Guacamole Day

avocados, guacamole in a molcajeteGuacamole is made with the delicious avocado.

Which is derived from the Spanish word aguacate.

Which comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word ahuacatl.

Which was used to make ahuaca-molli, avocado sauce.

And from there, you finally get to dip into the guacamole.

Avocados were a staple in my house when I was growing up. There were always avocados on our table. Sometimes there was even guacamole.

My mother didn’t need to mash them up for my father to eat them. She would merely slice them up and serve them as a side dish with his enchiladas, or whatever else was on for dinner.

When she did make guacamole, she made her own salsa. Chopping and dicing, and then grinding the ingredients in her molcajete (Nahuatl mulcazitl), a stone mortar and pestle. I watched her closely to make sure she didn’t add too many piquin chiles, which she conveniently picked from the bush that grew right outside our kitchen door. Those colorful pea-sized peppers packed a great punch and transformed whatever food they were added to into a four-alarm fire in your mouth.

I steered clear, but it didn’t seem to bother my dad. I guess it’s an acquired taste that I never acquired. And though I acquired the knowledge to make my own salsa, I didn’t inherit the need to.

Avocado in molcajete. Aguacate en molcajete

Down to one as usual.

Store-bought mild salsa works fine if I choose to mash up the avocado in a ceramic bowl with a spoon. You see, my molcajete only serves to hold my aguacates. It’s not used to make guacamole or even to serve it as some Mexican restaurants do. It’s mainly an artifact, a period piece in my kitchen that I have a sentimental attachment to because it reminds me of my heritage.

When I can’t think of what to have for lunch, I end up grabbing an avocado. It’s rich, buttery taste is scrumptious in a rolled up, warm corn tortilla. Avocado enchilada or avocado taco? Who cares, it’s nutritious and delicioso.

Some recipes you might find worth trying. I think I will try the second one.

Enjoy your guac!

 

 

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Mine Eyes Have Seen

Books

My latest finds.

I was browsing through a bookstore the other night. The very act of walking through the aisles and by tables full of books, while being free to linger my hand lovingly upon them, is almost erotic to me.

A bookstore is like a candy store full of beckoning treats, or a bakery full of savory scents luring you inside. Thrilling delights for the eyes. Everywhere.

Books have been my companions, my buddies, always there to fill my needs. I coveted and collected them, all types finding a happy home with me, until the usurper’s (RA) unwelcome arrival forced me to give up reading hardcovers.

Their unyielding weight hurt my hands and my wrists, and robbed me of my pleasure. How could I escape into my story if the pain formed a blockade around my brain?

A self-admitted book addict, I switched to strictly paperbacks to feed my passion. They were softer, more pliable and lighter, and they didn’t hurt my hands or wrists as much. But on some the print was a little too small, and my bedroom lighting suddenly seemed too weak. I found it a strain to read myself to sleep at night, as had been my ritual since forever.

The magic of Kindle came to try to save the day. I could enjoy my stories once again at any time of day or night, albeit with a tiny light attached. If I held it in a certain way, I could avoid having the glare bounce back from the screen directly into my eyes. But still, I missed the feel of a book. I longed for the aroma of its silky pages. And I missed having those actual pages to turn. I’d enjoyed flipping back to reread a passage, or forging ahead for a sneak preview of what was to come.

A backlit smart phone followed. I could read without any other lighting even though the screen had shrunk right before my eyes. My husband berated me for straining my eyes by reading on that tiny device. He solved the problem by surprising me with a tablet one Christmas, nine inches of backlit screen with adjustable fonts. Awesome.

A second, more powerful tablet followed that one. And then one New Year’s Eve morning, half the screen went partially dark. I wake up as I go to sleep, reading. At first, I tried blinking the blur away. I wondered if perhaps I was still asleep, dreaming that I couldn’t see all the words. But no, I really couldn’t.

I learned that I’d had a “stroke in the eye.” There was a blob of blood obstructing the vision in my right eye. The cure they said, or rather the treatment, was injections. Injections into the eye. Now I’m no coward when it comes to what life has thrown at me so far, but a needle in the eye? Come on, man!

Nevertheless, I psyched myself up for it, or rather, them (plural). I mean, how can I live without reading? In the past sixteen months, I’ve had four shots and, no, it doesn’t get easier the more you do it. You don’t get the hang of it and it doesn’t become second nature. It’s sort of like dealing with RA, whom I should probably blame for all this. After all, I blame everything else on it.

But let me tell you, thank goodness for modern medicine, and thank goodness for doctors who stay razor sharp. The blur is almost gone, so tiny as to be insignificant.

When this first happened, I went and got prescription readers. Till then I’d resorted to the cheapie drugstore kind. I had a pair in every room of the house. At that point, the optometrist could only do so much for my right eye.

