Saturday, May 28, 2011

Healing is Also about the Blessing of Family and Friendships

Healing is more than just about diet, herbal supplements, and exercise. Healing also involves the emotional part of us. It is important to access where we are on the emotional level of our being. It may mean seeing a Counselor to work through past hurts (or current ones). There were times in my past that I sought after the help of counselors and those counselors helped me tremendously. In fact, I would even say that they kept me from committing suicide. With their help, and the help of a 12-step program, I processed the pain of being molested and of growing up with an alcoholic/abusive father. We make the choice to either be a victim, or be a victor. I chose, and continue to choose, to be a victor. The best type of victorious life is a life well lived.

Emotional healing may mean accessing our need for friends or to mend relationships with family members. I will tell you a secret: I've not had many friends in my lifetime. For reasons I never fully understood, I was that kid in the neighborhood and school that was everyone else's punching bag. I was mocked, humiliated, pushed, and hit just because it was the fun thing to do. The more I tried to disappear into the wallpaper, the more they tormented me. Until, that is, I reached high school. In high school (Texas Sr High in Texarkana, TX), I had two things on my side: my football playing brother and my art teacher. Being "Paxton's sister" saved me a lot of grief. And, when things still got to be too much, I could always go to the art room and find refuge. Mr. Deon would cover for me with the teachers and I could stay there as long as I needed to. I was forever grateful to him. I learned years later that kids perceived me as being "conceited" or "stuck-up". I suppose it probably looked that way. I was interverted and fearful due to years of torment at school (not to mention what was going on at home). Perhaps if I'd been able to connect with people, I could have had a different experience. The regrets are what we carry with us. We can continue to feel the shame or we can forgive ourselves and others and leave it as just a distant pain that no longer scars our hearts.

I wish I could say that, having dealt with the past, I am now blessed with many friends. Alas, not so. I try but my list of friends is still very short. I have a very dear friend, Neeny, who lives in Northern Virginia. She is like a sister to me. She knows me--the good, the bad, and the ugly--and yet she still loves me like a sister. You know you have a true friend when they see the very worst parts of you and don't run like hell in the other direction. Since moving here a decade ago, I have collected few names to my friends list. There were some I thought were but turned out not to be (betrayal is very painful). There are others who have proven their worth through quiet prayer support in my darkest hours. I think that is another good sign of a true friend--when you feel lost and all alone and beaten down, they lift you up in prayer and don't stop until a breakthrough comes. I am blessed. But, I'll let you in on a another secret: I still pray for a "Neeny" here...someone to "hang" with. You know, the type of friend you go to movies with or to the mall. The type of friend who will go clothes shopping with you and make you try them on in the store. The type of friend who will suggest that perhaps that outfit doesn't set quite the image you think it does. That is the kind of friend I keep asking God for. But, for the time being, I take comfort in knowing that I have the type of friends God knows I need the most.

And, hey, I have over a 100 Facebook Friends. That's pretty good for scared girl hiding in the artroom, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gardening Ups and Downs

One of the steps I've taken toward eating organically and achieving self-sufficiency is gardening. We have .6 acres and I'm aiming at filling it with food producing plants as much as possible. One third of the property has been devoted to garden space for many years (with the use of copious amounts of pesticides and chemical fertilizers). The remainder of the property is house, pecan trees, and grass. Since the garden area has been unused for a few years, I'm hoping that we have made a good start with removing the chemicals. Now is to battle against the weeds and turn the soil into something fertile enough to grow healthy plants. This is proving to be no easy feat. Currently, we have formed 18 raised 4'x20' beds. The soil is very poor so we are experimenting with making compost teas to fertilize. I'm also looking for plenty of compost items for our compost pile. The unplanted portion we are trying to put to growing sunflowers as a cover crop.  Lots of work done, lots more to come, and so far our harvested crop results are: 200 radishes and failed crops of beets, broccoli, and lettuce (grew but was BITTER). I will need to hit the farmers market to get the variety of vegetables I need to reach my goal of 30 different vegetables in 4 months.

