Using the New Camera

My husband and I got a new camera for an upcoming trip so I was practicing with it. We got a Nikon Coolpix L830 digital camera. I tried it out with my cats.

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Of course, we had spent a lot of money on an orthopedic foam dog bed for Dusty who has hip displaysia, but he won’t use it. At least the cats use it though.

Anyway, this camera seems to be working well for me. I usually have a lot more trouble taking pictures because my essential tremors result in blurry photos, but the camera has vibration reduction which appears to be working. Now I am looking forward to taking pictures on our vacation. We are heading to Japan on Saturday!

A Productive Day

I know I have not posted in a while. I apologize. First, I will share some news: I am pregnant, and we will be expecting our baby in October! I am about 12 weeks along now. We are very excited because this is something we have been trying for. It was something that had to be planned because my essential tremor medication causes birth defects so I had to gradually stop it before we could even start trying. We can’t wait, but there is plenty of things that need to be done before October.

I seem to be past all the nauseau and throwing up. I finally have some energy back, so I have been trying to put it to good use. Just this morning, I swept the floors and did some dishes. Then I went outside to check out the yard. There are still some patches of snow, but I can see most of the yard. We have a lot of water sitting in our back yard. We are lucky that we have a sump pump, and we have been hearing it turning on a lot these past few days. Although the basement is dry, I would still like to fill in some areas in the back yard and try to make the water flow into the ditch that leads to the drain along the road in front of the house. I started the first step today by putting up stakes and twine to show where the water is filling up. When the yard is finally dry, we will need to find some dirt to fill in those areas and hopefully slope it slightly to go down to the ditch. Here is my progress:

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I basically spent the morning wading around in my rain boots. While I was at it, I grabbed a trash bag to pick up around the yard. My husband had hit one of our trash cans with his truck in the wee hours of one morning when he left to go to work. There were little pieces of shattered blue plastic all over our driveway. Now it looks a lot better. When it gets a little drier out and all the snow is gone, we will have to rake. We also didn’t finish burying the sump pump pipe last fall, so I would like to get that in the ground. Also I plan on building a raise vegetable garden on that side of the house seeing that area gets the most sun throughout the day.

It was nice to finally have a nice day to be outside. After I got some fresh air, I baked some Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:

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My parents also stopped by seeing they were in the area. We fired up the grill for some burgers and hot dogs. We also had salad and potato chips. I’m ready for summer foods! Yesterday, we turned on the grill for the first time this year. There is nothing like grilled food to bring on the good weather. My parents were happy with it too because they said that their grill is still buried under 18 inches of snow. I guess that is what we get for living in New England.

Anyway, I feel like I accomplished a lot today. Next weekend I hope to get out the shovel and try to help the water drain easier to the ditch along the road. Maybe I will also dig up some of the giant weeds we had last year before they start to get big again. I would really like to have a nicer yard this year. Not that we don’t have enough things on our to-do list for when the baby gets here. My second appointment with the doctor is on Friday, so we are looking forward to it. At my first appointment, we were able to hear the heart beat of our baby. It’s very exciting!

An Understanding Owl

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When I came home from running errands today, I saw an owl in my yard. In my excitement, I ran inside and got my camera. I started the frustrating process of trying to take a picture. My essential tremors make taking pictures really difficult. My shaking causes most of the pictures to come out blurry. I usually try to find something to rest the camera on. In this case, I tried steadying my hands by putting my elbows on the handle bar of the grill on our back deck. I was glad this owl was very relaxed and not in a rush to go anywhere. In fact, an hour later he is still there. I am glad for that because, out of the 66 pictures I took of him (or her), I deleted 63 due to being blurry. I can’t take a picture with this light-weight camera for the life of me. I have a nicer camera that is a Nikon N75. It is an SLR and I love it because the weight of it steadies my hands and weighs down the tremor. Unfortunately, I was out of film, so I took 66 pictures with the lighter digital camera, and ended up with 3 keepers. Here are the other two of my friendly owl:

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As you can see by the above picture, he is very close to my back deck.

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Thank you owl for sitting calmly while I tried to take a picture that would do you justice (or at least not be blurry). I hope to see you around again!

How Goes the Mediterranean Diet?

As far as my Mediterranean diet goes, I think I have been eating pretty healthy lately. I’ve been trying to only have red meat once every other week, and a piece of fish once a week. My weekly fish has been salmon for the past couple months, but I needed a change. Today, I went for haddock.

