Hurting, sad, mad and yet able to be inspired.

I came across this blog post today, Pain and an Unfulfilled Life, and it inspired me to be very honest and forthright about my life today.  No pretty pictures.  No tasty recipes.  No happy happy joy joy stuff.  This is laying it out on the line.  I am SMAD (sad and mad) about my life right now. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s my life and I’m allowed to have whatever feelings I need to have.

Part of this sad and mad is due to once again having my heart hurting. Another relationship busted.  But honestly, that’s secondary. Yes, I’m sad my most recent relationship didn’t work out. But I’ve learned from previous experience that this too shall pass. I’d rather know now, then after investing years of time and possibly having a marriage and everything in our lives completely blended. It hurts. It sucks. But….life will go on.  I’d rather be happy and alone than unhappy and lonely with someone who I was not good with.

So, that is part of the sad. The mad is from really hating my life right now. What really makes me almost lose it, is that I don’t see it getting any better any time in the near future. I live with chronic pain. The last 3 years have rendered me unable to work. I have a variety of diagnosis. Fibromyalgia seems to be the one everyone reverts to when discussing my disabilities and the fact that I live in chronic pain. But there are other issues too. Bulging discs in my low back as well as in my cervical area result in chronic back pain and occasional bouts of severe disabling headaches. Then there is periodic sciatica, bilateral trochanteric bursitis, irritable bowel syndrome, osteoarthritis in my back, and my feet (Oh my gosh how my feet hurt). I  have struggled periodically in my adult life with many bouts of chronic depression.  I also was diagnosed with  PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder when I was in treatment for my gambling addiction nearly 4 years ago.  Those mental health issues have been pretty well controlled for quite some time. Yet, pain triggers my mental health issues and the pain has been worse than ever the last 6 months. Our bodies and minds are connected you know? So, the pain is bad and my brain tanks, which makes the pain worse, which make my brain chemistry all messed up.  But hey, everyone says I look great! 🙂  Blech.

Now, there are some that may think to themselves or say “Well, you did a lot of things that weren’t so great over your life and maybe this is your comeuppance”. That first part is a true statement. In my gambling addiction I really sucked as a mom, a wife, an employee and as a person in general. I used to think that all my trials and tribulations were the price I was paying for my sins. Yet, in all honestly, I was bombarded with many trials and tribulations even before my gambling ever started.  But if that is the case, if this is punishment for my sins,  can you tell me what to do to atone for all my wrongdoings that I haven’t already done? I would do anything to atone for my previous sins and shortcomings and have been working on them for quite some time. I used to think my sins were unforgiveable…but I now know my God is big enough to handle even MY horrors. I personally believe God has forgiven me and I have forgiven me, so if this is a punishment, can you tell me how to have it stop? I don’t think that is the case, but am open to suggestions if you have one.

Or maybe some think “You haven’t tried the right treatments and you aren’t really trying hard enough. You need to just do XYZ.” Okay…what is X and Y and Z? I have tried medications. I have tried physical therapy. I have tried accupuncture. I have exercised. I have changed my eating to be mindful of food considered inflammatory. I have prayed. I have cried. I have tried more medications. I have had counseling. I have lost weight. I have quit smoking. I got chickens to care for so I am forced to get up each day to care for them even when it hurts so bad that I am nearly throwing up. While some of these treatment modalities have helped, there isn’t a one of them that has made it better to the point that I can count on it working for me everyday. I am grateful for what relief they do give me, but it isn’t the type of relief that would allow me to commit to going to a job on a routine basis.  Additionally, many of the treatments cost money and when you aren’t working and don’t have insurance…..well, you get the picture.

Some are thinking and have said that with the Affordable Care Act that I can finally be cured, or at least get well enough to become a productive member of society again. While I am hopeful, I am not going to hold my breath. I don’t look very good when I’m blue in the face. I have an appointment with my Nurse Practitioner next week and am going to request a very thorough workup. I want proof that I have tried all that I can. I also want to know if by chance there is something underlying that has not been noticed because everyone (including medical professionals) gets so hooked up on Fibromyalgia that they forego looking at anything else going on. That makes me mad too! I was so glad when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, because it gave a name to the pain that was changing who I was. Then I realized that the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia came with a stigma and I got sent to the back of the bus on being taken seriously about anything that hurts or doesn’t feel right in my body. Well, now I have insurance and I want some answers!

