Thursday, June 23, 2016

Both Sides Now

Time for an earworm, my raised-in-the-sixties brothers and sisters:

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

I've always been a conservative, except when I've been a liberal. Most times I feel like a centrist, but other times I proclaim my belief in rational anarchy which is surely in conflict with my life's history as a very law-abiding citizen. Despite having been a registered Democrat while living in New York, and a registered Republican most of my time while living in Florida, since 1972 I have voted any which way that suits me, except in 2004 when I could not bring myself to vote for anybody. Some years ago I gave up on the whole political party system, and registered as NPA - No Party Affiliation. While I feel appreciably cleaner for not subscribing to any major or semi-major party, by law I am unable to vote in either major party primary, because Florida is a closed state. Essentially, I've got no freedom to choose at the primary level, and that sucks, because I think we can all agree that this cycle's presidential primaries have been critical to the ultimate shape and form for November's upcoming election.      

To complicate matters, I am trained as a lawyer, which means in relevant part that I tend to see both  sides of an argument and more importantly, can defend either side depending on circumstances. I spent my entire legal career, working hard for every penny I made, in a specialized area where the  mindset was screamingly liberal and everything I tried to accomplish on behalf of children and their  families was dependent on government generosity. I am a Baby Boomer whose opinions are aging along with my body. I am a Reform/Liberal Jew in an anti-semitic world. So to put it succinctly, I am morally and cognitively conflicted (yes, my poppets, I am having a Good Brain Day. Let me enjoy my expansive vocabulary and clarity of thought while I can.)

At this moment, ignoring some of the really big issues of the day - why I am supporting Hillary Clinton, my current position on abortion, my hawkish stance on the war in the Middle East - today's harangue is all about gun control. We need it. Follow me, now:

I was raised without guns. My father's idea of good hunting was finding a butcher who cut the thickest, best quality steaks available for home consumption. Growing up in the intensely Jewish enclave of Long Island's Five Towns, I didn't know anyone who hunted, or even owned a gun, until I met my husband. His family did both, and while I was uneasy with it at first, I grew to respect guns when properly used. I appreciated their presence in my home, especially as they were carefully locked away from anyone but my husband (and much later, my well-trained adult son.) I thought about learning to shoot and went so far as to take the handgun course necessary for obtaining a concealed carry permit, but I did not follow through with the rest of the process. For one thing, my fibromyalgia has stolen a good deal of my hand strength, making it very difficult for me to fire most handguns. For another thing, probably the biggest thing, I am still uneasy with them.

Less than 2 weeks ago, we experienced an unbearable tragedy here in Orlando. It is being called the worst mass shooting in American history, but that ignores the 1890 events at Wounded Knee. Of course, that massacre of Native Americans was perpetrated by the U.S. Government, while the shooting in Orlando occurred at the hands of a homophobic Islamist terrorist, so maybe there is a legitimate distinction to be drawn there, but whether it was the first worst or the second worst, it was horrific.

Naturally there were fingers pointed and blame thrown about, and it occurred to me that I really did not understand all there was to know - like this isn't just a Second Amendment issue, not by a long shot, and speaking of shots, an AR-15 is not an assault rifle. So I read different articles and sought the opinions of people on both sides of the argument, and briefly presided over an unnecessarily contentious discussion emanating from an article I shared on Facebook. I took care of that, smoothly.

Let me state that from a constitutional standpoint there is more at stake than the Second Amendment, but then, we've all been living with the Patriot Act for 15 years.

It was (amazingly) the late Justice Scalia who stated that "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited ..." It is "... not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose." That's from District of Columbia v. Heller, a 2008 Supreme Court case.

Wrap your head around these:

The majority, including the current administration, does not want to take away your guns.
They do want to restrict non-military access to automatic weapons.
They also want to restrict certain individuals from acquiring any sort of gun. People with a propensity to misuse the guns. Terrorists, certain classes of criminals, certain types of sociopaths, people with histories of mental illness and domestic violence, etc. Terror watch lists are therefore a good idea. "No fly-no buy" is a really great idea, but -
The vetting process takes too damn long (I'm going to withhold any snarky remarks about the FBI being consumed with non-confidential emails)
A proper background check should take as long as it needs to fully and thoroughly investigate anyone who pops up a red flag.
I see HIPAA as a major barrier to reporting and investigating mental illness claims- am I the only one?
The methods by which individuals are added to a terror watch list are deeply flawed, sloppily administered, and can violate our rights of due process.

