Everything Has Changed

Stained glass at St. Nick’s OF St. Nick.


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here.

There are many reasons. The most important one is that nearly every aspect of my life has changed, and I dare suspect for the better.

Also I’ve been working on a short new book that will be out soonish, so watch this space!

The first thing that changed is that my boyfriend of the past three years moved in, which is actually not something that I wanted, but made sense. It has been a blessing despite my many objections. If you’ve known me long enough, you know that things I object to frequently turn out to be blessings whether I like it or not.

The second thing that’s changed is where I attend mass. I now go to Saint Nicholas—not because there is anything particularly wrong with Saint Thomas, aside from its location.

As you know, Saint Thomas has been my spiritual home for more than four years now. I have made some of the best friends I’ve had in my life there, and I love Canon Davies. I was confirmed there & I know I am genuinely loved there. But I also have fibromyalgia, which is a fact I kept forgetting, hurling myself into projects, volunteering for every damn thing, and generally making myself physically miserable.

The discovery of another AngloCatholic parish not three minutes from my house was nothing short of a miracle. I had heard about St. Nick’s before, from not only my friend Robert, but also St. Thomas itself. Father Michael used to be assistant priest at St. Thomas, so the transition has been fairly seamless.

There are some distinct differences. St. Thomas has Dr. Jeffrey Parola as Master of Music, a 100 year old organ, and acoustics. The music is en pointe. St. Nicholas’ musical choices are both simpler and much more diverse, taking cues less from classics and more from what will resonate with the largest number of parishioners, who speak both Spanish and English.

I have found this to be as equally moving as, say, Durufle’s requiem mass. During Holy Week, St. Nicholas had a lovely singer who was mixing English, Spanish, Latin & opera (which I think was in Italian; I don’t know because I was sobbing). And there was a violinist as well as a pianist. If you want to immediately tap into someone’s heart, you play a violin!

The simplicity of some of the music at St. Nick’s makes for some rather magical spontaneous musical moments from the parishioners. During Maundy Thursday, we had a couple of chants that inspired improvised harmony from a few, including Father Michael. I can’t begin to describe how moving that was.

There are a lot of families attending St. Nick’s, too. Encino is more suburban than Hollywood, so it is delightfully common to hear little boys whisper in Spanish or English during mass, or see little girls burst into tears because they want to be crucifer this week, or hear kids running around the playground outside. 

My first visit was Ash Wednesday, and a precocious little boy who normally attends the Spanish mass said to me “You have a dark cross on your forehead!”

I replied, “Do I? Yours is very light. It’s probably because you’re young and haven’t sinned as much.” He smiled. His mother laughed.

Unsurprisingly I have already been recruited to do things. I started attending at the beginning of Lent, and by the very end, the Easter Vigil, I was already lectering. The beauty of this arrangement is that St. Nick’s is so close that attending & volunteering are no problem at all. I haven’t missed any work since attending St. Nick’s because I have not once gone into a full fibro flare.

Which brings me to change number three: my job. Quite by the grace of God, a writing gig dropped in my lap, and I now work from home following and writing up news stories. This is pretty much exactly the perfect thing for me at this time in my life. The salary, benefits, and people are amazing. Plus the clients I’ve served over the last seven years can now be my friends. It’s a win/win!

And when I’m in pain, I can still work because I don’t have to worry about driving or sitting in one position all day. And I learn something new every day. Ask me anything about the special election in Kansas’ 4th district. Go on! Ask me!

God is good, He is risen, & life doesn’t suck. I pray the same contentment for you all.

The New Rule

I have a new rule regarding exercise & fitness that I made up based on my experiences today:

If you can’t Beyoncé, then Betty Page.

Look, I have fibromyalgia & because I can’t Beyoncé like I used to, I am a chubby girl. But I need to exercise & move because that actually makes fibro hurt less. I’d also like to weigh less so that my fibro muscles aren’t carting around so much chub. I have gone the Beyoncé route with a fabulous trainer who had me doing HIIT & I lost 30 lbs in 4 months. Ridiculous rapid weight loss. Amazing. I looked fantastic.

