Living: The Explosive Power of Words

The word Enjoy in my dining room for good times, good food and good memories..Enjoy
My Bedroom Mantra…a dual meaning
My favorite words…in my yoga space in my front room. These are the words I sink into when the weight of the world just seems too much to bear.

Words move me. They always have. Growing up, I was a rock n’ roll fan. My first husband introduced me to country music. When I started hearing the words and stories in that genre, I was totally hooked. Give me a country song, and my whole emotional world starts moving in whatever direction a song leads me. Country music just has a way of speaking to me at a soul level. I married two men that were experts in painting pictures with words, a salesman and a sports columnist. I’m just a sucker for a man that has a way with words. But, I have learned that words are just words. Its the meaning behind them that makes all the difference. Words can be used to love, to support, to manipulate, abuse and control others. I know because I’ve used them for the right and the wrong reasons myself.

Twelve Step groups harness the power of words better than any group I’ve ever seen. The hold of addiction takes place in the brain. The frontal lobe of the brain is our “no, that’s not a good idea” section of the brain. It puts on the brakes. The pleasure center of the brain will keeping seeking the rush from a cocktail of hormones until we die. That’s a simplified description, but it gets the point across. That’s why addicts can’t just think their way out or decide to stop using. Their brain is messed up. The frontal lobe is not fully developed until we are about 21. Most addicts become addicted before that age because there is nothing in their brain to remind them of the car they wrecked last week or the fact that their friends have quit talking to them. So, they keep using. They keep listening to go, go, go and there is no stop. And, if they become addicted, they never really use the decision-making functions that the frontal lobe is designed to enable. The brain is only as good as what we put into it. That’s why you hear that if people start using drugs or alcohol at a young age, they never fully develop past that point until they get sober. They just don’t learn how to make decisions because they don’t practice it. It’s a simplistic explanation, but there is some truth in it.

My Kitchen Words

So, why would a simple phrase such as “Easy Does It” or “One Day at a Time” stop or at least slow that runaway train of addiction? In Ed Psych, I learned that people learn by either laying down new pathways in the brain to categorize incoming information or by running the new information through current pathways and extending them. Words are extremely powerful conductors of information. I believe that the meditation books, open sharing in meetings and sponsorship by a more experienced individual further harness the power of words to support the new brain structures that are building in sobriety. The more I think in a new way, and the stronger and deeper those pathways become, the more likely I will act on the new information rather than the old.

Religions recommend that followers learn scripture. Quotes are prolific on Facebook. Most couples have “their song”, generally chosen because of the lyrics. People identify with certain quotes because they are powerful, soothing or moving. Ask anybody if they have “words to live by” and most people will tell you something that is their guiding principle. And, of course, words can have a negative impact as well. See a history of Adolph Hitler for more information on that.

I created a dream book at a yoga retreat a couple of years ago. The title was “I’m Done with Hiding.” I have to believe that mantra has put me on my current path because it so perfectly tapped into my need to live more in tune with who I am. My house is decorated in words that are meaningful to me. Words like “dream”, “enjoy”, and “miracle” have meanings to me that reach into the tiny corners of my heart and explode with possibilities. So, I put them on my walls to remind me everyday of those possibilities. Others soothe me. One of my favorites is “Be

This is a bad pic of a shadowbox made by a friend of mine, Cheryl Hudson. I knew I had to have it when I read its inscription, ” Be Silent No More Enchantress Rise Again.”

Gentle with Yourself”. My friends have heard that one a million times. My favorite quote is “So tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?” as spoken by Mary Oliver. It truly came to life for me on my Women’s Questadventure in March in Hawaii. Not coincidentally, that quote is featured in their marketing material. Those words speak to me because they anchored the shift that happened within me on that retreat. Every time I hear those words, I connect with the feeling I had when I overcome a fear of swimming in the ocean and of being face to face with some rather magnificent Manta Rays. It’s not the words. The same word that explodes with meaning for me may mean little to you. The word is the anchor, the symbol or the metaphor for something much, much bigger that lives in your brain and maybe, ultimately, in your heart.

