My Luck Finding HFCS-Free Foods

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Health, Household

This is not a comprehensive report after exhaustive research. This is simply a short note after a very quick run through the grocery store for a few needed items. Most of what I was hunting was fresh produce, so no worries about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) there. The new push for seeking them is based on the results of a recent study released by Princeton University. You folks are smart enough to decide for yourself what it means, so rather than dumbing it down into my terminology I’ll simply link it for your perusal.

A walk down the condiment aisle was where the dread came in, especially after a conversation with my good friend Andrea last week on her experience at the grocery store. Her family is making the switch to HFCS-free life, and while I’m not clearing out my pantry I am trying to re-stock without them. I’ve long believed in the dangers of HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils and have avoided what I thought were the big culprits for years.

After her recent experiences, I realize how far HFCS has infiltrated my pantry and fridge when I wasn’t paying attention. Condiments are filled with them, and Andrea recently reported that every variety of bread in her grocery store contained it. I rarely eat bread, but my family enjoys it. We never buy white, and only go for whole grain but I was braced for pain when I checked the labels of my favorite bread items.

I’m happy to report that all three “Nature’s Own” bread varieties I checked at my local store are HFCS-Free, and even tout this with a banner on the packaging. This is a whole grain brand my family already enjoys, so I was relieved. Every other brand I picked up had HFCS.

The place where I was most pleased was the condiment aisle. While Heinz ketchup has HFCS, the Reduced Sugar variety does not. I have used the RS ketchup for years and enjoy it. This is the only kind I’ll buy now, when the guys’ regular runs out.

Planning on making teriyaki chicken tonight, I checked the label on my usual low-sodium teriyaki sauce and was surprised to find that it is HFCS-Free. The normal variety does contain HFCS, so I’ll be checking the low-sodium food options in the future to see if this is a regular additional benefit to low-sodium foods.  My habit is to buy low-sodium options whenever possible, dating back to LT’s health problems in 2003. It’s one I’ve not felt the need to switch back since it’s no longer needed for him, and even when I was recently told to increase my salt intake I preferred adding salt to my portion rather than increasing the sodium for my entire family when we’re all used to the healthier alternative.

Also, all the Sugar Free Syrup (for pancakes) is also HFCS-Free since it uses sugar alcohols for sweetness. There are other concerns in using sugar alcohols, but I’ll leave it to you to be able to decide for yourself if you want to make the switch to them.

In general I have to say, YAY for my reduced sugar diet!

Working Hard to Lose Big

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Friends, Health, Weight Loss

I was reading a post by my dear friend Jett and couldn’t help but notice how we are in similar situations. She’s struggling with weight loss, as am I. More importantly, the lack of quick results is affecting our efforts and has us both speculating on how to turn things around.

About a decade ago, I was at my highest weight, around 255. I lost down to 180 or so, but then due to life changes (illness of son, comfort of marriage, illness and passing of my mother) I gained about 30 pounds of that back. Major bummer.

I kicked off a new weight loss program in January of 2008, and slowly watched my weight go down 50 pounds. I had great success using a one-two punch of South Beach and lots of exercise, but also sabotaged myself with holidays,  celebrations and stressful situations. After working extremely hard over the summer, to include training for running an entire 5k for the first time in my life, I was only about 12 pounds from my initial goal weight. I was also at the physical peak of my life when the health issue I’m dealing with hit at the end of October 2009. I went from 4 or 5 days a week at the track or in the gym, I was couch-bound. Before my diagnosis a few weeks ago, I’ve tried several times to exercise to disastrous results. My symptoms increased to a painful level and I would give up again.

I’m now pushing myself to walk every morning with Chooch and Kaylee, as I only feel comfortable doing so when he’s with me. I know if symptoms hit, I’m in the best possible hands. After the dizziness from that subsides, I do my shiny new exercises for my vestibular rehabilitation. I have insane dizziness after that. For instance, today I only felt human again after about 3 pm after finishing the exercises around 10 am and taking a nap afterward. Hopefully, this will fade but I will continue doing the second session right before bedtime since it effects me so strongly. I’m very hopeful that the walking on top of the exercise will also help me in my efforts to get my ass back to work faster!

