Springtime Rituals in the Land of the White Pickup Trucks

10156056_10152277314947770_1891177723073011553_n

I love my first year in a new place. I’ve lived so many places, and each place has its own set of rituals that drive its calendar. For instance, the Southwest Michigan area will kick off it’s Springtime festivities in May with the Blossomtime Festival. The Knoxville Area has the Dogwood Festival with its auto-trails around town highlighting well-groomed yards with dogwoods and red buds in full bloom. Northwest Indiana had a European Market that kicked off in May with all kinds of weekend exhibitors. The State Parks and National Lakeshore opened, and all of the little towns around Lake Michigan hosted events almost every weekend. After being in any of those places a few years, I started to mark the seasons by the festivals and the crops. In April, Michigan has fresh asparagus. It grows wild, so it’s all over the place. The rest of the country pays a pretty penny for the buttery stalks, but you can drive by any old house and pay $1 a pound at a self-serv stand in St. Joe … or Three Oaks … or Buchanan. The first year I was there I ate asparagus almost every day. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. The blueberry and cherry seasons were milestones, too. Most people don’t know that Southwest Michigan is the second largest fruit-growing area in the country next to California. I awaited each season with unbridled gluttony.

I’m finding Louisiana has its own rhythm for the spring. We thaw out quicker than most of the country, so by the time our azaleas are gone, the rest of the country is just greening up. I didn’t remember that crawfish had a “season”. Two – three weeks ago I started seeing signs that proclaimed Boiled Crawfish popping up. My friend Sha called and asked if I wanted to go eat boiled crawfish one night last week. I was waiting for an invitation because I see it as a social event not just a yummy treat. So we went to Sammy’s for crawfish. I thought we’d run in and eat and leave. No…. this was an event. They told us it would be an hour wait, and I thought for sure we’d leave. Not hardly….. The restaurant was packed, and we stood around with two men from her work and waited to take our seat in the house. They brought out our platters, and we ate and ate, spending the time catching up on our lives and talking about how good they were.

“These aren’t spicy enough.”

“The ones on the inside are still hot.”

“These claws are really big.”

“The ones I had the other night were not as good as these.”

“This second batch is much better than the first. They are spiced just right.”

I’ve often wondered how you spice them just right. It seems to be a moving target, and every person has different tastes, too. These comments are ones I’ve heard over and over the last few weeks. I overhear people in the office proclaiming they had some, “but they were really small.” Someone on Facebook had some that “didn’t have enough salt, but that’s just me.” Those red crustaceans, I’m seeing, are the reason to celebrate in the spring. We not only celebrate in the eating, but we celebrate when someone else is eating by asking them to tell us about it. A good time is had by all … vicariously or in person.

006

It’s strawberry season, too, in the Land of the White Pick-up Trucks. Everywhere I’ve been in the last couple of weeks, I see trays of the beautiful red berries laying out. They, like the crawfish, fluctuate in price according to the demand, the time in the season and their size. My friend Gretchen and I checked some out in Hammond yesterday. “They aren’t very big,” she said. She speculated that the big ones were probably being sold at the festival in Ponchatoula this weekend. We looked for strawberry pie. I settled for buying a half flat and made strawberry shortcake with whipped cream when I got home. I used those tea cakes that I purchased at the Farmer’s Market. It was delicious. I’d say that “they were small, but they were still juicy.” I’ve heard people say that the strawberries … and the crawfish… aren’t as good this year .. or as plentiful .. or as big … because of the winter we had. I haven’t been disappointed yet on any front. So, if this is not good, I can’t wait until it gets good!

When I was in the bar waiting on our crawfish, someone in our party asked the waitress if they had char-grilled crabs. No… she said they would start getting crabs right around the time the crawfish ran out. I began making a mental note to get over there for char-grilled crabs for that season…. some time in May. I walked out on the levee yesterday evening with my dog, and she had her first taste of crawfish. I saw her chewing on something, and I could see the red claw hanging out of her mouth while she chomped down on it. It seems she will fit right in here for crawfish season. I could smell crawfish wafting on the breeze while the barges and the tugboats pushed their way upriver. I looked around, and there were two or three groups of people huddled around pieces of cardboard piled high with crawfish. They took their time watching the sunset and peeling the tiny tails. I basked in the ritual here … this ritual of eating crawfish. It is not just the arrival of a good food, but it’s the arrival of spring.

A friend told me that they are pricier before Easter because of Lenten fasting on Fridays. It gives people something good to eat that’s not classified as meat. So, along with the celebration of Easter, there are crawfish and strawberries to gather around. My family will be gathering Easter weekend to stuff crawfish heads with stuffing to put into crawfish bisque. This is an annual ritual passed down through generations of Cajuns in my brother-in-law’s family. When I drove up to my house Saturday night, my new neighbors’ yard was full of cars, and I could smell the spicy crawfish aroma before I saw them gathered around a table set up in the driveway. I wondered how many gatherings there were like this in town… pricey or not… big or small … spicy or bland. These orangey-red-clawed bottom-dwellers boiled in a pot of spicy water were a signpost on the calendar that said Welcome Spring. It’s crawfish season, y’all. Won’t you come sit for a spell and peel some tails?

