After years of working with Healthy Communities, SHIP (State Health Improvement Plan through the PA Dept. of Health, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), my first thought with addressing the concerns in our area was to see what is already in place and not reinvent the wheel. I wondered if there was a local Healthy Community group and a SHIP locally.
Healthy Community embraces the broad based concept of health, In addition to access to health care and our traditional perceptions, it includes safe streets, clean air and water, education, skill building to ensure marketable skills, youth mentors, volunteering, transportation. Dr. Peter Benson's 40 Assets for Youth and Colin Powell's America's Promise exemplify these concepts.
All are asset based. Instead of focusing on the results we don't want which is so typical and defeatist (crime, drug use, disease), these visionaries determined asset based results and moved in a positive direction with remarkable outcomes.
Fortunately, there is a SHIP in Maryland, called the State Health Improvement Process. The Maryland SHIP has a wealth of information including statistics, newsletters, events and webinars. There are promising and model practices from Healthy Community sites all over the country such as Establishing a More Livable Community through Community Collaboration.
Sadly, there have been some changes since I was director of local SHIP. Words that enhanced and drove our work, "science based" and "evidence based", have now been banned by the current administration.
Words have been banned. Let that sink in.
Our local United Way was superlative, and the hub of resources and funding locally. I chaired the youth component. We organized and delivered training throughout the community including youth groups, church groups and school programs using the 40 Assets for Youth. If youth organizations couldn't demonstrate results through evidence, they weren't funded. I wonder how the CDC and SHIPS are monitoring results with these bizarre restrictions.
It's been years since I was involved. My job as director, in addition to being president of our local America's Promise, and co-chair of the Gandhi-King Peace Coalition were all consuming. When I came to Maryland, my daughter got me this business card holder.
Honey lemon tea can be used alone or with black tea or any combination of herbal teas.
Sterilize wide mouth canning jar or glass container.
Place lemons loosely in jar. Slowly pour in honey, using a knife to pull lemons away from the sides and allow honey to flow cover entirely.
Place jar in refrigerator and let marinate for seven days.
To serve, use 2 or 3 Tablespoons per cup or to taste,
As promised, I've updated my manifesto for the eclipse and the months ahead. I'll review it again in about 6 months - either my birthday or the new year. I hope you'll all be inspired to create your own, personal manifesto!
My last post, "Before you notice, you will have settled", raised questions on one level and resonated on another. Cabrera mentions Tuesday evenings at the library, and ironically, Mycala and I have been going to the library on Tuesdays. Last evening Zippy joined us and then we enjoyed gazpacho with guacamole at an outdoor cafe. New dish, favorite restaurant. If we are truly grateful for our experiences, that seems to the antithesis of settling, even if they are routine! On the other hand, I'm the first to admit at times I settle. And yes, as rich and full as my life is, it could be much more vibrant if I would move from automatic pilot to a greater awareness and appreciation of the present moment.
Habits create a valuable structure for accomplishing more in less time. My mornings are spent journaling, meditating, and creating a to do list highlighting the three most important things to accomplish based on my values. Creativity is a value I actively weave into projects, problem solving and time with family and friends. The last habitual morning task is walking Zippy. If I took time to decide daily if I really wanted to do those things, it would take much more time and effort than moving quickly through the steps on automatic pilot!
Yet Isabella Cabrera raises an excellent point - could there be more? Are there areas where we are settling? Could we be happier? Undoubtedly.
When I was in junior high a girl in the class ahead of me won an essay contest with a composition called Variety is the Spice of Life. I never read the actual paper but the title, which I had heard before (in William Cowper's quote, "Variety is the spice of life, that gives it all it's flavor") captured my attention in a new way!
Years later I was reminded of the essay during a speech about making memorable moments by using a variety of senses. The speaker shared stories about surprising loved ones with creative gift giving from small tokens to grand gestures, all based on incorporating imagination and variety.
In both approaches, creativity is the key. Erin, from the award winning blog Daisies and Bruises, credits SARK for the quote "The opposite of depression is expression." That may seem simplistic, and there have been times I've been depressed in the midst of expressing, but ultimately we are all here to share our gifts. There is satisfaction and value when we are expressing our life's purpose; as close as we'll get to Dharma.
Day to day, there are questions we can ask that can lead us away from settling. These are some of mine, framed around my values, and hopefully they will inspire you to consider your own.