The end result is that I’m moving again, and this brings me great joy in spite of the after effects. The other change I’m making is allowing myself more fruit, vegetables and whole grains than are allowed on Phase One of South Beach. I never intended to spend this much time on Phase One, and it’s not healthy for me long term. With heart disease on one side of the family and breast cancer on the other, I’m fully aware of the importance of high fiber diets. The foods I’ve added back in this week include carrots, bananas, apples, grapes and pineapple. Also, two high fiber/low glycemic index whole grain servings per day. I’m in heaven, as it feels so decadent to indulge in these on a daily basis.

The initial impact is that my weight is up a couple pounds, but I’m not surprised due to the increase in natural sugars and whole grain carbs along with slightly increased muscle mass. I’m not going to beat myself up, I’m just going to enjoy my sinfully sweet fresh pineapple slices and hope it all shakes out in the end.

I have full faith in both Jett and myself, and know that once we figure out what works for our individual cases we will kick ass and reach our goals.

Week one on the new dosage. Meh.

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy

I started the increased daily migraine medication dosage on Sunday, and am really feeling the difference in an increase in the frequency and duration of the dizzy spells. My hope is that this is my body adjusting to the increase from 10 to 25 mg of the migraine medication. Happily, the breakthrough migraine meds do actually seem to help with acute migraine pain, even though I’m only taking a half dose. Chooch and I thought this would be a good start since I find myself to be pretty damned sensitive to the effects of the medication. What can I say, I’m a cheap date.

I felt great on Thursday morning, so got behind the wheel for the first time to run errands. I was fine for the first hour or two, but then fatigue and headache kicked in and after only three hours I was back at home napping due to extreme dizziness and nausea. I’m still waiting to get my groove back from yesterday’s adventure.

I’m looking forward to Tuesday, which is my first session of vestibular rehab (physical therapy for really dizzy frakkers like myself). I’m really hoping they can help me, because I’m about to lose my mind. Silly me, I thought I’d feel better after diagnosis and treatment started. You may know that one of my core beliefs (and personality flaws) include the movie quote “Instant gratification takes too long” from the movie “Postcards from the Edge”.

Now I’m dealing with seasonal allergy flare-up or cold or cooties or something, and I think by itself it would be okay. In combination with everything else, I end up being a party pooper yet again. I’m tired of being the wet blanket, period. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get some work done on my new project. It’s kind of tough when I feel this depleted when I need to feel brave and confident in my vision.

Since I’ve been warned about stress taking a physical toll on me at this point, I’m struggling with keeping negativity away even more than ever before. I can feel a tangible uptick in my symptoms when something upsets me, so it’s no longer just a goal to be more positive and avoid negativity. It’s now a necessity, and so my efforts begin in earnest.

My goal is to feel stabilized on the medication so I can drive myself to and from the physical therapist on Tuesday so hubby doesn’t have to miss more work. I know things can always be worse, so I’m counting my Blessings and staying hopeful. Baby steps, yo.

The Diagnosis

Author: Chooch  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Health

I had an appointment with my neurologist yesterday, and am glad Chooch was again there to catch the details since I was violently pissed that the cardiologist didn’t follow up with me OR send the last results over. I have doubts about this final diagnosis until the neurologist can consult with the cardiologist, but based on the other results he had he is extremely confident that he knew what was wrong with me.

He has diagnosed me with two things: neurocardiogenic syncope and vestibular migraines. The former is because I fainted twice on occasions many years ago and then again during the tilt table test. This simply means that under EXTREME conditions, I may faint. Because I have not had any fainting nor feelings of faintness in years, except for very briefly immediately following Nat’s memorial service, this is not a concern a true concern at this time.  Rather, it is something to be vigilantly aware of in order to prevent it.

The diagnosis relevant to my current health issues is vestibular migraines, which is actually a catch-all diagnosis for people like me that have run the diagnostic gamut with these symptoms and everything has turned out normal. It’s disappointing to have a diagnosis by default, because it means I will likely never have full faith in it. That said, the fact that I’m in otherwise good health is a tremendous relief.

One of the things taken off the table was the possibility of needing a pacemaker, and while I’m in awe of the technology I do NOT want to be in the position of relying on a machine surgically inserted into my chest to keep my heart beating at a regular beat.  I hadn’t mentioned this beyond three people because I was so terrified of the possibility, and at that point it was speculative talk by the cardiologist and neurologist.

For treatment, the doc increased the dosage of the migraine medication I’ve been on since January. I’ve had no negative side effects like with the first prescription, and seem to have had a slight lessening in frequency and/or duration of most symptoms. He also prescribed new break-through migraine medication and four weeks of vestibular rehabilitation, which is essentially physical therapy for dizzy frakkers like myself. On first pass through google, it looks like, among other things, I’ll be learning out to walk with an exaggerated hip sway and with my eyes down. I’m very excited to start, because I really want to resume life, whatever that may mean.

