Loads of questions lately about gluten. I love that people are willing and interested to learn about the challenges that face my eating habits.
And honestly, many times I haven't been able to answer them. I was diagnosed on Friday, but my Doctor did very little to explain except for the questions I asked, and Gwenn too (thankfully one of us was not drugged on Valium and Demerol...she asked a lot of GOOD questions!)
Anyhow, I had heard about a blog, and my friend Lisa reminded me of it tonight. I think I have found my new best friend.
Last Friday people gave me sympathies when I told them we had finally found out what was wrong with me. I shrugged my shoulders, and said I was glad to have a diagnosis and then informed them that I had lived without gluten before in the experiment phase so I know it is challenging, but I can do it, and it won't be that bad.
I. Was. Wrong.
This is hard. I am discovering that I get to second guess everything I put into my mouth. I second guess every frozen entree (which I really don't like by the way) because just because it says it is gluten free doesn't necessarily mean it is...or so the books say.
I spend a LOT of time thinking about food these days, particularly trying to figure out how to get what my body needs for daily sustenance, to try and be reasonably healthy and also enjoy my eating experiences. Is that too much to ask?
No, it's not. It just takes more time. More advanced planning, and more trips to the grocery.
I am on a new learning curve folks. It isn't unbearable, and there are tons of resources out there, it is just a lot to take in.
On a positive note, tomorrow is Cheesecake factory's 30th anniversary. In honor of that anniversary, the price of cheesecake is $1.50 per slice. Since I consider eating out to be horribly difficult I decided to not even consider this delicacy, until I took it a few steps further and found out the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake...is GLUTEN FREE!
About 5 minutes after I crawled into bed last night my phone rang, and the caller ID said it was my brother so of course I answered! (and yes, I do screen calls...sorry folks!)
He called to tell me he was at his computer sending me an email with some pictures. And he was also trying to send this, so of course I lept out of bed and turned the computer on and prayed there was a wireless connection nearby that I could "borrow."
And here he is folks. My favorite nephew on the planet. He is SO incredibly AMAZING!
(Note: And for those internet police, I do have plans on getting my own internet connection, I had a day scheduled, and canceled due to some chaos in life. I have it on my list of things to do...really I do!)
I have learned a lot today about Celiac's disease, eating gluten free, and how life is going to change.
It is overwhelming to be quite honest. I spent way too much time in the grocery store scanning labels for secret gluten in items. I have a feeling, that although it will be a little more expensive I might find myself at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods because they are nice enough to label the items gluten free so they are easy to spot.
Oh, and the bill. Easily doubled. Thankfully I most often cook for 1.
There are some awesomely helpful resources out there, in addition to buying groceries, I picked up a few highly recommended books as well.
One of the books spent an entire chapter on how gluten affects the emotions. Apparently several people who wrestle with anxiety, inability to concentrate and depression also have gluten issues. I never really considered myself emotionally unstable, but I wonder if my new lifestyle will also reveal a more content, less stressed me.
I got up early, had a friend pick me up and we went to see Doctor Pai. Who is pretty nice I would say. I then was given an IV with Valium (a first) and Demerol (not the first time) together (that would of course be a first!)
I was out within minutes, probably seconds and Dr. Pai put a little tube with a camera down my throat (another first for me.) I woke up about 15 minutes later, and got to see the sample, and then immediately fell back into that drug induced stupor of dreamy land.
After the drugs wore off enough for me to be somewhat coherent, Dr Pai explained to me that I did have signs of Celiac's Disease, which is why I have been so sick. Yay! An Answer!
Thankfully Gwenn was sitting in the recovery area with me, because I had to ask her again and again what he said. Apparently I had the same conversation with Gwenn a few times.
I will have to wait until the end of next week to see at which stage of Celiac's Disease I am at, but Dr. Pai said that knowing the stage won't really change anything, it just helps them to measure.
So I am gluten free again. And I am happy to be so, it has been a long month.
If you want to know more about Celiac's Disease, there is a handy website, it also has a list of things I can and should not eat, what to watch out for etc....
