A Tea Party

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What about the girls–we have 4 girls!  That’s what my mom said to my dad when he gave up his great paying job so a coworker could work. The company could no longer afford both of them.  I think my dad just wanted something different.  He was too happy–too excited about leaving his job.

 

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We had a great time with our dad–going to museums, the zoo, the park–playing–having fun. At the end of the day– he always read to us.  My mother once said, You’re lucky! Not every father likes being one.  Our mom was understandably bitter– but I think she was also envious. She was right, though–we were very lucky–but lucky to have them both.

 

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Our parents had separate his and hers bathrooms.  His bathroom was up on the third floor. It was like the Star-Spangled Banner–all red, white and blue striped.  We would watch him shave in the morning.  Our dad relished his morning routine with that soapy sink and foggy mirror–jazz music  playing.  One by one he’d put swirls of shaving cream on our noses, while he splashed on aftershave.  Ever since–I’ve been completely captivated by men’s grooming and style.

 

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We used to have the best tea parties. We had these tiny little cups and saucers. The house specialty was our dad’s homemade ginger tea.  It was an elixir–made by simmering fresh ginger root in water with brown sugar. He always had a bowl of lemon slices to go with it.

Our dad often talked about how his father’s family (from Bermuda) loved ginger tea too.  “It was de-licious!” our dad would say, “much better than mine.”

 

 

These days– we still have ginger tea. Sometimes we’ll have it like our dad used to make it with fresh ginger and sometimes we’ll have it the super-fast-quick way– with dried ginger.  And of course,  we always have lemon slices on the side.

 

 

Simon Says, “Rub Your Ears!”

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The other day, I had my ear needled.  My mom’s acupuncturist, Matt, suggested it.  He said it would help me de-stress. It is amazing how stress can make you look like a giant elephant.

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Or a spaced-out  cat.  “You will buy me that Betta fish.  You know I’ve always wanted one. Buy it…  Buy it meow–oops–now!”

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Matt  put 3 needles in my left ear at various acupuncture  points for relaxation.

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He then put 3 needles in my twin sister’s left ear. Matt pointed out that my sister and I have completely different ear anatomy. He said he can tell a lot about a person just by looking at their ears.

  • The ear is a microcosm of the human body– and in both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine it is compared to an upside down fetus.

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You can also de-stress by using your own fingers to press on acupressure (or marma) points of the ear.  According to Vassant Lad’s book, Marma Points of Ayurveda:

  • Gently pulling the earlobe downwards helps to descend energy to relieve headaches and migraines.  It has a tranquilizing effect because of its functional connection with higher cerebral activity, which promotes tranquility and bliss. This action also aids in stress management and quieting children who are hyperactive.

 

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Qi gong is an ancient Chinese health practice that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention for total body wellness.  Try this Qi Gong ear exercise.

 

 

Shiatsu is a form of therapeutic bodywork from Japan. It is based on the same principles as acupuncture–in which pressure is applied to certain points on the body using the hands.  Take a look at this Shiatsu ear exercise.

 

 

You can even make up your own daily ear massage routine. Just do what feels right for you. You cannot go wrong.  Your whole body will benefit!

 

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Caffeine Fiend

 

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My little caffeine problem started with Kombucha–that fizzy drink that is supposed to be so very healthy for you (according to a lady I overheard at a grocery store).

  • Kombucha is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks. Kombucha has many supposed health benefits. It is produced by fermenting tea using a “symbiotic ‘colony’ of bacteria and yeast” (SCOBY).

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I did not like Kombucha–at first.  There was something odd about the vinegary aftertaste. Even so–I kept buying it and drinking it.  I became a Kombucha addict. I tried nearly every kind of Kombucha out there. I even tried strange DIY looking local brands that were suspiciously packaged in recycled Coke bottles.  But after a few months–I got tired of Kombucha. That initial odd vinegary aftertaste was hardly even noticeable to me by this point.  It wasn’t even boosting my energy anymore either.

I put a twin size mattress for myself  in my mother’s room so I could help her at night. The night shift began taking a toll on me. I needed something to keep me awake during the day.  That’s when I turned to coffee–Black Coffee!

