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Archive for the ‘General Health’ Category

I have this persistent feeling in my left foot that there’s something caught between my toes, or maybe there’s a hair wrapped around my second toe. I have checked; there is nothing between my toes, no hairs in the vicinity (although of course I had to remove a hair that was draped casually over my shoulder as I was looking). And even if there were something caught between them, I would have expected it to dislodge itself over the course of two weeks, which is how long I’ve had this feeling. 

(I’ve looked it up. The closest “diagnosis” Google has to offer is a Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening of the tissue around the nerves of the foot. But the symptoms don’t quite line up. Neuromas cause a feeling of “sock bunching” or “small pebble” but usually between the third and fourth toes.)

Anyway, I have this niggling memory that the feeling “there’s a hair wrapped around your toe” is Something To Watch For. I don’t find anything, upon Googling. Although I did find some articles about how critical it is to remove an actual hair that is wrapped around any appendage, as it can cut off circulation. But it’s somehow stuck in my head as one of those things that you listen for, and if you hear it, it Means Something. Something that would be important for medical staff to know in an emergency.

Based on no evidence at all, I like to think I would be good in an emergency. I have had the incredible amazing luck of not having been faced with an emergency of any sort. But I want to be READY. Which is why I have stowed a few little helpful medical hints away for future emergency use. 

Do you have any of those “medical hints” that you’ve come across somewhere and never forgotten?

After reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen a million years ago, I am constantly on high alert for people who have arm pain followed by gas. CLEARLY that is a heart attack just waiting to happen. (I can never remember which arm the pain will be in, though.) (Apparently, it is usually the left arm.)

And I read at some point that A Feeling of Impending Doom is a medical clue you should never ignore. (You could have the bubonic plague! Or, more likely, although you never know these days, anaphylaxis! Or a pulmonary embolism! Or a bad reaction to a blood transfusion!) Unfortunately, I am filled with doom so often it seems like it might be hard to separate that feeling from the one that means, like, imminent death. But it’s a medical clue that’s forever lodged in my brain, just ready for me to leap into action the next time someone nearby sits down heavily and says, “Oh no, I’m filled with doom.” 

I seem to fuzzily recall that there’s an acronym you can use to tell if someone is having a stroke. But I can’t remember the acronym itself. Oh here it is: FAST, which stands for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time, which themselves are shorthand for facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and… time, which I guess means if you notice any of these things it’s time to get help? Oh – and here are some other sites that say you should really be using the acronym BE FAST, and also be alert for Balance and Eyes (trouble with balance/coordination and sudden blurring or loss of vision). Now, in a possible-stroke type situation, I will be sure to forget not one but two life-saving acronyms.

I read/heard once that singing the Bee Gees’s “Staying Alive” when giving chest compressions during CPR will help you keep the appropriate life-saving rhythm. (The video I linked to made me unreasonably giggly. All those very serious dancers!) (Also, I suspect – based on previous experience of watching CPR scenes on TV/in movies – my husband would say that you need to be more forceful and less elbow-bendy than this particular video demonstrator.) 

This little rhyme may someday come in handy, although I sincerely hope not: “If it’s black, fight back. If it’s brown, lie down. If it’s white, good night.” But that’s more in case of bears than in a medical emergency. I do appreciate the absolute surrender of the last couplet, though. Don’t even try, you’re dead already. 

What helpful medical hints do you have stored away in case of an emergency? And have you ever had to put them to use? And, if so, did they WORK?

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I got a call from the nurse at Carla’s camp. I feel like school/camp nurses should be contractually obligated to begin ALL phone calls to a parent with “Your child is FINE, but this is the nurse and I am calling because…” I mean, unless the child is not fine, but we are fortunately not going down that path today. 

Apparently, Carla’s eye was bothering her. The nurse went through the steps she’d taken to relieve the pain: flushed the eye, applied a compress, looked at it. I didn’t have any other advice for her (am not a nurse) and we were about an hour out from the end of the camp day, so I said, “Okay, sounds like we should keep an eye on it. But I don’t think I should come get her early, do you?” The nurse said she didn’t think so.

I mean, things get into eyes, right? Dust and eyelashes and contact lens solution. And it can be irritating or painful, but you flush the eye and blink a lot and just… let it resolve. 

This was my attitude as I went to pick up Carla from camp. Her eye was still bothering her. She kept it half shut and it was red and a little puffy. Otherwise, she was cheerful. She had no idea what happened to the eye! All of sudden, it just started hurting! 

Just to be safe – you know, to consult An Actual Doctor instead of relying on my admittedly lacking Mom Skillz – I called the eye doctor on the way home. No answer at his office. The answering service said there was a Dr. C on call and took a message. 

Carla and I went home and she lay on the floor and I gave her a compress to put on her eye. Boy, she’s really milking this, I thought affectionately/exasperatedly. I took a photo of her and sent it to my parents along with my (near) daily report of Carla’s activities.  

Carla lay there for a long time. I looked at her eye. It was red, yes. But the pupil looked normal and she seemed otherwise fine. She’ll blink it out, I thought. She said, “I think I’m going to go swing,” and I agreed, feeling satisfied that she was Fine, and was done playing the Woe Is Me card. 

My father called. He doesn’t often call out of the blue – my parents are schedule-a-time-to-talk folk. He said that my mom had read my email, and told him immediately that something was wrong with Carla’s eye. OVERREACTING MUCH, MOTHER? I thought, exasperated. She’ll blink it out eventually!

But my dad had a bunch of concerned-sounding questions. And while we were talking, Carla came inside from swinging – after maybe two minutes, which is Very Unlike Her – and lay back down on the floor and asked for another cold compress. 

My husband was now texting me about Carla’s eye. He, like my dad, was asking a lot of questions in a way that made me nervous. Suddenly, my Wait Until You Blink It Out plan seemed foolish.

My dad said that I should call the on-call ophtho back if I hadn’t heard from him in 30 minutes. It had been… 45. So when I got off the phone – significantly chastened and now feeling kind of worried – I called him back. I waited around for a bit – 15 minutes, maybe? And then I texted my husband that we were going to pick him up on the way to the Emergency Room. 

We have been to the Emergency Room a handful of times. Once, my husband sliced open his thumb (if you drop a glass dish in the sink, do not try to catch it in your hand is my hot tip of the day). Once, I was holding Carla’s hand while we were in Target and she sat down and dislocated her elbow. Once, I was working on a project with a friend and she sliced open her finger. There were a couple of other times: Carla’s cheek met a dog’s tooth (it was not a bite, it was a collision); I drove an ATV through a barbed-wire fence neck first; my father-in-law had sudden onset chest pains. It is never pleasant and it always takes a million years. 

I had not even considered bringing something for Carla to look at/play with (see above re: Mom Skillz), so the three of us sat in the ER and my husband allowed Carla to play a video game on his phone. 

Of course, her eye was starting to look SO MUCH better. The redness had faded, and she was looking at the screen of the phone with both eyes rather than keeping the one squeezed shut. My husband and I exchanged Significant Looks.

We only waited an hour. (In addition to forgetting about entertainment, I also forgot about FOOD [Mom Skillz!] and so it was now seven p.m. and none of us had eaten.) A resident checked Carla and did a full physical exam, which is pretty rare among doctors these days and therefore notable. She wanted to a) flush the eye and b) check it with a special dye to see if there were any scratches. But she needed to consult with the attending physician first and see if they needed to call in the on-call ophtho (presumably the same guy who NEVER called me back harrumph). The attending physician came in. She was cheerful and friendly and agreed with the resident’s assessment. She left. After more time passed, a nurse came in with saline solution and a special syringe. Carla required A Lot of Discussion and several demonstrations before she would allow the nurse to flush her eye with the solution. And then she would only do it for several seconds at a time. It was very cold, apparently. She and the patient angel of a nurse would count to seven out loud together and then take a break. It took ten million years to get 100 ml of saline into my child’s eye. Then we waited for awhile until the attending came back. After a lot of coaxing, she got some of the bright yellow dye in Carla’s eye, turned off the lights, and examined her eye with a special light. She didn’t see any scratches, she said. 

Carla said her eye felt a little better! It was only when she looked straight ahead and blinked that it hurt. She was very cheerful. The attending was very cheerful. She said that someone would be in to flush Carla’s eye a second time, and then we could be on our way.

We waited another while. Carla watched a Disney show on Netflix. (There was a TV in the room, but it was off and no one had said we could watch TV. But… My husband just reached behind the bed and grabbed the remote and turned on the TV! I would never in a million years think to do that without explicit permission.) 