This is by my front doorway…to remind me of His Promise…

I could go on and on and on about words, but I’ll stop now. What are the words you live by? Are they what you want them to be? Anything can be changed within the brain, and, when you change your brain, you can create something different…..

Stitches of Love: The Quilt

The Quilt on my bed

Momma is a quilter. Quilting is not exactly a lost art but it is one that is rarer than it used to be. Quilting is one of those skills that was used for a very functional purpose at one time, but is now used to make beautiful pieces of art. For one thing, it takes a long time to make a quilt. Sure, you can make a machine-stitched quilt, and it will save time. But, the hand quilted quilt takes a very, very long time.

Momma…busy quilting my quilt
Me….wrapped up in love.

Momma made quilts for her Grandchildren, and has started making them for her own children as they reach the milestone birthday of 50. I got mine last year. She didn’t have it ready on my birthday, so she quilted a matching pillow for my birthday present.

Daddy called one day last May. He said, “Well, guess what happened at 5:07 PM today?” I knew they didn’t have another baby. I had no idea. “Momma finished making your quilt! Two and a half years in the making,” he said. Momma was laughing in the background. I had a king-sized bed when she started the quilt. When I moved and got a smaller bed, she had to re-vamp and change the dimensions of the quilt. I’m always the problem child. My sister, Susan, said that every time she would call Momma, she would ask what she was doing. “Quilting Sharon’s damn quilt,” she would say. She’s making a quilt for my sister now. Susan said I’m sure she’s saying the same thing to everybody but me about mine. Well…..maybe. My sister hand-delivered the quilt when she visited last June. She had some precious cargo in that car.

The quilt is made in a pansy pattern. It was made in honor of my Grandma Fair whom I dearly loved. Momma said Grandma had pansies growing in her Louisiana yard every year. In the “not too cold” Louisiana winters, pansies will last a really long time. She was always sad when they wilted and died. I imagine Momma is passing down one of her favorite memories of her childhood to me in her choice of quilt patterns.

The night after I received the quilt, I dreamed about Grandma. I dream about her often. I was trying to pull up some pansies that had these really long roots. Grandma was helping me, but we could never find the end of the roots. We just kept pulling them up and pulling them up, and we were amazed that they never ended. I don’t have to analyze too much to recognize that metaphor. I’m sure it was Grandma’s stamp of approval on my quilt.

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One of the cat “pansies”

Quilts, of course, are made from lots of scraps of fabric. Each quilt is unique, and the fabrics can be chosen to symbolize and memorialize all kinds of things. I love cats, and Momma chose 2 different fabrics with cat images. She chose another fabric with cherries in it which reminds me of when i lived in Southwest Michigan. Momma has used some of the same fabrics throughout her family quilts. My quilt has some of the same fabric that is in my sister’s quilt and in my niece’s quilt. As she makes each of us a unique piece of art, the artist is also stitching the threads of her family together in a family quilt that stretches across generations and throughout the different geographic regions where we live.

The really lovely thing about a quilt is that all of those small pieces of fabric are handstitched and quilted by hand. When we were little, we had quilts that were made by my Great Grandmother. Those quilts were used so much and for so long that the stitching began to come loose, and pieces of the quilt backing would come out. In some places, the fabric tore because it was worn so thin. But, we loved wrapping up in those quilts in the coldest of the “not too cold” Louisiana winters. I don’t imagine I’ll live long enough to see this quilt tatter and shred, but I aim to give it my best shot. I’ll pass it down to one of my nieces, and maybe their babies and grandbabies will love it to death. And, maybe….just maybe….., they’ll be reminded of the three generations of women who are represented in its folds.

Disarming Sadness

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I feel sad today. Sometimes it just feels good to say that and for that to just be okay.

Sad is just one of my many feelings, and I actually feel really blessed that I can just feel it with no judgment. The rest of the world is not always so easy about accepting it. A long time ago, I stopped telling people I was fine when I was feeling something else. In reality, fine is not a feeling anyway. And when I’m sad, I guess it’s “fine” because it’s a perfectly normal human emotion. But, because other people don’t want to see me sad, they often try to advise me on how to make it go away. I know they do it out of kindness or their own discomfort with emotions, so it’s not a bad thing. They mean well.