With all that, our country is in such excruciating pain from the constant barrage of mass shootings that Something Has To Be Done, regardless of its imperfections. "No fly-no buy" should be immediately passed. We can sort the constitutional issues out later.

I guess after all that I picked a side. For now, anyway.

Still knitting:

It's hip to be square.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Sickest Trifecta Of All

As you will see below, I had a post in the hopper which I never finished, along with a couple of recipes that never got reduced to writing. I apologize, but as you probably know by now, things have gotten crazy here in Orlando.

I cannot adequately put into words what is in my mind and my heart. I lived in Orlando for 23 years before moving slightly over the border into Kissimmee, and the area of town that was hit (SODO, south of downtown Orlando) is one I have frequented often for doctor's appointments and access to Orange County Juvenile Court. Robert and I have always known that one day a terrorist act would occur in the Orlando area, primarily because of its proximity to Disney and Universal, the centers of the Tourist Capital of the World. We suspected the target would be Downtown Disney, or as it is now known, Disney Springs.

But the shooter went one step further, committing a horrific terrorist act directed at all of us "American infidels", but which also targeted a specific minority group, our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community. I also do not think it was coincidence that caused him to time the attack on what appears to have been Latin night at the club. So, as I have previously noted on Facebook, this bastard hit a sick trifecta, indulging all the hatred in his wizened little heart.

I am not going to get involved in the great political debates raging out there over the President's choice of words or the true definition of assault rifle or the never-ending battle between the Second Amendment and gun control. We have been at war for 16 terrible years and we all know who is directly responsible for this attack.

I am deeply disappointed in the quality of the investigations by the FBI regarding previous reports concerning this bastard, but right now I do not feel the public knows enough to come to any definite conclusions. I do feel the FBI and DHS need to take a good hard look at the shooter's family, but I am stating the obvious, I know.

I cannot tell you how weird - terrible weird - it feels to have my adopted hometown as the focus of so much attention by the entire world. Over the years as each terrorist attack has occurred on both American and foreign soil, the world, including those of us here in Central Florida, has turned its attention to those locations with outpourings of support and assistance. While it feels good to have that positive energy directed here, it also feels bad. We are no longer the happiest place on earth; instead, we are the site of the worst shooting massacre in recent American history.

In personal news, I have spent the last two weeks bouncing from one doctor to another, and all I can say is that once this disability hearing is over, win or lose, I don't care to ever see any of them again. Just yesterday I had one scold me because "others are much worse off than you - it's not like you have cancer" and the other scold me for going to see a specialist instead of my putting all my eggs in his broken basket. Let's just add to this mess that I have an appointment with the individual handling my disability claim, and right now I have absolutely no faith in him nor his firm. And that's enough bitching from me, except to say I hope I can make the appointment, which is in Winter Park, as the President is coming to Orlando that same day, and you can't get from Kissimmee to Winter Park without driving through downtown Orlando. And there you have it.

I have been knitting, at least when the weakness and electric shocks in my hands permit it. Very therapeutic, although my brain is still so scrambled I have had to do an inordinate amount of frogging (rip it, rip it - get it?)

This is fibromyalgia:

It takes me a full hour to get ready to leave the house. We're not talking pantyhose and eye make-up here, folks - just the basics. Tee shirt and a clean face. In the old days, I could zip through that routine in about 15 minutes. Back then I didn't have to stop every few minutes to sit down, or move to another room because the one I was in was too hot or too cold. I didn't have to turn the lights on and off because they were alternately too bright or not bright enough. I didn't have to debate the relative merits of ibuprofen or more Baclofen because I am wincing in pain. Life was simpler then.

No, this is fibromyalgia:

I am so tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open during tai chi class.  We are working through an intricate form and my feet are heading out into all the wrong directions, and my arms hurt while I am extending them out.

Then we walk outside and my right front tire is flat and Carmen and I both remember hearing a very loud noise and it seems that someone may have punctured my tire for what reason? I don't understand random acts of violence; I associate them with the pathological little shits delinquents I used to represent when I was in private practice. Anyway, I have a triple-A account, and I start to fumble in my purse to retrieve the card, and I must have looked like a deer in the headlights because the next thing I know, Tony has changed the tire for me so I didn't have to wait for someone from AAA to show up, and I'm on my way home. I am eternally grateful.

