Real Housewives of West Virginia (RHoWV)

“life’s a bitch, but you don’t have to be!”

Dear Andy Cohen, 

 I have carefully been considering what my tagline would be if you ever wanted to do a REAL Real Housewives show. (Like really real!)

Like really real when a 60 foot gyser erupts in your front yard, your refrigerator and hot water tank die in the same week.

Like really real when you put your creditors name in the phone so you can say “hey Bob! Sorry, it is really tight this month…you are gonna have to keep calling.” Sorry man.

Like really real when you have to decide between taking a day off because you can’t get out of bed or forgoing a day’s pay. 

Like really real when you realize you left your coffee cup on the roof of your car and it made it all the way down the road, only to fall through your sun roof (cough rust roof cough cough) and douse you in sticky Carmel / hazelnut sweat to coat your day and your spirits.

Life is seriously the biggest bitch I have ever met, so be kind. Help a sister out. Let’s do a Dave Chapelle version of the Real Housewives and get really real!  

“life’s a bitch, but you don’t have to be!”

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Ten ways to say I care: An open letter to those who love someone with an invisible illness. 

We all know that hypochondriac. That is not who this letter is about.   It is not easy to watch a loved one suffer, even more difficult when you just don’t understand. To often our fear and lack of understanding can build. As a woman, fortunate enough to have lived on both of sides of this, I feel I have unique perspective and advice to offer.

1. Only ask how a person is, when you truly feel like hearing how they are doing. It is exhausting to truly listen and understand about someone’s life with chronic illness. We can only begin to imagine how exhausting it is to actually live it. When you are not up to it, It is ok NOT to ask how someone is doing! Truly understanding what a life, prognosis, treatment, etc is like will often leave the listener feeling sad, confused, and wholly having no clue what to say. It is ok if you aren’t emotionally up to talking about it. Quite often the person living it is not up to talking about it either. But when you can, when you have the heart, time, and stomach to ask and listen, that asking and true listening will mean more than words can express. 

2. Instead of telling them how good they look, tell them how glad you are to see them. Invisible illness is just that. Invisible. You rarely see the scars physical, mental, or emotional. This makes it difficult for people living with these diseases. They are daily fighting for their futures, their lives and some manner of normalcy. If a person with an invisible illness is out and with you, then something else in their life has been placed in the back burner. You are a priority to them. The fact that they are with you in that moment is huge. Dinner wasn’t cooked, laundry wasn’t done, and they may pay for it for days. A simple “thank you for being here” means that you appreciate how much their effort took and what it says about their love for you! 

3. These are proud people. They don’t want you to see their scars. The saddest part of invisible illness is it seems to strike those who are passionate in their lives and careers. They are marathon runners, doctors, nurses, therapists, business developers, mountain climbers, and more. If you are seeing them, it is because they really want you to. It is a GOOD day. Which is horrifyingly strange phenomenon when a good day used to constitute kicking butt and taking names like no ones business. Everyday is like learning to live again, as the rectify the life they now have to the dreams for the one they used to live. 

4. Answers aren’t easy and cures rarely exist. Like many diseases, invisible illness ones can be convoluted, political, and are ALWAYS desperately under-researched. Without proper understanding, funding, research, and medical information a cure will never be possible. Instead of suggesting treatments, telling anecdotal stories, etc, read the research available about the illness your loved one is facing. 

5. These illnesses can be fatal. While not everyone who experiences invisible illness will die, some do. We have all know that one person who dropped dead one day looking so healthy and vibrant the day before. Silent, invisible killers like Heart, Chrone’s or Lyme disease, endometriosis, depression, PTSD and others are real and demand our attention before they take more loved ones.

Living with invisible illness leaves the sufferer as well as their support system depleted, confused, scared, and on edge. We are often left wondering what can we do? 