I have learned in the last month, that the worst times of day when I eat gluten is in the morning. I don' t have a clue as to why, maybe because my dinner simmers in my gut all night. Regardless mornings are the worst...so much so that I added an extra hour to my "time to get ready" the last thirty days.
Today is not exception. I have been up the last couple of hours reeling the physical pain and nausea among other things. I will say however, that I find comfort knowing that after today I don't ever have to feel like this again.
Have you noticed how pain sometimes seems like less when you know it is going to end, or when it has ended? Maybe that is why my sister can say, "it was easy" after all she has a beautiful baby boy in her arms. Maybe that is why I say my tattoo didn't hurt, honestly I don't remember it hurting, I remember holding my breath the entire time, but I don't remember the pain, but it is over, and I don't have to do it again.
It's my last morning of self-induced gluten pain (at least those are my assumptions. that it is the last morning and that it is gluten.)
Gwenn called me this morning. While I was sleeping through the exhaustion from my week of traveling she remembered it was my last day of Gluten and thought maybe I should exit the gluten life with a bang!
Note: I have my testing tomorrow, and while there hasn't been a formal diagnosis, if the last month has anything to say it appears that gluten is the problem. In order to get accurate test results I was told to eat wheat/gluten every day for a month up until my testing tomorrow.
So, we went to Maggiano's and had a gluten feast. Bread, Coke (which has gluten), Spinach Salad, another salad, fried zucchini, pasta, more pasta, and of course cake and tiramisu. Yes we were gluttonous, but it was "family style." It was some terribly good food, full of gluten, and let me tell you, not only am I full now, but I am already feeling the gluten pain. We had loads of leftovers, I only came home with one box though, as the only thing without gluten was the spinach salad.
My brother called me around 2 pm today to inform me that it was official, I was an aunt, and that my nephew was doing well, as was his mom.
Connor Van McKerring took only 5 hours to make his grand entrance!
His 7lb 3 oz body is rumored to be adorable, even though he has his father's nose! All 19 inches of him is healthy and strong. The last time I spoke to his dad (my brother...btw...that is strange in itself!) Connor had eaten and was sleeping.
The entire family is happy, getting to know each other, and answering the never ending ringing phone!
I talked to Shane today. He said that Gracie (their 3 y/o daughter) seems to have recovered from Typhoid. He was happily surprised when he pulled up and saw her playing in the front yard with her siblings and friends today. Apparently it was a rough several days, but today was the day when she returned back to normal!
Thanks for praying, keep praying for them!
And thanks for praying for the Haiti group. We got back late last night, it was a blast. I will be sure to post more stories as time allows in the next couple of days.
Apparently my nephew is going to follow suit and make a grand entrance when he arrives at a hospital in Corpus Christi, TX tomorrow showing Hurricane Dolly that she is no contest. I mean really, a Hurricane? You gotta come up with something better than that to sway a McKerring arrival.
Yes, we McKerring's love drama. And yes, this aunt is incredibly excited! I am thrilled for my brother and sister in law. They are going to be awesome parents, and I will be his favorite aunt!
Let's talk customer service. I got a bill today for some tests I had a few weeks ago. None of them were covered by insurance, so I called to find out why. Which meant calling the insurance company. Then the testing company. Then the doctors office. And I am grumpy now.
One thing I have found incredibly annoying since I returned from Tanzania is automated telephone operators. American Airlines has one I have heard way too many times, and apparently my insurance company, and testing company have the same one. The voice is eerily the same, and the groaning in my soul shows up in the same manner.
As I sit and answer questions by pressing a keypad button, or by verbal response, the tension rises and I get more and more annoyed. Although I generally am very kind to the person who eventually answers the call, it is very hard to do so after talking to a computer for 5 minutes and then having a statement on repeat while I wait.
Is it really helpful for the representative to have the automated response answer for them first? Cause they really ask me the same questions once they get on the phone. All of the things I enter with the keypad are again asked and verified when the call is finally answered by a person.
I guess, in my mind, I think good customer service includes a person answering the phone. I really don't mind being on hold, as long as I get to talk to a person.
As for my claim. I am getting the run around. Welcome to the USA Pam, where health care is available but is also costly.
Thanks for letting me whine and ramble. It was amazingly helpful.
