Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Power of Music: My Chronic-Illness Playlist

I'm sure you've all experienced the power of music firsthand. In an instant, a song can transport you to a time, place, memory or feeling. Music can lift your spirits or even help you wallow. Music can make you feel understood or be a source of strength.

There have been various studies with regard to music and healing. Music therapy is a growing field, and there are about 5,000 board-certified music therapists in the U.S., according to this CNN article from August of last year. One of the things I really love about music is that a single song can speak to people in so many different ways.

Photo credit: Stefan Gustafsson
After watching Carole King and Sara Bareilles perform two of their great hits together during the Grammys Sunday night, I was inspired to create what I would consider my POTS playlist. I have listed the tracks below, along with why it is on my playlist or the line that speaks to me the most. I will start, of course, with the two songs that inspired this post.

What would be on your chronic-illness playlist and why?

1. Beautiful by Carole King:"You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart."

2. Brave by Sara Bareilles: "Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live, Maybe one of these days you can let the light in, Show me how big your brave is."

3. A Hard One to Know by Benjamin Gibbard: Mainly I just love this song, but this line seems especially appropriate, "I toss and turn but I just can't sleep."

4. Shake It Out by Florence & The Machines: "It's always darkest before the dawn."

5. Act Nice and Gentle by The Black Keys: "I don't need no luxuries, 'Long as you are understandin', I'm not difficult to please, Act nice and gentle to me."

6. For You Now by Bruno Merz: Just listen to this entire song. The whole thing is great.

7. Flying by Green River Ordinance: This song just puts me in a good mood. I think it is the fiddle... I'm a sucker for a fiddle.

8. We Are the Tide by Blind Pilot: "Don't you know you're alive?"

9. Waited by Kylie Rae Harris: "Well its got me all sideways, jumping the track, but this is my life, taking it back."

10. Calmer of the Storm by Downhere: While most of the songs on this list are more mainstream, this one is my favorite from the Christian music genre. Calmer of the Storm is one of those songs that has helped me through some really hard days.

11. The Sound of Settling by Death Cab for Cutie: "Our youth is fleeting, Old age is just around the bend."

12. You Can Come to Me by Helio Sequence: This is another song that has multiple lines I love, but I especially love, "Finding out that you what you want is not what you need."

13. That Old Black Hole by Dr. Dog: "I don't want to fight, but I'm constantly ready, And I don't rock the boat, but it's always unsteady." (Sounds like fight-or-flight and vertigo to me!)

14. One Little Light by Gary Jules: I really like this song in general, but of course I have to include a song on the list that mentions having no spoons. "No meteor, no moon, no cotton, no spoon, Just a little light in the sky."

15. Let That Be Enough by Switchfoot: "And all my sand castles spend their time collapsing."

16. Ooh Child by The Five Stairsteps: "Ooh-oo child, Things are gonna get easier, Ooh-oo child, Things'll get brighter."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Healthy Eating: Pecan Coconut Granola {Recipe}

I try hard to eat healthy in order to nourish my body and in hopes of coaxing it back to health. I don't associate myself with a specific label when it comes to my diet. Aside from not consuming dairy, I am not strictly paleo, vegan, raw, etc. I do love to read cookbooks and blogs by people of these dietary persuasions though! They offer ideas and recipes that fit well into my diet, so I am going to start sharing recipes on occasion that I have tried and enjoy.

This first recipe I am going to share is very easy and doesn't require a lot of time on your feet. Plus it is something you can make once then enjoy all week. I find that using a "spoon" to cook is much more worthwhile when it will be eaten for a few days.

This granola is inspired by Ella over at Deliciously Ella. I have mentioned her blog before. Seriously, check it out if you aren't familiar with her. She is super talented and even more inspiring. I didn't have all of her ingredients on hand, so I winged it with what I had.

Her original recipe would yield more than what my recipe did. I filled a 12-ounce mason jar with the finished product and ate whatever didn't fit. I probably really needed a 16-ounce jar, but I didn't mind taking one for the team and eating some on-the-spot. My adaptation appears below:

Pecan Coconut Granola

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped (or cute, itty-bitty guys left whole)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sprouted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins (add more if you would like)
sea salt to taste, optional

2 T. coconut oil
2 T. maple syrup
2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, mix together the oats, pecans, coconut flakes and pumpkin seeds.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil, maple syrup and cinnamon until melted and combined. This only takes a few minutes; I whisked it to help it combine and keep it from burning.