What really pisses me off the most is that I can say without any excuses that I have been one of the hardest working people I know and it hasn’t helped me in the slightest during the recent years. In my former life (before the pain won) when faced with a trial such as a relational breakup or a move or anything, I would just get busy and go to work and get it done and move on. But I can’t do that anymore. I have to do little steps. And those little steps don’t get me very far on remedying my situation. In my mind, I want so bad to push through it. But that likely could put me in bed for days to a week, if I was able to do it at all.

I have no plans. I have no dreams. My only goal is to do one thing at a time to try to get me to the place I’m supposed to be to have the life that I am going to have.  I have absolutely not even a hint of what that is going to look like in a month, or a year, or 10 years. But based on how things have been the last 3 years, nothing is going to be pain free, and nothing is going to happen smoothly or without a great effort on my part. Yeah…I am sad. And I am mad. I feel like I have no choice. Yet in all reality I do have choices.   I can choose to keep moving along putting one foot in front of the other. I can be grateful for the love I have from some really special friends in my life. I can enjoy my dog and my kittens and my chickens today! I can keep trusting that as long as I am doing the next right thing, God will get me to where I am supposed to be to do whatever I am still here for. It’s okay with God if I get SMAD. He understands.

Capturing wild yeast and making sourdough bread!

This starter was created the beginning of the second week in May.

My list of new things to learn to do is always growing. When spring approached my research said it was a good time to capture some yeast and start my own science experiment on my counter. I read many different articles on how to make a good sourdough starter. The one I decided to follow was this one Sourdough Starter from Scratch: Collecting Wild Yeast.   My first capturing yeast was done in early April and it was growing well and I had been feeding it for a few weeks. I had put it in the refrigerator while I was gone from home traveling and when I tried to “fire it up” and reactivate it after a few days it developed some pinkish yuck so I threw it out. I started a new batch around May 10th and have kept it going on the counter ever since. I have tried four different Artisan sourdough bread recipes over the last few weeks and this weeks batch turned out the best in my humble opinion. My starter lives on the counter and I feed it daily with 1/3 cup of water and 1/2 cup WW flour. I toss 1/2 the starter about every 3 days. I feed it with AP flour the day before I intend to use it as that seems to create more yeast. The rest of the time the feeding is done with WW flour.

I have a little experience in bread baking over the years and anyone who knows how I am about recipes knows I have to go with my own flow and typically just use a recipe for some inspiration. That is what I did this time. I found yet another slightly different recipe and tweaked it to suit me using traditional American measurements since I have not acquired a scale yet. I found my inspiration with this recipe at Them Apples and I hope you take the time to check out this writer’s blog. He and I share a similar taste for foods! Lots of yummy stuff to be found and I love his layout!

I made my sponge using 1 heavy cup of my starter, 1 cup WW flour and 1 cup AP flour and 2 1/3 cups water. I mixed it with a fork and covered it with a cloth and it set on the counter from noon until 8pm. I wanted to have my bread ready to give a loaf to my physical therapist and my appointment was scheduled for noon the next day! I have learned over the last few weeks that baking good sourdough bread really is about taking your time and allowing the fermentation of the yeasts to develop. I love my set of Vintage Pyrex bowls and the large one was just perfect for this process!

While the sponge was doing it’s thing on the counter I tidied up my kitchen and prepared for an interview I was schedule to do at 2pm one of the reporters from the local newspaper. They are doing a full spread article on compulsive and problem gambling. I have been interviewed about problem gambling a few other times in the past.  I am happy to say this is the first interview I have had where I have significant recovery under my belt. The two other times for newspapers occurred when my life was in a shambles or I was literally sitting on my hands white knuckling it so I wouldn’t go place a bet. There was also a time I was interviewed for a TV newscast, and that occurred when I had been at a treatment facility and was at about day 45  and still trying to figure out how I was going to manage life once treatment was done. This time I am doing well today and it felt good to know that.  I am sure the article will focus more on the devastation that occurred during my 16 year battle rather than all that is good, and that is ok if the story helps educate the general public on the devastation that gambling can bring on a life. One other thing that is significantly different about this interview is that I chose not to remain anonymous. I am allowing the paper to use my name as well as my picture. Not because I am anyone special. Quite the opposite. I am just another person, who lives in the country and raises chickens and likes to cook and bake and has life challenges and loves people and is emotionally and mentally sound and happy with life. In a nutshell that is. I have nothing to hide anymore and it felt very liberating to say yes when asked if my name and photo could be used.