But the depression I've been keeping at bay manages to break through my feeble defenses and I'm heading into the dark places in my head where the specifics are lost in a thick gray cloud of smoke while a fibro-fog has descended on all my senses. I am suspended somewhere in the space-time continuum and now I can't sleep, even though I am so tired it hurts to be awake.

By 3 AM I am desperate so I take 2 Advil PM, but my body fights the blessed relief and it is well after 4 AM before I start to doze. And so I finally sleep, so long that my morning is lost and I am still dreadfully tired and that brings us to now. My emotions are all over the place and I do not have the strength to stand up while I take my medication. I feel too shaky to walk downstairs for a cup of coffee - I don't trust my balance on the staircase. The electric shocks are back and my fingers jerk uncontrollably while I try to scroll down my iPhone screen. It hurts to have the iPad resting on my legs while I type this, so I am putting it aside for now except to say my wonderful son got the coffee for me. It's 1 PM and I'm thinking about taking a nap.

When I was still going to work, the insomnia killed me daily. I could not choose to stay home in bed, and although I took shameless advantage of all the sick hours I'd accrued over the years to come into the office a little later, that simply was not an option on a court day, and depending on which judicial genius was assigned to our division we could be spending 8 mornings out of every 10 in court. During those terrible dark middle-of-the-night hours I would experience one long panic attack because I knew my mind would not be clear come morning. My arms ache just thinking about having to lift my boxes of files onto the belt of the screening machine. By the time I got to the courtroom ... well, never mind. I'm not helping myself dwelling on all that. Even office days had become terribly painful, because my head would not allow me to move efficiently through the stacks of papers, and all I wanted to do was crawl under my desk and sleep. It hurt to sit. My hands were practically useless operating a keyboard.

Just that my last 2+ years with DCF I fought the FMS so hard but I just kept becoming more befuddled and more ineffective.  Most of my colleagues were utterly wonderful in helping me, while a few chose to stab me in the back.

But that's okay too. Karma, baby.

Chicken Fried Steak and Fluffy Tortilla Hummus Roll-ups - another time, perhaps.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

This and That, and Then Some More of This - Mexican Chicken

This past week has been devoted to my attempt to integrate the fibromyalgia into my daily life. But ha! What a grandiose idea! Do what I can, stop when I can't. Okay, it works in theory and to a certain extent it works in practice as well, but there's the Basic Rule of Life that says "Sh*t Happens" and when it does, all my aspirations go right out the window.  

Balance Bangle

Simply put, I am seeking to achieve a sustainable balance, but that dream crashed and burned just yesterday when it became annoyingly apparent that we were going to have to groom one of our Yorkies. Romeo, who also answers to the name Puppy, a veritable Wookiee of a doggy, needed to be shaved and bathed, verily scrubbed within an inch of his life. We had the tools, we had the talent - in my next life, I think Rob and I will open a dog grooming shop - and after 2 1/2 hours on my feet, my Little Man looked positively splendid and even better, he smelled clean. Best of all, he was very happy with the results. Happy Puppy, happy Mommy, right?  

Well yes, happy but in pain. Add to that the panic attack that had been knocking at my door all afternoon and into the night, and I woke up today in something of a mess. Yesterday had its rough spots - I was fighting exhaustion and narcolepsy, and had to take a caffeine tablet to ensure I could drive to my appointment without falling asleep behind the wheel - but hope springs eternal, and in my head, at least, I made plans to get out and walk around a bit. My plans for that nice morning walk are rapidly dissipating and I am on the cusp of heading back to bed. No. I am going to put down the iPad, pick up Horatio Cane and hobble to the lakefront. Now. With my earbuds and music turned on medium-high, because it is one of those days when normal sounds are driving me mad. Cars driving past my house. Barking dogs in my house. The "ka-chunk" of the electric stapler. Mad, I tell you.

The walk was just what I needed. Clear-the-head refreshing. I never get tired of the views from the lake. And whatever was bothering me is gone for now. I can't change it, I can't fix it, and I refuse to confront the miscreants. (Now if I could just dismiss Donald Trump as easily. He scares me, more than Jimmy Carter, more than Barack Obama, more than Bush 43. God bless America and protect us from the crazy guy with the bad spray tan. Amen.)

