Pinch Me. I Must Be Dreaming.

Pinch me. I must be dreaming. I’m seeing too many things that make so little sense they don’t seem real. A dream state could explain this and ease the distress I feel from being surrounded by cognitive dissonance.

But I know I’m awake. I know the contradictions that have dominated pandemic news will continue to be paraded before me in my newsfeed, on TV, and on Twitter. If I’m going to stay abreast of current news, I have to tolerate what feels delusional.

I believe thriving and making good health decisions require staying abreast of current research, virus spread, government policies, and community activity. Doing so demands tolerance, fortitude, humor, and the ability to shift as things change. It isn’t easy, but to me, it’s worth it.

If you feel a need to stay informed, but worry that you’re not up to the task here are some tips to keep you feeling balanced:

Adopt a learning perspective.
When someone else’s point-of-view annoys you or sends you down a dark path, get curious. What motivates that person? What do they gain from taking a particular position? Are their values aligned with yours? If not, what values do you see demonstrated in their actions? Are they just taking a different path to reach the same conclusion you reach?

Sometimes things that look opposite on the surface are not. Further investigation can be revealing. Beginning with curiosity rather than assumptions or knee-jerk reactions can enrich your understanding.

Not to be forgotten, knowledge is power. While it may be a cliché, it’s also a good reminder that learning will give you more leverage than simply reacting.

Reject attempts from others to define your priorities.
You can set your own priorities and stick with them. These may go against the grain. That’s okay. In retrospect, conventional wisdom is often wrong. You may just be ahead of your time.

Feel free to hear a message while rejecting shame.
None of us are perfect. We make mistakes that can’t be taken back. Sometimes we see our errors reflected in the mistakes of others. Sometimes we need the opportunity to view our errors so we can correct them.

Once we recognize our mistakes, express remorse, learn and do better, there’s simply no reason to feel ashamed or punish ourselves. Period. It does not matter how other people respond.

If I would grant someone else grace and forgiveness for the same offense. I can forgive myself.

Have confidence in your perceptions.
You don’t have to believe incorrect information. Just because something is often repeated doesn’t make it true. Trusting your perceptions will allow you to keep an open mind and see past deception.

When you live or work in a dysfunctional system, there can be immense pressure to conform to distorted ways of viewing things. You may believe you’re alone in seeing things differently. Even if you are, that doesn’t make you wrong. Reread The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Choose your battles or choose no battles.
You don’t have to fight. Some of my friends and family are now ignoring the news because they feel they have to fight every single piece of misinformation and that looms so large they give up before they get started. You can stay informed without fighting. It’s a choice.

Contribute.
Doing something of value is centering. It doesn’t have to be large to be significant. Sew masks. Send encouraging texts. Mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn. Organize a driving celebration. Call a friend who lives alone. Create an online social experience. Raise money. Design and assemble goody bags for your neighbors.

You can create an experience each day that puts you in the position to be at your best and show it off. The result will boost your spirits and resilience.

Allow yourself to be strong.
If you always avoid the difficult, you’ll never know how strong you are. You may need that strength to get you through an unavoidable illness or natural disaster down the road. Most of us have internal resources we have not tapped. Now is a good time to get familiar with them.

Of course, you can use all of these tips and still feel crazy right now. Rest assured, there are other people who see things like you do. You haven’t lost your mind. Things are swiftly changing and uncertain. It’s unsettling.

I often feel like I’m living in two realities at the same time. I don’t enjoy that, but I know I’m okay and I will be okay. It’s the circumstances in which I find myself that have changed. And boy, have they changed! Pinch me. I must be dreaming!

https://time.com/5851849/coronavirus-science-advice/

There’s Always Room for Expansion

There’s always room for expansion. I’ve learned a few things since mid-March. One of them is, there’s always room for expansion.

Now you may be thinking I’m referring to expansion into the pj pants we’re wearing all day long. Nope. Well, maybe. But that’s not the point. It’s just an example. Other examples include: Making room for months worth of toilet paper, paper towels, and Clarisonic face brush refills; finding stores that will deliver necessities like car batteries; increasing personal space; donating more to those in need. Expansion in many areas has become a necessity.

And there are even greater opportunities to expand. Never before has so much scientific information been readily available and paraded before us. Now is a great time to learn about the process of clinical trials and how to participate in them.

Research is happening all of the time. The results of most of that research was previously published in journals and/or on websites where very few people saw it. Translational research has sought to change that by bringing research quickly into the practice of medicine to improve outcomes.

Now, Twitter threads bring links to studies immediately into public view. For the general public it would probably be better if studies were peer reviewed before that happens, but the accessibility and increased speed with which information is disseminated is a fantastic move forward. And the pandemic has meant that studies do not linger in obscurity prior to publication.

You don’t have to be fully fluent in statistics or chemistry to read the abstract of a scientific study. And if you start your lessons on Twitter, you’ll have experts breaking down the implications of new research. Of course, you’ll have to choose your experts carefully to get credible information, but most have their credentials in full view.

For those of you who have been frustrated through the years by a lack of accurate serological testing for Celiac Disease, there’s an opportunity to see multiple articles regarding specificity and sensitivity and how they affect test results in coronavirus antibody tests. Specificity and sensitivity are key to the weight information from a serological test should be given when diagnosing a disease.

