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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Things I can no longer ignore

It's funny how timing works out.

I've had my head in my thesis pretty steadily (and intensely) since February -- and in the midst of concentrating on the project with so much of my brain, I had to let a lot of other things on my radar remain, at best, peripheral. Which included some aspects of my health. Nothing debilitating: some skin irritation, nerve wonkiness in my hands and feet, intermittent GI protests. The last issue has been ongoing since the middle of 2009 (despite the work-up a year ago), and after so long, I'd practically gotten used to it.

But about two days before I turned in my thesis to my committee, things started to get noticeably worse. Fortunately, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor (the new one) the day after my draft was due, and her advice, after hearing everything that had been going on for so long, was to consider a food sensitivity as the culprit.

"Gluten and dairy," she said -- these were the most likely suspects. So she suggested an elimination diet followed by an allergen challenge. "Just try going gluten-free for three weeks then dairy-free for three weeks," she said, "and see what happens."

What else is a girl to do with all her newly available time?

I took the news back to my dietitian, who happens to specialize in this kind of testing, and she printed up the protocols. I figured the process wouldn't be fun, but it would be short-lived. Then I looked at the instructions.

"To make this kind of testing accurate and meaningful, you'll want to do more than eliminate gluten and dairy," she told me, pointing to a greatly expanded list of foods and food additives. "Sensitivities can occur in groups. So ideally, you'll want to test all of them."

I won't reproduce the whole catalog here. But let me name a few choice items besides gluten and dairy. Corn. Soy. Eggs. Peanuts. Tomatoes. Peppers. White potatoes. Processed and/or non-organic meats. Shellfish. Strawberries. All citruses. Caffeine. Alcohol. Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Processed oils. The list is, even for someone who already has experience with dietary restrictions, more than daunting. And the diet has to be followed for nine weeks, four to allow the body to get rid of residual allergens, then five that cycle in -- very carefully -- each group of potential irritants, one set at a time every third day.

Let's just say this isn't how I envisioned I'd be spending most of the summer.

There is an upside: if I can get this done by mid-September, I will potentially know exactly what's making me feel less than terrific -- and, after getting rid of the little menace(s), be able to go to Hawaii feeling better.

So. After the thesis is officially finished, I'll be looking into the logistics of this new project. It wouldn't be quite so intimidating if I lived on my own and had no one else to answer to. But we've been looking forward to being more social, inviting people over for potluck, taking an extended bike trip with a few friends, visiting and being visited by family. All of that suddenly seems incompatible with the trial because it's inconvenient for the people around me. Imagine subjecting visitors to all of those restrictions when we eat at home or outside the house. Or, in the opposite vein, consider the culinary acrobatics of preparing dual meals so guests can eat "normally," hosting a potluck but not eating what your friends have prepared, going to restaurants but not ordering anything and packing my own food to consume before or after. (Seriously, what are the chances a mainstream eatery will have something, besides a naked lettuce leaf, free of refined sugar, processed oil, corn, soy, eggs ...)

And then there are those looks. The ones you get from people who don't understand your limits and, once they realize just how many there are, back away warily. I shouldn't have to apologize for my circumstances but I often feel like it's warranted -- for the relatively few restrictions I have now, which already make some people uncomfortable.

I know -- those instances are occasional and I shouldn't expect to run into them all the time, but they reduce me to a sense of profound and irrational loneliness. I can't let that prevent me from doing the testing and I can't let the testing keep me from having a life. But how?

Well, if there's anything I'll learn from this experiment, it will be some kind of answer to that question.

3 comments:

BigLittleWolf said...

What a pain in zee butt... tout ça!!!

I think you need a day to "vacher" (Canadian French) = lounge around.

:-)

But no cheese for you. :-(

Désolée.

Sherlock said...

It's amazing to me how people are so addicted to food. And if someone has a restricted diet, people don't get it. And most couldn't do it. Kudos and good luck to you!! My answer to all this was to simply not plan social activities around eating. For family cook outs and special occasion meals, we grill and I make veggie casserole and salad. That's it. Everybody's used to it now :-) When I go somewhere and there's food, I eat veggies and meat and that's it. People don't seem to notice anymore. Except when I take a hamburger without a bun -- then they notice :-)

Good luck -- hope you get some answers from all this.

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- no cheese for me, indeed :(. I wonder what the cows would say to that idea! I look forward to being able to "vacher" -- hee hee -- once my final draft is sent.

Sherlock -- we will definitely be trying to push for social activities that don't center upon eating. An essential suggestion.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Things I can no longer ignore

It's funny how timing works out.