I struggled with chronic depression for a lot of years, and it’s probably why I self-medicated with alcohol. It’s the chicken and the egg thing. Which came first? The first great advice I got from anyone on my depression came from a therapist I had in Michigan. He told me that when I am depressed, I should just accept that I am down. Perhaps there’s a perfectly good reason why I feel down. He asked me what happens when I try to fight it and change the way I feel. “I feel worse,” I said. “I get sadder.” The other thing he told me to do was to get 20 minutes of exercise. So, I had a two step plan:

1. Accept that I’m down.
2. Get 20 minutes of exercise.

I loved it! No more judgment because I feel sad. I no longer had to think about all the other people who had it worse than me. That always made me feel worse anyway because it just gave me more unfixable, depressing world problems to worry about. I don’t even need to figure out why I feel down. I can think about if I want to, but its not part of the two step plan. I could let go of trying to think of all the great things I have in my life which make it unthinkable that I would feel down. That just made me feel guilty (again a depressing feeling) because I was not grateful enough for the joys in my life. It was just a downward spiral, and I now had a choice to not go there. It was so freeing!

I don’t suffer chronic depression anymore because I gave myself over to a process of personal and spiritual growth that cleared out a lot of baggage from my past. I personally feel that was a big part of my depression. However, I also believe that depression runs in my family. I believe there is a genetic disposition to it. I think that depression is a complicated, unique illness that has a variety of causes and cures, so I don’t try to advise people about how to fix it. I only know my two step process that works for me.

Sadness is not the same as depression. And, today, I just feel a bit sad. And, I really believe that feeling my feelings and accepting them allows them to pass. If I fight them or stuff them or rationalize them, I just go into a downward spiral. So, today, I took a long nap, took a walk and just took care of my own personal needs. I hope that I will feel better tomorrow or later today. If I don’t, well that’s okay, too. I have a plan.

Girl Talk: Loving My Skin

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I have spent a great deal of my life worrying about, fixing and spending money on my hair. And, if you’ve seen pictures of my hair, you know it probably needs controlling. It can be a wild, unruly curly mess. But, hair is only on my head for a short time. It grows and gets cut. And, it’s actually dead by the time it is visible. My skin is where I really should be paying my attention. Since I’ve turned 50 that has become more and more evident.

Our skin is the largest organ on our body. It is alive and responding to our diet and our health habits. Eat junk food-your skin tells on you. Don’t drink enough water – your skin will look dull and parched. Our skin is our most evident boundary between us and the rest of the world. It is a visual and physical boundary that tells where I end and you begin. That’s why physical abuse is so shocking. It’s such a blatant violation of natural law.

My mother was a big proponent of skin care early on. I am so grateful for that. I started taking care of my skin with Mary Kay products in college. Even in my heaviest drinking days, I would come home and wash my face, apply my creams and lotions and then go to bed. My friends made fun of me. I just somehow knew it was important. I wish I’d realized that the drinking wasn’t so healthy either!!

With the hormonal changes that come with perimenopause, my skin has been changing at a rapid pace. My lifelong Mary Kay regimen (which did wonders, by the way) has now given way to a pharmaceutical-grade skin care regimen along with regular facials. I see an aesthetician, Teri Lewis, who has worked wonders in repairing my skin and keeping me looking my best. (See my Resource page for Teri’s info.)

I try to remember that my skin is a reflection of my health. If I don’t drink enough water, all that money that I spend on my skin care is a waste. It keeps me drinking. I try to snack on loads of fruits and vegetables because they keep my skin colorful and vibrant. One of my favorite snacks is baked sweet potato and almond butter. It’s filling and really comforting. But, it’s also loaded with good-for-me vitamins. See this article from the WeMD website on taking care of your skin.

