Friday, October 31, 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Great food--It's all relative

I just came back from teaching a 3-day workshop in North Carolina. We stayed at a Ramada Inn on the beach near Nags Head on the Outer Banks. All through the retreat, the women raved about the food. And it was good, in its way. Lots of choices at each meal: bacon, eggs, sausage, muffins, grits, potatoes, juice for breakfast. Cream soups, chicken salad, tuna salad, bread for lunch. Pork, beef, fish, chicken, mashed potatoes, pasta with cream sauce for dinner. Everything cooked in butter. Three desserts at each meal including sugar-free jello with cool whip.

This is so far from how I eat these days. Me with a vegetable juice smoothie and oatmeal, big salads and veggies soups, little dairy, little wheat, little meat. Of course, I can go with the flow when needed. We did have a big bowl of naked romaine lettuce at one meal and I put it on everything on my plate, and one night there was buttered zucchini and I ate a lot of that. But it was interesting to me that no one else seemed to miss vegetables or find the shades of brown that filled the plate unusual. Different palates, different cultures. All relative.

Monday, I got home at noon. Dropped off my suitcase, went to the local organic grocery, got kale/cucumbers/apple/romaine/carrots/spinach. Made juice. Mainlined it. Ah!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

So many thoughtful poems

Missing the Boat

by Naomi Shihab-Nye

It is not so much that the boat passed
and you failed to notice it.
It is more like the boat stopping
directly outside your bedroom window,
the captain blowing the signal-horn,
the band playing a rousing march.
The boat shouted, waving bright flags,
its silver hull blinding in the sunlight.
But you had this idea you were going by train.
You kept checking the time-table,
digging for tracks.
And the boat got tired of you,
so tired it pulled up the anchor
and raised the ramp.
The boat bobbed into the distance,
shrinking like a toy—
at which point you probably realized
you had always loved the sea.

Different Ways to Pray- Breitenbush Publications 1980

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A lovely irony

This week I'm on the East Coast, Virginia and North Carolina, to be exact. I'm leading a retreat in Nags Head on the Outer Banks of NC for AA and Alanon women. I'll be giving four presentations on one of the topics dearest to my heart: creativity for everyone. I'll get a chance to encourage other recovering women to develop some kind of creative outlet, as mine have brought me great joy and I believe they have strengthened my sobriety.

Here's the lovely irony. In the spring of 1990, at barely six months sober, my sponsor at the time dragged me kicking and screaming to a beach retreat for AA and Alanon women. I was still a confirmed intellectual cynic and I hated every minute of it. It was corny, it was stupid, it was sentimental. You've probably already guessed that I am leading this same retreat 24-1/2 years later. (The retreat has been going for 40 years.) It's in the same place at the same hotel (hopefully upgraded).

This will be a perfect opening story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

For Nellie

I'll have many cats in heaven
if pure souls always go
I'll meet them all again

Max with three-legged courage
Faithful Sasha
Jake, marked down to $9.99 at the pet store
Reinie, the beautiful
Maurie, the homeless

There've been others too, in and out of my life
Wanderers, loaners, leavers
Simon, Jesse, Mickey, Willie Duncan

So there'll be a pride to greet me
when I cross over

It comforts me to think
they may have found each other already
swapping stories of how much I loved them
of how much I spoiled them
how many times they got me
to get up and let them in and out

It comforts me to think
they greeted Nellie when she
came through the tunnel and into the light

Children who've died
and come back
all say an animal accompanied
them through the tunnel
a hummingbird, a bumble bee, a hamster
It's a perfect job for Nellie
who greeted everyone
who came to my door
Maybe she's already guiding
the wee ones who leave early
into the next whatever
Or maybe she'll take up
with my others and tell
her side of our story
All I know is that if any cat
will be there at the end
of the tunnel to welcome
me home, it will be Nell

Sunday, October 19, 2014

My new juicer

My new juicer arrived about a week ago. Uncharacteristically, I didn't open the box at first. While I went on loving green juice and smoothies, I had become so disenchanted by the expensive juicer, that I didn't want to take a chance that this one would be even more of a hassle. Plus it was in such a huge box, I was afraid it was going to take over my kitchen. And I had some juice frozen so wasn't in immediate need.