Last month, I went for my checkup and got a new pair of glasses, a progressive intermediate and reader. Neither the OTC glasses nor the old readers were really helping with my computer work.

Well, night has turned into day. I can read real books again. Because not only has my vision improved, but so have my hands and wrists. And during this window of time, I’m grateful that I can indulge my passion again. That I can browse and touch and feel, and accumulate to my heart’s content.

 

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Life Happens

Remember the saying life happens when you’re making other plans?

So true.

I have mentally blogged many times in the past month. So many little life episodes that I have subvocalized as if I had a tiny, invisible stenographer sitting on my shoulder. Alas, I do not, and as our nursing mantra goes: if it’s not written, it’s not done.

A lot has happened.

We had another anniversary, 35 if we go strictly by the calendar. That’s a freakishly long time. I remember seeing a documentary about George Harrison after his death. His wife of 23 years was asked how you make a long marriage. Her answer was striking and it has stayed with me. It’s simple, she said, you don’t get divorced.

So, so true. In 35 years you collect a lot of reasons to get divorced over.

But you also collect, or can collect, many reasons to stay together.

This year we celebrated by going to D. C. I’d always wanted to go, just to soak up the history. The place is so alive, you can inhale the adrenalin. It has a vitality that defies explanation or description. In short, we are going back.

We decided to drive, so that gave us four full days in enclosed proximity. If anything is going to drive you batty in regards to another person that will certainly do it. But the whole trip left us with nothing more than pleasant memories.

Except for one other thing. Within five days of our return my husband was complaining of UTI symptoms. I confess my initial reaction was: Been there, done that. But his being a man meant that his symptoms were far more complicated and unendurable than anything women might go through.

Of course.

We saw a kindly urologist. I’ve rarely run across a doctor so personable and I’ve run into many. Along with giving him some prescriptions, he suggested we buy a couple of books. One, he said, is called How Not to Die by Michael Greger.

I admit I laughed when he mentioned the title. Advice on how not to die seems kind of facetious. Snake oil, anyone? I mean, does anyone live forever? Does anyone want to?

Its subtitle, however, is: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. And I am nothing if not a sucker for anything that has been scientifically proven. So we shall see what it’s all about when I delve into it, because I know he won’t. He’s symptom-free now so that means it’s all so yesterday.

The book will have to wait its turn, though. Right now I’m knee-deep into the Konmari Method of tidying. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Her initial advice: “Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely.” And she advocates keeping only the things that “spark joy.”

Hmm . . . . That reminds me of the woman who said she got rid of 175 pounds all at once.

She got a divorce.

Cherry blossoms

Me among the cherry blossoms

 

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Single-tasking

Without Prednisone for over a month now, my hands feel a little plumper. That sounds better than a little swollen, doesn’t it?

And a little stiffer. They look the same, but they don’t feel the same. And they don’t act the same. The Prednisone made them more limber, yet I still had some trouble with the digital multitasking of yore.

Today, my hands work better performing one gripping task at a time. Hold a pen, or hold the phone, or hold the notepad, or hold the remote, or hold a glass. If I try to manage several items at once, one invariably hits the floor.

My heart stops when it’s my phone that crashes on the tile. How can anything be so expensive? But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay in exchange for pouring less medication into my system on a daily basis.

I wasn’t content to nix only one med, though. I told my rheumy I also wanted to wean down on the Methotrexate and he asked me a funny question.

“Can you afford it?”

I noticed the sudden perplexed look from the medical student shadowing him that day. One doesn’t consider paying for less medication as something one cannot afford. But I knew exactly where he was coming from and I didn’t hesitate.

“Yes,” I said.

“Because when I’m stable, I have to leave things unchanged,” he said.

He, unlike me, has to show up to work at his office every day. He cannot afford a flare.

But I can. My office is at the other end of the house. I don’t even have to get out of my jammies to show up at my desk.

I don’t want a flare, but I’m willing to take the chance. So I’ve been counting out nine tabs, instead of ten.

If worse comes to worse, I’ll go back to ten tabs a week. If a flare comes calling, I’ll chase it away with a Prednisone hit. After all, we’re not divorced, only separated.

 

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Meaningful Usage

What has meaningful use done for you lately?

I first heard the term when my son was trying to share what he did at work. He’s in nursing informatics and I was curious. It’s a field I had spent maybe five minutes considering.

What he said came across as gibberish to me. I’ve been retired from nursing for almost a decade. You don’t forget what you know, but it’s a dynamic profession and things change rapidly.

Though I didn’t quite grasp what he said, I didn’t question him about it. I just let myself enjoy the moment of conversation with him. I figured it had nothing to do with me anyway.

