What A Difference A Day Makes

DSCN5916When we were out walking Ms. Bay today, my husband commented, “What a difference a day makes.” He was referring to the crisp autumn air, the sunshine stretching around white puffy clouds, and the beautifully-colored Fall days that Northern California loves to show off.

This, up against yesterday. Yesterday when we walked Ms. Bay, her yellow labrador ears were flapping in the wind. Her eyes were slits barely capable of staying open in the hurricane-like blasts. A tumbleweed blew across our newly-greened pasture grass. Three levels of competitive clouds pushed through the sky, racing to see who could get there first. Trash cans blew over making loud crashes like local yahoo gunfire.stormy_sky_02_by_the_night_bird-d59ixge

It’s all malleable. It’s always shifting. Life imitates weather, or vice versa.

It made me think of Jaylen Fryberg and the Washington State shooting last week at Marysville-Pilchuck High school. The media seemed puzzled that this popular freshman who played football and was homecoming prince had reached a point where he felt the solution to his problems was to shoot up the school cafeteria and kill his friend, himself, and hurt his other former friends. This turned the paradigm of unhappy loner teen on its head, and gave us yet another level to think about as a culture.

First, being a teen–any teen–is tough. It doesn’t matter what clique you belong to, who or who doesn’t like you, who or who didn’t break up with you, or the level of parenting accessible at home. It’s full of raw emotion, many firsts, and days that feel overwhelming. I think that’s why, at 50, I still choose to write about those years in the form of young adult fiction. I think that’s also why people my age still refer back to that time with such strong feelings, and not just at high school reunions.

But as you get older, you realize what a difference a day makes. You start to see (hopefully) that you can choose how those days go, for you are the co-creator of your days. You can choose to wait out the hurricane-like winds that blow trash cans down, knowing that tomorrow likely will be a gorgeous autumn day. You let your thoughts work for you, not against you. Or, you can let yourself get lost in the hurricane, crashing into other life, and damaging it irreparably.

As a teen, it sometimes feels like there’s not a choice. As an adult, it can feel like that, too. The truth is, though, there’s always a choice.  And knowing that shift is just around the corner can make all the difference.DSCN5919
As I finished this, my son and his friend, Bailey, came out of their teen man cave, which piles up with empty plates and football games on lazy Sundays like these. Bailey looks out the window and says, “Wow. What a difference,” noticing the weather change.

“I just blogged on that,” I said.

“See, there. I was reading your mind. Hashtag Pisces Thing,” he laughed.

“It’s true,” I said, totally believing in the #Piscesthing. “Here’s the gist.” I recounted my words of wisdom to my teen boys.

There was a pause as they looked outside.

“So what’s for dinner?” they asked.

Posted in anxiety, bipolar disorder, healthy living, mental health, mental health and children, positive attitude | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pet Acupuncture

pupThis is Bailey. Our pet name for her is Ms. Bay. When she came home to live with us 12 years ago, she was about the cutest, sweetest thing we ever saw. Abe was 15. Jordan was 4. She’s grown up with our family and is the best example of unconditional love you’ll ever find. She makes friends instantly with people and animals alike. I constantly marvel at her ability to read any situation and respond with grace. And she’s still the cutest thing we’ve ever seen.

She once had a mischievous streak. During her younger years, she chewed up everything, including that center island in our old kitchen that’s showing in the photo. She also very much enjoyed a few chair legs and the bottom of our staircase, all of which needed special attention when we moved from Torrance. Shoes were her weakness–the kids all knew not to leave them on the ground or she would sneak over, grab ‘em, and run for her life. Everything, in fact, was fair game. True to her breed she ate a few Christmas balls off the tree and a frisbee or two. For a solid two years, all my pajama bottoms had holes in them from where she would grab on as I walked through the garden.

At the time, I remember asking the trainer when it would stop. It was driving me nuts. At about two years old, he said. At about 3, she stopped nipping at my pjs. At about 4, she stopped chewing up the house. And most recently, she’s given up the shoe chase. It’s safe to put down a pair of shoes and know they’ll still be there when you go to get them.

And it makes me a little sad.vet1

But just as with people, we redefine fun. It’s far more productive than moping about and lamenting about the past.