A fourth person came in. She was a EMT, she told us, and she was there to flush Carla’s eye! Carla was much more amenable to the flushing this time. 

After the EMT left, another nurse came in with our discharge papers and we left. 

As we walked out, Carla started complaining that her eye still hurt. 

The next morning when Carla woke up, her eye was still red and now it was all crusty. To be expected, after undergoing whatever trauma it had undergone. But she was still keeping the one eye closed and complaining of pain when she looked forward and blinked.

So I kept her home from camp and got her an appointment with her eye doctor. 

He came in, flushed her eye, put the special dye in… But he said that he could see a bunch of scratches on her eye where something was irritating it. And he LISTENED to her when she said that she was fine when she kept her eyes closed or when she looked to the side, but that it hurt when she looked forward and blinked. Also – and this is a skill I deeply admire – the ophtho managed to listen to Carla and be sympathetic to her fears about being touched/having Things Done to her, while moving things along at a good clip. He did not allow Carla to stall and delay, he did what he needed to do. And it was all over SO FAST! 

After MUCH (but efficient) COAXING, he flipped her eyelid inside out. And there it was, plain as day: a little speck of something, minuscule but visible even to my untrained eye. The ophtho used a swab to remove it. He and Carla speculated that it was a little piece of tree bark, although I have no idea how they came to that conclusion; it looked like dust to me. He gave her a prescription for an antibiotic (because of the scratches) and a special ointment and sent us on our way.

She was completely pain free by the time we reached the car.

The moral of the story is: ALWAYS HAVE THE DOCTOR FLIP THE EYELID. We could have saved SO MUCH time and money and trouble if we had asked the resident or the ER attending to just flip! the! eyelid! Or, even better, if we had thought to have my physician husband flip her eyelid himself at home!

Okay, okay. I am going to take a deep breath. This is why we have health insurance (thank goodness) and this is what money is for. Breathing. Breathing.

The secondary motto is DON’T UNDERESTIMATE EYE STUFF. Because even if you think it is just a dumb eyelash that will blink out eventually, maybe it is a piece of metal that could cause serious damage.

Meanwhile, the on-call ophtho never called us back. Never. I am still mad about it. My husband calls people back at 2:30 in the morning when he is on call. Because that is what it means to be on call. You take patient calls and you return them. The returning of the calls is a critical part. My husband suggested that maybe the ophtho wasn’t accustomed to getting emergency calls! And so he wasn’t paying attention to his phone! To which I say PAH. Even if my husband is delayed by doing a procedure or being with a patient, he calls patients back. Even if he gets a call from a patient that is frustrating in its non-urgency, he still calls that patient back. And I called this on-call ophtho TWICE! Still. Mad. About. It. 

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The other day, Carla had a very specific request for dinner: “May I please have a bowl of white [iceberg] lettuce and a separate bowl of [shredded] cheese and another bowl of tomatoes so that I can put them together and make a salad?” 

Sure, child. Why not. 

I mentioned a while back that we are trying to increase Carla’s calcium intake. And by “we” I mean “me” because my husband seems wholly unconcerned by the issue. Not in an “I’m a Physician and Am Unworried” way, but in a “this is not my problem” way ARGH. And a teeny bit in a Thwarting Efforts way. My father (ALSO a physician) suggested we simply give Carla some Tums (calcium carbonate) and so I suggested to my husband that he grab a roll of Tums next time he was at the grocery store. He said a) we already have Tums at home and when I brightened and said “Oh! We can give Carla those!” he said no, that those Tums were for acid reflux. Blink. Blink blink. 

All of this is to say that I am continually working on getting more calcium into Carla. 

Smoothies, as I think I mentioned before, seemed like the perfect vehicle. Especially considering that Carla likes smoothies, and dislikes most other things. 

But there have been two problems.

  1. She hasn’t been in the mood for smoothies. Almost every day I say, “You’re going to have a smoothie for breakfast!” and she says, “No.” And then I argue with her a little bit, and make pleading noises about calcium intake, and she remains firm, and I give up. Because I am not going to waste a smoothie on her when she is clearly going to Stand Firm. And I get it! I like… chili, but I don’t want to eat it every day. If you told me chili had specific life-extending properties, I would still have a hard time drumming up enough enthusiasm to eat it every day. So I get it. I do. But also: JUST DRINK A SMOOTHIE.
  2. Smoothies do not contain as much calcium as I think. I made one for her with 1/4 cup of yogurt, 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice, and 1 cup frozen mango chunks. That makes a LARGE cup of smoothie. And it contains about 40% of a person’s daily calcium. Sigh. It’s a big swoop forward on the calcium-intake-o-meter, but it’s not even halfway, and HOW do I get the rest of the way EVERY DAY?

I wonder if I could mix Carnation Instant Breakfast (200 mg calcium per packet) into her smoothies? 

I found a recipe for frozen yogurt treats that I might try. I broached the idea to Carla and she was a little suspicious, but it would be worth trying at least. Maybe I could mix some Carnation Instant Breakfast into some yogurt and pipe it onto cookie sheets and freeze it? I may give it a try.

I have been Googling like crazy, but the food sources of calcium seem to have so little (50 mg here, 125 mg there – and that’s for a FULL serving of foods she DOESN’T EAT), that it seems impossible to get them to add up to 1300 mg per day. And there is a lot of pooh-poohing of calcium supplements. I get it. I understand that most vitamins don’t have a whole lot of calcium anyway, and that you need to be taking Vitamin D as well so that you can properly absorb your calcium. But it would be really useful to just give Carla a chewable something and be done with it. There are Reasons that I don’t want to get the Viactiv chews (650 mg calcium per chew), but maybe I need to get past them. 

I know I tend to catastrophize. I know I do that. But I keep picturing Carla as an adult, with bones that shatter at the least provocation, and her wan little face asking the heavens, “Why, God, why did my mother not force me to get enough calcium when I was small? Why?” 

Now I understand why my parents were so adamant about me drinking a FULL GLASS of milk every day. (A cup of milk is only 300 mg!)

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I mentioned in my Road Trip! Round Up that I weighed exactly the same amount when I got home as I had when I’d embarked on the trip. Even though I’d gone completely off Keto for the duration of the trip, and even though our dinners consisted of many burgers and beers, and even though I ate many many bags of chips. 

This was so disheartening, Internet. I cannot express how my heart dropped when I saw that number on the scale. I mean, on the one hand, it was pleasant to not have that grit-teethed feeling of needing to start over from scratch. But on the other, more emotional hand, I felt like, “WHAT THE HELL HAVE I BEEN DOING ALL THIS TIME?”

It was already pretty clear that Keto – or my specific brand of low-carb eating – wasn’t working for me anymore. I’d been stalled at the same not-quite-ten-percent-of-my-body-weight weight loss since May, after all. I probably would have done Something about it earlier if we hadn’t been planning this Road Trip. But I have to admit I was hoping that a) things would correct themselves or b) I could buckle down after the Road Trip.

And then when it turned out I didn’t have to be on Keto to maintain my current weight… well, I didn’t get back to it. Instead, I kept eating like I was on a Road Trip. (Plus, I ate ALL the beans. Turns out the food I miss the most when I am doing keto is… beans. Black beans, navy beans, chickpeas. Burritos, tacos, stir fries, soups. ALL THE BEANS.) And now I am back where I was when I started this particular Keto journey in February. UGH UGH UGH. 

I don’t know what to do now. Do I try Keto again? I think if I were really strict with it, it might help. But my husband refuses to follow it strictly, which makes it difficult for me to do so. He is all for doing low carb again, but that wasn’t working for me. I feel like the only two options are 1) Keep going the way I am going, which is unpleasant for many reasons or 2) Start counting calories again, which makes me want to walk into the sea. There are probably other options, but those seem like the most currently workable of them all.

Listen, we all know how FRAUGHT the topic of weight loss is. I don’t have the energy to rehash it here. But I DO want to lose weight. I do. So… I don’t know what I’ll do. We’ll see. That’s my Keto update, I guess: not doing Keto, not sure if I should try it again, not sure what to do instead. (Except stopping eating like I haven’t seen food in months.)

In the meantime, it’s clear that I NEED my Dinners This Week posts. Otherwise I end up staring despondently at my husband every night asking him, “What should I make for dinner?” And then we stare at each other, neither one of us offering any ideas, occasionally lifting our eyebrows hopefully in the other person’s direction, until we turn to stone. 

Plus, groceries are SO out of control expensive right now that I absolutely CANNOT continue doing the thing where I come up with an idea for one single meal and go to the store and get ingredients just for that meal and end up spending $75. That’s not financially responsible. Nor can we eat takeout as much as we are currently doing. It’s not helping anything, weight-wise, plus it no longer feels like a treat, plus ALSO expensive.