I've had my head in my thesis pretty steadily (and intensely) since February -- and in the midst of concentrating on the project with so much of my brain, I had to let a lot of other things on my radar remain, at best, peripheral. Which included some aspects of my health. Nothing debilitating: some skin irritation, nerve wonkiness in my hands and feet, intermittent GI protests. The last issue has been ongoing since the middle of 2009 (despite the work-up a year ago), and after so long, I'd practically gotten used to it.

But about two days before I turned in my thesis to my committee, things started to get noticeably worse. Fortunately, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor (the new one) the day after my draft was due, and her advice, after hearing everything that had been going on for so long, was to consider a food sensitivity as the culprit.

"Gluten and dairy," she said -- these were the most likely suspects. So she suggested an elimination diet followed by an allergen challenge. "Just try going gluten-free for three weeks then dairy-free for three weeks," she said, "and see what happens."

What else is a girl to do with all her newly available time?

I took the news back to my dietitian, who happens to specialize in this kind of testing, and she printed up the protocols. I figured the process wouldn't be fun, but it would be short-lived. Then I looked at the instructions.

"To make this kind of testing accurate and meaningful, you'll want to do more than eliminate gluten and dairy," she told me, pointing to a greatly expanded list of foods and food additives. "Sensitivities can occur in groups. So ideally, you'll want to test all of them."

I won't reproduce the whole catalog here. But let me name a few choice items besides gluten and dairy. Corn. Soy. Eggs. Peanuts. Tomatoes. Peppers. White potatoes. Processed and/or non-organic meats. Shellfish. Strawberries. All citruses. Caffeine. Alcohol. Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. Processed oils. The list is, even for someone who already has experience with dietary restrictions, more than daunting. And the diet has to be followed for nine weeks, four to allow the body to get rid of residual allergens, then five that cycle in -- very carefully -- each group of potential irritants, one set at a time every third day.

Let's just say this isn't how I envisioned I'd be spending most of the summer.

There is an upside: if I can get this done by mid-September, I will potentially know exactly what's making me feel less than terrific -- and, after getting rid of the little menace(s), be able to go to Hawaii feeling better.

So. After the thesis is officially finished, I'll be looking into the logistics of this new project. It wouldn't be quite so intimidating if I lived on my own and had no one else to answer to. But we've been looking forward to being more social, inviting people over for potluck, taking an extended bike trip with a few friends, visiting and being visited by family. All of that suddenly seems incompatible with the trial because it's inconvenient for the people around me. Imagine subjecting visitors to all of those restrictions when we eat at home or outside the house. Or, in the opposite vein, consider the culinary acrobatics of preparing dual meals so guests can eat "normally," hosting a potluck but not eating what your friends have prepared, going to restaurants but not ordering anything and packing my own food to consume before or after. (Seriously, what are the chances a mainstream eatery will have something, besides a naked lettuce leaf, free of refined sugar, processed oil, corn, soy, eggs ...)

And then there are those looks. The ones you get from people who don't understand your limits and, once they realize just how many there are, back away warily. I shouldn't have to apologize for my circumstances but I often feel like it's warranted -- for the relatively few restrictions I have now, which already make some people uncomfortable.

I know -- those instances are occasional and I shouldn't expect to run into them all the time, but they reduce me to a sense of profound and irrational loneliness. I can't let that prevent me from doing the testing and I can't let the testing keep me from having a life. But how?

Well, if there's anything I'll learn from this experiment, it will be some kind of answer to that question.

3 comments:

BigLittleWolf said...

What a pain in zee butt... tout ça!!!

I think you need a day to "vacher" (Canadian French) = lounge around.

:-)

But no cheese for you. :-(

Désolée.

Sherlock said...

It's amazing to me how people are so addicted to food. And if someone has a restricted diet, people don't get it. And most couldn't do it. Kudos and good luck to you!! My answer to all this was to simply not plan social activities around eating. For family cook outs and special occasion meals, we grill and I make veggie casserole and salad. That's it. Everybody's used to it now :-) When I go somewhere and there's food, I eat veggies and meat and that's it. People don't seem to notice anymore. Except when I take a hamburger without a bun -- then they notice :-)

Good luck -- hope you get some answers from all this.

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- no cheese for me, indeed :(. I wonder what the cows would say to that idea! I look forward to being able to "vacher" -- hee hee -- once my final draft is sent.

Sherlock -- we will definitely be trying to push for social activities that don't center upon eating. An essential suggestion.