August Gratitude

August has slipped away and we are finally into spring! Before I can celebrate the joyous arrival of that lovely season, though, I want to talk about what I was grateful for in the final month of winter.

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to do this.  I ended August on a bad note, with a solid two weeks of pain that eventually got so horrific I was forced to take a week off.  It’s always super depressing that happens, because you start questioning the effectiveness of your treatment and eventually spiral down into deciding that nothing will fix you and you are doomed to be eaten alive by your own uterus.  It’s hard to be grateful in those circumstances and it has made this list a little harder to complete.

Nevertheless, grateful I am and grateful I will continue to be.  Here’s what about.

1) Having a warm home

I used to volunteer in a men’s homeless shelter overnight in winter. You’d sleep on the ground in the church hall we were given for it, inside a sleeping bag. Even with my cosy sleeping bag, it was chilly. Of course, I only had to do that one or two nights a month. For the men that utilised the shelter, they had to sleep in those conditions or worse every night.

Burning Firewoods
Image description: a wood fire burning in a brick fireplace.  

Australia can get cold at night. Really cold. Dying of exposure is a possibility. Each winter I am grateful for four walls and a roof, a warm bed and fluffy pyjamas.  I am glad that my pets are also safe and warm around me.

2) Wonderful work friends

As I noted in July, our team grew again, and I’m delighted that our new additions are, like my existing colleagues, smart, capable, hard-working, kind, hilarious women that I can have a good laugh with even whilst we are working under heavy pressure to produce good stuff. With or without these ladies, my work would be interesting, but they make it delightful. People really do make a workplace.

3) New suit

It’s red. It’s fabulous. It was on sale. Enough said.

Image result for review australia aries jacket
Image description: a blonde white woman wears a black dress with flowers printed on it and a dark red blazer with a waterfall front.  This is the jacket from my new suit.  Image and jacket from Review Australia.  

4) Blue skies

You know those windless winter days where the air is still crisp and cold but the sun is beautifully warm and the sky is a perfect rich blue without a cloud in sight? Australia does those days well. I love them, and the end of August gave me plenty of them.

5) Gorgeous sunsets

The sunsets really started to get pretty in August. They’d be gold at the horizon, fading up through pink, into violet, through all the shades of blue. The city skyline and the hills around were silhouettes perfectly against it. It was all just super pretty.

6) Two straight weeks of work

Sure, I ended August with a horrific flare-up and the two weeks leading up to them involved a fair amount of pain, but I managed them at work and I achieved good stuff.

7) Age of Empires

Image result for age of empires
Image description: computer graphics showing some short wooden towers and walls on either side of a path.  There are trees and cliffs to their right.  Further to the right is a stone house and a stone tower, looking over the coast line.  In the very blue sea is a dock and three little ships.  The text across the picture reads, “Age of Empires II: HD Edition.”  

 

I got my first copy of AoE in a box of Nutrigrain. It was great. My sister and I soon acquired Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. We were thrilled when Age of Empires III came out. It’s fun, it’s pretty, you get to fight the French. I went on a bit of a binge during August and enjoyed not only the game, but the nostalgia too.  There are many different nations to play as and against, each with their own distinct characteristics and style.  Also exciting: apparently there is going to be an Age of Empires 4 released next year.

8) B12 spray

Image description: a white spray bottle with a blue label that reads: B12 Liquid.  

I take a LOT of vitamins. Between the IBS and the endo and the various deficiencies, I have to swallow a lot of tablets. Not only is a sublingual spray a more efficient way of absorbing B12 (particularly important for vegans), it’s relatively tasty and it is one less pill to have to force down your throat.  It’s actually a big relief for me to find a way to take this important supplement without having to fight nausea to do it.  I use this bad boy: https://www.discountepharmacy.com.au/bioceuticals-b12-spray/

9) Tofu

Maybe it sounds like a silly thing to be grateful for, but I really am.  It’s such a versatile and delicious food.  It’s really quick to cook and it doesn’t cause me digestive issues.  It’s very nutritious, with plenty of protein and surprising amount of iron for a such a pale, flabby-looking food (I always associate iron with dark colours like kale or spinach).  I particularly like it as a scramble (crumbled into a frying pan with oil and whatever herbs, spices and vegetables I fancy) or fried in a coating of salt, pepper and flour.  Yum.

10) My parents

Once again, my parents helped me out during my week of sickness.  My mum came out twice, brought me some groceries and did some of my laundry, and my dad came out once, drank my tea and then had to leave because he’s allergic to my cat.  Having help with the chores went you can’t stand is just the biggest weight off your mind – not only does a cleaner space make my mental health better, it relieves the pressure on me and on my husband, who of course otherwise has to pick up the slack when I’m sick.  Even just having company makes a big difference – being home sick is a lonely, isolating experience.  You feel a bit unloved and a bit useless.  Company helps relieve that.

