Please Learn Some Manners

It’s not like you are my friend, asking the question because you care about me. It’s because you are so freaked out about someone like me that you don’t know what else to do other than say what naturally falls out of your mouth. Funny. I feel like anyone else until I run into someone like you.

You are the grocery store checker who when I tell you that all these groceries are together, I had to leave space where there is white powder on your conveyor belt because it might be flour and I’m allergic to that and also I can’t have even a smidgen of gluten in my kitchen, just has to say, not with a note of curiosity, but with a shocked tone of voice, “You’re allergic to flour? What do you eat?!” Would you say to a person in a wheelchair, “Gee. How do you get out of bed every day and get into that chair? How do you ever have any fun?” Of course you wouldn’t. That would be rude. Why do you think it’s OK to comment on any other health issue that a person has? And why don’t you clean off the conveyor belt so the next person who comes along with my same problem (there are more of us than you probably think!), won’t have to skip the white powdery part?

There have been times when the entire belt was dirty and I had to ask the checker to please clean it before I could put my groceries on it. I think grocery checkers ought to know that some people have these issues so they can keep the belt clean. After yet another rude checker today, I wonder if rather than go into an explanation in order to try to educate, which may just be a colossal waste of time and energy, I ought to just tell them their question is a bit rude and why don’t they clean off that conveyor belt? Maybe I ought to just ask them to clean the belt with no explanation. But I think that’s just a self-protective move and fails to educate the ones who are polite and teachable. Maybe writing this will help? I try not to let ignorance and rudeness get to me, but after about three years of this, it’s really getting old.

A Lepidoptera Midwife Stays Busy

Man, where does the time go? I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks! This summer I had two kinds of caterpillars that I fed and kept while they did their caterpillar thing and became what they become. If you’ve never done this, you might want to give it a try. You can see what it feels like to be a midwife for our Lepidoptera friends. Hint: it’s fun.

First, I’ll tell you about the day I went to the Big Box Hardware Store to check for marked down plants. It was the end of gardening season and that’s a good time to find things like parsley. Parsley lives for a whole year, so I like to get a plant every six months or so. Anyway, I found some parsley I wanted and when I took it to the register to see if the checker could mark it down, she and another employee were surprised that I wanted it. This plant was almost totally consumed and what was eating it was still there! Three swallowtail butterfly caterpillars were munching away. The plant was from a company that sets the prices and the store couldn’t mark it down, but that’s OK. I bought it anyway, because I wanted the caterpillars.

When I got them home I had to figure out how to set this up. Rather than a big jar for each one in the kitchen, I went for this in hubby’s study:

Caterpillar Nursery

Caterpillar Nursery

This is made with window screen that I cut in a strip and sewed together and covered it with net. I did add more clothespins after losing caterpillars. The little jar and bottle had a bit of water and parsley in them. The tops should be small enough or else covered, so the caterpillars can’t fall in the water. Also, never, never, never feed them parsley that isn’t organic. I learned that the hard way once. They will die if they eat parsley that has been sprayed with insecticide.  After seeing what happened to the caterpillars, I haven’t bought parsley that wasn’t organic, no matter who was going to eat it!

I learned something this year. When they start crawling all over the place, they are looking for a place to ‘hang out’ while they go through the process of metamorphosis. Otherwise, they just eat and sleep. One of them got out and I put him back in. He found one of the sticks I’d set up for him and attached himself. Then another one got out and I couldn’t find him. The third one attached to a stick. Eventually, they all came out of their chrysalises. Even the one that was lost. (We still haven’t found his chrysalis! And I’ll keep records next year, so I’ll know exactly how many days from one caterpillar event to the next.)

What is funny to me about the one I lost is that I looked around the living room one morning to see if he was flitting about the room. It felt like it was time. An hour or two later, hubby told me he found my butterfly. It was in his study. We very carefully caught it inside the screen and netting and took him outside. The only photos I got were taken in the house.

The butterfly who was lost.

The butterfly who was lost.

Something cool happened with the third one. One morning when I first got out of bed, I went in there to take a look at him. I’d never done that at that time of day, and there he was on the stick he’d chosen and he was moving his mouth from side to side. What on earth? Making his support, that’s what. In less than half an hour, they make the support that will hold them in place while their body goes through the changes. Boy, I sure was thankful to have been able to see this! I’ve raised a few butterflies and never caught that. When I wrote about butterflies a few years ago, I had no idea how they did this. You can check out videos of it on YouTube. It’s really awesome to see.

