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Beware of Killer Kale!

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I thought I’d start your week off with a chuckle. Here is an ad put out by a corporate-funded anti-environmental group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. They mostly spend their time and money denying climate change and explaining to the public how dioxin might actually be good for you. That’s not at all funny.

But this ad, sad as it is, made me laugh out loud. Check it out — they must have decided that the threat posed by organic kale to the chemical industry’s bottom line was so dire that they had to launch an all-out attack on the crinkly green menace. Here’s what they came up with:

kale photo

 

It’s a clever send-up of a recent public health campaign that details what happens to your body within one hour of drinking a Coke. (Hint: nothing good.) Except that it’s not clever. It’s mostly just insulting people who like kale.

I invite you to check out their website, particularly if you are concerned about the spread of kale. There you can donate to a fund named “Advancing Capitalism,” presumably because capitalism is having such a hard time of it these days. Learn about CEI’s “full-service approach to advancing public policy,” including “scholarly articles that make the case for an issue,” probably written by the same college interns who crafted this ridiculous assault on organic kale. (I just have to keep saying that, it cracks me up.) Anyway, check out the many policy areas in which they would like to limit government regulation, including energy & the environment, health & safety, and banking & finance. Because America.

Happy Monday.

The latest threat to society

The latest threat to society

 

 

 

 

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Lessons From the Fall: The Illusion of Control

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Here I sit reading a book, sipping green tea, without a thing on my absolutely-must-do list for days to come. And man, am I pissed about it. Why? Because I did not choose this lazy afternoon; it chose me.

For reasons that I hope will one day become clear, the Universal Narrative decided it might be a fun plot twist for me to fracture the shoulder of my right, dominant arm.

I am typing this with the index finger of my left hand, so it will be short.

This was to have been a week of house cleaning. I have friends coming from Florida next week to help celebrate my sixtieth birthday, and I wanted to at least clear a path through the clutter in my house so they could visit. In fact, it was a well-placed vacuum cleaner cord that led to my fall in the hallway last week. (I’m not used to the thing being out of the closet.)

There is to be a party, which involves chairs and food platters and coolers, none of which I can move.

There is my planned pilgrimage to New Mexico, less than two weeks away, which will involve yoga and pottery wheels and body prayer, none of which I can do.

There is taking a shower, brushing my teeth, putting on my socks, opening a can of soup, fastening my seatbelt — everything is a challenge now.

All of these things, I thought I controlled. I do not. I never did. All our ideas of control are an illusion. This is why there are so many angry people in the world — they have not yet surrendered to this truth.

When it’s time for a plot twist, all you can do is trust that there’s a larger story going on and that your present circumstance will contribute to your personal growth.You turn the page and keep reading from a new perspective.

Lesson number one: I am not in control. Stay tuned.

flowers and Dayspring 039

Seriously? This is Your Thanksgiving Post? Again?

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OK – I guess this is going to be my annual Thanksgiving post. Lazy? Maybe. But I want to go hang out with my friends and eat lots of carbs and drink good wine. So enjoy your day, whatever you eat. Here is some food for thought:

Writing with Spirit

Thanksgiving Turkey Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are you still a vegetarian?” people ask me from time to time, which I find odd. As if I might respond: “No, actually, I used to think it was unethical to murder animals and eat their flesh, but now I think it’s OK.” So yes, I am still a vegetarian, and since this post was so popular last Thanksgiving (surprisingly), and I have several thousand more readers this year (will wonders never cease), I will re-share my thoughts for Thanksgiving Day 2013. I wish you gratitude, whatever you eat.

Enjoy:

The last time I ate meat was Thanksgiving of 1978. Once each year, I would forsake vegetarianism to make my mother happy. But after I told her I could no longer partake, she always made a huge bowl of special stuffing with no meat juices, and I would obligingly eat the whole thing…

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Seriously? This is Your Thanksgiving Post? Again?