Grappling with Worn Out Dreams of Pleasing Others

10169310_10152328392224738_8131793954853098562_n

I had a nightmare Friday night. When I think of nightmares, I imagine those dreams that include violence, abuse and terror. I wake up in fear.. heart pounding …. relieved that it was just a dream. My emotions and reactions to my emotions are escalated as if the events of this dream really happened. It takes awhile to relax and get back to sleep. I’m grateful that I don’t have nightmares very often. I had a lover who had nightmares every night. He described his dreams, and they were always about groups of people chasing him with knives or guns and often he was killed in a bloody battle. He grew up in a very abusive environment, and I’ve always believed his nightmares were a symbolic reliving of the torture that he endured. He would describe those dreams as if they were normal, and I would be absolutely horrified at having dreams like that every night. His  inner world terrified me. He was numb to it.

My nightmare didn’t involve blood. It had no violence. By many people’s measure of nightmares, it would have been silly. What I know about dreams is they are our subconscious trying to work something out, and, for me, my dreams usually mirror something that I’m grappling with emotionally. That’s what makes dreams so real and scary when they come in the form of nightmares. Some deep-seated fear that I have is being tapped in real life, and I’m either pushing it down or have not dealt with it. The nightmare brings it home in shocking images. I’ve learned to look at my dreams’ messages. The sooner I actually process the real life drama, the sooner I can sleep peacefully.

My nightmare was about not being liked… about being left out … being excluded.  I dreamed that I showed up at my college, and all of my college friends were there. I could see their faces plain as day. When I showed up, I was shocked into the realization that there was this big party going on, and I had not been invited. I walked up to talk with them, and they looked at me as if I had three heads. They would hardly speak. I would ask questions, and they’d give me short answers and turn away. I was so hurt and confused and I was in enormous pain. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t they invite me to the party? Why don’t they LIKE me? I woke up in a sweat … crying …. my heart was racing, and I had this deep throbbing pain in my heart. For a moment, it didn’t even relieve me that it was a dream. I just knew it was real. I just knew that some life was going on without me, and I was intentionally being excluded.

I’ve grappled with people-pleasing … the desire to be liked … to be someone that people approved of … all my life. Recovering addicts say that it’s a part of an addictive personality to have this feeling that we somehow don’t fit. I’ve actually found that many people who are not addicts feel the same way. I would almost argue it’s a very normal part of the human condition to think we don’t fit. We see our insides. We see everyone else’s outsides. There are very few people  – if any – that we ever come to know in a transparent way. What I love about 12 step programs is that we share very intimately in meetings. It helps me to see that other people have these same inner demons that I do, and they are okay. They are likable. They have lives which have meaning. And, yet… they struggle with many of the same fears I do.

For me, the most difficult time I ever had with self-image and the fear that I wasn’t liked was in high school and college. However, there has always been an underlying desire to be liked and to fit myself to what others thought I should be. It’s been interesting to be back here in Louisiana where my worst people-pleasing fears were fertilized. The same faces and places automatically bring me back to those paralyzing fears that I was somehow a misfit. With many, I’m getting a chance to work it out and realize I wasn’t a misfit at all.  Back then I had a drinking problem, and I’ve had to deal with the remorse and embarrassment of that, and I’ve learned that most of them really didn’t even notice. They had their own stuff going on. For so many years, my actions associated with my black-out drinking haunted me, and I’m sure it was one of the reasons I wanted to stay away. I was scared my early behavior had somehow made me a pariah.

The other day I was overwhelmed with a fear of not being liked. I don’t even remember what event brought it on, but I’m sure it was also related to my feeling a bit depressed. Depression always overlays that filter that says I’m not lovable. I was walking my dog, and I was going over the list of people in my mind that didn’t like me, and I was trying to determine how I needed to BE in order for them to like me. All of a sudden, this angry voice rose up inside of me that said, “Why the hell do you care if they LIKE you?” I don’t know if it was God (yes, I believe God curses on occasion) or my inner wisdom, but it really jerked me back to reality. Why do I care if they like me? I know the deep-seated reasons I care. I’m afraid that if I’m not liked, I will be abandoned. It’s an early belief that in order to be cared for, loved and safe, I need to be good. Otherwise I will die….because children depend on others for their very life. I carried that belief into adulthood, and it doesn’t work for adults. I should have shed that belief much sooner than I did, but I used addictions to numb me out. It kept me from learning life skills at an appropriate age. So be it … that was my path… that was my real-life nightmare … this obsession with people-pleasing. And it haunts me still at certain times. It paralyzes me.

My nightmare was a short trip back to my core fear of not being lovable. It’s MY FEAR. It has nothing to do with reality. It’s an old shoe that doesn’t fit any more. I try it on for size every now and then because it’s comfortable. Sometimes it’s more comfortable than putting my real self out there and letting the chips fall where they may. It’s often more comfortable than developing my own talents and gifts and being who God made me to be. But, those shoes are ugly and full of holes, and they hurt me. They sit in a closet in the dark among other old lifeless shoes that are turning into dust among the cobwebs. I don’t need to go back there. There are new shoes to try, and I have to get out there and put them on. Some I will like, and some I won’t. I can try on dancing shoes …  hiking shoes … comfortable shoes .. running shoes … sexy shoes .. and shoes that I’ve never even seen before that nobody else wants. They are just shoes. Who cares if anybody else likes them? They are my damn feet … and my damn walk! If you don’t like my shoes, go get your own! :)

 

Beets: Blood Pressure Tonic … and an Aphrodisiac

IMG_7665

My second husband went to see a Naturopath at one point in his journey, and the naturopath told him to eat beets. He came home and told me that, and I had no idea what to do with a beet. I remembered eating those canned pickled beets as a kid, and I knew I wasn’t interested in eating that. He said she told him to boil them, slice them and toss them with olive oil, tarragon, sea salt, cracked pepper and balsamic vinegar. So I went out and bought beets and prepared them. I was surprised at how much I liked them. It became a staple salad in our household, and I still make it all the time.