Then the third one hatched; this photo may be of the first one. In any case, this is what he looked like. Every time I let one go, I say to him, “Be Free!”

Welcome to the butterfly life!

Welcome to the butterfly life!

There were also some other caterpillars in my yard that I don’t remember ever seeing. They are big and thick and green with a red and white stripe down their sides and they aren’t exactly fuzzy, but what they have on their bodies looks like bushes. Bushes? Yep. That’s what I thought, and so did my cousin when I showed him. We both thought this is one wild-looking critter.

Io moth caterpillar

Io moth caterpillar

Just for fun, here’s my cat watching through the foil I put on the back door during the summer. I had to fix a peep-hole for him.

Captain

Captain

Those ‘bushes’ can sting but it doesn’t feel like an asp, which feels like getting hit with a hammer. It just burns a bit. Yeah, that’s the voice of experience you hear. I was trimming the Turk’s cap and one got me on the arm. The first thing I did was run hot water on it. By the time my arm was turning pink from the hot water, it wasn’t stinging any more. I think the hot water must neutralize the toxins. It was still swollen though like little hives. I didn’t take a photo of my arm, but I did go on a search for the caterpillar. I knew what I was looking for because I’d seen one, put him in a jar, then later let him go. During the time I had that one I looked them up and found a YouTube video of a guy letting one sting his arm so we could all see what happens. That’s how I knew what got me. (Bless your heart, and thanks for the video, Dude!)

So, I found him and put him in a jar, then found more. Before it was all over, I had seven of these fellows in a gallon jar. I fed them leaves every day. They have all made cocoons under the dirt and so far, two have come out and been set free. They are Io moths and boy, are they pretty!

See the pretty 'eyes' on his lower wings?

See the pretty ‘eyes’ on his lower wings?

I’m sorry about the focus there. I have a cool little camera, but it focused on the wrong thing. The other five may overwinter in the jar and hatch out next year. I read online that they do that, and so was surprised when these first two didn’t. My guess is that the length of days signals them on what to do?

So, those were some adventures with caterpillars this year. The jar with the five cocoons will spend the winter on the front porch where I can keep an eye on it, and the cocoons will be in their natural environment as far as light and temperatures. Yesterday, I put the caterpillar house up in the attic. Next year, along about early June it will time to take it down and go caterpillar hunting.

Ya’ Reckon These Eggs Belong To Our Rat Snake?

A few months ago, I was getting the concrete blocks around the garden all in order, and preparing to put up a fence. We had expanded the garden and I needed to fill in some space with blocks, and also there were weeds to pull. We have some of those concrete block with holes in them laying on their sides, with the holes up, but with some concrete scallop edging laying on top of them. It covers the holes and I like the little scalloped edges.

Why keep the concrete when we’re putting up a fence? Because an armadillo won’t dig under it if there’s concrete there. Well, maybe not just one armadillo. Sometimes in the morning, my yard looks like there was a whole group of drunken golfers out there all night.

Anyway, the edging wasn’t all lined up perfectly, and a snake found a way into the hole. “What a nice protected place to lay my eggs,” she thought. I’m sure she thought that, and also, thanked me.

 

Snake Eggs

Snake Eggs

 

Since finding the eggs, we’ve seen a huge rat snake at least three times in our garden. (I don’t know where the babies went; haven’t seen a single young one.) She’s (I just know it’s a she and she’s the momma of those eggs) almost as long as my broom handle. I figured that out by seeing where her head was and where her tail was at the same time and putting the broom on the ground where she had been. I speak to her every time I see her. I’ve tried to work along side of her. She’s just not friendly. She runs from me. Which is why I tell folks not to run from snakes. Why run from something that’s already running from you?

Review of The Organized Heart: a woman’s guide to conquering chaos

God has appointed all my tasks – my work is planned by Him from the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 2: 9-10) Do all that I do with enthusiasm and purpose because I’m doing it for God. (Colossians 3:23) These are things that I remind myself of often, and that Staci Eastin also thinks of when she goes about daily life. In The Organized Heart she uses her 103 pages well, to with humility and grace, skip the fluff and hone in on why we do what we do. Motives are examined (I can hear you now – I just want to have order so I can think!) and dealt with so we can live our lives with peace in our hearts and heads. (You will be able to think.) From putting things off, to doing something else we’d rather do, to working our fingers to the bone to maintain a ‘perfect’ home, this book has something to say.

