The quest for a “perfect” Suhoor 

Facing a day of fasting during Ramadan has never been difficult for me, but since “fasting” isn’t just abstaining from food and water the less distracted I can be by the growling belly or pasty mouth, I have always tried to perfect my morning meal.

My first “ah-ha” was a few years ago when I learned protein, Protein, PROTEIN.  I added a protein drink to a breakfast of two eggs and 1 slice of wheat toast.  Of course, finishing my meal with a full bottle of water.  I actually maintained my weight when I started and ended my fast with protein heavy meals.  

30 days of the same meal is not easy to do (for me) so this year, I added in some variety.   My favorite roasted red pepper chicken sausage.  Good protein, but way too much sodium.  I am thirsty before I even finish suhoor.  I also try not to have the whole wheat toast every day.   I know I need some carbs but I get that in my coffee.  

Tomorrow I am going to try my carefully calculated new meal plan:   Lemon blueberry overnight oats (with pecans and chia seeds) and two eggs scrambled and my protein drink.

I’m not looking to stay full all day…I actually like the hungry feeling.  It is very humbling.  I have worked very hard to lose weight this year facing several medical challenges making weight loss even more difficult, not to mention the age issue. I just want to maintain through Ramadan.  I met with my doctor before Ramadan and he was quick to point out I should not expect to lose much.   He even gave me a month post-Ramadan before he sees me again to judge my progress.

I’d love to hear recommendations for what has worked for others.  I’m a pretty picky breakfast eater though.  I’m not one to be able to eat as soon as I wake up, so suhoor, being at 3:45 a.m. is a challenge.  I can only eat breakfast type foods, not leftover dinner and no, I never had pizza for breakfast.  

To those observing their fasts, I pray Allah accepts it from us.  To those struggling to observe, I pray Allah rewards your intentions and makes it easier for you.  To those who have no idea what I am talking about, feel free to ask questions and God bless!

Post-Anxiety Musings

So I had an anxiety attack on Monday.  Such is the case with me, there was really no trigger that I am aware of.  Sure a few things could have aided in pushing me to the ledge, but no ONE thing I can put my finger on.  

I spent the morning struggling to keep myself from falling off the ledge and in retrospect I seriously wonder if the struggle was worth it.   I reached out to one of my pillars (my eldest daughter who has the unfortunate inherited gene of anxiety disorder but the wherewithal to understand the disorder far better than I do). By midday, I felt I was under control again, although I was exhausted.  I finished my day at work, and went home.

The next morning I continued listening to my lectures on mindfulness and understanding how to have compassion for one’s self and the egocentric effects of perfectionism.   (Both hitting home as I am overflowing with compassion for others and next to none for myself while all the time beating myself up for never being good enough).  I turned it off as I began to feel weepy.  It was shortly after that that I first heard of the senseless terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in the U.K.  That was it…  I was overwhelmed with sadness and darkness.  How can anyone want to live in his hate-filled world.   This was not an anxiety attack anymore, it was the deep dark pit of depression hell.  The post-anxiety reality.

For days, I couldn’t muster enthusiasm.  I wanted to sleep all the time and as a matter of fact, I would become so overwhelmed with exhaustion, my eyes would not stay open.   My brain felt like it was scrambled.  The sensation was something like I have never experienced.  It was like my head was a watermelon and the pulp, my brain, had been scooped out, puréed and poured back in.  If I sneezed or coughed, it literally felt sloshy.  Oh and the inability to form sentences.  Well I could form them in my head, but the words got caught in my teeth.  Simple everyday functions like remembering to turn off the water or how to use my computer mouse were difficult.  Colors were dulled.  Tastes were bland.  I had tightness in my chest and arm.

Why do I feel the need to blog about this…well, now that I know what I have I am forever on a quest to understand it.  I took “mindful” notice of the after-effects of the anxiety.   To quote the lecturer, I allowed the feelings to “arise and fall away” – although that didn’t happen in a matter of seconds, minutes or even hours.  This feelings hung around until Friday.   First my power to speak returned, then my focus and concentration (I regained the power to move my mouse), and then finally the exhaustion faded.  

Recognizing these post-anxiety musings does not make the fear of future anxiety attacks any less, nor does it make me feel like the next one will be any easier.  I still find it hard to find brightness or goodness in this world.  I know it is there and I know I will find it again.

My Ancestry

For my birthday, my husband got me a DNA test through MyHeritage.  I was not impressed by the results.  Well not the results so much as the format.   The results were surprising.  There was nothing unexpected as far as  ancestry but what surprised me was the small amount of Scandinavian making up European percentage.   My mom was 100% Icelandic, with her lineage traced back to the early 800s and into, I believe Norway.  I imagined my chart (by the way…the colored pie chart is my creation)…my chart would at least be more than 3.5% Scandinavian.   

