Tag Archives: improving raven project

It’s Been a While


It’s been a while since I posted a phone photo.  Oops?  Ok, so I’m not feeling as guilty as I look in this (whistling innocently?), but after seeing this post from a year ago January, I decided it was high time to post something.

Though I liked my hair shorter (surprise!), I’ve been growing it out in anticipation of Norwescon, at which I might be entering the Masquerade competition, requiring longer hair for my chosen costume.  Assuming I can find time to cut the fabric, sew the basic shape, gradient dye the dress, and then alter it to take on the desired shape.  Not likely to happen since I’ve neither the money, nor the experience dyeing fabric, and my writing workshops have been scheduled in conflict with the pre-Masquerade meeting times (although I haven’t given up entirely, my writing comes first) . . . and I’m babbling again. 

Now to figure out which ONE writing sample sums up my ability to write fabulous web content.  Why did I have to use “that” so many times?


Reviewing 2011


Should I say it was inevitable?  Should I talk about all the projects I never followed through on?  Should I call the Improving Raven Project of 2011 a failure?

No, because I am not self-defeatist.  No, because I’ve proven many times now, I can see a project through to its end, and even have good results.  No, because I learned from what I accomplished, and even from what I did not attempt.

I had a whole plan laid out for what I’d begin doing each new moon, and how I’d progress. It didn’t happen.  I even slid back on some of the good habits I’d begun incorporating.  However, I am more and more returning to the healthy habits I initiate.  I brush my teeth daily now (I used to forget, or get tired, or get too busy, and ew, I know.)  Most days I still remember to take my supplements and get enough water to drink.  Some nights (not tonight) I remember to go to bed before midnight.

Also, thanks to a bit of luck or readiness or some divine force, I have a friend in my life who is a certified trainer, who is helping me regain some of my mobility through simple stretches and exercises that re-train my brain.  Although my health is far from perfect, I finally feel like I have hope again for the first time in a long while.

Thanks to 2011, I have learned how to garden a little, how my body responds to certain vitamins and enzymes, what certain pains in my body mean, what my limitations and potential are, and how much better it feels to stop eating foods my body finds toxic.

I also learned how important it is to me to make my writing a priority, not just in the creative process itself, but in sharing those stories with the public.  I am, at this very moment, quite giddy and nervous.  After years of considering submitting excerpts of some of my writing projects to a critiquing workshop at the local sci-fi/fantasy convention (and failing to the make the deadline), I actually put forth the effort, and submitted pieces, which I will then have the opportunity to improve thanks to the work of people already succeeding in the field. I’ve also submitted short stories to several publications. While nothing’s been bought, thus far, I’ve received helpful feedback from several of the editors, some of whom encouraged me to submit for future collections.

As for 2011, it wasn’t the failed end of the Improving Raven Project, it was just the beginning of what will be an on-going journey to dance again, minimize the obstacles created by chronic illness, add beauty to the world through art, and take all the other steps to get me from where I began to the person I want to see in the mirror every morning.

Temptation & Discovery


For a while now I’ve been plotting for Daughter’s week away at camp at the end of August.  I’ve been planning to see certain people, do certain things.  One of those is to hurt myself with food.  It’s not that I want the pain, oh gods no, but I really want that chicken burger I’ve been craving and I want to cash in on my Trophy cupcake gift card from the time they screwed up and forgot my cupcake (remembering my partner’s and my daughter’s) and I didn’t find out until I was all the way home.  They gave me enough money on the card to get three cupcakes, and I think I have one left.  Maybe more.

But after spending this week sick (too many high-thiols* foods, apparently), a sudden attack of my lower back preventing me from putting my weight on my right leg for two days, and the discovery that spelt isn’t going to work for me, I’m starting to rethink my plans.  I mean, I really want to be able to say that once a year I’m going to have a wheat-filled day and then pop naproxyn sodium for the three days that follow, but considering all of the food accidents lately (“why is this wheat-free food making me sick?  oh, it’s really got this hidden ingredient I didn’t know about… oops.”) and now this happy-fun-time with spelt burger buns, I’m not sure that even decadence (yay, decadence!) is worth it.