Here is a list of things I do that impact my skin health:

  • Eat loads of fruits and veggies
  • Drink lots of water
  • Regular massage – for circulation and stress reduction
  • Acupuncture – for stress reduction and general health
  • Regular exercise
  • Skin care
  • Militant sleep schedule
  • Yoga and meditation- for stress relief
  • My commitment to taking care of my skin has paid off. I sunbathed early in my life, and I smoked. I have some skin damage from that, but my zealous skin care focus has helped overcome some of the damage. I have a Match.com profile, and I was shocked one day to realize that half of my favorite pictures on my profile are me without makeup! All of the pics on this post are without makeup. I hope this inspires you to love your skin.20120902-082043.jpg

Another Voice: Get Strong

Jessica is my personal trainer. I’ve had other trainers, but she is the one I refer to as my trainer. She helped me develop a program that works for me…gentle, effective and doable in my time available. She also aggressively encouraged me to blog. I think you’ll love her writing. She is wise beyond her years and has a positive energy and spirit.

RUNMEM

Weekly Workouts

One main objective of this blog is to include all aspects of my life on the run.   I’d like to do a better job of incorporating the wide variety of workouts that accompany my training outside of the actual time on the road.  Strength training is monstrously important, not just for runners and athletes, but for everyone seeking general healthfulness (and who isn’t).  So I’m hoping (and y’all know how I am about saying things and not following through – like my recap of St. Jude 2012…) to start a weekly installment of strength training workouts to come at ya on Wednesdays.

Each week will feature a different kind of routine – upper body, lower body, endurance, strength, power, plyometrics, core, TRX, etc.  If you have special requests or questions, you should mention that 🙂

This week we’ll start with just the general importance of a strength…

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Living: Building Community

My best pals in Knoxville. I met them working out at the Downtown YMCA before work every day. Kim, Lorna, Karen and me….I was moving to Seattle the day after this was taken.

I’ve had a lot of practice making friends in my lifetime. I’ve lived all over the country – Seattle, Jacksonville, South Texas, Knoxville, the Lake Michigan area, Pennsylvania and Memphis. In each of those places, I’ve had to start from scratch in making friends. It’s not easy to do, and it can be disheartening at times. At all times, I’ve had to face rejection.

The first time I moved away from home was college. I went to Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond LA. I lived in a dorm, so I fairly quickly made acquaintances and had a group to hang with. It doesn’t mean it was easy to make friends, though. My first attempts taught me a lot about friendships. First of all, its a very tricky thing to be a roommate with a best friend. My first college friendship didn’t make it because we had difficulty navigating “living together” issues. And, of course, college friendships are based more on having fun and mutual interests than anything more substantial.   My friend Angel was different. She didn’t even come back to SLU the second semester, but I was in her wedding, and we still remain friends to this day.

After I was married the first time, I moved to Jacksonville FL. The first really good friend I had there was Meagan. We are friends on Facebook now. I met her in the hallway in front of a Manpower office during the lunch hour. We were both just out of college, and we were looking for work. The office was closed for lunch. So, we started talking about how we were hoodwinked into thinking that if we got a college degree we’d have it made as far as gaining employment. We connected over that, and I took my first really big risk in building a friendship. I walked over to her before I left and said, “I think we have some things in common. I’m looking to make friends. Would you like to lay out in the sun or something sometime?” She said she would. We ended up having a great friendship until I moved away, and we slowly drifted apart.

I continued to repeat that pattern whenever I moved to a new place. I was constantly (and still am) on the lookout for people who:

  • Are going through the same life stage I am
  • Have mutual interests
  • Have a similar spiritual belief system
  • Make me laugh
  • Have something that I want – happiness, energy, love, etc.
  • Can teach me something

I read a book early on in my life that taught me a lot about building friendships. It’s called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It’s an old book, but its principles still hold true today. It seems that people love to talk about themselves, and, if you are trying to make friends, help people to do that. It helps that I find people really interesting. I love to have deep conversations and understand what makes them tick. It amazes me how unique we each are. And, yet, there are things that are universal that we can all relate to. Of course, there are people I don’t like and don’t get along with, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fabulous people. They just don’t mesh with me. I learned long ago that I don’t have to be friends with everybody, but I do have to be respectful.