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Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Are you still a vegetarian?” people ask me from time to time, which I find odd. As if I might respond: “No, actually, I used to think it was unethical to murder animals and eat their flesh, but now I think it’s OK.” So yes, I am still a vegetarian, and since this post was so popular last Thanksgiving (surprisingly), and I have several thousand more readers this year (will wonders never cease), I will re-share my thoughts for Thanksgiving Day 2013. I wish you gratitude, whatever you eat.

Enjoy:

The last time I ate meat was Thanksgiving of 1978. Once each year, I would forsake vegetarianism to make my mother happy. But after I told her I could no longer partake, she always made a huge bowl of special stuffing with no meat juices, and I would obligingly eat the whole thing. (For her sake, of course.)

I don’t think much about being a vegetarian, except around Thanksgiving. Although the day is supposed to be about gratitude, it’s really about eating a huge dead bird and a bunch of carbs. (Also, football and clipping coupons in anticipation of Friday, which is National Greed Day.)

I don’t miss meat, really, although I suppose if I knew I had only one day to live, I might make a big, fat turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce and lettuce and mayo.

Because Thanksgiving is all about food, it seems a good day to point out a few of the perks of being a vegetarian:

  • You will lose weight, unless you eat a lot of pasta, potatoes, or cheese.
  • People will serve you extra pasta and potatoes because you didn’t get “the main course.”
  • People will also serve you extra cheese because “you need your protein.”
  • You won’t have to eat Aunt Mildred’s gizzard gravy at Thanksgiving.
  • If you find yourself in a Native Alaskan village above the Arctic Circle, you will not have to eat the Caribou Head soup. They might give you an extra slice of chocolate cake instead. (Trust me on this one.)
  • Your friends will become very solicitous, especially in restaurants, where they will tell the waiter, “My friend’s a vegetarian – do you have anything she can eat?” This will be said either in a loud voice, as if they are taking command of a difficult situation, or in a lowered voice, as if they don’t want to embarrass you by sharing your condition in public.
  • You will have plenty of opportunity to practice your creativity, particularly in responding to the absurd question, “But what do you EAT?” The obvious answer is “everything you eat except the meat,” but I usually say something about foraging in the backyard for dandelions and onion grass.
  • You will quickly realize how mature you are compared to certain friends, the ones who, even after decades of knowing you, will impale a piece of dead cow on a fork and wave it in your face, saying, “Doesn’t that look good? Don’t you want some?” Usually, these flesh-wavers are men, and they are married to your best friends.
  • You will feel holier than thou most of the time, and will nod in benevolent compassion without a trace of condescension when a complete stranger on a plane feels compelled to explain why they still eat meat, or how they used to be a vegetarian but got diarrhea, or how “I want to, but with the kids and all…”

I Don’t Care What You Eat . . . Really

I think these plane strangers go into defensive mode because they fear I’m going to preach to them. But I’m not a proselytizing vegetarian. It’s not my business. People make their own choices for their own reasons.

The first time I met a vegetarian – even though she was rail thin and had a slightly greenish hue — I knew that I was one at heart. I stopped eating meat the day I moved out of my parent’s house at nineteen. I read a book called Animal Liberation, and that was it. It was an ethical thing. Fish followed meat, and by age 25, I was clean.

I’m an ovo-lacto, meaning I still eat eggs and cheese. I try to eat only organic eggs from free ranging chickens. For full health benefits, it’s best not to eat animal fats at all, but since my motivation is mostly ethical, I’m safe in my cheese addiction.

In Case you Care

If you’re one of those people who considers vegetarianism from time to time, I’ll just include a little info below for you. You can file these facts away in the crinkly recesses of your brain, and one day, who knows? You might just make the switch to other protein sources. It’s been good for my soul and my body, is all I’ll say.

If you are an avowed meat-eater, just ignore me.