Well, color me wrong.

This past November I had my usual rheumy work-up done prior to my visit. Other than having my arm bleed out because I lugged in groceries immediately after, nothing out of the ordinary happened and I gave it no further thought.

In January, I received a bill from the lab. My insurance had denied the claim.

Remember the chasm that Indy has to cross in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? There is no visible bridge, but he has to believe that there is so after steeling himself, he puts out his foot to take the first step into nothingness.

That’s exactly how I felt when I picked up the phone to speak to my insurance. When I finally got to a live person, I was told they’d denied it because they did not cover treatment for obesity.

What?

They also mentioned coding for high white blood cells, pneumonia and some other diagnoses, but by then I’d tuned them out and was patiently waiting for my turn to speak. Obviously, I’d been mistaken for another patient.

But, no. There was enough evidence pointing to me. Talk to your doctor they said.

I called the office and he himself called me back. At 8 p.m. The only time doctors ever called me back at such an hour was when I’d been on shift. I was surprised by the late callback and I was even more surprised that it was him.

I quickly explained what was going on. The man has RA as well; he needs to not work so late.

“It’s Meaningful Use,” he said. “We have to put the weight down and then they go by the BMI.”

My son’s words rang in my ear: “Now we have what’s called meaningful use.” I didn’t realize at the time that the words took capital letters.

Before I spoke with the doctor, I’d been a little mad at the nurse practitioner who, per the office, had added the “obesity coding” to the lab order. We’d never discussed my weight, or any issues related to it.

I felt that I had been diagnosed (misdiagnosed) behind my back. I’d been betrayed, judged, found lacking, or rather overabundant, and worst of all, billed for $250.

But now I understood what had happened and my options raced through my mind:

Option #1 – Refuse to be weighed.

Option #2 – Refuse to let the office add the “obesity coding” to my lab order

Option #3 – Get my BMI within normal limits.

Option #4 – Do all of the above.

At my next appointment, we discussed the problems and options we faced in dealing with this new facet of going digital. I well understand the hiccups that come with changes, the fits and starts of instituting a new way of doing the same old thing.

BMI is not the most useful way to determine weight status. Muscle weighs more than fat, so that alone skews the numbers. With a present BMI of 29, I fall into the “overweight” category.

The BMI formula takes into account your height and weight. Per last year’s bone density study, I am still 5’ 2” in height. The office has my height listed as 5’ 1” tall. That one inch is probably what threw me into the obese category. Shorter = fatter.

What would be truly meaningful is if the whole picture of the patient was taken and not just a couple of numbers. My primary, documented diagnosis is Rheumatoid Arthritis. And part of the treatment for it is the use of corticosteroids, which tends to affect weight.

Of course, that is not the only reason I am carrying around some extra baggage, but still, it seems unfair, or at least not well thought out, to devise a system that singles out one statistic and ends up penalizing a patient for their very illness.

Perhaps this quirk in the system can be revised or overwritten. At this point all it’s done in my case is cause confusion and aggravation, plus adding to the workload of all involved.

My doctor is now working his magic to retroactively code the November lab order appropriately so that the insurance will cover it. For this latest appointment, I crossed the chasm in good faith that he had indeed revised the coding for February’s labs. I suppose I will find out in a few weeks whether or not the bridge materialized.

 

 

 

 

 

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That Which is Me

I usually don’t focus on how sick I was. Mayhap I’m hoping that if I “forget” it, I won’t have to relive it.

But I was. Sick, sick, sick. So sick it made me sick to my stomach. You know, holding-the-bile-down kind of sick while you try to function with every single cell on fire, and without letting on how vilely ill you truly are. I even withheld the truth from my rheumatologist. The real one, not the “fake” one who let this disease land me in the emergency room, excuse me, emergency department.

I’m fine, I would say, not letting on that it took every drop of willpower to lift myself off of the waiting room chair, which I’d been locked into for hours, and walk as unobtrusively as possible down the hallway to the exam room. I refused to show that every step was agony. I was a pretender, pretending that nothing was wrong with me.

The lab numbers told a different story of course. Your blood cannot lie as well as you can. But, hey, everyone has an individual tolerance for pain, a pain threshold all their own. Therefore, he accepted my story that it hurt here and there, but not too bad. When in truth the pain was so bad I wanted to run down the street screaming, except that I physically couldn’t do that.

And then, everything changed. I don’t really know if it was gradual or all at once. But I’m pretty sure that what jump-started the process was me taking a breather from my job. That’s all I thought it was. I’ll just rest a few months, I thought. Those months turned into years, and still counting.

And then my kid graduated and went off to college. Check! Last kid launched.