1. Are there ways to enhance the way I exercise? Ballet or belly dancing instead of calisthenics? Finding new places to walk Zippy?
2. Can nutrition be more interesting? Could I create a stained glass mandala fruit salad or a vegetable pin wheel? Make my own vinaigrettes and marinades to have on hand to give my daily intake of raw fruits and vegetables more vibrance and flavor without the artificial colors, syrups, sugars and preservatives in commercial brands?
3.Relationships. Am I surrounding myself with caring, positive, compassionate people who share my values? Do they have warmth and empathy for people from all cultures, education and socio-economic backgrounds Do they solve problems instead of blaming people? Are they joyful and do we laugh together often? Do they share some of my interests in art, music, travel, education, nature, sports? Are we open to learning from each other? Do the people in my life understand that thoughts become things and give their attention to assets rather than deficits? Compassion instead judgement? One of the best gauges for relationships it our energy level. If your energy is depleted, ask why.
4. Creativity - Do I weave creativity in all aspects of my daily life from how i garnish a plate, wrap a present, arrange an herbal bouquet, write a blog or sympathy card or solve a problem? Am I actively seeking ways inspiration? Making artist's dates to refill the well?
5. Learning/Education - Am I always taking at least one on line course? Do I have an ongoing list of topics that truly excite me that I'd like to take or research to teach? Do I keep pen and paper with me to capture ideas and inspiration that will slip away if not captured? Do I do further research on things that interest me? Am I capturing ideas in my illustrated journals?
6. Beauty/Order - We have long known that beauty soothes the soul, through nature, music, art, architecture, for example.Thomas Moore's book Care of the Soul is an eloquent testimonial. Clutter, lack of order, and tarnish can detract. Hoarding represents a lack of faith. Do I have enough space around things I love to highlight them? Do I see cleaning and polishing a gift?
Asking questions can lead us in the right direction. There are so many ways to add gratitude, variety and memorable moments as antidotes to settling.
Mabon, the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, is a time to give thanks for the many blessings of harvest. I'm preparing for my third session on Enhancing Your Life with Herbs. We've learned numerous ways to use herbs. Some are obvious including cooking, healing, dyes, cosmetics, decorating with herbal bouquets, wreaths and swags. Others are less obvious, such as prediction, protection, prophecy, fertility, attraction, and discouraging ghosts and witches from creating havoc! There are still more!
Make ink! Poke berries are ripe and ready right now to make ink! There is a jar in my 'fridge labeled POISON because the juice is a luscious magenta color, clove scented to preserve it. It could be very tempting! This is the ink that was rumored to have been used to write the Declaration of Independence. Further research indicates that is was used for the draft, but the actual document was written with iron gall ink made from ferrous sulfate and ink extracted from the oak galls.
In the spring, the immature leaves of the poke plant, said to be similar to turnip, collard or mustard greens, are cooked with bay leaves, Cajun spices, and a ham bone. Unlike the other greens, poke is considered to be poisonous until 'thoroughly cooked", a process that requires boiling it for at least five minutes for three times and throwing out the water to replace it with new, uncontaminated water each time. After the final boiling, the instructions are to wring as much water out of the plant as humanly possible. Because the plant is poisonous, so you have to cook it. A lot.
I grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and knew people of considerable age (note - I was 12 at the time - anyone over 40 was of 'considerable age' in my perception) who ate poke regularly and annually, praising it for it's role in reducing or eliminating joint inflammation, arthritis, and numerous types of cancer.
Personally, I'm reluctant to cook plants that have been declared poisonous. I can go to the grocery store or farmer's market and buy plants that are safe . . . and edible.
NOTE: As I was "poking" - pun intended - fun at poke today, one of my participants mentioned that she grew up eating poke and they simply gathered and cooked the young plants in early spring. She has convinced me to give it a try, but Gil has asked that I wait until my class is over! Love this class!!!
There are other ways to use poke. If anyone has put a hex on you, use hydrangea and poke to remove it. Call me. I'm not getting into all of that here.
Another way to enhance your life with herbs is to write a song about them, as Tony Joe White did in 1969. He wrote Polk Salad Annie. He did a fabulous job and I adore his version, but I'm featuring Elvis because his use of crib notes is truly hilarious, and after all, he is the KING! So I apologize to you Tony, but I'm opening my session with Elvis. Enjoy!
