Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Book Review (which is by no means professional)

I am on a sad, sad streak of reading.  I finally finished the first book in the month of February and the month is over tomorrow!  That's pretty bad for someone that usually reads 6-8 books a month.

My book review for today is Duff McKagan's memoir, "It's So Easy (And Other Lies)".  Duff used to be the bass player for Guns 'N Roses, Velvet Revolver, and currently has his own band, Loaded.  I hold a very special place in my heart for Guns 'N Roses and was immediately drawn to this book.

The first time I ever heard Guns 'N Roses was in 1988 when I saw the video "Welcome to the Jungle" on MTV.  I remember seeing Axl Roses's spiked up hair and thinking, "Well, that's different."  I watched with anticipation as this rugged group of five guys from L.A. rocked and rolled their way through this song.  I was hooked.  I immediately bought the album "Appetite for Destruction".  Now, keep in mind that I was 13 at this point and didn't pick up on all the lyrics and their meanings.  It has taken me 15+ years to do that.  It was so not appropriate for a 13-year old but hey, I had a cool mom.

Duff talks about his childhood in Seattle, his move to L.A. to start his music career, the rise and fall of Guns 'N Roses, crippling addictions to alcohol and cocaine, and his new start in life.  But what really resonated with me is his complete and utter love of music.  He states in his memoir that he makes music because he wants to share it with people and have a relationship with his fans.  He doesn't need the money and the fame, he just wants to play.  In a world where "rock stars" are idolized and unreachable, this is a breath of fresh air.

Duff doesn't hold back anything when he talks about his addictions and admits that he wanted to die.  And he almost did when his pancreas burst inside him and he had to be rushed to the hospital.  This was his rock bottom and he is one of the lucky ones that overcame his addictions and made himself into a new and better person. 

A very moving part in the memoir recounts Duff's chance meeting with Axl Rose, 13 years after Guns 'N Roses broke up.  During the "Use Your Illusion 1 & 2" tour, the band had troubles with Axl showing up on time to play scheduled concerts.  There were several riots (a really bad one here in St. Louis) and eventually bitterness and resentment grew within the band.  I will take a second here to say that I am proud I had the opportunity to see this tour and it went off without a hitch!  So, the group disbanded and Duff was no longer in touch with Axl until this chance meeting.  Duff knocked on Axl's hotel room door and when Axl opened it, Duff found himself with no thoughts of anger or resentment.  He had put everything in the past and moved on.  That really spoke to me as a person that deals with both of these issues on a daily basis.  It can be done.  I see that now.

Duff is now a father, husband, financial manager, and as always, a rock-and-roller.  This is definitely one of the best memoirs I have read.  At no point in time did I feel I was being manipulated into feeling sorry for Duff and was actually rooting for him to pull through.  And he did.

If you like memoirs, this is a good one.  But if you're a Guns 'N Roses fan, you'll love it.

From one of my favorite songs of theirs, "Dead Horse":

Sick of this life
Not that you care.
I'm not the only one with
Whom these feelings I share.

Nobody understands
quite why we're here.
We're searchin' for answers
That never appear.

But maybe if I looked real hard
I'd see your tryin' too.
To understand this life
That we're all goin' through.

Good health and reading to you all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Caffeine, A Necessary Evil? And One Amazing Musical Discovery

So far, so great with my new diet!  I haven't had any stomach pains (a few gurgles from Ivan but this new diet seems to be like Valium to him), I've been sleeping well, and I never feel full and bloated.  I have also discovered the beauty of the baked sweet potato with maple syrup!  Yes, I'm allowed to have maple syrup but that is the only sugar I'm allowed.  And freshly squeezed lemon juice is proving to be a wonderful addition to my foods.  I used to put it on fish or soups but I'm putting it on everything now and it's lovely.  It's a wonderful, natural way to add a little zing to your food.

BUT, BUT, BUT...there is always a but.  I'm not allowed to have any caffeine.  Boo...I say. 

