Thanks for all the lovely birthday wishes!

My first day as a twentysomething — actually a twentynothing — went well.

The beginning proved less than smooth, as I woke up with stomach pain and was sick for a few hours, but despite my early fears, I did not have to spend my birthday feeling poorly. (Or in the hospital, which was my big fear when my mom momentarily thought my tube had clogged again. Thankfully, it proved a false alarm.) I recuperated in time to take a lovely phone call from my Aunt Edie, whom I talked to for quite a while. I was able to drink ginger tea for lunch, which left me optimistic that I could still manage birthday cake later. The only lingering effect I had of the episode, or whatever it was, was that throughout the day my stomach was severely distended. It’s probably visible in some of the photos, sorry.         (On the plus side, it did help keep my skirt up….)

In the early afternoon, I heard the door ring and my dad called out that I had visitors. It was Kerstin and the girls! My dad had actually forgotten to tell me that they were coming, but it worked out better that way because it was a most fabulous surprise. I got to spend a few hours talking and laughing (not to mention playing) with three of my favorite people. And yes, I spent a good chunk of my first afternoon as a twenty year old playing hide and go seek. I couldn’t imagine a better way. Really, I think adults forget all too easily how much fun playing is.

I rested for a little bit after the visit, before joining my parents for a wonderful birthday dinner. I had snacked on some rice cakes (decorated with dried fruit and gummy bears, birthday cake style) Kerstin brought over and my stomach was doing well. I decided to go for it and tackle the planned birthday dinner. We had brown rice spaghetti with grilled chicken sausage, zuchinni, onions, and a little light lemon juice (which blended in perfectly)  and roasted butternut squash on the side. It was absolutely delicious. The pasta was incredible — I’m not sure exactly what all was in there in terms of spices (I know I’m leaving out some things), but it was wonderful. We all decided that we liked the brown rice pasta better than wheat pasta, too. It has a better texture than most wheat pastas (more like freshly made pasta, in my experience) and a better flavor. I think it could be a nice alternative to whole wheat pasta if someone doesn’t like that but still wants whole grains, or just a wonderful, easy option for pasta lovers in general. The butternut squash was delectable as well — fall is coming. (That sounds so much less foreboding than “Winter is coming,” doesn’t it?)

After dinner, and a break to allow my stomach to settle and Mom to “frost” the cake, we settled into the dining room for dessert and presents. The cake, which I referred to on Monday, turned out beautifully. I’m referring both to flavor and appearance, of course. Our substitutions for the cake part itself weren’t major, as I’m now eating gluten. (That would have been a more complicated endeavor!) Still, we swapped out almond milk for cow’s milk and Earth Balance for shortening with no ill effects. If there were any remaining almond flavor, it was insidious enough to please my father. The Earth Balance did make the “yellow cake” (made from an old, simple recipe book of my grandmother’s) more white than yellow. I also think it made it a bit fluffier, and therefore less dense, than shortening would have, but I found the texture very nice.

Frosting initially presented a more considerable challenge. Normally, I would go for a chocolate frosting. (Naturally.) However, I’m avoiding chocolate both because it hurts my stomach and because it’s one of the most likely triggers for my neurological problems. I hope to add it back into my diet someday, but I recognize that chocolate is perfectly acceptable sacrifice to make in the name of health. (Why can’t Harry Potter’s laws of the universe work in reality? Chocolate totally should have magical healing properties.) I’ve never been a huge frosting fan, and making a vanilla-type frosting with Earth Balance held no appeal. So, instead, I turned to a recipe my friend Janosz had introduced me to on Smitten Kitchen. We had made this raspberry filling for Kelsi’s birthday crepe cake. (Layers of buckwheat crepes, honey-sweetened raspberry filling, and homemade chocolate ganache. And no, it wasn’t just the ganache that was homemade — it was actually the chocolate. It was a  gluten-free, egg-free, soy-free, dairy-free, cane-sugar-free mound of divine goodness. I wish I had pictures to show but I realized that while I took about 5256000 of them during every stage of the process, they’re on Kelsi’s camera. Trust me, all of our friends were skeptical that the allergic Kelsi was able to eat it, it was that good.) My saint of a mother even strained out the raspberry seeds. It made a beautiful “frosting” that complemented the cake beautifully. This is a recipe I plan to keep around regardless of what my dietary restrictions become, as it absolutely trounces most frostings, in my opinion.

So, with a scoop of raspberry sorbet, we had a cake that I was able to eat and enjoy. Eating, and eating things I enjoy, on my birthday has been a major goal for me. I really wanted to be able to indulge in a piece of birthday cake. It’s funny, because if I had been at school I might not have even eaten cake literally on my birthday, but it took on a whole new importance here at home. I’m very happy to report that I succeeded.

Now, for the pictures!

Outfit for the day. Also, you can see my present. 🙂

Berry straining



19 Reasons Why I’m Happy

  1. Tomorrow is my birthday. I’m almost ridiculously excited about it, though I can’t put a finger on exactly why. I’ll admit that ever since I realized I wasn’t going back to Bryn Mawr this fall, I’ve been concerned that tomorrow would be difficult. It was supposed to be the first day of my senior year as well as the birthday where I reunited with all of my friends after over a year of being away for summer and study abroad. Now neither applies for me. But instead of feeling bittersweet about tomorrow, or even dreading it, I’m out right excited.
  2. This was my Saturday.