Whether or not you choose to get lost in the science is up to you. But expanding knowledge is always a good thing. It will help you sort through the misinformation that abounds. And it will keep your brain active and engaged.

At this moment when your circle of friends and family may be contracting, expanding your mind can provide stimulation, inspiration, and knowledge. I always have room for those, don’t you?

https://www.sciencemag.org/

https://www.thelancet.com/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/pages/coronavirus-alert

https://www.gastroendonews.com/In-the-News/Article/01-20/Potentially-Revolutionary-Drug-for-Celiac-Disease-Shows-Promise-in-Phase-2-Study/56971

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Baby Carrot Anyone?

Baby carrot anyone? What is a baby carrot? Seems like a simple enough question. Obviously, it’s a carrot that hasn’t yet reached maturity. Also obvious, if you give it some thought, baby carrots will vary in size and shape as do squash, eggplant, and green beans. A baby carrot won’t always be a 2 inch length of uniformly orange vegetable with perfectly rounded ends. So what are those things we buy in the bag?

Those easy-to-pop-in-your-mouth snacks are baby-cut carrots. According to the World Carrot Museum (who knew there was one), baby-cut carrots were the brainchild of Mike Yurosek of Newhall, California who got tired of having to cull 70% of his harvest because the roots were twisted or knobby or broken. He knew that some of his carrots were cut up by frozen vegetable processors so he wondered, why not cut them up ourselves and sell them fresh?

After hand cutting a trial, Yurosek bought an industrial green bean cutter from a frozen food company that was going out of business. That machinery cut 2-inch strips. He then sent the strips to a packager to load them into a potato peeler to remove the peel and smooth the edges. Eventually, he bagged a few and sent to one of his grocery store clients to try. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, there was an upsurge in the popularity of carrots following the 1986 introduction of baby-cut carrots. Consumption peaked in the US at 14.1 pounds of carrots per person per year in 1997. By 2015, average consumption settled at around 8.3 pounds per person per year. Baby-cut carrots now make up more than 50% of carrot sales.

Because of baby-cut carrots’ popularity, plant breeders began to create varieties that were longer and narrower. They also bred the carrots to be sweeter. These were interesting shifts from the previously preferred characteristic of sturdy green tops.

Carrots are edible from one end to the other, but I can’t name anyone off the top of my head who eats the tops. I can name two people who don’t peel carrots on a regular basis. I’m one of them. Most of the nutrition in a carrot lies just beneath the peel. If you take away the peel, it’s easy to take away lots of good stuff in the process.

I prefer baby carrots to baby-cut carrots. I like surprising shapes and slight variances in color and flavor. But again, I’m the oddball. I was eyeing the last tomato in a bushel basket at the Farmer’s Market a few years ago. It was slightly misshapen. The proprietor of the booth said I could have it. He’d never be able to sell it. It seems even when we’re purchasing directly from the farmer, we’ve come to expect uniformity.

I’ll never argue against something that encourages a vegetable snack over a doughnut and I’m happy when waste is reduced by using all the parts of a particular food. Baby-cut carrots tick those boxes. But I vastly prefer the full flavor of the food I grew up eating right out of the garden to uniformity.

So, when there’s an option, I’ll take a baby carrot over a baby-cut carrot. Anyone else want one?

Peaches & Cream

We all love peaches & cream! It’s the perfect complexion. It’s a life without problems. It’s an easy dessert. If you don’t love one of those, you’re unusual. Most of us want something in our lives to be peachy.

I can’t necessarily make your life peachy, but I can fill a biscuit with peach butter. Actually, that’s probably not true because I’m eating the peaches as quickly as they arrive. It’s peach season and the fruit is too good to chop, mash, cook, or pickle.

I’ve been placing a freshly sliced peach atop arugula from the garden. When I add a few walnuts and some goat cheese, I have an amazingly flavorful salad! The arugula from my garden is so peppery it brings a slight burn to the sides of my tongue. The peach adds a perfect balance of sweet and tart and the goat cheese delivers a delightful creaminess. A light splash of vinaigrette dressing might take this up a notch, but I seldom bother.

Like pears, I prefer peaches ripe enough for the juice to stream down my chin. If I’m using them in salad, I peel them. This is just a personal preference. You can leave the peel on both peaches and pears.

Anyway, back to the peach butter. If I ever get enough peaches and enough time on my hands to coincide, I’m going to try a recipe I found on a page ripped from The Progressive Farmer magazine and left to yellow in my cousin’s kitchen. It looks like it’s from the 1950s.

There are only two ingredients – peaches and sugar. The approximate ratio is 3 cups of ripe peach pulp to 2 cups of sugar boiled together until it’s thick and smooth. After that you place the hot mixture in sterilized hot jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

I already have some jars on hand and this sounds simple enough. Not just simple, it sounds so yummy my mouth is watering. Of course that could be because I just picked up a peach in my kitchen to snap a photo and the smell wafted past my nose.

Do I think I’ll improve the peaches by making peach butter? No! I don’t think you can improve on a perfectly ripe, fresh peach.

But it sure will make my biscuit better!

Update: I made a batch of peach butter. I used 3 cups of peach pulp (8 peaches) and 3/4 cup sugar. Using 2 cups of sugar would have been waaaay to much for my taste.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Progressive_Farmer