Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A lesson in the cookie dough

A cookie is round but not perfect.

When I make cookies I am always trying to make each perfect, erase any blemishes, get each one so that they look as bakery perfect as possible. See, I roll out cookies sometimes five to seven times so that it might look right because the previous try had a tear, lump, crease, or just didn't look right to me. Yeah, it's a bit crazy. Or a lot crazy.

Then I realized something last week. A big something.

Start Over

Not only am I far from being perfect -- Woooah, Waiiit, I realized a looong while ago! That's not it! Move along before I get comments on THAT! I actually have a genetic kink* that makes me even more unique you could say. We've been discussing that in previous blog posts, too. My pursuit of perfectionism and my genetic condition collided in that one moment last week baking with that rolling pin. It was an a-ha moment or maybe it was just my pup Oliver running by in his holiday collar complete with a jingle bell (so cute, by the way!). Seriously now, how can I so easily erase a mild bump, a ridge in the dough? Press it away? Press it flat... What does that say about me? 

Who am I really? I have always been in the pursuit of perfection. If the cake can ook like the cookbook photo, I'm going for it. If there's no photo, I don't bother with the recipe. Am I superficial? Maybe. Maybe I need a guide to go by. In any case, the cast-aside dough made its statement. It scared me. It still does a bit. This is more than cookie dough. I like myself. I hate what these tumors have done to me -- anyone would. In all truth, this condition has actually made me even more giving, accepting, and loving of others. I will admit I am still working on letting people into my life. For some reason, that's never been easy for me. I recognize that and I am working on it.

HOT! Cookies! 
All THIS amidst the lingering aroma of spice sugar cookies! Can you believe it?  The biggest take-away lesson: Not only do the "duds" -- the cookies that come out of the oven twisted, bent and crispy! You know -- not-so-perfect ones -- they taste the best, they give the holiday season character. I mean who doesn't want an extra chocolate chip on Frosty's belly? A wild sprinkling of nonpareils on a candy cane or cut-out tree? Extra, Extra frosting on the gingerbread cupcakes... Yes, yes and Y-E-S!

It's not easy to let go at times.  Perhaps it is stress or anxiety.  I have heaps of it-- enough to fill Santa's sleigh and then some. I'm not just talking about at Christmas either. Of course, pain makes its entrances and exits when it wants to like an unwanted guest. No matter how many times you put up the DO NOT ENTER or Leave ME Alone sign the pain tears it down and tramples on in like a crazy drunk, not listening, stumbling through the body, ready to rip through whatever is in its path, unrelenting. I never know where the pain might hit but when it does, I have to brace to myself, hold onto to something sturdy. I beg for it to stop but it's no use. Luckily, a new medicine has quieted the beast of pain. I am able to enjoy afternoons again, weekends, and I even have more energy. I have been doing a lot more lately. The biggest change as I said before is the baking! It can be so enjoyable, fun, and rewarding. Even I would say meditative. 

Really, you say? Meditative?

Baking is my serenity in between the storms, the lightning leg pains, the thunderous plummet of pain as it hits out of nowhere. Baking is among few other beautiful activites that gives me solace.  Measuring, sifting, and pouring puts me in a zone, a zone that only gets interrupted by a door bell or a dog barking. It is wonderful.

I am so thankful for this. Especially this year! I haven't been able to bake like this in years.  I bought a Kitchen-Aid mixer several years ago and this year I have finally felt like it's mine. It's been christened with sugar cookie dough, spice sugar cookie dough, chocolate chip cookie dough (two batches), Nutter Butter truffle mix, Oreo truffle mix, snowball cookies... And I'm not done! I even made homemade whipped cream last Saturday! 

I was watching the Rachael Ray Show (I DVRed it from several days ago) when singer Richard Marx was her co-host. Did you catch that episode? Boy, he's funny to watch in the kitchen! He needed help dumping noodles into the strainer/colander, if that tells you anything! He also needed help grading nutmeg! I was afraid to watch! Giggle! That's not what I wanted to talked about, though! It was a previous segment on yummy latkes (basically dolled up potato pancakes).  The cookbook author and NYT columnist Melissa Clark presented the traditional Hanukkah food to the audience. She actually mentioned to my delightful surprise that cooking for her is meditative. I could SO understand  where she was coming from. This was in response to a question by Richard Marx who asked both women if they liked to cook when they get home given both jobs deal so much with food... Both women said they still love cooking. I think it has so much to do with passion. Passion for cooking.

When I had my writing job I came home and took writing courses or wrote on my own. If the passion is there, it's all you need often times. Having an outlet in life is key. For these women, cooking is an outlet. Much like baking is for me. Filling candy baking cups with rich chocolate batter is part of being in my zone. Rach's is making burgers & Melissa's is topping a beet latke (looked marvelous on TV!) with a horseradish sauce.*  To see more on the RR segment, go to: and type in latkes in the search engine.

Being in the zone is one of the greatest gifts life can give to us. For so long, the brain fog of drugs has not even allowed me to connect on certain levels -- to books, even edit friends' work, etc. My brain is slowly coming back to me. Being in the zone connected to the dough as a baker has allowed  me to realize this. What a welcomed feeling! Nearly as good as the yummy treats I'm making... NEARLY!

Before the oven

Commercials always make holiday baking look inviting, fun. The chocolate chip one pulls me in EVERY time! You know which one I'm talking about, right? As bad as a Hallmark commercial or Frosty melting... Kids love Rudolph with "his nose so bright" and I love him, too, yet it was the guy with "the corncob pipe and a button nose" who made this
little red-haired girl very sad one day. Always at Christmastime, my parents talked about how I cried and cried when I first saw Frosty the Snowman melt as part of the television special. I will never live that down! Ha! Ha! 

I love this time of year and I feel blessed I am able to enjoy it more because of the new pain medication I am taking. The pain is by no way gone but I am feeling much, much more like Leslie as anyone can tell by the amount of baked goods on my Facebook & Twitter accounts!

Merry Christmas & Happy Hannukah!  --The Healing Redhead

P.S. Race you to the cookie tray! First dibs on the "dud!" 

*I have Schwannomatosis, a form of Neurofibromatosis. Big words, I know. All you really need to know is that tumors grow on nerves causing pain. Surgery is sometimes is needed to get the pesky tumors out. More information: 

*I think it was a sauce but I'm not 100% so don't kill me. All I know is that it looked dang good ad my mouth is watering and I want to have latkes sometime this holiday but my food processor is in storage. Maybe I can borrow one from family? Wink, wink!  

©The Healing Redhead

(All photos by Yours Truly  Leslie Einhaus, other images by Microsoft clip art)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

'Small moments win'

(*Check the end of the blog)

The "attitude of gratitude" on Facebook has had me thinking. Yes, I know, shocking, isn't? For those of you unaware, some folks on Facebook are using status updates during November to show love to their parents, kids, co-workers, etc. It's all about showing what you are thankful from BIG to small given that it's the month of Thanksgiving.

Here's the deal, as much as the big ticket items should get their due, I want the small things to get the recognition they deserve. So many times, the little things get overlooked, passed by, and simply missed. I believe the little things are so often best things! Not to discount the parents, kids, and co-workers -- NO WAY! They are MUCHO important. I just want the spotlight turned on the little things, too. I know in a month's time small items will make people's list as you will see in a little bit. Here are a few of the examples that could very much be worthy of gratitude if on my lil' list:
-Christmas twinkle lights;
-Warmth of a fire;
-The bare page, empty screen; (a writer thing)
-Puppy hug;
-Holiday creamers;
-The first page of really good book;
-Sappy holiday movies on Lifetime & Hallmark channels (my DVR is full!) and
-Sonic happy hour!

