Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Potpourri No. 40

Sweeping the floor of life, here are some recent tidbits I’ve come up with…

Hot Tea
I’ve tried a couple more hot teas since I last wrote. I heard a lot of people rave about Earl Grey tea, which is a black tea with a citrus hint to it. Well … the word “hint” suggests subtlety, but that wasn’t my experience. I tried an Earl Grey Latte (AKA, a London Fog) from Starbucks and could barely choke it down. It tasted like someone had dissolved a bar of Irish Spring in water and given it to me. That was my initial reaction, anyway. I soon realized that it tasted like eating orange rinds, with the extreme bitterness that you’d expect from doing that. Not pleasant at all. A few days later, I tried English Breakfast, which is a pretty standard black tea with a malty quality to it. It was much better, but nothing overly interesting to me. I’d like to find a hot tea I could enjoy, but I’m struggling a bit in that department. Of course, I love chai lattes, but those are sugary and more of a treat than anything. Speaking of, I tried my first homemade chai, using Lipton® Spiced Cinnamon Chai. It’s not bad, but much better with a dash of Irish cream creamer. I also stopped at a nearby coffee shop called Sunset Coffee to try a drink called the “Chai of the Tiger” at the recommendation of a friend. It was very tasty and different from other chai lattes I’ve had. It actually reminded me quite a bit of Irish Cream steamers (steamed milk) I’ve gotten in the past, but crossed with a freshly baked oatmeal cookie. Now, tell me that doesn’t sound good!

Iced Tea
Being such a fan of chai lattes, I’ve now tried a couple of iced versions of the drink, one from Beans & Brews and one from Starbucks. They’re very good. I’ve also tried some more at-home mixes of iced tea, including Lipton® Tea & Honey Mango Pineapple Iced Green Tea (which has a very vibrant pineapple flavor but is very good), AriZona Green Tea with Ginseng (which has a faint apricot taste), and AriZona Pomegranate Green Tea (which tastes the most like punch of any tea I’ve tried thus far). Lipton® Blackberry Pomegranate Iced Green Tea remains champion of the mixes I’ve brought home. It has the best flavor of all, and so it’s what I drink the most. As such, I have to credit it with all of the health benefits I’ve been experiencing with tea lately. Just like it saved me from gout, I’m now wondering if it’s staved off strep throat, which Melanie, Eddie, and Peter all recently had.

Golf Tee
Speaking of illness, we were feeling kind of desperate to get out of the house after several days of staying at home, trying to recuperate. And so, on Saturday the 28th, we went to a place called FatCats. FatCats features numerous bowling lanes, an arcade, billiard tables, and a 9-hole, pirate-themed miniature golf course. It’s called “glow golf” as the place is illuminated by black light. It’s pretty cheap to golf, so that’s what we did. It didn’t last too long, but it gave us something to do and inspired us to use our digital camera for the first time in a month. (We’ve used our camera on only two occasions since 2015 began. Don’t ask me why.) Here, enjoy some photos:

Beegy just pushed the golf ball around with his club, which made going up hills like this incredibly difficult.

If you’ve read my blog consistently over the last several months, you’ve seen a religious transformation taking place. In November, I wrote about attending Community of Christ for the first time and said it left me feeling excited to return to LDS church, where I hoped to “infuse it with some of the good I am finding elsewhere.” I concluded that blog entry by saying, “Maybe, just maybe, being LDS is my cross to bear.” A couple of weeks later, I mentioned feeling drawn back to Community of Christ despite my intentions to attend LDS church. I said, “I keep thinking it will be a while before I go back [to Community of Christ], but something always brings me back sooner than I expect.” It took me longer than it should have to admit that God was leading me into Community of Christ. I was resisting the idea because I just couldn’t fathom leaving the LDS Church. I felt wholeheartedly committed to the LDS Church, and my theological beliefs weren’t changing. And yet, by early 2015, I was finally coming to terms with the spiritual impressions I had been receiving since the fall. I wrote on my blog: “I continually see evidence that God is leading me to Community of Christ, whether I like it or not.” This is when push came to shove for me. A few days later, I was on my knees in fervent prayer to God, begging for clarity. My spiritual impressions were leading me somewhere I never would’ve imagined—out of the LDS Church. That had certain implications, as I’d always been taught, and so I laid those concerns out to God and pleaded for direction. The next day was one of the most spiritually profound days of my life. I feel like God came into my heart and mind and worked a miracle, quieting absolutely every concern I had—concerns that had gnawed at me and paralyzed me for months. All that was left was an overwhelming sense of love and joy, one that left me giddy and euphoric quite literally for days. It’s what inspired this post, a post I wrote just two days after knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would be joining Community of Christ in answer to God’s call. I didn’t make that explicit in the post, but I allude to it. Since then, I’ve made it clear that I’m changing religions, as evidenced in this post about my upcoming fellowship in Nauvoo and more explicitly in this post about what my faith transition does (and doesn’t) imply. And now, as the next step in this journey, I am pleased to announce that I will be officially baptized and confirmed into Community of Christ on Sunday, April 19th. I’m making it official. Melanie too. Parents aren’t unanimously happy or supportive, and it breaks my heart that this is causing anyone pain when it seems so absolutely unnecessary. But all in all, I’m deliriously happy.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Strep by Strep