Surprise number 2 was the Ashenazi Jewish.   Oh I knew my father’s mother’s side traces back to Warsaw before Warsaw was Poland, but to have nearly 30% of my DNA representing  was a surprise.  Now, I have heard of Jewish being an ethnicity, but I believed I was misunderstanding what it meant to be “ethically Jewish”.   I did some subsequent research on the Ashenazi Jewish ethnicity and was super surprised to read that “we” can be traced to a group of 300-335 people.   

But then…Eastern European was its own group, of which I am a mere 1%.  Is not Poland Eastern European?

Now the results really excited my father and he and I share the same interest in what I call “living history” and we have embarked on the arduous task for figuring out his father’s father’s British history.   Some day we hope to visit the area where the Andrews ancestry originated from in England.  The struggle is, however that my grandfather had a falling out with his family and his only sister died recently (2009) so we are pretty much at a stalemate unless my dad has his DNA tested.   There are several sites you can link to that trace the “Y” (male).

Iberian and Central Asian would have been confusing, except my husband (who is 98.8% European – German to be precise) also has Iberian and Central Asian so that must be beginning of time thing.   

Well now that I have some tools I’ll see if it will help in unraveling who I am and where I come from.   

Not funny anymore

I pride myself on finding humor in everything.  You have to to navigate successfully in this crazy world.  But I can’t find the humor in the recent situation.  My husband just had a wheelbarrow full of medical issues dumped on him…knee, back, cholesterol, diabetes, to name a few.  As with everything in my life I jump in 110%.  Researching healthier eating, calling our local endocrinologist to try to get us a family appointment with the registered dietician to work on nutrition (keep in mind, we weren’t really all that unhealthy to begin with).  My husband bitched and moaned that he can’t eat anything ever again and was ready to have his limps amputated and commit himself to a nursing home. So add to my research “how to be a cheerleader/motivational speaker”.

First wall I hit was the endocrinologist.  My husband can go…with referral from his doctor (three weeks later and we are still waiting for someone to make that call), but they won’t see me.  I call my doctor to request a referral.  I didn’t realize that was asking for a pot of gold.  I’m not diabetic, hypertensive, or suffering from any other metabolic issue.   I get a referral to a weight management clinic.   Kept smiling tho.

Second wall I hit was funding this new healthier eating.  Shop the outside aisles of the grocery store.  Lots of fresh produce, low fat dairy products, etc.   Well apparently less processed, healitier food costs a lot more.  Time in the grocery store has doubled so nutrition panels can be read.  (*note: I had to forego this year’s corned beef for a London broil — 1210 mg sodium vs 55 mg sodium).  But we are making it work.   My weekends are now filled with creating portion-sized servings of fresh cut up fruit, single serving size grab-able containers of dry roasted unsalted peanuts, meal planning over the protests and whines to include sweet potatoes instead of russet, lentils and quinoa instead of rice, water with lemon instead sweet tea or Gatorade.  I bake chicken breasts for his lunches (and mine), instead of the convenient deli chicken salad.

It’s been three weeks since the emergency visit to the doctor with his very high blood sugar ready and he has lost 15 lbs and has kept his sugar to under 120.  I’ve gained .5 lbs.  The weight management doctor, in anticipation of my first appointment has ordered me to meticulously monitor my food…keeping a food and exercise diary.   I am consistently 200-300 under the allotted calories.  I’m eating the same healthier, smaller portion size meals he is, and walking the dog, taking a self defense class, so the exercise is there.  But yup…he’s down 15.  I’m up .5.

Where’s the humor in that?  Seriously. 

Seeing the other side…

of depression – and it sucks.

My husband, one of my biggest supporters with my own depression/anxiety issues, hurt his back.  He is in excruciating pain.  He is unable to work and he has no disability or leave.  He was started on a relative joke of medication for pain (after being treated like a drug seeker by the ER doc), some muscle relaxers and lidocaine patches to slap on his back (more useless than the pain med).  After 3 days of increasingly worse pain, he went for a follow up to his family doctor who gave him an Rx for a slightly stronger pain pill, more muscle relaxers and steroid treatment.  He is still not released to work.   With still no relief, he went back and was put on super-pain meds, no muscle relaxers and an order to go to physical therapy.  It was after this diagnosis that I saw it…he gave up.  He is on the couch, sleeping, expressionless.  He has no enthusiasm, no smile, no light in those beautiful eyes.  And my heart is broken.

This isn’t about me…and that it hard for my crazy mind to acknowledge.   He’s not mad/sad/upset with me.  Ok, I can accept that.  What I can’t accept is that there is nothing I can do.   My jokes don’t make him smile, my coconut banana nut cake didn’t put a sparkle in his eye, and my fancy Greek strudel chicken made with phyllo dough didn’t get a reaction (I used phyllo dough.  P h y l l o dough.  I despise that tearing, sticking frustrating-but-oh-so-delicious baking ingredient.) 

