Saturday, April 13, 2013


Memories are funny things. Some have a tactile quality: like my memory of a family trip from a few years back. I take out it out like a smooth beach pebble. It's a round, sun-warm memory to rub through my mental fingers -  and it's unexpectedly pink.

{I think because it was such a spontaneous trip. The spontaneity created enough anxiety to make the relief of the fun, carefree days all the sweeter - yet how does that translate in my mind to pink - a color which I hold no affection for whatsoever? Cotton candy, saltwater taffy? My sweetie-pie little girl?}

There is a malleble quality to most memories. They are warped depending what our minds emphasize.  It's intriguing to spend a day with a story-teller friend,  knowing it'll be so fun to hear them tell others about our day. Often when I hear the stories they recount, I'm surprised by the adventurous life I've unwittingly led. (What a talent that kind of memory is! A dangerous one if, say, you publish your exciting, embellished memories as a Memoir and people want it to be factual truth, a la James Frey)

As I get older, the children grow, my mind is getting forgetful and the memories of their hilarious comments fade, I try to write more down. The other day a friend reminded me of a story another friend had told her about an episode with Sam. Shockingly, I'd forgotten about it. But in her retelling my memory awoke and there it was, the car ride, my puzzlement, and the punchline - so fresh, funny and 4 he is.

He was talking about spelling his name and was trying to figure out where the "o" was.
This had been an ongoing conversation that hadn't yet been resolved, since Sam doesn't have an "o" in his name - and I'd told him that, multiple times.

Samuel Frank Buttner. No "o!"

 Finally, after spelling it, re-spelling it, firmly denying the presence of an "o", I asked, "Why do you think you have an "o?'"

"Because you say "Oh, Sam"and "Oh Sam". So where is the "o" in my name?"

It still cracks me up, 3 weeks later. And now I wrote it down so even if I forget it, I can remember it here. And laugh like a 4 hear old laughs in sunshine, splashing down.

I know it's easy to remember the worst things, unkind words, crushing disappointments. But it's equally easy to remember the love you felt, the crashing joy, the belly laughs. And the positive echoes reverberate around your present day and bath it in a rosier glow.

Or ...just forget everything, including the bad stuff and the day you're having is the best ever. That's Murray's strategy, "How's your day?" "Never Better!"

Here's to life, and the best memories of it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The best laid plans....

Sometimes I get sucked into this amazing blog maze of uber-crafty, oh-so-talented moms/homemakers/artists. And I begin to think, because of their chirpy, can-do tone and beautiful "Ta-Da!" pictures, that I, too, can whip out a well-crafted home in the time it takes me to run a load of laundry.
And this virtual encouragement adds fuel to a not-so-closely held secret: I'm a closet crafter. I love to submerse myself into a project and come up hours later with...something. I don't have loads of talent or time, nor have I developed great skills, so my finished products are not usually what I had envisioned, but they make me happy in that crafty "look what I made!" way.

Along with crafts for myself, I often embark upon ambitious craft ideas with my kids. Which almost always go awry. And takes great willpower to keep a positive attitude so as to not quench my childrens' creative joy.

Take last Tuesday for example: it was a snow day. But one of those faux snow days our school calls which means the weather is just unpleasant enough to get administrative types worried about a lawsuit but not bad enough to keep anyone trapped in their home. So we called a friend over for a playdate and I conceived the brilliant idea of having the girls make flowers on sticks.
How perfect; the girls would be occupied while I got a ton of stuff done and the flowers would, of course, be adorable enough decorate with at Easter.
What is wrong with my ever-optimistic brain?!?

After reading through some nifty tutorials, I cut some strips of paper and set the girls up. (I have a lovely box of patterned craft paper from Michaels. This paper is the best random Michaels sale product I ever purchased. It's a never-ending supply - I bought it 3 years ago and am still using it. Better yet - I still like most of the patterns. This weird box of scrapbook paper has been the source of much crafty joy in our house. Thanks, Michaels!)
Once I had cut the paper and given the instructions, I instantly realized that, instead of freeing me up to do the myriad of chores I had to get done, I was now tied to supplying them with information, assistance and supplies.
In fact, 2 hrs later I was the only one still working, as I hot glue-gunned flowers to sticks while deflecting impatient demands from the girls as they cycled through the kitchen in their running games. ("Are you done yet? Can we make more?" The answers, "No and No.").
3 hours later we had 4 flowers done, the table covered in scraps, the rest of the house chaos and no dinner. Hmmm.
But big smiles on the little people!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Detox lesson thus far: Pay attention to what my body tells me.