The highlight of Ms. Bay’s day is our morning walk. My husband and I take her down our street and we can gauge how much pain she’s in by whether or not she wants to walk the extra stretch to the mailboxes. We say the walks are for her, but really I think they’re for us. We hear the birds welcome the morning. We wave to neighbors starting their day. We greet neighborhood dogs every now and again, like Otto, or the Big Dogs (Manny and Homer) or the Little Dogs (Ethel and the smaller version of Ethel.) We see the clouds so beautifully painted in the morning sky around these parts. We watch Ms. Bay’s tail wag the whole way. Pure joy.

She’s moving into her Autumn now. Things are starting to hurt. Her eyes are turning silver. Her back seems to be bulging a bit. After taking her to the vet and running some tests, the doc threw out a possible Cushing’s Disease diagnosis. So we’re in that stage of balancing opinion over intuition. Our collective intuition is that it’s more pain related than anything else.

We decided to take her the Eastern route and hit up one of the few pet acupuncturists in Northern California. I completely believe in the principles of acupuncture and have often had great luck myself where Western medicine has come up short.

With dogs, the way it works is a laser is used over the sore areas and this feels very good. Look at this happy face. This relaxes them to sit down on this nice rug.

accu2After this goes on for about five minutes, the vet puts the needles in and they stay like that for about 20 minutes just like in humans. As we were sitting with the vet tech, with Ms. Bay under needles, she said that she’d seen some miraculous results with paralyzed dogs who couldn’t walk with they came in. They had been completely restored to walking condition. And not just dogs. She’d seen some horses respond really well to acupuncture, too.

This is what the needles look like.accu1 Okay. So you can’t really see them very well through her very thick coat. But see those wires? They’re hooked up to an electrical stimulator and that makes the procedure all that much more effective.

When Ms. Bay was done, she seemed very happy. She was bouncy again. We will definitely be taking her back regularly through her Autumn years to make that golden time as happy as she has made our last 12 years.

Posted in conscious living, healthy living, pet health, pets | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

E Pluribus Unum

29We spent Saturday on Whiskeytown Lake, one of the many gems of California North. Whiskeytown’s beautiful sapphire-blue waters provide miles of fun for frolickers, human and animal alike. Waterfowl gather in coves along the green-shrubbed shoreline and race boats across the lake. The water is clean and cold, but not so cold teenage boys can’t swim, tube, or jump from high cliffs that line the lake. Nearly 40,000 acres surrounding the lake are filled with four waterfalls, sparkling mountain creeks, 70 miles of trails, and opportunities to explore the history of the California Gold Rush. Shasta Bally is the highest point in Whiskeytown at 6,199 feet and is often snow-capped.

It’s a beautiful place and one I grew up with. Many memories of love and friendship were nurtured here. It is the first place I ever scuba dived. It is the first place I ever parasailed. It’s the first place I learned to ski solo with my best friend’s dad waving his hand madly for me to drop the ski. It finds its way into my novel writing because of the early childhood memories.

We’ve also made a few memories here as adults with our own children. There was the moonlight kayak ride where hurricane-style winds came up and half of our group needed to be rescued by the Coast Guard. (A point of pride for us: despite paddling in place for 3o minutes in the dark, Mike and his teen, and me and my teen made it in without aid under the moonlit hurricane.) There’s just hanging out at Brandy Creek and watching the kids swim out to the raft and jump.

What I never realized until this weekend was Whiskeytown’s greatest resource: its biodiversity. Whiskeytown is home to more than 750 native vascular plant species along with at least 160 bird species, 62 mammal species, 33 reptile and amphibian species, and 8 native fish species. In addition to the vascular plants and vertebrates, Whiskeytown boasts a diverse array of less obvious, but equally important species, such as lichens, bryophytes, fungi, and arthropods of many kinds. Investigators have yet to fully study and record most of this diversity, and new species of all types are likely to be confirmed as biologists complete inventories within the park. (This directly from their website.)

It struck me as I was watching all the different types of birds in a cove. I remembered underneath the water there were so many types of seaweed. I looked around the shores at so many types of plants.

This diversity makes the place thrive as an ecosystem. It’s one of the many things I wish we modeled more as a human species. So often I hear people speak as if anybody who disagrees with their religion, politics, life philosophy, gender thoughts, feelings on race and ethnicity is the enemy. Indeed, we fight wars and form hate groups based on fear of difference. But these differences are what gives our planet biodiversity. The contrast is healthy and beautiful. How boring would it be if we were all the same? I don’t understand how that is even desirous, but I certainly can see evidence people want that. What would our world look like if we made this choice: rather than fear diversity, each human celebrates our magnificent tapestry called the human race. Imagine all the people. In that way, we could be the manifestation of what we write on our money. E Pluribus Unum. From many, to one.