*Foods high in thiols (organic sulphur): Being sick Sunday and Monday with that sulphuric taste in my mouth made me wonder what else could cause it, because I’ve been strictly avoiding chicken eggs that have been triggering such reactions since I was 18.  I did a search on Monday for not digesting foods and having the sulphur taste and turned up this high sulphur food list that includes a link between this reaction to high sulphuric foods to amalgam poisoning.

Now, I’d heard about mercury in fillings, and I’ve had amalgam fillings since my mid to late teens . . . around the time my health symptoms first appeared.  In fact, numerous sources state that amalgam-based mercury poisoning can lead to depression, chronic fatigue, short temper, insomnia, a dulling of the senses, memory issues, digestive problems, anxiety, food allergies, and so on.  The list reads like my own list of symptoms (even the damage to my sense of smell!) and I’m staring to come up with a game plan. It’ll take time, courage, and a lot of money, but here’s the long-term goal:

  1. Get a blood test to check for high levels of heavy metals, including mercury.
  2. Make an appointment using a free dental check up coupon at a local dentist that includes free x-rays.
  3. Use both medical and dental results to go to the low-income dental clinic and begin having my amalgam fillings replaced with a safer material.
  4. Use chelation and a food diary in the meantime to keep track of attacks and gauge how much is too much sulphur for my body.

It may just be hooey, it might just be coincidence, but I see this discovery a small ray of long-term hope for many of my medical issues all thanks to a very bad stomach upset.

On a brighter side, my homemade meals this week have been fantastic.  I made wheat-free brownies (thanks TJ’s!) with walnuts and bittersweet chocolate chips, served warm with vanilla ice cream and homemade chocolate whipped cream.  I cooked black beans in a way I never had before, and they turned out delightful, tried ono (or wahoo) for the first time, and made a wheat-free kung pao chicken that turned out fairly tasty.

Now if I could just figure out how to make a moist chocolate cake with a sinful frosting that didn’t crumble into dry crumbs an hour after slicing . . .


Update: As my daughter/partner dual birthday party planning approached, I let a lot of my basic improvements fall by the wayside.  But after a trip to the Hoh Rainforest with my other boyfriend, coming home, I’ve been good about keeping up with water, vitamins, wii fit, walking, maintaining the kitchen, and even practicing my Japanese!  🙂

Small Lessons, Big Results


Recently learned . . .

Lesson 1: Split up the CoQ-10 into 300 mg doses, one with breakfast and one with lunch.  The latter will help me push through that post-lunch slump that so often recently devolves quickly into a nap I didn’t plan for nor wanted in the first place.

Lesson 2: Homogenized conventional cow’s milk makes my stomach sick.  Non-homogenized and raw cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk rock (as do their cheeses).

Lesson 3: Daughter has the same problem as in Lesson 2.

Lesson 4: There is nothing satisfying as being able to know for a fact that a given food substance is causing my body distress and being immediately able to address it.  Having removed wheat, chicken eggs, and onions from my diet, my daily systemic inflammation no longer masks all the other things going on in this meat-bone package in which I am encased.  Localized pains and discomforts now stand out and I can better identify target areas to work on with my health care providers (when I have money to see them).

Lesson 5: I’m still a procrastinator.  Work on that . . . later.

60 Small Ways?


Actually, “60 Small Ways to Improve Your Life in the Next 100 Days” is a nifty list of things to do, but there are some things on this list that aren’t applicable to me (e.g. paying for everything with cash requires actually having money; using a pedometer requires the willingness to buy one and wear it every day; I don’t gamble my money in the stock market, and a lot of the money saving tips simply don’t apply because those aren’t ways I’m spending money in my life), and some that I would add specifically for me (e. g. work a little bit on each of my major projects daily).  This includes some of the changes I want to make at this new moon anyway (minding my words, as seen in #52).