Pour the syrup mixture over your oat mixture and stir to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times while it bakes (watch it closely so it doesn't burn). At this point, add a bit of salt of if you would like. Let it cool completely on the baking sheet, then you can mix in your raisins and transfer the granola to a jar or storage container.

Enjoy! I thought it was especially good with unsweetened, vanilla almond milk.

A few notes:

1. I was not exact at all with the cinnamon-syrup ingredients. I didn't feel like measuring, so I eyeballed it. It might have been a little more than the amounts listed, but you can't really go wrong with maple syrup and cinnamon.

2. I wasn't patient enough to wait for the oven to preheat, so I put the granola in before the oven reached 350 F. Had I waited, it might have been done before 20 minutes. Also, if you double this recipe or add to it, the timing might change.

3. I took my granola out when it smelled like the pecans were roasted. I didn't want them to burn, which nuts will do very quickly if you aren't careful. My granola still looked shiny like it wasn't dried yet, but it was fine once I let it cool.

4. Since the space in my jar was limited, I didn't mix my raisins in. I decided I would just sprinkle some on top one serving at a time.

5. The sea salt is totally optional. Ella doesn't include salt in her original recipe, but in true POTSie fashion, I like to add sodium where I can.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Year's Resolutions: Chronic-Illness Style

We are almost two weeks into the new year, which means we have been bombarded with talk of resolutions. Resolutions are often lofty and hard to keep, but there is still something freeing about making them. It is a way of recognizing that if there is something you want to change, add or subtract in your life, you can wipe the slate clean and go for it.

However, when you have a chronic illness, resolutions can have the opposite effect on you. There is often little you can control, and the things you would like to change, add or subtract are outside your realm of power. So should you just forgo this annual tradition?
Lots of snow and cold from the "polar
vortex" this week, but even the solar
lamp finds a way to shine without
the sun!

I don't think we have to, but our resolutions have to take a different form and must be forgiving to our condition and abilities. For myself, I would like to read more (especially books about health), but I am not going to set a certain number of books for the year. Also, during weeks and days when I am feeling strong enough I will set a few mini goals for myself, but if I don't reach them no big deal. (Yes, taking a shower is a valid goal.)

I know. Those don't sound like very resolute resolutions, but setting expectations for ourselves and putting additional pressure on ourselves is really going to be counterproductive. It is easier to take baby steps and make progress when you allow yourself to be flexible and take the weight off of – what are essentially – self-imposed restrictions. Here is an example of how this works for me.

On Tuesday, I was feeling strong, so I ventured down to the basement to reacquaint myself with the treadmill. Speed would be determined by my HR, but I would aim for at least 10 minutes. My speed was fairly slow compared to where I once was, but I did walk on an incline. Including my warm-up and cool down, I walked for 29 minutes. Feeling good about this, I set a few goals for the next day: do my laundry, take a shower and try to get out of bed at 11am.

Just an epsom-salt bath when I was achey this week,
but with the right imagination, it is a luxury spa.
I started off the day by failing at my wake-up time, which I figured I might. My sleep cycle has been a mess lately, and my fatigue has been extreme. I didn't let it ruin my other goals though. I was able to do my laundry, take a shower and clean up the kitchen a bit since my mom has been ill. I felt accomplished, but paid for my victory the next two days. I ached from head to toe, had a low-grade fever, was very dizzy and was exhausted.  That means I did not set any goals for myself these past few days.  My only goal was to rest and let my body rebound.

For those who are bed-bound, you can still set mini-goals for yourself.  Maybe a goal is to do some stretches in bed or write down one thing per day that you are grateful for or even to get through a TV series you have always wanted to watch on Netflix. It all counts. The purpose of resolutions is to enrich your life in some way, and we all know its the little things that count the most anyhow.

Did you set any resolutions for yourself this year? What are they?