Another reason I need to get back to planning is that my in-laws are coming to visit and I expect they will want to eat with us a good number of nights (they are staying in a rental)… and I really need to plan that in advance or my sanity will crawl out of my ears. (My current plan of AHHHHHHH and lots of takeout doesn’t seem reasonable.) Plus, we are having friends over for dinner at some point and I need to plan THAT. (Tacos. There, planned.)

Dinners for the Week of August 1-7

Salmon Cakes with Something Green: I don’t know why, but I’ve had a hankering for salmon cakes lately. My husband is not a salmon fan, but perhaps since it’s cakes and not straight salmon, he will eat them without too much complaint. I’m not sure what to have on the side. Green beans? Let’s say sauteed green beans.

Oven Baked Pork Chops with Broccoli: My husband requested these specifically, so on the plan they go, along with some steamed broccoli. I have some freezer potatoes (more appetizing than I am making them sound) to add if we’re feeling carby.

Chicken and Ginger Stir Fry: Here’s another one for weird cravings – I am really in the mood for a very ginger-y stir fry. Maybe this one would be better. Or this one. What I really want is a stir fry with no sauce (yes, it is me writing this; no, do not call the police) but instead just lots of fresh ginger and maybe some garlic in there. I haven’t found a recipe that meets these standards though, but I will keep looking.

Parmesan Garlic Fish with Something Green: This sounds yummy. Maybe I would try it without the breadcrumbs. And as for a side… sauteed spinach? Or maybe some roasted Brussels sprouts? Carla picked out a Brussels sprout at the grocery store and said she wanted to try one – JUST ONE, she made sure to clarify.

Baked Chicken Breasts with Zucchini: I love Nagi’s oven baked pork chops (and pretty much any of her recipes I’ve tried), so these are bound to be good. And the preparation seems very simple, which is always nice to have in one’s back pocket.

What are you having for dinner this week?

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I woke up at 4:00 am with a splitting headache and then couldn’t fall back to sleep. So I am feeling a bit fretful and complainy this morning. 

I don’t want Carla to get Covid. I have been doing my very best at isolating, but it is slightly tricky with my husband being back at work and me, you know, having to feed and care for my child. I wear a mask any time I venture out of my bedroom. I spend as little time in the “main house” as possible. Carla cries at bedtime because I can’t hug and kiss her goodnight. We have a little stash of rapid tests and have been making good use of them, and Carla and I went to the pharmacy the other day to get PCR tests. (That was nerve-wracking – we both wore masks AND I kept all the car windows wide open the whole time.) (My husband calmly reminds me that we were all just in a car/hotel room together, windows closed and maskless, for fifteen days.) Carla’s PCR test was negative, mine was not. I don’t know how I could manage to be the only one to get Covid, but if that’s how it works out, I will be very glad. Carla did just get her booster before we left, so I’m hoping she was at Peak Immunity when she was exposed to me and my germs. 

Here’s what I want to know about isolating in a home you share with others. How does it WORK? My bedroom is not magically on some alternate air circulation system. Every time I open the door, surely germs are escaping into the rest of the house. My mask isn’t trapping 100% of all the little Covid particles. HOW can we avoid getting Carla sick? It seems impossible. And yet, some people manage? I think? 

The next two bullets are Deeply Boring and yet I cannot bring myself to delete them.

I have been trying to do a little work from my bedroom. This means phone calls, my least favorite task of all. Do you recall the bank that charges us an annual “inactive” fee for an account whose sole purpose is sit there as collateral until we pay off a loan? (All the mind-numbing details are here.) After three years of arguing with people who cannot grasp simple concepts who work there, we sailed through 2020 AND 2021 without a late fee, and I was so delighted! They’d finally made a note on my account that there was no reason for me to make a deposit in an account that I cannot access, and had stopped charging me! You can sense what’s coming next, right? My husband alerted me this past May that we had now been charged a total of $12.00 in inactive fees. (Which means they DID charge us in 2021; we just didn’t notice.) Perhaps the bank had waived the fee in 2020 because of The State of Things. And apparently we simply did not notice when we began to lose $2.00 a month from the account. Whoops. As I have mentioned a billion times, normally I HATE making phone calls. But this one particular issue makes me practically giddy with wanting to tell someone how ASININE and RIDICULOUS it is. I was Let Me Talk to a Manager level irritated, after FIVE YEARS (minus the 2020 exception) of this nonsense. So back in May I called the bank and gave the lucky person who answered my spiel about how we should not be charged an inactive fee because the purpose of the account is to remain inactive. Unlike all the other brainless fools everyone else I’ve spoken to at the bank, she IMMEDIATELY understood that it was ridiculous to expect me to add even a single dollar to an account that I cannot touch. Not just ridiculous, but virtually impossible, considering that I don’t have checks or a debit card for that account, nor do I have digital access to the account, nor do I live within a 20 minutes’ drive of the bank. The account is under the control of the bank until we pay off the loan. The woman I spoke to Got It. Like, without my having to do anything but sketch out the basic issue, she said incredulously, “Well that’s ridiculous. Of course you wouldn’t want to add funds to an account you can’t touch! There’s no reason you should be paying an inactive fee on an account that’s meant to be inactive!” It took the bluster out of my Let Me Talk to a Manager sails, but it was SO mollifying to be understood. She said that she would talk with the bank supervisor and get the charge reversed AND she would have them make a note on our file. I was very pleased with the interaction. (Usually, the person I speak to says that ALL we have to do is deposit something in the account! It can be as little as a dollar! Once a year! And there are branches in X and Y and Z cities! Which, yes, I get that this sounds like a small amount of time and money and a very minimal hassle, but THE PRINCIPLE.) You know, perhaps, where this is heading. We came home to another statement which, alongside the credit of the $12, included a debit of $2 for a new inactive fee. ENDLESS SCREAMING.

Yes, I have a second bullet point about the banking thing. This morning, I called the bank and asked specifically to speak to the person I’d spoken to in May. Her name was similar to a fairly common name, but one syllable was different – like “Carlotte” instead of “Charlotte” or “Car-ree” instead of “Carrie” or “Samintha” instead of “Samantha.” I love her with my whole heart. She made things happen AND fully grasped why this situation is so stupid/frustrating. The person I spoke to put me on hold and then said that Samintha was not available but he would connect me to customer service. Sad, but okay. Customer Service means, as I discovered, the customer service line for the entire national banking system, when really I wanted to talk to someone (Samintha, sob!) in my local branch. Oh well. The customer service agent was very nice. His name was Tryin’ with a B. I explained to him that this is an annual problem, and gave him the quick and dirty details, and then he explained to me what was happening. “Oh, I think what the issue is, is that you have a LOAN, and this is a CHECKING ACCOUNT (it’s not, actually – it’s a money market account that we cannot access), and since you haven’t made any deposits or withdrawals, they are charging you an inactive fee.” Yes, thank you for repeating the exact same thing I just told you. And, nice as Tryin’ was, he couldn’t DO anything about it because the only person who can DO anything about it is the manager of my local branch. Tryin’ promised me he would call me back but I’m not holding my breath. I think I will see if I can get a hold of Samintha tomorrow.

I get canker sores about once a month and they are GOING WILD right now. I think this is a hormonal thing, but maybe it is a Covid thing? Who knows. Seems like EVERYTHING could be a Covid thing. And yes, canker sores are different from cold sores. They are basically little ulcers that occur inside the mouth, usually on the cheeks or under the tongue. Sometimes I get them on my gums, too. They are AWFUL. I have a massive one under my tongue and one on the very back part of my tongue right where my tongue brushes up against my bottom molars. 

The news is so enduringly turbulent. I just typed and erased a 634 word diatribe about one of the various Hot Button Issues that is driving me mad/making me worry that I have made a terrible mistake bringing a child into this fraught world. But I don’t like to write about Hot Button Issues on this blog, so I deleted it. (If I want to torment myself gnash my teeth and rend my garments over The State of Things catch up on world events, I will look at the news or go on Twitter.) Not that I have anything new or groundbreaking or interesting to say anyway; just vents/frets/threats of walking into the sea. There are SO MANY things going on and I have Feelings about many of them and yet I feel like it is utterly pointless to talk about them. The people I might discuss them with either disagree with me strenuously, which means voicing my own thoughts would lead to the type of confrontational encounter I HATE, and not to mention there’s no way I can convince anyone to feel differently from how they do; I don’t know enough of the background and facts, nor am I well-spoken enough to craft a convincing argument… or they already agree with me, and discussing things will just drive us each deeper into the pits of despair/rage we are already existing in.