Some of these pictures are from last week's walk/photo shoot:

Big Toho Marina

This looks like the Adirondack chairs are sharing a view with the courthouse.

Another one of those mixed juxtaposition pictures I love. This time it is comprised of my former office building, the Berlinsky Community House, and The Monument on Monument Street.

The Monument in all its glory.

Pretty marsh weeds

The ubiquitous Sandhill Crane

"You lookin' at ME?" 
(He became a bit confrontational when he saw me taking his picture.) 

Not impressed with the current outdoor sculpture around the pond behind City Centre.  

Rusty Fish. Feh. 

For just $9500 you too can own this lovely gator sculpture.
 (Gives new meaning to the insult "dumber than a box of rocks".)

Earlier in the week I actually did some cooking, starting with Paula Deen's recipe for Mexican Chicken and making a few changes to spice it up. Unfortunately, I rather carelessly deleted all my notes of the recipe changes. I seem to recall using Campbell's Poblano and Queso soup instead of the cheddar cheese soup, and using an extra can of that (so 4 cans of soup instead of three), and I also drained the excess liquid from the canned tomatoes. I spread refried beans on the tortillas, which were extra large and fluffy. The beans were a new product from Bush, something about smashed pintos, onions and bacon. I layered the tortillas and chicken filling (for the chicken, I field-stripped a rotisserie bird from Publix) with slices of pepper jack cheese and finished the casserole with cotija and shredded sharp cheddar over the top. Baked it at 350 for 45 minutes. I think I added 2 teaspoons each of cumin and granulated garlic to the creamy filling and lots of black pepper. It was delicious and spicy in a good way. I think I took pictures.

I did, I did! Hope they help, but if not, just make the original recipe. It's really good comfort food.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Well, Slap My Face And Call Me Sally

After all my bitching blogging about not getting an appointment from the rheumatologist's office, I got an appointment from the rheumatologist's office. It took almost three days, during which time the doctor reviewed my request, looked at my file, and then presumably hauled out his medical Ouija board to help make the final determination. Never mind that two of those days were replete with back pain, unsteady hands, and bouts of narcolepsy. Not that I'm ungrateful - getting an appointment, even after three days, is better than a slap in the face with a wet monkfish.

Today I awoke and felt well enough to try another walk. That's Vitamin D and a bit of exercise all in one, so I headed out, driving the car to another venue lest I get bored of the same scenery. I wanted to try the northern shore of Lake Tohopekaliga, but there were too many McMansions blocking visual access to the beauty of the lake, and too many damn noisy cars whooshing up and down Neptune Road. I did get a few interesting pictures while soaking up some rays, and it was hardly a total loss. Next time, though I'll head for the old lakeshore, pull up a bench under the shade of a 125 year old tree, and knit.

More from the Fabulous World of Fibromyalgia:

Tip #8 from Toni Bernhard's list:

8. Be highly selective about what you watch on TV and where you surf on the web.

This is something I have been trying to do for a long time, gently easing people out of my life, or at least off my "follow" list, not necessarily because they have said or done something to harm me (although some have in the past and it turns out I am not nearly as forgiving as I once thought I was) but because I associate them with a rise in negative emotions, generally preceded by my loudly expostulating "what the f*ck!" before casting them out of my sight.  Really, I have more than enough anger and sadness and grief in my life without reacting to someone else's pain, selfishness, or abject stupidity. With that in mind, I've been doing some mad scrolling past news from the presidential primary campaigns, the last act of the Obama administration, the refugee crisis, the BDS movement against Israel, the imminent implosion of Venezuela, global warming, abused pets, twittered mewlings from William Shatner, and the NBA conference finals. I'm a person who normally loves the news in any form, but right now, I can't cloud my head with any of it. It's not that I don't care, but that I have cared too much For too long and it has cost me dearly. So I am putting myself in a corner for a time-out.

Besides my walk today, I also picked up the ingredients for Paula Deen's Mexican Chicken casserole, except I made a few substitutions and I'll tell you about them tomorrow. Although I field-stripped the rotisserie chicken this afternoon, I didn't have left anywhere near the number of spoons needed to actually put everything together and cook it. The cat and the dogs were thrilled with my chicken-ripping skills, and politely deigned to taste a morsel from my efforts, and then noisily proclaimed their approval. All this was too exciting for me, and I landed back in bed, my back propped up with pillows, and more than just a little cranky. I'm not sure if it's old age cranky, or gastric bypass cranky (food is not my friend), or fibromyalgia cranky, but I hate it.

