Sunday, July 27, 2014

Monday Mantra: The Broken Ones

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Life is full of painful truths
Society 6
Life asked death...
Almost all of my family is dead.

This is my truth. My personal mantra. My life.

It is not the exaggeration I wish it was.

I think of this now as I approach the painful anniversary of my grandmother's death. I think of this because somehow I've been drawn to books like The Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks, and Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things, both by Cheryl Strayed, that demonstrate the pains of life that we each go through. The horrible, terrible, very bad things that we all have to endure. Painful things that, eventually, go away so we can have a life that leads to better things. A life of wonderful, fabulous, very good things.

This also makes me realize, with even more truth that I knew before, that each and every one of us has been or will be broken at some point in our lives by some act, large or small, that we'll have to endure. The act that breaks us - death, an ugly divorce, molestation, addiction - oddly enough, unites us. I know not of a single person that hasn't had some terrible, horrible, very bad thing happen to them. We are connected by this, as awful as it is, a life where no one goes untouched by pain.

When I say we are broken, I do not mean this in a way that suggests we can never be repaired or that we're definitively ruined by these events. I say it for two reasons: 1) It is a universal truth that life is not perfect and painless and 2) some of the strongest, smartest, most beautiful people in the world are the ones that have been broken the most.

In Japan, they have a word "Kintsugi" that refers to the act of fixing broken ceramics with gold to make them, and I quote, "…more gorgeous, and more precious, than before it was fractured." They believe when something has a history and has suffered damage it becomes more beautiful. When you look at it like that it means that each of us has a painful, yet beautiful history and that each history is unique, making it even more precious.

That being said, I know there are pains so deep and dark that right now they seem unbearable. That in this moment it is completely impossible to imagine a brighter future.

But it exists.

I say this from a place of certainty and experience. I was verbally and physically sexually harassed when I was a teenager, lied to for years and years by someone I loved and trusted,  and spent the majority of my childhood in a nursing home watching my father slowly die from an incurable disease.

And yet, I love my life.

And yet, I have my own deep and dark place that often seems unbearable still. I have to live with this ever constant and increasing truth:

Almost all of my family is dead.

I must accept that this is my broken life. One that I keep repairing with the gold love of my friends and family. A life where I have done my own version of Kintsugi, finding and creating a family of my own.

Over the years I've tried to assign this fact of mine percentages... 50% of my family is gone, 77%, 90… 90% of my family is gone. I never know how to truly calculate it. I'm not even sure why I try, except that somehow having a number assigned to it makes me feel like I can grasp it better.

My dad died when I was 8. By the time I was 14 all of the family on my father's side was gone. The years blur together for me: Grandparents, uncles, aunts, godmothers, great aunts and uncles, and of course, pets. When I was 19, the next timeline I can clearly date, one of my closest friends was murdered. And after that, I lost my grandparents on my mother's side. My mom is broken in her own way, because of everything. I don't know how to lessen her pain. It is unbearable sometimes. It is unbearable to be alone trying to lessen her pain. I am an only child and I wish I wasn't. Outside of everything else that has happened to me, this is the headline of my life story.

Almost all of my family is dead.

When my grandmother passed away, I lost my memory. Not all of it, but pieces. In particular, and for about a year, my short-term memory was gone. But I never forgot her. I never forgot being 4 years old, playing at her neighbors house next door, with our family friends, Charlie and Millie, asking me what my favorite color was.

"Purple, " I told them. "But Gramma, what's your favorite color?" I asked.
"Blue, " she said.
"Blue. Blue is my favorite color, " I said. Completely and 100% certain in that moment that no other color could have possibly been my favorite because my grandmother loved it and I loved her and everything she loved.

One part about the terrible, horrible, very bad things that I find terrible and horrible in it's own way is having the important people of my life today not fully understand my past because they weren't a part of it. Only those who lived through the funerals with me, through the pain in the moment, truly know what I lost and how deeply it etched it's way in my soul. It also pains me to know that those same important people of today will never meet the important people of my past. My boyfriend will never meet my grandmother. He will never know the true weight of my love for her because he will never see it in action.

I also find it odd, because of my own reality, to meet someone who has an almost entirely and intact family, barely marked by death. A large, living family with aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins everywhere you look. I know this is normal for many people, but because it is not my normal it always throws me off for a second. My mind wraps around one repeating phrase:
You have so many people…so many people…so many people.

I recently met my boyfriend's other grandmother. He has one of those big families with so many people I can't even wrap my head around it. I didn't know I was going to fall apart just in meeting her. Every second I spent staring at this beautiful lady reminded me of two things: I had grandparents. I have no grandparents.

I had grandparents. I have no grandparents. I had grandparents…I have no grandparents…IhadgrandparentsIhavenograndparents.

And yet.

And yet...

And yet, my life is wonderful. I don't say that from a place of fake hope or misguided judgment. My life is truly wonderful. I couldn't imagine changing any of it because, in doing so, some ripple effect would take place that would also change all of the wonderful things. My repeatedly repaired life, full of cracks filled with gold, is breathtakingly beautiful.