Then last weekend, I opened the box and took out the juicer. I wa relieved to see that it was in a lot of packaging (although sadly huge chunks of unrecyclable molded styrofoam). It is some bigger than the old one but not excessively. I washed it and put it together (no more complicated than the last one) and then got out my washed organic produce. Three limes, three cucumbers, two bunches of kale, 1/2 pound of carrots, three heads of romaine, a bunch of flat leaf parsley, 3 apples. 15 minutes later 3 quarts of juice: ends off cukes and romaine, cores out of apples (2 minutes), juice took 8, clean-up took 5.

I love the new juicer!

PS Three limes may be too much. Tart!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Welcome everything. Push nothing away.

Yesterday afternoon at 3:30 I said goodbye to my dear sweet girl Nellie.

In the spring of 2003, I did a soul retrieval, trying to reconnect with lost parts of myself. One part that came to the surface was my 3-month-old self and the shaman who took the journey with me suggested I get a doll and rock it and acknowledge it. I tried that but the doll just didn't do it for me. So I went to the Humane Society and found Nellie, who was 3 months away. We bonded in a deep and loving way from the beginning and I knew she knew me just as I knew her.

Nellie had many friends among my friends and in the two weeks since her diagnosis with intestinal lymphoma, a parade of people has come through to sit with her and say goodbye. She was a regular member of the Writing Friday women's circle and she charmed every cat sitter I had.

All day Wednesday I struggled with my decision. Keep her going on steroids as long as I could or release her while she felt good? I opted finally for the latter, for her and for me, as I could not tolerate more days of second-guessing, hoping for a different outcome when none was possible, anticipating the difficulty of her loss. We had a good day on Thursday. Our weather was heavenly: sunny, warm, a light breeze, the Fall at its most magical. Nellie spent time in the garden behind us with my good friend Melanie, and then she and I had two hours on the porch swing basking in the sun where I murmured sweet nothings and she licked my hand.

A lovely vet came to the house. She was friendly, kind, and respectful. Nellie took a while to settle, to slow, to let go, and I was in no hurry. And then she was gone. I felt her presence last night but not this morning. And now we close up our circle with one less.

Yesterday morning my very close friend Sue sent me a quote: Welcome everything. Push away nothing. I'm doing my best to welcome in the grief, the loss, the broken-hearted tears streaming down my face. I could not push away the cancer that had her in its grip, I will not push away the sorrow that I feel. After all it's the consequence of deep love. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gratitude well expressed

Arms Full

by Rebecca del Rio

Gratitude means showing up on life’s doorstep,
love’s threshold, dressed in a clown suit,
rubber-nosed, gunboat shoes flapping.
Gratitude shows up with arms full of wildflowers,
reciting McKuen or the worst of Neruda.

To talk of gratitude is to be
the fool in a cynic’s world.
Gratitude is pride’s nightmare,
the admission of humility before something
given without expectation or attachment.

Gratitude tears open the shirt
of self importance, scatters buttons
across the polished floors of feigned indifference,
ignores the obvious and laughs out loud.

Even more, gratitude bears her breasts, rips open
her ribs to show the naked heart, the holy heart.
What if that sacred heart is not, after all, about sacrifice?
Imagine it is about joy, barefoot and foolhardy,
something unasked for, something unearned.

What if the beat we hear, when we are finally quiet is simply this:
Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Waking up into the panic of a broken heart

Last night I woke about 2:45. I felt off, as if there was a huge weight on my chest. I'm a body sensitive with a dose of hypochondria so I did a body scan. No pain, no shortness of breath, no sweats. no nausea. I got up and got some cold sparkling water and took it into the living room. The four cats gathered around, two wanting petting, two just watching.

And then my old friend panic strolled into the room. He came over and sat on me and for the next 25 minutes, I had rolling waves of panic attack, adrenalin surging through my body, rising up in my throat, hot sweats and then chills, and then blessed fatigue and I was able to go back to bed and sleep soundly for a few hours.