I was also constantly injured. This is not my trainer’s fault. This is me being a dumb ass & not expressing my limits. This was me not acknowledging limits. This was me going 7/11.

Today it began El Niñoing all over Los Angeles & rain is pretty much garbage juice for fibromyalgia. It’s the pressure change plus the cold & the damp. If you have any arthritis in you at all (& my hips are a mess; thanks, huge boobs!), it is triggered by the damp & that makes the fibro worse.

Thankfully my sister & her boyfriend got me a Hurry Cane for Christmas. This may seem like a ridiculous thing to get a person like me if you are one of those people who only sees me at parties or out dancing. I’d like to remind you that you only see me like twice a year. 

The Hurry Cane is amazing because I can bust it out for a few hours, take some of the stress off the affected muscle or connective tissue, & then I feel fine. I feel fine.

My new dilemma is that I was also gifted a Fitbit Flex for Christmas by my attorney, & I am a competitive asshole with a fitness instructor cousin in England who constantly invites me to step count challenges. I am intellectually incapable of resisting a challenge. If you challenge me to a thing, it will become my goal in life to 0wnz0r you, even if that goal is unrealistic or possibly dangerous. Challenge me to a duel & see what happens to you, which will probably end with you driving me to the hospital.

So here I am, hobbling about in the monsoon with my Hurry Cane, puttering around work, the Jiffy Lube, & the Ralph’s, & not wracking up many steps. THIS IS TORTURE. I am watching everyone blow by me & I haven’t even met my my modest step goal. I am seething with rage. It is cold & wet & flooded outside.

Then I remembered that I own, on DVD, Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away The Pounds. Let me preface this by saying that I was the girl who took kick boxing & did Tai Bo & did Susan Powter’s Stop The Insanity & religiously attended step aerobics all through college. I took 2 hour dance classes. I jogged. I worked out with a celebrity trainer & ran around with kettle bells.

But when I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I could barely walk 2 minutes without curling into a ball in pain. So I got myself Walk Away the Pounds.

I put it in. I didn’t need the cane. I hit & then exceeded my step goal. I took a shower with my Philosophy Sparkle Holly Berry stuff (thanks, Mum) & got into bed. 

I could not Beyoncé, but I could Betty. Betty is better than nothing. Betty is better than a lot of things.

So if you can’t Beyoncé, Betty. And if you can’t Betty, eat a cake, light a cigarette, & call your ex. Now you’re Adele*.

*Don’t be Adele.

Cheese Continues to Be The Answer. Also? Bacon.

  
My experimentation with items from Trader Joe’s continues to satisfy my every cheesy, gluten free, grain free need with this green bean casserole kicked up a few notches to five thousand & twenty on a scale of 1-100.

Let’s make it!

Preheat your oven to 400 & get out the following:

1/2 bag of cleaned & trimmed green beans

1/2 package of Just Chicken

4 oz bacon cheddar

That’s it!

Take an 8×8 roasting pan & layer the green beans, then the chicken, then crumble the cheese on top. Put in the middle rack of your 400 oven for 30 minutes & voila! Makes two servings adding up to the following nutritional benefits & 322 calories (per one serving):

   
 Some prep notes:

If you’re like me & have fibromyalgia, or some other neuromuscular thing like MS or what have you, or just have weak hands or are lazy, I don’t chop on bad days. Sometimes a knife is truly dangerous in my hands, & some days it’s like an artist’s brush. But today There Would Have Been Blood.

So the reason I spend a little more for fresh-yet-pre-cleaned green beans & Just Chicken (as opposed to chicken that isn’t already cooked) is so I don’t have to use a knife. I can tear it with my hands if I need it smaller. Or smoosh it, depending on my level of dexterity. Something to think about.

The most important thing is that this is amazing & has 9 net carbs. NINE. But it has no potassium, so figure that out somehow with your other foods.

Make it & post your mods below!

Everybody Be Propelled Through a Hurtling Vortex, Now!

C&C Music Factory probably didn’t have synesthesia or migraine with aura in mind when they paid an obese woman to sing “Let the rhythm move you” (& then filmed a super skinny chick lip syncing it because the general public have no idea how diaphragms work).