My 50th Birthday Celebration at my friend Michael’s house. Susan, Cynthia, Madelene, Barbara, Scarlet, Elizabeth and Charlotte…holding court, I guess. Awesome women.

I’m pretty transparent, and, if you’ve read my blog, you can see that. I’ve found that people will reciprocate when I take a risk and open myself up to them. It’s a scary thing to do, and I’m always afraid of the judgment that might come into play. At times, I have been judged, and I have been rejected. But, for the most part, the truly wonderful people that I have met can related to whatever I shared, and we bond over that. And, to be honest, if I can’t be myself and transparent with you, I don’t need you in my inner circle. There’s no point in playing a part. I have to be me, and I want you to be you…..warts and all.

The Girls Club in St. Joe MI. We helped each other through some challenging times. Julie, Veronica, Amy, Kathy, Autumn and Joanne. We had sooooo much fun.

Friendships run their course, too, and I’ve had to be willing to let them die their natural death. Some people are friends forever. Others are friends while I’m in a certain location or job. I have some friends that come and go as we navigate life events. There have been a few friendships that I’ve tried to resurrect after they have run their course, but it just doesn’t work. When a friendship is done, it’s done. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love them anymore. It’s just a natural ebb and flow. That’s why its important for me to always be in “building” mode. I’m always interested in getting to know new people. They may be my next best friend.

For my 50th birthday, I asked all of my family and friends to give me something representative of their relationship with me. Some gave me gifts that reminded them of me…artwork, a homemade stone picture frame and a homemade yoga calendar. Some wrote me letters of what I have meant to them over the years. Others drew paintings, and kids drew pictures. One friend whom I met when she helped me through my divorce, prayed for me every day for a year. Several ladies from my Thursday Night Dinners bought me dining room chairs. Another friend, a cook, hosted a formal dinner party for me and 8 of my friends. It was the most fabulous thing I ever did for myself, asking people to show me how I show up in their lives.

Each person I have ever loved has added depth and intimacy and wisdom to my life. Some have brought pain, sadness or conflict. I have learned from them all. Each friendship is as unique as the individual. If I count you among my friends, know that I intentionally set out to get to know you. You are that special! It’s a reflection on you and my great desire to fill my life with wonderful people who inspire me. I work really hard to develop friendships. They give meaning to my life.

Om…Ducky, Ducky…Om

Closer to the time of starting…Love the sky in this one.

The Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis is a Memphis icon. It is the home of the famous Peabody Ducks who spend their days floating in the indoor fountain in the hotel lobby beneath a magnificent floral arrangement. At 5 PM daily, the Duckmaster addresses a crowd of onlookers and escorts the ducks out of the fountain, up the elevator and to their palatial home on the roof of the hotel. Each morning, the Duckmaster reverses the trip and brings the ducks down to their daytime home.

When the sun was still high in the sky…

The story goes that, in the 1930s, the General Manager, Frank Schutt, came home from a hunting trip in Arkansas a little inebriated. He and his buds thought it would be funny to leave some ducks playing in the fountain. The guests found it amusing, so the tradition stuck. Tourists to Memphis consider the Peabody Duck March to be one of the highlights of the city. The first time I went I was astounded at the size of the crowd that gathered for this quite anti-climactic event. You have to experience it to believe it.

Last Friday, the Peabody Ducks had some unusual visitors to the Duck Palace. About 200 yogis practiced yoga on the rooftop of the Peabody at sunset. The practice was a celebration of the new Lululemon store opening in Memphis. Lululemon is big on building community, which is a smart marketing move for any business that sells primarily to females. We are so relationship-driven.

Hannah, the own of Memphis’ Give Yoga studio taught the class and kicked it off a little after 7 PM. I found a spot where I had a good view of the river. It was a beautiful night, and I knew it would be a fantastic sunset. I had a couple of girlfriends that were there, but I’m pretty internally focused when I’m practicing yoga, so I didn’t hang near them.