Yesterday I went to my weekly critique group at a coffeeshop and had to deny myself the wonderful latte I always have.  And on some days I even have them put in an extra shot of esspresso.  Sadly, it was not to be this week.  I'm on caffeine-free peppermint tea so that is what I had.  Blah...  But my lunch wasn't very diet friendly so I guess it balances out?  Now I'm thinking that next week I'd rather have my usual coffee and no lunch. 

Why, oh why is caffeine so good and yet so bad?  Caffeine stimulates our central nervous system and makes us alert when drowsy and fatigued.  It can also help us to focus better especially when trying to stay up late to study, work, or write the great American novel.  But caffeine and Crohn's don't always get along.  As with any food or beverage, caffeine affects people with IBS in different ways but from what I've gathered it seems to be more harmful than good.  Caffeine triggers the movement of the smooth muscle in your large intestine which in turn makes you go to the bathroom more often which in turn can irritate the bowels of someone with IBS which in turn can trigger stomachaches or even worse, a flare.

But I don't have a large intestine!  So guess what, caffeine does not make me run to the bathroom the way eating a piece of raw fruit will.  Go figure...  Which leads me to wonder if maybe having one cup of coffee a day to stave off the caffeine withdrawal headache is okay even though I'll be cheating on my diet.  Does anyone out there with IBS have caffeine issues?  I'd be very interested in hearing your stories.

Now, on to something completely different...

There is a commercial that premiered during the Super Bowl in which a Chevy Sonic is put through some crazy stunts.  It goes bungee jumping, it gets thrown out of an airplane so it can skydive, and then it goes through some stunt driving thing.  All the while there is this wonderful song playing called "We Are Young" by a band called Fun..  (There is a period after their name.)  I became so obsessed with this little clip that I hunted down the band and bought the single.  And then last night they were on the Conan show and they were awesome!  I ran to the computer to download all of their music and have been listening to it all day. 

The lead singer, Nate Ruess, has the vocal qualities of Freddie Mercury and the music is filled with horns and guitars.  Listening to this music is like spending a day at the amusement park.  You have ups and down on the rollercoaster and can go around in circles on the carousel.  The music takes you on a journey and the lyrics are personal and relatable.  Plus, there are a lot of references to New York City which is always a good thing with me.  (Have I mentioned that it's the best city on Earth?)

Their second album "Some Nights" was released yesterday and their first album "Aim and Ignite" was released in 2009.  Whichever one you start with, you will not be disappointed.  This band is in a class of its own and I am so happy I have discovered them.  Along with The Airborne Toxic Event, Fun. is now my new obsession.

Happy listening and good on-going health to you all.

p.s.  For dinner I'll be having ground chicken meatballs seasoned with curry powder alongside green beans.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A New Week, A New Outlook, and a New Diet

My mom has been reading a book called "The Inside Tract, Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health" written by Dr. Gerard E. Mullin and nutrionist Kathie Swift.  It is my mom's goal in life to make me better so she recommended that I try a diet that was written specifically for people that are suffering from any form of IBS.

In the book you will find a Gastrointestinal Patient Symptom Assessment Tool, or GPS, that you use to figure out just how sick you feel on a daily basis.  The book offers three diets, one more restrictive then the next, and your score determines where to start.  I ended up with a very high score so off to The Specific Food Diet I went, also known as the most restrictive diet.  But guess what?  It's not bad at all!

In essence, all dairy and gluten have been omitted along with sugar, eggs, fiber, certain vegetables, raw fruits, and some herbs and spices.  I can still eat chicken, turkey, a variety of fish, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, and others.  These are things I already eat so I'm excited to try this diet.  I eat simply prepared foods made with fresh, organic ingredients. 

What encourages me about this diet is that I have been given a list of foods that I can eat instead of being told what NOT to eat.  If you tell me I can't eat something with no other guidelines then I lose all interest and don't make an effort.  I start with these specific foods for two weeks and depending on how I feel I can begin to introduce new foods on a weekly basis.