Posted in conscious living, healthy living, metaphysical, nature, optimal health, relaxation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Anatomy of Sick

sickI can’t remember the last time I was as sick as I was last week. I’d say I caught a cold, but I think more accurately it slammed me into the wall, put its fingers up my nose and pounded my head repeatedly until I couldn’t breathe. I don’t do sick well. It’s really not pretty for anyone.

It started with my son saying, “I’m not feeling well.”  As soon as that happens, I usually arm up prophylactically with Wellness Formula or Eastern herbs and Vitamin C. But this time, before I got a chance to put my armor on, I woke up the next day with a sore throat. I hightailed it to the acupuncturist, picked up some herbs and lozenges and went home for a good night’s sleep, positive I would get around this thing.

No such luck. The next morning was worse. This time, I went for the big guns and hit the Western doc. I showed up, looking like death, and he agreed with me. “Yep. You’ve got a very sore throat, don’t you?” He shot my Z-Pak over to the pharmacy and I was on my way to wellness by tomorrow. At least, that’s how it usually works.

Despite my armoring up right there at the Walmart Pharmacy with my double dose, the next day was horrible. So I decided my body just wanted to be sick that day. I’d give it what it wanted: a couch bed and some adjusted goals for the day. Here they were:

1. Work my way up the chain with  my newly discovered Words with Friends (I know, I know–last on the train)

2. Watch really bad movie I’ve been wanting to watch

3. Resist urge to check email

4. Watch inspiring short film I’ve been wanting to watch

5. Drink copious amounts of tea

6. Relax as much as possible

Lofty goals, I know. Where did I fare? I did work my way up to the #2 position with WWF and learned about a whole sub-culture. (Those top 3 are very serious about maintaining their positions, btw, and I think it must be a full time job. I think maybe that’s why I don’t play these games on a regular basis.) I did watch “How I Escaped the Cult” on Netflix which actually turned out to be quite riveting. I drank in excess of 10 cups of Good Earth Original & Spicy tea. I watched a short called “Helium” (in subtitles) about a little boy who was terminally ill and afraid of dying and how one man tapped into his imagination (on his terms) to make him less afraid. That made me cry, but did make me feel better that I wasn’t dying quite yet.

The only goal I failed to meet was the email one, but heck. My phone was right there and what was I to do between my WWF turns? Besides, progress not perfection, to steal a quote from Denzel.

During this whole time, I also read some reading from a class I’m taking on the Creative Process by Thomas Troward. It talks about the Source of all that is creating us (physical manifestation) to enjoy and experience the physical aspects of life through us. Hmmmmm, I thought. I wonder if God is enjoying playing WWF or if I can bring this thing around and start having some better fun here. I decided to go outside and watch the yellow finches eat from the feeder. I sat in the hot tub and floated (my new at-home floating technique) with my eyes closed and thought about all the sensations–the water against my skin, the sound of my forced breathing, the air on my face. I visualized full and complete health. And I decided to release the Ick into the Ether where it could dissipate. I’d drunk enough tea for one stint.

Today, I feel better. I was able to go on date night last night and see the amazing Denzel Washington in “The Equalizer.” (Twelve thumbs up!) I had a delicious whole foods dinner at the Savory Spoon with chipotle lentil soup, local greens, and hot tea (tea was my husband’s lovely idea).  I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful, too, for my new word playing friends that entertained me on my down days, for Thomas Troward for reminding me to look beyond, for my family for giving me a chance to regenerate, for my extra soft kleenex that did not chafe my nose, and mostly, for my cold reminding me how grateful I am to be 100% healthy.

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Attitude is Everything

imagesLast week I traveled to Tucson, Arizona to celebrate my oldest son’s 27th birthday. Getting to Tucson–or anywhere–is not as easy as when we lived 15 minutes from LAX.  Currently, we live in a po-dunk town with an even po-dunker of an airport so to go anywhere, I first need to drive a minimum of 2.5 hours and shuttle from my car 15 minutes to get to the airport. It’s a long prep just to get on the plane and get home after the trip. A good time for that audio book.

On the way to Tucson my two connections were silky smooth. No problems at all. I met a tribal judge on the Tucson leg who had gone to law school at Berkeley like my step-brother and my step-dad. She was reading Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now. How could we not be friends?