If you are one of those people who waves dead flesh under your veggie friends’ noses – please stop.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

. VEGETARIAN DIETS:

  • Reduce the risk of major killers such as heart disease, stroke and cancer while cutting exposure to foodborne pathogens
  • Provide a viable answer to feeding the world’s hungry through more efficient use of grains and other crops
  • Save animals from suffering in factory-farm conditions and from the pain and terror of slaughter
  • Conserve vital but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources
  • Preserve irreplaceable ecosystems such as rainforests and other wildlife habitats
  • Decrease greenhouse gases that are accelerating global 
    warming
  • Mitigate the ever-expanding environmental pollution of 
    animal agriculture

(From the North American Vegetarian Society’s website)

And: Cutting out meat can significantly cut your risk of cancer. Cutting out other animal fats helps as well   http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/facts/meat.php

What Would You Do with Your One Moment?

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My brother writhes on the floor, yells in pain, and then is still as he gasps for breath.

“It hurts, it hurts,” he moans. “Why does it hurt so much?”

His legs and stomach are too swollen for him to get up off the floor where he has fallen.

“Please let me call the rescue squad – they will help you get back up on the couch.” He is too much for me to lift. His legs have no strength to push.

“No, no, they’ll take me away. They won’t let me live here alone like this.”

This is not the time for me to beg for the thousandth time, “Please get the operation; it doesn’t have to be like this.”

And for him to say for the two thousandth time, “The doctors don’t know what they’re doing. It’s not my heart. There’s something wrong with my stomach.”

This is not the time for another fight, not the time for more tears. This is a time to try to get back up on the couch.

What is the right thing to do? I cannot think, cannot decide, cannot help.

He tells me he hasn’t eaten all day. I bring him some mac & cheese and a little water. I wait for him to catch his breath.

We are about to try again, to hoist, to push, to groan, to fail.

Then time stops.

As per the WordPress Daily Challenge: For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?

Miranda the cat has stopped in mid-stride, her head cocked in puzzlement as it has been for the entire seven hours her human has been on the floor struggling and groaning. The clock is stopped at 5 a.m.

Everything is still.

I gently put my hand over my brother’s heart, pray, and heal his mitral valve.

That’s what I would do with my one moment.

A Better Day

A Better Day

What would you do with your one moment of stillness?

Related story: http://outsideinmagazine.com/issue-six/wordstories/late-summer-dream-melanie-lynn-griffin/

Holy Health Takes Wing

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We gather in the woods of North Carolina on the bank of the French Broad River, more than two thousand of us seeking the spirit of the Wild Goose — an ancient Celtic symbol for God’s Holy Spirit. We call ourselves The Fellowship of the Wings.

I know, maybe that sounds a little woo woo; but it’s not like we’re weird or anything, with our angel wings, hats of feathers, rainbow flags, and flaming Hula Hoops.

Just the usual Christian paraphernalia.

Just the Norm

Wild Goose 2013 026.fix Wild Goose 2013 033

I wasn’t sure how to share about the Wild Goose Festival until the WordPress blogmeister helped me out by asking: What does health mean to you? The connection is obvious, right? OK, maybe not to you. But bear with me.

Health as a Holy Pursuit

Health is a beautiful word – it means wholeness; being whole and sound. I believe that the only way a human can attain true wholeness is to connect with the spirit of life that animates us, and I call that spirit God. In fact, the Old Norse word for health is helge, which means holy and sacred.

If a person is intentionally open to the Holy, no matter what happens to their body, their mind and heart remain oriented towards a larger reality, and they flourish. Living in this larger reality means you can let go of the illusion of control and accept life on life’s terms, which leads to peace and a sense of well-being. Being fueled by the Holy means your own desires become aligned with God’s, and  as you become more and more the true self you were created to be, you find yourself bathed in grace and gratitude.

Down to the River Chapel

By the third day of the Wild Goose Festival, I was beat. I’d been trudging from workshop to workshop through mud and thick humidity, balancing my umbrella on one shoulder and my lawn chair on the other while juggling a cache of new bumper stickers, t-shirts, bracelets, and books.

Plus, I had stayed up too late at the “Beer and Hymns” gathering the night before.