If I feel great - strong, light, cheerful - after a few days of eating well, that's my body being happy.
If I'm sluggish and want to sit on my bed and stare into space after eating a meal, listen up! My body is struggling to process something I'm digesting.

All the (helpful) detox reading I did had this in common - whether they loved or hated fish oil, pushed the fruits and abstained from all sugar, a recurring theme was: It's your body, it has it's own chemistry and it tells you when it's running well or not... if you listen.

Teaching childbirth class I speak the same theme, but in a different context. My spiel includes a reminder that our bodies know how to grow and birth a baby, even if our minds don't. Otherwise we'd be extinct, right? Kinda common sense that rises when you silence the fear/negativity that surrounds pregnancy and childbirth in our healthcare professions and culture.  So many of my nursing triage calls would answer themselves if people took the time to know and trust their own bodies.

But life is so busy we don't have the time to learn from our bodies, about our bodies. We're running from one thing to another, usually in a car, while talking on a phone and eating. This frenetic activity results in a lack of connection with our physicality. Body awareness is one of the unsung benefits of exercise. I would add that it's helpful to step away from loud music, classes, reps counting or workout targets. Removing the distractions allows us to pay attention to how we feel and what our body thrives on.

And attention is powerful stuff.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Be the change...

It's been roughly a month since I've overhauled my food choices.  My body is talking and I'm trying to keep listening. I'm keeping a vague food/mood journal, which, even in it's meager form, is helpful. In recent days I've eaten a fair amount of foods I suspect my body doesn't process well, and my energy levels are lower than they have been in the past few weeks. Nothing in vast quantities  (ok, except the battered, fried clams on Thursday night - whoa baby.) and no drastic responses, but the signals of low energy, food cravings, irritability and negativity are there.

If I hadn't felt so good, I would think being sluggish and melancholy was normal (after all, it has been for years). However, now I'd like to get back to the light, strong and happy body of a few days ago. The powerful lesson from this month is that my food choices will help get me there.

Reassuringly, my mood has remained stable and positive. Which shows me that as I heal my physical body, my emotional balance now has resiliency.

I don't have a rule book I'm going by. This diet, while perhaps sounding stringent, is not about reaching a goal or pushing myself to be a high achiever in the detox universe - there are no green smoothies in my world. I don't like them. If I liked them, (and had a blender) I would eat them but I don't, so I won't.

It's not about deprivation, misery or body mastery.

It's about living a full and happy life. Being a happy mom, present with my kids. Being kind to our Earth. Thinking clearly, remembering things. Expressing myself. Connected to my body - knowing it is me. I think better, laugh more, run with more joy and have more love to give when there is balance in my physical body.

If you suspect you could make positive changes in your life, go for it. Try it out. When I started this I had nothing to lose, but I had no idea the gains would be so big. Surprise yourself! It's really fun.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Detox diet

I might as well share more about how I'm doing on my "What is happening to my body since I turned 40 and why am I always bloated and frighteningly depressed" detox diet. 

I have a colossal number of food sensitivities - for most of my life after eating an offending food I've gotten an itchy mouth, hay fever symptoms if I touch my eyes and some GI upset. My hypothesis is that as I age, my system reacts with more intensity to what it doesn't like, and I'll improve my well being if I listen and obey. Overall, I want to feel good, minimize emotional roller coasters and maybe reset my system. I'm lucky that it's a choice to eat this way: I don't have to. So if I bust into my kids' Valentines chocolate one night, oh well. Tomorrow is a new day (and I was pretty bloated that night, but that was the extent of the fallout).

Before going all Dr Oz on this detox I read a lot. My research included countless Internet hours, "The Plan", "UltraMetabolism" and thumbing though many more detox books/ideas. Based on my reading and my needs, my guidelines are:
At least 64 ounces of water a day. No gluten, dairy or sugar. None of the foods I'm sensitive to (I don't call it "allergic" because it's not anaphylactic but it's very similar to hay fever or other environmental allergies). Minimal caffeine (I cut it out entirely for a few days, now am back to 1 cup of coffee a day - as always, it must be a great cup). Minimal alcohol. I've had 4 glasses of wine in a 10 days (although one of them, while in itself innocent, was the gateway to a wild night with the leftover Valentines chocolate - not my finest hour, but not the end of the world either).