I spent a fantastic week celebrating with my son and his friend, Kelly. We hiked, we explored, we went to movies, farm to table eateries, local coffee shops, fancy birthday dinner, and just had space for one-on-one time to talk and to enjoy each other’s company.

We also got to meet the final five winners of the Last Comic Standing and see them perform. This was special for us because we had watched this show since he was in high school. We always loved laughing with (and at) the different comics. No matter how hard high school was (and we definitely did have some dark days during that time) that show always gave us something to look forward to–an hour we knew we could count on to be together and laugh. The live show just happened to be booked at The Fox theater in Tucson where my son is working while finishing up a PhD program at University of Arizona. It’s a beautiful, restored theater with lovely people on staff. To be able to be in that space and share that experience with my son and Kelly felt sacred and colossally fun!

While walking around in my perpetual good mood, I became very aware of moods of those around me, especially concerning the weather. The Tucsonians were very concerned about flash floods. There was much talk about it. The grad department at the University closed down in the early afternoon. People were sandbagging. News coverage was all about the impending storm.

I thought about how we all can jump on the bandwagon. We’re in a good mood and everybody else is yelling, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” and then pretty soon we’re asking ourselves, “Should I be more concerned that the sky is falling…or, should I stay anchored in my intuition and act accordingly.”

It did sprinkle one day, by the way, but that’s about it. The cloud cover kept us nice and cool and in the high 80s instead of the 100s which was a beautiful thing. The other benefit of the mass hysteria about the un-storm was it kept the streets/restaurants/etc. traffic free for us to enjoy. The only place packed out was a country bar called Denim and Diamonds. These people came to dance and were going to dance no matter what.

After a fantastic week, I boarded the plane in Tucson knowing I’d be home after a few connections to make the long drive home. However, when we landed on the runway of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, the pilot mentioned the airport was on lockdown. My first thought: another opportunity to practice attitude.

What happened next reminded me of the reactions to the un-storm. Inside the plane, people started making calls. Going on their news feeds to find out what was happening. Yelling out their findings.

“Somebody’s been shot and the airport is on lockdown,” somebody yelled.

“No flights going in or out,” somebody else yelled.

The passengers had informed each other before the crew chimed in, an interesting influence of our 2014 culture. The stories, you may imagine, we’re just pieces of a truth. We really did not find out the “real” truth (or did we?) when we got to the airport. The media tries to cover such things, but as we all know, they get it wrong as well.

Sitting out on the runway for two hours does not bring out the best in people. I heard things like, “This is a nightmare” and “I have no idea what I’m going to do.” I can relate. Nobody wants to miss their connecting flight and be told, “Sorry. All flights are full and we can’t get you out for two days.”

Wait. What?

There was a time when this experience would have unraveled me. I’d have been yelling and demanding justice be served. This time, I was determined to be kind to the people trying to help me, to my fellow passengers, to strangers in the same conundrum.

And here’s what happened. I made a new friend and we shared a ride through the airport, my phone because hers died and ideas on how to get out of this scenario in a way that would serve all needs. I also was asked if I wanted to go on stand by (me and about 100 other people, btw) 20 minutes after I finally reached the front of the mile long customer service line. The woman looked at me and paused before she asked, as if she was sending me “you will get on that plane” energy. I asked her about my bag because it was locked up in the manhunt downstairs. (They still hadn’t found the shooter.) She asked me to describe it. My first thought started out, “There’s no way in hell that bag is making it” but before that thought could even finish, I rewound and reprogrammed: I will get on that plane and so will my bag.

As I stood at the gate, waiting for the stand-by names to be called, I felt a seed of doubt trying to take hold in the soil of my brain. Denied! I will get on that plane and so will my bag. 

And guess what? We did.

So here’s my takeaway: send love to those around you,  sing when you can, dance always, and welcome opportunities to practice all those things in various venues, even crime scenes.

 

Posted in conscious living, friends, healthy living, law of attraction, parenting, positive attitude | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Rafting Life’s River

rafting3Comparing life to a river is a worn out cliche, I know. But on this day, the day following my oldest son’s 27th birthday and just a few days before my youngest son’s 16th, I can’t think of a better symbol for this journey. (Not even a box of chocolates, Forrest.)

The river thing is fresh and vibrant in my mind having just gone on an all day white water river raft that my 78-year-old aunt arranged on the Rogue River in Grants Pass, Oregon. (We’ll get back to her because she’s pretty amazing.) All day I kept returning to the life/river thing. The day’s story tells it all.