Most books on home and life organization are all about the tools we need to get the job done. Staci starts with the heart of the matter, which is our motives. In four chapters, she deals with Perfectionism, Busyness, Possessions and Leisure. Each chapter ends with “Explore” questions to help us see where our hold ups are and what to do about them. After dealing with heart issues she discusses the tools we need – calendars, lists and such. I think the difference is when we deal with our motives first, we use the tools rather than being slaves to them.

If you need a little extra kindness Staci Eastin has that, too. She addresses single moms and those who have health issues. She writes with wisdom about the different seasons in our lives and the fact that our personalities are not all the same. I appreciated her tenderness for those who are discouraged and feel hopeless. This is a book that I will refer back to many times. It is written by a wise woman who knows how to shine light where it needs to be shone in order to help us face ourselves, but who also applies God’s abundant grace to help us heal. I’d rather read this book than any of the other home organization books I’ve read over the years.

“You Most Likely Have Celiac”

That’s what the nurse practitioner said. She went over test results with me and then said, “You most likely have Celiac.” I’m not sure what she expected, but I expected the results we got. There are no antibodies to gluten in my bloodstream, which makes sense because I have not been eating gluten. I even had to quit eating things like almonds and “gluten-free” pasta that had the words “Processed in a facility that also processes wheat” on the package. I also expected to be told that I have genetic markers for Celiac; the test said I do. You can’t have Celiac without having genetic markers, but you can have the markers and not develop the disease. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, by the way. I expected to be told I have the markers because I read that bone loss occurs with Celiac and not with gluten sensitivity, and I have bone loss (osteopenia in my early 40s and now osteoporosis). Also, I had absence seizures when I was a kid, and those can be associated with Celiac. Added to that, I have thyroid antibodies. In Celiac disease, the body can confuse thyroid proteins for gluten proteins, go nuts and attack the thyroid. Those are some of the reasons…so looking at my symptoms, my medical history and my medical family tree, this was no surprise at all.

There are people who have Celiac, but the antibodies are not showing up in their blood tests. (This is pretty technical, but it does explain a bit about that.) It’s possible that if I were to do a gluten challenge followed by the blood test, I might have some antibodies in my bloodstream. But, maybe not. They are produced in the small intestine, and sometimes they just hang out there and there aren’t enough to measure in the bloodstream. I’m not going to do a gluten challenge. I’m so sensitive to that stuff that I’ve had to stop eating anything that has been anywhere near gluten or wheat. No gluten-free deli meat that is sliced on the same machine as the products that contain gluten. Nothing from a facility that is not totally wheat-free.

It’s only been about a month or so since I made the discovery that eating cross-contaminated food is probably why I’m having the symptoms I’ve been having. Candida overgrowth and gluten intolerance can cause the same symptoms. Since I have both conditions, there was some confusion. It takes a while to get the body back in order, but it’s lurching along toward better.

In the meantime, I’m gaining some weight back. I had a problem with weight loss last year before coming off gluten, then it stabilized when I went gluten-free. Earlier this year, I started losing weight again, probably because of the cross-contaminated food I was eating. Now that I’m not eating those things, and I’m following the advice of my dietitian, I’m gaining weight.

So, what’s next? I’ll be going to a gastro doc because I’m curious about probable damage to my small intestine, and I want to check on that. I’ve learned that different areas of the small intestine absorb different nutrients. The first part to show damage in Celiac is usually where nutrients that bones need are absorbed. That would explain my early bone loss. Another part absorbs cholesterol. If that is damaged, that would explain my fantastic better-than-ever cholesterol numbers on my last two blood tests. Also, maybe the doctor will have some advice concerning yeast over-growth. Celiac damage creates a good environment for yeast to grow, and that may be why I’m having such a difficult time with it. This is all speculation, of course, as to what is going on in there. We won’t know anything until I see the doctor.

Folks sometimes ask how I feel. Well, it’s been a few weeks since I felt so bad I had to remind  myself that I’m not going to die, so I’m better. I’m still having some problems like acid reflux, and my hair hasn’t stopped falling out yet (again), so there is room for improvement. Someone told me a while back that I was eating something that I shouldn’t have been eating for decades, and it takes more than a few weeks for the body to recuperate. Oh, how right he was, that fellow who told me that. I’ll get there though. Not sure where ‘There’ is, it’s different for everybody, but I’ve had days lately where I felt not just OK, but really good, so I’m expecting to be just fine.