And then, I started to actually pay attention to me. I was no longer a pain-wracked automaton. I was a person, a person with needs and wants. And my biggest want was for the pain to go away. I was feeling better, thinking better, the brain fog was all but gone and I realized that I wasn’t going to continue to go downhill and die.

I was going to live! So I began to celebrate, with spirits. No, not with THE spirits, but the spirits that come in a bottle. In the Before, I could count the drinks I had during a year on one hand and have fingers left over. I went from being a near teetotaler to having one drink, maybe two, in a single week.

And that numbed the pain even more. Not the orange juice with the dash of vodka or the glass of sweet white wine, but the thought that I was letting myself enjoy life, whatever life was still left to me.

And that loosened up my inhibitions, voilà, to the winds. I grabbed my pen and I began to write, and write and write. Millions of words either gushed forth or were purged from my lowest depths. A catharsis, or an enema for the soul, who’s to know?

All I knew, know,  is that my new-found energy and sense of well-being was the biggest high money could buy. I exercised, or maybe exorcised, my bane away. I don’t know what produced more endorphins, my daily workouts or my renewed sense of self.

Or perhaps it was the anxiety seeping out of me,  along with the steady flow of blue ink from my pen, that made the difference. Who needed a couch when I had my blank page? I found me on those pages, and though my writing did tend to lean toward the hopeful and sentimental, it did sometimes take a turn toward the naughty.

But nice.

DELECTABLE

 You look so sweet,
so smooth and slick. I
wrap my hand around your
stem. My fingers grasp and
gently tug that which is you to
bring you close and firmly wrap
my lips around your rounded rim
whose velvety feel brings forth
ambrosia the gods themselves
were not allowed. I take a sip
inhale deep the silken fluid
clear as the light that
gushes forth, ever
so sweet, blankets
my tongue. I
swallow
deep
and
lick
my
lips
so’s
not
to
lose
a
drop
of
savory dew, that which is you

 (© 2011 Irma A Navarro)

 

 

 

 

 

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Beginnings and Endings

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, I made the mistake of making my blog title its URL. Consequently, it will always be beatingrheumatoidarthritis.com, or if I don’t pay up: beatingrheumatoidarthritis.wordpress.com.

I liked the idea of beating this thing. Beating it to a pulp. And I did, almost. But, it has a way of rising from the depths, so . . .

One way I describe this dis-ease to family and friends who don’t understand how it works is to compare it to the game Whac-a-Mole. In this game, little moles pop out at random and you have to force them back into their holes by hitting them with a mallet. And you have to be quick about it.

RA works the same way. You can be going along, living your life, and then wham! a mole pops up in the shape of a swollen, reddened, painful joint. And then, you have to stop in your tracks and grab your medical mallet, before it has time to cause permanent damage.

You never know when the mole, I mean RA, will pop up. You just have to always be ready for when the roulette wheel stops on the wrong number. And you have to hope that the little rolling ball of pain doesn’t land on red. For red is the color of RA.

I’ve been wanting to change this blog’s name for a long time, and it seems like today is a good day to try something out. There are many other things I want to get done this year. Many creative things that I have been putting off for want of the perfect title, format, structure, etc. Therefore, it seems fortuitous that the Spanish word for the day today is acabar, which means to end, to finish.

Alas, I cannot finish with RA. And it’s the one relationship I would love to acabar. Perhaps one day there will be a way, if not for me, then for others. But until that day comes, I will  continue playing to win. RA/RD cannot beat me while I persevere to meet my goals in life.

I wish you all the best that this new year has to offer. In all that you do.

 

*The photo in the header was taken from our hotel balcony in Coconut Grove, Florida. 

 

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Happy Christmas

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with a little help from one of my very favorite artists.

Yes, let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.

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It’s a Boy!

image

Welcoming Baby Brother

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Trees and Time

imageThis was the peaceful, serene scene I had the pleasure of enjoying yesterday for the better part of the day. Snuggled into a comfortable rocker on the ubiquitous front porch, I absorbed the quiet and the sounds of family.

Seems everywhere I go here, I am surrounded by trees. Tall, stately trees, whether fully dressed in spring and summer or partially denuded in fall and winter.

They are like a buffer between me and reality. A cushion of sorts. Insulation cocooning me, giving me a feeling of suspension, of limbo.

And I guess I am suspended between here and there. There being home and the familiar routine of my days.

Perhaps being on baby watch adds to the feeling of being in limbo. All is ready for his or her arrival. They opted not to know the sex and that adds to the feeling of suspense.

It also adds excitement. Will I have a new granddaughter or my first grandson? I’m dying to know, but I’m sure not as much as the mom. I well remember how these last days seem never-ending.

But as I linger in the breakfast nook looking across the wide expanse of yard, the trees remind me that time does move on, even as it seems to stand still.

 

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