 

What were you grateful for in August?  Anything amazing happen?  Did you have to struggle to find the silver lining in the clouds?  Let me know in the comments.

July Gratitude

TW: body image, weight gain

Can you believe we are already in August?  Some people have said that they thought this year has moved slowly, but for me it has absolutely raced by.

I’ve been slow in posting again this month due to continuing health problems – some endo, some of a more sinus-y nature – but I have plans for the months to come and some drafts saved and ready to roll.  For now, though, it’s time for me to engage in that important monthly practice – gratitude.

1)  Scuba

Bawley Point20 June 19 .jpg
Image Description: beautiful Bawley Point.  The sun is shining in a vivid blue sky above an even brighter blue sea.  There is a small sliver of creamy beach in the background, topped by dark trees.  In the foreground is rocky, grassy ground, and some big rocks with snorkel gear on them.  

I did it!  You may remember that at the beginning of the year I said that I had three goals I wanted to complete.  I wanted to finish the Old Testament (did that last month), learn Arabic (not progressing well), and  get Scuba certified.  Well, I finally did the latter!

We did some training dives in a pool over one weekend, then headed to the NSW coast for the second weekend and did our qualifying dives at Bawley Point, near Bateman’s Bay.  It is a beautiful spot to dive, and we had a lovely weekend for it.  The weather was crisp and clear, but not freezing, and the sun shone all weekend.  And under the water – so many fish!  We saw literally hundreds of Australian mado (little black and white stripey fellows with yellow tails), several Port Jackson sharks, a crested horn shark, two massive bull rays (I kid you not, these things were wider across than my car) and a sea turtle.  It was absolutely magical.

Also, I’m now a PADI certified Open Water Diver.  Yay!

2) Reconnecting with a friend

I did the diving course with a friend I haven’t spent much time with for a long time.  He was friends with my husband for years before I met him, and when I asked on facebook for people to do the dive course with me, he put his hand up.  We had a great time.  He is super into science and really enjoyed the technical side of diving, whereas I was just, “ooh, fish!”  We both loved it for different reasons, and had some really good D&Ms on the road to and from the coast.  I love getting to know people like that all over again.  Moreover, he’s just a really great, kind, good-hearted person who is lovely to be around.

3) New colleagues!

Two new people joined our team this month.  Love them both already.  Interesting and fun women.  One of them bakes.  Top marks.

4) A bit of body positivity

I haven’t had the best relationship with my body this year.  I gained a lot of weight at the beginning of the year when my Zoladex went all wild on me, and I’ve struggled with body image and self-hatred so much as a result.  Most of my hate has been directed at my thighs.  However, in learning to dive, I had to wear a wetsuit (side note: getting in and out of a wetsuit is a WORK OUT).  Underneath that, you can’t wear board shorts or anything (I normally wear these cute little swim shorts from Landsend, or a swim dress).  I had to wear my once piece, thighs out.

Women's Swim Shorts with Tummy Control
Image description: the lower half of a white person wearing black shorts in a swimsuit material.  The shorts are just a little shorter than mid-thigh.  I think they are the perfect length – more flattering than board shorts but still giving a little more coverage than just a one piece.

You know what?  I felt fine.  My thighs are a perfectly acceptable size (if somewhat glaringly white) and the exercise forced my to just embrace my body.

Sure, the confidence sort of vanished the next time I tried to squeeze into some of my work clothes from last year and realised that they no longer fit around the thigh, but it felt really good while it lasted.  I think I would feel comfortable doing it again.

5) Extra Skincare

I’ve been really into learning more about skin care in July.  If you are interested in also learning all the mysteries of what the different acids are, what you really need in your routine, what ingredients work best together, etc, then I highly recommend heading over to Beauty Within.  I absolutely do not agree with their product recommendations, which are rarely cruelty-free and almost never vegan, as well as being super expensive, but learning about the key ingredients can help you find good skincare at a fraction of the price.

Whilst I was learning about all this, Nourished Life was good enough to have a big old clearance sale.  Nourished Life sell a bunch of green and vegan products, so it’s a really good place for me to shop, and they always have free gifts or good deals going on.  I indulged in some replacements for items I needed, and explored a new-to-me brand called Andalou Naturals.  Most of their products are vegan, and they are packed with all the ingredients I wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Sukin, but they don’t have certain things in them that I like in my skincare routine.  I will never abandon certain Sukin things, but I’m happy to introduce some Andalou.  I love a sale.  I love the pampering effect of new products.  Happy me.