Talking With A Dietitian

Because of my skinniness and gluten intolerance, I saw a dietitian today. If you are gluten intolerant, I highly recommend seeing a nutritionist or a dietitian. One thing I’m so happy about is that I wasn’t told not to eat anything that I’m already eating! Too many ‘nos’ make me crazy and I’ve had enough of those lately. So, I got advice to add more meat so I can build muscle, to do some weight-bearing exercise every couple of days, to try dairy again (and hopefully I won’t get a rash from it), and to make sure I’m getting enough complex carbohydrates. Some days I have gotten enough carbs, and some days I haven’t. I am also supposed to weigh myself once a week, then email or call her in a couple of weeks, and let her know what the scales have shown. She expects me to have gained a pound in the next two weeks. She wants to keep it slow so what is gained will be muscle because I need that more than I need fat right now. I’ll also be getting my thyroid checked in a couple of weeks. She and I aren’t so sure that’s not messed up, too.

My dietitian (I like her advice, so I’m claiming her as my dietitian!) has a daughter who has Celiac, so she knows about this stuff, not just from the textbooks, but from a bit of experience. I’ve got to tell you, I was thrilled to see how much she knows.  She also has the knowledge to deal with Candidiasis, and when I talked about the skin problems and such that I’ve had, she understood what to do about carbs so that I’ll get enough of the right kinds to feed myself and I won’t be feeding yeast.

She wanted to make sure that I know about more than just what I need to do to gain weight, so we talked about gluten intolerance, too. There is a lot to know about hidden sources of gluten, and for the sake of getting the info out, here are a few things to be aware of:

If you eat a meal at a family get-together, or a club or church activity, and some dishes have gluten in them, make sure you go first in line. If someone mixes up the spoons between dishes, the gluten-free foods will be contaminated. Also, if someone picks up a roll or a slice of bread and lets it pass over a pot of veggies, or some other gluten-free food, and crumbs drop in the pot, it’s contaminated.

Don’t lick envelopes! The glue on them is made from wheat.

Check your medications and supplements for hidden gluten. You have to make sure that any starches they may contain come from corn and not wheat. Make sure your pharmacist knows you have to avoid gluten. One good website for checking over the counter, as well as prescription medicine, is Gluten Free Drugs. My doctor and nurse practitioner use this site and so do I.

Also, I get email from Jane Anderson at About.com. She writes a lot of good articles concerning gluten intolerance issues.

Cecelia’s Marketplace has a great little book which lists tens of thousands of gluten-free products. I take it everywhere I go!

Not only food, but also personal care products such as shampoo and makeup need to be checked to make sure they are gluten-free. Yes, it probably has to come in contact with your digestive system to cause a problem, but if you put lotion on your skin that has something in it, say, vitamin E that is derived from wheat, and you touch your skin and then touch your lips, you can be glutened.

OH…make sure there is no gluten on their lips before you kiss your sweetie. If you eat a gluten-free sandwich, and your sweetie has a sandwich made with bread that has gluten, and you kiss after eating, you will be glutened. I was getting my grandson out of his high chair once and I started kissing his sweet little cheeks, then realized he had cereal all over his face. Yikes! I washed my mouth off really quickly.

The only other advice I’m going to give is, again, see a dietitian or a nutritionist if you are gluten intolerant, plus one more thing. My dietitian told me, and I’m passing this on because it applies to anyone with gluten intolerance, not to let it bother you if people think you are neurotic about avoiding gluten. She said things just aren’t real to some people unless they have experienced it for themselves. Y’all take care.

My Latest Health Challenges

Twenty-five years ago I couldn’t believe I was hearing the things I heard women discuss in the beauty shop right there in front of God and strangers and everybody. They discussed their bladders like they were discussing their hair, which is what I thought we were all there for. Well, all I’m going to say about mine is that it gets to go to a urologist and the antibiotic I had to take a few months ago and a couple of times since has caused some problems.

