Archive for ‘Lifestyle can be a Piece of Cake’

November 24, 2019

Just Do What You Can

You don’t need to tell me to call if I need something…just do what you can! It’s been a difficult past few weeks. We received news that my 18-month-old granddaughter has developed an unexpected complication that will require a 3rd open heart surgery. On the heels of that, my elderly cousin whose care I oversaw began to decline quickly and passed away. As this next season of difficulty for my family has arrived, so have the well meaning statements to call if I need something.

I appreciate it. I know some of you will drop everything to help. I also know some of you say to call, but in reality will most likely stay too busy to actually assist. This is the nature of the ebb and flow of relationships.
hospital
So, here’s the thing. What my family knows from the past year is that when hospitalizations grow lengthy and we all grow weary, many times it is simply beyond our ability to ask for something. Our silence doesn’t mean we don’t need help. It means we need it so much that we can’t get our thoughts together to articulate anything specific. We are barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

I’ve been in your shoes, wanting to help and hoping you’d instruct me, take the burden off me, and let me off the hook instead of having to take initiative and figure things out. I’ve wondered whether I’ll be perceived as pushy or intrusive if I take it upon myself to decide what you need. I’ve worried that I’ll accidentally do something that makes you feel worse.

In spite of those reservations, I have taken the initiative to buy groceries after a phone call in which I sensed the stress and overload a friend was feeling. She had moved her mother from a nursing home into her home to die, it was her husband’s busy season at work, and one of her sons was going through a nasty break-up and had moved back home. She mentioned she was out of milk and couldn’t leave the house.

I heard her. I did not ask for a list or permission. I went to the grocery store and bought some basics-milk, eggs, coffee, cheese, crackers, a rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, salad mix, bananas, muffins, a loaf of bread, deli meat, paper towels, and toilet paper. I didn’t worry whether I had chosen her brand of paper towels or coffee. I just delivered enough to get the family through a couple of days, hopefully giving them a chance to rest and rally.

Similar things have happened for my benefit. A few weeks after my mom died, I cooked lunch for a friend. After lunch, I felt really bad. My stomach hurt. I had no energy. All I wanted to do was recline. My friend checked to see if I needed to go to the doctor, then she told me to lie down on the couch and stay there. She cleared the table, washed every dish in the kitchen, and wiped down the stove. She saw in that moment what I needed and did what she could. It was a kindness I will never forget.

Last weekend when I got home from my cousin’s funeral, there was a bag of warm food sitting on my porch. The friend who I had taken groceries those years ago had roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower and steamed spinach with almonds and raisins then delivered them to my home. I had been on the road for three hours. Arriving to this gift warmed my belly and my heart. I am so grateful for friends who seem to instinctively know how to help!

But not everyone has this sixth sense. What if you don’t know how to help? I would say, just do what you can…

When you don’t have time or are too far away to clean the kitchen, call or text. If you wait for me to post something or send an update, it may not happen. It’s not that I don’t want to keep you in the loop. I’ll try, but sometimes my energy is directed toward processing the news that EM is being immobilized and put back on a ventilator or trying to get some work done in the few hours I have before picking up DJ from school. A message saying you’re thinking of us or wishing us a day without bad news is always welcome. I will respond when I am able.

If you want to help and texting doesn’t feel right, consider a gift card for an errand running service. During a 60-day hospitalization this spring, my daughter-in-law’s co-workers purchased a gift card from such a service that was well received. My DIL needed keys duplicated and distributed, but getting to the locksmith or hardware store seemed impossible. Suddenly, she had a solution!
pizza
When you live close but are really busy, think about piggy-backing on something you’re already doing. When you order pizza, pick up an extra one and drop it off at the hospital on your way home. A quick text and we can often meet you at the front door. You won’t even have to get out of your car.

Of course it doesn’t have to be pizza. If you know something specific we like, bring it. If not, when you eat out, carry away a Poke bowl topped chicken and other generally liked topping choices; a salad with a couple of dressing choices on the side; a loaded baked potato with all of the toppings on the side; a baked chicken breast with mixed veggies; a burrito bowl; muffins or croissants. Whatever you bring will be welcome. If we can’t eat it, we will share with another family. It will not go to waste.

You can do the same when you cook at home. You don’t need to prepare anything extra. Drop off leftover mac & cheese, pork tenderloin, squash casserole, chili, enchiladas, pot roast, stir-fry, or steamed vegetables. It doesn’t have to be a full meal. Your vegetables added to protein from the hospital cafeteria will still be a welcome change.

