Hey, good lookin’ watcha got cookin’…

The Artistry of Cooking. I began cooking in middle school. I was in my early high school years before I got more serious about cooking. This initial cooking was mainly due to necessity as school felt humdrum. That feeling gave me a reason to be creative in the kitchen. My mom was a single mother and worked many hours. I knew that I needed to take on the challenge of cooking. When I cooked, I made sure that the food was ready when my mom got home from work. I made things like an open face hamburger on one piece of wheat bread. I topped the burger with steamed broccoli and Swiss cheese. I served it with a small salad on the side. I was eleven or twelve years old at the time. We did not have much money meaning my food choices were limited. My mom would always tell me that the food was creative and tasted very good. I assumed that a mother was required by law to say that. I am sure that it helped that she did not have to cook after working all day.

From an early age, I cooked a Mother’s Day meal nearly every year for my mom. I was incredibly creative, and I always tried to top the previous year’s creativity. The last Mother’s Day meal that I cooked was the year that I turned 25. Even after all those years I still surprised my mom with my creativity. As they say “practice makes perfect.”

Taste is subjective making cooking like art. You can give the same recipe to ten different people and get ten different dishes. By changing just one or two ingredients, you can change the meal entirely. I rarely used a recipe and never wrote anything down.

Cooking is like life you learn only when you make mistakes. I have known people who say that they cannot make a dish. Sometimes the reason is as simple as they don’t like a specific ingredient. I tell them to replace it with something that you enjoy. I let them know that it would change the recipe to something that they would eat. If you do not like garlic, then leave it out. Don’t like cilantro replace it with parsley. The number of recipe replacement options is unlimited. Being a cook is like falling in love. You’re all in, or you’re not in it at all.

I have several friends who often cook creatively. Sometimes they post on Facebook the meals they make. These food images bring back memories of my days of cooking. These are untrained home cooks. They remind us that preparing food takes a small leap of faith. Their actions encourage us to step outside of our comfort zone. We need to be willing to make some mistakes that are edible. In the beginning, you may even make a few things that you should not eat. However, our errors make us stronger. Real cooking is more about following your heart than following recipes.

I also learned how baking is like chemistry. There are very few ingredients that you can eliminate or replace without significant complications. Remove fruit, and you must consider the juice that you are removing. You must carefully contemplate every change that you make when you bake. Change the wrong thing, and you can get a failed product.

Enormous Epicurious Error. Throughout my life, I watched a plethora of cooking shows. I learned that home cooks tend to under-salt their food when cooking. This dilemma makes many of us over-salt our food at the table. This behavior can negatively impact our health. I have always heard chiefs say to salt the water before boiling pasta or potatoes. I later learned that they don’t mean a couple of shakes from the salt shaker. Soon I began hearing chefs say that your water should taste like the sea. I did not know what that meant. I then heard one chef say to use two tablespoons of salt in a large pot of boiling water for pasta. I tried it, and it blew me away. I now use one and a third teaspoon of salt in four cups of water. I use less water and less salt when cooking for one. Several years ago my last homemaker was helping me prepare spaghetti. She did not understand adding all of the salt. Then she tried a cooked noodle. She now adds salt in this quantity to her pasta water at home.

I believe that I am what you would call a food adventurer. I am not a picky eater as I have had some extreme food. I have eaten unique food from Greece, Thailand, Laos, and others. I tried this food without batting an eye. I am confident that in Greece they tried to gross me out, but failed. The only food aversion that I have is grapefruit. Thankfully, it is a rare fruit in the restaurant world. I have also seen very few recipes for the home cook that call for it.

I read somewhere that said that the average American buys the same few items. People tend to purchase food in their comfort zone. I would encourage everyone to buy a food product that they have never cooked before. Try this once a month. Have you ever made pot stickers? You might love them because they are easier to cook than you think. Does Rigatoni Al Segreto sound complicated to prepare and out of your skill level? It is more elementary than you might think. Remember: add or subtract as you like: “that’s just you cooking.” Now get out there and cook something new. You just might surprise yourself and your family.