We have discovered that I’ve had Candida over-growth for years and I didn’t know that; I’d never mentioned the symptoms I was having to a doctor. We also didn’t know I was gluten intolerant until last fall when I went to a new doctor. A couple of months after coming off gluten I was really beginning to feel great. A month later I had an amazing energy level. I went from wondering how on earth people got up out of bed and went to work every day, to just about going into orbit over the joy of how good I felt and how I could do so much more and do it with energy. I won’t discuss the private stuff, but my hair (the thing I thought we were in the beauty shop for and which had thinned considerably over the past few years because of gluten intolerance interfering with absorption of nutrients) started growing back. I even have hair on my legs again; I thought it was gone because of age. I guess I’m not as old as I felt. Or, maybe getting old isn’t supposed to take one’s energy away? God willing, I expect I’ll find that out one day.

At this point, with my newly unscrambled brain, I went to the doctor about these other symptoms. They were mild at the time. In checking things out it was discovered that I had a bladder problem and had to take the antibiotic – the one that started this mess. After two days of the medicine, my belly bloated back up again like it used to be and the real trouble began. Oh, and yes, I was taking a probiotic , so who knows how bad it would have been otherwise?

In the meantime, we tried a variety of medications to clear up the Candida. Nothing was working; it only helped until I came to the end of the prescription, then my nurse practitioner would try something else. I was also taking supplements that I showed to her and had her approval. There is some good stuff out there for this, but I don’t want to take things like that without medical advice from someone with a degree. There are a variety of yeast (Candida) diets out there and I picked a pretty strict one to follow, again letting my nurse practitioner know what I was doing.

I’m not sure how long I was on the diet before I noticed an acidic smell that I’d never smelled before and it was coming from me. I thought it was because of one of the supplements and I quit taking it. I should have gone to my NP and told her and let her decide what it might be. I guess it’s hard to think straight when you’re hungry. I’d been on the diet for a month and when I started adding foods back, I kinda’ went nuts on biscuits and other carbs. I needed some energy! I had no stamina. I quit the supplement and added back carbs at the same time and didn’t know what I know now.

What I know now is that the smell was not from the supplements. It was from going on such a low carb diet. My body was going after muscle after it ate up all the fat I had. When I dropped under 100 pounds I sort of freaked out. I didn’t eat biscuits all day, but I sure have been eating and eating and trying not to spend too many of those calories.

I talked to my NP yesterday about the bladder problem and the yeast problem. That is how I get to go to a urologist and also, (YEA!) a nutritionist so we can build me back up. Most likely the yeast has messed up my intestines so much that I’m not absorbing enough of what I’m eating and that is why my hair is falling out again. A nutritionist can help me get the balance right so the Candida can starve instead of me starving, and also get me on the right supplements to build my muscles back up. I want to be buff.

So why, if I’m so private that I won’t discuss this in a beauty shop, am I writing about it here? Well, I’m not telling you details, am I? Nope. Not this shy violet. I’m telling you enough so that you will know that if you think you may have a gluten problem, don’t wait too long to get it checked out. Yeast over-growth is common with folks who are gluten intolerant. The other thing I want you to know is that if you are trying to treat a yeast problem, or gluten either for that matter, don’t try to doctor yourself. Even though there is a lot of info and there are a variety of products to help, it really does take medical supervision. You can see from what I’ve written how dicey this can be, and I’ve had supervision. And don’t pay too much attention to what you hear in the beauty shop.

Just a note about the supplement: Early last month, I emailed the company and asked if anyone had ever reported such a problem and they said they had never heard of it. I started taking it again and the only times I’ve smelled the smell is when I’ve dropped too low on carbs. Oh, and I’ve gained back a couple of pounds the past few weeks, so I’m over 100 now.

ADDENDUM: I’ve been reminded if you are gluten intolerant, you can’t eat it for decades and have everything be OK in a week;  it can take 3-5 years for gluten damage to heal. I’ve also read that sometimes, it doesn’t completely heal. Whether the problem is gluten damage or Candida damage or both, or whatever, I’m sure looking forward to getting well.

SECOND ADDENDUM: It was discovered that I had been eating almonds and almond butter that were “processed in a facility that also processes wheat.” This is why my hair was falling out again; it wasn’t caused from yeast damage. Once I quit eating those things and started watching labels for things processed near wheat and eliminating those things, my hair started growing back. I now have hair that is three different lengths because of gluten problems. Also, my hormones have been corrected, along with DHEA and I’m gaining weight back. Please do see a doctor if you are having similar problems. If you get one that doesn’t listen to you, or tells you that your tests are clear and you don’t have a gluten problem, then maybe they don’t understand non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. I’ve heard that some don’t, so find one who does and get some help.