Wowee. My coffee fling escalated quickly. It was great–at first.  But soon, I noticed my driving was reckless. I was  having terrible thoughts about those #$@&%*! people who should not be on the road. I was getting headaches too.  And I was fidgety–I just could not rest, ever. My vision even deteriorated.  I had to call it quits.

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But of course, I found something else— Chai. I even started making my own.

The combo of super caffeinated black tea with spices, milk and sugar (lots of sugar) was delicious. It went well with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and everything else in between. Eventually, I realized that caffeine  was getting the best of me.  I had to stop– cold turkey.

  • Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.
  • Caffeine can produce a mild form of drug dependence. Tolerance develops with chronic use leading to autonomic effects of increased blood pressure, heart rate, and increased urine output (Wikipedia).

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I do think about coffee and tea and all things caffeinated from time to time.  I actually still have an unopened bottle of Kombucha in the refrigerator (just in case…).  But even if I am a little tired during the day–I am a much calmer, happier person without the caffeine.

A Good Reason to Vote

When I woke up on Election Day– I had already decided.  I wasn’t going to vote.  I thought, “What difference does my one vote make anyway?”  Plus–I just did not want to deal with long lines or parking problems or people.  I was in a sour mood.

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My mother, on the other hand, was getting ready early.  She was determined to get to the polling place and vote.  She was beyond excited.  “This is historic.  It’s important,” she said.

 

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My older sister had already agreed to take our mother to vote later in the afternoon.   But around 10:00 am, my twin sister suggested we make a dry run to see about handicap parking before our older sister arrived.

 

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Surprisingly, the polling place was practically empty.  There was ample parking–even handicap parking right at the front door.  Clearly, there was no turning back.

 

 

So I voted.  We voted– and I’m glad we did.  I realize now that my mother needed to feel a sense of normalcy again. She got a chance to let go of her own worries to focus on something different, something a little bigger for the moment.  That was important, and a good reason for me.

 

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Tree Hugger

 

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I love trees.  My favorite tree–Harriet–lives on the golf course near our house.  She’s huge and beautiful.  A few limbs are missing and she even has a scar– a deep, deep line that stretches way, way up to as far as I can see. I have to sneak on the golf course just to visit her.  But–it’s well worth it — because with every visit — I  am transported.  And I feel renewed, free. Unlimited.

 

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My twin sister, Akwelle, is a serious tree hugger.  She says she only hugs the trees that call out to her.  But, on our daily walks with Kookaburra (our dog)–Akwelle can often be found cavorting with tree, after tree, after tree, after tree.

 

 

I am a lot more self conscious than Akwelle is.  I wish I could just go and hug a random tree–in public–without thinking too much about what some bicyclist might say or think. My favorite tree, Harriet, of course, is tucked far, far away from peeping eyes.  She is mine alone. So, no worries for me there… at least, so I thought.

 

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The other day–I saw this young man visiting Harriet–my tree.  He hugged her affectionately and said, “Bye Jacob–see you tomorrow!”  I was shocked.  Speechless even. I wanted to run up to him and say, “Her name is Harriet and she’s mine.  Go find your own tree!” But I stopped myself.

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How foolish of me to think Harriet (or “Jacob”) only belonged to me.  That’s the beauty of trees. They belong to no one.  Trees are gifts–portals that transport us all to quieter, more peaceful, elevated worlds.

 

How lucky we are to be near them.  How lucky we are to experience them.

 

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My advice–instead of watching t.v. — go out and hug a tree!

 

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

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When we were little, my dad signed us all up for a Transcendental Meditation (TM) class.

 

 

My mother thought TM was the craziest thing ever. At the end of the first class, there was a special ceremony where we were each given a unique mantra to repeat during our twice a day meditation practice. Special blessings were said and the instructors even threw rice at us to celebrate. My mother yawned throughout the ceremony. Needless to say, she did not return to the remaining classes. Looking back, I am not surprised.

 

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My mother does not see herself as an anxious, nervous or worrying type.

 

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My dad had a lot of friends who were constantly throwing parties. He always brought all of us with him. I remember how uncomfortable my mother was at these events. She would complain, saying she was uninterested in my dad’s friends. But looking back, I now know she was simply nervous, anxious.  And maybe even scared.