Laugh myself healthy…

I planned on doing a blog on “The Spoon Theory” and its life lessons. It is an excellent read for the unwell or for those who want to learn about people who are sick. Be aware that I have unexpectedly rushed this blog and now it is disorganized. That is what happens when you change ideas at the last minute. I still hope that you are able to enjoy and learn something from it. I also encourage you to read “The Spoon Theory.”

When I was new to my Multiple Sclerosis life, someone asked me to read a story called “The Spoon Theory.” This story talks about a girl with Lupus explaining her life with this disease to her friend. I soon learned how this story is similar to MS and other medical conditions as well. It showed how she must conserve her “spoons.” The spoons represent the energy that the sick have on a daily basis. I say the sick in general because each medical condition is both the same and different. We have to plan out our day cautiously thinking and considering as much as possible. We must each be aware and listen to our bodies. Do we have more energy in the morning? Then we need to be more productive at that time while always being mindful as not to overdo it.

If you know someone that is sick, then be aware that this thought process is occurring in their head. You need to realize that if these individuals say “no” to something, then they are running low on spoons. It probably has nothing to do with them liking you or not. Those of us who are unwell walk a tightrope every day. This tightrope lies between not enough and too much. The truly challenging part is that this line continually moves like a caffeinated Chihuahua. Something that was doing just enough yesterday may be way too much today. For the unwell, it is a constant game of pin the tail on the donkey. “Blindfolded” we try to find this line and not cross it.

Someone who is impacted by the weather must continually be aware of the forecast. Is food needed at specific times? Then preparations need to be made for meals. Pushing too much is easy and can make our recovery time lasting maybe for several days. We must listen to our bodies. Our medical condition makes us methodically plan out our day. Those who are not sick can do whatever and whenever they want. However, we are continually pondering all of these concerns. We don’t want to attract sympathy, so we calculate the “risk versus reward” in our heads. This calculating means if you see smoke billowing from our ears then give us a minute as we are thinking. At times, our brains move slower than a sloth wrestling match.

A significant portion of those that are impacted by MS has cognitive issues. The most significant repercussion of the MS cognitive concerns is the loss of our short-term memory. This symptom causes our brains to move like a snail late for a hot date. This memory loss is why we can’t remember the name that you told us thirty seconds ago. However, we can sing the entire theme song for Gilligan’s Island. “Just sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale.” Ok trust me I could sing it, but I’d probably lose “cool points.” A guy who is single does not want to lose “cool points.” Does all of this information make me woman repellant? Too late it’s out there now.

A friend and her husband were buying a car. She was telling me of their endeavor. They were looking at small SUV’s. She explained how she tried to get into each vehicle the way that I do. I grab the handle above the window and pull myself up while guiding myself onto the seat with the other hand. She told me that she did not realize how much upper body strength that I have. I appreciate that someone “gets it” from actually trying it. On youtube, some people do something called “wheelchair for a day.” For this challenge, they have to do everything that they normally do. They do all of this from a wheelchair. I have talked with other wheelchair users who also appreciate this challenge. It means something to us. A wheelchair user can explain the difficulties, but it means nothing. Comprehension takes someone attempting a specific skill. Only then will a person truly “get it.” It is the difference between telling someone how to drive a car and getting into a car and showing them how to drive said car.

One of the most “rhythmic” Multiple Sclerosis symptoms is spasticity. In its most mild form, you may see slight muscle twitching. In some of its most extreme cases, you will see these extremities jump. These muscles spring about like being juggled by a 300-pound gorilla. No matter the strength, these spasms can happen at the most inopportune times. I have seen someone with extreme muscle spasms nearly lurch out of their wheelchair. These “monster spasms” can impact nearly every minute of their lives. The other side of muscle spasms is when they merely tighten the muscles when they are not supposed to. For me, it can sometimes work in my favor. I partially stand to dress. When I stand to pull up my pants, the spasms sometimes happen as I stand. This timing makes it easy to position and stay standing longer. Other times it happens just before I stand or as I prepare to transfer. This lack of ability puts an instant halt to movement like a troll standing guard on a bridge.