Another easy contribution is a few home essentials you can add to your regular shopping list. Choose things everyone needs or can use that can sit on the porch for a few hours without spoiling – paper towels, toilet paper, trash bags, facial tissue travel packs, zip top bags or snack containers in a variety of sizes, hand soap, hand lotion, body wash, dental floss, Tylenol, disinfecting hand wipes or diaper wipes if there are small children in the household, kitchen wipes, unscented laundry detergent, dishwashing pods, a snuggly throw, magazines, trail mix, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, instant oatmeal or grit packets, cereal, microwavable rice, or a variety of pre-made soups.

Last week, a friend brought me a couple of things I requested from the grocery store. She threw in a copy of National Enquirer. It was the perfect addition! It made me laugh and gave me frivolous reading plus sudoku and crosswords to distract me from funeral planning.

When you have extra time, lawn care, plant watering, or houseplant sitting can be welcome contributions. Present them as options you are going to do unless there’s an objection rather than asking whether they need to be done. Providing pet sitting, grooming, or transportation to the vet can also be valuable services.

Other ways to help may be to take a shift sitting with the patient at the hospital or taking the other children to the museum, making a Halloween costume, delivering or decorating a Christmas tree. Keep things simple and appropriate. If the family normally has a small, simple tree, stick with that. Don’t bring in a 20ft elaborately decorated monstrosity unless the family has expressed the desire for one.

Perhaps the best thing you can do is make time to listen. Long-term illness and hospitalization are isolating experiences. Very few people know what it’s like to be in ICU month after month. There’s no need to offer platitudes, cliches, or assurances that everything will be okay. You don’t know that everything will be okay and even if it is, we’re stuck in the current moment. That’s where we need you to hear us, now, not in the future when things may be less difficult.

You don’t have to try to make us feel better. Just be there, really there, able to hear and shoulder our pain and loss. That will make us feel less alone, more connected, and therefore better.

If you’re not up to that task, it’s okay. There are many, many ways to reach out, help, and show you care. Just do what you can.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201608/helping-friend-whose-loved-one-is-seriously-ill

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/five-ways-cope-life-feels-like-always-someone-else/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/id-tell-you-but-then-id-have-to/

May 20, 2019

Cooking Can Be Child’s Play

Rainy days are a great time to remember cooking can be child’s play! We have had an unusually rainy year. That means my grandkids are often stuck in the house. When we get tired of trains, painting, reading, and building with blocks, I like to move into the kitchen where there’s plenty of fun to be made.
cooking
Of course there are safety issues to be considered, but even a young toddler can pour and stir and taste or at least pretend. My grandmother didn’t hesitate to give me a sharp knife as a preschooler. She expected me to be able to peel potatoes with it to her high standard. I should only remove skin, not big chunks of potato. I didn’t do too well at first, but I didn’t cut myself and I learned to step up my food prep game.

I am not brave enough to hand a sharp knife to my grandchildren, but I let the toddlers use a grater and they have a designated drawer in the kitchen that they are allowed to access alone once they’re competently walking. The kid drawer contains my measuring cups and spoons, a tea strainer, some small spatulas, and biscuit cutters. The measuring cups become pans for the play stove that I rescued from my grandmother’s attic.

There have been many an imaginary cake and pots of soup made using that stove. Eventually, I bought some play fruits and vegetables and set up a pantry from which the kids could select ingredients. My oldest grandson expanded this pantry to include marbles. He loves to stir them with a whisk because it makes a loud noise.

Sometimes, he helps me with real food. Because he’s only two, his tasks are usually stirring and adding salt & pepper. If he wants to measure and dump things in the bowl, I get him a separate bowl and a measuring cup and let him have some flour, sugar, salt, and water. He makes a mess on the counter and on the floor, but he has a great time making “pancakes”.

Any time the grandkids are cooking, we talk about different kinds of food. I let them taste or smell herbs and spices. I show them the real version of a potato or an onion when they’re using a play potato or onion. I explain that you have to fill the 1/4 cup four times to equal one cup. I don’t belabor this point because my oldest grandchild is not yet three. I am only trying to plant a seed of math knowledge while we’re having fun.
at counter
Once I’m ready to clean up the mess, toddlers are happy to help. I let them stand on a ladder at the sink and “wash” dishes. Washing mostly consists of pouring water from one container to another, but it keeps them occupied while I clean up the rest. Yes, my countertop and floor get washed in the process, but I make sure to control the chaos and I don’t mind mopping up a little water.