I have eaten the last of the Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

My father (a physician for 40+ years) (I don’t know why I feel like I have to make sure you know he’s qualified to give advice) suggested that I make sure Carla is getting enough calcium. This is an ongoing concern, but one I haven’t properly fretted about recently, so I’m in Full Fret Mode right now. Apparently, she needs 1,300 mg of calcium per day – or four servings. She doesn’t get enough calcium. She refuses to drink milk – yes, even chocolate milk. She eats a bunch of cheese, and there is 200 mg of calcium per ounce of block cheddar or per 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar, so that helps, but it’s not enough. She only eats yogurt occasionally. She doesn’t even really like ice cream (and has never liked milkshakes) (she IS related to both me and my ice cream loving husband, I assure you). She eats cream cheese – it’s one of her non-pork camp foods this summer – but, despite having both “cream” and “cheese” right there in the name, there is only 26 mg of calcium per two tablespoons of cream cheese. (And NONE in the whipped cream cheese!) My mom and I walked through a whole list of foods that contain calcium and of that list Carla eats two things with moderate consistency: chickpeas and cheese. And sometimes yogurt. Very rarely, almonds. My mom was being really creative, too. What about calcium fortified orange juice? What about almond milk and almond butter? Carla does not drink juice and she will not touch almond milk with a ten-foot pole. I have no idea if I could get her to eat almond butter but my confidence level is low. Some people have suggested Ensure, but my guess is that if she refuses milk/juice/milkshakes, she will refuse Ensure as well. My current plan is try to coax her into drinking a smoothie every day. I can pack it with yogurt, almond milk, AND calcium fortified orange juice. She likes smoothies. We used to drink a mango smoothie together every week on the drive to ballet practice. But I am not sure if I can get her drink one every single day. My father thinks we should start giving her Tums. (We cannot do the Viactiv chocolate calcium chews.) Probably we will have to use a multi-pronged approach, with smoothies on one prong and roasted chickpeas and plenty of cheese on another prong and Tums on another prong. If you have any magical calcium ideas, I will prong them right up. 

Our refrigerator is unplugged and empty right now. This is something we’ve been planning to do, for awhile, and it’s not like I’m making big elaborate dinners at the moment, so it seems like a good time. We bought the fridge in 2011. It has some real advantages, like that it is beautiful and also it holds a TON of food. But it’s been plagued with issues almost from the beginning. To name a few: the door closing mechanism fails on a regular basis (I have learned how to source the replacement part and repair it myself), the ice maker broke and had to be repaired, the water dispenser pressure dropped off precipitously for no discernible (or fixable) reason, the bottom of the fridge fills with water that then turns to ice, the ice maker and dispenser chute are often coated with a slick black mold, the electronic panel frequently disconnects from the temperature readout and makes an incessant tinkling noise. ET CETERA. The most recent repairman I had in the house informed me that the ice problem was A Known Issue with this brand of fridge (GE/Samsung) and that it is unfixable. (He also said that if he’d known in advance this was the fridge we had, he wouldn’t have come out because he knows it is unfixable and wouldn’t want me to have to pay the service fee his company charges for sending someone to our house; he declined to charge me the service fee.) He suggested that best thing we can do is unplug it for three days, wait for the internal mechanisms to thaw, and then plug it back in and hope it works for about six months before we have to do it again. So that is what we are doing: we are thawing out the fridge in hopes that it will magically reset. We are lucky enough to have a second (though much smaller) fridge in the basement, so I have relocated the foods we cannot live without/cannot bear to toss. It is a jumbled mess down there, but at least it functions. However, now I have to run downstairs for every little thing and it’s a pain. (My husband keeps asking me, “Are you breathing heavily because you just went down two flights of stairs to the basement to get a plum and then walked back up two flights of stairs to the bedroom or because you have Covid?”) My father thinks, in a non-pressurey way, that we should just replace the damn fridge already. But I am one of those people who wants a key appliance to LOOK a certain way, and I have grown accustomed to how spacious it is. And have you SEEN how expensive refrigerators are?!?! I am not in the mood to spend one-, two- or three-THOUSAND dollars when a refrigerator should be a ONE-TIME purchase. Of course maybe we will plug the fridge back in and it will refuse to work and we will have to buy one anyway. Fun times! 

Speaking of fun times, summer feels like its coming to a close. I feel like there was so much anticipation about the summer, and our Road Trip!, and now the Road Trip! is over and Carla only has two weeks left of camp and then school will start before we know it and then it’s practically Thanksgiving, which might as well be Christmas and then a WHOLE YEAR will have passed.

A final Covid fret (for today, at least): My husband and Carla are following all the Covid protocols set forth by the CDC, my husband’s workplace, and Carla’s camp… but I am still fretting. I am being Very Strident about Carla wearing her mask, and her camp is mainly outdoors, and they only admitted children who were fully vaccinated, but ACK. I am fretting that Carla (despite having no symptoms and still testing negative on a rapid test) will somehow spread this stupid disease to others. (Also, I am very grateful for my little stockpile of rapid tests.) I hate being contagious. It is STUPID and I HATE IT. Well. As of tomorrow, according to the CDC, I am okay to leave isolation and rejoin the public, as long as I wear a mask. I haven’t taken a rapid test since the one that read positive, so I don’t know that I am negative yet, and that seems Kind Of Important, even though no one else (CDC, I am glaring in your direction) seems to agree. Anyway: I don’t have anywhere I plan to go, but the reasons that I COULD are positive: I have no fever (I don’t think I ever did) and my symptoms are improving. Except for the crankiness. That has, if anything, increased.

What are you fretting about? What’s making you cranky? Any complaints to share?

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Well, we are back from our Road Trip!, which was fabulous. Ten days of driving that paused for a five-day stopover with my parents in the middle. My husband planned the trip in such a way that we didn’t get tired of being in the car until the very end. And then we arrived home, and it was wonderful to be back in our own beds, with a weekend to recover before getting back to normal.

And then I woke up with cold symptoms and rapid tests confirmed that I have Covid. The worst souvenir. 

So far, I am feeling crummy. But mainly CRANKY. 

Cranky at myself. I always anticipated getting Covid at some point; it’s long seemed inevitable. I thought that when I finally got it, I would feel resignation mixed with relief. But I don’t. I am MAD. I got Covid because I took unnecessary risks, and that’s just a fact. Did I expect that * I * was somehow invincible? That Covid would look at the fact that I’ve been pretty measured and cautious over the past two-ish years and say, “Let’s skip her”? That residents of the rural western United States are all roaming around unmasked because Covid doesn’t exist in those areas? Apparently I did expect those things because we relaxed our typical restrictions on our trip and I got Covid. We ate out in restaurants A LOT. We went into museums and gas stations and gift shops and sometimes we just left our masks in the car. We attended events with lots of other people and pretended that the outdoor venues would protect us. I was uncareful and I KNEW I wasn’t being careful and I got Covid. So I feel cranky and mad and a little ashamed and my head feels like a stress ball that’s being squeezed so intensely you can see the little beads inside it through the membrane. PLUS I somehow forgot to do the Wordle yesterday and it RESET my winning streak.

For posterity’s sake, my symptoms: It started with a scratchy throat. So lightly scratchy that it was easy enough to write it off as irritation from staying in so many hotels (I was getting irritated with being on the road, those last couple of days; why not my throat, too?), or the change in atmosphere/climate as we drove eastward toward home. Then a day of an even sorer throat, with an irresistible tickle that could only be soothed by chain-lozenging menthol cough drops. Then a day where the throat felt better and the cough was less persistent. Now, Day 4, I am in the Head in a Vise stage. I am isolating in my bedroom, which fortunately has its own bathroom, but I am resentful and grumpy and have to get up to staunch my runny nose every few minutes. 

Covid. Ugh.

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In highly exciting news, I have recently had occasion to visit a podiatrist for the first time. 

Relatedly, I want to talk about my foot. The thought of doing so bores me almost to tears, so I feel deep empathy for YOU, whose foot it is not. The thing is, it has been causing me enormous grief for months now and I better just talk about it and get it over with. 

Sometime in December of 2021, I started having heel pain when I woke up. It would be worst when I first got out of bed, then would gradually subside throughout the day. My runner friend told me it sounded like plantar fasciitis, which is a term with vowels that look incorrect even when I know they’re in the right places. I looked up plantar fasciitis and found some stretching exercises to do; I did them; they seemed to work. 