6) New Prostap

I don’t love being on Prostap, but I like being without it even less. My last dose of the stuff turned out to be a dud batch and provided no pain relief at all. I now have a new batch and, whilst the adjustment period is rough, the pain relief is really nice.

7) Sunshine

IMG_8087.jpg
Image description: a slightly chubby ginger cat is lying in his side in a dusty dirt patch in the grass.  He has green eyes and is looking up at the camera.  There is netting behind him, and grass beyond the netting.  This is Max in his cat net.  

As the weather gets warmer and sunnier, my boy Max has been able to get out in his CatNet cat enclosure and have a little bit of outdoor fun. Max is strictly an indoor cat unless he is contained in some way. I’ve tried him on the leash, but he’s a bit nervy and can escape it when he gets panicked. The cat net lets him have the outdoor time he clearly craves whilst keeping him safe and preventing him from having an impact on local ecosystems.

He loves lounging in the sun, rolling luxuriously in the dirt, and eating the grass.

8) Opportunities

One plus side of working in a really big organisation is that there are a lot of opportunities to do different things or move up the food chain.  An opportunity came up recently and I have gone for it.  We’ll find out in August how successful I was!  Extra grateful for my kind colleagues who helped me talk myself up in my CV, and my wonderful supervisor for supporting me in going for it.

9) Trivia

I love trivia, but what I mean this time is a trivia night.  I’m involved in the social club at work, and we organised a trivia night in early July.  We raised a lot of money and were able to donate more than $2000 to charity, thanks to the generosity of my colleagues and our sponsors.

Although I was too sick to go myself, the team I was rooting for (my team colleagues) absolutely killed it and took home first prize.  Very proud.

10) Not dying in a car crash

Oddly specific, perhaps, but I have a reason.  The last days of July were a bit wet, and on the way to work one day my car spun out on the wet road on a roundabout.  I spun 270 degrees around and ended up facing the wrong way on the road.  By some miracle there was no one else on the roundabout at the time, although some people were waiting to come on, so I didn’t hit anyone else or the signs around it.  Some kind strangers stopped to check that I was ok, then stopped the rest of the traffic so I could get the car off the road.  My mum came out and waited with me while the NRMA came to confirm that it was just the greasy road and not my somewhat elderly car having a senior moment.  (It was just the wet road).  I was shaken and very late for work, but thankfully totally unharmed otherwise.  Here’s to safe driving and kind people!

What are you grateful for this month?

 

June Gratitude

I feel like I’ve prefaced every monthly gratitude post recently with a note that it’s been a hard month.  Once again, though, it has been.  My Prostap injections have stopped working – my doctor thinks this one was a dud – so I’ve been dealing with a solid month of pain accompanied by a really icky cold (lots of lovely mucus – yay!).

I think this makes it even more important that I take a moment to stop and think about the things this month that I am grateful for.

1)  Cake!

I successfully baked three really nice cakes this month.  One was a packet mix, so I can’t be too proud of it, but seriously, if you want a deliciously moist, rich, vegan chocolate cake, just add a can of Coke to the stuff in Betty Crocker’s Devil’s Food Cake and bake it, and voila, instant deliciousness.

I also made this funfetti cake from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken.  Unfortunately, my sprinkles vanished into the cake and just left little blobs of yellow behind, but the cake itself was delicious, and I’m really proud of the rainbow icing.  Sure, it has some holes in the bottom layer, but it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to get fancy with buttercream, so I’m proud of myself.

Rainbow Cake (2)
Image description: a violently rainbow cake with colours ranging from red at the bottom through the rainbow to purple at the top.  It has rainbow sprinkles on top and is sitting on a silver plate in a fridge.  Please excuse the shocking photography – the bright light in the fridge was the only place I could really capture the intense colour.  

My third cake was for my mother’s birthday, and was the tastiest of the three.  I used this incredible, zingy lemon cake recipe from Lazy Cat Kitchen.  I cooked it slightly too long but it still turned out really well – very soft and fluffy on the inside and soaked in sweet lemony flavour.  Definitely a “make again”.

2)  Basketweaving

My workplace celebrated Reconciliation Day last month by holding Aboriginal basketweaving classes for employees, taught by an Aboriginal woman who travelled out on country to learn the techniques and is sharing them with us.  It’s really relaxing and it’s nice to have something to do with my hands when I’m watching tv or listening to an audiobook.  I’m trying to make a basket for Max, which is a little tricky because he is a) fat and b) prone to eating the materials I use, but I’m pushing through.

3) Max is ok

IMG_7842.jpg
Image description: a fluffy ginger cat with green eyes and a slightly angry expression.  That’s Max.  He’s not actually angry, he just has a resting bitch face.  He’s so chill that today he let me pull him down onto his side and rub his tummy for a good ten minutes.  For many more Max pics follow my instagram – OffBalanceSpinningTop.  