After the interview I hoped on my motorcycle and ran to town to check the mail for my guy while he is out of town and then back out to Applegate Valley Lavender Farm. I had promised my new friend Deborah Thompson, the proprietor, that I would help her do some preparing for the upcoming Oregon Lavender Festival. Check out her webpage and learn more about the Lavender Festival. Aside from enjoying this sweet ladies company, who wouldn’t want to hang out at a lavender farm and enjoy the scenery and the scents and the animals? I love it there. We played with her farm animal friends and pulled some weeds and ate some watermelon. It was a great couple of hours.

At 8pm I was back home and done with phone calls and little things that occupied my time for a while. It was time to make some dough! I dumped the bubbly mass of sponge into the bowl that goes with my standing mixer. I added 1 cup of WW flour, one cup of AP flour and 1/2 cup of oatmeal flour (that I grind myself with Organic Oats) and 1/2 cup of whole oats. I sprinkled in 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt and started up the mixer. Nice and slow at first. I didn’t want flour all over the place! It is a very wet batter as you can see from the photos. I added maybe another 1/4 cup of oatmeal flour after about 3 minutes because it was still sticking too much on the sides of the bowl. Once it all started to come together I amped up the mixer and let it fly for about 5 more minutes. I love my Kitchen Aid Mixer. It probably is the most used appliance I have ever owned. It is started to get a bit wobbly from so much use. When I use the dough hook to knead bread I have to hold the thing still because it bangs all over the place. I just use it as a resting place for the time it takes to knead it! After about 8-10 minutes with the mixer into an oiled bowl it goes!

Now to let it rise. I always pre-warm my oven to 350 degrees for just ONE minute and then turn it off and set my bowl inside with a tea towel or loose lid on it. I have a gas oven so it always stays a little warmer. It is a good thing I am a bit of a night owl because this dough still needs attention. As Rich at Them Apples states in his blog, this dough needs attention for about 4 hours or so. I would just stick my hands in the bowl and punch it down and turn it over and punch it down a few times each hour. At about 1:30 in the morning when I was just about ready for a good sleep I shaped the loaves into nice rounds and left them on a piece of parchment paper. I did the tea towel trick for holding their shape and it worked well. I covered them up and went to bed!

I awakened at 9 and padded out in my bare feet and turned the oven on to 450C degrees. I had a few things to do to put my “Barter Basket” so set to that while waiting for a good solid 30-45 minute pre-heat. I placed my rack in the middle of the oven and had a loaf pan full of water underneath that was heating with the oven. I also threw in some oiled new red potatoes to let them roast utilizing the pre-heat temps! I had my favorite Pampered Chef rectangular baking stone preheating in there too. For those who are curious my “Barter Basket” is a basket of home cooked and home canned food I put together each week for my physical therapist. She is treating me sans charge except for whatever I choose to bring as a barter gift. It is working out well for both of us. She and her betrothed are getting married in September and she has just asked me to provide some of the food for her dinner, which is a BBQ as well as highlight her bridal breakfast with some quiches and muffins and such! I have been so excited and honored about this. I have been enjoying cooking for most all of my adult life and to have someone ask me if I will cook for them for their most special occasion is just wonderful!

At 10 a.m.  I was ready to throw them in and have them bake. I had covered the bottoms of the loaves with a good layering of the oatmeal flour before letting them rise and so they moved about on the parchment paper I had set them on pretty well. I opened the oven and gently lifted each one with a nice long spatula and closed the door gently! Baked for 10 minutes at 450 and then turned the oven down to 200. The loaves were  just barely brown after 10 minutes. I checked on them after another 20 minutes and they didn’t sound quite hollow when tapped so I gave them an additional 5 minutes. On to the rack to cool while I got ready for my appointment with my PT.

My “Barter Basket” contained a jar of Marsala Chicken that I had cooked overnight in the crock pot, the roasted potatoes, a jar of canned peaches, a jar of Blackberry Plum jam, a plateful of Lemon Bars a loaf of this lovely Artisan Sourdough Oatmeal bread and a dozen of eggs from my Layers! My wild yeast starter is still growing on the counter and I believe I will make this same recipe again next week. I had a slice of this bread and it is very good, but I will add a little more salt next time. I think with the WW and Oat flours salt requirements increase! I hope you enjoy learning about Capturing Wild Yeast and making some good sourdough bread!