Beets have lots of health benefits. Anything in nature with that deep purple color has got to be loaded with all kinds of vitamins. A quick search on the internet says that beets help prevent heart disease, birth defects and colon cancer.I know that beets provide a lot of energy. Runners everywhere are starting to drink beet “shots” before running for an energy boost. They also lower blood pressure, and I’ve read that some people have lowered their blood pressure by drinking a small glass of beet juice everyday. I love the taste of it in a juice. Remember that beets are the source of much of the table sugar in this country, so they are sweet. I roast them in the oven with olive and salt and pepper, and their sugars caramelize. They melt in your mouth they are so sweet. I get addicted to them when I cook them that way. My sister-in-law said she made a brownie recipe with beets this week. She didn’t like them, but the rest of her clan said they did.

My favorite beet salad

My favorite beet salad

An interesting fact about beets is that ancient cultures considered beets an aphrodisiac. One article I found called beets the Viagra of vegetables. The attached newsletter from Hallelujah Acres Health News says that an old abandoned brothel had a beet painted on the wall. Beets contain boron which is responsible for increasing the level of sex hormones in men and women. We all know testosterone is the key hormone for men’s sexual potency, and, as men age their testosterone levels drop. The answer? Eat more beets! Research shows that boron can increase levels by up to 50%. For women, beets help us metabolize and use estrogen which we all know decreases as we age. Estrogen is what keeps us from having all of those nasty menopause symptoms that can lower sex drive or desire. And, better estrogen use means less bone loss, too. Since beets lower blood pressure, I wonder if that may be one of the reasons beets are good for the sex life, especially for men. Isn’t high blood pressure a problem for men in sexual performance? Or is that just the medicines that work on it? I would think it would work the same for women. Virility is all about great blood flow. Whatever the reason, beets are a great natural food that seems to help us stay active in the bedroom!

I love to make a juice of beets and carrots. The first time I drank beet juice, I was a skeptic about juicing in general. It seemed like some kind of fad, and I wasn’t interested in spending all of that money doing it. But, I tried some beet and carrot juice, and my energy level went up exponentially and stayed that way all day. They also help with depression. I love them roasted with other root vegetables, and I love that balsamic vinegar and olive oil salad. I keep that cold in the refrigerator and snack on it whenever I want something sweet. I’m not a big fan of salads, but I do like that one. I also like them boiled with salt and pepper as a side dish. I’ve never tried Borscht, but I’ve always wanted to. It’s so pretty with that deep purple color.

Tomorrow I’m headed to the Farmer’s Market again. Last week, I got a big basket of the prettiest little beets you ever saw. I boiled them and sliced some to put in a salad today and used the rest for my usual refrigerator stash. They are easy to prepare. I boil them with the skin on. When they cool, the skin and tops just peel right off. You can also eat beet greens, and they are really healthy, too. But, I have to confess I rarely eat those. I prefer other greens like kale. I think I’ll get some more beets tomorrow for juicing. It might be a good time to boost my energy since I’ve cut out the coffee. I’m running the Crescent City Classic next weekend, so I might have to try out that sports “shot” idea. And, with all that beet juice flowing through my veins, who knows what kind of trouble I can get into? :)

If you are interested in trying beets, here are some recipes.

 

The Hammer … the Irresistable Kiss …. of Caffeine

 

img_2576

So, it’s been 3 weeks since my last taste of coffee. It actually may have been 4. I’m losing count mainly because my mind gets all loosey goosey without the polarizing power of my favorite drug. I had already been minimizing my coffee intake due to its effect on my anxiety levels. I know that sugar and caffeine are horrible for anxiety, and I LOVE them both. But, 3-4 weeks ago on a Sunday night, I had enough. I woke up in the middle of the night in horrible anxiety, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I actually took the day off Monday it was so bad. I vowed to stop doing this to myself. So, I cut out coffee, sugar and started a daily yoga practice complete with deep breathing.

I’ve had a great stretch of anxiety-free days. They’ve been mellower than normal days – days that float by without the ups and downs of the coffee trip. I struggle with wanting to “ramp up” my energy. I was raised on coffee. I drank coffee before the rest of my siblings ever started it, and my sister still doesn’t drink it. I loved the ritual, and I loved the way it picked up my energy and focus. I loved the hit of coffee as it slammed into my central nervous system, especially the first time in the mornings. For a long time, coffee was definitely my drug of choice. I can’t even imagine how much coffee I’ve consumed in my life. I was a supervisor at a Starbucks in Valparaiso IN for a short stint. We drank coffee, frappucinos and lattes all day long and into the night. It was free while you were on shift, and we experimented with all of kinds of mixtures and recipes. Even then, I could go home and go straight to sleep. In fact, sometimes coffee would put me to sleep. I’d drink a cup and get very, very sleepy. It seemed it had loss its effect on me. My email was coffeefreak@hotmail.com. I loved … loved … loved … the flavor … the intensity … the richness … the boldness … the beautiful sultry kiss … of those dark-roasted coffee beans.

