Some days

are better than others.

Gotcha!!

I was diagnosed in 1995 with Fibromyalgia.  Back then, it was a particularly controversial diagnosis, as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and related illnesses were under intense scrutiny and evaluation from the FDA and related medical agencies.

By the year 2000, Fibro was a widely recognized, if still disputed, syndrome (a collection of symptoms with a predictable pattern, though the cause and medical specifics vary widely from patient to patient).

I have lived with constant, widespread (affecting many parts of the body) pain for literal decades (omg I’m OLD!!).  It is a part of who I am, one of the first three phrases I use to describe myself to someone who doesn’t know me:

I love life.
I cook.
I have fibromyalgia.

Given the choice, those would be the three phrases that define me…to myself, at least.  To others in ‘real life’, unless I know them well, it would change to:

I love life.
I cook.
I love fashion & personal style.

It’s funny, isn’t it, the parts of ourselves that we try to keep hidden?

Updating my Facebook status is always a challenge.  A large part of who I am on a given day, or how I am experiencing the world around me, is influenced, if not dictated by, my physical handicap.  Even when Life is going my way, I may be in so much pain that turning too suddenly to the side, or bending to pick up a scrap of paper on the floor, is enough to make me pale, wince, and turn away from any possible onlookers until the flood of painful sensation washes over me and recedes to a tolerable level.  But do my 304 Facebook friends really want to hear that?  Nah. 

My life is a rollercoaster of discomfort, and my dear hubby has adjusted admirably to its necessities and reality. 

I told him about the fibro on our first date, giving him just enough information that he understood something of its daily impact on my life without dwelling on the specific symptoms or discomfort it entails.  By our second date, he had not only remembered the name of my disability…but had googled it and asked me intelligent questions about my personal experience, diagnosis, and prognosis.

I am a lucky girl.  Luckier than I deserve.

Because I have my days.  Boy, do I.  And he loves me through them.

There are days we’ve planned for weeks in advance, to go to a museum or movie or party…and when the day arrives, all I can do is sit morosely in my bathrobe and offer a wan, fake smile when he asks me how I’m feeling.  We don’t make it to the planned event on those days.  I wince every time I shift my weight, he insists on bringing me drinks and food and pillows I don’t want, and he is so excruciatingly gentle when he touches me that it hurts.

Sometimes, on those days, it really gets to me.  What I think about most is how different his life would be if he’d married a woman without so many complications and restrictions, a woman who could reliably plan her days in advance and answer with ‘Why not?’ when asked ‘Do you want to?’

We go on a road trip, even a short one like this weekend, and after 85 miles it’s all I can do to unfold myself from his incredibly impractical, but very cute, sports car and walk like a woman in her early (okay, mid!) 30’s and not like my own grandmother with a broken hip.  Sitting still for too long kinks the muscles, you see, and I’ll have crazy, miniscule muscle spasms for the next several hours.  Just part of life with fibro.

When it gets to me…sometimes I lash out.  I want to rage, and scream, and sob at the injustice of it all.  I am a decent human being, I use my turn signal, I wash my hands after using a public restroom…I don’t deserve this shit.  And some days it pours out of me, the frustration and the anger and the confused tangle that is my heart that day. 

And he listens, and holds me, and loves me anyway.  He rubs my shoulders when I can stand it, and drops butterfly-light kisses on my face when that’s all my overwrought nerves can tolerate.

He does the major bulk of the housework, keeping the litterboxes clean and taking out the trash and loading and unloading the dishwasher like clockwork, without ever throwing it in my face or even allowing me to feel bad about my relative indolence.  When I feel like cooking (which I do as a release from the pain as much as anything else) he cheerfully chops and stirs and samples for me.  And when he sees the pain in my eyes grow too deep, he insists that I sit for a minute and take a break, and I am grateful, even while I resent the necessity.

I go to work at the luxury department store where I’m a manager, and I smile and wear heels (at least most of the way through a shift, most days!) and act like nothing is wrong.  And when I go home and show him what’s really going on for me, I feel bad, because if I could maintain a smile for a hundred anonymous customers I’ll never see again…shouldn’t he get at least that much from me?

But there are still the nights when, as soon as I make it through the door from the garage and a cat or three meets me, rubbing affectionately against my calves and purring like they haven’t seen me in weeks…I can’t help tearing up and showing how grateful I am to be home with the ones who love me, no matter what I’m feeling like.