When we think of 'feeding' ourselves, our first thought is "when do we eat!", but there is so much more to feed us than food. This afternoon was a delicious reminder of all things sensuous.
Mycala, my oldest daughter, treated me to a 1 1/2 hour massage for Mother's Day. The experience was self indulgent and not something I would do for myself. Maybe I need to rethink that!
Even before the masseuse began the session, my senses were stimulated. A very delicate fragrance of lavender permeated the air. An instrumental background selection was the perfect choice. I melted into the softness of the sheets on the massage table, cocooned under the weightless blanket.
All of this, followed by ninety minutes of skilled attention to knead and relax muscle tissue transported me to a meditative state. I stopped thinking about what was next. I became reminded that I can shift to be in the moment in an instant, simply make the choice to pause and be aware of the gifts of this moment, right now.
There is a Zen saying, "Don't hurry. Ever." In today's world we can feel rushed, pushed and pulled, and don't often allow ourselves that gift. When we slow down and experience the present moment, we can become aware of so many pleasures that will soothe our souls. We can enhance our experiences through fragrances, music, textures, thoughts and soothing sights. How can you make your home or office more spa-like? Flowers, scented candles, a favorite hand lotion, soothing music, inspirational quotes, a favorite painting, and soft throws can bring our focus to beauty.
My Mother's Day gift will live with me beyond the delightful experience. It will remind me to proactively integrate more delightful experiences into my life. Thank you Mycala!
Food is one of my greatest pleasures. I cook everyday - meals that are healthy, filled with color, texture and variety, and most of all nutrients. When I sit down to a meal - and I do sit down - I want something that adds value. Food is fuel, not entertainment or bulk. I want to know what I am eating is providing value. What's In It For Me?
When did eating get so complicated? We are obsessed with it. We have five senses, yet 'taste', or possible lack of it based on some of the things I see people eating in the name of diet and deprivation, is the over riding concern.
A study at the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio estimates that 70 to 80 percent of health risks come from poor lifestyle habits, according to Holly L. Thacker, MD, director of the study.
When did food become a vehicle for ill health instead of simply a way to maintain our bodies to function as the miraculous machines they are? When did we start misusing it? And why? We are doing this to ourselves. We are literally taking the beauty, the joy, the flavor out of the way we eat and then wondering why we are hungry. Feeding is not just about what we shove in our mouths. There is a satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from the preparation and from the actual process of eating. It may not be scientific or proven, but I'm convinced the more time I spend slicing, whisking and artfully arranging, the less I eat.
People weren't over weight when I was growing up. I truly can't remember anyone I thought of as heavy, let alone "fat". We all sat down to the table to eat delicious healthy meals, and often had dessert. Portions were small, healthy, and varied, simply prepared with not a lot of fuss. We didn't obsess about food, our weight or dieting. I can't remember hearing the word "diet" until I was in high school.
In our home meals were prepared from natural ingredients with no preservatives, processing or artificial ingredients that we couldn't pronounce. Chicken, pork or steak thinly sliced stir fried with broccoli, red pepper, garlic, ginger and served over rice was flavorful, could be prepared quickly and supplied a variety of nutrients. One serving of broiled fish, a sautéed chicken breast (pre-Dolly Parton versions), a crab cake with lemon, served with a salad tossed with olive oil and lemon, and a seasonal vegetable and dinner was served. A little planning before one trip to the store a week and meal preparation was stress free. We didn't eat out or order in. We knew what we were eating because we made it in our own kitchens.
We sat down together with no distractions. The television was not blaring in the back ground, nor was the radio. We weren't texting or checking our phones. We were paying attention to what was on our plates and having conversations with each other.
All this is running through my mind because a friend is frustrated after nine days of a ten day juice cleanse and is seeing no results. The concept of taking the much needed roughage out of our foods because we are concerned that there are fewer vitamins in the them doesn't make sense to me. If you feel the need for more vitamins, take more vitamins!
My friend is feeling deprived and is ready to go back to eating the pizza and hamburgers. I would be too. Depravation is something I don't associate with food. I'd be hungry all the time! The less it is distorted and manipulated from it's natural state, the happier I am. As I said initially, I love to eat. I feed myself with food. Real food. Food that has color, vitamins and nutrients, roughage and texture.
"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death."
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!