Toward the end of my second marriage, I started going through peri-menopause, and my stress level sky-rocketed due to my troubled marriage. I began to struggle with tolerating caffeine. My anxiety was so high that I had to start paying attention to ALL of the factors that were amplifying it. I also think my body quit processing caffeine the way it did before. My acupuncturist tells me that because coffee is so processed, it hits the nervous system with a hammer. Tea has a softer lift because it is minimally processed. Maybe we are born with a certain number of cups of coffee allotted to us, and I had reached that number. Maybe my adrenal glands had reached their limit, and they couldn’t tolerate the hammer the way they used to. I don’t know the reason. I just know that I’ve had a love-hate relationship with coffee ever since then.

So, the last few weeks, I’ve been drinking chai tea. I’ve sipped on green tea. I’ve gotten re-acquainted with my favorite coffee substitute, Teeccino. The tea gently lifts my energy in the mornings. I haven’t needed the hit of coffee so much since I’ve been practicing yoga first thing. The stretching, twisting, opening of my body and deep breaths of new oxygen lift my energy naturally. So, the tea has been enough to wake me up for work. I’ve become very cognizant of my natural energy level. It’s not nearly as high as I would like it to be, but it is steady. I’m sleeping much better, and I’ve had NO anxiety except for a tiny bit yesterday morning after eating a brownie the day before. I don’t know if they were related, but, with the knowledge that I have about sugar, I’m sure it was the culprit. Luckily, it was mild enough that my yogic breathing stopped it in its tracks. And, I haven’t had a desire for coffee. That last incident with the anxiety scared me. I don’t want to live like that anymore.

This morning I thought I might try to go without caffeine. Yesterday, I only drank it in the morning, and I slept so good last night. In fact, I fell asleep yesterday evening when Lisa was pampering me for my monthly facial. I stayed up too late two nights in a row, and I was a bit tired, so my body slept like it should. I did my yoga practice at 4:45 AM and fixed a cup of Teeccino. If you are not familiar with Teeccino, you should check it out. It’s an herbal coffee with a flavor similar to coffee without the acidity. It is made with roasted nuts, fruits and grains. It’s delicious with almond milk and stevia. It also raises my energy level naturally. I took Ashok for a walk and made a smoothie. I was doing okay until the headache started. Along with the headache, I got a little twitch in my brain that it needed something. I recognized the hunger. That kiss of caffeine was starting to call me ever so enticingly. So, I made some chai tea to perk me up. It had been at least 18 hours since my last caffeine hit, so it felt kind of amazing going down. Why is the kiss of caffeine so sweet? Mmmmmmm … Happy Friday, y’all!

Want a Vibrant Vagina? Have one “on me” :)

10169242_10152279188282770_7222825769626225002_n

NOTE: I really do want you to vote for me… If you don’t want to read this whole blog, please go straight to this link and place your vote for Midlife Moments… who cares why? Just do it!

I received an email the other day from Replens that I’d been entered in their Vibrant Voice blogging contest. Replens is a vaginal moisturizer targeted to us gals who have passed the point of no return on our reproductive cycles. I guess the old girl tends to get a little drier when the hormones stop surging through our bodies in full force. From what I gather, Replens is not really a lubricant for extra-curricular activities but a full-time moisturizer that provides relief anytime.

I started this blog when I turned 50, and my goal was to talk about subjects that I think are really important, but that you don’t hear discussed in most polite company. I don’t actually like polite company. I like people that talk about real things and experience life to its fullest, so I also wanted to find those people hiding out across the world that WANT to talk about these things. And I have found many of them. In fact, I think there’s a few people who have discovered they like to talk about this stuff, and they didn’t even know they did. So, I cover topics like addiction recovery, midlife dating, sex, menopause, divorce and codependency. I also talk about a lot of other fun stuff, too, just to lighten things up, but I really enjoy opening up topics that are taboo.

Dr. Christine Northrup.. Photo Courtesty of her Facebook page

Dr. Christine Northrup.. Photo Courtesty of her Facebook page

I was always sort of fascinated by menopause. I was terrified it too. It was shrouded in secrecy as if women dried up and were no longer useful or beautiful after it passed. I read somewhere that it is a life stage that is like the desert. Things dry up, and there’ s a different kind of rugged beauty to a woman in this stage of life. There’s more need for moisturizers and water. I’m heavily invested in the stuff now. I used to get by with cheap moisturizers, but now I spend more money on keeping my skin youthful and soft. I tried Botox once or twice, but it’s not for me…. at least not yet. It’s costly, and I just really want to keep my skin healthy and glowing. I see older women with bright skin and bright eyes, and they are stunningly beautiful. It’s as if their features fade into the background, and their wisdom and soul take center stage. What’s not to love about that?

The first time I started experiencing peri-menopausal symptoms, I actually felt a little excited. I remember researching it and feeling like I’d been admitted to a club that none of my friends had joined yet. It was fascinating to read about the changes that were going to happen in my body, and it was really interesting to read about how women tend to “take off” during menopause. No longer are we drenched in the baby-making hormones that drive us to focus on home and family. We become more like men in our focus and drive, and many women rock careers after they pass through “the change.” I felt really hopeful this would be the best time of my life… if I could manage the hot flashes.