This may – and probably should – seem like a bizarre, counterintuitive, even disturbed reason for happiness. A day spent in the emergency room spent figuring out what to do with a stubbornly clogged feeding tube is never fun. However, it was a remarkably less painful experience than it could have been. We went up to the Feather River Hospital in Paradise again, as that’s where my gastroenterologist admits and we deal with most tube issues. The recently re-done emergency room provides an excellent set up, with a comfortable waiting area (genuinely!) and well-equipped private rooms in the ER. (I’ll appreciate whatever I can get, of course, but I am very much grateful for not having to reside in the hallway watching gruesome gurneys roll past while I’m nauseated.) I received excellent medical attention and the ER doctor quickly communicated with my GI to develop a plan of action. Moreover, every time I leave that hospital, I remark about how incredibly nice and happy everyone who works at Feather River is.

The best part: despite some fears to the contrary, I didn’t have to have my tube replaced! The radiologist managed to unclog it under x-ray. (Fun fact: They can now sometimes do bedside x-rays. While the openness of my tube had to be determined in an x-ray room, a tech was able to check for placement in my ER room with a rolling machine. I was impressed. Granted, she said she was only able to do it because of my size, or lack thereof.)

  1. Food, glorious food!

Very cautiously, I’m beginning to eat again. After a week of non-success followed by non-consumption, I started nibbling yesterday. (I actually started nibbling Saturday night, unsuccessfully, but I don’t want to talk about that.) It’s working, for the most part.

2. Reason 3 means that I should be able to spend some extra time untethered today.

3.My neighbor and friend Kerstin visited yesterday with her two adorable little girls.

Amaya wants the world to know that we’re twins because we shared a chair for this photo. And the 75 other attempts at a photo.

4. It looks like I’m going to be able to eat on my birthday. I set that as my goal when I first stopped taking in food by mouth, though I’ll admit that it was often expressed more as a desperate plea than a plan. It looks like it will actually work out.

5. My mom and I think we’ve figured out a way to make a cake I’ll enjoy without aggravating any of my myriad of allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities. I’ll update you on how that works out.

6.Amaya made me this fish decoration, which now brightens up my pump. Isn’t it pretty?

7. Ella joined in on the fun with a card. (And she’s writing! In German!)

8. My cat Duchess (and yes, she thinks/knows she is exactly that) has mostly gotten over her initial fears of the pump and the tube sticking out of my face and now likes to keep me company. As she’s doing right now.

9. I’ve taken to heart Ani’s suggestion about revisiting favorites among the childhood classics for reading material and I’m loving every minute of it.

A well-loved copy.

10. My new medicine is helping, thankfully.

11. Today feels like it’s going to be a good day. Fingers crossed it works out!

12. I’m talking to Dorothy! Love this girl.

13. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my parents are simply amazing.

14. I’m managing to write fiction again. Just a tiny bit, and without really going anywhere, but feeling up for it at all is incredibly important to me. I have a friend who talks about how there are things we hold as fundamentally true about ourselves and how difficult it can be when one of those things is shaken. This is one of those things for me, and having it come back fills my heart with delight.

15. I’m happy I have this blog. I’m happy I have this outlet to express what I’m going through and this way to record it. I’m happy I’ve received so much support.

16. I’m grateful for my ability to navigate the medical system. I’m incredibly fortunate to have a family with the resources (which include intellectual, emotional, and temporal) to see that I receive the best possible care. As hard as everything is at times, it could be so much harder. I truly think of this every day — what if we couldn’t afford to pay for medications not covered by insurance? Or even frequent co-pays? Or insurance itself? What if I didn’t have family members with schedules flexible enough to enable them to spend days in the hospital with me? What if I didn’t have the ability to research my condition myself and seek comfort in my findings?

17. I feel like I sometimes complain a lot on this blog, which really doesn’t capture how I feel 95% of the time. This is a place to vent, a therapeutic outlet, and somewhere I’m confronting what’s going on in my life. But the thing is, I’m happy. Some of it stems from the fact that I am generally more of a happy person than not. But some of it’s because I feel comfortable in the knowledge that things are going to be okay.

18. One of the oddest things I’ve garnered from this week is a deep sense of security. The events of this week (and, yes, getting Reglan out of my system) have taught me that much. I’ve always known I have people who love and care about me, but I’m seeing now exactly what that means. I don’t have a cure or a magic bullet to heal my stomach, but I have medications that make me feel better and ways to feed me and, most of all, I have people who will make sure I get those when I need them. My parents, my doctors, my friends….I feel grateful beyond words.

19. This is my last day as a teenager. This is difficult to write about without resorting to cliché, and in particular cliché that can give the wrong impression of me. I was never a mall goth or a rampant Holden Caulfield quoter (though Salinger has been a favorite!) Aside from some more irrational moments of teen angst, I generally survived my teenaged years with the solid understanding that this, too, would pass. I didn’t feel so much that nobody understood me as that I just really wasn’t cut out for being a teenager. I didn’t have it bad; there’s no underlying trauma, no deep secret misfortune, or even receipt of high school bullying. (It’s pretty easy to avoid high school bullying when you, you know, don’t set foot in a real high school at any point during the four years….) For the last three years, my technical teenagerhood has been rather technical, anyway, as once you get to college things are different. (People dismiss the comparisons to Hogwarts as frivolous, but there really can be an arriving at Hogwarts feel to starting college.) I’ve grown into my own style. For the last year or two, many of my friends have been out of their teens, anyway, and we’ve begun to progress into the dinner party stage of life, in our own casual way. But there’s still something of a relief at having survived this decade intact and a sense of having arrived as I greet my twenties.