Thursday, July 31, 2008


Last night, I experimented and made a vegetarian version of chicken and dumplings. I found a good base recipe from PETA: and tweaked it a bit with some recipes at (allrecipes is basically my favorite site on the web).

It was delicious! I rarely cook with celery, so the smells of it sizzling on the stove top reminded me of my mom's cooking. The meal itself reminded me of Grandma Jo; back in my younger, meat-eating days, she'd take me to the Cracker Barrel for chicken and dumplings (which was the only time I ever ate that meal). So, anyway, the meal was also good for warming my heart. Yummmm.

The soup recipe I used was almost exactly the PETA recipe, but here's what I did:

2 stalks of celery, sliced up

1/2 of an onion, diced (honestly, a whole onion wouldn't hurt)
1/2 stick of butter
healthy pinch of celery salt

salt & pepper
1/2 cup flour (all purpose, whole wheat, whatever)
8 cups vegetable broth
2 carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
8 oz. firm tofu, diced
8 oz. Morning Star Farms chik'n strips, thawed and torn into smaller pieces
12 oz package of biscuit dough (I used Pillsbury. Make sure it doesn't have lard!)

On medium-low heat, melt the butter in a big pot. Once melted, toss in the celery and onion, giving it a stir. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until veggies are soft. Add a healthy pinch of celery salt and add some salt and pepper to taste (I've never been one to add salt to my food, but my blood pressure is a little too low, so I'm trying to add it to more dishes!). Add in the flour (I used whole wheat because that's all I had. I worried it would ruin the soup, but it worked out just fine). Stir until it's a paste. Slowly add in vegetable broth, stirring thoroughly with each addition. Turn heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil (this takes approximately 30 minutes, but it allows the soup to thicken).
Once boiling, add in the chopped carrots, the bay leaf, the tofu and chik'n strips (you can use a full pound of chik'n strips instead of the tofu, or vice-versa). Allow to cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pop open your package of biscuits. Tear the biscuits into pieces that are approximately 1 inch wide. Drop the pieces in, one at a time, stirring after each piece so they don't stick together. Once all the pieces are in the soup, simmer on the stove top for 10 to 15 minutes more. Stir once more and serve hot.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Kushy Weekend

For my Grandma Jo's memorial weekend, we had aunts, uncles, cousins, and so many others here in town. Aunt Gerry and Wayne flew in from Maine, Tina and Aunt Linda flew in from Boston, Uncle Mark came from Ohio, Uncle Matt came from Missouri, Julie came from Nebraska, Aunt Jackie came from California, Jana and Ian (who I met for the first time) came from Portland, and Aunt Carol, Uncle Mike, Missy, Mia, Glen, Jo and Jack all drove in from Iowa.

Tina stayed at my apartment. I was so stoked to have my first house guest! Andrew and I totally bleached the shower and toilets and vacuumed and had fun grocery shopping. I'm telling you, we're ready to be a regular bed & breakfast now. Tina was the best house guest, ever (and I'm not just saying that because she's my only house guest). She totally let me give her a tour and just generally showed an interest in everything, right down to the bagels. Hurray for her! Next time, I'll make her try Rock Band. Also next time, we won't be so exhausted from socializing so we can go for runs!

Having Julie in town was a hoot, too. I spent a lot of my time with her and Tina, just generally laughing it up and throwing our opinions out about everyone and every thing. Good times.

Uncle Mark and I talked a lot about the Disney World Half Marathon we're running in January. Turns out, in addition to us and my mom, his daughters Dina and Amber are planning on running in it. This'll be too much fun!

Andrew enjoyed meeting people and demonstrating his magic skills. At some point, he even had Jana and Ian practicing the disappearing coin trick. Too cute.

The most difficult part of the weekend was, of course, the memorial itself. We went up to Andrew's parents' land near Fairplay and sang and talked of our memories. I started to get upset about scattering Grandma's ashes. Not that I thought it was a bad idea; I knew it's what she'd wanted. It just is hard to say goodbye, I guess. I felt angry about not having her with us, and I hated thinking about everything she doesn't get to see. I know I'll move past those feelings and be able to enjoy her memories, but it's just so hard sometimes, and I feel so mad that I don't get to have her around anymore. I wish I could say more, but I'm so emotionally drained! It was a toughie, for sure.

And now... now things have quieted down. Some family is leaving already tomorrow morning. This means I'll sleep in, wake up slowly, and then reach out and connect with those that are still hanging out in town. I'm wiped, and I think it's time to cuddle up with a book and then head to sleep.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Frames and a Clean Pad

Today has been a busy one! I'm trying to make sure the apartment's clean. Tina arrives tomorrow, and she's staying with us! I'm so excited. SoooOoo, I washed some sheets and towels today, and I vacuumed everywhere.