After a long day, a hot bubble bath or shower is one of the best things in the world. Some might argue something else is (cue Barry White!) but I'm not going there. That's for someone else's blog. Ha!
I gave a maid of honor speech at a wedding reception for my friends Matt and Sarah [Baney] several years ago in Idaho and I told the happy couple that the big events in their marriage are, of course, important and worthy of the picture book and, I guess now, worthy of the Smart phone, or what I call the Smarter-than-Us phone or the Smarter-than-Me phone. The big events are special, champagne moments but the small ones will bind you both together, connect you as a couple. These will be the moments you will look back on the most and be most grateful for as a couple. Now even though I didn't quite word it like that then, I am now for the sake of this post and the intrinsic message remains: small moments win. I think it's a great lil' message this time of year!

The following are two recent excerpts from*
"While I'm not doing the 30 days of thankfulness here on FB, I did feel quite thankful today for public libraries. . . . as I was walking out with a bag of 35 books. How lucky we are! Thank you Benjamin Franklin (and others)."
--Jolene Cihak-Taylor

"I am thankful for music that begs to be blasted and sung along with such as Blister in the Sun" --Liza Woods Anderson

Both are small moments that have big impact. Each reflect what life is truly about: celebration and the simple fact of R&R: sittin' back with a good book or rockin' out to your favorite tune!
Quick note on public libraries. I love 'em. I could do a whole post on 'em and probably will one of these days just to show those of you out there what you're missing. Get ready: free movies, magazines, books! For all ages! But for now, a simple statement of thankfulness! We are all indeed lucky to have our libraries. I will say that I recently checked out my first e-books from my local library this fall. Earlier this year I was busy to and from the same library getting books the old-fashioned way and I even got an old-fashioned fine. Oops! But it wasn't very much. Little did I know I could call in my books from home. It's merely getting hang of the system again. I've been buying my books for awhile now and simply not needing the library as much. Yet every place I've lived I've owned a library card and used it. It's a simple pleasure we often overlook. Young parents, it's definitely something to consider, if you don't already. What a great lesson for the kiddos!
There's a song or many on the radio or one you can play on your iPod and instantly you are transported, right? There's probably a lot!

Here's one. It's embarrassing. Nervous giggle. It's after school, fifth grade, Stevensville, Montana, in my room with two gal pals from a new school I was attending listening to Tiffany. Yes, Tiffany. We we're gossiping about boys. I knew every word of the song by heart.

Then, there was Kathy Mattea's "18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses." I was on the road with my Mom and we are headed to the mountains or Texas. It's sometime during what I call the "Moving Years." It's dusk and we were trying to decide whether to go on another 60 miles or stop in the town that's next up on the yellow line. I look in my Best Western catalog and try to pick a good place to stay for the night. In the rearview mirror, I can see Dad in the the moving van. I am mouthing the words to every last lyric. "Ten more miles on this four-day run / a few more songs on the all-night radio..."

The very song Liza chose is by the Violent Femmes and one friend of hers posted part of the lyrics, then I did... Music always brings people together. That's something I could write a post about easy, probably a book -- given my Dad's side of the family. Anyway, it's not the first times that's happened regarding a song and lyrics on Facebook. Someone will always provide lyrics to a song:
"Let me go on..."

I think no matter what make a point to reflect not just in November. Showing a grateful heart is sexy. Show it off to those single guys and gals or to your husband or wife. Plus, I'll tell you a lil' secret: It makes you feel good no matter what time of year. No, really. It's also a great lesson to pass down to

the next generation. Showing generosity to one another is such a beautiful thing, especially in this day and age! We seem to over extend the love during the holidays yet rarely check in on the neighbor or aunt or uncle during the year. Plus, the world... you see the headlines. Yes, life is "back to normal" but that doesn't mean we can't share a little love around January-October. A sweet treat, a big hug, or just someone to listen -- these are just a few little ways to show we care. A friend of mine, Soo Lee, who lives far away, decided she wanted to do something just a little extra special recently, sent me a pair of gift cards to places she knew I would enjoy (one was to Dairy Queen to get a few DQ dipped cones and another to Starbucks) It doesn't have to be a BIG something to make a HUGE, lasting impact. Just remember that. It was just right and WONDERFUL!

thanks·giv·ing noun \thaŋ(k)s-ˈgi-viŋ also ˈthaŋ(k)s-ˌ\
An act of giving thanks; an expression of gratitude, especially to God: a hymn of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day
(First Known Use of THANKSGIVING 1533)

Whether you give thanks publicly on a social network, among friends and family, or privately, don't forget YOUR HEALTH. Even if you have a condition, the body is working for you. Never forget that. I was thinking just this morning how my body every day tries its very best to flush all the toxins out of my body. With every pill I take, every scan with its contrast, my body is fighting for ME! We at least have to meet half way, for example, and drink enough to flush that gunk out of our system. Our physical body alone is amazing, constantly working, revitalizing itself each and every day. It is something we think about if we are forced to, let's say if symptoms erupt, or we're strapped to a gurney. So, this Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones and friends, be grateful for what's inside. Your insides are important. OK, it's corny, but come on... It's true you, know it. So many of us put it to the side or completely ignore it. Like putting off appointments or ignoring symptoms. Be aware of your body. Be grateful.
{I'm thankful for a body that doesn't fail me and keeps going even though it's been a crazy, sometimes difficult ride. It's always held up to the task. I may not be where I want to be but I can be thankful that I can get there one day.}

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sit back and enjoy the moment for what it is! Capture it for yourself. Don't let the camera do all the work. Soak it in. Gobble, Gobble. 

To my vegan/vegetarian friends:
Munch, Munch.

Video to share:
If you have not seen the story out of one special Target store demonstrating gratitude, check THIS out! It actually starts with a shopper and happened in one special Target -- to be specific. Enjoy. It will warm your heart.

*Remember, I waltzed with the help of my hot physical therapist, from my gurney to a chair in with my hospital gown UNTIED (not on purpose!). That's as close to any "action" as I'm getting right now. I'm leaving it to the experts, someone with some "game," or a nicer backside than mine. The story is here to read, if you are so inclined. Comment on your own embarrassing hospital story. Only fair after reading mine! HA! HA! ;)

©The Healing Redhead

*Both are Facebook friends of mine.

Images provided by:;;

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breast Cancer Awareness Month... by the Book

Here's a chance to learn about two wonderful women, their medical challenges, and the close ties they have to their families. While I may not go into a lot of detail here that's because I don't want to give it ALL away! What fun would THAT be?

Now you might wonder: WHY oh WHY should I read stories about women with cancer in the first place, especially if I don't have it? And if I have cancer, should I bombard myself more with terms, scenarios, images? And those are very good questions! But really these books are about so much more than illness, these books are about LIFE! In the end, it's about lessons and decisions we all, as women, can relate to.  
The two books I present to you today are about strong women. In fact, for one young woman it was all about saving her life in advance of diagnosis of even what might be the family condition, breast cancer. It is the unsuspecting events in our lives, author Kelly Corrigan points out, that end up making us the grown ups. I would say that is true for the other book and its author, too. I came across that book much earlier and wanted to read it purely because its author Jessica Queller wrote on the Gilmore Girls set. I was (OK, still am) a bit obsessed with Stars Hollow, Luke's Diner, Dragonfly Inn... OK, the post is not about eX-treme fast talkers, coffee addicts, and fall festivals -- as much as I loved 'em!
Defying Destiny, No Doubt 

Pretty is What Changes: Impossible Choices, The Breast Cancer Gene, and How I Defied My Destiny by Jessica Queller -- You are not even supposed to evaluate a book by its cover, according to the age ol' saying right? Well, forget that for now. The hardcover book resonates as it features a woman's body covering herself, arms wrapped around one another, elbows crossed, uneven, directly in front of one another completely covering her chest. Only hips and part of her pelvis and neck are still exposed. It's sensuous yet strong as it reflects the title: "defied my destiny." The first part of the title, "Pretty is what changes," is from Stephen Sondheim.
Besides my fascination and love for Gilmore, I was interested in the gene aspect of the book. Even though I don't have anyone in my family with breast cancer, many of you do know I have a genetic condition known as Neurofibromatosis/Schwannomatosis that runs through my Dad's family. I am interested in other people's stories as they battle their own medical challenges.