I am actually happy to have these foods to work with and am keeping positive that after one week I'll start to feel better.  I think that may actually be the light at the end of the tunnel that I'm looking at.  I have to start somewhere and this seems as good a point as any.

Tonight I'll be having Carrot Squash Soup with a nice salad of avocado and cucumber that will be dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.   Not bad, huh?

For those of you with Crohn's or IBS, I highly encourage you to read this book.  Dr. Mullin is a practicing physician at Johns Hopkins that specializes in Crohn's and encourages holistic healing and a lifestyle change in which all processed foods are removed.  The more natural, the better. 

I would like to finish off today's post with some lyrics from the wonderful Natasha Bedingfield.  The song is, very aptly named, "Happy":

During my stressing I'm blinded to the lessons
That could be a blessing if I'd be confessing that the enemy
I'm trying to beat is hiding inside of me

Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends, got the sunshine above
Why am I making this hard on myself
When there's so many beautiful reasons I have to be happy

And with that I wish you all good health and a great start to your week.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


This is a topic I feel very comfortable with.  In fact, it feels like a broken-in, wool sweater that I zip up on cold, wintery days.  It's like a cocoon.  It makes me feel safe and powerful.

I am sick.  I know this.  I cannot change this fact. 

I know that I will never be able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, dive into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, or live amongst the nomads of the Kalahari Desert. 

Then again, I can never eat a Big Mac, a triple Whopper with cheese, or some sort of cow-product that has been slathered with chili, onion rings, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, or bacon. 

I accept that these things will never be a part of my life.  But it will never stop me from dreaming that maybe, in some far and distant future, they might be. 

I get very frustrated at the fact that I try and try to change the way I eat and take vitamins and minerals to make me healthy but sometimes, it just doesn't matter.  At the end of the day, my body seems to make all of my decisions for me.  So that leaves me with absolutely no power and no control.

And people wonder why I'm angry, bitter, and pessimistic all the time??

I've had a bad two weeks, hence this post.  I apologize if it is self-serving.  Sometimes I just need to let off some steam as many people do and this is how I'm doing it.  For those of you out there that feel this way because of an auto-immune disease that you cannot control, I feel every ounce of your pain.  It sucks that you can't do whatever you want, when you want, and how you want.  And as much as we'd like to think that sometimes we are in control, sometimes we just aren't. 

I wish everyone out there good health and a better week than I've had.

In the words of Pink,

Everyday I fight a war against the mirror
I can't take the person staring back at me
I'm a hazard to myself
Don't let me get me
I'm my own worst enemy
It's bad when you annoy yourself
So irritating
Don't wanna be my friend no more
I wanna be somebody else

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bovine Growth Hormones, Monsanto, and the FDA, part 1

It was brought to my attention this week that a petition was started by Frederick Ravid to oust President Obama's appointment of Michael Taylor as senior advisor to the FDA.  Taylor's appointment came in 2009 but this news is resurfacing again in the hopes of making a change.  Why is this important and who is Michael Taylor?  Mr. Taylor happens to be the former vice-president and lobbyist for Monsanto, the lovely company that brought us Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH and rBST) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  And don't get me started on the bullying they do on the good old-fashioned farmer that wants to grow clean, healthy crops.

In 1993 Monsanto started injecting their cows with genetically engineered bovine growth hormones in an effort to increase the milk supply.  What resulted was a milk filled with hormones and something called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which can increase your chances of getting cancer, especially colon and breast cancer.  This hormone, rBGH and rBST, is so dangerous that Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand have all banned it and yet, it is found here in the USA thanks to Michael Taylor.  Monsanto bullied and threatened to sue the companies that insisted on labeling their milk and milk-products as rBGH-free.  Thankfully, we the people, made a change and you can now find these labels on organic milk and milk-products.  Although that is a win for us, Monsanto still fights to have this labelling made illegal.