Highlighting the negatives is so limiting, so here's what I do eat: lots of vegetables, whole grains, our usual meat (local farm raised) and seafood and making sure I drink water. I've also added in some supplements, most notably Fish Oil, and am adding seaweed seasoning as dietary thyroid support. Additionally, my Lenten "Fast" this year is to mediate every day. This is such a positive thing. (And I keep slogging on with the exercise - trying to get something in most days of the week. It's a struggle but pays off when I can get it together.)

Turns out these guidelines mean eating how I normally do, only more so, and cutting out the "extras." I try to always focus on cooking, eating and feeding my family whole, minimally processed foods, emphasizing vegetables and whole grains. I find I'm eating even more veg and am satisfied enough not to miss the rest. The rest of the family isn't on the detox plan and one of the downsides is that occasionally I end up making 2 meals to satisfy all the members of our family. But even that is not such a trial and tribulation and as I get better at making my meals, it won't happen as often.

We've even discovered a new favorite way to eat carrots: Long carrots, peeled and halved - or even quartered if they're fat - rolled in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Roast them at 400 for 20 minutes, turning them once. They come out soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and the kids love the long shape. I roast a lot at once and have them for the next day.

My staple breakfast has become brown rice with an egg and some kimchi. It's like my own mini Bibim Bop - What's not to love? (Although when Mur is making the kids sourdough waffles, there is a whiff of envy.)

I might blog more about how it goes. So far (10 days in) I feel much better, my depressed mood has lifted - although that may be because I have a project to focus on - and I think I've slimmed down a bit (although the scale hasn't budged. But that's not saying much. My weight didn't change when I ran a marathon, why should it change now?). And I really am eating quite well.

Here's what Murray thinks of all of it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'm on a crazy detox-esque diet, which means, for me, no dairy, gluten or sugar. So far I've only fallen off the wagon hard once in a week of it...not bad, hey?
Surprisingly, I've eaten quite well throughout. Dinner tonight was a riff on a recipe I had book marked ages ago, and happily rediscovered: Spinach and chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen.

I have a fondness for chickpeas - they're my favorite legume (if one is rating legumes). However, the dish I made is only a nod to Deb P's rather than the exact thing. It does have chickpeas and spinach, lots of garlic and smoked paprika (one of both of our favorite ingredients which makes me feel like we'd get along swimmingly and have so much to talk about - isn't the internet weird that way?).

The starting point is chickpeas, which I cooked a vat of this morning in my pressure cooker. This is a great, fast and easy way to cook beans and every infrequent time I do it, I wonder why I don't do it more often. Hopefully every time I do it, it will be less of a pause before I remember to do it again. Baby steps.

So then I had all these chickpeas - way more than I could use to make hummus with (which I did make, and which is delicious) and they become the foundation of our dinner. The other cornerstone was an oil that everyone should know about: a basic rosemary garlic oil that is so easy to make and so delicious it could be used for world peace. It is a combination of Nigella's Rosemary Oil and perhaps (my memory fails me) Michael Chiarello's Roasted Garlic.

Pour 1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a pan over low heat, add a head of peeled garlic cloves (for this I only used about a half - no good reason, I just got tired of peeling cloves) and cook until cloves are toasty tan and smell amazing. Then, dunk 2-3 springs of rosemary in the oil and cook a minute or 2. Turn off the heat, let the rosemary cool in the oil then pull out and discard. Done. Delicious. (I already mentioned that but it bears repeating).

2 cups Chickpeas - check. Sweet, crunchy chewy roasted garlics - check. Hefty glug of rosemary garlic oil (1/3 cup or so) - check.
I sautéed some D'Artangnan Anduille sausage I'd bought today - because our grocery store started carrying D'Artangnan meat products and I figure I better buy them so they keep stocking them - you know "vote with your money" philosophy. And tossed in a cup of chopped  butternut squash to saute with the sausage. The squash finished cooking when added along with a 1/2 cup of water to the chickpeas. The addition of the water also helped the garlic melt into the dish and steamed the next item in - one of those salad boxes of baby spinach. The finishing touch was the smoked paprika and the juice from 1/2 a lemon.

All in all it was comfortingly tasty and filling. The kids had hot dogs (bribery for good behavior during haircuts) and we all enjoyed baby broccoli. And even though Mur is alarmed about the potential for intestinal combustion, I think I'm going to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Without dairy to exponentiate any danger, I'm feeling confident I'll be fine - better than fine, actually.