Yogi Patricia Walden.. Photo Courtesy of her Facebook Page

Yogi Patricia Walden.. Photo Courtesy of her Facebook Page

The books I devoured were Dr. Christine Northrup’s Wisdom of Menopause and yoga teacher Patricia Walden’s The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health. I consider both of these women ageless and fabulously beautiful. I grappled with my passage into my Crone Age. Ancient societies used to celebrate three stages of a woman’s life – Maiden, Mother and Crone. The Crone is the voice of wisdom, and it is presumed to be a time of sharing knowledge gained over a lifetime. I also grappled with the loss of my youth. In this day and age, we are so lucky that we can feel youthful into our 50s. In many times before us, women didn’t even live past menopause due to the hardships of childbirth and the rigors of survival. I truly felt the passage into this age right about the time I turned 50, but, by the time I got there, I found a new acceptance and an excitement about where I was heading.

Because I got so much from the writing of these woman that passed this way before me, and they were so encouraging, I wanted to write about it, too. What if I encouraged some woman who was struggling with the loss of her youth and baby-making phase? What if something I wrote brought a glimmer of hope that this age, too, can be exciting for very different reasons? I believe that is the voice of my Crone speaking, encouraging me to try something new and risky and exciting when some of society thinks I should be quieting down and accepting the downshift.

So, today I got an email informing me that I was in the top ten bloggers in the Vibrant Voice contest! I now have 250 Replens samples available to give away to my readers. They didn’t ask me to blog about it, but how could I not? My 15 minutes of fame could be due to my candor about menopause and my journey into acceptance. It worked for Dr. Christine Northrup and Patricia Walden! That’s how I want to live anyway. So, if you want a sample of Replens “on me”, click on this link, and they’ll send it to you. I could have a Vibrant Voice Blog Award, and you could have a Vibrant… Vagina! And, please go vote for me in this contest!!! I’d love to win it! You can find the voting page here. Go read those other bloggers, too, that are brave enough to write about this change of life! But… don’t vote for them… vote for me! :)

It’s My Job to Make Me Happy… Not Yours … or His

IMG_5535

“Stop giving someone the job of making you happy.”

…stolen from a friend of a friend of a friend’s status on Facebook.

One of the many things I nagged my second husband about was the fact that after we married, he never brought me flowers anymore. When we were dating, he always brought me flowers. He knew the florist down the street from my house in St. Joseph, MI, by name. He said she commented to him one day that someone was a very lucky woman. He replied, “You don’t know my sweetie.” He was so taken with me when we were dating that it was not uncommon for me to get flowers on every date. One time he brought me 4 yellow roses – my favorite, and he knew it. He explained that this was our fourth date, and he was counting. I’d never had a man treat me like this before. After we married, the flowers stopped. The adoration of me stopped. His happiness with me stopped. There were lots of reasons for this, but I focused on the fact that he never brought me flowers anymore. He heard it many times.

When I got into recovery for codependency, I realized – because they told me – that I had to focus on making myself happy. Those programs are not about the other people in your life that cause all kinds of chaos… they are about me and for me. I finally told myself that if I wanted flowers, I should give them to myself. When I ran that logic through, I realized it wasn’t the flowers that I wanted at all. When I finally learned how to make myself happy, I started to realize that even if he started bringing me flowers everyday, it would not make me happy. What I wanted was to live in a sane environment. I wanted to be loved the way I was in the beginning… or even close. I wanted all of the things that those flowers represented to me. I finally relinquished the desire for him to make me happy by giving me flowers because I realized that he wasn’t capable of delivering the things behind those lovely fragile creations. And, without that, the flowers were lifeless.

That’s the problem with codependency. We think that if someone changes how they behave or how they treat us, we will be happy. And, yet, we are denying the reality that this is who they are. Yes, if they are using substances, they can quit. Even if they quit, there is no guarantee that loving treatment will be there. I do think that other people, places or things can contribute to my unhappiness. They can make it more difficult to focus on my own needs. But, only I can make myself happy. Only I can surround myself with things that contribute to my happiness. So, if I’m with someone that is taking away from my happiness, the only real answer I have is to do what I need to to minimize the impact they have. Sometimes that may include leaving. Other times it may just mean setting boundaries and focusing on my own behavior and needs. He’s spending all of our money, and I want to have less fear around money. I need to come up with a way to protect my interests in that area. I cannot force him to change. Nagging about money is ridiculous. It’s a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I’ve often said that I made myself dependent on undependable people and then got mad when they were undependable. Whose fault is that? That’s my mess to clean up.

I so often focused on the ONLY thing that I couldn’t change and that was another person. Being single has given me a great gift in that I realize how to make myself happy. I no longer have a scapegoat living in my house. If I want flowers … or love … I have to find a way to get them with people who can … or will …. give them. If I feel lonely, I can’t nag my partner about spending more time with me. I have to open up options for me to interact with other people or to get spiritually connected. It has helped me become much more self-sufficient… and .. in turn … I’m happier. It’s even changed my perspective on what a partner might bring to my life. I now am only looking for companionship and love. I know that these things can only be freely given. I also know that they can be taken away, and I accept that risk. Even thought it hurts when somebody leaves, I can still accept their decision because I know I can’t force it through manipulation or guilt. I hope in the future I can give a partner the freedom to be who they are and not be so dependent on them to meet my needs or make me happy. Yes, it would be nice to have someone to take the garbage out… but it’s not really the garbage that’s the issue. The underlying need of being loved and cared for is what’s at stake. Along the way, I’ve learned how to love and care for myself, so there’s not such a desperate need for someone else to provide those very important human needs. And, when it’s a want … and not a need … I can more easily consider it a beautiful gift.