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I cooked the fish with some lemon juice, a little bit of basil, and a light dusting of bread crumbs. I was pretty hungry, so I made this a quick meal with frozen carrots and 90 second jasmine rice. As you can tell, I love my carrots. It might be because my husband doesn’t like orange vegetables, so when I do make carrots I have a lot of them. Combining this Mediterranean diet and preparing for pregnancy, I have been careful with what I eat. Some people say to avoid fish altogether when there is a chance of pregnancy, but my gynecologist said that fish that are low in mercury but high in omega-3 fatty acids are good for baby development. When choosing fish, here are two sources that I have found helpful:

http://fn.cfs.purdue.edu/fish4health/Walletcard/walletcard.html

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http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/mercury/walletcard.pdf

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For breakfast, I will usually have a whole grain English muffin with my cup of tea and some berries. I also usually have an apple or banana, either as a snack between meals, or with my lunch. When planning lunch, I make egg salad or chicken salad, although this week I’m going to try a mix of cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, carved turkey, hummus, whole grain bread, and my much loved dried cranberries along with anything else I happen to scrounge up. I also bought some Swiss cheese at the store. I cannot digest dairy usually, but I have found that ONE slice of Swiss cheese is fine, although not all brands. When planning dinners, I often use chicken or turkey. I replace ground beef with ground turkey. I also like chicken sausages. A great source of protein that I like is beans; chickpeas, pinto, or cannellini being my preferences. They are good mixed in pasta, soups, or on a wheat wrap with tomato and other vegetables. On the nights I go for the fish or beans, I am usually on my own though because my husband is not a fan. But those nights are also the ones when I can eat the vegetables and other things that I love that he does not care for, and he can do something that I won’t go for like mac and cheese or a bacon cheeseburger.

Overall, I think I am doing well with this diet. I just have to remind myself to take my vitamins and drink my soy milk for calcium. Once again, as in a previous post, I am not doing this to lose weight because I do not need to, which is why I am not that strict about desserts. I started it to see if it helps with my ET, but over time I have found that it also makes me feel really good. I don’t feel as sluggish after meals, I feel more energized, and I just feel better inside. There are many benefits to this diet. It’s just plain healthy.

Here are some others with good things to say about the Mediterranean diet:

What are the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? http://ellelloydmiller.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/what-are-the-benefits-of-the-mediterranean-diet/

Vegetables Against Particulate http://blogvivorganic.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/vegetables-against-particulate/

Medi…What? http://fortheloveofoliveoil.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/mediwhat/

The Mediterranean Lifestyle http://whatthedoost.com/2013/12/11/the-mediterranean-lifestyle/

My Morning Picnic

My Morning Picnic

One of my biggest obstacles lately, because of my essential tremors, is having my morning tea. Since stopping my medication, I have been having trouble just carrying a mug of tea across the room without spilling it. I have already spilled a cup of tea on our nice rug once. On the weekends, my husband will carry my mug from the kitchen counter to the coffee table in the living room for me. He does it without me asking. During the week, though, he is long gone to work by the time I get up for work. I used to just stand at the kitchen counter drinking my tea, but I’ve found another way that works much better. I bring my empty mug with the tea bag in it to the coffee table first. Then I heat up my kettle and bring the whole kettle to the coffee table and pour the water there. Now I don’t have to carry the full mug across the room and worry about spilling it. Also I can keep refilling my mug right there. It is like I am having my own picnic at the coffee table.
I am glad I have found a solution because carrying a mug with hot liquid across a room makes me nervous about spilling it. In turn, being nervous makes my tremors worse. I’m lucky to have such an understanding husband who tries to help me without me even having to ask. Besides carrying my drinks, sometimes he cuts my meat for me or helps me when I’m cooking and I need two hands to lift a pot up, but a third to scoop the contents out.
Recently, we went to Boston. When walking around Quincy Market, I needed two hands to hold my beverage leaving me with none to carry my food. My poor husband usually has to juggle two plates knowing I can only carry one thing at a time. Also, that apple pie I had posted almost didn’t happen. After peeling the apples, my hands were shakier than usual because of the strain on them, so I was having trouble cutting them. I dropped half an apple on the floor (my dog wouldn’t eat it), then I cut my finger. I was frustrated and almost gave up on the pie right then. My husband stepped in and helped cut the last few apples for me.
I know Thanksgiving was a while ago, but this year the thing I am most grateful for is having an understanding husband. He always tries to help me out when I’m having trouble doing something, and he tells me not to be ashamed to ask for help. Sometimes, I am stubborn though because just being able to carry a mug across a room is such a little thing most people take for granted, and I want to be able to do it on my own. For now, I will just have a picnic.