I know he’s depressed.  He is a hard working, active man and he is now acting his physical age.  He can’t stand, walk, bend or lie down without pain.  He needs help getting his shoes on and off.  I am afraid he has given up.  He won’t fight for his health.   Oh I’m sure I’m being dramatic, but I don’t know what to do for him.

Isn’t someone with “chronic” depression and anxiety supposed to know how to be supportive of someone that has slipped into that deep dark hole, albeit temporarily.  I’m completely at a loss.  I think I’ve lived with it for so long and dealt with it on my own for so long that I don’t know what to do.   Add that to my compulsive need to fix those I love and I feel helpless.   Completely incompetent.

Psychosomatic vs Synesthesia 


Many doctors throughout my life have treated me as a hypochondriac.   And for the most part that is true, I guess.   The pain I feel is psychosomatic.   Just because the tests come back negative.     The debilitating physical pain is my brain’s reaction to anxiety.

I have never been content to just accept that my brain is doing these strange things to me.  I know I should and if I did I would just be able to live normally.  Medicated, but normal.

Today’s research involved empathy.  I know I feel intense empathy.  I often say I wish I could take pain away from those suffering. It has always been very easy to empathize with everything. I cry at the thought of others crying. Feel intense embarrassment for others (rarely for myself until waaaay too late). I can’t look at accident scenes but yet the sight of blood doesn’t make me sick. I can get shots or give blood, but I can’t watch others have that done.

I thought that the empathy I felt was the cause of my psychosomatic reactions.  My husband’s back hurts, my back hurts.   My daughter gets a cold, I feel run down.  My coworker gets a headache…I do.  My favorite is labor pains when my daughter had her babies.   

I decided to read about empathy and discovered synesthesia. Specifically mirror touch.  I can’t say that I experience the sensation of being touched when I see someone being touched, but I do feel a watered down version of pain people feel.  I know that after someone has been hurt, say by a burn, I feel an aching myself where the person was burned, but not a burning sensation per se.   I presumed it was a memory of having burned myself and empathizing with that person, but the ache/pain lingers.  I also identified with the color for words and numbers (grapheme) and personification synesthesia – sounds and objects occasionally have male/female characteristics.  Ok…at this point you have started the serious eye rolling, but the grapheme and personification synesthesia are not extremely rare.  Mirror touch is a bit more rare, although not uncommon in highly empathetic people.   

 I know better than to research on my own.   My brain takes a seed and expolodes it into that giant beanstalk Jack climbed up.   For example, one article stated “Now scientists find these synesthetes possess an unusually strong ability to empathize with others. Further research into this condition might shed light on the roots of empathy, which could help better understand autism, schizophrenia, psychopathy and other disorders linked with empathy.”  That quote made my psychosomatic, hypochondriac mind explode.   Am I autistic?  A psychopath?  Schizophrenic?   Aaaaarrrrggggghhhh.

But in all seriousness, our minds are so fascinating and the power it contains is unbelievable.


Year in Review

It’s that time of year again.  As a teen, I remember being very apprehensive as midnight drew closer.  Undiagnosed anxiety.  I still get apprehensive but now moreso because I feel another year has slipped by…as well as anxiety.  It isn’t a bad anxiety per se but rather a “clean slate” anticipation.  So many things I would like to do better, handle better.  For some reason this clean slate is bigger than the clean slate that is each new day.

So what to work on….my focus.   I need to get a handle on my constantly fluttering mind.  I would like to wake up in the morning and not be midway through a deep conversation before I realize I am actually awake.

I need to work on that suitcase for the next stage in our journey.   So much of our time is spent gathering material things when not one single material thing will benefit us in the Hereafter.  Time to load that suitcase with the deeds that I can use on my scale.

I say this all the time, I need to make time for myself.   I won’t but I said it.

Despite the horror in the world, I feel I was pretty blessed this year.  I became an Amma for the second time and now have two beautiful grandsons.   I had visits from both my girls and their families this year.   I have relatively good health (I type that after a 24 hour bout with a ferocious stomach bug and a resulting migraine with horrific chest pains from wrenching), my family has relatively good health and we are slightly above water financially.   I was blessed with a new job this summer that has made me feel like a team member again.  I miss Mary from the last job, but we stay in touch regularly.  I truly enjoy working with each person in the office.  We added a new baby to the family.

The other babies are ok, but I think this may be Ajax’s last year with us.   It seems his eyesight is going and so far it is still a struggle getting his thyroid regulated. Leo hates Crush and is acting out by possibly intentionally missing the litterbox.  This has my husband fit to be tied and we now have three litter boxes for two cats.  I think it is Ajax but one simply does not argue with my husband.

2017 is looking promising.  My youngest has decided to go back to college…slowly…to take the courses needed to be a lactation consultant.  Her husband is starting his engineering career.   My older daughter seems quite content and her wise-beyond-years advice to me only gets better each year.  My younger SOMH accepted admission to IUP. With the new incoming controversial president elect, it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Happy New Year and may Allah bless us all with His Guidance and Mercy.  Ameen.