He’s also lifted the driving ban since the recent tests cleared out seizures or loss of consciousness as concerns. I have to take great care, as I did before the ban, to only drive when I’m feeling 100% and have taken the necessary precautions to hopefully prevent an episode while driving. I don’t need the lecture on taking caution, I had driven less than a half dozen times in the previous two months based on how I was feeling. I’m nothing if not terrified of car accidents, so will tread carefully here.

Many thanks for all of the concern, I am humbled by the number of people that have reached out to me over the months in support and camaraderie. I am truly blessed, and I know it.

April of 2003 at a tulip festival in Oregon

I’m off to fix a birthday breakfast for my husband. No one has ever been as supportive of all my craziness, and has inspired me to be stronger and more brave than I ever thought possible.  He is the most patient, kind and loving man I’ve ever met and deserves all the spoiling I can muster.

The Boom Effect on my grieving process

Author: Chooch  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Friends

As anyone that knows me has already heard, the world lost a spectacular woman recently. Natalie Morris left this world at the young age of forty-five. She left behind an exuberant and gorgeous five year old daughter that goes by the nickname Sonic Boom. She will be raised by her loving and attentive father, author and podcaster Tee Morris.

Nat Morris and I on my 40th birthday.

I won’t claim to have known Nat intimately, but I won’t hesitate to call us good friends. Knowing Tee through the podcasting community for the last few years, I was introduced to Nat and we later got to know each other at parties and even were making plans to see each other the very weekend that Chooch and I attending her viewing. I cannot tell you how sad this lost opportunity makes me, and that instead of laughing and talking with her I was grieving the loss of her life and praying for her daughter to remember her throughout her life. I take comfort in my belief that Nat no longer has to hear me tell her something to know it. I believe she now knows what is in my heart without me even having to say it.

The loss of a friend is never an easy. But someone that has their own problems but still takes time to show concern and care for others, reaching out to offer comfort to another that has some difficulty… let’s just say that Nat was a rare gem. She was human, with all the exquisite flaws and frailties that this condition mandates. In spite of this, I always felt that Nat was doing her very best to raise her daughter by beautiful example of being a loving and caring person.  Coming through drastic changes in recent months, her last conversations with me showed joy and happiness at things she was doing over the holidays, particularly those involving her beloved daughter. No one has ever loved a child more than Nat loves Serena.

Having lost my own mother to breast cancer four years ago at the age of thirty-six, I frequently feel adrift without her. Hell, last week I even referred to her in the present tense, so surreal is it that she’s gone. I don’t know what kind of woman I would’ve turned into without her strong and fiercely loving hand to guide me through life, but I am eternally grateful for the time I had with her. While Sonic Boom is devastatingly young to have lost her mother, I know that Nat has provided her a foundation of maternal love, positivity and acceptance that she will carry with her, even if she doesn’t know quite why.

On February 27th I was able to participate in a very small way in a community coming together to raise money for a trust fund for Sonic Boom. It was a staggering success, largely due to the tremendous efforts of author Philippa Ballantine and Podcasting’s Rich Sigfrit. Pip has worked tirelessly since Nat’s passing, in organizing a chip-in fund that raised over $20,000 and in planning and orchestrating the webathon that would be known as The Boom Effect. Over a hundred donors provided goods or services to be auctioned off, and Pip coordinated this event from beginning to end.

Rich Sigfrit used his big brain to piece together multiple platforms to create a live video feed of the auction, along with a bidding system, and conferencing software to bring distant participants into the live recording.  Having witnessed the complex process at work, it is easy to see how much work Rich put into the development, testing and implementation of these elements to make the best possible webathon for Sonic Boom. I believe the hiccups that were experienced were from the huge number of people attending virtually and shortcomings from the service providers themselves.  Rich’s innovation was able to overcome the obstacles and the ten hour webathon was a smashing success.

This success was also due to the help of many others, including Susan Z. who worked tirelessly behind the scenes wrangling the bids and tracking the winners. She took a difficult job and performed it beautifully and with great grace. Billy Flynn and his lovely wife Terri, of Geek Radio Daily, graciously opened their homes to host the webathon, and Billy co-hosted for the majority of the day alongside the tireless Rich Sigfrit. To provide brief respites for the hosts, various others jumped on the microphone and skype to help raise the bids on various items. These folks include my husband Chooch, along with Jett Micheyl, The Bruce, Philippa Ballantine, J.C. Hutchins, Sonic Boom’s father Tee Morris, and many others including Christiana Ellis who raised an additional amount for those that wanted to hear more of her upcoming sequel to Nina Kimberly the Merciless after having a taste of it in an earlier reading.