The author, at 31, faced what is known as the BRCA-1 gene mutation. She had an 87% chance of breast cancer before the age 50 and a 44% chance of ovarian cancer in her lifetime. She had a big decision to make. Leave it all up to God or go have surgery to remove her breasts in order to not face diagnosis down the road. It is an incredible journey the author takes the reader on, allowing us into the most intimate details of her life, her very own body.
The following excerpt enlightened me and allowed me to see I am not alone when it comes to my fears in the hospital and after surgery. It was as if I too could have set these very words on the page! A little too eery this close to a certain holiday:

"Nina and I talked about my choice to undergo the surgeries. [...] The fear had been the worst part. I was afraid I would feel deformed, afraid I wouldn't feel at home in my new reconstructed body, afraid my sexual partners would find me unappealing. Afraid that somehow the physical and emotional consequences of my choice would sabotage my ability to find love. None of this turned out to be the case." -- Jessica Queller, "Pretty is What Changes"

I remember reading this VERY section, highlighting it or underlining it, amazed someone out there felt the same way I did.
I would suggest this book to all new, recently diagnosed breast cancer patients. I would also recommend this book to those who have a genetic disorder. It's also just a great book to read for anyone.

4/4 Pink Ribbons

Daddy's Girl

I guess I'm sort of cheating by including this book. "The Middle Place" by Kelly Corrigan has had such hoopla surrounding it during its publication in 2008 that its hardly fair to bring it out now a few years later. Heck, though, why not? 1) It's a great book. 2) There's a slim chance we may have missed a few people along the way who didn't read it and they will get a chance to discover it. 3) For a "cancer" book, you might laugh more than cry, although the characters are easy to love in this memoir and you get to know them as your own family, so then again don't bet on it. Tissue, have it on hand.
I'd say this is basically for all my gal pals who love to read. I remember giving it to one friend from work in Idaho. I'll admit I was a bit worried to hand over a cancer memoir because most friends want to relax with a romance or a woman's lit title they saw on Amazon or at the big-box store. Deep down, I had a good feeling about it. Still, I wondered how this book fared on my co-worker's reading list. I knew she was a voracious reader and it would get its due near the aroma of a warm cup of tea or three. That was a Friday, I believe. Her bright smile greeted me Monday morning. "I hated it, " she said, jokingly, slapping it into my arms. She went on to say how much she enjoyed the book, the author, and asked if the author had any other books.
Whew! I found another fan! While this author is taking on illness (breast cancer), she is hit with an even bigger scare. She writes about both with honesty and insight. She adds that special Kelly blend of humor and reality. The thread of family is the spotlight here. Members of her family, especially her father, is a character -- one readers will love -- who helps her see things even more clearly. Its her writing style and flavor as an author that makes this a hit. Even listening to her speak (as you will soon see -- *please watch* so worth it!*)  makes you want to be her friend, her BFF! It's definitely different than other illness memoir books I've read. It's comfortable, like comfy socks or the perfect pair of jeans. That's what reading her books is like. How can you resist that? So I try to get as many friends as I can to pick up her book. 4/4 Pink Ribbons

*A few spoilers, though.

The Middle Place

Kelly {Corrigan} Live

Before I {I being Leslie to clarify} sign off, I wanted  to say it's great to celebrate October with a perfume bottle the color of spun cotton candy and shoes HOT HOT pink but please do YOURself a favor, too. If you are not seeing a doctor, please start going. I don't mean dating. Well, dating is OK but you still need to schedule a regular doctor's appointment. And start doing Breast Self-Exams. Part of it can be done while singing the Top 40 hits in the shower! That's not bad, right? Once you get the hang of it, the entire monthly exam is 10-15 minutes.

One more lil' reminder: we must get our girlfriends, aunts, moms and YES even ourselves to schedule THAT mammogram. Do a mammogram phone tree to ensure everyone in your family gets an appointment. No, it's NOT fun to get SMOOSHED but it can SAVE your life. Just ask Giuliana Rancic. BE PROACTIVE. Medical procedures are never the cocktails of our life but they are a necessity. Then, enjoy a mimosa, sparkling cider, or a champagne to celebrate! Cheers!

Honorable Mention Reads: 


* Hoda: How I Suvived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee by Hoda Kotb

* What We Have Have: A Family's  Inspiring Story about Love, Loss, and Survival by Amy Boesky

#Autoimmune #Disease

* Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso

 ©The Healing Redhead

Photos are from & 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Part II - Let's Put on Our Superhero Gear: The Cape

It's here! Without further adieu...

The latest flare rudely interrupts a day out with family and later a pain jolt nearly rockets me off the sofa  into the ceiling. I am called as if from my body's pager alerting it is time. Pain has arrived once again. It waits for no one and on it comes. Part of the body tenses and breathing turns rapid. I gulp breaths or even hold my breath, awaiting the next pain tremor.

Nerve Pain 101 A slideshow from explains nerve pain in detail, its triggers, conditions that cause it, treatments, etc. 

For me, worry mode begins. I wish I was more chill, say more into meditation or prayer mode. I am trying but my concentration breaks too easily. My thoughts invade like this: "If I have this surgery or that surgery will I finally be better?" or "Time is lost each day. I want to work and I can't!" or the often-times tear-inducer "What about my goals and dreams... Everything, it seems, is gone! My real life has just stopped. The first half of my thirties... Poof!" Talk about a magic trick!

Will I rest tonight? Who knows... Staring at the clock, hour after hour tends to go by, swallowing pain pills every three to four hours. People marvel how I can take pill after pill tiny tablet to capsule without water. I marvel how my liver and my body overall can last this long on such a routine of high doses of opiods accompanied by anxiety and depression medication. I've been taking a dose of hydrocodone off and on pre- and post-surgery since I was 18. I have had to up the ante now the past three to five years given my pain has surged like something from a fireworks stand on the Fourth of July. We're not talking sparklers either!

Day after day of pain, a patient - at least me - is on HIGH alert like after you go see a scary movie or a political thriller - (one of my favorite genres) you are a bit more jumpy or on edge. At least the day after thinking about it. Around every corner, every bend, even sitting in a dark corner, down a secluded hall... For me, I'm propped on the couch, my usual MO, and the burning will come followed by numbness so intense I have to drop the book, magazine or iPad immediately. Fire. Alarm. The surge of pain in my arm is hot, a fire blazing into my hand. Then as quickly turns numb, unfeeling, the fire is out.
Later, another jolt of pain arrives and the ol' body winces with each passing voltage in the knee, back, shoulder, or neck. Instead of body jolts, I want my life jolted back... brought back, a shred of recognition. Something. A flicker of hope... Yet, I know I have a long way to go from where I stand but it is a shorter distance from where I stood months, years ago.

Writing in general makes me feel alive, so starting this blog, The Healing Redhead, has been a blessing this year. I wished I did have more stamina to do more fiction, more of my book or more of my hobbies like exercise, cooking/baking, and crafting. It can get frustrating when I have so many interests and ideas and my body will not cooperate, support me. But that doesn't mean I can give up, right? Right? I can't hear you!