Last month I wrote about how Max had to have dental surgery.  He’s all recovered from that now, but gave me a scare this month when I found blood in his urine.  After a rushed vet visit and some medication, it turns out he probably just had sterile cystitis, and is back to peeing normally (i.e. not on all my nice blankets) and no longer in pain.  That’s a huge relief.

4)  A good boss

Chronic illness is terrifying, particularly when you love your job and want to earn the respect of colleagues you admire through hard work, but have to take off unreasonable amounts of time due to situations like my current Prostap issue.  I am still super stressed about it, but less stressed than I would be if my amazing boss wasn’t so good about this whole poopy situation.

5) Fulfilling a goal

One of my three goals this year was to read the Old Testament.  I have officially finished it.  I’ll admit, it mostly wasn’t thrilling.  The prophecy books (Isiah, anything after Jonah) are mighty confusing unless you have some reference material to explain what the heck they are talking about.  Lots of doorways getting measured and people dying of famine and then everything getting better and people being happy again.  I really enjoyed the books with strong female characters, though – Ruth, Esther, the early parts of Judges – and some of the books, like Lamentations, have some truly beautiful imagery.  There’s a lot of good stuff in Psalms and Proverbs, too.

Anyway, I’m proud of finishing it.  I’m on track to fulfil Goal 2 (getting SCUBA certified) next month, even if I’m doing really poorly with Goal 3 (learning Arabic).

6) Pretty dresses

Image result for review australia chateau floral
Image description: a beautiful brunette girl (not me, although I am also a beautiful brunette girl) in a burgundy dress with purple and pink flowers on it.  This is Review’s Chateau Floral dress, and I love it.  Photo by Review.  

This month has been all about the comfort clothes.  Maternity jeans, turtlenecks, flowing trousers.  Today, I realised I haven’t worn an item of clothing just because I love it for a very long time, and that makes me sad.  So, I made an effort, grabbed one of my absolute favourite dresses (pictured above), and wore it just because.

7) Clean water

It’s a simple thing to be grateful for, but it’s so important.  Clean water is one of the greatest guarantees of health (in terms of freedom from things like cholera, anyway, if not from endo) and is vital to sustaining life.  It also tastes good.  If I’m thirsty, I can just turn on the tap.  People in Flint in the USA still don’t have clean water after years of complaints, and that is in the very developed world.  People in other parts of the world have to walk for miles to get water, and today I literally bathed in litres of it.  A few weeks ago, I went for a swim in a 50m pool.  That’s more water than some people will ever see.  Even in Australia, animals and people suffer every time there is a drought.  Clean water is something we cannot take for granted or be sufficiently thankful for.  Clean water is life.

8) Assassin’s Creed

Image result for assassins creed 2
Image description: the torso and head of a man in white Renaissance clothing with a red fancy sash and silver belt, a brown cloak and two knives sticking out of bracers on his wrists.  The text says: Assassin’s Creed II

I finished the first Assassin’s Creed game some time last year after literally years of procrastinating, and I loved it.  This month, after slightly less time, but still a lot of procrastinating, I finished the second one.  The first one sees you play an Assassin in the Middle East during the Crusades; in the second, you are in Renaissance Italy.  Both games are heaps of fun and absolutely stunning.  Seriously, the detail that goes in to creating the huge cities that these games are set in makes them worth playing even if you don’t want to stab lots of bad guys and save innocents from corrupt guards.  I so badly want to go it Italy now.

9) One year

I’ve been writing this blog for one whole year now.  I’ve been up and down with it – it’s really hard when I’m not well, because my motivation and creativity take a big hit – but I have stuck to it.  I have more than 100 followers, and I’m super grateful to each and every one of you.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I see someone like an article.  Please keep on liking and sharing, and let me know in the comments if there is any particular content you want to see more of.  I want to keep this blog relevant to the experiences of people with endo, adeno and chronic pain, and it really helps me to know what people want to read.

10)  Today

Sundays are really difficult for me, because I spend a lot of time stressing about how I’m going to get through another week, and how exhausted I will be when I have to get up at 6am, and whether I’ll even be able to fit into my clothes tomorrow.  Today I woke up especially depressed and I kept getting worse.  However, I managed, largely thanks to my husband, to pull my socks up (actually I wore tights, but whatever), put on my pretty dress and do my face and hair, leave the house, breathe some fresh air, buy the vitamins I’ve been neglecting, and eat some good food and drink some delicious hot apple cider.  It was really, really hard to actually do that, but I did.  I’m proud of that.

 

What are you grateful for this month?  Have you baked anything delicious lately?  Share in the comments.