Another MS symptom that is hard to see, pun intended, is vision issues. I have interacted with people at every level of the spectrum. Everything from “I can’t read that small print” to “I don’t get it! This braille does not make sense! UGH!!!” I have personally zigzagged on that spectrum like I was on a scavenger hunt. Thankfully with lousy vision, your hearing can become the focus. This better hearing makes TV watching a unique experience. For me, it is difficult to explain my visual experience because there is nothing to compare it to. I get an eye exam every year, and my vision has not changed for the past six years. However, I did not get many eye exams before that.

There are four forms of Multiple Sclerosis. The first form of MS is called Relapsing-Remitting MS or RRMS. RRMS is the most common form of MS impacting 85% of the 2.3 million patients worldwide. There are approximately 400 thousand MS patients in the United States. People with RRMS have temporary periods called relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations when new symptoms might appear. The symptoms of RRMS ebbs and flows like the tide on a full moon night.

“The next item up for bid” is Secondary-Progressive MS or SPMS. SPMS is more of a mixed bag. In SPMS the symptoms worsen more steadily over time. This worsening happens with or without the occurrence of relapses and remissions. The SPMS means that the ebbs are sporadic and the flows are perpetual. Although it’s not common, those with SPMS may experience minor remissions or plateaus in their symptoms.

The last two forms of MS are more straightforward than the others. Primary-Progressive MS or PPMS is the third type. This type of MS occurs in about 10% of people with MS. PPMS is characterized by slowly worsening symptoms from the beginning, with no relapses or remissions. Lastly is Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS). Occurring in 5% of MS patients it is even a more rare form of MS. PRMS is characterized by a steadily worsening disease state from the beginning, with acute relapses but no remissions, with or without recovery.

These are just a few of the many challenges that those with MS deal with on a daily basis. I would always rather see difficulties and not deficiencies. Most of us do not want special treatment though we would never refuse ice cream. Patience is essential when interacting or befriending anyone with MS or any medical condition. Remember this: be kind to us, and we’ll be good to you. As the saying goes “do unto others as you’d have done unto to you.”

I have been living with MS for seventeen years, and the challenges have been plentiful. I now try to see the humor in everything especially my MS life. I have tried to weave a lot of funny into this blog. I do this because the friends that I now have help me to see the humor in life. If you have read my blogs, I often talk about the significant benefits of having friends. There is no doubt in my mind of this fact. We, humans, are social creatures and not built for solitude. How often did you see anyone alone in the fortress of solitude?

Most of the MSers that I know agree with the quote “if you’re not laughing you’re crying.” Those of us who have had MS long enough knows that we have done too much of the later. When we are comfortable enough in our MS life, then we will often poke fun at ourselves. I hope that you have learned something from this blog. I tried to encourage you also to see the humor in everything including MS. “Laughter is the best medicine.”

Befuddled, Bewildered, Bemused…

The following is my rant about people, corruption and the poorest among us. I am flustered by this situation.
I am a 44-year-old guy, and I understand that there are individuals in this world who are merely bad people. As a man that is from a broken home, I comprehend that this is a fact of life. My parents were both good people in their own way. Only when I was forced to eat my vegetables can I say that my childhood was rough. When I was a kid, my best friend was a good guy. His mom was a good woman and played the role of my second mom. I spent most of my childhood time in the Boy Scouts. My father was not around very much, so the scout leaders took the job as a male role model without hesitation. The Scout leaders were excellent men and helped raise me well. They taught me everything that I needed to become the man that I am today. I keep life simple: I strive to be a kind person and to do good things. This world does not need any more negativity, hate or corruption.