A couple of weeks ago, Melanie came down with strep throat. She’s well past the contagious stage, but the symptoms linger. Her voice still isn’t back to normal, and she still coughs more than usual. She’s a lot peppier, though. That’s nice.

Last Friday, Eddie stayed home from school because he wasn’t feeling well. By Saturday, all of the kids had fevers and were coughing, though Creegan was faring much better than Eddie and Peter. We stayed home from church on Sunday and canceled our social plans. On Monday, Eddie seemed a little better, but Peter was worse. We kept them both home from school. Beegy was still doing pretty well in comparison.

Being about a day behind Eddie, Peter stayed home again on Tuesday, but Eddie went to school. He (Eddie) was still coughing a decent amount, but the fevers had subsided and he seemed in relatively good spirits. But by Tuesday night, his eyes were looking cloudy, a fever had returned, and it was clear he wasn’t doing well. He went to sleep on the couch, earlier than normal, which was very unusual for him. Peter was even more extreme. He went to sleep barely after 3 PM and woke up only a few times, for very brief periods of time, until the next morning. Even Creegan was coughing a lot more than he had been before.

I took all three kids to the doctor on Wednesday. It was a hellish experience. Beegy doesn’t handle doctor visits well at all. He freaks out and screams and resists everything. Even having his ears checked, which isn’t a big deal. I knew having his throat swabbed was not going to be pretty. And it wasn’t. We had to try multiple times, with me holding him on my lap, trying somehow to hold his head in place and his arms still. He kicked the nurse pretty hard. I don’t think she was too happy about it. I’m not sure she even got a good swab, but it was good enough for her. Eddie and Peter had already had their throats swabbed by the time I went through this charade with Beegy. Because Beegy took so much concentrated effort, I didn’t even notice that Peter had vomited all over the floor, a delayed gag reflex brought on by the probing swabs. “I know my youngest child just kicked you super hard in the stomach, nurse, but would you mind wiping up my other child’s barf now?” That’s basically the situation I was dealing with. All three kids were bawling at this point—Creegan because of everything, Peter because he had puked, and Eddie because everybody else was freaking out. Good thing nobody was taking my blood pressure. I would’ve been hospitalized.

When the doctor came in, she happily informed me that all three boys tested negative for strep. She said it was incredibly unlikely that all three would come back as a false negative, so she was quite confident in her diagnosis.  All we could do is try to keep the boys comfortable while they let whatever viral infection had attacked them pass. We got some ice cream from the drive-thru window at Arctic Circle on the way home. The world seemed a much better place than it had 30 minutes earlier.

At the doctor’s recommendation, we kept Eddie and Peter home from school yet again today. The doctor had said only that we should definitely keep them home if they continued to have a fever, and that we should probably keep them home if their coughing continued to be extreme. Both Eddie and Peter had had fevers on Wednesday night, and the coughing was still intense. So, one more day at home. I took comfort in the assumption that they’d be back to school tomorrow. Surely, they’d be feeling better by then.

