Friday, October 21, 2016

Harvest on the Harbor Maine Chef Celebration, Downtown Portland Waterfront

A beautiful historic brick building filled with renowned Maine chefs preparing and offering their best dishes made with fresh local lobster?! Yup! Wayne and I went to Harvest on the Harbor Maine Chef Celebration this afternoon, or more aptly put, a Lobster Soiree!

There was a crowd lined up and ready to eat! This was a ticketed event and it seemed that it must have sold out based on the crowd.

We were some of the first to enter, but it didn't take long for this space to get packed.

What a great space!

Lobster with roasted potatoes, Portuguese sausage and clams.

Lobster crepes!

Because I'm gluten-free I couldn't taste everything (but even if I wanted to I wouldn't have had the room!), so when Robert's Maine Grill made me my own special gluten-free plate I was very appreciative and impressed with them and the lobster!

I like their coasters.

Lobster roll with bacon and jalapeno mayo!

This smiling chef from Highroller Lobster Co makes me happy. I would like to have lobster roll handed to me with a smile at least once a day.

A delightful plate of lobster with gluten-free polenta and veggie dressing.

Fresh polenta! Everything today was made as they went.

Works of art.

Wayne loving life.

Dimillo's serving lobster Rubens!

Black tie was another who made me my own special plate.

Roasted veggie with lobster!

This is Avery making awesome things.

Here's mine! The veggies were perfectly roasted and the lobster, sweet.

I skipped these decadent treats.

Craft beer lovers would like this lobster that had a Liquid Riot beer sauce. In addition to local beers and alcoholic beverages there was plenty of Poland Spring water.

Lobster corn dogs!

This is Gabrielle Garofalo, the owner of Harvest on the Harbor. (I asked her if I had lobster in my teeth, ha). She was so enthusiastic about the whole annual food festival; this was one of a series this year. She said she wants to have even more gluten-free options next year even though I assured her there was no shortage of offerings. One problem, though. I think lobster is like Chinese food. I'm suddenly hungry again and want more!

Update: Added this photo from The Portland Press Herald. Can you spot us?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Our hike up Bradbury Mountain, Pownal, Maine

After I hit the "publish" button for my post "I live with a chronic condition that I've spoken about publicly before" we headed out to Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal. I was feeling a great sense of relief and freedom.

Northern Loop Trail is only one mile up!

It looks so quiet and peaceful, BUT!

There was a morning race happening and we were caught at the end of it! For the first ten minutes we had dozens of runners passing us by, and because people in Maine are friendly, each and every one said hello to us. Wayne and I were "hi-hello-what's up-how's it going-morning-nice day-etc"ing  for the first ten minutes.

The coast is clear!

A PSA from Mr. T!

Beautiful decay.

Rustic bench.

The exposed tree roots looked like a rickety old stairway.

Approaching the summit!


It was in the 40s that morning but it was warm on top with the direct sunlight.

View to the right.

Wayne gaining perspective.

Heading back down a different trail.

Another vista.

Pretty leaves covering my old and beat-up walking shoes. We went to L.L.Bean afterward to get a new pair but they didn't have my size so I ended up ordering a pair online.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

I live with a chronic condition that I've never spoken about publicly until now.

Image courtesy of Anne Rivera

I'm at the Port Authority in New York City at night. Once I step outside of the bright terminal I look for a cab to hail. There are none. So I start walking and look for a bus. There aren't any. I keep walking. A line of trees appear as if I'm in suburbia. It's pitch black. I think maybe I'll be OK. Then I see the small orange glow of a lit cigarette. There's that moment of recognition that I'm isolated in the dark and I'm going to get jumped. I start whimpering and screaming "Nooooooo!" Usually I wake up right then with my heart pounding. I immediately know it was just a dream. Again.

When daylight gives way to the night, my life changes completely.

My worst nightmares are never exactly the same, but they all have a common theme: I'm usually in a bad NYC neighborhood at night, vulnerable, alone, trying to find a cab or safe place and wake up yelling right before an attack takes place. I have those about twice a month. 

What is most debilitating are the distressing dreams I have about five nights a week and on the surface never resemble one another. They are disturbing, detailed, always different and leave me feeling physically and emotionally exhausted when I awaken. What they share in common is that I'm being victimized, violated or my well-being is compromised but not enough to wake up screaming. Instead of feeling rested and restored I wake up feeling spent.

Because I grind my teeth in my sleep (bruxism) from the nighttime stress I have to sleep with a customized bite guard that will need to be replaced every few years. My dentist told me that I had worn away much of the enamel on my molars and warned that if I didn't wear a bite guard my teeth were going to crack. It took me about six months but I've gotten used to it.