Last year, I found a wonderful online program for garden planning. PlanGarden is totally cool...or, I should say "beasted" as I've been informed that is the new word to replace "kewl". I can plan not only the vegetable garden, but map out current and future trees, bushes, and garden plots. I can also play with different layouts of chicken coop, compost pile(s), etc. Anything I need on a permaculture mini-homestead I can plot on PlanGarden. Then, I can overlay the plan with current garden efforts. There is a harvest record tab, a journal for tracking all my gardening efforts, and so much more. It is probably the beasted program ever! Whether your garden is a 4x4 flower garden or a 5 acre homestead, you should try this program. The other day, I ordered a bunch of hedgerow bushes, fruit bushes, and periennal flowers. Now, while I wait for their arrival, I am playing with layouts to figure out the best placement of each item.

I've not been feeling well the last few days...nothing major...just some passing stomach flu I think. I was looking forward to getting back to the gym tomorrow after missing two days but it seems fate is being a pain in the butt--now our car will not start! Matt will be calling wondering where I am! I hate it but what can I do? Work in the garden can certainly get me moving and exercising. Other than being sick, there are no excuses for not exercising in one way shape or form.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hot & Sour Soup

Yesterday, I had a hankerin'...a cravin'...a NEED for Hot & Sour Soup. This soup is about the only good use of tofu that I know...the flavors just transform that tasteless disgusting stuff into something altogether OTHER and delicious. When I am sick or sad or need comforting deep down, this is what I want and NEED. So, what is a woman to do when she is in such a desparate need for comforting? A woman has to do what a woman has to do--I got me the soup!

I had hoped to have a few work friends accompany on the hunt for The Soup but alas they were otherwise obligated. So, the huntress had to go alone. With a copy of Mother Earth News tucked in my purse for reading material, off I went. In the big town of Shallotte there is only one place to get the aforementioned Soup--the China Buffet. It's actually run by Chinese but the fare is decidedly Americanized Chinese. But, the buffet has the required and much needed item--The Soup. I saw, I ate, I conquered. Soup--two bowls of it thank you very much. I told you I was in need, didn't I? A few mussels on the half shell, veggies, and lo mein and I was comforted at the core.

What is so special about Hot & Sour Soup you ask? Well, it's a healing food. There is the "hot" which will open your sinuses and put fire in your blood. There is the "fungus" (black fungus--a mushroom) which is nourishing to your cells and your soul. There are lily pods which are also apparently quite adapt at healing what ails you on both a physical and emotional level. The stuff is simply magic-in-a-bowl.

After my adventure, I decided that I simply must learn how to make my own Hot & Sour Soup. The fun thing is, other than a few key ingredients, the rest is up to the imagination and taste preferences...or what I happen to have available. I googled for recipes and will be making a trip in the next few weeks up to Wilmington to the Asian Market in pursuit of the requisite ingredients. Stay tuned for the adventures in Hot & Sour Soup 101!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's All About Balance