  1. Ask how someone is, but only when you can listen. 
  2. Offering someone with invisible illness a meal is like the biggest hug in the world and winning the lottery. It gives you time, energy, healing nutrients, and the feeling that someone gets it! Healthy food makes all the difference. Not only is this a great way to support them but also their caregivers. 
  3. Understand when they can’t follow through on plans. Invisible illness may follow a pattern but is rarely predictable.
  4. Check on their care givers! Remind them they are human to. They spend their lives steeped in medical terminology, crushing diagnosis’s, and emotional upheaval. They need a break! They need to know someone is caring for their loved one so that they CAN take a break. 
  5. Be private with the information they share with you. Do NOT share their medical issues. They are not yours to share. Most of those who suffer from this disease are proud, and while they are desperate for someone to understand what they are facing, they do not need the world to know their embarrassing, exhausting medical issues. Show your support through sending positivity and prayers, listening, providing a meal, or a laugh.
  6. If you work in a place that allows sick leave donation, and you are able to do this, this not only provides a paycheck, access to insurance, and peace of mind. I was so blessed to have weeks!!! WEEKS 😍donated to me by my fellow teachers. This was the difference between paying bills and not paying bills. Treatments for these illnesses are very expensive and rarely are covered appropriately by insurance. 
  7. Take an activity to them, if they are up to it!  Tea time conversations or a movie can be great ways to provide distraction. Just remember not to overstay your welcome.  Visiting takes healing energy as well as giving it. 

Tapenade Tuesday

One of the many benefits of winter storm Jonas was the fact that my husband was home for an extended stay.  With him there, I got to cook, clean, shower, relax, and watch tv.  He always makes sure I relax, which both drives me crazy and fills my heart with his love and care.

Tapenade is one of mine and my husband’s favorite snacks and right now I am always looking for a high protein snack to help keep up with nursing.  Tapenade is a dip that is made of olives, nuts, herbs, garlic, capers, and a sweet element like a roasted red pepper, date, etc.  All the ingredients are minced or pureed to create this delicious, high protein snack.   I strapped Arden into the baby carrier and away we went.

Ingredients 

  • 1 jar 6 oz Kalamata Olives
  • 1/2 jar 6 oz Green olives
  • 1 cup of walnuts
  • 15-25 fresh mint leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of capers
  • 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers
  • Flour Tortillas or Pita Bread

Directions

  • Drain Olives, Capers and Roasted Red peppers
  • Rinse and dry the mint leaves
  • mince the garlic, mint leaves, and walnuts
  • Use a small food processor to chop, puree, or mince the olives and capers (to taste)
  • Chop up the sweet element
  • Stir all ingredients together
  • Toast up some tortillas or pitas, slice in 8ths and serve! 

   
 
And wearing a cute baby helps too.

 

 

Up-cycled Leftovers: Chicken Parm Soup

I am a big fan of taking one easy recipe and making leftovers into a completely different and equally easy new dish. As a mother of a 14 week old, returning to the work force, I don’t have time for fancy and I don’t have time for gross.

Earlier this week we had roast chicken and baked potatoes which is one of the EASIEST meals on earth to make!  You need one roast pan, a chicken, some herbs, some oil,some butter and away you go.  Find the recipe I use here.

  • This week I substituted rosemary for thyme and lime for lemon because it was what I had on hand.

The Up-Cycle 

When we are done with the chicken, I always remove the extra meat and make stock out of what is left, but as I started this process yesterday, I remembered an easy recipe I had saved weeks ago for Chicken Parmesan Soup. This recipe from Delish.com is as easy as it is delicious.

  Because I was using the stock pot already, 

  • I sautéed the diced onions and garlic with olive oil in a skillet for about 8 minutes. (On medium heat)
  • I then added a can of tomato paste and a quarter cup of chicken broth and let it cook down for about 5 min, stirring occasionally.
  • While the onions were sautéing, I took the meat off the chicken frame and added it to the chicken stock.
  • I then dumped the contents of the skillet into the stockpot along with a can of diced tomatos.
  • I added 3tbs of Italian seasoning and let the broth and chicken simmer for  30 min.
  • I added some gluten free penne pasta, set the timer for 7 min, and got out the parmesean, mozzarella, and parsley.
  • When the timer went off, it was dish up and serve with some garlic toast! 