Beer & Hymns

Beer & Hymns

So I decided to settle down and see what the morning might bring at “The Chapel,” a small clearing at the edge of the rushing French Broad River. Sure enough, being still and waiting for the Holy resulted in renewed health and wholeness for my body, mind, and spirit.

Quieting the Chatter in Your Head

First up: Centering Prayer, a Christian meditation I’ve been practicing for years but which I’ve recently let slide. About fifty of us sat in a semicircle listening to river rhapsodies and bird songs and facing an altar of candles set up on a picnic table beneath a cathedral of aged oaks, basswoods, and tulip poplars. Spiritual and political writer Phil Fox Rose led a twenty minute “sit” during which we each silently used a sacred word to release our chattering thoughts and distracting emotions so that we could simply rest in God’s refreshing presence.

I’ll bet you won’t ever need blood pressure medicine if you practice this regularly.

Letting Laughter Rip

After the quiet souls dispersed, a new set of people came traipsing down the shady dirt path towards The Chapel. The noisy procession was led by Kimberly Kirchmere Dinsdale, a boisterous life coach from California and a practitioner of Laughter Yoga. I’ve always wanted to try this Indian form of Hasyayoga because studies show myriad health benefits from regular laughter, even if it’s voluntary, planned laughter. Apparently, people who laugh habitually are 40% less likely to have a heart attack!

I probably will not die of a heart attack – I laugh a lot. So this workshop was tons of fun and had the added benefit of helping me to rise above my fear of looking stupid.

A Tradition of Dance and Song

My cheeks and belly were sore from laughing, slapping my knees, and hugging other laughers, so I was looking forward to sitting on my butt for the next workshop on Aramaic – the ancient language that Jesus and his friends spoke.

No such luck.

Reverend Elizabeth Reed, who runs a holistic healing and growth center in Ohio, got us up on our feet. Strumming her guitar, she soon had us chanting Aramaic words for God while doing circle dances similar to ones they might have done in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Totally, totally cool.

Get this: Abwoon is the word that’s traditionally been translated “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer. In Aramaic, it actually carries meanings such as creator, birther, breather and sender of spirit, here, and incarnate. Good Lord! How did those old guys who shaped the early Christian faith get “Our Father” out of that??

The repetition of the chant and movement was mesmerizing and soothing to my soul; the experience of engaging my intellect, body, and voice all at the same time reminded me that living life to the full is the best way to be whole and healthy.

A Healthy Prescription from a Wild Goose

Go outside into God’s dynamic and glorious creation – open your eyes and ears and breathe deeply.

Spend time in silence, soaking up the unconditional love and radical acceptance that surrounds you.

Wait for the Holy. Trust it. You don’t have to grab for it; it’s in the very air you breathe.

Live life to the full – engage your mind, body, and soul in becoming who you are truly meant to be. Don’t worry about looking stupid.

Laugh, learn, sing, and dance. Love each other.

Drink beer and sing hymns, but don’t drink too much beer or you won’t feel well.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus of Nazareth   

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Stuff to do:

Why not participate in a challenge this week? Daily Post Challenge: What Does Health Mean to You?

This week’s WordPress challenge also highlighted a mental health blog where I have been a guest blogger: Broken Light: A Photography Collective. Check it out!

Come to the Wild Goose Festival next  year — you know you want to!  Christian credentials not required.

All is Not Merry in Connecticut

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As the news continues to pour in about the latest horrific school shooting – dozens dead at an ELEMENTARY school in Connecticut this time – we are reminded that all is not well just because there are red and green lights strung about. The world can be a shocking and painful place.

I had been meaning to blog about grief during the holiday season, and today seems appropriate.

This is not a breezy or light-hearted post, as mine are wont to be. No pictures, no humor.

If you need it, read it. Otherwise, skip it or share it with someone who does need it.

This is about surviving terrible loss.

I am grateful that although I’ve experienced a lot of pain and losses over the past five years, this holiday season, things seem to be getting back on an even keel.