That is where comes in handy. I may not feel like hiking in Yosemite today (first, I need to get in shape a bit) or even hiking local hot spots, a favorite pastime, but that doesn't mean that the California dream or weekend hobby is lost forever. I surely hope not! I have always wanted to see Yosemite for myself because of Ansel Adams' work. His photographs have always mesmerized me and the way John Muir wrote about the area has motivated me to put this beautiful postcard destination on my ultimate bucket list! I gotta go! Every time I see a photo it reinvigorates my spirit and determination!
Yosemite National Park 

Yo, how could you NOT want to go too?

For years, I have had New Zealand on the list as well! I mean it's hard to resist. I could talk to friends, family and even [blush] strangers about Christchurch and its surrounding beauty. I was INTO NZ! Its tourism board should SO cut me a check. I could go on and on! I even had honeymoon plans and no honey! How funny is that? I really wanted to go! Then, I saw this special on (of ALL things!) a shopping channel {blame my Mom!} about Vienna, Austria. Shock: I didn't buy anything! I did come away with an absolute LOVE of Vienna and its overall aesthetic beauty and its history, architecture, and performing arts. All from a shopping channel. I KNOW! CRAZY, RIGHT? It's not the History Channel by no means but it gave me enough nuggets of info that I started my own discovery of Austria. So move Vienna up that bucket list, y'all! New Zealand got put on the back on the plane, so to speak.

It is so important to have a few dreams you hold close. If you aren't sure what you want, may be perfect for making a Dream Board or Bucket List Board or an In the Future Board. It can be small items or big items or a combo of the two. I even include a board of supplies, helpful gadgets, facts, inspirational quotes that might be helpful for people with chronic pain. You are welcome to check it out! Find it located on the "The Healing Redhead" board on my Pinterest account. Repin all you like! Remember: You can check out my Pinterest site any time. Just click the big red P to the right. ***If you have a favorite chronic pain product and/or recipe, e-mail me and I will feature it on my Web site and on Pinterest. Of course, I'll give YOU all the credit!*** Just e-mail:

The areas in my body begin burning, jolting, and misfiring. It seem like the Devil's work and I never remember signing a contract with that red monster. The pain zaps in my back and in my leg. After being so patient, I am about to lock horns with that pain scale or whoever seems to be in charge of it. Day after day after day I am met with excruciating pain. I might get a break in between but you know The Pain with a capital P will be back you just don't know when...
It does happen. I finally let loose, l let the tears fall. I may seem strong in public at the doctor's office, grocery store, running to the pharmacy, and generally with people I exchange conversations with at the check-out stand, restaurant table, or at the occasional trip to the yogurt shop. It is a quiet sob and the wetness on my cheeks is cold against the forward motion of the standing fan, oscillating, oscillating. I would never put an enemy through this kind of pain... Well, except that ONE gal from high school... Kidding, only kidding. Seriously, no one should go through this. No one. When nerve pain strikes, it is mind-blowing, the color red, the word blazing, the word unrelenting... It is real & it takes everything a patient has, physical and mental, to endure its wrath.

With Schwannomatosis, the condition ( I have, tumors press on and against nerves & that is what causes my nerve pain along different parts of my body. I am wondering, how many tumors I actually have in this 5'9 frame of mine? Yet... Do I really want to know? Doctors have always shielded me from the big number and focused on the case at hand. That's when there's a plus side to the invisible nature of my condition. I don't have to know EVERY detail. I need to be concerned about the ones hurting me and the ones that might turn malignant although I've been told the chances are low that will happen. I still think it is important to stay on top of things and keep going to my doctors and surgeons on a regular basis and do my scans. Although, it is my most dreaded chore.


I press my fingers at different points on my body, searching like a physician or perhaps the TV crime show coroner who investigates a body looking for answers posthumously. Yes, I just said THAT! Wanted to make sure you were listening... or still reading! {wink}

I press just below my hip bone, a-ha, a possible growth. That explains all the pain around my right leg -- one of the areas of pain. When I am in pain, I tend to need quiet around me and I am still, quiet myself. The television cannot be blaring with yet another episode of Law&Order, its special theme song and signature "dun-dun" it is so famous for around the world. Even as much as I love hearing the lil' nugget of pop culture go by, I have to focus on my body and the pain. Instead of hearing the two single notes and breaking into a grin, my teeth clench and my body braces for the next attack. I can't afford a smile right now. If I stay still sometimes, I feel as though... ZAP! ZAP! Two different areas. Zap! In my hand. I feel as though I will be rewarded. With no pain. Not the case this time. Holding still doesn't mean anything for me. It just psychologically helps me make it through the tough nerve zaps, the ones that shoot and arc through my body as if something is chasing it, hunting it down much like so many of the "perps" in Law & Order Criminal Intent, SVU and my new favorite, the British Edition on BBC-Television.


It can be so difficult living day-to-day with these pain conditions, caring for our own families, if we can, dealing with the guilt if we can't, and going to doctor appointment after doctor appointment, scheduling, getting the bills, refilling prescriptions, and just living day-to-day.
My nerves overwork themselves each time in the big waiting room and the little waiting room because you never really know what Dr. _ is going to say or prescribe this time around. I try my best to read or text, distract myself somehow, but I'll be honest, it rarely works whether I have the 8:15 a.m. appointment or the 3 o'clock. I tap my feet and wait for the nurses each time to read the names from the plain folders like we, the patients, are award receipts (how ironic) and later in the little patient room, I'm staring at the plain white door and waiting, waiting, waiting for it open... Then, Viola, the door finally opens! Hooray, by then you feel it is time for a party or cocktail or mocktail at least. You've waited so long.

Even though we might have unforgiving illnesses we still need to make time for laughing, relaxing, working toward goals (big and small), and loving life -- even if that means just a mocktail or a trip to the craft store, that's something! So, even if I didn't see that Law & Order because of my pain I can catch a show spin-off or DVR one, no problem. It's not very hard to find that show on TV! Ha! So, please just spend some quality time with those you love & with yourself. You have to spend that awful time in pain, too, right? You know when the pain triggers and emotions get the best of you. Don't begin to resent yourself. The worst possible thing we can do is give up on ourselves. We might not be able to pursue certain dreams right now but that doesn't mean we can't dream at all, daydream, brainstorm, pin, read, rest, watch, and best: DO at least a little... Enjoy a hobby. Travel to your favorite hideaway or a new place with a beautiful vista, your Vienna, your Yosemite! It doesn't even have to be very far away. There are quite a few places locally I want to see and experience in the coming months. If I do 'em, great! If not, they're on the list for next time! Go at your own pace & have fun! Fingers-crossed, it's a pain-free adventure!

Saving the World
with Capes n' Tiaras
(via Pinterest)
There's a quote I spot every now & again about owning a tiara and a cape and if you had those two items (and wear them!)
YOU COULD / CAN RULE THE WORLD! Some days our capes go missing or we leave the cape at the cleaner's but most of the time you know what? We just have to strap on those invisible capes and do the best we can. We're strong! We battle the beast of pain & chronic illness regularly... And NOT just one month out of the year! This is a 365 days, 7-days-week, 24-hours-a-day (better-believe-it) condition! We have battle scars to show for it! But we are not quitters! We want life, we're in it! So tiaras & capes, why the heck not! Even with invisible illnesses, We Can RULE the world!
Who's with me?

What color is YOUR cape? As Pinterest attests, Glitter is A color! I think I like midnight blue! How about you? **Men, you gotta improvise! You got the cape! Maybe stellar shoes, or a hat that is a show-stopper! Tell me in your comments below. I would LOVE to hear 'em!