My grandmother made homemade play dough and let me add the food coloring. Because I’m gluten-free I don’t keep flour in my pantry, but without that restriction I would definitely incorporate making play dough making into our kitchen fun! When we’re not making snakes and iguanas, we often make lemons, spinach, bread, fried eggs, raspberries, grapes, and pizza with our store-bought Play-Doh. (The gluten molecule is too large to pass through your pores, so I never worry about handling the dough.)

As the kids get older, I’ll let them do even more. Right now, I make sure to talk through the process whenever they’re watching me cook. By the time they can mix up biscuits, they’ll already know that we start with all of the dry ingredients, then add the fat before finally adding liquid. They’ll probably know how to use milk & vinegar as a substitute for buttermilk too. Essentially, they’ll be at a different stage of readiness having observed the process before attempting it. Having confidence in the kitchen will give my grandchildren a leg up as adults who may decide to dine at home.

I don’t just focus on the lessons when playing with my grandchildren in the kitchen; I incorporate stories about my life. I can’t tell a story without hearing, “Again!” And so I tell it again. I am weaving a family narrative that will anchor these children to their history creating a sense of belonging to something bigger. Through these stories, they will learn more about me, my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as their own parents and themselves.

It is easy to see by the response, the stories are enjoyed and appreciated. They are also important. Research says family narratives not only help us make sense of the world but can play an important role in healing (1).

The weather woman is promising more rain this week. I’m looking forward to the chance to stir up a cake, spin a yarn, and create bonds with my grandchildren that will sustain them. I’m so glad cooking can be child’s play!

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/expert-answers/celiac-disease/faq-20057879

https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-018-0347-9

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-stories-our-lives/201702/collective-stories-in-families-teach-us-about-ourselves

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010736/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-3-the-lessons/

August 29, 2018

A Love Affair With Coffee

Are you having a love affair with coffee? I love the smell of coffee. I always have. Years before I liked drinking it, I wanted to pour it over my head every time I smelled that scrumptious aroma. Today, you can drive me up to a Starbucks® window and the instant coffee wafts past my nose, I feel my shoulders relax and my gut calm. I probably sigh out loud.

I don’t know why coffee has such a strong effect on me or why it feels comforting. No one in my family regularly drank coffee. It took me years to learn to enjoy it. From 100% freeze-dried Taster’s Choice® instant to my current favorite, whole bean Jim’s Organic Sweet Love Blend, it’s been a journey.
coffee press
Like everything else, coffee drinkers have their preferences. A few years ago, I went to a presentation on coffee at the Gilcrease Museum. During the tasting portion, I learned I am not a coffee purist. I am not willing to spend a full two minutes pouring boiling water over barely ground beans roasted so lightly they taste like…well, let’s just say they’re not to my taste.

I understand that very dark roasts can mostly taste like charred beans, but for some people that can be as delicious as the charred edges of steak cooked on a charcoal grill. One local roaster promoted a particular coffee to me by touting its high acidity. The problem with that is, I prefer a very smooth mellow flavor. If high acid comes with a bite at the end, I don’t like it.

Perhaps my favorite bag of coffee ever arrived from Costa Rica with a friend who had been traveling. Every drop I made from that bag superseded any coffee that came before or since. I’ve tried other Costa Rican coffees, but can’t seem to replicate that experience.

For the past few months I’ve been on a quest to find a new satisfying roast. I had been grabbing less expensive, already ground bags until I realized the simple pleasure of a really delicious cup of joe can set the tone for my whole day. I want every day to be the best possible, so I had to begin with better ingredients.

After experiments with several Starbucks, Peet’s, Wicked Joe, Equal Exchange, and Black Rifle flavors, I grabbed a bag of Jim’s Organic in a small health food store in my hometown. That one bag led to an online order that arrived this week. In addition to the Sweet Love Blend, I’m trying Costa Rican Hacienda La Amistad, Sumatra French Roast, and 2 Souls Dark Roast. They were all ordered as whole beans. Of course I couldn’t see the them online, but in the store I look for dark beans that glisten with aromatic oils.
coffee beans
I grind the beans for about 15 seconds and place them in a ceramic French press. I’ve owned a variety of coffee brewing machines over the years including one that shot sparks into the room when I wasn’t even using it. None of them have lasted for more than a couple of years and none of them produced a better cup of coffee than a $7 glass French press purchased from a restaurant supply store.

The ceramic press is a new purchase. So far, I like it. It keeps the coffee hot longer than my previous glass press. This press filled with Sweet Love Blend is good enough to extend my love affair with coffee.

A former boyfriend recently said he was always impressed that I could make such a good cup of coffee at home. My thought bubble was saying, “How would you know? You drink it with so much cream and sweetener, you can’t even taste the coffee”. (Former boyfriends always give me thought bubbles.)

Given the popularity of frappumacchiatocino drinks, I sometimes wonder how many people enjoy the taste of coffee. All that sugary stuff inside or on top certainly masks its flavor. On the flip side, a little cream can make a moderately bad, bitter cup palatable. Perhaps previous experience with an unpleasant aftertaste leads to a cream & sugar habit.

Then there are those who like coffee flavor, but want to fortify it as a breakfast substitute or an after workout replenisher. I have friends who swear by bullet coffee. It’s not my thing, but I recently saw a recipe for bullet coffee that looked delicious. In addition to butter, it included cacao, cinnamon, coconut oil, dates, and pink Himalayan sea salt.

I’m pretty sure health benefits are not the final consideration for most dedicated coffee drinkers. How could they be? One week, coffee causes cancer and increases the risk of heart disease. The next week, the antioxidants prevent dementia, type II diabetes, and Parkinson’s and make us live longer. The research is conflicting at best.

Recent research indicates that we need to figure out how long it takes our body to metabolize coffee to determine whether it will increase our mortality risk. And how exactly do we do that?

Since there’s no way to know the exact risk or benefit, it seems like the best thing to do is listen to my body. Obviously, it’s good to feel calmed and comforted. It’s not good to consume so much caffeine that I feel jittery. A couple of large black cups in the morning and I am set for the day. On rare occasions, I might enjoy a cup with cream in the evening if I have dessert. More than that would be too much of a good thing.

If I were to wax philosophical, I’m following the tenet that moderation is best in coffee as in all things…other than love. You can never have, or give, too much love!

https://gilcrease.org/

https://newsok.com/article/5340388/gilcrease-museum-preview-celebrates-debut-of-helmerich-center-for-american-research

https://www.jimsorganiccoffee.com/shop/

https://www.blackriflecoffee.com/

https://dceg.cancer.gov/news-events/research-news-highlights/2018/coffee-mortality-genetic-variation

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=coffee+


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.”

July 24, 2018

Speed Kills

Remember the ad campaign, Speed Kills? I can’t remember if I first heard the term in an anti-drug campaign or an attempt to reduce speed limits. The phrase has been used for both. This week, I’m thinking of Speed Kills in totally different terms.

Last weekend I went to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor. This movie chronicles the career of Fred Rogers, the creator of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD. There was nothing speedy about Mister Rogers. His slow pace stands in stark contrast to other children’s entertainers. This was deliberate. It was also significant.

Mister Rogers understood that very important things happen when we’re still and quiet. He included long pauses and silence in his television program. This is considered a no-no in the TV world, but as someone observed in the movie, there were many times when nothing much was going on, but none of the time was wasted.

On some level, parents and children must have sensed the significance of this. They certainly responded. Mister Rogers became hugely successful in spite of doing everything “wrong” for a television audience.

In my home, I observed that when my boys watched MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD their behavior was markedly different than when they watched He-Man. He-Man led to an afternoon of hitting each other, breaking toys, and generally violent behavior.

MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD, on the other hand, had a calming effect. After watching, the boys were kinder, gentler, and quieter. They played together instead of fighting. My house was infinitely more peaceful.

At the time, I didn’t take time to analyze why this was true, I just did the practical thing and banned He-Man. If I needed the kids to have screen time so that I could clean up the kitchen or do the laundry, we opted for MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD or the video disc Free to be You and Me.

Now, with much more experience under my belt including many years of working long hours, never missing an event, frequent travel, work-work-work-play-play-play and rarely saying no, I understand the importance of being still. Being present requires taking pauses to notice what has happened and how it makes us feel.

I know you may read that and say, “duh,” but look at how we live. We rarely pause between activities, much less during them. We fill our waking hours with movement, noise, and electronic distraction.

One of my grandchildren has 4 structured activity classes per week – he’s 9 months old! Will he be able to lie on his back, stare at the clouds smelling fresh-cut grass and feeling the solidness of the ground supporting him when he’s three or will he be lost without constant activity?

It seems we have some level of awareness that we need to increase our sense of well-being. Ways to increase wellness are often featured on morning TV. The number of people practicing yoga in the US has doubled since 2008. The mindfulness movement touts the health benefits of meditation.

In contrast, we see our friends, neighbors, and family members numb themselves with work, gaming, social media, TV, sex, food, alcohol, and drugs on a regular basis. Sometimes we see ourselves doing the same. If we know we need to feel better, and we know that slowing down to reflect and be present in the moment will help, why do we keep speeding forward?
speed
What’s difficult to admit, much less discuss, is what lies underneath a need to speed through life at a level of maximum distraction. If you have lived in an environment of chaos and/or danger to your physical or emotional well-being that you could not escape, it is excruciatingly hard to sit still and be present. It is also necessary if you are to heal the wounds your spirit has suffered.

It is in this context that I now view the phrase – speed kills. Speed kills our connection to our spirit. This removes us from knowing, accepting, and loving ourselves. It removes us from the very best parts of ourselves. At its worst, this disconnect allows us to act out our anger, hurt, and frustration in vindictive, destructive ways.

In the face of a tragic, hostile act, we often wonder – what kind of person would do that? Often the answer is simple: someone who has suffered in ways you cannot see and may not be able to imagine.

Remaining present and emotionally open in the face of violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning, is intolerable for most everyone. It is absolutely healthy in those situations to engage in fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning in order to protect yourself.

The problem is many, not just some, MANY of us have lived in an environment in which violence, humiliation, rejection, neglect, or shunning were the norm. Living in persistent, unrelenting physical and/or emotional danger creates wounds that are both physical and emotional and result in disconnection from ourselves. Constantly being in a state of fighting, fleeing, freezing or fawning creates long-term barriers to calm, peace, connection and joy.

When we have the strength and courage to sit still and be present, it opens the door for all the emotions we have been avoiding to come rushing in. This is a great opportunity to release those emotions and the hold they have over us. That’s easy to say, but terrifying and hard for many of us to do even if it is worth it in the long run.

I’ve spent years unraveling the knots in my stomach and my spirit. I know that I did not choose the environment that created them. I was born into it. Accepting this hasn’t eliminated the seemingly bottomless well of sadness I feel in my solar plexus. It hasn’t removed every trigger that can send me into an emotional flashback that I simply can’t outthink. (I know this isn’t some particular defect in me. Signals from the amygdala can override executive function, but it still feels terrifying and out of control.)

Mindfulness has helped me rewire my brain away from anxiety toward noticing small ways in which I feel good. I feel less braced for the (as I learned to view the world) next inevitable attack. My new level of awareness lets me deliberately shift my focus in order to feel better in a given moment.

I am painfully aware how difficult it can be to find support for a healing path. Even places we expect to provide a cushion for processing trauma, grief, depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms – the therapist’s office, doctor’s office, church, or support groups, may not provide the type of support we need. Feeling unseen, unheard, dismissed, targeted, or misunderstood can leave us feeling even more alone and, sometimes, revictimized.

Healing can bring immediate improvement, but I do not know of a straight or swift path to wholeness. That journey is a process unique to each of us. The best support along the way is to be seen and accepted just as we are at any given moment.

Perhaps this is why I so appreciate Mister Rogers simple affirmation that he likes us just as we are. But I cannot fully receive that message unless I am sitting still.

http://www.doitnow.org/pages/psas.html

http://focusfeatures.com/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

https://www.fredrogers.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_to_Be…_You_and_Me

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/untold-story-america-mindfulness-movement/

http://childhood-developmental-disorders.imedpub.com/systematic-review-of-mindfulness-induced-neuroplasticity-in-adults-potential-areas-of-interest-for-the-maturing-adolescent-brain.php?aid=8553

https://seattleyoganews.com/yoga-in-america-2016-statistics/

https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/domestic_violence2.pdf

http://besselvanderkolk.net/the-body-keeps-the-score.html

http://www.traumasensitiveyoga.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5518443/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/yoga-perfect-home-workout/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/sometimes-stop-order-start/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/travel-tip-17-stay-home/

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.”