Am I forgetting people? Yes, and I’m very sorry. This was a day full of amazing generosity and kindness, and my head was spinning from it all. Add to that the darling Sonic Boom’s sparkling presence on and off the microphone and I will happily admit to having lost details of the day. To all those that donated, I am in awe of you. Our small donation to the auction was nothing compared to the time and efforts given by others. To the bidders, you truly rock in a fantastic fashion. At the end of the webathon, over $8,300 was bid and it all goes into a trust fund for Sonic Boom’s future with the remaining funds from the chip-in fund.

The fund now stands at just over $30,000 raised between donations and the webathon. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we were all stunned when Susan Z. brought in the final tally. I remain gobsmacked at the communal generosity and what it has done for this sweet child.

This is the first time I’ve written about Nat publicly since her passing, although I’ve re-written this blog a dozen times since her passing. I never posted it before because I wanted to ensure that the focus remained with Sonic Boom and the fundraising efforts. I didn’t want to shift focus to my grief and I still don’t want that. In fact, the outpouring of loving messages and unbelievable donations directed to Nat’s daughter gives me a new hope. I believe that while she tragically won’t have the tangible love of her mother to guide her throughout her life, she will never lack for adoration and loving support. To be clear, I have never doubted that Tee is a loving and strong parent and role model. Sonic Boom is in very capable and nurturing hands. My remaining hope is that Nat knows that she is loved and will never be forgotten.

Photos from The Boom Effect are included below.

You win this time, Con Crud.

Author: Chooch  //  Category: Chooch, Convention Attendance, Health, Uncategorized

After being sick for almost a week now (my first con crud!), Chooch was kind enough to take me to the doctor today. I argued with him missing another day of work, but since he was also feeling under the weather realized he needed attention as well. We headed to a nearby walk-in clinic that has a wonderful staff that has impressed us in the past.

We were whisked off to separate rooms, where we were separately ordered strep tests and later had chest x-rays to check for pneumonia. I love this office, they do the lab draws there and even have some tests they run while you wait (strep test). In the past, they’ve done an EKG on me as well. To have the chest x-rays done at the same facility also was a wonderful surprise and a relief not to have to go to the hospital and spend the rest of the day in line.

While waiting, I was able to do an allergy test which I have been needing for years. I suffer terribly during the Spring and Fall, but never knew exactly what my triggers were. The test involved having 62 or so serums scratched into my back, and then waiting to see if I had a reaction to anything. A few minutes later I knew I was having moderate itchiness, but wasn’t too surprised. Turns out I’m allergic to 22 of those tested, and I asked the nurse to take a picture of my back as Chooch always wants all the gory details and I thought he’d be disappointed in missing out on this display of medical freakdom. Sure enough, some of the welts were so big they joined with others.

We were both diagnosed with bronchitis (yay, clear chest xrays!), given prescriptions and sent on our way. I started feeling better after the second day, but am still trying to recover energy. The fatigue is pervasive, my friends. Chooch ended up getting much worse, and although the doctor said we weren’t contagious we were unsure as to whether or not to attend The Boom Effect webathon Saturday morning. He ended up returning to the doctor on Saturday morning (have I mentioned how much I love this place?!?) and was diagnosed with a mildly contagious eye infection from some odd settling of the bacterial infection in his right eye. Um, okay. The doc said if he took general hygiene precautions it would be fine, but you know us…

Chooch ended up getting a medical eyepatch from the pharmacy to ensure that he wouldn’t touch his eye and spread germs while around others. He attached hand sanitizer to his belt loop and continuously sanitized his hands all day long. When he added the bunny ears as Tee requested folks wear, it was *quite* the look.

Viv, Jett and Pirate Bunny Chooch. Image pilfered from Bruce Erb's facebook photo page. Thanks, Bruce! 😀

His eye is still recovering from the infection and he’s finally starting to feel stronger after the bronchitis.

For my first run in against Con Crud, I have to say that I’m now very impressed with the totality of the chaos it was able to inflict on our lives.

And yet, seeing Felicia Day again was worth it all.