Tomorrow I am going to follow Toni Bernhard's Tip #1, and keep a "try mind." I am going to try to do another load of laundry. Bwah ha ha.

And I am going to try to make it through my rheumatology appointment without getting snarky.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beary Beary, Quite Contrary ...

... How Does Your Garden Grow? Like sh*t, but thank you for asking.

First, meet the new self-appointed Editor of Inspiration Nation   

Yet another post-retirement project falls victim to that invisible scourge Fibromyalgia. I don't think those Japanese eggplants are edible anymore, and I don't even know where to start with the rhubarb. Perhaps the blueberries are salvageable; I should know more once they ripen. If they ripen. The weeds are overtaking them again, blocking out the much-needed sunlight. The blueberries, like me, need a daily dose of sunshine - them for photosynthesis, me for Vitamin D - but both of us are failing. My flowers up front and along the other side are doing fairly well, but I suspect they benefit from my benign neglect.  

I called my rheumatologist's office first thing Monday morning, citing a long and tedious list of symptoms which all boiled down to one conclusion: my health was deteriorating and I needed medical intervention. I guess I was expecting to be given a work-in appointment such as I would get from a PCP's office, but instead I got a royal runaround, at least it initially seemed that way to me. Since I already have an appointment set for July, the doctor has to review my message and decide if it warrants a visit prior to that. In fairness to the rheumatologist, there is probably nothing he can do for me, given the nature of fibromyalgia. Well, perhaps increasing the dosage of Baclofen, but that doesn't require an examination. In other words, I'm screwed I'm on my own.

Among those lines, just yesterday I came across an article on my Facebook feed, written by Toni Bernhard, titled 15 Tips From 15 Years Sick, which I share with you, especially anyone living with chronic pain and illness. Ms. Bernhard is a former law professor and law school dean of students who had to retire after 22 years at the University of California-Davis law school due to illness (I already feel a bond developing.) Today I decided to go with her Tip #5, Get Outside If You Can. Except for the cruise stops in Amber Bay and Old San Juan, I've had no real outside time in months. I have, in fact, turned into a Hurting Hermit (not a character in a Harry Potter novel), sort of like my Great-Grandfather, Charles Albert, may he rest in peace. Well, enough of that. I took a nice walk, with Robert's admonition "don't overdo" in my ears. To lessen the impact on my poor frail little body, I took it "lightly, slightly, and slowly" and if I live through the night, I might do it again tomorrow.

Heading out with hope in my heart and Horatio Cane in my hand

Dead snake, the very best kind

All you need are cataracts and an over-active imagination to have a TARDIS sighting 

Almost home

Until then, I'm going to do a small load of laundry (God willing), knit a bit, and post these discreet photos from the graduation in Tennessee, with thanks to our graduate's auntie for posting them.

Getting ready to walk the stage

I know her mother was watching from Heaven

Sunday, May 22, 2016

You Play, You Pay

Big sigh. I would much rather be in Tennessee today, but as the meme says "ain't got spoons for that." Ten hours driving, even with stops to rest and stretch, and I'd have to be wheeled from the car in a golf cart. But the commencement ceremony and graduation party are going to be fabulous, and I will have to get a vicarious thrill from the photos.

While my Friday started out ambitiously - I went for a haircut and then a very short walk along the old lakefront - from there I had no choice but to head straight back upstairs to my pills and pillows. Still hadn't taken my daily medication, a really dumb move on my part. Also hadn't eaten anything resembling breakfast (chocolate doesn't count) and when I finally assembled some morning edibles, it was all junk food. Crap.

While I was at the lakefront, I realized that I couldn't clearly see anything in the distance, so I blindly shot a few photos (at least the camera doesn't have cataracts). Now at least I can hold my iPhone at nose length and admire the scenery. Clever of me, albeit pathetic. I'm still waiting to hear if my insurance company will approve the cataract surgery; until then, I am stumbling around and squinting like Mr. Magoo.        

Sunday - And here we have another one of those blog posts that takes three or more days to complete.