Unfortunately for me, Bailey loves the smell of dryer sheets. I probably should have done laundry yesterday because now she's rubbing herself on the dryer sheets and depositing more hair into the carpet...

....oh well!

I also went and picked up my new specs today! I'm talking glasses, not computers :-P

Here's a picture I just snapped of the new frames!

My eyes!

Here's to my eye balls!

On a follow up appointment with my eye doctor, she assured me that, while retina degeneration can be related to nerve degeneration, it is not the first nerve problem that would appear with a condition like that. She said, "Most likely, you'd see something in the eye lids first."

But to be safe, she checked out my eyes and looked at my nerves and told me they look "healthy." Hurray!

Furthermore, I was finally able to contact Aunt Jackie, and my mom got a hold of Uncle Matt. Both said they don't think they've had problems with their retinas.

I feel good.

Today, I pick up my new spectacles!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nerve degeneration?

Today was very challenging for me!

I'm struggling with what little information I have on our family's genetic disease as well as what little information I have about my own health problems. It's amazing how not knowing about these problems has really gotten me afraid.

I wrote my last post in a hurry and without much thought. I was stressing about what could be, and Andrew reassured me not to freak out because retinas deal with nerves and not muscles.

I went to work feeling more assured, until, out of nowhere, I suddenly recalled my mom once telling me that Aunt Jackie and Uncle Matt had a neurological disease. My fears piqued again.

Before leaving for work, I had called my mom just to tell her I was a bit freaked out over something the eye doctor said. She called me at work, and she knew exactly what I was freaked out about.

I told her what I'm about to write here.

At the eye doctor, I had to fill out a new patient history form. It had a lot of health issues to go through and circle. I had to circle any health concerns that were in my family, so I circled "cataracts," "high blood pressure," "diabetes," and "cancer." I saw muscle degeneration on there, and I thought of Aunt Jackie and Uncle Matt, so I circled that, too.

In the exam room, my eye doctor went over all my circled family problems with me. "Who had cataracts?" My mom's mom. "Who had high blood pressure?" Both of my grandmas. Etc., etc. At muscle degeneration, I didn't have much to say because I didn't know a lot. I told her I had an aunt and an uncle who had a rare, genetic condition of which I didn't know the name. I told her it affected the muscles of their eyes, and that they had to have muscles from the leg put into their eye lids. That's pretty much all I knew. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time.

She did all the basic exams on me. She checked the pressure of my eyes, she dilated them, looked inside. All that good stuff. When she was all done, she made a comment that was Innocent enough, but it completely has me freaked out. She said, "It's interesting your family has a history of muscle degeneration because that's what I'm seeing in your retinas. You have some thinning around the edges. Don't worry too much about it, though. It's just something for me to keep an eye on. Your actual risk of retina detachment is very low."

My mom definitely felt my concern. She'd confided in me before that there are times she really examines her eyes in the mirror to see if her eye lids are droopy. On a few occasions, I've done the same thing!

I then worked up the courage to ask her if Aunt Jackie and Uncle Matt had muscle degeneration or nerve degeneration. She said, "It's in the nerves." That hit me so hard. I broke down crying immediately. Thankfully, my boss let me go home.

I went out with my mom and dad earlier this evening for dinner and got to talk and hear more about it. I told them my eye doctor really didn't seem that worried about the retinal thinning, and that I'd read online it's a fairly common issue (approximately 8% of people experience it). However, it definitely involved the nerves, and any issues with eyes and nerves is unnerving with the family history.

She explained to me that they're still not exactly sure what the family suffers from. She said Aunt Jackie was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Myopathy, while Uncle Matt was diagnosed with Kearns-Sayre, which is a type of Mitochondrial Myopathy.

I got home and tried to read a bit about both. There's actually not much information on either, although there are some resources online for people diagnosed with rare disorders!

Kearns-Sayre was the most unnerving for me to read about because it did list retinal degeneration as a symptom. As freaky as that was, it also said it almost always appears in people before the age of 20, which is definitely consistent with my Aunt Jackie and Uncle Matt. That's a bit comforting for me (I'm 25). It had a lot of specifics on the eyes, which is definitely a problem for them both, but little information on the skeletal muscles. The degeneration they've both experienced has effected their use of their muscles to varying degrees (I know my aunt Jackie has told me she can't really feel the ground with her feet, including when she's stepping down or on cracks and such).

I couldn't find much about mitochondrial myopathy, and what I did read was more general. Basically, when your mitochondrias are messed up, you can have a lot of ugly and diverse side effects.

I'm not sure what to think. I know I'm freaked out. I know there's not much I can do, whether I have the disease or not. It's just scary to think of having to deal with a degenerative disease.