Panic hasn't visited in several years. He was a constant companion in the months after my mother died, so constant that I sought help from a therapist who specialized in panic attacks and phobias. I did some of his exercises but I think time was the biggest healer.

Now I'm preparing to part from my sweet girl Nellie and after the first days of diagnosis and overt grief, I had gone back to life pretty much as usual. On steroids she acts close to normal and it's been easy to pretend that she's getting better. But there is no getting better from what is consuming her and yesterday I realized that her departure is imminent. And that heartbreak came over me in the night, the aloneness of life, the finality of death, and the powerlessness to stop the train she's on. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A poem from life

The Skin I'm in

My client sits across from me
She's 19, Chinese, and her skin
Is flawless
Rose-tinted, clear,
The smooth of the young
She's moving into the prime
Of her beauty
And I am long past mine
I glance down at my arm
Freckles, the red dots of
A benign skin condition
Scaly patches inherited from my dad
Age spots from all that youthful
Decades of sun, of alcohol
All showing up now
My hands are old
My legs chronically dry
Despite the river of lotion
They dip into each day
For a few seconds
My admiration turns to envy
I want her skin, her youth,
All her possibilities
And then I lean back
Into the comfort of my own skin
That has served me so well
For so long
And gratitude trumps envy

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Firing my juicer

About a week ago, in a fit of anger and frustration, I fired my fancy juicer. I was so in love with green juice 18 months ago, that I didn't see the juicer's shortcomings. It was compact, it was supposed to be the most nutritious juicer (centrifuge and chopper), and it didn't seem all that difficult to clean.

As long as I made juice every day, it worked great. But then I realized I could freeze the fresh juice and do the work once a week, and my little fancy juicer was not very happy. It would stop, clog, run off its track, I had to clean it several times in each juicing. What a pain! Finally it whacked off two big pieces of plastic from one of the parts. I got so disgusted I threw the broken part in the trash and then the other pieces (minus the motor).

I emailed the company to find out that the juicer I had purchased required that all fruit be peeled and cut into small pieces. How did I not know that before I bought it? I buy organic and want to juice the whole fruit and vegetable. So I ordered the much sturdier, much cheaper model. I'm looking forward to seeing how it works!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The deep fatigue of uncertainty

For the last two days I've been sitting in uncertainty. My lovely Nellie cat got puny, then stopped eating, and I went to the vet with her. She had a high white cell count, so I hoped for urinary infection but no such luck. She has intestinal lymphoma, the most common cancer for cats (along with respiratory lymphoma) and is incurable.

Although the ER specialist was pretty sure what it was from the first ultrasound, they waited a day and did a second and some cytology (fluid biopsy). The cytology report comes tomorrow but the second ultrasound confirmed the first: ugly lymph nodes all through her intestines in keeping with lymphoma. They were happy to do surgery, to do anesthetized biopsy, and chemo but I said no.

I brought her home last night with steroids and appetite stimulants and pain meds to give her in the hopes of both making her feel better and giving us some additional time together (perhaps days or weeks). She has perked up but is not eating much and eating is key for her. But I am letting her do it her way.

Last night by 7 pm I was exhausted. I had been on high alert, high anxiety, deep worry, and deep grief for about 36 hours. But once I knew what it was, what I was dealing with, and once I had a plan, I felt somehow relieved. The worst agony had been in not knowing and wondering if I would have to choose to let her go immediately, with what seemed like no preparation. Now I can prepare for this.

Nellie is 11 and I had counted on at least a half dozen more years with her as my cats tend to live a long time. But that isn't going to happen. I am immensely sad and grateful for what I have left. One day at a time, for sure.