Yoga is typically practiced by more women than men, but I was surprised by a slightly larger contingent of male practitioners than I usually see. One man I

Me and Shelly

talked to said this was his first time doing yoga. What a great way to begin! As for the women, they all looked fabulous in their Lululemon, Athleta, Prana and stylish yoga wear. It was definitely a yoga fashion parade. I mean…. it IS all about the outfit. That was the first thing my friend Stephanie asked me…”What are you wearing?”….”Lycra of some sort,” I replied.

Hannah is greatly influenced Shiva Rea, a national yoga teacher who created a style of yoga that is more fluid and dancy than the traditional yoga practice. We started with some breathing practices and did some free-form dancing to some great blues being played by a DJ. The sounds of the city including the music from Beale Street competed for our attention. I’ve been to yoga conferences in the Chicago area, and this class reminded me of the classes in those conferences. The class was designed to provide an “experience” as well as a yoga practice. One of my favorite movements was a side to side lunge that was a flowing movement reminiscent of surfing. Since I plan to learn to surf in November, I was really enjoying the experience and imagining the Costa Rican Ocean. Now, I just can’t wait to go and try it on a real surfboard rather than my surfboard yoga mat!

As the sun was setting, we ended the class with a Sea of Oms. Om is the chant that usually ends a yoga practice, and the sound is supposed to symbolize the sharing of the energy that a person produces within his or her practice with the rest of the world. A Sea of Oms is when a group chants the Om sound in a round fashion so it becomes a never ending chant. Its really beautiful, and it really opens your heart. The ending of the practice was really profound with the sun setting over the Mississippi River, the sounds of the city and Beale Street pulsating in the background, and the Sea of Oms pouring off the rooftop. Its one of those moments that I’d like to “take a picture” in my mind and never forget.

Stephanie and Megan

Of course, there were plenty of hugs to go around afterwards and some friendly chatter. I caught up with my friends Shelly and Stephanie and Stephanie’s beautiful daughter, Megan. I hadn’t seen any of them in quite awhile, so it was a nice relaxing chance to catch up and share a few laughs in a great environment. As all the yogis took turns taking the elevator down to the first floor of the Peabody, I couldn’t help but think that Memphis really has some great things to offer. When I first came here, I wasn’t so sure about this city. But, the more I experience of it, the more I love its unique spirit and style. I surely hope this event will be repeated. If not, maybe I’ll pack my yoga mat up there one day on my own and share a few asanas with the famous ducks by myself. Maybe the Duckmaster will join me.

Music: My Drug of Choice

The “stage” at Memphis House Concerts

Memphis is a musical town. I didn’t take advantage of that until the last few years. I didn’t even know how much I loved music until I started exploring some of the music venues in Memphis. I mean, I’m well aware of the role music plays in my life. All I have to do is hear a song from my high school years, and I’m transported back to that time. It’s pretty magical.

The first time I realized that live music really transported me to a different dimension was my first visit to a venue called Memphis House Concerts. This is actually my neighbor’s house. I literally walk 5 doors down on my street, and I’m on their front porch. Jimbo and Susan bring in some amazing talent to sing in their imperfect Midtown living room. Somewhere between 20-50 people show up once a month or so to hear artists from around the country. Light appetizers and Ghost River Beer are on tap for a beer donation. We all hang out in the kitchen and mingle with the artist(s). They have a suggested $20 donation that goes directly to the artist. It’s the best deal in town.

My friend Davina and I on the front porch at Memphis House Concerts

I love the connection between the audience, the musicians and the hosts. I’ve realized that music, for me, is about experiencing another person’s expression of themselves and the experience of the moment that can never happen again. It’s very intimate for me. I don’t use anything chemically to alter my mood anymore, but music totally changes the way I feel. I find myself transfixed watching and listening to an artist that really speaks to my soul. It blows me away.

I saw one of my favorite local musicians in a bar. I was stunned that most of the crowd was drinking and talking and basically not even listening to this fabulous music that was being played before them. Another favorite venue of mine is a coffeehouse in Midtown called Otherlands.  I can also walk to Otherlands. Both of these places are smoke-free and the music ends at a decent hour. I know there are others like this in Memphis. If you know where they are, please invite me to join you.