On a side note, I have pulled out the organic milk from Archer Farms we have in the refrigerator and it states, "Our farmers pledge not to treat their cows with rBST.  No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST treated cows and non-rBST treated cows."  SERIOUSLY??  With all the proof that shows the horrible side effects of bovine growth hormone, the honest organic farmers out there still have to label their milk with this scathing lie.  Thank you Michael Taylor for not giving a shit about the health of the people of this country and focusing all of your time to lining your pockets with not just money but the disease-ridden souls of the people suffering at your hand.

I encourage all of you to sign this petition to get Michael Taylor out of the FDA: http://www.moveon.org/r?r=269891&id=35461-18914749-37iPRBx&t=2

For a more in-depth article on this subject please visit: http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/rbgh/.  The Sustainable Table also offers a very informative blog on all sorts of topics that are related to our environment.  http://www.ecocentricblog.org/

I would also like to share Jeffrey Smith's website http://www.responsibletechnology.org/ where you can learn about GMOs and how to create a non-GMO diet.

This is a very important and serious topic that we, as consumers, must take a stand on as it affects our farmers, our country, and our health.  For a bigger overview of our food industry please watch the documentary, "Food, Inc."  It will change the way you eat.  Making the slight change from regular milk to organic milk can make all the difference so please, especially those with young children, take the time to find organic milk and milk-products.

Okay, I'm putting the soapbox away but keeping it close by as I will be talking about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the next few days.

In the meantime, eat wisely, read the ingredients in the foods you eat, and good health to you all!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Forgive and Forget

Or is it forgive and never forget?  Or is it never forgive but eventually forget?  Or my go-to, never forgive and never, ever forget!  As my husband always tells me, I love to stew about things and hold on to too many grudges.  What brings on this post?  I'm glad you asked.

I had the pleasure of reading a short story of mine to a group of wonderful writers this past Friday.  High Hill Press held an open mic night at Sage Books in the Frenchtown district of Saint Charles, MO so I figured I'd better start getting my name and works out there for all to hear.  My fictional short story incorporated some aspects of my life and starred my alter-ego, Jane.  In the story Jane has to come to grips with the fact that people she thought were her best friends pretty much dumped her when they didn't approve of her moving away and getting married.  This really did happen to me and it haunts me to this very day. 

Five years ago I made the decision to move to St. Louis and start my life anew with the man I knew I would marry and spend the rest of my life with.  You would think that would elicit happiness from people you've known for more than ten years and have been with you through pretty much everything.  Well, the opposite happened.  I can understand that people get upset at the prospect of having a dear friend or family member move far away but you usually accept it and move on with life.  Not these people.  From the moment I made my announcement they shunned me from our circle of friends and never made an effort to contact me once I had made the move.

Aside from the actual deed, which angers me to no end, what makes me even more angry is that I will never know why they did it.  I was too angry and hurt to compose myself long enough to ask why.  And they were apparently too angry at me to even bother talking to me at all.  The eternal questions of "Why?" and "What if?" are enough to make you crazy.

So what does one do?  I can't bring myself to forgive much less forget.  But the act of doing neither makes me sick to my stomach which in turn affects my health.  As I sit here and type this post Ivan is doing somersaults and apparently trying to stand on his head.  It's a vicious circle that I find myself in and I really cannot see the exit sign.  I've actually contemplated getting in touch with said friends to get to the bottom of this but I can't bring myself to do it.  I even have dreams about it which for me is quite telling.  But I feel that that line of communication needs to start with them since they made the initial cutting-off.

This is where I am today and am hoping I don't end up in a funk right alongside Ivan.  Man, he is a pesky little monster!  What do you all do with situations where you don't know whether to forgive and/or forget?

In the immortal words of the genius that is Leonard Cohen here are some lyrics from his song "So Long Marianne":

I'm standing on a ledge and your fine spider web
Is fastening my ankle to a stone.
Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began
to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.

Happy Monday to you all!  I shall spend mine thinking about the way the world works and how certain people play certain roles in your life.  Everyone we know comes in and out for a reason and it is our job to figure out why and what.