Melanie got a call from the doctor this afternoon. It turns out Eddie and Peter do have strep throat. Beegy’s still shows as negative, but apparently it can take up to two days for strep to show on their test. So, it’s quite possible he does have it, especially when you consider that his throat swab may have been less than adequate. The good news is, Eddie and Peter now have prescription antibiotics that will hopefully nip this thing in the bud. Beegy’s fate remains up in the air—he’s still coughing a decent amount—but it’s quite possible we can resume normal life within the next couple of days. The antibiotics will make Eddie and Peter innocuous to others, so we can actually leave the house and do something (besides visit a doctor’s office and puke on the floor).

Wait … what if I get sick? Oh dear. Let’s not go there. So far, I’m doing pretty well. I’ve felt a little congested, and my throat hasn’t felt 100% normal, but I’ve been that way for several days without deterioration. Melanie doesn’t remember it, but I swear she once had strep and I never caught it, even though we were cuddling and kissing like lovesick fools. (A quick search of my blog history reveals that Melanie had strep throat in November 2004 and February 2005, with me remaining healthy both times.) I even hypothesized that I had somehow made myself immune by making out with her. We probably don’t make out like we used to, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I’ll also hold out hope that the antioxidants I’m ingesting from my ongoing tea binge will help. You never know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Adventures of an Amateur Tea Drinker

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I had my first sip of tea in 20+ years. I wrote about it the next day and promised I’d let you know how my adventures as a tea drinker continued to unfold. Since then, I have had some form of tea almost every single day. I’m completely sold on it. I feel healthier drinking it. No joke. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as tea is known to have some incredible health benefits. But I didn’t know I’d feel the effects so quickly. More on this in a moment.

The first tea I tried after my last blog post on tea was a chai latte. I got it from Beans & Brews. It was phenomenally good, just as I had hoped for. It’s like cinnamon-sugar-honey-vanilla hot chocolate, but without the chocolate. Darn good stuff. A couple of days later, I tried the Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks. I would describe it as a brighter, slightly more fragrant version of the chai latte I got from Beans & Brews. It reminded me very much of apple cider, but without the slight tart of apple. It also had a rather strong black pepper taste to it that I rather liked. It tickled the throat on its way down. A couple of days later, I was back at Beans & Brews, having yet another chai latte. This time I went in the morning by my dang self and had “scripture study” as I drank my tea. Ha ha. Times have changed. It was a really nice experience, I must say. I could get used to it.

At this point, my tea drinking went cold. That is, I returned to drinking iced tea almost exclusively. I got some Lipton® Tea & Honey Blackberry Pomegranate Iced Green Tea packets from the grocery store. It’s super good. If you’ve had Crystal Light, it’s very much along the same lines. But it’s better somehow. There is an almost toasty quality to the flavor, I’m tempted to say. I really, really like it. We’ve tried to keep ourselves stocked up on this product now. I credit this tea with the health benefits I’ve experienced, but again, I’ll come back to that in a minute. I’ll note here that I’ve also tried Crystal Light Raspberry Green Tea, which wasn’t that great, and from a bottle, Diet Snapple Peach Tea, which was even less enjoyable.

On Friday the 13th, Melanie and I took the kids to Fashion Place Mall to see the many Lego sculptures on display. While there, we figured we’d hit Teavana once again. Melanie had iced tea, a blend of two different kinds of herbal teas. I don’t remember what flavors she had, but the result was sensational (even if not real tea). I went for a hot tea, opting for Toasted Nut Brulee Oolong Tea, which the Teavana employee told me would taste like an oatmeal cookie. I requested it as a latte (i.e. with milk), but it was a hectic situation and they overlooked that. It was pretty good, but it benefitted greatly from a dash of Half & Half, which I added after stopping at a 7-Eleven when my tea was nearly gone. (I didn’t stop for the sake of the Half & Half, by the way.) The cool thing is, the tea bag thing (can’t remember what they called it officially) was left inside my drink so I could re-use the tea leaves. (Apparently, you can usually get 3–4 “infusions” out of the same tea leaves.) Reusing those tea leaves, I’ve had tea and toast for breakfast on three of the last four days. This morning, I splashed it with some Irish Crème creamer, which was quite nice. The tea had gotten a little weak, but it was still nice.