 

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There was this one– very memorable office Christmas party we went to — my mother was very uncomfortable the whole night. Normally, at a party, my mother would quickly calm down after having a drink or two— but this time, the alcohol did not even relax her. My mother decided to wear high heeled shoes instead of boots to the party. There was a lot of snow on the ground. Somehow upon entering the Christmas party, my mom slid across the floor and got one of her heels stuck— she then tripped and landed on top of the Christmas tree.  Both came crashing down. It was awful.

 

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I can understand why my dad signed us up for the mediation classes. I believe he was trying to help my mother find a way to calm her restless, anxious “monkey mind.”

 

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  • Monkey Mind:  a Buddhist term meaning unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.

 

Recently, my older sister had a friend come over to teach us about mindfulness. It was an attempt to help our mother find relief from her anxieties and worries.

 

 

During the meditation–my mother’s behavior was not unusual (for her). She kept fidgeting, interrupting and talking loudly.  She was incredibly resistant to just being quiet and calm.  I think this is why she has trouble sleeping at night.

 

 

I am beginning to see that this is a shared family trait– on my mother’s side.  My mother’s older sister, Ruth, visited us over weekend. She had not seen my mom since the stroke (more than 9 months ago).  Both my mom and my aunt Ruth were very nervous when they saw each other. My aunt Ruth normally brings gifts. This time she brought a whole lot of JUNK.  She said she did not have time to sort through what she wanted to bring prior to driving up from Florida. Of course, she meant well. But clearly she too has anxiety, nervous issues and she is a hoarder.

 

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The other night I thought maybe prayer would be the answer to my mother’s nerves and her restless mind. “How about we say our prayers out loud?” I said. She rolled her eyes.  “Oh God!,” she said.  I suggested we get on our hands and knees. “It will be good exercise for you,” I said.   She refused.  I did it anyway.

 

 

A big lesson for me is: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

 

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I realize now that acceptance of my mother’s choices and beliefs– is the best way to maintain my own balance.  As Gertrude Stein said, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Meaning–things and people are what they are.

Confessions of a Wheat Belly

It has been 2 months, 1 day, 4 hours, 10 minutes and 15 seconds since my last cupcake. I am now officially grain free.  I honestly never knew I had a problem until I changed my diet.

 

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My dog, Kookaburra, has been grain free since she was a puppy. Looking back– I can now understand (and relate to) the crazy behavioral issues she had during her transition from kibble to grain free.

 

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Initially, I found myself secretly, quietly perusing images of cupcakes and (yes) sandwiches on the internet.  Then my wheat addiction symptoms got more serious.  I bought food magazines and cut out pictures of bread and other grain filled gems and pasted them on my bathroom wall!  I was also light headed and a tiny bit cranky.

 

 

But, to support our mother’s path to wellness and her newly prescribed grain free diet, my sisters and I have decided to remain grain free too. As Dr. William Davis, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author states, “Once wheat-free, always wheat-free is the best policy.”

 

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Question:  

  • Is there a difference between Gluten-Free and Grain Free? 

Answer:  Yes

  • A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and a cross between wheat and rye called triticale.  
  • Rice, corn, barley and oats are allowed.

 

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  • A Grain-Free diet is a diet that excludes all grains including wheat, rice, corn, barley and oats.  
  • According to Dr. William Davis, a Grain-Free Diet is the healthiest.

 

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In a recent interview from https://www.wellnessmama.com, Dr. William Davis  states:

  • Wheat, harboring its hidden gliadin protein, increases appetite.
  • Wheat is a weak opiate. Eat wheat, you want more wheat, you want more carbohydrates. 
  • When we eat more grains, we gain weight and acquire all the health consequences such as hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, acid reflux, and diabetes. 

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To celebrate our new grain free life–I have decided to reincarnate my favorite popcorn snack into a non-popcorn (grain-free) snack.  It really is just as delicious.  Enjoy!

 

 

Non-Popcorn Snack

1 cup marcona almonds, salted
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries, sweetened
3-4 ozs. dark chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 cup manchego cheese, cubed
3 cups popcorn (eliminate)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.