My grandma started showing signs of muscle weakness around the eyes around the age of 80. My mom told me she was given an eye lift for medial reasons because her dropping eye lids made it so much of her vision was blocked. If it was really the same thing as what her kids have, does that mean it's not Kearns-Sayre? She obviously had her onset much later than the age of 20. Or, if it was, does that mean there can be slow onsets to the disease? There's just not that information available.

My next move is to go back to the eye doctor and ask more about it. I need to find out if it's consistent with a nerve degeneration disease. If it possibly can be, my next step is to go to my general doctor and find out if there can be genetic testing done, and, if so, can I be referred to someone who can test me.

Hopefully, it's nothing. Hopefully, I'm just one of the 8% of the general population who deals with retinal thinning. Still, I can't help worrying over the possibilities...

Muscle Degeneration

Hurray for genetics!


After the eye doctor quizzed me on my family's history of muscle degeneration for a while, she finally let me know that I have thinned retinas. I wanted to tell her that the people in my family who suffer from the muscle degeneration have problems with their eye lid muscles, their legs, not things like retinas.

Her exact words were, "Yes, it's interesting that you have some family with muscle degeneration, because your retina muscles are thinning, especially around the edges. We're going to keep our eye on it, but don't worry too much. Your actual risk for retina detachment is low."

Gee, thanks, I'll try not to worry too much! And now I'm totally freaking out about our genetic disorder...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Big Sur Fires

With family all across the country, it seems that I always have a news connection. Floods in Iowa? Let's call Andy. Or Missy. Or Mia. Or Aunt Carol. Or Amanda. With family in Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Maine, Massachussetts, South Carolina and Washington, DC, there's always someone to contact somewhere.

Aunt Jackie (San Jose) was kind enough to email me about the Big Sur fires. Andrew and I have a vacation planned for our anniversary, where we're flying into LA and renting a convertible. The plan was (and hopefully still is) to drive up Highway 1 through Big Sur. We were going to spend a day in San Simeone and a few days in Monterey. With a few hours in San Francisco (where we were hoping to be able to visit with my cousin Christopher and maybe even my cousin Jerry), we were then planning on camping in the redwoods. Our flight home is going to be out of San Francisco, so no matter what, we have to find a non-fire effected way to get from LA to San Francisco!

So far, the state park department hasn't gotten back to me to let me know if the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park has been effected by the thousands of wildfires in California. Aunt Jackie, however, has sent me maps of central and northern California, showing me where the fires have effected and where the highways are closed. She had a lot of information on the Basin Complex fire, which is the fire that's effecting Big Sur and Highway 1 and has burned the most acres. Thirty-one miles of Highway 1 had been closed!

I was definitely disappointed. Aunt Bette had told me how beautiful the drive was through the California coast line (she'd done the same drive, only north to south, with Grandma Jo and Aunt Jackie a few years back), and I was really looking forward to it. I'm willing to adjust my plans if need be, but I'm hoping, hoping that the fire will be contained by the time of our trip (August 8).

The news reports say it won't be contained until at least July 31, but there's been good news over the last few days. The fire is actually a whopping 23% contained, when only a few days ago it was at 8%. As of yesterday, they've officially reopened a lot of Highway 1, but only to residents and fire crews. It's still closed a bit further north, though...

So, here's to our fire fighters. May they stay safe and have the luck of the weather on their side. I hope the forests and historic sites will be saved, and I hope everything works out so I can have the chance to see the beauty of the coast (and hopefully not too much smoke!).

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rocking Out with the Wii

I have a new addiction!

Wii Rock Band.

Specifically, the drums.

Alright, we don't even own the guitar (yet). The singing is OK. It's essentially the same thing as the American Idol Karaoke I'd bought, but most of the songs are sung by men on Rock Band. It's difficult for it to register my low notes. I've learned to just groan as low as I can into the microphone, and sometimes it gets almost low enough.

I'll still use American Idol for the singing, but I'm all about the drums on Rock Band! I had a learning curve at first. I think I might have rythm up in me, but I didn't know how to express it through drum sticks at first. And stepping on peddles? It was almost too much.

I think I can say I've found my groove though. I played on medium difficulty for the very first time today, and right off the bat, I scored 46,000 on a Weezer song (Say It Ain't So)! It's no five stars, but it beat the pants off of Andrew's 31k score.

When I grow up, I want to be a drummer.

Maybe when Andrew's home, I'll have him take a photo of me on the drums, and I'll add it to this blog.

What about you all? Have you tried Rock Band or Guitar Hero yet?

Ooh, that just reminded me. I should attach that video of Ellen playing Guitar Hero. It's awesome.