While this says 60 things, there are a lot of these tips that require making lists or that are broken down into several aspects, so it’s a lot more than 60.  To accomplish all of this each day could add a few hours of work to one’s load everyday.

However, I did the math, and if I prepped today and started tomorrow, I would finish my one hundred days just a few days before my 33rd birthday.  So, today when I visit the library, I’m going to print off this list, go through it thoroughly and mark those suggestions that would resonate with my own needs for improvement.  I’d said to Daughter yesterday that I need to renew my routine and create one that will function well toward my goals; this list will help me focus on that goal.

I must admit to some cynicism, though, as some of these just don’t apply to the way I view the world.  When I read #2, the rules to keeping your house in order, I read all of the things I do already and all of the things no one else does in the house.  I close all the cabinets, put back the things that have been taken out, and pick up those things I’ve thrown down (ok, I don’t hang up my clothes; laundry is my Achilles heel; I still have a pile of clean laundry on my bed from last week that the cats have now claimed as their favorite fort, and I just sleep around it because hanging things up is such tedium that I’d rather pick through the clothes on my bed and throw the dirty ones in the hamper as I go).  Getting the other two members of the house to follow those three guidelines?  Not going to happen without a lot of shouting, complaining, or bickering on my end.  Of the others with which I find contention, including the tip that smacks of “The Secret”, #60 is the worst:

60. For the next 100 days, keep reminding yourself that everyone is doing the best that they can.

Nope, sorry, they’re not.  There are many people in this world I know or have encountered who are doing their best, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, but I’ve also known far more people who do the least amount of work for the greatest amount of benefit to themselves.  Laziness is inherent in primates, and humans are no exception.  It takes passion or a great motivator for us to rise above and do our best.  Even though it’s part of my own code of ethics to do my best in any action I take, I must admit to being a queen of procrastination and a consummate user of the b—s— essay to get me through completing an assignment.  When something matters to me, I will do my best.  When something matters to someone else who is important in my life, I will do my best.  The rest of the time it’s a struggle to get through an activity without wanting to cop out on quality and move on to something more exciting.  There’s my cynicism for you, at least in part.

Nevertheless, I recognize many admirable possibilities within the list that I want to pursue, and the one that will be most challenging or me is #58:

For the next 100 days, stay in your own life and don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

I suggest anyone reading this pick three things from the list that most resonate with how you want to improve your life and try them out for 100 days.



Less Pain

Bob's Red Mill

Image via Wikipedia

Seems getting rid of wheat was a good decision.  My inflammation has significantly reduced since I stopped eating what proved to be an allergen.  I’m not 100%, but there are a lot of other factors leading to my chronic pain and other issues.  The fact that I can now feel aches in specific places (knees, lower back) rather than a near-constant swath of pain across my body with tenderness almost everywhere is a good reason to continue abstaining from wheat.

Of course, I had a mild flare up the other day, and went over in my head what I’d eaten.  I called Bob’s Red Mill because I’d eaten their organic Scottish oatmeal–I’m addicted to it–and Andre told me that there’s a cross-contamination issue.  I have to wonder how they can call it organic unless the only cross-contamination is with other organic products.  They have yet to provide a gluten-free Scottish oatmeal, though they have other forms, none can compare.  Alas!

I did find something good, though, this recipe for wheat free bagels looks as though it could be adjusted to include the extras I like including jalapeno-cheddar, poppyseed, or blueberry.  I could also make my own flavors if I want.  That’s, of course, assuming I can ever get yeast to obey me.