Let me just say... Awareness week may be over, but that doesn't mean we stop. If we want the stigma to change we need to educate and make Invisible Illnesses visible by showing the world WE ROCK & that we ARE visible. We need to make our stories visible. So... on days we don't feel good, let people help. I've noticed with my Mom if I tell her how I feel in terms of the pain scale (1-10) she understands better than me saying, "The nerve pain is acting up again." Plus, it helps me to quantify it and compare whether my pain was worse or better than the last pain surge. This may not work for everyone but it is something that can help some patients connect and/or reconnect with friends and loved ones.

While we are communicating that message, fasten that cape & tiara!

It's going to look fabulous on you! Remember, we ROCK!

Before I go, I have song that is special to me that I find inspiring as writer, patient, and simply, as a person. I hope you enjoy it and find some truth nuggets within! It is called... The Cape & its by legendary Texas singer/songwriter Guy Clark. Thought it was a bit apropos given our whole theme here and a perfect way to close this two part series. --The Healing Redhead

Guy Clark singing "The Cape" live with Verlon Thompson in 2010

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pain Awareness Month -- Continuing the Cause Around the Calendar

I found a link today with a great message! Pain Awareness Month... Continuing Awareness & How to Do It! It's a great post I found today and decided I must share with you all. So please take a moment and read. It's really not too long! Have a great autumn day filled with healing goodness! Talk to you later this week!

Pain Awareness Month Part IV - Continuing Awareness

Monday, September 24, 2012

'Lookout, The Healing Redhead is on the scene...'

Last week, I talked the ZAP, STING and BAM of invisible illness... Part I! Well, Part II is well on its way & coming soon! In the meantime, I found these colorful designer mittens that went along with my theme: "Let's Put on Our Superhero Gear!" How fun, right?
Kate Spade

If you are like me, you will be just looking from afar and not actually get to wear the fab n' fashionable hand warmers! Another reason chronic illness sucks... it sucks the funds right from ya! Money for bills and money for fun (like a massage, a night out, a book or two, a new outfit, cute mittens) Well, it's slim pickings these days... Frugal times, frugal measures. Over time, I will discuss how I manage  resources, make the most of what  I have and still manage to stay semi-sane & have a lil' fun here and there. If the present is not too pleasant I always like to remember, it's not forever. It might last a long, long time BUT not forever. Supposed to be kinda funny but I know some of us have been putting up with pain and side-effects for much too long and can't laugh anymore. Sometimes it is hard to believe on those dark days. I understand.  
I do believe there is an ebb and flow -- like our very own bodies, Mondays through Fridays and the energy of a puppy like my Oliver running and diving for toys then lightly snoring on my legs at night, dreaming of doing it all over again. 
So, I do a lot of puppy sitting and some window screen shopping (not buying, just looking), and collecting items on Pinterest that delight me. It's all for fun... the window shopping & pinning gives me ideas for the future when times might be brighter -- more money in my bank account and less pain in my body. I can hope and pray... Maybe I can buy myself that second Kate Spade purse and those mittens that say POW! Then I'll knock out invisible illness once and for all! K-BOOM! That's right! Lookout, The Healing Redhead is on the scene ready to rumble... with Chronic I! 

To Be Continued... 

 ©The Healing Redhead

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Let's Put on Our Superhero Gear!

SPECIAL FEATURE for Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness

Last week was Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week! Below is part one of a two-part article on the *zap* of chronic pain and how we, as patients, continually *POW* give it all we got! To a patient with invisible illness the symptoms and realities are very VISIBLE to us. Ironically, I would have posted this last week but I dealt with my own set of chronic issues... I kept going though and I give you this two-part special. After all, awareness might last a week but we live with our conditions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. No holidays. In fact, I did miss celebrating Christmas last year with my extended family because of my nerve pain due to my Neurofibromatosis type III or what is called Schwannomatosis ( So, it is a very true fact this kind of illness makes for many sacrifices, challenges, prayers and silent moments, and for me, a chance to tell it like it is. That's why I have The Healing Redhead Web site, to give co-chronic healers a hand and give those around us a glimpse in, if just for a second, and to focus on a life that is very real and so often misunderstood. It can even be a teeth-grinder at times, as you will soon see... in Part II.

Thanks for stopping by!

Part I

Zap! Sting!

It might happen one day.
It might happen over a period of time.
It may happen again and again and again and you don't have a specific name for it.

It's a sneaky one that invisible Illness! It can make its way in and out of your life and back again as quick as that guy you dated who loves commitment so much (read sarcasm). Over time, little by little, the signs start to reveal themselves. A fall. A mysterious pang here, no it's there. Then, a surgery goes awry. Then another. Pain itself starts to escalate as does your anxiety. Before you know it, months pass or maybe a year or more... you've been left without a career, hobbies, and even the home you own has a for-sale sign and you live with family now.

Symptoms related to invisible illnesses are often complicated so much so even David Blaine and David Copperfield can't make these illnesses visible with their powers. The patient's symptoms lay hidden under the surface and hidden from those around them -- family & friends to doctors & dates who can't tell a single thing is going on unless that person speaks up, winces or complains. See, the symptoms manifest largely on the inside, hidden from view, and the person suffers in mostly silence, especially during a flare-up or spike on the pain scale. Invisible doesn't mean out of the way and taken care of; if anything this person is more vigilant. They are at the doctor more, the MRI scanning bed, and off to get blood tests. It is sort of like flipping the inside out and seeing what the story is telling us. The worst thing anyone can do is ignore symptoms and refuse to go to the doctor. To me, that's putting one foot in the grave. I have a family story to back me
up. But that's later. An another story entirely.

Speaking of family... brothers, sisters, parents, and extended family sometimes don't believe us and what we go through on a daily basis. Friends, too, may not understand and may even leave our side. Others may try to "fix" us and when that doesn't work they too will find other "cases." If this is something you deal with, I have a great book titled, "Why Can't I Make People Understand" by Lisa J. Copen. She says it to the reader straight, not a lot of fluff. But that doesn't mean Lisa isn't compassionate. She is one of our best resources as patients of chronic illness and as warriors of invisible illness. This book really helped me and I go back to it from time to time when someone might say a thing not too friendly or just not thinking. This author helps us step back and put things in perspective. I like her because she's an insider who knows what this journey is like so she's not writing about stuff she hasn't lived or seen. It's is as authentic as it gets.

It's the pain, struggle, and symptoms all encased in the human body for no one to see. It's waking up each morning and knowing getting out of the bed and to the bathroom will be the first of several, if not many, challenges of the day. The shower has become less of a relaxing, comforting getaway and more of an overwhelming hygiene routine that wears me and my patience out (you too?)! But at least this patient is clean and smells nice! In most cases, I don't speed right through and dry my hair like during my previous life. It's hard for me too because hanging out with wet hair is one of my biggest pet peeves but right now I have to slow my pace and deal with it. I'm pretty out of it energy-wise after my shower so I may just try to comb out part of my hair or pull it back in a clip until I regain some energy to continue. I don't know about everyone else out there in ChronicLand but I am still amazed (after a few years) by how a semi-warm shower can leave me zonked, so tired, out of energy. If you feel the same way, talk to me.

POW!-erful option
Combing, drying, and styling are for the experts! I see the celebs & reality "stars" go get their hair and makeup done and think, nope! They should do their own makeup & their own hair and

give their beauty and fashion pros to the cancer hospitals and housebound patients with invisible illnesses! Great idea, huh? At least there should be a program like that! I think a great name is: Dr. Glamour or The Dr. Glam Squad! *Tell me what you think of the Dr. Glam idea in the comments section!