Tremor Update

I thought I should just give an update on where I stand with ending my Essential Tremor medication. It has been two or three weeks since I stopped my medication. I have noticed my tremors getting worse in my hands, and I’ve noticed the tremor in my head, although it is not noticeable all of the time. So far, my ET has not been as severe as I was imagining it would be, although I should knock on wood because it could still get worse. If this is as bad as it will get, that would be great. I’ve had to adjust the way I do some things though.

At home, I will eat just about anything, but, when I pack my lunch for work, I am more particular about what I will eat in public. I usually pack a sandwich (something I can pick up) or chicken and vegetables or salad (something I can stab with a fork). I am not as comfortable with foods that require scooping something that will roll off of a fork or spoon like soup, rice, and peas. This is just in public though. At home, when I make my morning tea, I use a bigger mug and only fill it half or three-quarters full. I decided this after spilling my tea on my living room rug trying to carry it across the room. I also do the same with other beverages and sometimes I even use a straw. I have a water bottle that I bring to work with me that has a straw so I don’t have to worry about spilling it. My husband, Travis, has been kind enough to cut my meat for me without me even asking him to. I did cut my finger today when I was cutting apples to make apple pie, but a pie that delicious requires a sacrifice.

I was actually expecting to have a lot more trouble with my ET. I was in high school when I started the medication so my memories of my tremors at their worst come from a normally stressful time. Stress is a very big trigger for tremors, and when I was in high school I had a lot of anxiety. I was nervous and shy, and it was hard being a teenage girl with glasses and braces. So when I think of what my tremors are really like, I am picturing high school, eating my sandwich in a bathroom stall where no one can see me shake. I’ve come to realize though that I am not the same person that I was back then, and it consequently benefits my tremors. It seems as if my personality has changed since I was in high school. I am not as shy as I was, and there is very little that stresses me out any more. In fact, I am a really calm person now. This seems to be working in my favor. Someone used the word ‘confident’ to describe me the other day, and she has no idea how happy that made me. Just a couple of years ago, that would have been the absolutely LAST word I would have ever used to describe myself.

Sometimes I think to myself, “I can’t fill this bowl with soup without spilling it,” or “I’m going to shake a lot trying to eat this.” Then I tell myself, “Take a deep breathe and just do it. No one will care if you shake.” And I take that breathe, and just do it. It always works just fine.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

It was brought to my attention by a friend that following a Mediterranean diet may help to control ET. I have not found any studies on it yet, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try following this diet. I’ve been trying it out for a little over a week now. Overall, it is a very heart healthy diet, whether it helps or not. It suggests basing your meals on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts. It also advises using leaner sources of protein, such as seafood and poultry. Red meat should be eaten less frequently along with sweets.
Although I have not been following this rigorously, I have been replacing my desserts with fruit, and packing healthier lunches. I’m attempting to reduce my red meat intake to once a week, which is probably the hardest part. I don’t usually eat seafood, in fact, before starting this diet, I had only tried cooking fish once. It was salmon, and I burned it (my husband ate it anyway and insisted it was really good). I’m trying to make fish once a week, which isn’t as often as I should for this diet, but it is more often than I usually make it and as much as my wallet can handle.
I have just recently finished decreasing my medication that I take for ET. I took the last pill the other day, but it will be some time before the medication is completely out of my system. There is no way for me to tell if this diet is helping my tremors, because they are getting worse as a result of the lack of medication. However, I will continue to follow this diet, although not too strictly, because I have found that I feel better on it. After meals, I feel full but not sluggish. Also, I really like fruits and vegetables anyway. I’m going to post pictures of some of the meals I have been eating with this Mediterranean diet in mind.