My brother (who will be a dad by the end of the week) is awesome. I rave about him often and really, consider him to be not just a big brother, but a friend. I am thankful for the relationship we have.
My brother encourages me to do things that I would normally be intimidated by doing. He has always challenged me to follow dreams, and do things I wanted to do, regardless of how silly it seemed to other people. When I wanted to move to Africa, he was fully on board. When I came home, he again was right beside me. When I have fun adventures, he laughs and enjoys them with me, and when things are rough, he cries with me too. I did a few things this weekend, that made me think I had to call him right away. I heard his voice when I was staring off the rocks thinking I was nuts for climbing up there in the first place, and I have to admit, I thought of him the entire 15 minutes I was in a little 6 seater plane. I thought of how awesome it would have been to have him enjoying it with me. Oddly enough, we both encourage each other to do crazy things, but never get to do them together.
I love my job because I get to be an encourager, I get to get people involved around the world, I get to love kids who might otherwise be forgotten, and I get to live out my heart's cry to stand up for the poor. I have to admit though, that when I get to live my heart, I also get to find some adventure too.
My cliff jump.
My 6 seater airplane ride from Jacmel, Haiti to Port au Prince, Haiti. It was AMAZING to fly at between 3000 and 4000 feet through the mountains.
Yesterday was an indescribable. We were able to dedicate the land and celebrate the amazing Gift that God provided for HCH with the kids, Danny and Leann and the Haitian Church that has been praying for this for as long as the dream was in existence. It was an incredible high. It was a fun Haitian/American event, that will always be remembered.
Afterwards we headed back to the house and unloaded, prepped for dinner, well really Gwenn prepped her awesome Pasta Mangine. Then we took a little road trip.
We took the road, to a smaller road, to the point where the car could no longer go, and went further on foot. We walked through a "forest" of banana trees (not like any "forest in NC!) and then we came upon a little shack rented by Lucy and her kids.
Where we heard a story all to familiar here in Haiti, a story of a mother fighting to keep her children alive, but is unemployed, and losing hope. Her kids are malnourished, she is exhausted, and they feel very alone. Just another view of why we believe so strongly in our partnership with HCH.
Pray for Lucy, and her kids. Pray for employment, or an opportunity for micro-enterprise for her to be able to provide for her kids.
Yesterday I said I would get some pictures up from today. The internet connection at the hotel isn't letting me do so. You might have to wait until after I get back. The suspense will be good for you.
Today I stood where homes will be built for future families with Haitian Children's Home.
Families made up of kids who otherwise would have been sold into slavery, prostitution or lived in the streets.
But instead, these kids will be caught singing and dancing and playing soccer in their living room and front yards, and soon to be awesome soccer field in the corner of the property.
I watched the current kids in the home play a mean game of soccer on their make-shift field, and on the inside melted as I thought about another 140 kids. Another 140 lives that would be allowed to live fully alive.
Today was an awesome day. We took a drive to Basin Bleu where we saw some AMAZINGLY beautiful parts of Haiti, and I jumped off a cliff, and it was way scarier than it looks. Just ask Stephen and he will agree.
The most beautiful part of the day for me though, wasn't the amazing waterfall or the beautiful hike or drive to it, but instead it was watching the kids in the home be loved and treated like kids...because really, that is how kids should be treated!
I had some great pictures of the day, but the internet is not allowing me to upload them. It is way past my bedtime, so I will try to get them up for you tomorrow.
Tomorrow I am excited as we get to visit the land that Crosspointe helped HCH purchase about a month ago. I get to hear the dream and walk on it too! It's pretty awesome. I stand amazed.
Last night I sat at a table and ate dinner with Magdalene on one side of me:
And Tina on the other.
And this morning as I sat on the balcony reading, taking in the view and listening to the crashing waves I was floored by the vision of HCH. These two lovely little girls are in a family. They have a mom, a dad, and lots of brothers and sisters, and they have home, not just physically but in their hearts. They eat dinner at a table together, they do chores together, they play and watch movies together, and yes, I even saw a little bit of sibling rivalry going on (but just a little:)
It is quite a thing to realize that the kids living with Danny and Leann would have a remarkably different life if they weren't in this home. Some would be slaves. Some would live on the street. Some would probably be into drugs and alcohol. Some might already have their own kids that they couldn't afford to support let alone themselves. All of them would be broken hearted and without hope.