It disappears then reappears like that rabbit in a hat or the coins behind your uncle's ear. The pain gets trickier, more surprising every time. The symptoms always seem more intense, more complex, a grand puzzle with constant moving pieces. Some physicians are part of that working puzzle while others are less willing to help The Chronic Pain Patient and turn them away. I want to see chronic pain centers become more integrative and not just rely on pain pills and surgeries as answers. These centers and the doctors who serve this particular population, in general, need to be more holistic in their service toward patients -- no matter if it's MS, Neurofibromatosis, or Crohn's Disease. I've been enlightened on this subject by reading "The Chronic Pain Solution: Your Personal Path to Pain Relief" by Dr. James Dillard. It was a fascinating read and one that gives real solutions to patients, solutions that make sense and provide inspiration. Dillard covers a large gamut of topics, including activites, diet, and how readers can develop their own pain control plan. I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned for Part II coming soon...

**I was not paid to recommend the books featured in the blog post.

 ©The Healing Redhead

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take a Byte... Umm... Bite of This Cute Cupcake

Been checking out various cupcake recipes on Betty Crocker online today and found this cutie for back-to-school! Celebrate a job well done in the classroom (teacher and/or students) with mini versions or this size:

A+ Betty Crocker -- The Web site offers a fun feature where you can fill in up to three items from the pantry and *PrEsTO* it will build a recipe! How cool, right? I thought so. And if you love coupons, you will LOVE Miss Betty!

As for my cool-for-school selection is that the cutest laptop or what? Bet it is delicious too! I'd definitely take a byte... ummm... bite of that computer! I just love that it is an apple cupcake -- perfect for September-October... Let the fall baking begin! Yay! I started my own festivities this weekend with a 12 oz. pumpkin latte from Starbucks. I even got inspired to create a pie board on Pinterest. I will post a link when it's ready. FACT: Do you know that I have never made a pie in my entire life? That just will not do anymore. I want to start making PIES, dang it! It's a bucket list entry -- it's that important! I really don't want my pain from Neurofibromatosis to get in the way. If my pain can stay within reasonable limits and my energy can hold on here and there for some solid afternoons, we might just be in business, as they say. See building endurance and keeping my energy up (without 12 naps a day) is my current challenge. I would love to be able to bake a pie or two, a batch of cupcakes, and yummy pumpkin bread (a family favorite). We will see. I'm excited about the possibilities, though. I want my body to cooperate SO BAD yet like so many in similar circumstances know it can be disappointing season to season, putting up with constant aggravation, sadness, and missed opportunities. It is nursing those quelched hopes -- big and small -- that finally bring the tears. It is something hard to admit but it is true.

With chronic pain, much of it is out of our control. We do what we can and the rest we have to
deal with day to day and sometimes minute to minute, watching that timer like a nervous, first-time baker...waiting for that delicious cookie to rise.

Nerve pain is the the hallmark of Schwannomatosis or what I call NF 3. Don't tell any doctors or researchers. Heck, do! Why didn't they just call it that? Anyone know? Anyway, nerve pain, especially this brand, listens to no one. I mean NO ONE! It is the ultimate devil, the robber of life, the arch-enemy. I think you get the picture. Just ask anyone who has it. It is as haunting, even more so, than anything you find on Oct. 31. Let me make myself clear: the pain is scary, the people with the condition, like myself, ARE NOT! The adjectives that describe nerve pain are telling: stinging; jolting; radiating; numbing; burning; zapping; and more... The list could fill a large billboard. But I'd rather see a billboard photo of cute cupcakes (like above) or an ad for Dancing With the Stars' hottie Maks! Oh, don't act like you don't know WHO I speak of! Mr. Chmerkovskiy! (Brief side note: Good thing the contestants of Bachelor Pad did not get his last name at the Spelling Bee last week! Who knows how long that bee would have lasted! Those poor child judges.

As a person dealing with chronic pain issues 24/7, (my unscripted reality show) I have good days and not-so-good days and bad days. Fingers crossed with an upcoming medicine adjustment, I might be able to do more and actually sleep less. With that hope, I am making a list of Fall Fun Activities/Goals. You can do the same. Steal a few of mine, add a few of yours... Include them
below in the comments section! I love hearing from people! So when you have a good
day you can access the list and pick an item. Why not, right? If you have a significant other, children, extended family, etc., your list may look a lot different. Just remember to include 1-2 items for JUST YOURSELF. Like a massage. Too much $$? A lot of places run deals, so
don't automatically put the kibosh on pampering! Phone apps & newspaper & radio ads are
great places to start looking for % off.

My body is Ahhh-ing already just thinking about a SPA day.

With a new pain doctor working on my case and a hopeful spirit, I hope YOU & I, my reader, can enjoy autumn out and about... even if it's just a little bit. It is, after all, my favorite time of year!

A Few of My Autumnal Options
*Visit a pumpkin patch
*Make a pie from scratch
*Make seasonal cupcakes
*Visit craft store for inspiration
*Order festive dog collars for my fur babies
*Spend morning or afternoon at coffeeshop reading or writing at leisure
*Read political cartoons to offset the blistering candidate commercials
*Take autumn walk on cool, brisk day
*Enjoy tossing frisbee with puppy, Oliver
*Get a massage
*Enjoy a pedicure so my toes have autumn flair
*Go to local library & read magazines
*Make meeting of local writers group
*Visit church during off-hours to pray, listen
*Stretch right hand to strengthen mobility
*Try to journal with pen at times instead of with just computer (My left hand is at bit more difficult to write with given it is not my dominant hand. Journal with both and be
*Last, but NOT least, make dog treats for "the kids."

***READERS, DON'T HOLD OUT ON ME! What are some of your favorite autumn treats? Don't forget: I would LOVE to hear your ideas and plans for fall.

 ©The Healing Redhead

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dad & I Loved DQ Dipped Cones For As Long As I Can I Remember...

When I was a kid, Dad often took me on errands to the local hardware store, the coin-activated car wash or during school holidays and summer vacation to his office in Hallettsville, an half-hour drive where he worked as an insurance agent.

At DQ in Yoakum ~ 2009

In Yoakum, done with our tasks and on the way home, the truck clean or the bolts and washers in a brown paper bag, Dad asked (and I always wondered why he did) if I wanted to stop at Dairy Queen. In the early '80s, it wasn't one of the two dozen fast food restaurant choices
like we have now; it was the only choice. In Texas, though, DQ was dang good, especially when it came to needing a little snack to hold ya over until dinner or satisfy that sweet tooth. My sweet tooth, let me tell ya, is something I inherited -- a serious and delicious issue on both sides of my family. (Perhaps more on that later.) See, I always, without fail, said yes, so asking the question regarding DQ was merely father-daughter protocol. Before the tires hit the parking lot pavement, I could taste the cool rich ice cream with its signature swirl and the crackle of smooth chocolate. The ice cream had a depth, richness that set it apart from store-bought ice cream and other varieties once they started to show up in the marketplace. Of all goodies, this soft serve made me into a mess with my own ice cream mustache, vanilla rimmed around my lips, forever licking a cone until it was completely gone, not another lick left. From the highs of an entire cone to the sadness of an empty napkin and the sprinkling of crumbs, I worked my way through the pools of melting vanilla on Texas afternoons & evenings. It tasted to me, always, like endless summer.

The two of us -- Dad and I -- always liked a good sweet treat from certain cookies to snack
cakes to Mom's homemade peach cobbler, Dad and I shared a love for desserts -- no matter the time of day. My Dad was like a big, goofy kid, and well, I was a kid. So it worked out great.
Two silly kids, all smiles, ready for ice cream.

Driving up to order, he didn't have to ask what I wanted; he knew. You could call us boring.
You could call us routine. We liked what we liked. I preferred to think of it as a tradition.
The chocolate dipped cone is hard to beat. Although once the Blizzard made it on the scene in
1985, we did switch it up. I switched up my orders more than him. I loved getting the candy (M&Ms & later the German Chocolate - no longer available) of my choice mixed with that famous ice cream that DQ employees served upside down to prove its consistency and yumminess. Apparently, I wasn't the only one to enjoy the taste. FACT: In 1985, Dairy Queen sold 100
million Blizzards its first year to premiere.