At this very moment I am recovering from a migraine that woke me at 4AM this morning, unfortunate as I fell asleep after midnight. It was also accompanied by the usual sense that the world is blurrier than usual & the desire to pop out my right eye & hurl it with full force at the wall. There are also other sorts of hurling.

Sometimes all I can do in the midst of it is put something black over my head & shove ear buds in my lug holes. This may seem counterproductive to some of you, as noise can exacerbate migraines. As I also have fibromyalgia, I have to distract myself from the exaggerated pain or I get a little suicidal. Because it’s bad, & it shuts off my ability to reason. So I have to block out all light, but to keep from being bored & focusing on pain, I listen to music. It is very carefully selected music, as tunes I normally adore in wellness drive me batty in sickness. There will be no “Uptown Funk” or “Fly On The Windscreen” today.

Just now I was listening to “Synchronicity II” by The Police & had the sensation of moving rapidly backward through a tunnel during the “many miles awaaaaaay” bit at the end. As I am also nauseous, this was not as fun as it sounds. I am now trying to sort out if feeling like you’re moving with music is another thing that comes under synesthesia, or is just a basilar migraine happy fun time thing.

I also saw a man standing over my bed during Aha’s “Minor Earth Major Sky”, but I realized it was just a man shaped shadow sculpture, which is a thing I see during migraines. Sometimes the walls melt, too.

Meanwhile the cats continue to vigorously wash my elbows, as they feel this helps somehow.

One of You! One of You! Or “How I learned to Stop Worrying & Loathe the Crush”

Yes, you stupid, spiteful, hateful “friends”…I am now playing Candy Crush. You probably sorted this out all on your own after receiving 97 pitiful pleas to help me open Chocolate Mountain or Fudge Ravine or whateverthehell it is.

“You elitist prig!” you laugh/scream like a drunk Wicked Witch of the West. “You said you’d never play. Not in a million years. Not after 4000 Facebook requests, not after every game on Earth had died & gone to Game Purgatory like so much Sega Genesis.” And now you swirl your bourbon in your glass & sneer at me over your smoking jacket or ACDC t-shirt or whatever, because you’re a prick.

Fine, you told me so, I broke down, “One of us,” all that jazz. But why? I imagine you asking, because I’m naive enough to think you care.

I’ve been very sick. As y’all know, I have fibromyalgia…even wrote a meandering journal booky thing about it (which can be purchased here (yes that was totally subtle! You nailed it, KJ!). Weather changes are super bad. October is hard on me & April or May are, too. Coupled with some mild food poisoning that sent me into major flare & I was susceptible to my friend Quan’s Candy Crush invite.

Why Quan? Why Quan, indeed. Probably he is Satan. But also there’s this thing with Quan–a churning competitiveness unmatched by Southern pageant mums or astronauts qualifying for space walks. It’s like if Quan is doing anything, I have to do it better, & I know the reverse is true, isn’t it, Quan?! You are Q to my Picard, Moriarty to my Holmes, Hordak to my She Ra. I must best you!!!

*cough*

Anyhow I was sick & I started playing.

I imagine we all have the same reaction to The Crush, at first. “THIS IS BEJEWELED. DOES NO ONE ELSE SEE THIS? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!” You are also off put by the old-timey turn-of-the-century salad-days look & electronic soundtrack.

Then that freakin scary voice says “Sweet!” “Tasty.” “DELICIOUS.” I’m pretty sure the MC in Hell sounds like this. Equal parts child molester & Top 40 DJ, this voice sounds whenever you do something that scores a lot of points.

Additionally, the game crashes (at least for me) randomly and then the bastard takes one of your five lives you only get regenerated every 2 hours. If I try to send lives to my FB friends, CRASH. If someone sends me an email during play, CRASH. If a Romanian orphan sneezes in a cave half a mile beneath the earth, CRASH. Lives lost, never to be returned.

Yet an hour later I was still playing, cos I was on a roll.