The Crown Jewels of Spring…. Strawberries, Greens and Farmers

IMG_7670

This morning I made my way downtown to the Red Stick Farmer’s Market. I’ve been meaning to get down there, but I’ve been busy every Saturday morning. This week, I promised myself I’d go. So I put on my favorite new Athleta dress with a light sweater and sandals in the hopes that it would warm up before I got there. The first thing I saw was a tent full of Louisiana strawberries from Ponchatoula. I made a mental note to come back and get some, and I walked through the market first to get an overall picture of what was there.

I didn’t make it too far before an elderly gentlemen held out a spoon for me and said, “Look, I made this just for you.” I was astounded. How did he know I was even coming? He gave me a spoonful of toasted pecans, and his son said he made some white chocolate pecans for me, too. It seems it was a family affair to greet me at the market, so I bought a bag of the toasted pecans for my oatmeal and salads. I’m a sucker for a great line. And I’ll put my money where my heart is.

 

IMG_7662

I ended up getting groceries for the week. I got:

  • Kale
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce and cucumber
  • Beets
  • Whole milk
  • Goat Cheese
  • Shrimp
  • Eggs
  • Shitake Mushrooms
  • Trail Mix
  • Spinach

After I got my veggies, I walked through the inside market and stumbled upon a really hot guy selling pimento cheese. He had all kinds. I chatted him up about his cheese-making, tasted every one of his samples and ended up buying a white cheddar mix with almonds in it. I grabbed his card just in case I might need to look him up later. I mean... if I like the cheese, I’ll need to find him again! I passed a table that looked familiar from last year’s single visit to the market. A woman stood by the table last year, but I recognized the aluminum foil packaging on the product. The male vendor confirmed my suspicions when he said they were tea cakes… and I remembered the sweet potato tea cake I had last year that about knocked my socks off. He tried to sell me three for a better price, but a saner mind prevailed and I got one to settle in with this afternoon with a cup of chai laced with whole milk and Chutz’s Cane Syrup that I got at the syrup-making last December.

IMG_7672

 

While I was driving home, I started thinking about what I was going to do with all of this stuff. I imagined making fresh egg omelets with goat cheese, kale and mushrooms. I could have strawberry and spinach salads topped with fried goat cheese rolled in pecans and roasted beets. I can make grilled pimento cheese sandwiches with a lettuce, cucumber and strawberry side salad. Or, how about I have blackened shrimp with sauteed kale and marinated mushrooms? I couldn’t decide what would be best … first… so I made a pimento cheese and cucumber sandwich on some of the sunflower bread I bought in Bay St. Louis last weekend. It’s chilly out today, so I think this afternoon I’ll have my sweet potato tea cake and chai for an afternoon snack. Then, for dinner, I’ll blacken some of that shrimp with some roasted beets and marinated mushrooms. I’ll make a dessert of some strawberries, whole milk and goat cheese with toasted pecans drizzled with cane syrup. I can hardly wait.

 

The thing I love at the Farmer’s Market is the LACK of variety. There is plenty to choose from, but it’s the locally seasonal stuff. I hate that we’ve gotten away from seasonal eating. When I saw the strawberries, I was mentally catapulted back to my childhood and PawPaw’s strawberry garden. Strawberries were the real indicator that the growing season had begun, and we’d have strawberries any kind of way you can imagine. We’d be sick of them by the end of the season, but Momma always said we’d miss them when we didn’t have them. And, she’s right. I’ve picked strawberries at farms in every state I’ve lived in the hopes of feeling the bounty of the fruity red berry once again, but it’s a rare dietary jewel now. How I would love to eat so many in so many different ways that I’d be sick of them again. How I’d love to watch the farmer cover his berry plants with straw and get out and pick them day after day until they are exhausted. But for now, I’ll settle for talking to the farmer. I passed by the Ponchatoula Strawberry booth in favor of a booth down the way. A couple sat next to a table half full of berries. I asked her where they came from. “From my garden,” she answered. “Okay… I’ll take two,” I answered, and my money touched the very hands that propagated and picked the spring jewels.

The one thing I lacked from my journey was fresh flowers. They had a few, but I guess cut flowers are not really here yet. In Memphis, I had a favorite booth where I purchased flowers at the Farmer’s Market. Today, I couldn’t find what I wanted. So, all I need is some flowers to go with my elegant, lovely menu this week. Babycakes, if you’ll bring the flowers, I’ll make you lunch….. Just sayin’.

Unintentional Detox: Cleaning it Up

10639_10151613114357770_505600312_n

I was scheduled for a run last night, and I have plans tonight, so I HAD to make it happen. My energy was so low yesterday that I felt like I was dragging myself through it. I picked it up a little bit in the last half, but I was still dragging my ass. While I was running, I was trying to figure out why my energy was so low – and my mood. I knew I had some relational stuff going on, but it felt like there was something else more physical going on, too. Then I realized that I had stopped eating sugar for the last 4 days. I had gradually been getting back on the sugar bandwagon, and, by the end of last weekend, I was craving fruits and veggies and clean food. Since Sunday night, that’s all I’ve eaten. I was at least partly experiencing sugar withdrawals.