Even with the Blizzard a Behemoth of the confections world, the dipped cone continued to be a
mainstay in the Einhaus family. I loved to watch the vanilla cone being made from the passenger seat: the soft serve gently churned from the large, silver machine. The vanilla rested gently on the cone and always ended with that exact curlicue. If not, the employee
started over but that rarely happened it seemed.
Then it was time for the magic. [Drum roll, please!] Like the circus tightrope walk, the magician's rabbit out of the hat, or how Mom made some vegetables and beans actually taste good (minus spinach-ugh!)... It was all beyond me!

I was so ready. So was Dad. I loved to hear the crackling of the chocolately shell between my
teeth, me the conquerer of yummy chocolate. The silky-smooth, cold vanilla ice cream tasted so good on extremely humid days. I could never eat it fast enough before it dripped down the sides of my cone. Dribbles of soft-serve laced my nails, fingers, wrists... It was not easy to
eat but that never deterred us. 'We kept truckin,' as Dad might've said. If you want to enjoy it, that is... You gotta eat with speed and finesse. Dad probably should have attached a bib
and a hairnet on me. Just. In. Case. Even with air conditioning and vehicle windows up, I still managed to get some all over me like a newborn. Ok, I wasn't that bad. But eating this
treat can be tricky business. Tasty, tasty. But tricky, tricky! Even so, we always snacked happily when it was a DQ dipped cone. The treat itself made us happy. We never had a problem
finishing one before returning to Bluebonnet Lane AKA Home Sweet Home, just a 5-7 minute drive. We always finished our cake cones before we got out of the truck, wrappers wadded tight
in our hands, ready for the trash can. Sometimes we got dipped cones right before dinner and
that didn't settle too well with Mom. Yet, Mom knew it wasn't just chocolate on a cone. It was a father-daughter bonding experience. She just liked it better if we went after lunch on
weekends or after supper on weekdays and weekends as to not ruin "all the good food I've

The beautiful cone is in its fresh cake cone... now ordered. The customer [my dad and I] can
hardly wait. You know it's yours. You want to speak up and say, "Don't touch." "That's mine."
"Hands off."
Then the creamy, white ice cream cone in all its brilliance is turned upside down -- you
nearly gasp -- and yes, magic occurs: it is quickly dunked, DUNKED into a bath of creamy, delicious milk chocolate. Waiting is getting more and more difficult as time goes on... I remember the jumping in my seat, tapping my feet: "Is it ready, is it ready?" Remember, only child here.

Dipped once. Twice. Then again. Each ice cream cone is baptized before us in chocolate until it is pure perfection. The first delivery & the second are made through the tiny clear drive-
thru window.
Finally! Two chocolate dipped cones, mere perfection.

"I want that one," I said of the obviously large dipped cone. Dad handed me my order, the smaller, daintier cone. He begins to chomp on his and rolls the vehicle forward in the drive-
thru lane. He turns to me, "How is it?"
I am too busy eating to respond at first. I love this treat and this common bond. I just don't realize how much I will miss it in the future.
"Just as good as the last one," I say. "Mmmm!"

In Texas, we have Blue Bell ice cream competing for the sweet tooth's attention, among other enchanting goodies. In the Lone Star State, a resident is very lucky. Dairy Queen drive-thrus
are in nearly every town/city. In fact, there might even be more than one! We even have a specialized menu here at many of the DQ restaurants.

During "The Moving Years," my parents and I relocated from Texas to the Pacific Northwest and back. The zig-zags on the map would make anyone dizzy. The Dipped Cone Tradition continued but it wasn't nearly as frequent or with the verve of the early 1980s. During that chaos we managed to continue the tradition here and there and sometimes Mom participated. I just missed the good ol' days.

The cirlique itself started to reflect our life: an arc, a rollercoaster ride of sorts. The DQ stop became more than just ice cream. It was a chance to review, reflect, and revise. We didn't have the dipped cone every day at 4 p.m. It was a family treat we had every now and again. While licking the dripping contents on the cone, I laughed or talked about my ups
and downs at school. My parents discussed their "adult" topics (money, work, etc.) while I finished my cone and half-daydreamed/half-eavesropped. We were extremely close as a family,
the three of us, making time for each other: chatting, giggling, listening, advising, and often celebrating. Other times, we might cheer each another up, if needed. This ice cream became something other: our balm. It became, at times, a soothing RX for life's troubles.

It wasn't until years into our stay in Lewiston, Idaho that the dipped cone family frenzy regained its reign. It was the late 1990s that the chocolately confection began to
restore its role in our family as the multi-purpose treat that it truly is as smile-giver, laugh-provider, and as ultimate positive confection. Things were looking up! I was out of
college and on the cusp of living on my own for the first time. My parents and I were living in Lewiston and we would make the the small trek -- just a few short miles -- to
DQ from the house for three medium dipped cones. Sometimes I would think the tops of the
signature ice cream looked liked abstract smiley faces or maybe I was just so happy at the resurgence of our tradition (like it was in the good ol' days). Perhaps you are a bit unsure and maybe even shaking your head thinking that's crazy... Well, I guess the snack could be healthier and to that I say you only live once! And to those who think this is a summer thing, think again. Yes, it tasted a bit more refreshing to the taste buds that time of year and in Texas you might have wanted to slather the vanilla cone on yourself during particular hot, humid summers back in the day but other than that it has been an equal-opportunity, equal season family tradition.

My dad passed away from cancer in 2001. He was 51. I was in my early 20s. Even a year after
his passing, the DQ tradition was the furthest item from my mind until a colleague at work talked to me about the loss of her mother. She told me that on birthdays, anniversaries, and
days that she even missed her mom she did something her mom loved doing. It really clicked with me and ended up helping me a great deal. Oddly enough, hiking, my dad's favorite hobby, came to mind. I even thought of taking my Mom to Dairy Queen, if she was willing.

On the second anniversary of his passing, Mom and I went to a park where a tree memorial
stands in my father's honor highlighting his work as an environmental activist. Afterward I suggested a certain chocolate treat. Mom did not answer right away. But when she did, it was
positive. "That's a great idea."

After a quick drive from the park, Mom pulled into Dairy Queen. At the drive-thru, after some
waiting, we ordered two medium dipped cones. Unsure how I would deal with this emotionally, I
braced myself as best I could. I worried that I didn't bring enough tissues. Yet when I saw
the two cake cones sealed with chocolate I wasn't sad like I predicted. It was oddly comforting like when you hear a familiar song on the radio that you haven't heard in ages and
still know every last word. Just the mere sight of the chocolate treats eased my pain...just a
smidge. It was what I needed. My body became less tense. My friend from work was right. It doesn't bring the person back, of course, but it brings back memories that actually soften the roughest edges of grief.

After purchasing the chocolate goodies, Mom drove across the street to an empty parking lot so we could enjoy the desserts in relative quiet. We sat there among the low hum of traffic and
all I could hear was the crunching of the chocolate shells. My ice cream began running down
the cone and all over my fingers. I began searching for napkins and we had one for the both of us.