It is an awesome thing to sit at a table with the kids. I have a better understanding of God and his picture of redemption, healing, and restoration.
If you read my blog you know that about a month ago Danny and Leann Pye unexpectedly lost their 3 year old little boy Jabez. We had a tombstone for his crypt that someone had graciously given them. I called the airline on tuesday to ask if we could carry it on so that it would not get broken in transit. They said no, that even though it was just a 2' by 1' slab and was beneath the weight requirements it could be "used as a weapon" so we had to check it. I then asked if I could check it in a plastic box, verifying that it would be acceptable even though there was a box embargo. They said that if the box opens like a suitcase and has hinges then we could take it.
So we check in and the lady says we can't use the boxes. I ask about the tombstone and the airline manager on duty says he will get us a waiver to carry it on! We buy three duffels from the airline and move everything from the three boxes and finish checking in. We are thrilled as we walk to security because we are able to carry the tombstone (which was the original desire) and we are off to Haiti!
Security won't let us through with the tombstone. We pull all of the stops and sympathies and stress the importance of this item getting to Haiti. The airline manager comes to help and says we can put the tombstone in one of our boxes and he will get an over-ride...WHAT?!?!?! Except our boxes were taken by the friend who dropped us off and we had 15 minutes until we boarded at this point. The airline manager is somewhat devastated at this point, he feels for us, recognizes the importance and offers to take one of us to a storage room to see if there is a "bag that can be borrowed." Stephen heads to the inner-workings of RDU and calls to say there isn't anything. We were crushed. Crushed actually doesn't describe it. Really, we felt of all of our stuff this was the most important thing to get there. We call Nick and he comes to pick up the tombstone, and we board.
That was the last and only hitch of the day! We arrive in Haiti and I have to admit, I was giddy but also it was oddly and unexpectely familiar. This country I had never set foot in smelled, looked and felt like my last home. It brought up some emotions I didn't know were there, and I found myself comparing everything...which might have been an annoyance to some of my traveling companions.
We had a blast this afternoon getting to know the kids, we laughed, sang, and giggled some more, mostly because I know very little Creole. I can say about three phrases...not nearly enough. I have found however, that my Swahili is fully there in my brain. I am fighting the urge to bust out the swahili magic and see if it works here. I am sure it won't.
So then I squash the swahili, and my brain goes to the next option, spanish. And come to realize I still have that there too. But it doesn't work well here either!
And I have to say, I am incredibly impressed by what I have seen and experienced so far. The next few days are going to be awesome and I promise, I will be better at taking pictures, I didn't even pull out the camera today.
Haiti is awesome. I am honored to be here. I look forward to sharing more with you.
At 4:30 tomorrow morning I will meet Gwenn Mangine, Stephen and C.C. Claybrook at the church, transfer all the bags to another vehicle and head to the airport to catch a plane to meet these guys:
Finally! I cannot tell you how excited I am to meet Danny and Leann and their 20+ kids! I only get to stay for 5 days, but we are gonna jam-pack each of those five days. Not only am I excited to visit for the rumored fun to be had with the kids, but also to get to know this ministry as much as I possibly can! It is important that I know the ins and outs in order to help Crosspointe's teams be a team that is beneficial to HCH!
I will do my best to update the blog regularly while I am gone. In the meantime, pray for our travels, our hosts, and the family left behind!
I have not taken the plunge on either of the topics I discussed in my last post.
I am in debate, and weighing the costs (financial, physical, etc.)
I mentioned a lot of reasons why I AM considering both in my previous post.
Reasons for not:
1. convenience. Let's face it, it is much easier to be a meat eater in this country.
2. relationships. I don't want to make it difficult on other people when I eat in their home. So in all honesty, if you had me over and served meat, I would eat it without complaint.
3. The gluten factor. If the testing I am going through on June 25 shows that I have Celiac's disease or a gluten allergy, then I will have to cut it out for good. Cutting out gluten is hard enough, I don't know if I can feasibly cut out both without losing my mind. If I have Celiac's disease I will have to cut out gluten and dairy...