When I had a bad anxiety episode about 3 weeks ago, I promised myself I would do better. I cut out coffee – again – and I’ve been without it ever since. That withdrawal didn’t impact me much since I’d only been drinking a cup a day anyway. It always ramps up my anxiety no matter how much I drink, so it really helped to get it out of my system. So far, I’ve been almost anxiety-free for 3 weeks. The same day I committed to a daily practice of yoga for at least a month to see what happens. If I said forever, it would be too overwhelming, but I felt like I could commit for a month. It wasn’t but a day or two before I started loving it so much that rolling out my mat in the mornings was a treat rather than a goal. I give myself the freedom to do pranayama (breathwork), meditate or do an asana practice (the postures we associate with yoga) depending on what I feel I need. I follow my inner guidance, and it feels so yummy! I’ve also had a recent aversion to eating meat. I’m not much a meat-eater anyway, but I’ve really NOT been wanting it lately. So, I’ve been eating a lot of plant protein and salmon.

I woke up this morning after my run last night, and I’ve lost 4 pounds in the last 4 days. I haven’t been hungry either. Yesterday’s lethargy seems to have disappeared, and I’m feeling better than I’ve felt in awhile physically. I practiced my yoga this morning – mostly pranayama today – and took the dog for a walk. I’m going to make a blackberry smoothie with some matcha in a few minutes for breakfast. I booked a session with a Reiki practitioner tonight, and I’m looking forward to a different style of energy work. I have not been able to find an acupuncturist here that I click with, and my relationship with my practitioner is very important to me. This Reiki practitioner is also one of my yoga teachers, and I feel really comfortable with her. Next week, I have a facial booked with my favorite aesthetician! There’s something about self-care that makes me want to keep doing it. It’s like a waterfall effect. Speaking of waterfalls, maybe I’d like to go find one of those soon, too!

Things have really ramped up at work, and I’m managing 3 projects right now – all of which come to a head by June 30. Dealing with a lot of people is typically very stressful for me because of my people-pleasing tendencies, but I’ve felt very grounded. I feel like I’m doing some good work and making some good decisions, and I attribute all of that to being present and feeling well. I even noticed that my eyesight seems a little better. I had been having trouble reading at night, but last night the same book that blurred before my eyes a few nights ago was clear as a bell. Losing a little weight makes me feel less bloated, and my joints and muscles are feeling really strong and stable. I’m feeling the benefits of all the good stuff I’m doing.

In 2000 when I first started practicing yoga, I remember seeing a tape on Yoga for Weight Loss. In my calories in/calories out mindset I couldn’t really understand how yoga could burn that many calories to help with weight loss. What I learned is that yoga works on the motivators that seek a healthy lifestyle. If weight loss is needed, the body will seek out the behaviors that create it. Yoga is a moving meditation, and when I am focused on where to put my feet, wrapping my quadriceps around my thigh, tucking my pelvis and opening my heart there is no room for worrying about my mostly imaginary problems. When I don’t obsess about those, I generally don’t need to self-medicate. The more grounded I get through practice, the more I listen to my body. It’s when I self-medicate that I lose touch with my body. I get numb to the subtle messages that tell me I should eat less sugar and more nutrients. So, that’s how yoga helps weight loss at least for me. It tunes me in to what I need and ramps up my desire for feeling better. I’m sure at some point I’ll self-medicate with coffee or sugar or a high-fat meal over something, but for right now, I think I’ll grab my smoothie and bask in this sweet music playing on Pandora. Have a great day, y’all! It’s Friday!

 

 

The Only Way Out is Through

 

The sun escaping the fog

My heart aches. It’s not a giant heartache, but it’s a heart ache nonetheless. I’m transitioning through a life change, and I don’t like it, but it’s necessary. I have the consolation that I’ve been here many times before – sometimes in a lighter way, sometimes in a much heavier way. I know that the only way out is through. A friend of mine told me to keep busy. While appreciate the sentiment, I’ve learned that keeping busy is not healthy for me. In fact, the quickest most efficient route through this is right through the heart of it.

I have a meditation book by Rolf Gates. It’s called Meditations from the Mat, and, every time I pick up my yoga practice, I also pick up this book. He’s also in recovery, so our paths are similar. The readings aren’t dated, so I usually pick it up and trust God to show me exactly what I need to hear. This morning’s reading was about taking care of ourselves. He was in the military, and he was an alcoholic. He didn’t take care of his body or his spirit, but he eventually realized that the people that were the happiest were the ones that took care of themselves and their lives. It was an outward manifestation of their love for themselves.

If someone I love is hurting, I treat them with gentleness. I give them space, and I encourage them to feel their feelings. It would stand to reason that I would do that for myself if I truly loved myself. For so long, that’s not what I did. If I was hurting, I’d get busy medicating. I’d eat ice cream by the gallons. When I was young, I’d drink to the point of blacking out. I’d jump headlong into some chaotic busy situation in order to distract myself. This stuff gives my body more stress instead of less. It gives me more that I have to handle than what I’m going through. And, I may forget the hurt while I’m doing it, but, in the middle of the night when my mind is quiet, I’ll jolt awake with pain and disturb my sleep. I’ll get a knot in my stomach from trying to hold it in. I’ll get a headache from holding back the tears. I get irritable because what I really want to do is to curl up in somebody’s lap and cry, but I’m treating myself like a machine. My lack of kind attention to myself makes me mad… and in turn I get mad at everything else. It’s called high alert.