I feel that sadly not everyone had positive people to help raise them. Apparently, some individuals have gotten in with the wrong crowds. A friend recently reminded me: “the company you keep does have an impact and influence on your choices.” Of course, this statement does not change as you age. Unfortunately, sometimes one small action can make their life go down an evil path. If they don’t have a good person in their life to steer them back to the correct road, then a bad person can be “born.”

It takes one wrong person to say to them “isn’t this fun?” when they steal a car. It could be the wrong group of people to say: “take these pills, and you will go places like never before.” Yes, these may be extreme scenarios, but life is not always black and white. A little greed turns into avarice very quickly. There is never enough. I am sure that most wrongdoers would not admit that they are evil people. Some do not even care what people think of them. When I am confronted by those who knowingly do bad things I am always astonished.

I was recently at my dad’s house when the cable man was coming for a cable box repair. The cable guy replaced two outdated cable boxes. I sat on the couch next to my wheelchair, and I said nothing in the beginning. I was neither surprised nor bothered when he spoke only to them and ignored me. He began to explain to them that this was going to be a fifty dollar “service call.” He told them that if they did not want to pay that fee, then they needed to sign up for a monthly five dollar per month “service contract.” If any of you who are reading this know me, then you can attest that I am a quiet person and keep to myself. I’ll finish the story when you stop laughing. Ok, it wasn’t THAT funny. I AM honestly a reticent guy.

I politely asked him why they had to pay to repair faulty equipment owned by WOW Cable. He quickly made a vague statement to me and then looked back at them to continue. He reiterated to them that to avoid the service fee. I interrupted again and said “I’m sorry, but you did not answer my question. Why do they have to pay for faulty WOW Cable equipment?” He tried to dance around the issue. I asked him if he was a contractor. He explained that he was an actual WOW Cable employee. He stated that he fills out all of his paperwork on a computer. He told how using this computer meant that he only has two options. Option one is to rob them of fifty dollars. Or option two is to steal five dollars per month over the next twelve months. Ok, that explanation was in my words to my readers only, but facts are facts. “I have personally used WOW Cable for many years and have never faced this issue,” I said. He shrugged that off avoiding me as much as possible.

The technician tried to put all of the blame on WOW Cable of course. I agree that Wow Cable is mostly to blame. Although, I believe that the technician is partly to blame as well. I’d call this preying on the elderly. He is willing to steal from those who have the least. Even if Wow told him to do this how can he say yes? If it were the choice of theft or not having a job, I would gladly be jobless. I don’t know how most people would handle if faced with this query. I would not do this for all of the money in the world. Maybe I should work at becoming more corrupt? Yeah, a snowball has a better chance at life in Brazil then me becoming corrupt.

I have a friend who I’ve known for a long time who calls me quite frequently. Occasionally I discuss my blog topics with him. I have always known him to be a pretty good guy. For a while, he even worked at his church doing a computer ministry. I was explaining this situation to him. I stated that I mostly blame WOW cable, yet I also blame the technician. When he asked why I blamed the tech I thought that he was joking. I asked him if he could steal from people like that. His answer truly astonished me. “It depends on if I would get caught,” he said. WHAT? I quickly said, “Well I guess that makes me a better person than you because I could steel.” I still thought that he was joking, but he was not kidding. He quickly changed the subject.

I honestly don’t know what to do with this information. I am flabbergasted! This behavior makes me question humanity. The Wow technician alone gives me great pause. However, adding my “friend” into the mix. Well, some days I genuinely question humankind. Are there enough of the good people out there to keep the scales tipped in our favor? This Wow tech sees eight or ten people a day. There are how many cable techs that do this? Can enough positivity be done to counteract the negative? I feel that this issue is not limited to Christianity, but more of a good versus evil thing. This issue proves that being a Christian like my friend is, does not automatically make you a good person. Just like being an agnostic does not automatically make you a bad person. Whatever the case, please make sure that your older loved ones are aware.