But then after maybe a week or so, the exercises stopped being effective. And the pain got worse and worse, so that any time I sat down (and as a person who writes for most of the day, I sit a LOT) and then tried to stand, I would hobble around with serious pain. It started waking me up in the night. It started affecting my ability to drive (I would get sharp shooting pains in my arch when I pushed on the gas or the brake). It made it difficult/painful for me to do my preferred type of exercise (walking). 

I went to a podiatrist, who seems very knowledgeable and who came highly recommended. But it seemed to me that the podiatrist relies a little too heavily on ME and not heavily enough on measurable facts. I suppose that’s how most of medicine is, isn’t it. If I say I have sinus pain and I’m miserable, and the doctor presses on my forehead and under my cheekbones and asks if it hurts, she has to take my word for it that it does. A gastroenterologist has to rely on your report of stomach/intestinal pain. But I hate that. I do. I want to be able to go to a doctor and say, “I am in pain” and for them to be able to VERIFY that, scientifically. I want them to have calipers that measure the pain so they can nod and say, “Yes, I see, this is clearly a Level 5 pain.” rather than making me the sole reporter of painfulness. For one thing, I feel like I have a low threshold for pain, so that what might be excruciating for me would be just a little twinge for you. And I don’t want to overreact to pain, or come across in any way like I am overexaggerating. I want it to be quantifiable. It’s NOT, but oh well. 

The podiatrist did press on my foot to see if I reacted, which I did. And he used an ultrasound machine to check… something. I’m not sure, but he did measure something and record those measurements. (He also took an X-ray, to ensure I didn’t have any fractures or cancer.) (Brief digression: I have been having pain in both feet, but one is much more severe than the other. When I checked in, I explained this. The receptionist said she would send me for an X-ray right away, and did I want X-rays of both feet or one? Um. I don’t know? I feel like that is not the kind of decision I, the non-doctor, am qualified to make? I did say that I would do whatever the doctor recommended, and the receptionist said, “It’s really up to you.” So I told her we could focus on just the one because the pain in the other foot is – currently – livable. But then the whole time I was getting my foot X-rayed I was feeling panicky that I had made the wrong choice, and what if I needed to come BACK in a few months and do it all again, and pay extra to get the other foot X-rayed when I could have gotten it all done at once? I had to use some coping thoughts like, “less radiation NOW is better, when I may not ever need a X-ray for the other foot.” And, “I made the best choice I could in the moment, and there is nothing I can do now.” And, “maybe it would end up costing the same anyway; I don’t know if they charge per foot or per visit, so who knows.” And, “I am fortunate to have health insurance and a health savings account, and this is what those things are for.” I had a good hearty wait before the X-ray technician was ready for me, so I got a chance to repeat these coping thoughts several times. (And panickedly wonder whether I could ask the X-ray tech to do both feet, or ask if I could call up to the doctor and alter the order.) It turned out okay, and if I need another X-ray of the other foot at some time in the future, so be it. But I really wish that the DOCTOR would have said, “Well, I really think that we should focus on the one foot that’s causing you the most trouble.” Or “Well, this thing can develop quickly so if you are having even a little trouble, let’s treat the other foot too.”) 

This is a very complainy post about my podiatrist, when really he seemed very nice. I guess I just get very anxious about doctors’ visits. I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time, I don’t want to overestimate the problem, or make A Big Deal when it’s not a big deal, I don’t want to spend a lot of health savings account money when I could really just be at home icing my foot, you know? 

Anyway. After the podiatrist evaluated my foot, he gave me a little mini lecture about what plantar fasciitis is, using a plaster foot as a visual aid, and I thought it was very useful and interesting and then promptly forgot everything he told me. He then gave me a splint to wear on my foot while sleeping (“gave” – it cost $75; it is possible I could have bought one myself elsewhere for much cheaper, but I did not) and a prescription for a steroid/anti-inflammatory drug, and scheduled an appointment for me to come back in just over a week. 

The first day of the steroid, I had excruciating bone pain in ALL my bones. That was deeply unpleasant. But on days two and three, the bone pain had subsided and I had almost NO PAIN in my afflicted foot. It was MIRACULOUS. Then, as I “stepped down” the dosage of the steroid over the next week, the pain returned. It was dispiriting, to say the least.

Not to mention that the splint for my foot is not… super. It wraps around the ball of my foot and then has a stiff arm that goes up the outside of my shin, and tightens around my calf. Kind of like a shin guard, only a bit more flexible. It keeps my foot in a slightly flexed position, which is not uncomfortable. The edges of the Velcro closure scratch my toes though, and I find it very difficult to sleep with the thing on my leg. Plus, I absolutely cannot walk on it, so I have to remove the whole splint every time I get up to go to the bathroom which is at least twice per night. (Each time, I try to undo the Velcro as quickly as possible, so that I don’t wake my husband. I feel like the sound of Velcro reluctantly parting from itself would be a highly unpleasant way to wake up in the middle of the night.)

When I went back to the podiatrist, the medical assistant asked me how things had gone, and I told her: my foot was definitely better than it was before, but it was not great. She said, “What percentage has your pain been reduced?”

What? Ugh. While I was just whining a few paragraphs ago about wanting quantitative measurements of medical issues, I do not want to be the one who provides them. I am at a loss for how to evaluate things like this. If you ask me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I usually have NO IDEA how to do that. Like, I have in my head the worst pain I have ever experienced, so I assign that a 10. But then… it’s very difficult to know where other things fall. Primarily because pain is so immediate, and because the perception of pain fades with time. Right now, it HURTS, and it’s bearable or not.

Anyway, I told her that maybe the pain was 20% better – which was a wild guess on my part – and she said, Wow, okay, that’s not good. If you had said it was a 70% improvement, maybe we could give you another round of the steroid, but the next step is usually an injection. 

Now, I had heard about the injection before I ever made my first appointment with the podiatrist. The person who recommended him had had an injection for my exact problem, and it seemed like that was the treatment, so the steroid/splint treatment I received was a surprise to me. I’d been prepared from the get go for an injection, and the podiatrist had mentioned at my first appointment that if the steroid/splint didn’t work, I would probably need an injection. So I was anticipating an injection. 

The medical assistant left and when the doctor came in, he said, “I hear you were begging for the injection.” Which made my eyes go all wide until I realized he was joking. THEN he told me that a lot of people say the injection is the worst pain they have ever had; that women who have delivered multiple children say it’s much worse than childbirth. (Not the most reassuring way to begin the injection discussion, Doc!) But, he went on, he has never had any patient say that to HIM. HIS injections are painless, and he uses a specific method that makes them so.  

So now I had two things to hold in my head: 1. That some people find this injection to be excruciating and 2. That I could not in any way tell this guy if it WAS, because he would not believe me. 

He put up a little curtain, separating my eyes from from my foot, which is a weird way to phrase that but I am leaving it, and sprayed my foot with what he called a “cold spray.” THAT was pretty uncomfortable, but bearable. And then he started the injection, which took several minutes and was also fairly uncomfortable but bearable. I had to do some deep breathing, and had to clutch my arms across my chest quite tightly to get through it, and there was some tear-prickling at my eyes, but no actual tears. (At one point, he asked if I was doing Lamaze breathing back there, which made me feel quite embarrassed. He went on to say if I left with a baby, we’d each have a lot of explaining to do, har har har, and as I mulled THAT ONE over for awhile, while trying not to breathe so audibly, I came to the conclusion that I probably wasn’t breathing THAT hard, and that instead the Lamaze thing was probably a bit he does for lots of his patients.) (I feel as though, in describing this to you, I am describing this doctor quite unfavorably. I definitely do NOT jive with his sense of humor, although I can see how many patients would find him hilarious and delightful. But I did feel that he was a good listener, and that he cared that I was in pain, and that he wasn’t judging my particular level of pain tolerance, and that he was determined to resolve the problem. AND that he was an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner.)

Anyway. The injection was FAR from the most painful thing I’ve endured. Dental procedures are much, much worse. But afterward, my foot was sore and I kept getting these little shooting pains in my heel and walking was about as uncomfortable as it had been before I saw the podiatrist. 

The injection did HELP, for a while. The next day, my foot felt significantly better. But I am nearly a week out from the first injection and I am back to hobbling around when I wake up/stand up after sitting for awhile. 

And yes, I said “first injection” because the podiatrist mentioned that, for a LOT of people, one injection resolves the issue completely. But for some people, it doesn’t. And that we needed to resign ourselves (he didn’t say resign; I think he said “commit.” Resign feels more accurate for me, though.) to THREE injections before we pursued a different path. He didn’t even mention what the next path would be, so I’m trying to borrow some of his confidence that the second or, gulp, third injection will do the trick. I am NOT looking forward to another injection. Last time, I had the added anxiety of not knowing what to expect. But now I have a different type of anxiety because I DO know. And it’s hard to go into something, knowing it will result in pain. 