Friday, October 3, 2014

More wise words from Leo Babauta

Posted: 26 Sep 2014 07:13 AM PDT

By Leo Babauta
Like a chump, I struggled for years trying to change my habits.
I started an exercise program or diet with unrestrained optimism, probably a dozen times. I threw away all my cigarettes and tried quitting smoking about seven times. I tried waking up early, reading more, writing daily, getting out of debt, watching less TV, and failed at all of those.
It feels horrible when you can’t stick to habits, and I constantly felt bad about myself. What I didn’t realize back then, until I started successfully changing my habits in late 2005, is that it wasn’t a matter of me not having enough discipline. It was a matter of doing habit change all wrong.
I was making some big mistakes when it came to habit change, and once I fixed those mistakes, I got immensely better at sticking to changes.
If you’re struggling with habit change, here are some of the mistakes I used to make, in hopes that it will help you too.
  1. Not changing your habit environment. We often rely completely on willpower to stick to habit change, but in practice that rarely works. Much better is changing the environment around you. Make it easy to do your habit, by putting your running shoes next to your bed and sleeping in your running clothes, for example, or having lots of healthy food around you, or writing out small steps you can take in your spare time to reduce debt. Make it hard to do the things you don’t want to do, by getting rid of all the junk food in your house or setting up accountability with friends with a big consequence for missing exercise or eating fast food, or put your TV in the closet or unplug your router and give it to someone to hold for a couple hours. Be smart and figure out how to change your environment so your habit succeeds, and if it fails, change your environment some more.
  2. You expect comfort. Habit change is by its nature uncomfortable, but most of us want to do the same things we’ve always done and never be uncomfortable. It’s why most people don’t exercise, because they dislike the discomfort. If you allow yourself to be open to discomfort, at least a little at a time, you’ll be less likely to quit. Don’t like running? Just do a little of it, and be willing to push through a little discomfort. What you learn is that there’s nothing wrong with being uncomfortable, and this becomes a superpower for changing any habit.
  3. You don’t start small. Most people are optimistic and try to make too big a change. There’s so many reasons to start small with a habit change that I can’t even list them all, but let’s take some of the most important. If you start small, the discomfort of change isn’t overwhelming. If you start small, you overcome the problem of inertia and not getting started. You also overcome the problem of burning through all your enthusiasm, or using up your willpower reserves. You make it impossible to say no, impossible to fail, if you start small. Some examples: meditate for 2 minutes, just get out the door and run for a minute, eat 1 vegetable a day, smoke 1 time less per day.
  4. You have unrealistic fantasies about the habit. When we start a habit change, it’s usually because we have some kind of picture in our heads about how great our lives will be once we make this change: we’ll be healthy and fit and sexy, our lives will be uncluttered and simple and beautiful, we’ll be happy. Unfortunately, changes in reality are pretty much never as we fantasized about, and so we become disappointed and discouraged. A better approach is to realize that these fantasies or ideals aren’t true, hold onto them loosely, and instead to an approach of curiosity: what is it like to change? What is discomfort like? How can I be happy in each step along the way, instead of only at my goal?
  5. You start right away. I don’t know how many times I threw away my cigarette’s at a moment’s whim, deciding that moment to quit smoking. What I realized is that starting immediately is a bad idea, because it meant I was taking the change too lightly. The habit change was as small a commitment as taking out the trash, and as easily put off. Except that if I kept putting it off it didn’t stink as much as the trash. So I learned a better way: set your start or quit date in the future. At least a few days, maybe even a week or two weeks. My quit date for smoking was Nov. 18, 2005, and I marked it on my calendar and it became important. I wrote out a plan, had replacement habits for triggers like stress and being around other smokers, set up accountability, read about it. The habit change then took on importance, and so I was much less likely to just drop it.
  6. You don’t have accountability. One of the best ways to change your habit environment is to set up accountability. Create a challenge and tell people about it. Set a consequence for failure — I’ve asked a friend to throw a pie in my face if I didn’t stick to a change, for example. Join an accountability group. Report daily. Ask them to not let you fail and slip away. The accountability will help keep you on track when all the other things fail.
If you can fix these habit mistakes — and they’re fairly simple to fix — you’ll be increasing your odds of success a dozenfold at least. These fixes changed my life, and I hope they change yours too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sobering reality of food addiction and emotions