I got up at the crack of dawn. Well, 6:45 a.m. The almost-crack. But on a Saturday, that’s extra early. I think my Aunt had already been up an hour before me playing “Words with Friends” or something on her phone in bed so as not to wake me. We headed north bound for Morrison Lodge. I had looked forward to this hour and a half drive to have one-on-one time with Aunt Necie. Usually when I see her we’re surrounded by hoards of people and I don’t really get to connect just with her.

I wasn’t disappointed. I learned all kinds of things about my ancestors. One that stands out: my paternal Grandma was a foster parent and my dad and his sisters had grown up with  fosters, including one named David during Dad’s freshman year. That had never come up before.  And, then, why would it? This time alone framed a window for those very interesting stories to fly through.

As we arrived at the Lodge, we met our raft mates and our guide. I thought about how we were going to spend the day together with these six strangers in a raft. Life is like that, isn’t it? Different people get in your boat at different times for different reasons. It may be a group of people that are easy to be with. It may not. You may have a strong guide that will lead you where you need to go…or your guide may pop out of the boat and go flopping down the Rogue leaving you stranded on a rock. (Ahem, Eli.)

We took off down the Rogue in the cool morning. The river was stunning. A quiet, peaceful sanctuary filled with white egrets, blue herons, and osprey with ginormous nests high above us. Glassy water created a mirrorraft5river3 for the beautiful black basalt lined with white granite cracks.

Everything was so magnificent. Just to share this creation with others in our boat magnified the beauty. I sat looking out at the miracles surrounding us. I reached my hand over the raft and watched my fingers create a wake in the icy, clear water. I thought about how we are truly surrounded by this same beauty donning different masks each day.

As we floated along, the scenery changed. Sometimes rocky, sometimes filled with thriving evergreens. We saw otters, beavers, turkey vultures of unusual size…we saw deer, and ducks, and–wait, what? A nutria? Turns out these very large river rats are the nemesis of Oregonian farmers because they tunnel into the land and ruin their crops. (Yep. Everybody’s got one of those in their lives somewhere.)

Then came the rapids. Not as smooth as the beauty-drifting, but it’s own kind of white-water experience. When life gets like this–and it’s going to get like this at times because that’s just the nature of the river–we need to remember we still have guides. We still have oars. We still have life jackets.

UNLESS OUR GUIDE FALLS OUT OF THE BOAT AND TAKES THE OARS WITH HIM!

There we were, six passengers stuck on a rock in the rapids, and our guide was floating downstream in the icy river along with several of our oars. This was supposed to be a pansy river ride. We weren’t wearing helmets like those people in my first picture up above and half of us didn’t even wear life jackets much of the time. We signed up for the low-adventure, pretty scenery full day tour.

Don’t you hate it when that happens? When you thought you were going down one kind of ride then all of the sudden somebody cheats or dies or gets cancer or is murdered or has a psychotic break or… And there you are, on this freakin’ river, with the person you were hoping could navigate no longer there to help and you have to figure out what the freak to do. This is when the people in your boat become very important. Choose accordingly.

I was worried about my aunt and she was worried about her phone. She was getting it into the dry bag and I was thinking, “If she falls out, how am I going to go get her? Do I jump out after her?” (She later told me she was not afraid of that at all.) The farmer on our boat–because farmers are self-reliant and can do ANYTHING–stepped up and started doing stuff. I have no idea what he was doing. Just stuff. It looked like stuff that could save us from our predicament so that gave me hope.

Soon, everybody started doing stuff with him. We rocked back and forth. (Not helpful.) We found rope. (Helpful later.) We all moved to the back of the boat. (Eventually what worked, but we could have easily flipped.) Eventually, the guide returned to the side of the river and a joint effort with all (okay, really he and the farmer) set us free back down the river.

Right after that, the river was calm. No rapids anywhere. It was just like none of it ever happened, except for one thing. We kept talking about it. The guide kept talking about how that was a first. The passengers kept talking about the farmer saving the day. I FB- statused of course as a follow-up. And now, I blog. The conversation keeps an event, which in reality is only a few moments and an adventure, alive.