4. There are random days, when I do want a hamburger.
5. Lazyness. Let's face it, it is much easier to watch tv when I a tired than it is to read a book.
6. Friends. I LOVE hosting. Friends and their kids. Without a TV, I am afraid my house will become not so visitor friendly. I am thinking though, with the cost of a TV, I could put that cash into some awesome toys and games and throw them in the closet. Who would have thought of playing?!?!
7. I don't want to be difficult. I don't want to make another persons life more complicated because of a decision I make about mine.
These last two, are really the biggest hurdles for me. Hosting and being hosted. I want others to want to come over, and I don't want to be "that guest" who stresses people out when they invite me over for dinner.
And. I said it before, I will say it again. These ideas are not because of moral convictions, ethics, or animal rights. They are mostly just be knowing myself, and trying to do what I feel might be best for me.
I have been debating two somewhat controversial ideas lately. They aren't life-threatening or highly controversial, but I am sure they will raise some eyebrows in some circles.
1. Becoming a vegetarian.
2. Not putting a TV in my apartment.
So before you all stone me, call me names, or put me in that "she is one of those weird Christian's" category, let me explain myself.
The first idea: Becoming a Vegetarian.
First, let me say that this one, has little to do with moral values, or ethics, and it isn't a political statement at all. It stems mainly from the fact that I don't really like meat, and well, I don't trust what hormones etc are put in meat, and I don't want to spend money on meat. I love all things vegetable anyhow, so it seems to be a win-win idea for me. Why spend money on meat I don't want to cook? And why eat it if I am questioning what is in it? And, lets be honest folks, meat is pretty expensive! Mom and grandma were pretty shocked by this decision, they didn't complain one bit though about the food I prepared them over the weekend. For those of you close, I don't expect you to alter your lives because of my new meat-less life choice. Since my decision is not one based on morals or ethics it really doesn't offend, and I haven't really gone full swing, and don't know if I will. I still eat eggs regularly, but I know where they come from and I know they don't have anything "extra" added in! This rambling is going no where.
The second idea: The TV-less apartment.
This is likely the choice that will get the most attention. I feel it is probably pretty un-American to NOT have a TV in my apartment. This also, is not a decision based on morals or ethics, but based on knowledge about my personality. When I have a TV, and Cable (which comes free with the apartment) I become accustomed to spending WAY too much time in front of it. I lived for two years in Tanzania without a TV, and life seemed to open up in new ways. I read more, I learned more, I slept more, and I realized that I didn't lose anything by removing the TV. I will add a caveat that with the option of watching most shows online, I don't really need to have a TV because if I really want to watch something, I can catch it 24 hours later online, for free.
Where I am on this debate at the moment:
TV's are expensive. Yes, friends loaned me one, and yes I whole-heartedly appreciate it. Although it is still in the corner and remains unused.
TV's remove the opportunity for conversation with guests. I noticed this weekend that mom, grandma and I talked more and interacted more than normal. There wasn't a movie to watch or a show to keep us busy. We had to interact with each other and it was good!
There are two times in life when I think owning a TV would be beneficial:
1. Girl's night. What girls night doesn't have a good girl movie?
2. When I am sick on the couch. Movie's are a treasure when you are sick, but really, how often am I sick on the couch? Rarely. Hardly worth the cash.
So yeah, shoot me. I of course am still on the fence with both of these ideas, but I am leaning in a direction so far. I have stopped buying meat, and I will not buy a TV at this juncture in life.
Your thoughts? Your fears? Concerns? Ready to put me in a "she's a weird one" club. Go ahead, I can take it.
My brother and I pulled out the big guns for Mothers' day this year. We purchased mom a plane ticket to North Carolina. Yes, we know Mothers' day was months ago, but we thought it would be good if she came after I moved into my apartment.
Little did we know that Grandma would want to come too!
So the last three days I have been hostess and entertainer! And yes I put them to work a little bit too, there are still things to be done in this apartment. We jam packed Thursday, Friday and Today with the Farmers market, visit to work, trips to Lowe's, Target, grocery, flea market, Foster's Market, the German place next to Foster's Market, tons of card playing, and yes I snagged them into helping me hem and hang curtains! I paid them for their work by making breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am so happy to be back in my kitchen!