"Lick faster," Mom alerted me, her voice high.
"OK, OK! What do you think I am doing?" I said through giggles, wishing for napkins or a
squirt hose. What a mess. Exactly like the old days.
"Great, now I got it on my shirt," I report.
Mom shook her head, always amazed at her only daughter.
"I've got something at home that will help get it out," she said through ice cream licks.
I then look at her and want to tell her she has a piece of chocolate shell decorating her chin. It's my little game I play with her & she usually falls for it every time.
I said to her, pointing to my chin, revealing I'm not the only messy one, "What am I going to do with you?"
I got down to my favorite part, the final bite. Mom starts the ignition. We begin our way
home. I pop the flavorful bite in my mouth. The perfect proportions of crunchy cake cone and creamy vanilla ice cream. Delicious. One of my favorite combos.
Mom turns to look at me, "That was a good idea."
I erupt in giggles. I can't stop. I can tell the trip to Dairy Queen has made a difference in me, something I am most grateful for, especially on the anniversary of a loved one's passing. My dad.
"Now don't do that," she said in her teacher voice. She looked at me in the nearing dusk. She drove through the valley named after frontier explorers Meriwhether Lewis and William Clark. My extended giggles made her self-conscious.
"What is it? Do I have something on my face? Ice cream? Where is it?"
I point to my chin, make eye contact, and then glance down at her eyes. But it's getting
darker by the moment. I honestly don't know what had come over me with the giggles.
She sorta half-looked in the car rear-view mirror.
"I'll get it when I get home," she said.
Knowing all too well a completely different tradition in my mother's family, the women are
taught to wear nice undergarments and clothing whenever they step foot in a vehicle in case of
an accident. Knowing this, I proceed with, "What if a policeman stops us?"
A giggle or two slips out. I can't keep this up much longer.
"Where is it?"
[A-ha. Got her.)
"Tiny piece right on your chin. A piece of chocolate right here [pointing to the center of my chin] is going to aggravate a policeman? Will he give you a ticket... for misplaced

I remember the passenger side explode in giggles at that point.
I haven't felt this good in...
A long time.
Thanks to Dairy Queen. Thanks to Dad.
We are home in a few moments. Before she turned off the motor, I barely got out the truth.
"Joke. Mom, it was a joke."
I hesitate, for a brief moment, hoping she will see the humor & lightness of the moment.
I recall her turning to look at me in the last moments of daylight. We look at each other at exactly the same time.
She starts laughing. Really laughing... I am actually happy for the first time in a really long time.

We get dipped cones again real soon. Like Friday. Ok, maybe it was the next day.

Want to start a new family tradition and make your own dipped cones,

go here.

©The Healing Redhead

Thursday, August 16, 2012

With Chronic Illness Comes An Identity Crisis of Sorts

Writing to a friend with Neurofibromatosis, an excerpt:

I've never been used to the fact of going to do something now and how it wears me out. Never ever was it like that before. Even a family event like you mentioned. It's crazy. Even a day of doctor visits or errands around town puts me in bed! Who am I? With Neurofibromatosis, I am always asking myself this question. Or, more accurately, where did *I* go?

***Readers, can you relate? Do you feel that some of yourself has been lost since diagnosis? What have you done or would like to do to reclaim that sense of you?***

 ©The Healing Redhead

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Have Two Middle Names... It's Been That Way For Awhile!

My mom blessed me with Renee as a middle name on February 19, 19-NOYB. Just kidding. It was 1977. The day I was born. Sweet lil' redhead...

As the kid in me grew up and life progressed, I gained a new name, at least mentally. I became Leslie "Worry WART" Einhaus. The last few years the anxiety has overwhelmed me, zig-zagging my mind, working me up feverishly at times. I even had my first panic attack last year. And several since then. The YIKES! moments seem to be adding up! Some of the anxiety could be a side-effect of the multitude of medications I take daily. I hope that could be part of the equation. Fingers crossed. Yoga breath. Yoga breath. YO-GAAAAHHH Breath. Maybe this uneven breathing won't last forever. Inhale. Exhale.

I do have good days free of anxiety (although rare) and other days not so much. This happens mostly on hospital days, on the way to doctor appointments, during an extreme pain day, or when I pick up that RX and its cost rivals that of a boutique designer purse or jewelry. I don't see CCs, I see stars!
(CCs is, of course, Chanel.)

I seem to wear my given middle name well (I do like Renee! Thanks, Mom.) Unfortunately, it's the other one causing all the trouble! When I am out and about -- a true rarity these days -- I run errands, stop by Sonic for happy hour, go grocery shopping, etc. I find the nerves rising quickly, at a moment's notice. I start to feel warm with red splotches erupting across my arms and face. It can go away just as quickly or last for quite a awhile. That's where the Sonic comes in! A cool drink always helps. Nighttime can be the toughest for the worrier. Being tired can bring on the boogeyman & you may never get to sleep! Can anyone relate? Send me your stories at You can also comment below. What about suggestions for nighttime that might help?

I am trying to mentally prepare for my first MRI in over a year-and-a-half and the nerves are getting in gear. Per usual. OK, the nerves started when I found out the MRI got rescheduled to an earlier time. Friday afternoon! Cue the hyperventilation. OK, it's not that bad! I've done this many, many times. The MRIs! More times than Snooki has written and read books. Wait, that's like 4-5... maybe. If she has actually written those books... hmmm... How about as many times as Matt McConaughey has taken his shirt off in movies lately and in Malibu beaches during his off-time. There. That gives you a good picture (Yes, it does!) It also lets you know I am the MRI Queen or at least a contender. I am sure there are other Neurofibromatosis patients (plenty, even!) that have a MRI count just as high as mine. It's so important to stay on top of health concerns and know where the troublesome tumors are and have good physicians by your side. So, with all the experience... why be nervous?

It's the next meeting with the surgeon. What they see on these MRI films later today & Monday will yet again determine my entire future. My life. My dreams. I have already had to make compromises and I don't want to make many more. There I said it & I mean it.

I want to get my current pain issues under control and move on. Can you blame me? I am
ready to find out what is causing this extended pain, numbness, burning, and body aches. And what always, always, ALWAYS comes to the center of my worry focus wheel: I hope I don't have cancer on top of it. Being sprinkled with tumors in my body always raises that lil' pretend TV devil (you know the one, he or she sits on the character's shoulder persuading his/her ideas) that says you have gone this long without getting IT (since 1995) you might get IT this time. I know the fact that my aunt and father passed away from the same condition I have that is known as Neurofibromatosis, just a different variation of it, according to physicians and
scientists. That fear sits with me (the TV devil wagging that red tail, smiling on my shoulder!) reminding me of the scary scenarios. Yet, I know the facts: I am staying up on my
medical appointments and even when I couldn't get MRIs because of having a spinal cord
stimulator implanted, I had CTs scheduled. I have tried to stay as proactive as any worry wart can. Thank goodness worry warts don't get warts! Oh boy! TMI, I know! Sorry.  

The whole reason for this post is that tonight on Pinterest (courtesy of I came
across a #quote poster I had to share & it felt as though it was speaking directly to me! It
was too amazing not to post. **See Below.**

So later today (Friday, July 20) at 1 p.m. Texas time when I ease my way into a sleek scientific tube, go buy an ice cream cone with your kid or a cocktail for yourself, look out a window and take in the natural scene, kiss your significant other and really experience it with all your senses, smile at your child and make up a story with creative details, take a quick walk at work to gather your thoughts, treat yourself to a latte or green tea, visit with a colleague or call an old friend, call Grandma or an aunt... And even if you can't squeeze it in at 1 p.m. make an effort this weekend. Try to do more things that reflect what life is all about. Worry less. Do only more that puts you in the moment. I will try to do the same! Really. I'm going to try to worry LESS! Think happy thoughts. Maybe with more work at it and time, I can go back to just the one middle name. The official one given to me. I like that just fine. Plus, it looks nicer when I sign my name. Ha!

*** Blog readers: Do you have anxiety issues? Would you like to share tips or experiences? I'd love to hear from you.  

©The Healing Redhead

Source: via Leslie on Pinterest