So goes real life. There’s an event of some kind. It lasts a few minutes, but the conversation keeps it going for weeks. Just take a look at CNBC for events that affect the market or ESPN for stories about football players behaving badly. The conversation could send the NASDAQ plummeting or it could change NFL regulations for the better. The conversation has much power, a fact the media uses to bulk up their ratings every second. It can destroy and/or it can transform.raft4

Back to my aunt. At 78-years young, she’s out kayaking in lakes across the state where she drags her kayak in her truck or her van (and her shovel in case she gets stuck due to drought conditions and boat ramps.) She goes out by herself and has done that for as long as I can remember. She’s such a model of a strong woman to me. I’ve watched the way she’s navigated life through celebration and tragedy, always finding a way to glide gracefully down life’s river no matter what. I hope to copy that as I float. I’m so grateful she’s in my boat.

Posted in conscious living, creativity, Exercise, facing your fears, friends, health, healthy living, Inspiration, Rejuvenation, relationships, spiritual, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forks Over Knives

forksoverknivesWhen I was about six, my dad,  a cattle rancher at the time, would take me out at dawn in the pick-up truck to traverse the ranch. He drove, and I rode in the back, shoveling hay off the tailgate as we approached various groups of cattle.

One day, Dad said, “Hey, there’s a new calf. You want to name it?” I immediately fell in love. It had black and white markings on its face with a pink nose. He was simply adorable. I named him Bandit.

When I came to the ranch on weekends (divorced parents), I’d visit Bandit. Then one day, Bandit wasn’t there. (Think Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, but without a spider–or Fern–to save him.) My dad said we’d eaten him for dinner the night before. That’s just how the world works, he’d said. The sooner I learned that, the better.

That experience stuck with me.  Fighting what I was taught was “Just Life” seemed counterproductive. I grew up in rural America where the high school offers ag science, many of my friends raised animals that would be sold at the fair then slaughtered, and every other family raised their own meat. How could I, a rancher’s daughter, be a whiny baby and turn my back on “Just Life”?

But when I see movies like “Forks over Knives” that’s exactly what I want to do. What made this documentary so poignant for me was that both the doctors in the film come from ranching backgrounds. They grew up on farms with the same messages as I got as a child. As adults, however, they have looked at the messages from a nutritional, scientific, and political perspective, and both opted into a Vegan world of whole foods sans animal products.

Our culture has been fed certain messages about animal protein. The beef and dairy industries both have seats on the national advisory board for the food pyramid and are very powerful forces in determining the public perception of what we need to eat. My husband and I even watched an interesting Law & Order: SVU episode called “Beef” (S11, E20) about an investigative journalist delving into the practices of the meat-packing industry. (She got her throat slit, p.s.)

This documentary suggests that we’ve been dished up a crock. We do not need animal protein and milk does not (as advocated by the dairy scientists) make bones strong, but rather breaks them down. It’s worth looking at the science.

The thing I found the most fascinating was a little look at Norway during Nazi occupation. Before the occupation, there was a large percentage of cancer and heart disease in Norway (which the film advocates is directly linked to diet). When the Nazis came in, all animal products were diverted to the troops leaving Norwegians with a whole food, plant-based diet. During that period, the rate of cancer and heart disease plummeted.  But when the Nazis vacated, and the Norwegians once again had access to animal products, the rate of cancer and heart disease sharply increased. Check it out.forksoverknives3

I find this fascinating. Minimally, something to follow up on. The scientists on this documentary espouse that indeed we are what we eat. In a world with so many Vegan options, it might be a fun experiment to test them out simply by substituting that filet with some sprouted tofu  in your summer veggie stir fry. Who knows? You might just love it and live longer because of it.

In the end, my dad lay dying of cancer. He wouldn’t touch meat. He no longer had a taste for it, he said. I couldn’t help seeing the irony in that.

Posted in conscious living, diet, health, healthy living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Floating

floating2Recently, while staying at an Air B&B house in Carpinteria, I was having dinner on the patio with the hostess who so graciously (& deliciously!) prepared it. We were sitting, chatting over lemon chicken and fresh garden vegetables, and her friend, Phillip of Grover Beach, started talking about “floating.”

I immediately remembered reading an article on this in one of those throw-away magazines about six months ago. It talked about the therapeutic benefits of sensory deprivation tanks at a place in Oakland Hills. Somehow, after reading it, I had the feeling there was only one place that did this and I had to go to Oakland Hills to do it. Some day, I thought.

Phillip went on about how he just loved this thing he called floating. He’d go for multiple sessions at a time. He described the atmosphere as I remembered from the article. Here’s how that conversation went with regards to his specific floating hangout in Santa Barbara called Alchemy Arts Center and Spa. (Haley and Chapala, close to State St.)