Hating every minute of it.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see hard candies glistening in layer after layer upon fucking jelly. The game never makes me hungry, because I find hard candy repulsive.

But I live for the click.

You know what I mean.

It’s kinda more of a cluck. Cluck.

I’m only writing this cos I’m waiting for lives to regenerate. Also I’m pretty sure it’s preparing us for Chinese communism.

HEY DON’T YOU JUDGE ME. I saw you, back in the day, playing Farmville like farming is fun or something. How is that a game? Farming. Geez.

Anyhow shut up.

Almost Prep Free Lazy Ass Real Food Chicken Vegetable Soup

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Not only is this recipe a lazy as hell, but I will lazily post pics of the recipe, because I’ve been having celiac reactions & fibro pain. Absolutely everything in it was purchased at Trader Joe’s (except the coconut oil, as I was out & had to borrow), but you could easily do something similar at Whole Foods or even a regular supermarket:

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The only thing you need chop is the chicken!

Briefly heat the coconut oil until it’s in liquid form, then add the mirepoix. Once softened, add the chopped up chicken (half inch slices are sufficient) to brown a bit. Add the broth & bring to a boil. Then add the vegetables, add water to cover, reduce to a simmer, & leave until it achieves the crispness/softness you desire. At the very end, add the mustard. You’re done!

This makes 8 generous servings & here are the nutrition stats per each:

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So yeah, you can have seconds. If you want more salt, you can always add some sea salt while the chicken browns.

I’m using this soup to heal up after a particularly nasty celiac/lactose incident. I already feel better; I hope you do, too!

(Sorry, I can’t be funny when I spent the whole last 3 days no more than 30 seconds from a loo.)

Lazy Ass Mexicanish Chicken Kinda

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In my quest to simplify from-scratch foods for the chronically ill & terminally lazy, I have come up with One Pot Mostly Healthful Chipotle Chicken Thighs. You can boast of this as “from scratch” despite the fact that you do virtually nothing. It’s also a great way to add coconut oil to your diet (to shore up your nervous system & support your thyroid) without trying to figure out how many recipes you can make that taste like coconut.

On a good day when you can leave the house, purchase a package of chicken thighs. There’s usually 5 in there. I use thighs for stuff like this because the extra fat allows the meat to fall apart in a tasty way, rather than chicken breasts, which shred into low fat shards of rubber.

In a 2 quart saucepan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil on highish. I promise by the time you’re done, you won’t taste it.

Squish the thighs into the oil (don’t burn yourself). It doesn’t matter if they don’t all sit on the bottom because they will shrink & you’re going to mash em all up anyway. Salt the top with sea or kosher salt. When you think the thighs have browned a bit, turn em over, squish em again, & brown the other side. Salt again.

Now get out a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. These can be found in the ineptly titled “Latin” aisle in your grocery shop or even more cheaply in an actual Mexican mercado (which I realize you may not have in the Midwest). Open it & dump that sucker in there. Reduce the heat to medium low & leave it for like an hour. You may want to come back & stir it during commercials. Make sure it’s simmering & not boiling. When it’s done, & you’ve given it a good stir with something sturdy, it’ll look like the above photo.

There, it’s done!

You can serve it over brown rice, pintos, corn chips for a nacho situation, or like I did, which was to put a couple ounces in two corn tortillas with a dab of plain Greek yogurt & some reduced fat cheddar…

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…like so. In this incarnation you’re getting 27 grams of protein.

If you’re feeling less lazy or achy, chop up some scallions, cilantro, & kale for a fairly healthful salad. If I were serving this to company, I’d add a couple tablespoons of organic honey during cooking (unless they too were watching their sugar). The peppers caramelize fairly well without a sweetener, though, so it’s not necessary.

Clean up: this part kind of sucks for the weak & achy. Once you’ve emptied the pot into a container, & while the pot is still hot, fill it about a quarter way up with hot water & a squirt of washing up liquid. Let it sit while you eat, then fill it with cooler water & scrub away. Alternately you can let it sit until all the crunchy gunge melts off.

Enjoy & tell me how you serve this chicken so I may steal your lazy version for achy days.