I’m learning a new appreciation for balance.
I went last night for an extra session with Matt The Sadist (my personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in Shallotte) because he wanted to change my workout. Seems he had been observing me while I was doing my workouts and noticing that I struggle with balance. He could see my feet wobbling as I tried to maintain my balance. So, he revamped the routine to make it more “balance-intensive”. Believe me when I say that when the Sadist says “this is one of my favorite exercises” you should be scared…very scared! He said that several times, actually, which just goes to show what a wicked man he is. I have to give Matt credit where credit is due—he is right that my balance is terrible and needs work. The exercises—as hard as they may be—will correct my balance problems. Oh, and my ankles are sore this morning. Why? Because they got quite the workout last night! That which does not kill me makes me stronger!
I’m also learning balance in diet. Balance is the central point of Macrobiotics. By balancing the different forces of foods you balance the body’s chemistry. I’m not a Zen Buddhist and I don’t believe it is necessary to be one to understand that life equals energy. Without electrical energy our hearts would not beat, our muscles would by contract, our brains would not function. Without electrical energy nothing would be alive whether animal or vegetable. Energy can be contractive such as that which makes the heart contract or the bicep contract or expansive such as that which makes the heart or bicep relax. Energy can draw in or push out. When our bodies are in a balanced state of energy it is alkaline where it needs to be alkaline and acidic where it needs to be acidic…it contracts and expands appropriately…and toxins are expelled rather than stored in fat cells. When our bodies are unbalanced—often the result of both environmental toxins and inappropriate foods—functions of the body go haywire and dis-ease happens. Undoing this is possible, but not easy as I am learning.
Balanced diet. We’ve all heard all our lives about eating a balanced diet. Eating appropriately from the “4 Squares” or, more recently, the “Food Pyramid” was supposed to be the Final Answer to how to eat “right”. A better food pyramid, The Healing Foods Pyramid credited by the University of Michigan, is a better one than the USDA's pyramid (  Now, I’m learning—or trying to learn—how to eat a balanced diet from a Macrobiotic perspective. Here, it means balancing a different set of food groups. Rather than dairy, vegetables, meat, and grains, I am trying to balance grains, beans, greens, seaweeds, and fermented—and getting a soup twice a day. (Here is a Macrobiotic Food Pyramid: So far, I’ve be a dismal failure. Oh, I’ve gotten in my grains and beans. General get some vegetable though not enough. Soup has been missing more than present. I have been eating fermented foods almost daily and seaweeds are almost where they need to be. I just haven’t quite gotten my act together on this whole process. But, I refuse to give up. I will continue to press on until I have it working for me instead of letting it make me feel like a failure.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sardines are SuperFood

Sardines a Superfood? Seriously? Yep. These little fish sold packed in water, olive oil, soybean oil, mustard, or tomato paste are actually packed in nutritious goodness. I’d never considered even tasting sardines because, well, to be honest they just seemed “gross”. But, hey, I’ve taste tested escargot and caviar (yum for the former, yuck to the latter) so why not sardines? Alton Brown of “Good Eats” and “Iron Chef America” fame credits sardine sandwiches as a key to his huge weight loss. These little fishies warranted some additional consideration.
My first trial was “sardine rolls” which proved that sardines are not as strongly flavored as I’d thought they’d be. My second trial was today for lunch, Sardine Wraps. Not only were the wraps good, but even more important as a lunch item, they did not smell (read: no complaints from the coworkers).
So, what’s so special about Sardines?
A 3.25oz can of sardines contains 137% of the RDA of B12, 78% of the RDA for tryptophan, 69% of Selenium, 62% of vitamin D, 56% of Omega-3s, and the list goes on. They are the most concentrated sources of EPA and DHA (Omega-3s) which is important to heart health and some believe also critical for brain health as well. It is second only to calves liver as a source of B12 (and liver only makes it to my plate as pate—a rare event indeed).
Sardines are a great source of calcium and, probably even more important, an amazingly concentrated source of vitamin D—otherwise only obtained in the diet via fortified foods. There is an epidemic in America of vitamin D deficiency (myself included). Everyone knows a lack of vitamin D leads to weak bones and rickets. That is certainly true. But, vitamin D is also critical for numerous biochemical functions in the body including cell differentiation (failure here can lead to tumors and cancer), immune system function, insulin secretion, and blood pressure regulation (something that went haywire on me last year when my vitamin D stores hit rock bottom). Along with calcium and vitamin D, sardines are also a great source of phosphorus and B12 both of which also contribute to bone health. Forget about drinking milk, eat sardines!
One other point I’ll mention about the merits of sardines: they are mercury free. Today, there are few fish we can say that about! Salmon, tuna, and many other large fish are loaded in mercury. But, since sardines are small baby fish, they haven’t had time to build up levels of mercury. We can eat these health-giving little gems of the sea without worry of adding even more mercury to our bodies. Hip, Hip, Hurray for Sardines!
Here is the “recipe” for Sardine Wraps:
1 3.25oz can sardines packed in soybean oil
leftover salad (mixed greens, onions, radish, carrots)
sprouted grain tortillas
Vegenaise with grapeseed oil
balsamic vinegar

Spread two tortillas with mixture of mayo and balsamic vinegar. Top with salad and half can of sardines per wrap. Wrap. Pray. Eat!