We have gotten into a habit of me sending him a recipe I find on Pinterest and what appeals to him he makes.  I often stick to our usual rotation of recipes and then he changes it up with a new Pinterest recipe.  This really seems to work for us, and more often then not has great results!
Thai Cashew Coconut Rice with Ginger Peanut Sauce.  This pin has become a new fav for me!  One of my favourite things about it is that the only part you cook is the rice, so you can get it all prepped and have it 2 days in a row with minimal effort.  This will be one we have time & time again I am sure.  We did cheat on this recipe this time around as we had ready made peanut sauce in the fridge.

This week was a real score on the Pinterest recipes as this was another hit that will be a fav for years to come, Sloppy Lentils.  This recipe is one of those throw it in the crockpot and walk away recipes.  We served ours open faced on toasted gluten free Portofino hamburger buns.  It probably would have been good with a salad, cut up veggies or even some roasted veggies but I was so consumed with the yum factor the sloppy lentil was the only thing on our plates.

Pizza is one of my favourite go tos and I will put pretty much anything on pizza!  I made this one with a Kinnickinnick gluten free crust with homemade hummus as a base.  I added sauteed brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and steamed asparagus, with a light dusting of Daiya Mozza shreds, and a sprinkling of Italian seasoning.

We got home from our weekend getaway and were very hungry after spending a lot of time in the car, so we opted for a very quick dinner.   We bought a plain Daiya pizza (which has a gluten free crust), and added mushrooms, olives, spinach, & artichoke hearts.  I will admit I was a bit nervous as I think there is a fine line with Daiya where it goes from good to not so good.  If I m honest I think this crossed that line.   I would use it in a pinch, but would not seek it out. 

So I have managed to get through nearly 3 weeks on the new eating plan, getting more physical activity, and focusing on getting more grounded.  I have definitely slipped in my yoga practice, and will shift my focus to getting back on my yoga mat.  I also want to keep up with the walking. We went for a walk through the Cowichan Estuary which is a lovely walk that skirts Cowichan Bay.  Walking has been a great shift to getting more grounded & connected with the outdoors.  I feel so full and rejuvenated when I am walking in nature.


If you water the root of a tree, the whole tree is taken care of.  But if you forget the root and care only for the branches, you cannot keep the tree alive.  ~Swami Satprakashananda


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Vulnerability...

Vulnerability. Are you scared yet?  That word can bring up a lot. It feels like vulnerability has been a theme for me, first pushing against it and now embracing it.  It has been a very painful journey navigating the loss of our Amy but the beautiful learning that has come from embracing the vulnerability has been transformative.  There are still days I want to push against it, but on a good day I can practice self-compassion and sit in the discomfort.  Vulnerability to me really highlights our humanness and enhances our connection.   The moments I have felt the the most deeply connected to another have been those moments where one has shown authentic vulnerability. 

It's amazing what the power of grief and loss can do to a couple.  It could have easily broken us and I doubt anyone would have blamed us, but we used it to grow deeper in our love for each other and all that we are.  To allow our grief to be fully present and not push it away, to take the good days and the bad days as they come.  To be there for one another.  For my husband to sit quietly with me as I lay on the floor curled up and a mess of tears as I long to hold our daughter.  To be able to be together and know there is not judgment for the moments I feel anger, as I see a pregnant woman minding her own business in the grocery store and the sense of loss hits me like a ton of bricks.  My husband doesn't judge me, because he feels that deep pain just as much as I do.

I was doing okay for a while, but probably not as well as I thought.  I would bet if you asked the people I encounter in my every day life they would tell you I am doing okay even good.  Life is all back to normal right?  Well, because isn't that in our nature as human beings?  To stuff down the pain and the discomfort it brings to those around us, to hide our vulnerability and pretend everything is okay.  The past week I hit a bumpy patch, you know those waves of grief that catch you off guard and knock you off your feet.  But it had been a while since it hit that hard so I suppose that is movement forward.  I was standing in the line at the grocery store the other day thinking about the people around me in line and wondering about their lives, their struggles, and their successes.  We really do not know what other people are going through every day as they walk through their lives.  Imagine if we wore signs with our deepest vulnerabilities on them?  It would be terrifying... but I bet we would feel more connected.  We could appreciate the resiliency of those around us, sit in the wonderment of the struggles people are walking every day, and the insane amount of strength human beings can possess.

I am absolutely sick and tired of feeling like crap!  So as I continue to process the loss of Amy I will focus on what I can control and that is getting my body back to a place of wellness.  It's just a few more days until we return to our wheat free, dairy free, refined sugar free way of living and I am preparing. I am stocking up on snacks and we are working our way through foods that will not be in the house anymore.   I know the first 2-3 weeks will be the hardest, but after that it will get easier.  I am tired of feeling crappy and unhappy with my body and the weight I have gained over the past year.  When I think of when I felt my best it was when I was following these guidelines with my eating.  My intention is to follow this for 3 months and then slowly reintroduce the foods that don;t bother my tummy in moderation.  The key will be not getting carried away like I did this time. Reading between the lines is my deep love of cheese that I tend to go over board on...

A lot of what we have been eating lately have been dishes in our usual rotation.  One of my favourite soups to make is Chicken Pho.


Seared scallops with a balsamic reduction, with steamed baby potatoes, asparagus, carrots, & cauliflower.

Vegan French Dip Sandwiches have become one of my absolute favourites!  This time I did a mix of portabello & crimini mushrooms.  I am going to have to master gluten free hoagie buns so we can keep eating this minus the cheese...



We've also had a couple of change ups from the usual.  I barbecued a portabello mushroom & zucchini that had been drizzled with olive oil, salt, & pepper, steamed some green beans, and served alongside a gluten free gnocchi which had been tossed in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning and a generous helping of fresh basil from the garden.

Tonight I made pork chops which I quickly pan fried with lemon pepper, and served on top of rice with shredded zucchini, corn, black beans, lime juice, cilantro, sea salt, & pepper.

Most of these dishes will fit with our healthier eating plan which is a relief!  My next post I will share some of the things I have been re-introducing and some new products I am going to try.  Stay tuned...


Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.  Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experience that makes us the most vulnerable.  Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. ~ Brene Brown