For those that like oatmeal and often make more than they need (a bad good habit of mine), you can save the extra for a different treat the next day.  While it’s still warm, take the oatmeal from the pan and pour it into a glass container.  I prefer a rectangular, short-walled container with a snap-on lid.  Use a spoon or spatula to smooth it flat, cover it, and place it in the fridge.  The next morning, slice it into thick strips, place in a non-stick or well-seasoned iron skillet, add a dash of cinnamon, and fry on both sides until golden brown.  Serve with a dollop of butter (or substitute) and a drizzle of agave syrup, maple, or honey.

The key to its firm consistency is to not add any type of milk or toppers (e.g. nuts, fruit, et al) into the oatmeal before placing it in reserve.  I flavor the pot of oatmeal with sea salt, raw sugar, cinnamon, and butter or Earth Balance.  I only add almond milk to the bowls along with any add ons each of us like (I most love putting walnuts and bananas or apple slices on the bottom of the bowl and mixing them in after, so they get cooked slightly by the heat of the oats).

Returning to Focus and the Wheat Free Waffle

a proper montreal bagel.. tiny, dense and slig...

Image via Wikipedia

Norwescon being over, and my muscles less agonized than yesterday, I am returning to focus on my self-improvement project.  Too long I’ve let go of almost every good new habit I was building, in part because of the depression caused by losing Taigil to one, small mistake.  I have done my part to search for him, and will continue to wish and pray for his return, but I must honor my health and what it means to those I love.

Today is the first day of removing wheat from my diet.  It’s cold turkey (literally! there’s turkey here!) from now on, as I acknowledge my test results.  I have a mild allergy to wheat, which is going to limit even more of my diet than before.  When I’ve incorporated this new change into my life, then I shall return for further testing to see what else contributes to the inflammation that makes my body go out of kilter.  The less inflammation, the easier it will be to maintain some semblance of energy and productivity in my life.

So, I wish to say good bye to my beloved, fluffy cakes, artisan breads, challah, Trophy cupcakes, banana-coconut and poppyseed muffins, english muffins, bagels (oh dear gods, bagels!!!) of all persuasions, Top Pot and Mighty O doughnuts, Dave’s Killer Good Seed sliced bread, sesame seed hamburger buns, dinner rolls, Kosher hot dog buns, pita, naan, uthampam, flour tortillas (and all the enchiladas and burritos they might hold), toast, pancakes, waffles, crumpets, scones (especially the orange-cranberry ones with the special frosting), every pastry Pomegranate makes, cookies, brownies, fruit and custard tarts, eclairs, biscuits, hoagie rolls, pasta, wheat noodles, egg noodles, soba, udon, lasagna, macaroni, roux (and all the sauces it makes), and many more.

I am beginning to realize how, after twenty-three years of cooking, I have to relearn everything.  I have to figure out the best way to make banana bread moist and fluffy, how to mix a roux for a sauce, how to prepare spaghetti so it’s al dente (because the rice and quinoa pastas are so temperamental), what brands work best, what tortillas and other flatbreads will substitute well. At the moment I cling to my Nairn’s oatmeal and pumpkin seed crackers and my Newman’s wheat-free fig bars in vain hope I can just alter one or two ingredients in all of my family recipes and still taste as amazing and comforting as always.

But it’s one of those compromises in life.  Do I want to be able to dance with my friends again?  Do I want to be able to climb hills without pain?  Do I want to be able to have a picture taken or wear pretty clothes without worrying whether a cyst has caused scarring or stains?  Or do I want to have a quick, gratifying snack?  There are many meals I love and adore that don’t have wheat, just as I’ve learned to live without chicken eggs, onions, cattle, pig, and a lot of other things, I shall find my way through this.  Although I have to admit, wheat and dairy are two things that are going to be hardest to let go of, and I know without question that I at least need to relinquish wheat’s hold over my life and my body.

So, I begin the search for the lightest wheat-free flours to make my baked goods, the best thickening agents to make a roux turn a cream sauce decadent, and a pasta that doesn’t turn to gelatinous goo if cooked an extra minute too long.  I also search for the strength to see it through, for the good of improving my health and being a better me for friends and family.

…it’s all about priorities, right?