Back when I was working, it was the petitions and final judgments that were taking ridiculously long to draft - what should have been hours became days and days became weeks. I could no longer integrate the facts provided me by the CPIs into a properly written legal document. I could no longer apply the law to the facts, because I could no longer remember the law. And I could no longer finish a full day of work - looking at the calendars I kept from the past few years, I noted a depressing number of days where I came in at an increasingly late hour and left several hours early. In my earlier years with the  Department, I worked 70 hour weeks, never needed to take sick days, and was extremely active in my synagogue's Sisterhood, published the monthly newsletter mostly on my own, and taught Hebrew school.  Damn, I was alive in those days! Even while I was shlepping an additional 150 pounds around, I was active and mostly happy. Okay, I was dealing with depression. Story of my life, literally, but being able to keep my mind and body active helped, a lot. That and a series of SNRIs. Better living through chemistry, my friends.

Saturday was worse than Friday, and now that it is Sunday afternoon I am resolved to call my rheumatologist for an appointment tomorrow because the last few weeks have been working up to this, when every moment not sleeping is bordering on the unbearable. Every cell of my body is existing at some level of discomfort. Headache, eye pain, insane itching on my scalp and ears. Then comes the muscle pain, from the back of my neck to my shoulders and then to my back, which is threatening to shatter if I try to stand up. My legs hurt, when I walk, when I sit, when one of the puppies, all of them Yorkie lightweights, rests his paws on them. It hurts to hold this iPad and keyboard in my lap (incidentally, the Zagg Pro is nothing short of marvelous.) Even my ankles hurt, and that has totally screwed up my already tenuous balance. I cling to my tri-weekly tai chi classes like I would to a life raft, but on Saturday I kept falling forward (the floor of the school, unlike that of my house is nice and flat) and I could not keep my eyes open.

The worst for me right now are the electrically charged muscle spasms that have taken over my hands, arms, shoulders, knees and lower legs. I am having real difficulty scrolling down an iPad screen, knitting a simple pattern, typing on this keyboard, carrying anything - I dropped a half-full cup of coffee while at tai chi class, and later dropped my little lunch plate, twice - no strength. I tried to do some wire-wrapping on a single charm for a bracelet, but had no strength to wrap. My hands are jerking uncontrollably just under the skin, so even when I switched to another charm, I kept dropping it and losing the jump rings. All shoved back into my closet for now, until I regain some control over my hands and my back no longer screams when I bend over slightly from the waist.

My mind has gone on vacation again, possibly cruising the Caribbean while leaving me in the midst of a vicious brain fog.  We went to dinner with friends and I could barely conduct a coherent conversation, as I seemed to have lost a good chunk of my everyday vocabulary. Fortunately they understand my problem and have gotten quite adept at finishing sentences for me (as have my husband and son.) Still, it was another in a series of scary incidents (but the food was delicious! - Sakura Asian Fusion, on West Irlo Bronson Highway in Kissimmee, a little past Celebration) and when they happen, always brings to mind the book Flowers for Algernon, and what the main character, Charlie, writes in his journal towards the end of his mental deterioration: "please don't let me forget how to reed and rite."

Like Cloris Leachman I want to end this on a high note, and since my singing is mediocre at best, let me share some very good news.  I knew part of it, but it was "family-only" at that point, but Now It Can Be Told: my niece and her husband are expecting their first child, a little boy, in October. This is the kind of news that warms my heart (without causing a reflux attack) and makes me smile despite all the doom-and-gloom I tend to write about these days. Welcome to the family, little man! Rest assured you are already much-loved.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Glorious Graduation

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

After 11 dreary days of pain, mini-electrocution, and exhaustion, I feel well enough to reconnect with the Real World. The depression is still there, but let's face it, I was born depressed. I am also dealing with some leftover anger issues from last year involving two of my doctors. Anger is too mild a word - I am furious. Mean, green, and beyond-all-reason-enraged. I want to storm into their respective offices and make a loud, nasty scene in front of a room full of patients. I want to publicly shame them for not supporting me through this chronic illness, for not knowing enough about fibromyalgia and being complacent in their ignorance, and worst of all, for not believing me when I described the pain and the mental confusion, and for refusing to realize how this had permanently disabled me. Most of all, I want not to allow the anger to push me off track as I try to normalize my day. Breathe, I tell myself. "Lightly, slightly, slowly, deeply." Just breathe.