It has been a fun trip, and I must admit I am learning to treasure these times more and more. Before leaving for Tanzania I didn't take advantage of time with family nearly enough, these days I recognize its value, and try to make the best of it. We had some good laughs, some great conversations, and some down time (I know it is hard to believe, but we did.)
They head back to Indy tomorrow, then I have a few days to make final preparations for my trip to Haiti at the end of the week!
Thanks mom and grandma for visiting! Thanks Matt for helping to get them here! I don't remember whose idea it was, but it was a good one!
I first saw it on CNN. Here is the Youtube link to an amazing story. I wonder what the world would look like if we all sold half of what we had and gave it away. Yes, I know, they still have more than a lot of us do, even with half of their possessions given away, but still...
I read a lot of articles online. Friends have loaned me a tv, but in all honesty I haven't plugged it in in fear of it sucking the life out of me. But, everyday I read a montage of stories, new articles and personal opinions about life in the rest of the world.
And I read books with friends.
And I am ruined.
I have to admit I have a really good life. I have a comfy apartment, with more square feet in my bedroom than most people in the 3rd world have for their entire home. I have running water. I have air conditioning, a dishwasher, you know the list...you have it too. And I am ruined because I don't know how to rectify my cush life, with the disease, malnutrition and global crises going on in the rest of the world.
And although I know full well that I am exactly where God wants me to be, I still at night, find myself feeling incredibly guilty when I crawl into my bed with freshly laundered sheets, extra pillows, and the knowledge that even my most difficult challenges tomorrow don't even compare to the challenges of Mary, Mama Jackson, or Tedi.
And then I feel guilty.
And then I get out of bed and write blog posts, that really don't make me feel better, but for some reason, this confession might help me sleep better tonight.
My "American way" is uncomfortable when I consider the ways of the rest of the world.
How do you feel? What keeps you awake at night? Are there kids in Haiti whose faces have ruined you and caused you to think differently about "the American way?" Or maybe its the face of a mom struggling to feed her child in Afganistan. Or the wounds of a man in Iraq who also wants freedom. Maybe it is the war plaguing Sudan. Or maybe, it is the homeless man on the corner of Highway 55 and Corvallis in Durham.
And I must go on, and ask, at what point do we take action? At what point do we listen to that place in our hearts that feels ruined and accept that my ability to live "the American dream" directly impacts the lives of others, and that because I have the opportunities I have, I can give opportunities to another.
Last week I had looked over my shot records and noticed that all vaccines were current except my tetanus shot, so I called and asked for a nurses appointment to get the shot. Well after Jonathan and Adrianne's trip, (we have the same Family Doctor) I was told I needed to come in.
**sidenote: the events of Jonathan and Adrianne's trip were atypical in all meaning of the word, and yes mom, dad and big brother Matt, I will be ok!
So I went in, and I have to say, Dr Bloom is awesome so I really don't mind having to go in, and the fact that his nurse is from Kenya and speaks Swahili is worth the $20 co-pay. I got some good swahili practice, and low and behold I didn't need the tetanus shot, but to be on the safe side I still got stuck with a needle to make sure I am immune to Hep A. Apparently some people get the vaccine but aren't fully immune when it is complete.
So I got stuck anyhow, but was talking in swahili the entire time, and learning about where I can buy flour to make ugali and where I can go to church "African Style" and learning that there is a community of people from all over East Africa living here in the Raleigh-Durham area.
And still completely unrelated...Steve shared this video with me today, and it cracked me up. The out-takes (also found on youtube, are also hysterical!)
So I was up and down last night. Even with the antibiotics I still feel quite awful. In the middle of the night I was lying in bed with the chills and yes, I was audibly whining, and wished someone would come take care of me...but that is not the reason for this post.
As I was lying there, I heard snoring. NO JOKE! I live on the top floor of my building and I rarely hear anything from downstairs, or next door even, except for last night. I laughed as I thought to myself that it must be miserable to be sharing a bed with that person. Quite possibly more miserable than this nasty cold is making me feel.