My favorite threesome…Dan Montgomery, Robert and Candace Mache at Otherlands

The musicians that play at both of these places are mainly singer-songwriters. That’s what really gets me hooked. As a writer, I know that your words are the vehicle that your soul uses to speak. And, I imagine musicians have a double vehicle with the music they play as well. To experience someone telling their own story is such a powerful experience. I crave it. I am hooked by it. It’s definitely my drug of choice.

I believe we are wired for connection. Not everyone can or is willing to share themselves in an intimate way,  but listening to live music up close and personal is a non-threatening way to accomplish it. When God created us, I believe He wanted us to connect at a soul level, and we were built to crave that connection. Music speaks to me. What speaks to you in this way?

Listen to one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Dan Montgomery, recorded at Otherlands:
My Favorite Color

Southern Lunchtime Comfort: Pimiento Cheese

I love living in the South. There are so many thing Southern that are comforting to me. Southern foods top the list, and at the top of that list is pimiento cheese. Recently, I met a woman who just moved here from Colorado. “What’s in pimiento cheese?” she asked. Duh — pimientos and cheese!! Well, of course there’s some mayo to hold it together, but it’s basically pimientos and cheese.

In recent years, pimiento cheese has become more creative. Chipotle, jalapeños, pecans and even dried fruit are added to make it special. I like those newer versions but I’m still a fan of the simple original. It’s cheap food, relatively speaking, and it goes well by itself on two slices of bread. It’s easy to bring for lunch. Just add some veggies on the side for a great meal.

I didn’t realize pimiento cheese was a Southern Food until I moved away. You just don’t see it up north. Of course, I never did find much good comfort food up north except Chicago pizza and cannolis from the North End in Boston. And, I remember the evening I brought a bucket of fried chicken to a sunset picnic on the shore of Lake Michigan with my ex and his son, Ryan. They laughed at the fact that fried chicken would be considered picnic food. What?? Every time we drove more than 30 minutes down the road, my Mawmaw fried a chicken. Those yanks just don’t get southern food. I definitely don’t think they would have appreciated pimiento cheese.

I eat my pimiento cheese on whole grains now. I was raised on white bread and pimiento cheese, but I just don’t stock it anymore. My favorite pimiento cheese in Memphis is from Whole Foods. It’s light on mayo and heavy on great cheese. I cringe every time I pay $5.00 for it, but I love it. Lucchesi’s has a good specialty one. I’m not sure what it has in it, but I try to get it every now and then when I’m out that way.

Lots of restaurants add pimiento cheese to burgers. I mean, it’s cheese and mayo, that’s sort of a no-brainer to add to a burger. At home, I’ll make a pimiento cheese grilled cheese sandwich. I love it with a bowl of tomato soup. It’s easy to make pimiento cheese at home, but I’ve just never gotten the right mix down, so I just buy it from somewhere I like. One of these days, I’ll get it right.

I think the thing I really like the most about pimiento cheese has been its history in my life and it’s place in my best memories. It wouldn’t be a Southern wedding if there were no pimiento cheese sandwiches. Somebody always makes pimiento cheese sandwiches for the meal following funerals. And, one of my favorite memories of my first mother in law was sitting down with her to eat her homemade pimento cheese sandwiches at her kitchen table in Clinton LA. It was a daily event when we visited.

So, what’s in pimiento cheese? I may have answered my friend too abruptly. It’s a mixture of tradition, memories and Southern flair with a touch of cheese and pimientos. I think I’ll go make a sandwich. All of a sudden I have a hankering for pimiento cheese.

Recipes

Southern Living’s Take on Pimiento Cheese

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Girl Talk: The War on Our Bodies

When I first saw this picture, it really bothered me that you could see my facial wrinkles. I decided to embrace the smile. I was happy.

There cannot be a Girl Talk Series without talking about body image, so let’s just get it over with. I’m 51 years old, and I still have teenage girl feelings about my body. The problem is that, as a teenager, I had much less to battle. I was 115 pounds, no wrinkles and had breasts that teenage boys seemed to like. Now, I’ve got body parts moving south, weight that just sometimes seems totally unrelated to what I eat, a face that’s starting to wrinkle up and dry out. The fact is, it’s just natural, but it’s so hard to cut myself a break.