This feels like the kind of thing I had better get used to, as I age. More and more parts of me are going to fail. More and more parts of my body are going to experience pain. I am not pleased about it, but I recognize that this is just A Part of Aging. And I’m really very lucky. I can still walk. I can still exercise, even if doing so is slower and causes residual pain. I can afford to treat it. Hopefully my marriage can withstand my ongoing crankiness/hobbling. 

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When my husband and I did Keto in 2020, we went hog wild. We bought ALL the Keto-specific products. We bought cheese by the cartload. We bought packages and packages of crunchy cheese snacks. We bought almond flour and flaxseed meal and xanthan gum. We bought avocado oil and MCT oil. We bought Keto pancake mix and Keto maple syrup. We bought Keto powdered erythritol and liquid stevia. We had all these plans to make Keto recipes and made many of them. But we found that a lot of the things we tried were either unpalatable or palatable only once or twice. 

This time around, I have been trying to live without Keto recipes and Keto items as much as possible.

But I have found a few Keto-specific items that I really like. This is, perhaps, in part due to the passage of two years’ time. Keto still seems very popular, and I think more and more products have become available since 2020 – and the products that are coming out keep getting better and tastier. 

My primary care doctor recommended two of the first Keto-friendly foods I tried this go-round, and they turned out to be two products that I really like:

Two Good Yogurt: Each container of yogurt contains 3 net grams of carbs. I don’t love this yogurt (it has a slight aftertaste, which I associate with stevia, and it is a little on the tangy side for my taste), so I don’t eat it every day. But it definitely scratches the yogurt itch. And it comes in a lot of different flavors, which adds some nice variety to my life. My favorite is mango, followed by raspberry and vanilla.

Protein Bread: My doctor told me that this was ONLY at Aldi’s, and so far, that’s the only place I can find it. (Strangely enough, Aldi also sells bread that has “Keto friendly!” on the wrapper, but turns out to be… a lot of carbs.) This particular bread has 4 grams of net carbs per slice. That is a lot – more than 20% of my daily allotted carbs – but sometimes I just need some bread. And I find that this bread is VERY satisfying. It tastes fine – nutty and wholesome. But more important, it is BREAD. My husband made a loaf of “Keto bread” in 2020, and it was NOT bread. It was crumbly and bitter and did not count as bread in my mind. But this protein bread is definitely bread in taste and texture. It’s pretty hearty, too, and since I usually pair it with cheese or avocado, it makes for a very filling, satisfying meal. I don’t eat it every day, so I remove a few slices and then freeze the rest. I find that it takes longer than most breads to toast – I like a nice, crunchy piece of toast. Putting it in the oven helps. 

There are a ton of low-carb and “Keto” breads on the market lately… but I have only tried this one. Because of my experience in 2020, I am wary of spending money on foods I end up hating. But… I am curious about some things. The last time I went to Whole Foods, I found a low-carb bread that I want to try. It was out of stock, of course, but if I ever get my hands on it I will test it out and let you know. 

One of the things that I crave the most while on Keto is pizza. And many of the Keto-friendly pizza options I have tried are not great. Most so-called “low-carb” crusts are not actually low-carb. Like the cauliflower pizza crust at Trader Joe’s is 16 grams of net carbs for one-sixth of the crust. If I am going to blow 16 grams of carbs on one meal, it better be for an entire pizza. I have made “Fathead Dough,” which is a low carb pizza dough… and it is so hard for me to make. It never comes together correctly. I think the one time I got it to work, it was fine, but it wasn’t worth the work or the frustration. Plus, it’s still 2 grams of net carbs per one-eighth of the total crust, which… again, I want to eat more than one slice of pizza, you know? And I want to be very clear: I am not eating pizza crust made out of chicken. That sounds… highly unpleasant. (Although my husband has tried it and thought it was fine.)

To address my pizza craving, I turned to tortillas. And I was pleasantly surprised to find several low-carb tortilla options. Here are my two favorites:

Protein Plant Powered Tortillas:  Each of these tortillas has 3 grams of net carbs, and when you add sauce and cheese and pepperoni, it bakes up to be a very satisfying pizza. The tortilla is slightly sweet, and it’s very soft and thin. It crisps up decently in the oven, and I find it to be a really good option for a Keto pizza crust. I have not tried it for other purposes (yet), but I’m guessing it would be a perfectly adequate substitution for burritos or even tacos. 

Street Tacos Carb Balance Whole Wheat Tortillas: These little tortillas are smaller than the above ones, but they are thicker and – I think – tastier. You get two of them for 3 grams of net carbs. Because they are a little thicker, they make a nice sturdy crust for a mini pizza. I always make at least two mini pizzas, sometimes three, and they definitely help curb the pizza cravings. Somehow I haven’t tried these with tacos yet either, but I think they would be delicious.

Keto Blueberry Cinnamon Nut Granola: I bought this on a whim at Costco, and I am very glad I did. (Apparently, you can also buy it on amazon. There are multiple flavors, too!) One of the things Keto lacks is an abundance of crunchy foods. (Outside of vegetables. And dehydrated cheese.) One-third of a cup of this granola has 3 net grams of carbs. (Hmmm. On the Nutrail website, it says 2 grams of net carbs… but on the bag it says 3… Either way, a decently low carb count for what you get.) Pair it with the Two Good yogurt and you have a very satisfying breakfast on your hands. Like the yogurt, it doesn’t taste exactly like regular granola. I feel like the monkfruit sweetener is noticeable, although it’s not bad. But it has a great texture and I love the addition of the dried blueberries. 

Keto Ice Cream: I don’t miss sweets a whole lot on Keto. I think I’m too busy missing black beans and soups and chips and pizza and garlic bread and pasta and beer. Ahem. Where was I? Oh right, sweets. I’m just not a big sweets eater. But once in awhile, I do miss ice cream. Fortunately, there is an abundant variety of frozen desserts available to us. What a time to be alive. Continuous outbreaks of war and ongoing gun violence, but grocery stores have frozen desserts as far as the eye can see. My two favorites are Halo Top Chocolate Cheesecake (from its Keto series; not sure if there is a chocolate cheesecake flavor in its other series) and Keto Mint Chip. If you have never tried these before: they take some getting used to. The texture is so very, very different from real ice cream. It’s… crumbly. But if you let it sit out for a very, very, very long time, or if you grow deeply impatient and microwave it for 15 seconds or so, it starts to melt and become creamy. At least around the edges. Texture aside, I like the flavor of both of these ice creams. The Halo Top is satisfyingly chocolatey, and has these weird (but tasty!) little cream cheese pellets that add a nice cheesecake essence. I am describing it accurately but not appealingly, I realize that. I do actually LIKE it. The Keto option is refreshingly minty and has a profusion of good-size chocolate chips. I have yet to try any other flavors, but there are LOTS.

Atkins Keto Caramel Almond Nut Clusters: I mentioned these before, but I am including them here as well because they are just really so good. At just 2 grams of net carbs per cluster, they are the perfect response to a candy bar craving or to the feeling of FOMO one gets when one’s entire family are eating chewy, delicious molasses cookies with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. And the crunch of the nuts and the chew of the caramel makes them extremely satisfying. They do have that slight aftertaste of erythritol, but it’s not bad. And sometimes you just want something that is as close as possible to candy without being candy. 

Okay, so those are all the things that are made low-carb on purpose. But there are also some products that exist free of Keto/low-carb boundaries that I nonetheless turn to frequently.

Milkadamia Unsweetened Macadamia Nut Milk: When I did Keto in 2020, I used almond milk for my tea, which is a great option that I still love. (The brand of unsweetened almond milk I bought was 1 gram of net carbs per eight-ounce serving. Some brands have a LOT more carbs though.) But when Nicole mentioned that she had switched to macadamia nut milk, I decided to give it a try. It strikes me as slightly thicker/creamier than almond milk, and the flavor is unobjectionable.  It also has less than 1 net gram of carbs per eight-ounce serving, and I use a full cup of it in my tea every day. 

Moo is moot. Apparently.