Basically my bed has been a battlefield most of my life which is a result of having been a victim of a multitude of assaults, abuses and personal violations as a child. The way I coped with it from age thirteen and into my late twenties was to self-medicate by drinking alcoholically. I drank to forget. To sleep. To relax. To feel normal. Of course those intended "benefits" were always fleeting and brought a new set of problems and dangerous circumstances. There is absolutely nothing curative about disordered drinking but it was all that I knew how to do. As many of my regular readers know, I'm currently twenty-two years sober.

I've been in counseling off and on for many years and have overcome so much in my life! I'm truly grateful for where I am today and this is the happiest I have ever been except for the nightmares and being deprived of healthy restorative sleep. Despite the many years of therapy, reading books on the subject and doing all I can to set my nights up for successful sleeping the dreams persisted.

In addition to mental health counseling I began spiritual counseling during my divorce. I tried praying my nightmares away. Didn't work.

I've met with medical professionals and looked into sleep disorder clinics in my area. None offered anything safe (non-addictive, especially) and curative that would work for me. I don't need a sleeping aid. I need a shut-these-fucking-nightmares-down aid.

It doesn't exist.

This past spring I decided I had had it. I knew that whatever I had tried up until that point wasn't working. Although I had made relative peace with having a chronic nightmare disorder as an offshoot of PTSD, because self-pity is never a good thing, and always focused on the good in my life during the day and despite feeling tired all of the time I have accomplished a lot, I could no longer accept being chronically tired and not at full capacity. Maybe it's because I'm nearing fifty. My body can no longer handle it the way it used to.

I went back into research mode and discovered a clinical textbook that specifically deals with PTSD nightmares from a cognitive-behavioral approach! That's the therapy I studied in grad school and is the method employed by my counselor. I love CBT and highly recommend it. Unlike most everything else I had come across, it wasn't just a small chapter in a book or specific to combat veterans. It's an entire book with highly detailed suggestions and explanations. Having a clinical background myself was very helpful in understanding a lot of it. Seeing everything so plainly written in clinical terms wasn't just informative, but it normalized things for me. I began to see that I was carrying around a lot of shame because unbeknownst to me I was feeling ashamed for having nightmares. I felt like I was weak for having them. I've always felt so different from everyone else because of it and hid it from the world. There are so many things in life I have passed up because I was too tired to do them and would make excuses for it and not just to other people, but to myself, too.

Now, instead of fleeing from the nightmares when I awaken I'm (ugh) embracing them. I'm keeping a detailed journal. I no longer run from them like I run from the predators in my sleep. Instead of making peace with having nightmares like I've done for so long I'm making peace with the nightmares themselves. I'm paying attention to them. They are a part of me and they are trying to tell me something and it's not that I deserve a life of suffering.

Most people I know are terrified of spiders and the last thing they'd want to do is take one in the palm of their hand, take out a magnifying glass, really look closely at it and accept, embrace! that it will crawl on them in bed at night. That's exactly what I'm doing right now feels like, but believe it or not, I even made peace with a gigantic garden spider this summer!

It's a lot of work and it's very painful but for the first time in my life I am having some shifts in my dreams. As it turns out I have repressed a lot of emotions and rejected a lot of memories from my childhood that once felt too overwhelming to accept as real.

I'm starting to confront and/or defend myself against the tormentors in/during my dreams. I am slowly noticing that I am able to be more aware during my dreams, too. During the day I spend a lot of time envisioning different endings and ways to cope in nightmareland. It's a form of Image Rehearsal Therapy.

With a detailed journal I am able to keep track of any progress with either the content and/or frequency of bad dreams. 

Some of you may have noticed that I'm posting a lot about getting out and doing outdoorsy things. That has been the greatest gift. Even though I sometimes feel too tired I am doing it anyway. It feels great! Wayne is so supportive, encouraging and patient. 

Writing this post is a part of my therapy. I am done with feeling ashamed and hiding this part of my life from the world. I now know that my condition is a not a sign of weakness but my body and mind's natural reaction to an unnatural amount of childhood trauma.

(What I tried but hasn't worked yet is my own idea of an I Dream Of Jeanie approach: Once I know I'm having a nightmare, in the dream I cross my arms in front of me while wearing a fabulous 1960s genie get-up, close my eyes and nod my head so that I magically make it all go away and immediately awaken. I'm not done trying that one yet. Maybe I can get a research grant??)

Right now we're getting ready to go hike up a little mountain today, then sample another out-of-the-way mom and pop diner before heading to L.L.Bean to buy myself a new pair of walking shoes.

I am so grateful for all I have in my life today, including having my life! I take absolutely nothing for granted, especially that you've read this entire post. If you have, thank you. If this has helped or touched you in any way, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.