Yesterday, Melanie and I took advantage of a BOGO at Starbucks and tried, at the recommendation of a friend, a Green Tea Crème Frappuccino® Blended Crème. (We didn’t say all that when we ordered, for the record. We’re not that snobby.) It was like a green tea milkshake, basically. Which means it sort of tasted like a grass or hay milkshake, but in a yummy way. Yeah, I know. But it really is good, somehow.

So, let me tell you why I already feel much healthier drinking tea. For one thing, my desire for Diet Mountain Dew has dissipated to a surprising degree. I am drinking less soda, and I think my stomach feels more at ease because of it. I also feel happier. And yes, various sources will tell you that tea can help with anxiety and depression, which is something I’ve struggled with. Recently, I was going to set up a doctor appointment to see about getting on drugs. Lately, I don’t feel a need for that. Could it be the tea? I really think so, at least in part. And I’m much more content to drink tea than pop pills! And finally, I think tea is staving off gout flare-ups for me. Gout flare-ups can really, really suck. They can be very painful. They’re no joke. Well, about a week ago, my big toe was starting to swell and ache. That usually means I’m going to be in for at least a couple of days of discomfort, if not a week of hell. But it went away almost immediately. I was very pleased and thought it might have been nothing. Well, a day or two later, I go without any tea for the first time in several days. By that night, my toe was aching worse than it had a few days earlier. So, the next day, I resume drinking tea. There goes the pain. This isn’t something I’m making up, either. The anti-inflammatory properties are yet another health benefit of tea. Really, I’m tempted to say drinking tea has been one of the best moves of my life. I can’t believe how it’s impacting me for the better. It’s the best medicine I’ve ever discovered, and the only one I’m keen to take. Here’s to tea!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Coming Soon: Nauvoo

I’m sooooo excited. Approximately two hours ago, I got off the phone with the historic sites coordinator for Community of Christ. I had applied for a fellowship that would involve living in Nauvoo, Illinois for part of this upcoming summer, giving tours for the church. Although I was quite confident I’d get into the program, I didn’t know officially until now. But I’m in! I made it! I’ll be spending a chunk of my summer in Nauvoo as an employee of Community of Christ! Woo hoo!

The fellowship typically lasts from late May until mid-August, but due to my family situation, I’ll be able to participate in a limited capacity between late June and early August. Truth be told, I’d love to do this even if I had to do it for free by myself. But, as luck would have it, I’ll be paid and I get to take my whole family with me! They’ll put us up in some family housing, probably in some historic residence or another. If that weren’t exciting enough, I’ve been told that by the time we arrive, Nauvoo is likely to have a grocery store! Double woo hoo! And wifi! Triple woo hoo!

One component of the fellowship involves taking a course on church history. The class is likely to begin before I arrive in Nauvoo, but I’m encouraged to participate once I get there, and I definitely want to. I don’t need the college credit that I would get for the class if I were there for the full thing, so that’s not a concern. It doesn’t sound like it’s mandatory for me to participate in the course, given my situation, but the historic sites coordinator sounds really eager for me to be a part of everything. He seems to think I can contribute a lot to the class, as well as to the fellowship more generally. He said he thinks I’ll be really good for the program and that the program will be really good for me. I think he really meant it, and I’m flattered. I feel the same way.

This is really terrific timing for this kind of opportunity to arise. For one thing, I’ve never been as interested in church history as I am today. But more importantly, I think it will be extremely poignant to spend my summer in a city whose history is a rich part both of the religious institution I am in the midst of leaving (the LDS Church) and the religious institution into which I am currently moving (Community of Christ). Granted, I could visit Nauvoo 10 years from now and it would still have that historical relevance. But I don’t think it would strike me the same way as it will right now, when I am at a crossroads in my own life. Nauvoo is like the physical, geographical manifestation of that crossroads, in about as literal a fashion as is possible. In many respects, it is the city where the two faith traditions split. I struggle to articulate my feelings, but suffice it to say, I really think there will be something very existentially profound about my living in Nauvoo, working for Community of Christ, and this particular juncture in my life. I’m deliriously happy about it.

*Note: that lovely photo at the top of this post is credited to Michael Whiffen and is licensed under CC BY 2.0.