And because of that, I know this:

Whatever you're going through, it will get better. It will end. It will change.

You will find a way to fill the fractures of your life with gold and you will be more beautiful for it.

You are worth the struggle, the fight, the clawing and kicking and screaming. You will make it to the other side.

We all will. We are in this together.

We are the broken ones.

We are strong. We are capable. We are meant to live our way into a wonderful, fabulous, very good life.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Monday Mantra: Secret #2

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: The world is in you
The feeling of gravity keeps us down
While Secret #1 taught me many things about what I believe and why (and that, currently, I absolutely, positively cannot sit and do nothing for 10 minutes everyday without going crazy), it's time to move on to Secret #2.  

Secret #2: The World is in You

We were taught to follow a set of habits and beliefs that totally disregard the mystery of life. These beliefs are contained one inside the other like nested boxes:

There is a material world.
The material world is full of things, events, people.
I am one of those people, and my status is no higher than that of anyone else. 
To find out who I am, I must explore the material world.

This set of beliefs is binding. It leaves no room for soul-searching, or even for the soul itself…as convincing as the material world looks, to the great embarrassment of modern science, no one has been able to prove that it is real…any neurologist will assure you that the brain offers no proof that the outside world really exists...
For all anyone knows, the entire outside world could be a dream. 

Whoa, what? Did you catch that? The entire outside world may not actually exist?! 

The idea held within Secret #2 is this: The world you experience is what you create, what you make of it, your perception of everything, good, bad, or otherwise. It is magical and unexplainable and in so many ways, limitless. However, over time we've been taught to isolate ourselves in order to search out exactly who we are and, in doing this, we've separated ourselves. We've lost the connection to the world within us. We've created an Us vs. Them situation in almost everything we do and, by doing that, we've separated us from ourselves. The world is within you. You are not in the world. 

It's complicated and beautiful and intriguing and, somewhat, overwhelming. 

To live and learn Secret #2, you're asked to change your reality and bring the world home to yourself. You're asked to look around you and notice how everything you see is a part of you. How your color choice of wall paint is a direct reflection of you and how you feel about your world. How you observe happiness around you and how the people in your life all play a role in that happiness. 

My favorite exercise is where he asks you to get a rose, hold it in front of you, and understand how this rose is created by you. "Without me, this flower would have no fragrance." Never before that moment had I realized that I give fragrance to flowers, color to walls, vibrancy to the world, just because of the sensations my brain generates.

The world is within me. I am not within the world.

In an attempt to live this secret, I'm going to start focusing on my surroundings and asking myself how I connect to them, how my perception of them has shaped them. How, if I were to alter that perception, they would completely change. 

What will you do, observe, notice to uncover the world within you?

A shout out to my work hubby, Daniel, for going secret-by-secret right along with me! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Gluten Free 4th of July

Hi Friends, I'm going to take a couple of weeks off for family and fun time, but wanted to leave you with a little something-something for the holiday weekend. Here are some of my favorite recipes from past posts that work great for our amazing and much-to-be-celebrated-about Independence Day!



Sweet Herb Lemonade is taken from Rachel's fantastic website, The Healthy Cooking Coach. I did the lemonade and the orangeade and enjoyed them both. Mine were slightly different than her recipe, which is below, as I made a larger portion for each and made them a bit sweeter. This is where you'll need to play around with them. Like she says, add a little stevia, taste, then add and taste as needed.

Sweet Herb Lemonade  

Prep: 10 minutes/ Yield: 1 quart + 1/3 to 1/2 cup

If you love––or once loved––lemonade but don’t want the sugar or artificial sweeteners found in conventional recipes and commercial products, try this. All the sweetness comes from the leaf of a South American herb that tastes 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. 

To avoid a bitter flavor, you need to measure carefully and use it in minuscule amounts. The biggest mistake people make is using too much. Brands may differ in flavor and concentration, so always start with less than you think you need, taste, and adjust in minuscule amounts as needed.

FYI: Look for pure stevia extract powder. For cooking, baking, and all of my recipes, I recommend against brands that contain fillers that dilute the stevia making it difficult to impossible to know how much to add, particularly in cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, frozen desserts, and sauces. Note: I avoid all stevia products that contain FOS, a pre-biotic that not only dilutes the herb but adds something to feed the friendly flora in your intestines. For many people FOS causes gas and bloating. See notes above for more on this!
Caveat: If you do use Nu Naturals stevia packets (these contain a filler to make the volume of the packet like that of a sugar packet), you will have to add, taste, add, and taste to get the right amount. You might need an entire envelope for each 1/2 to 1 quart of lemonade, depending on your tastes and sweetness preferences.
4 cups filtered water  (1 quart)
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly juiced organic lemons, seeds removed (about 3 medium lemons)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon pure stevia extract powder or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon clear stevia extract liquid (I like Nu Naturals stevia extract powder & liquids and Wisdom Naturals/Sweet Leaf stevia liquids)
  1. Combine water, lemon juice, lemon pulp, if desired, and stevia in a tall glass pitcher or quart jar. Whisk well. Taste and add additional stevia, 1/16th to 1/8th teaspoon at a time, if a sweeter taste is desired. If too lemony, dilute with additional water.
  2. Serve over ice if desired.  Cover and refrigerate. Use within 1 week. 