Low-Carb Sauces: One of the things I love most in life is sauces and sauces are tricky on Keto. A lot of sauces have sugar or other carb-heavy ingredients. That’s why ketchup is a no-no on Keto. I make do with copious amounts of sriracha and mustard… and then I try any no-carb sauce I come across. I picked up this delicious no-carb Lemon Herb Aioli at my grocery store and love it. It’s excellent with salmon. Rich and creamy and flavorful. It does not taste like a diet food and that’s because it is NOT a diet food. I bet it would be tasty with artichokes or asparagus. I loved it so much, I grabbed the Sriracha Aioli (which has 1 gram of net carbs per tablespoon, so I would use it more sparingly) (not that I use a TON of the lemon herb aioli; a tablespoon goes a long way) the next time I went to the store. I’m going to put it on shrimp and roasted cauliflower and see if it works as a marinade for grilled chicken or pork. Stonewall Kitchen has a bunch of flavors, and I want to try the Chipotle Aioli and the Habanero Mango Aioli. Perhaps that is too much aioli for one person to have in her refrigerator, I don’t know.

Bubly: For that dangerous hungry time between five o’clock and dinnertime (which, for me, is usually 8:00 or later, sigh), I find myself craving wine. What a delightful discovery when I learned that a can of Bubly sparkling water with a squeeze of cherry Koolaid liquid works just as well as a glass of chardonnay. Especially if I pair it with some slices of sharp cheddar cheese. The cherry Bubly is my favorite, but I also love the raspberry and the blackberry. The grapefruit is good (and pairs well with gin/tequila and lime juice!) and the passionfruit is decent. The only Bubly flavor I do not care for is blueberry.

The one thing I haven’t found yet is a good Keto tortilla chip. It seems like there are several options that contain only 3 to 4 net grams of carbs per bag, but I haven’t come across any in the wild… and don’t really want to spend $20-$30 to order a bunch of chips I may not end up liking. If I find a single bag at a grocery store somewhere, I will definitely try it and report back. 

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Some people mentioned an interest in my current Keto Experience, and since – as when on any diet – I think about Keto a lot, I am happy to oblige. 

However, I keep feeling blocked when I try to talk about it. I feel like I have to have an explanation for trying Keto again. And the explanation (I want to lose weight) feels unsatisfactory to me. 

For one thing, the subject of weight is so FRAUGHT. My experience of my body should have nothing to do with anyone else’s experience of their body, and yet weight is so comparative. It is almost impossible to say that a person who wants to change her body is not passing judgment on someone whose body is different from her own. I think we all know that both things are true: I can look at myself and find fault, while seeing absolutely no fault in others. I can know that, experience that, but also feel judged by others who are on their own personal paths. I would never want my decision to lose weight make someone else feel bad. And I don’t want to TALK about weight a lot, either – I had an acquaintance who recently lost a lot of weight, and I am very proud of her for achieving a goal she set for herself and happy for her that she feels so good, but literally EVERY conversation we have includes weight talk and I cannot handle it. So beyond a few posts, which I will clearly label as Keto adjacent, I promise to avoid weight talk. Maybe I will come back and update you on progress, if there is any, but maybe not. 

Another thing that makes me feel conflicted about Keto is that I have tried – so hard – these past two years to love my body the way it is. I’ve tried to accept its changes, to eat intuitively, and to buy clothes that fit me. I feel like I should love my body. But I don’t. So wanting to lose weight feels like a failure. 

But the fact is, I DO want to lose weight.

Plus… I feel like I’ve been instructed to lose weight, which makes me feel both resistant and ashamed. When I went to my new gynecologist earlier this year, she told me I needed to lose weight. Those weren’t her exact words – and I don’t think she even brought it up. I think I may have made a comment about gaining weight during the pandemic, and she said something about how it would be a good idea for me to lose [obscene amount] of weight. When she said that, I felt crushed with despair. I think we can all agree that it’s one thing when you know that you need to do something “for your health.” But it’s entirely another when a medical professional tells you the same thing (especially when she is suggesting it to you in a reasoned and compassionate way). 

When I went to my new primary care doctor, I mentioned what the gynecologist had said. My new doctor (I love her so) shrugged and said that the gyn was going by OLD rules, and that I was really fine. There is a wider range of “healthy” weight/BMI than medical science previously prescribed, and I was within that range. But then she said I might be more comfortable if I lose [less obscene amount] of weight. 

She was the one who recommended Keto. And because I am nothing if not A Rule Follower, I felt like I had to at least give it a try. (As I explained it to my husband: if I ask for advice in solving a problem and then don’t follow that advice, I can’t complain to you later about the same problem.)

I told her that I had done Keto before, and that I hated it in part because – as with all diets – you had to think about food all day every day. My husband and I went All In, the first time. We were super strict. We tracked all of our macros – protein, fat, and carbs – and made sure we were getting the prescribed amount of each. It was a constant battle to get enough protein and fat without drastically overreaching one or the other. It was just as bad as calorie counting, and I hated it. It feels disordered to me, to be constantly wondering if you’re eating enough or too much. I never wanted to do that again.

My doctor claimed that she didn’t track every little thing. She simply stays under 20 grams of net carbs per day. 

I was suspicious. But it sounded appealing, to only think about the carbs. And I wondered if maybe I could fit Keto/low-carb to my needs rather than the other way around. 

I have been much more relaxed, this time. And – not surprisingly – the weight is coming off much more slowly. But it is coming off. (It went right back on when I ditched Keto over my vacation, though. So I will have to figure out how – or if – I can ever add carbs back to my diet without gaining everything back. But that’s a problem for the future.) 

The first time I did Keto, I lost about 10% of my bodyweight in about six weeks. 

This time, it took me about six weeks to lose 6% of my bodyweight. BUT I was taking at least one weekend day “off” of Keto during that time. 

It’s clear to me that if I want to supercharge the results I want, I need to stick to it more strictly. But my husband thinks that it might be more sustainable to do it the way I am – slowly, without feeling overly restricted.

I don’t know. It still seems like early days – especially since I took a week off for vacation and it feels almost as though I am starting from scratch. We’ll see how it goes, I guess. 

Here are the main “rules” I am following this time around:

  1. I try to limit my intake of net carbs to 18 grams per day. I use the free version of Carb Manager to track my carb intake. I think it’s a very user friendly app, and the database of foods is vast and fairly accurate. 
  2. I try to eat foods I like as often as possible. Salmon vs. eggs, for instance. And I am trying to continue to make and eat recipes I like. For example, I will still eat stir fry, just without so much sauce and with no rice. 
  3. When it comes to veggies, I try not to be too restrictive. One cup of raw broccoli, for instance, is 4 grams of net carbs. If I have only 8 grams of net carbs available for dinner, but I want to eat a third cup of broccoli, I eat the extra broccoli. 
  4. I prioritize protein over fat. True Keto is a balance between protein, fat, and carbs. But when I did Keto before, I found myself forcing down things I didn’t want in order to get the “right” amount of fat. I would add MCT oil to my tea, for instance. It was awful and made me feel sick. Now, if I don’t get “enough” fat, oh well. 
  5. I try to drink a LOT of water. I have found that I feel more full if I start the day with a glass of water than if I go straight into tea/breakfast. 
  6. I do not think about calories. When I look at my Carb Manager app, my caloric intake is all over the map. 1400 calories one day, 1100 the next, 1500 the next, 584 calories the next (which obviously is not sustainable or healthy, and the low calorie content was certainly not intentional), 1350 the next. The carbs are my focus, not the overall calories. This helps, I think, keep me from the feeling that I am constantly thinking about food and tracking food all day long. I mean, I do track my food. But it’s much less of an ordeal than it was either in 2020 or when I’ve done things like calorie counting and Weight Watchers. My attempt to be less consumed by this diet is, so far, working pretty well.
  7. For the most part, I try to stick to “real” foods, rather than processed snacky things. For the most part, because I definitely have bought some pre-packaged helpers, which I will tell you about next time. But I find that I feel happier and more satisfied when I am eating things like shrimp and zucchini noodles or pork tenderloin and asparagus than when I am eating 100% hot dogs and freeze-dried cheese. The cheese thing is interesting to me, because one thing that’s great for Keto is cheese. But I eat a LOT less cheese this time than I did in 2020. 

Okay. That’s enough. If you are still reading, first of all, bless you, and secondly, let me know if you have any questions. 

I will do another post about the Keto purchases I have made that I like. And maybe a post about what I eat in a typical week (mainly for Future Me). And then I will stop talking about it. (Mostly.)

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Nicole posted about her recent dental experiences the other day, and I don’t want to be a copycat in any way, but it must be dentistry season or something because I have a LOT of dental topics to cover. 

Over-Communicators: First, like Nicole, I get WAY too many communications from my dentist. They have an email newsletter (why?) and they send reminder texts and reminder emails and for a long time, they were sending “we have an appointment available!” texts that they have fortunately either discontinued or stopped sending to me in particular.  I don’t need to hear from my dentist this often. Does anyone?