You walk into a room that is about the size of a bedroom and has a door that locks. To your left is a table with a glass water jug, lotion, and wash cloths. Straight in front of you is the floating “pod.” It looks like a giant egg. The hood is propped up like in this picture. Inside the pod, is a light feature (like the kind you’d find in a hot tub) that changes color.floating  Also, inside the pod are speakers, an emergency button, and a spray bottle with spring water/wash cloth combo in case you get salt water in your eyes. (Thoughtful touch.)

In the room, at least at this place, is ambient lighting which you control and a personal shower. You are instructed to shower before and after entering the pod which seems obvious, but I suppose some people may need to be told or they wouldn’t do it. Spoiler alert: You are also warned if you have cuts, scrapes or any type of open wounds, to pick another day because the saltwater will send you flying out of your pod in a jif.

While showering, music ala India is filling the sacred space, transporting you somewhere mystical. When you get in your pod, you have five minutes to get organized before the music stops leaving you in complete silence. (It starts again 5 mins. before your time is up to signal you your time is wrapping up.) The pod is filled eleven inches high with heavily infused Epsom salt. Between soaks, a loud jet filtration system makes sure water stays hygienic between guests. The water is exactly body temperature, making it hard to distinguish where the body starts and where the water ends. You get in and pull the lid closed. You have complete control over the lights. As my whole goal was silence and darkness after a weekend dream conference of Jungian proportions, I killed the lights.

At first, my eyes were closed. I feel things deeply, so I often cut off that visual sense when things start coming too fast. It took about 10 minutes for me to realize, “Hey, I can open my eyes. I can’t even see my hand profile when I hold it up.”

That was very liberating somehow. After my initial “fascinated with the dark” phase, I sunk into the moment. I could feel my heart slow, feel the blood moving through my arteries. I followed my breath in and out which seemed extra loud in the silence (and because I had ear plugs in so I wouldn’t get Epsom ears.)

I wondered if this is what it had been like in the womb…for me…for my babies…for the beginning of time.

And eventually, I just floated.

When I posted a picture on my Facebook, I had a quick response. Three people I knew were booking sessions. Others said this sounded horrible. Creepy. Awesome. Fascinating. Weird. Reactions were as interesting as the floating itself.

Back to Phillip. He talked about how recently he’d noticed while standing in San Francisco that the city had a hum he hadn’t been aware of in years past. It was getting louder. (Phillip is from Manhattan so it’s not like he’s not used to noise!) I thought how this is true of the world in general. The skies are full of satellites, many of which we can only see when sleeping on top of a houseboat in the middle of Lake Shasta’s darkness. Technology moves so fast, it’s hard to track the portals. When I drive in the city (even in Santa Barbara) everybody is in such a hurry sometimes I just have to pull over and wave. (I’ve turned into my mother.) Our lists are longer than ever. It all hums louder and louder.

This fact makes slipping into a quiet, dark place all that much more meaningful. And I’m going to guess, the health benefits from stress reduction and relaxation are phenomenal. If this speaks to you, Google your city and “sensory deprivation floating,” and treat yourself to an experience out of this world. I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did.

Posted in bathing ritual, health, healthy living, Rejuvenation, relaxation, soul rejuvenation, spas, water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rejuvenate–Olympic Style

olympicspaI always hesitate to tell people about this place because my small self wants to keep it a big secret from the world so it never changes its drop in policy. However, it’s so crazy amazing that my Bigger (more giving) Self feels the need to share it with you. I try to live in a world where my Bigger Self is the boss of me.

Olympic Spa is a special place in Los Angeles’s Koreatown that I’ve gone to for over 10 years. However, when I stepped into the spa last week, it had undergone a radical transformation which makes it even better than it was before. The upgrades and new additions were so well thought through: the rain shower next to the cold plunge, the beautiful waiting area, the connection to the Korean restaurant which you can enjoy in your spa robe.

The Korean Spa Retreat is a truly eastern philosophy. In the West, a bath is the place one goes to cleanse the body. In Asia, one goes to cleanse the soul. (Olympic brochure)

The new additions only make this soul journey more complete. I walked out of this sanctuary with a feeling no other spa has ever given me. I usually do. I have thought about why for years. It starts with the philosophy above, but it soaks in as I sit in the various water stations. Take the Mugwort’s tea tub. Or the ice cold plunge. Or the jade steam sauna. Or the regular jacuzzi. Or the wood sauna. Or the biostone room to reverse aging. (Heck, yeah!) But the best ever addition to the Spa is the newest room, the Himalayan Salt room. That’s right. Like the lamps. The whole freakin’ room is built of Himalayan bricks and if everybody wasn’t running around naked, I would have taken a picture for you because it’s simply stunning. On the floor are little baby Himalayan rocks with white gauze mats lying in rows like yoga mats. There is something so magical about this room. I really, really want one in my house.