Easy Crockpot Ribs

2.5 lbs of ribs (I use grass fed)
1 quart container of mushroom broth
1 quart container of beef broth - (I use Pacific Natural Foods for my broths)
1 diced onion
1/4 cup Stubs BBQ Sauce- Original Flavor or 1/4 cup Better BBQ Sauce

Sprinkle in the following herbs and spices:

  • Garlic Pepper (or you can dice up some garlic cloves)
  • Cardamom
  • Sea Salt
  • Paprika
  • Pepper
  • Ground Mustard
  • Chipotle
  • Dulse
  • Kelp
  • Thyme
  • Cumin
  • Basil
The variety of herbs will not only make your ribs taste delicious, but they'll make you feel great as well. Each one does it's own special thing to help digestion, remove toxins, and promote better immune health.

1. Combine broths, spices and herbs, onion, and BBQ sauce in crockpot. Mix well, then add in ribs.
2. Cook ribs in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, checking occasionally.
3. That's about it. I told you they were easy! Pull them out and eat, when ready.

If you like BBQ Sauce, I highly recommend using this Better BBQ Sauce recipe with these. Or with everything, it's that good. If you don't have time to make it, buy the version I mention, above. It's a healthy alternative to the homemade one.

WTF Sweet Potato Salad

Taken and modified from Tasting Table

Ingredients for Dressing:
1/4 cup plus two TBSP's veganaise 
1 TSP garlic seasoning
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1 TSP dijon mustard
1/8 TSP tabasco sauce
1/4 TSP paprika
1/4 TSP cumin
1/4 - 1/2 TSP black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 TSP sea salt
1 TSP soy sauce

Ingredients for the Salad:
2 large eggs
2 pounds sweet potatoes
1 cup snap peas, ends trimmed
6 ounces ham, diced (GF of course, but also preferably nitrate free)
1 red bell pepper diced
1 yellow bell pepper diced
2 celery stalks thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped dill pickles
2 TSP's extra virgin olive oil

1. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl whisk together the veganaise, garlic, lemon, mustard, Tabasco, paprika, cumin, black pepper, soy sauce, and sea salt. 
2. Hard boil your eggs in a medium saucepan over high heat for 15 mins. Immediately (this is the key to easy shell peeling) put them in ice cold water with ice. When they are cool enough to handle, roll them on the counter and crack the shell, the peel away, then dice them up.
3. Bring a large pot of water to boil on high heat. Add the potatoes and boil for 20-30 mins, or until tender. Use a fork to check them (it should easily puncture the potatoes). Turn off the heat and add the snap peas to the hot water to cook. Leave them in for 2 mins, then remove the potatoes and the peas. Cool them under cold running water. Cut the potatoes into small bites. I removed the skins, but do as you please with that. Chop up the snap peas.
4. Put the potatoes, eggs, snap peas, ham, bell pepper, celery, and dill pickles into a large bowl. Add the dressing and mix well. Add a little more salt, pepper, and veganaise if you want a creamier salad. 

It doesn't just look pretty, it tastes pretty, too.

Corn and Bell Pepper Salad

Original Recipe taken from Just a Pinch Recipe Club

2 Cups Diced Red Bell Peppers 
2 1/2 cups Fresh Corn Kernels ( approx: 5 medium ears of corn)
1 Small Red Onion, diced
About 3 lettuce leaved to make the bowl pretty
Salt, pepper, and basil to sprinkle on top

1. In a large bowl, combine corn, peppers, and onion. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Stir in the dressing. 
2. Arrange lettuce leaves in cup shape inside bowl and fill with the salad. 
3. Sprinkle with chopped basil.

Side note: The dressing really makes the recipe. I mean it really, really makes the recipe. You really can't go wrong with it, as it's sugar and gluten free- a good combination. This can also be found at Sprouts, Whole Foods, etc.

Mom's Old Fashioned Cherry Pie

  • 1 can Eagle Brand milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cool whip
  • 1/4 TSP almond extract
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • 1 can cherries for pie filling
  • Gluten free graham crackers (individual or pre-made pie crust)
If you're using GF graham crackers and don't have a pie crust handy, crush the graham crackers and make sure you add in some butter (olive oil doesn't work as well in this case) to help form the crust. First start adding the butter to the crackers in a bowl until it beings to stick together, then transfer to a pie plate to form the crust. I needed about 1/2 a stick of butter, but start smaller with 1/4 a stick and work your way up as needed from there.

Mix milk, juice, cool whip, almond, and vanilla together in a large bowl. Pour this mixture into your graham cracker pie crust. Pour the can of cherries on top of that. Finish with cool whip around the edges. Let sit in the fridge for at least an hour, but the longer the better. I like to make it the night before as the flavors really mix together and it seems to set better over night.