I’m actually a great deal more accepting of my body now than I was when I was a teen. I had a high school boyfriend that always told me I was fat. It was not until about 10 years ago that I did the math and realized I was 115 pounds. What a jerk! I’ve learned through the years that the body I have in that moment will be the body I wish I had 10 years later. In hindsight, I look so much skinnier. It’s helped me enjoy photographs and cut myself some slack.

I’d say the biggest perfectionistic issue I’ve had over the years has been in regards to my weight. No matter what age or size I am, my weight is never right. Women say to me, “oh, good grief, you don’t have a weight problem.” I get what they are talking about, but the problem isn’t weight, it’s perfectionism. So, it really doesn’t matter how “big” the weight problem is…it has nothing to do with the scale. I talked with a very thin woman the other day whose daughter has struggled with eating disorders. She knows about body image issues and the pain it brings. For her, it becomes an issue that makes her feel different than other women because they think she doesn’t understand. Perfectionism is about the fear that I am not okay. I am not lovable. I am not desirable. I am not good enough.

Dove did an ad campaign several years ago where they featured real size women in their ads. I was stoked about it, so I went to their website. The pictures were awesome. It was the comments that disturbed me. Other women were ranting and raving about how horrible these women looked. They were saying brutal things about these real women that put themselves out there for the world to see. It made me sick.

I can blame the media and the culture all I want for poor images of women, and, don’t get me wrong, I hate it. The truth is that I have to do the work myself to get beyond that. Firstly, because the media and the culture are not going to change in my lifetime. That would be a losing battle. The most important thing is that I learn to be who I am without regard to what others think, and I HAVE to deal with my perfectionism. If the weight gets in order, it will crop up in another area. That’s the root cause.

Recently, I went to a large event with a girlfriend of mine where there were lots of men and scantily clad women of all shapes and sizes. We ended up leaving fairly quickly because it was just not all that fun. Our conversation went something like this later on.

Her: The whole time I was thinking that none of those men are interested in me. When I passed a window, I looked at my stomach and thought, “yeah, I can never suck that in.” I was thinking that I was smaller than a lot of those heavy women there, but I definitely felt like part of that group.

Me: Really?? You want to know what I was thinking? I was thinking that I looked really old, and none of those guys were interested in me. I was thinking that it was stupid to wear those yoga pants because they are too tight and my ass looks huge. I was also worried about this bulge on my upper thigh that I know just stands out and looks hideous. Well, hell’s bells– no wonder we left early!!

That was miserable for both of us.

I was in my 20s here. I distinctly remember obsessing over how fat my stomach looked in this swimsuit. Imagine my shock when I found it a few weeks ago!

I was taking a bath one night when i was about 45, and I had an experience I will never forget. I looked down at my body. I mean, I REALLY noticed my body. For some reason, at that moment, I realized how unkind I had been to my body. I had starved it, abused it with excessive exercise, said unsupportive things about it and, quite frankly, despised it. I started to cry. And I just began to feel so much compassion for myself. It was then that I started a practice to consciously be grateful for the things my body has miraculously done. It took the brunt of my addictions and got me through them. It has been a vehicle for me to live this really amazing life. It has healed itself when I was injured, been an instrument of love and great passion with the men I’ve loved, and has been with me through all of the moments of my life, good and bad….and has demanded very little. Nothing or no one in my life has ever been so supportive and forgiving and amazing as my own body.

At this stage in my life, I have become very conscious of the aging process. Aging is hard on the body. It starts to show its wear and tear. The problem is that we can spend a mountain of money to slow the impacts a bit. But, is it worth it? It’s still going to happen. We can slow it, but we can’t stop it, and do I really need to start hating my body again and wanting to change it? Or, is it a matter of just trying to look the best I can at any age? The jury is still out on this one. The perfectionism battle rages on. Til’ death do us part…..

Jamie Lee Curtis has long been a supporter of healthy body image and has put herself out there to make the point. Read this article from More magazine about some of her efforts.

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