That all takes place on your own, floating from station to station (spa tip: hot/cold/hot/cold), to destress and detoxify.  All this ritual before you even get to the spa treatments. As far as treatments go, there’s a menu. Here’s what I say: get the GODDESS TREATMENT! You’re a Goddess and it’s amazing. Just do it.

With the Goddess, here’s what you get for the same price a western spa charges for a 50 minute massage. An Akasuri scrub head to toe which removes every dead skin cell you own and makes you feel silky smooth. An aromatic seaweed shampoo that will leave your hair shiny days later. A Darphin Aromatherapy massage that will identify knots you didn’t know you had and dismiss them. An essential oil scalp massage. A purifying face mask painted on with each incredibly aromatic stroke, followed by gauze over your eyes and 2 cucumbers on top of that. So refreshing! While that’s setting, an aromatherapy shampoo and rinse, then luxurious body emulsion that smells so incredible is massaged all over from head to toe. When you are done with this treatment, you’re pretty darn sure you’re Cleopatra. The whole process takes about two hours and the bodyworker never leaves your side. I have never seen this treatment ANYWHERE else in the world and they back that claim up.

After that lotta bit of heaven, you’ll want to lay down in the Himalayan salt room again or on the jade, heated floors, complete with blankets and head rests (wood, Asian style) for your napping pleasure.

Best of all, you don’t have to schedule your treatment weeks in advance unless you want to. You just walk in. When you do, you see this.

lovespa

You’re welcome.

Olympic Spa, Korean Spa and Retreat (Female Only)

3915 W. Olympic Blvd, LA  (323) 857-0666  www.olympicspala.com

 

Posted in health, healthy living, soul rejuvenation, spas | 6 Comments

Suicide

robinNothing throws us off more than suicide. It hits especially hard when that act is committed by a young person or by someone famous. It draws attention to a subject we’d rather collectively turn away from and talk about the weather instead. Or guns. Or drugs. Or anything else, really, but the idea that somebody would check out on purpose.

What draws a person down such a dark path? How is it that he arrives at this choice? One thing is undeniable. When a person reaches that point, chemicals in the brain have gone haywire. Neurotransmitters have started spewing a wash of sadness that the person who owns the brain can’t understand. This wash results in blinding that person’s eye to hope. Despair and overwhelm are squatters where hope once lived.

To everyone else, that life may seem full of hope and promise. But to the person suffering, not so much. It feels like there is no alternative. The person is desperate to escape the pain and that really is the only thing they can consider.

And when they go, I suppose that pain releases–though in reality, nobody really knows. One thing we do know is that she leaves behind a trail of tears to all who wish she would have seen hope. They wonder if there was something they could have done. She leaves confusion and a huge wake of sadness that the people left behind must trudge through without losing hope themselves.

In the case of a parent, that trudging can last a life time. In the first National Alliance of the Mentally Ill Family to Family class my husband and I took 18 years ago, I met a friend who cried through most of the first few classes without saying a word. When she finally was able to speak, she shared that her 15 year old daughter had come to her telling her she was feeling sad and hopeless. My friend told her she needed to get it together…pull herself up by her own bootstraps and be resilient. Two weeks later she jumped off a cliff and killed herself.

To deal with her grief, her mom became a mental health advocate. She travelled around high school health classes to talk to high school students about mental health and how to look for red flags in themselves and in their friends. Each time, when she asked how many students in a random class had thought about suicide or knew someone who had nearly 100% of hands went up.

Just because we aren’t talking about it, doesn’t mean nobody’s thinking about it. And nobody is exempt from a mental health moment. We need to bring these conversations out of their dark closets (starting with our schools!) and not leave them solely for psychiatric evaluations. It doesn’t always mean we will change the person’s mind, but at least we can try to pass on hope and love they might not be feeling or able to see themselves in any particular moment.

We will miss you, Mr. Williams. Thank you for sharing your genius with us and giving joy to so many others during your stay here.

Posted in health, healthy living, hope, mental health, mental health and children, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments