Tuesday, August 30, 2016

HEALTH, HAPPINESS, AND HEARTY OATMEAL COOKIES


This is a follow up to my earlier post, Signs, Glitches, St. Francis, Bad News & Social Media in which I discuss a college-tour road trip and my reaction to recent shootings in the U.S.

Because my daughter and I had car trouble, the road trip, although lovely, ended on a highly stressful note. And upon our return home, I dove in to research about the shootings and came up with a plan to take my activism to the next level.  

I posted that one on Sunday, July 10. On that Tuesday, we had to spend another seven hours on the road returning the rental car and picking up our own car from the dealer. More inertia, more eating of unhealthy foods. The next day I remember being tired, and sad, but also a bit hyper and determined to do something to make a difference in our world.

And then, late on Thursday, July 14, Bastille Day, I heard the news about the mass murders in Nice, France. That's when I gave up. I had nothing left to give, or feel, or do. The thought that I couldn't really change the world overwhelmed me with resignation and defeat.

It was at that exact moment, around 9:40 p.m. that I got sick. The germs and stress from our recent travels won.    

My daughter got sick, too. She developed strep throat and received antibiotics right away.  

I waited about a week before I went to the doctor with a bad cough. I was told it was a virus that had developed into bronchial spasms. I was prescribed medication to treat the symptoms.

Anther whole week went by and I still had symptoms. I went back to the doctor where they finally prescribed me antibiotics. I hate taking them, of course, but they were absolutely necessary. And then I got better.

I was sick for about three weeks total. During this time, I went about as much business as possible because I didn't think I was infectious and I had things to do. So I got my annual blood work taken and later received a call from the nurse.

She said, "You have an elevated white blood cell count and high cholesterol. The doctor wants you to go on a low cholesterol diet and exercise program and then come back in 5 weeks for a recheck."

I blew off the high white blood cell count as not being important because I knew I was sick and was receiving treatment (from a different doctor). So I focused on the high cholesterol issue.

Now I knew that I had been eating terrible road foods, and hadn't exercised really at all for a whole month due to the road trips and then being sick.

My dad has high cholesterol and he suffered a terrible side effect reaction to his first medication. With the desire to avoid any possibility of that happening to me, I engaged in an extreme heart-healthy diet and exercise program based on information I found online. 

Basically, I avoided red-meat, eggs, dairy, and cheese, including my beloved pizza,





and I ate a lot of fish, avocado, beans, olive oil, veggies, and oatmeal.



I kicked back into my exercise schedule and took my vitamins. Vitamins, including omega-3 fish oil, do absolutely no good sitting in the refrigerator. We actually have to consume them daily.

So I did all this for five weeks and then had my blood work taken again a few days ago. I just got off the phone with the nurse. She said, "All your numbers look good!"

"Great! Can you tell me what my cholesterol numbers were last time and what they are now?" 

"Oh, honey. We weren't checking your cholesterol this second time, we were checking your white blood count. You're all good now," she said. 

I'm like, "But what about my cholesterol levels?"

She said, "We don't look at that again until your next physical. Plus, you were only in the borderline range. So just keep doing the heart healthy diet and exercise and the doctor will go over all this with you next year and you might have to take medicine."

I got off the phone and laughed at myself and then I complained to myself a little bit about people in the medical community who might need to work harder on explaining instructions. We don't all know the things they take for granted that we know.

In the end, I'm grateful that I took on this heart-healthy challenge and while I'm going to tone it down a little bit, by adding back in some yummy high-cholesterol foods, I will continue to balance them out with heart-healthy foods and more regular exercise.

How does all this swing back to activism and news of the day? 

Well, I understand better now that it's not all on me. I'm not responsible for terrible things happening in the world. I have no real power to change anything big. But I can do the things I can do. Such as vote. Such as speaking out. 

Such as joining the team of Blessed Bakers at my church. We bake cookies for our city's Midnight Basketball program during the summer and the Police Athletic League's Teen Night during the school year. These are programs specifically designed to give youth something to do at night instead of being out on the dangerous streets.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of making this little bit of difference in my community with the eternal hope that we are creating ripples. I'm also grateful that I can enjoy baking a batch of cookies and not have to look at them for days as they sit on my counter tempting me.

Fresh, homemade, somewhat healthy cookies are just the thing for spreading joy and heart happiness:


HEARTY OATMEAL COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashion rolled oats
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries


Optional add ins: 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts OR, 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter. Make extra certain that nut allergies are not an issue before you share peanut butter or nut-filled cookies. 

Instructions:

 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
 2. Cream butter with electric mixer.
 3. Add sugars. Blend.
 4. Add eggs and vanilla. Blend.
 5. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
 6. Slowly pour dry ingredients into mixing bowl with butter mixture. Blend.
 7. Add chips, cranberries, and optional nuts. Blend until just mixed in.
 8. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper covered cookie sheets.
 9. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 11 minutes, until are edges are golden brown.
10. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

COMPILINGS THREE: Beach Meandering Treasures


As a spiritual blogger/church volunteer, my "new year" starts after Labor Day. So in the waning weeks of summer, I want to share the beach meandering treasures I found during the past year and their messages. Now, I believe wholeheartedly that these items were placed in my path as angelic signs with messages that I deciphered. Another way to look at it is to see these random items as metaphors that can be applied to life.

Interesting thing to note is that it was only this past year that I began walking pier to pier at the beach only five miles from my home. Busy, busy, and all that. I could add paragraphs here about worthiness and the art of not being, but I'll refrain. I'm stalling a bit because the first treasure is intense. Right, so it was 11/11/2015:    


This is what I posted on Facebook with the photo: During my beach meandering this morning, I found a dog tag right by the shoreline. Let me rephrase that, I found a dog tag on the beach on Veterans Day. 

What happened next still makes me cry. Here's how I explained it in a local TV news story. R.I.P. Jesse.

After that happened I knew I had to keep returning to the beach to find meandering treasures:


The message with this one had to do with "baggage" as it was loaded with tiny pebbles. I still can't figure out if it was about letting go of baggage or carrying the good stuff with us.


This one says, "The spiritual embraces the modern as another way to help all those with ears to listen."


This is a rusty nickle, not a penny. So this ones message is that I should prepare to make money in a  unique way. Looking back, I have consistently earned money for my written words during this past year. This was a first for me! Whoop!


This one is about broken-heart people attracting supportive friends. Peer closely in the upper left hand corner and you'll see two angels watching over the scene.


The Angels were clear with this one, "In the only eyes that matter, every diverse one of you is a treasure."


This one reminds us that pets can be Earth Angels, too. Pay attention to 'em.


No explanation needed here.


"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." John 20:29


"Go for the broken underbelly ones, that's where the purple is." This was a haul from one day. Now, I do collect rocks and shells for stepping stone projects, so there's nothing really out of the ordinary with this collection. Except that I was drawn to the purple, as it's a spiritual color liturgically, angelically (color associated with St. Michael the Archangel), and crown-chakra ly.


This one says, "It ain't a treasure. Pick it up anyway. And stop using 'em for God's sake!"


One day there was feathers all along the shoreline! They were all ocean washed and sun kissed. The loud and clear message in this one is that angels are everywhere!

Which reminds me, sometimes, they aren't. One day last month, I went outside to get the mail, and I heard kissing sounds coming from a tree in the middle of our front yard. I looked up and saw a cardinal making these kissing sounds. Now cardinals are believed to be a symbol of someone in heaven letting you know they are thinking about you. So there I am basking in the "love" of this cardinal because I think it's my grandmother sending me a "you're doing a good job" message when I see a sudden movement along the trunk of the tree.

Yeah, it was a camouflage garter snake slithering towards the cardinal's nest. Lesson learned: not all "signs" are signs. Use your best judgement. Pay attention and listen to your intuition. And never forget to laugh at yourself.


This wounded tortoise-shell shell represents the tortoise-shell feral cat we took in even though she is feral. Did I mention she's feral? The angels were telling me that it was the right thing to do. And, so far, so good, she makes a lovely garage cat.

Then it was summer time when our beach fills up with tourists. So, I've been sticking to the neighborhood for most of my walks. I headed back last Sunday with my husband to join Plastic Ocean Project for a beach clean up. The group consisted of mostly college kids with their young eyes, and they kept walking in my path. I mean, I'm doing this section! But, nevertheless, in an area where many people spied the tiniest pieces of clear plastic, no one else saw two bits of purple sticking up out of the sand. I pulled them out and it was this guy!


I mean, even when you think everything's been said by everyone else, yeah, not so much. The message here is "Write away!" I love this guy.

And here we are, August 18, full moon tonight. I have to admit that I've been in a bit of a slump because I'm just not sure what's next for me creativity-wise. I recently learned clearly what's not next for me and, you know, sometimes it take a few days to get used to that kind of news.

So I've been thinking back through my spiritual journey, or as Brene Brown calls it, breakdown/spiritual awakening, and I'm focusing on the fact that the thing that sparked it for me happened about two years ago. Two. Years. Ago. And I'm still thinking about it. I mean, I so wanted to stop thinking about it immediately or even the next day would have been fine. But it doesn't always work that way.

I had to dig deep into my psyche. And what I found there was an addiction to approval seeking and people pleasing. Over these last two years, I have had to extricate myself from three dysfunctional relationships. The problem with these kinds of relationships is that dysfunction and love appear so much alike. And so leaving hurts. And grief hurts. 

And then I got to point where I realized that these people are not inherently bad. Other people truly like them and they seem to have decent relationships. It's just me. They treated me differently because I let them. And yet, they don't hate me. They didn't manipulate me on purpose. On a conscious level, they didn't even know they were doing it. Addiction is sneaky like that.

But these last few days, as I was low and in a funk (full moon tonight, just saying), I realized that I don't have those three voices in my head anymore. And what an aha moment that was, because they've been gone for awhile now and I hadn't noticed.  

I didn't dare say to myself, that's it! This time, my spiritual journey is over! This time, for real! I've fallen for that one too many times. But, there's something else going on here, something I couldn't quite put my finger on. Then today, after my late morning walk and a bit of gardening, I came in and checked my emails at exactly 11:11 a.m. I noticed this because I checked to see how long I had until LUNCH, and I'm always noticing angelic messages. Remember that 11:11 is a sign of angelic beginnings.

It was in a meditation email forwarded to me by a friend:

People in the recovery process are people with painful memories. We remember our losses. We remember our sins. We remember the sins which have been committed against us. It is part of the hard work of recovery to face these memories, to grieve them and to come to terms with them. But sometimes the painful memories become so powerful that it seems like nothing will be able to compete with them for our attention. The memory of pain consumes us. In times like this we need a powerful new memory that can challenge the dominance of our painful memories.

Jesus invites us to receive a new and startling memory. "Remember me," Jesus says, "Eat the bread and drink the wine and remember that I gave my life for you. I gave my life because I love you. Take this new memory. Allow it to shape the way you think about yourself and about life and about me. Allow yourself to remember me."

The rest of this meditation can be found here from the authors of Rooted in God's Love.

Right! I'm in recovery. Because I have an addiction. I've got to work harder on remembering that. 

And so this email from my friend playing on Team Angel for one tiny part of one day helped me to understand that the empty space where those voices were belong to Jesus now. His is the voice I can listen to. His is the voice I can fill myself up with.  

Speaking of friends, the real ones, the supportive ones, the ones who let me go on and on and then say the perfect thing, these are the friends I want to thank for being so consistently there for me -- Julia, Beth, Catherine, and Rebecca. You know your last names and you know I love you.

Speaking of friends, beach meandering with friends is the absolutely best!


I highly recommend it!

What? No beach near you. How 'bout a mountain? How 'bout a meadow? How 'bout Central Park? You'll find it!