For my recent appointment, I got a confirmation text at FIVE AM which was then immediately followed by a phone call. (And then the chime alerting me to a voicemail.) They also sent an email, but I don’t have email notifications enabled on my phone so it didn’t bother me immediately. Out of spite, I refused to confirm my appointment. That’ll show ‘em.

Listen. Because my husband is a physician, and is plagued by cancellations and no-shows, I know better than many how important it is for healthcare providers to remind patients about their appointment time. But three simultaneous notifications is a little aggressive, no? 

Routine Cleaning, Visit 1 of 3: I have been to the dentist three times in the past six weeks, which is really far too many times a person should need to go to the dentist. In my opinion. The first visit was for a routine cleaning. While I was there, I mentioned that I have been having pain in one of my molars. I live in absolute terror of needing another root canal – not because the root canal itself was so bad; it wasn’t, as I was knocked out, but because the cold test they do to confirm dead/dying root was the single most painful experience of my life so far. I am not eager to repeat it. 

The dentist said that the molar pain could be that the root needs canaling (I don’t know how to talk about dentistry)… or it could be that my gums are receding a little bit and exposing the nerve… or it could be the imperceptible beginning of a cavity… or it could be because I clench my teeth.

Since I get terrible headaches on the regular, we kind of settled on the teeth-clenching issue as being our first area of attack. (Well, plus I am once again using exclusively toothpaste for sensitive teeth, which does seem to be helping a bit.) The plan of attack seems to be getting a night guard. I am hopeful that the night guard will help prevent me from clenching my jaw while I sleep, and that this will keep the headaches at bay. 

The Old Night Guard: The fact is, I have had a “dental appliance” for over a decade that is supposed to solve the jaw clenching problem. But I used it only a few times when I got it, and have tried it a few times since only to shove it back into my drawer as quickly as possible. I hate it. It is small – maybe the size of… a pencil sharpener? an overlarge die? I am really struggling to come up with something the exact shape and size. Slightly smaller than one of those miniature boxes of Nerds? It attaches to my upper front teeth and keeps me from closing my teeth together. 

The first thing I hate about it is that it fits SO tightly. It’s slightly difficult to pop on, but it is far far worse to remove. I feel like the only way I will ever get it out of my mouth is to break my top front teeth in half. Releasing it in the morning is extremely stressful.

The second thing I hate about it is that it is small. I have a (possibly irrational) fear that I will swallow it or choke on it at night. The last time I used it – I think in a desperate attempt to stave off the last root canal; is this foreshadowing because I don’t like it – I woke up and couldn’t find it and was CERTAIN that I had swallowed it in the night. As my husband and the dentist pointed out, it fits so snugly on my teeth that there is no way it could have fallen off in the night. So I must have removed it myself while I was asleep. To that I say: it is so incredibly difficult to remove, there’s no way I did it while unconscious. But probably no one else removed it for me. In any event, I am no less fearful of swallowing the stupid thing while I sleep. So I don’t wear it and every time I complain to the dentist about jaw pain/headaches, he gives me an exasperated look and asks if I am wearing my appliance. 

New Favorite Dentist: A new dentist recently joined our practice. I was telling her all about my jaw clenching woes and my fear of the appliance I already own. She immediately won me over by saying, “Well, you definitely don’t want to worry about swallowing your night guard!” like it was a completely reasonable worry to have. And then she set me up to be fitted for a new, un-swallowable (and MUCH more comfortable) night guard. Also, I have never had a woman dentist before, and she seems cool and fun and I wish we could be best friends. 

Observation: I am noticing that I never refer to my male healthcare workers as cool and fun. Hmm. Hmmmmmm.

Best Filling Ever, Visit #2: Also during my routine cleaning appointment, the new dentist looked at a tooth that has had, for YEARS, a little divot in it. I am sure that the old dentist was keeping a close eye on it, and apparently something has recently changed to make it catch the attention of the new dentist. “You need a filling,” she said.

Yay. Good times.

When I went back for the filling, I was extremely nervous. I have mentioned before how much anxiety I get at the dentist, but mouth shots really fire up the ol’ anxiety engine. “How many shots will I need?” I asked. And she said, none, the filling was small enough she thought she could do it without numbing me at all. At which point I grew more nervous. I told her that I have a very low pain tolerance and that I was afraid it would hurt. She seemed to take this seriously, which I appreciated. She said she would be happy to numb me for the procedure, but that she thought the numbing shots would be much worse than the filling. So I tensed every single muscle in my body and prepared for the worst.

You guys. It took five seconds and was completely painless. Completely. Painless. She simply put some faux-enamel or whatever it is they use for fillings into the divot in my tooth, used some magical hardening tool to set it, and was done. Someone else sanded it down, and the whole ordeal was over. BEST FILLING EVER.

Of Doppelgangers and Flattery: The person who did both my filling and the subsequent scanning for my nightguard was new to me. Instead of my regular hygienist, or any of the three dentists in the practice, this person must have been… a dental technician? A hygienist? I have no idea. No one introduced me to her or told me her title or anything, and I guess that’s on me for just trustingly walking back to a reclining chair and opening my mouth for a stranger with a bunch of pokey tools at her disposal. 

She was very nice, despite the pokey tool availability. After the filling, she fitted me for the nightguard. To do so, she took a 3D scan of my upper teeth using a very odd machine about the size of an electric toothbrush. As she was scanning my teeth, she said that I look JUST like her friend’s daughter. It must have been quite a close resemblance, because she mentioned it several times, and then told me some details about the friend’s daughter as though that might remind me that I was indeed her twin or something. (I am being snarky, but truly I have no idea what to do in that kind of situation! How do you respond when someone insists that you look identical to someone you’ve never met? I have never had a doppelganger before!)

She asked me how old I am. I told her, in that awkward lisping way one does while someone else’s hands are in their mouth, that I am 41. She stopped scanning my teeth, stepped back, and removed her protective eyewear. “You’re kidding,” she said. “My friend’s daughter just turned 30.” I don’t generally think of myself as looking either younger or older than I am, but it was very pleasing to be mistaken for a 30-year-old youth. 

Night Guard Fitting, Last Appointment (for Now):  Once the scan was turned into a 3D model of my upper teeth, I had to return once more to the dentist. This time, the dentist had to fit the night guard to my bite. At first, she said it was very important that my bite be even, otherwise wearing the guard could cause me pain. So she put that weird dark paper (Google tells me it is called “articulating paper”) in between my night guard and my bottom teeth and had me bite down on all sides, then she would use a special tool to grind away the parts that were uneven. She did this for thirty minutes, grinding the night guard down, blowing all the dust off of it, reinserting it into my mouth, asking me if it felt even, having me bite down on the articulating paper, removing the guard, grinding some more. I began to get the sense that she was growing weary of the repetition. “Is it getting better?” she’d ask, of the evenness of my bite. I started telling her it was getting a bit better, even though it didn’t seem better to me. Eventually, I asked her what would happen if it was uneven. “Well, you might have some pain,” she said. “You can always bring it back in and we can adjust it later.” So the next time she inserted the night guard, I told her it was great. 

Was this a bad move? Maybe! But I hate things like that! I want the thing to be correct, to work correctly. The dentist presumably wants the thing to work correctly too. But it was taking SO LONG to get it right. And even though the dentist never said so in so many words, I could tell she was getting antsy, which made me want to move things along. Plus, I started doubting my own perceptions. Maybe this was exactly how it was supposed to feel! Maybe my bite is weird to begin with! But now maybe the night guard is not going to work as well as it could??? And then I will have to go back, a FOURTH time, to get it recalibrated? UGH.

Carla, Future Animal Dentist: Carla, lucky spring breaker that she is, came with me to the night guard fitting appointment. She was very interested in every single thing the dentist did, and asked five million questions (including quizzing the dental assistant about why she wanted to work with teeth and asking if they used a 3D printer to make my night guard), and the dentist seemed to love her inquisitiveness. She answered every question and even showed Carla how to work the various little tools on her tray – the grinder thing, the air blowy thing, the water sprayer thing. She kept asking Carla if she wanted to be a dentist, and Carla – ever agreeable – said yes! Of course! A dentist! even though she has never once expressed interest in dentistry in her life. 

Then, as is Carla’s way, she said, “Maybe I could be a dentist for animals!” The dentist and the dental assistant and I kind of laughed gently at this, although for all I know maybe there ARE dentists for your pets, and Carla went on: “Yes! I will be an animal dentist! And I will make night guards for cats and dogs and horses!” 

Personalization: The dentist sent me home with my not-too-ill-fitting night guard in a little box. She gave the box to Carla to carry and told her that she could decorate it for me. Which Carla did.  

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