A Happy Commencement

I want to share some very good news because, although I am unable to be at this particular event, something wonderful will be happening in Tennessee tomorrow. Fifteen years ago a little girl came into my life under the saddest of circumstances and on May 20th she is going to be graduating from high school With all kinds of honors and accolades. Her story isn't mine to tell, and I want to respect her privacy and that of her wonderful family. My part was to help ensure she remained in the loving care of that family; they did the rest, and raised her to be a sweet-natured, accomplished, and frankly spectacular adult.     

I can show you the bracelet I made for her, because God willing and the lady at the post office didn't lie to me, that package should be arriving in Tennessee today. I am proud of it, but not nearly as proud as I am of her and all that she has accomplished.          

Today I feel well enough to make a list, reorganizing my thoughts and goals. Although my lower back has gone into spasm mode while I've been typing this, I think I can manage the cooking I had planned. While my sweet husband is willing to pick up Chinese food or Jimmy Bear's barbecue or more Publix chicken and deli salads, I really feel the need to fulfill my responsibilities as the cooking member of the Rothfeld Family Team. Besides, my boys are going to be doing the dishes, which is always a tremendous help. A fair exchange is no robbery.   

Nothing fancy, mind you, and the first dish relies totally on frozen food, prepared sauce, and a crockpot. The second dish is a little more involved, but just a little. Most importantly my family won't starve and I will stop feeling superfluous, at least for a day or two.

Super Speedy Sausage and Meatball Stew

1 pound frozen Italian sausage 
1 1/4 pounds good quality frozen meatballs
2 - 24 oz jars marinara sauce
1 - 14 oz. bag frozen bell pepper and onion blend
1 - 14 oz. bag frozen Italian blend vegetables

In a 6 quart crockpot add 1 jar of sauce, the sausage, the meatballs, and the remaining jar of sauce. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Add the frozen vegetables, stir, cover, and cook another hour or more until the sausage is cooked all the way through and the vegetables are tender. Serve as is or over pasta.

One Dish Pork Loin Supper With Baked Apples and Potatoes

1 - 1 to 1 1/4 pound seasoned pork loin  
4 small apples, cored, top peel removed
Sugar, cinnamon, and allspice
A few tablespoons fruit juice
1 - 14.5 oz. can whole new potatoes, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
Garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper, dried tarragon, parsley flakes
Smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish place the pork loin down the middle. Add the apples and sprinkle with the sugar, cinnamon, and allspice.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the potatoes with the oil and toss so that the potatoes are lightly coated.  Add the salt, pepper, tarragon and parsley flakes and toss again. Add the potatoes to the baking dish, and sprinkle with some smoked paprika.

Bake in the preheat oven for 1 hour or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees and the apples are soft but not mushy, rotating the baking dish one time and basting the pork at least once. After the first 45 minutes, pour a small amount of fruit juice over each apple. Let the pork rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

I could not get the pork past 120 degrees without running the risk of drying it out, so I cut into it and checked it after 1 1/4 hours, and it was cooked all the way through. Best to use your own judgment when it comes to doneness.

I can hear you screaming about the canned potatoes. I screamed too, in my head, when I realized that the real potatoes I planned on using in this dish were deader than canasta. Ugly, slimy, fuzzy life form dead, so I tossed them into the garbage pail with the speed and precision of The Great Lebron, and reached into the pantry. Besides, canned whole new potatoes are not as bad as some canned vegetables and definitely an improvement over slimy spuds.

Mini Greek Bean Salad

1 - 7.75 oz. can chick peas, rinsed and well drained
1 - 7.75 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and well drained 
very thinly sliced onion, amount to taste 
2 tablespoons olive oil (I used the garlic-infused but regular works fine)
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt, pepper
Italian seasoning, parsley flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste or not at all

Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving, stirring occasionally. This is the mini version of my full-sized Greek Bean salad, which is made with chick peas and dark red kidney beans, The pintos aren't quite as visually appealing, but they do work very well in this little salad.

Now then - so what if my legs are starting to tremble and my lower back is developing cracks along a fault line?  I did something I haven't done in a ridiculously long time - I prepared food for my family (okay, it barely qualifies as cooking, but still ...) and as far as I'm concerned today's score is officially Cindy-1, Fibromyalgia-0. But now, please excuse me while I go back upstairs to rest on my laurels collapse on my bed.