Thank God. Being down at this time of year is the pits. This is my fifth Christmas without my mother. Certain carols still bring on the tears, but the grief is no longer acute, just a deep vacancy within my heart.

Grief is a life-long process, as we incorporate painful losses into our lives – the death of beloved friends and family, the loss of our health or our home, broken relationships, job changes, and other major transitions. The holidays can be an especially difficult time, even many years after a loss.

Often we experience the “holiday blues” simply because holidays bring up memories and highlight changes in our lives. If you’re feeling down, you are not alone. Many people would probably welcome a few quiet moments during this busy season to listen to you and to share a few memories of their own. Reach out and let people know how you are feeling.

Here are a few tips that might help you get through holiday grieving.

  • Stay Connected with your Feelings

Give yourself permission to feel and express your emotions. Make sure to create time and space to honor your feelings. There is no ‘right way’ to do this – write in a journal, go for a walk, meditate and pray, exercise. Be present with your own grief and by all means, cry if you need to. Tears are an emotional release and help cleanse our bodies of toxins. If others are uncomfortable with your tears, that’s their issue. This is your grief and your holiday. And if a little happiness or even joy creeps in this year, embrace it. Don’t feel guilty. Mixed emotions are normal during bereavement, especially during this season.

  • Be Kind to Yourself

Get plenty of rest, eat nourishing foods and drink lots of water. Try to avoid excessive alcohol and sweets, which can contribute to depression and stunt your grieving process by numbing your feelings. Put your health and healing first. Simplify and try not to over-do social engagements, shopping, decorating and other holiday “musts.” Do what you can, but give yourself permission to miss a party or buy cookies instead of baking them. Skip the Christmas cards unless they help you process. Slow down. Take a bubble bath, a tea break, read a book, get a massage. Treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend who has been bereaved. Be alone when you need to, and reach out when you want company.

  • Plan Ahead

Don’t allow the holidays to simply happen to you. Give yourself as much control as you can; know where you will be, and when. Keep your schedule manageable and learn to politely decline invitations. Decide which activities and traditions are helpful and which are not. Choose to be with safe, supportive people and put off the “obligations.” Remember to give yourself time to be alone with your feelings. You might try taking your family and other people in smaller doses – look into staying in a hotel or plan an “escape break” to a park or a movie during your holiday activities.

  • Communicate your Feelings and Needs

Let people know how you are feeling. Tell them what you can handle, and what is too much for you. Be open about what you want to talk about and what you would rather not. Ask for help with chores, errands, and decorating. Guide your friends and family in the best way to help you. You are not a burden. People feel good about helping and just need to know what you need.

  • Say No to Expectations and Comparisons

Don’t try to live up to expectations of how you should feel or act – your own or other people’s. You may even feel expectations from your deceased loved one, “She would have wanted me to…” If you’re religious, you might think that “Godly people” should not be sad or depressed – but Jesus wept and grieved for people. Try not to compare yourself or your family with others. Everyone grieves in different ways – give yourself plenty of space and grace. Accept your limitations and don’t beat yourself up.

  • Create or Eliminate Traditions and Rituals

Talk to your family and decide which rituals and traditions are healing. Some may be too painful. Compromise with each other. Incorporate memories of your loved one into your holiday. Write poems or prayers, light a candle, create a memorial piece of artwork together. Hang a new ornament, volunteer at a nonprofit that your loved one supported. Remember that what you do this year doesn’t have to be repeated next year. You may choose a new ritual next year. Do what feels right for you now.

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Professional Help

If you are feeling overwhelmed or immobilized by negative or destructive emotions, don’t try to be super human. There are many support groups and programs that can help. Most counties have hospice grief groups during the holidays.

  • Remember, You Will Survive

This time of year will likely be the most difficult season of your grief. But you will get through it. Our anticipation of the holidays is always worse than the holiday itself. You don’t have to enjoy the holidays; you don’t even have to pretend. Rest and be kind to yourself. You are not alone.

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