It was even better today than it was yesterday and we still have a TON of leftovers. 

    Lactation support and ideas 

    After giving birth to my daughter, I experienced a hemorrhage that, unfortunately, has left my milk supply a little on the low side.

    Supplements I have tried:

    • fenugreek
    • blessed thistle

    Food and Drinks I have tried:

    • lactation cookies
      • Recipe 1  (easy to make, can be a little salty)
      • Recipe 2 (a little flat but tasty)
      • Assessment: both worked well and I would recommend either.  When my sister made the first recipe her’s were much better than my original batch, but baking is not my specialty, it is hers.
    • lactation teas
      • Yogi – 2/5 stars.  I didn’t notice a huge difference with this tea.  I ordered it originally because of it’s price.
      • Mother’s Milk – 4/5 stars.  A little pricey but it definitely helps support the nursing supply.
      • Welda – 4/5 stars.  This one only gets a 4 out of 5 stars because it is so expensive.  It is by far the best nursing tea I tried and I noticed immediately results. As far as results go, it receives a 5 out of 5 stars.

    Ideas not yet tried:

    • Placenta Encapsulation – I originally didn’t do this because we were unsure if I had passed Lyme through the placenta to Arden.  As it turns out, I didn’t!!!  I have recently begun considering that as a option to help support my nursing supply.
      • has anyone had any experience with this for their own nursing supply?
    • Other ideas? I am open to suggestions!!!

     

    This whole living in the moment thing…

    I was supposed to go back to work this week but Martin Luther King Jr., winter storm Jonas, and forgotten doctors appointments have conspired against me … or for me as the case may be.

    Tuesday morning, she almost said “mama” and that was supposed to be my first day back.

    My dad, generously, had promised to be here to spend the whole day with her on my first day, so that I didn’t have to take her to day care AND be away for 8 hours simultaneously.

    I am lucky.  She would have been with my dad.

    But, instead, she was with me when she tried to form the word over and over again, not quite able to force the sound out from behind those perfect pursed lips.

    I am TRULY lucky.

    The money I could have earned that day would have been AMAZING, especially considering our refrigerator chose this week to stop working, but the reward of seeing her try to form her first words was worth more.

    Today I am thankful for coolers, back up refrigerators, neighbors, slow cookers, first words, living in the moment and snow days.

    Currently listening to Jon Bellion “ooh” courtesy of my amazing little brother who is teaching me to follow my dreams.

    Screw it; hand me the can of sauce. 

    I am trying to cook again.  I used to be amazing.  For a year my husband and I moved to the woods, had a garden (indoor and out), cooked everything from scratch, lived so clean. It was an incredible learning experience; we lived without power for 2 weeks during the winter, survived hurricane Sandy, and 5 emergency runs to the hospital over an hour away.  Turns out the the wonderful cabin in the woods had some mold.

    Yesterday, I found an awesome recipe for pasta sauce.  Fresh basil, garlic, puréed tomatoes and capers rounded off a list of ingredients that made my mouth water. I had every intention of making the whole thing start to finish, but the call of the can was just too damn strong. 

    Right now, I am still in a sleep shirt, watching reality tv, while Arden naps in my arms and dinner cooks in the crock pot. 

    Should I feel bad? Maybe. But right now I don’t. Should I be learning a language to teach my child? Probably.  But right now, Tim Gunn is just so comforting.  Am I going to be the parent who’s child’s first words are “make it work”?  At least it’s   better than my original fear of it being di** or f***.  

    Three months into this parenting thing, I am, in some  ways, the woman I want my daughter to become, but in many more ways I am not. Somedays, I will drive myself crazy obsessing over my failings and end up painting pastel a bunch of s*** to make my life look better….but it won’t be today.   Today I refuse to be that beautiful cabin in the woods, decaying underneath.  I acknowledge the fact that I have room to improve.

    One day I will be back to cooking from scratch while speaking French to Arden and wearing Christian Siriano.   

    Today I am visible mold. I’m canned spaghetti sauce, trash tv, and pjs.