I am a lucky girl.

And I have Fibromyalgia.

She's my favorite...don't tell the others!

Advertisements

To Recipe or Not To Recipe??

I love this hunk of metal.

Pasta sauce waiting to happen.

or…My Life as a Copycat Chef.

I started cooking when I was about 8 years old.  I remember it well; my mother patiently walked me through the steps of making baked tuna noodle casserole.

We got distracted while it was in the oven and it burned beyond saving.  But I loved doing it!!  And after that I started following her around in the kitchen, always underfoot, handing her the milk jug or butter dish before she could ask for it and asking interminable questions. 

My mom, like me, is not a measurer.  She adds what she wants to the mix until it looks like enough.  Growing up, I always wanted to know, ‘How do you know how much oil to put in the cornbread?’ And her answer was always the same: ‘Experience.’  I hated, hated HATED that answer!!

Now, trying to write recipes…I’m looking at the bowl after I add the milk, thinking…uh, that looks like about two tablespoons.  Right?  I hope. Yeah, that’s about it.’  How do I know?  Uh, experience, I guess.  Dangit, I am turning into my mother.

Between the ages of 8 and 17, I cooked dinner for my parents and me every chance I got.  Often it was Hamburger Helper or something of that nature, but I always added something and tried to make it better. 

In my early 20’s I dated a chef for a couple of years and it changed my life.  Suddenly herbs didn’t just come in a jar.  Asparagus wasn’t just something in a can.  It was possible to create a sauce from scratch, without starting with something out of a bottle or packet.

I learned the basics of chopping, and blending, and sauteeing from him.  Of course, he did the vast majority of the cooking when we were together.  Just like with my mother, I would hand him things and ask questions and help as I could, chopping and peeling happily to his directions.  It seemed miraculous, the way he could take the contents of the fridge, including a hunk of whole fish that just looked scary to me, and turn it into something fragrant and delicious.

And once he wasn’t there to cook anymore…I started doing it myself.  Trial and error, baby, that’s how we did it back in the good old days.  I had twelve favorite ingredients and I would put them in anything.  To this day, I have ‘default’ flavors that wind up in almost everything I cook: some kind of pepper (jalapeno, serrano, habanero, poblano, or Hatch), cilantro, lime juice, cayenne, worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar…these are the things I love.  Not all at once, necessarily…but you know, it does make a great steak marinade, come to think of it.

My friends learned that my home was a good place to look for food, because I would cook at the drop of a hat, hungry or not.  Sometimes the results were shockingly good…and other times we went to the Wendy’s around the corner and they teased me for a few days…until the next time the culinary gods smiled on me and their mouths were too full to tease.

Guys I dated loved it that I cooked.  It seems not a lot of single girls do, at least not in Houston.  And lots of times I cooked just for myself when nobody else was there to feed.

But after that…how do you learn?  How do you grow?  I’ve taken a couple of classes from a local adult education organization, but…I need more!  So I watch Food Network obsessively, DVRing cooking and baking shows until the DVR recorder thing’s memory is full and suddenly The History of Styrofoam Peanuts doesn’t record and the hub is mad at me.  But then I learn to make key lime pie, so it’s okay again.

And I surf recipe sites and print out dozens – no, hundreds – of recipes, and they drift in white stacks all over the house wherever I got distracted while leafing through them, trying to decide what to cook next.  They have condensation rings from being absently used as coasters.  I can tell the recipes of dishes I have already made; their clean white surfaces have spatters of sauce and drips of chocolate and splashes of red wine. 

A wide stance is important for balance while creating...

Cooking is a messy sport.

I seem to be constitutionally incapable of actually following a recipe, however.  I always think of something else it needs, or something it needs more of, or a way to work in butter instead of olive oil, or cayenne instead of tarragon (because I loathe licorice).  I know, Bobby Flay wrote that recipe, it is culinary gospel, and there is no way in hell I can improve on it.  But I try.  Like with the Hamburger Helper…I just can’t help myself.

So when I post recipes…chances are, I didn’t make them up.  Not entirely, and sometimes, not mostly.   I learned to cook tuna noodle casserole from my mom, and grilled lobster from Emeril…but I don’t do it quite like they do.  So I post my version, and hope you use it to make your own.

Happy cooking.