Archimedes Spiral

Archimedes Spiral

On Sunday, I went to an ET support group for the first time. It was interesting to hear from other people with ET. They shared their stories of how long they have had ET and tips for how to do things with ET. The majority of people with ET start noticing the shaking between their 40s and 60s, so I was the only one my age at the meeting. For some, no one else has ET in their family, while for others almost every member in their immediate family has the movement disorder. There is no way to know how often it will be passed down. There was even a mention of a couple rare cases where someone with ET will progress into Parkinson’s Disease. For some people, the shaking is in just one hand, others both hands, and some even have a tremor in their neck and head. I have it in both hands and my neck and head. The tremor in my head is not noticeable all of the time, but when it is acting up, it feels like my head wobbles.
At the meeting, we were given a pin with the Archimedes Spiral. That is the symbol used by the International Essential Tremor Foundation(IETF). The spiral is a tool used by movement disorder specialists to determine the severity of the tremor. My neurologist has done this with me. He will give me a piece of paper and a pencil and ask me to make a spiral starting in the middle without resting my hand on the paper. The spiral will usually get messier as I spiral out from the middle.
I’ve started wearing my pin with this symbol so other people with ET can recognize it and feel like they are not alone. It is also a good way for me personally to practice talking about my ET. Usually when I talk about my ET, I get flustered, turn red and become embarrassed. By wearing the pin and putting my ET on display, I hope to teach myself to talk about it without being embarrassed because I know it is not something I have control over and therefore should not be ashamed of. I know it is not my fault that I shake. It is a personal goal of mine to be able to talk about my ET without being embarrassed and to share my experience with other people in a calm and relaxed way.

A Reason to Share

“Are you nervous?” That is a question I have been asked when someone notices that my hands shake. I just say, “No, I am not nervous. I shake all of the time.” I have had ET for quite a long time now. I am only 25 years old, but I have been on a medication to help lessen my tremor for almost 10 years. I remember having signs of my tremor as early as middle school though, when another student came up to me as I was writing and held the top of my pencil and said, “Why is your pencil shaking so much?” Of course, I was a little kid, and I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know.” And I forgot all about it a minute later.

My tremors gradually got worse when I entered high school. I started seeing a neurologist. I wore fingerless gloves that came with weights strapped to the backs of them for about a year before we found a medication that helped. I think I got a lot more comments about the gloves than I did about the shaking without them. Some insensitive people (not all of them other kids) would say things like, “Are you going to beat me up?” or “Are you trying to be tough?” Others would ask if I had carpel tunnel. I would respond by being polite, but later on I would be embarrassed.

The medication I am on helps a lot, but I am embarking on a difficult journey. Part of the reason I have started this site is because I was online looking for a blog written by someone going through what I am going through. I had trouble finding one, so I decided to start one for other people like me to read. The journey I talk about is that I am slowly stopping my medication. My husband and I have decided that we are ready to have a baby, but there have been reports of birth defects with my medication. There is really no “safe” medication for me to take, so I have decided that a healthy baby will be worth dealing with my tremors at full force. I am thankful that my husband is very supportive and will help me with anything I need as my shaking gets worse. Especially since I have no idea how bad my tremors will really be. I have been on the medication for so long, and I have had to up the dosage, so I can only assume that my tremor will be worse than it was in high school when I started the medication.

The reason behind this blog is that I was trying to find one to read how someone else coped with their tremor during pregnancy. I could not find one, although I am not the best at searching the internet, so there could be one lurking somewhere in a far corner of the web. I would also like to reach out to other people who want to learn about how someone deals with ET or to support others who have it. I know this is a very long post, but I hope you will embark on this journey with me.

Getting Paint on My Hands

I just posted some pictures of some of my paintings to share with you. Even though I have Essential Tremors (ET), I still enjoy painting and drawing. To accommodate my ET, sometimes I have to plan out how I’m going to do my paintings. Because my hands shake, I steady my right hand whenever I write or draw or paint by keeping my hand on the paper or canvas. I find it difficult to write or draw with just the pencil or paintbrush touching the surface and the rest of my hand hovering above. When I paint, I usually start at the top left and work my way down to the bottom right so I’m not resting my palm in the wet paint as I work. I can usually expect to get a lot of paint on myself. Also, it will take me a long time to finish a painting because I need to concentrate on keeping my hand steady. Therefore, I will usually just do a small part at a time, then take a break to relax my hand. I am currently working on a painting of Mt Chocorua. I did the sky in one sitting, then the next weekend I did the mountains furthest in the background. Next, I plan on doing the mountains closer, followed by the lake in the foreground. I just wanted to share with you how someone with ET can still enjoy hobbies such as painting, it is just more time consuming and takes more concentration. Just because something becomes more difficult doesn’t mean you should give up something you love.