I believe that God crafted me before birth perfectly for my journey. He did NOT craft me and then say, “Listen, I’m going to give you these very powerful emotions, but I don’t want you to use them. I want you to bury them and ignore them because they serve no purpose. Just keep busy.” Women and men experience emotion very differently, although we all have them. They are drivers for women. I feel them as powerful forces that surge through my body enlivening all of my cells and organs in energy. In grief, they produce a low energy that I experience as fatigue. In anger, I experience high energy that allows to me to flee or fight. I shut them down for so long, and I was not able to ride them through to see where they would bring me. The first few times I let myself ride a particularly powerful emotion was scary. It was like an out-of-control roller coaster ride that I was afraid would last forever. My guides told me that it would move through me and stop at some point. It did. And, after it was gone, I felt cleaner and healthier than I’d ever felt. I felt alive. I felt enormous freedom with nothing bottled up inside.

We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I am a spiritual being having a human experience. I have this body, and it comes with some emotions that tell me when it’s time to stop something because it hurts. They tell me when to keep doing something because it brings me joy. They tell me who to have in my life and who to kick out. I can’t tell you how many times my gut has told me that someone is not good for me, and I chose to ignore it because the “facts” didn’t point to that. Somewhere down the line, the “facts” fell apart, and I discovered my gut knew the truth from the very beginning. For efficiency’s sake, if I’d listened to my gut, I’d have saved myself a lot of pain and misery. My body is the earthly home of my spirit. Like Rolf discovered, if I really care about myself, I’ll treat my body …. and my emotions … with the same tenderness that I’d give a hurting friend or animal. I know that this low energy of grief over a loss will move through me in time. I’ll give myself time without putting too many expectations on myself. I’ll remind myself that this will end, and it will not kill me. And I’ll wisely tell myself that the only way out is through.

Sinking into Sensual Pleasures

IMG_7654

Lately I’ve been in a very reflective inward mood. I’ve started a daily yoga practice again after many years, and I’ve been doing it for almost 3 weeks now. I can attribute this change of focus to that alone. But, honestly, I’ve been drifting here for awhile. I’m not sure why in the spring this is happening, but I’m going to go with it. Frankly, I love these periods of time when I want to slow WAAAAAAAYYYYY down and just be. A part of me questions whether I might be a bit depressed, but I don’t think so. I just think that when I slow down it is such a contradiction to my regular pace that it feels a little off.

I have discovered avocados. My friends JoAnn and Jessica eat them all the time, and they both talk about how nutritious they are. For a long time, I’ve tried to incorporate them into my diet but they rot before I figure out how to use them. I’m not a huge salad person, and I was sort of hung up on eating them on salads. I finally realized I could use them on omelets as a topper, and I’ve been eating them that way. This morning I threw a half one into a blackberry yogurt smoothie along with some cinnamon, cocoa and almond milk. It was divine. Avocados are so creamy. They are like ice cream without the freeze, and I adore ice cream. The other day I spread a half avocado on bread instead of mayonnaise and topped it with salmon. It was delicious that way, too, and I felt really healthy using such a healthy oil. I was reading about the health benefits last night, and they are just loaded with good stuff. I’ve noticed that it keeps my hunger and cravings at bay. Even though they are higher in calories than other fruit, it keeps me from eating other stuff that is REALLY high in calories. They are still a relatively low-calorie food. Every time I eat one, I feel so good because of the texture of the fruit on my tongue, the comfort of knowing that I’m doing something really good for my body, and the lovely soft green color of the avocado itself. I love the silkiness of slicing through it and spooning it out. It feels decadent.

IMG_7652

I used to think of sensuality as sex. I don’t know why. Somehow that was my definition of it. But, sensuality is so much more than that. It’s allowing myself to sink into the feelings that ride all of my senses. Touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing are those pathways that bring me to the very essence of being human and being in this world. Having a daily practice of yoga helps keep me grounded in my body, and, when I am grounded there, I can be more in touch with my own sensuality. Obviously, sex bundles a whole bunch of these senses together, but there are other ways to be totally sensual.

IMG_7650

Every morning for the past three weeks, I’ve awakened and gone immediately to my mat. I put it under the chair in my living room so it’s right there. I light two candles. I turn on a small lamp and let the rest of the room be dark. I put on Pandora on the New Age station, and I practice. I may only practice 20-30 minutes, but in that space I breathe deeply, I let myself feel every little tight spot in my body, and I open where my body tells me it needs to open. The scent of the candle burning, the gentle, sweet music, and the feeling of my breath moving in my body wakes me to myself. By the time I am done, I am so invigorated that I need very little caffeine – thus I’ve been without coffee – and I am relaxed. This morning I added a few drops of the essential oil mix Clarity to wake me up and get me focused. It’s licorice, minty aroma and the tingly feeling on my skin gave me a big grand hug of awareness.

IMG_7651

I decided to wear purple with a yellow tank just to get a kiss of springtime. I have this lovely little peace sign scarf that sort of pseudo-matches – it really doesn’t match – and I put it on. I’m in love with all of the azaleas here in bloom, and the sun shining through my blinds in the morning. I picked up an old beloved book on Yoga and Depression, and I read for awhile. It was comforting to see the highlights I had made so many years ago when I first picked it up, and I was bound in spiritless depression. I no longer related to the passages, and they seemed to be the markings from another woman. I felt grateful for my journey out of depression, and I was reminded how powerful my yoga practice was in elevating me from that pit. I feel in touch with my journey and the day and my soul. It’s such a comfortable place to be.