07 February 2016

Curds & Whey

A few years ago, I tried beet kvass for the first time.  It was in a small sample size, less than a shot.  I wanted more, immediately, because it was so tasty.  It's a salty, slightly sour, fermented drink with a lil fizz made of beets, whey, water, and salt.

Last year, I drank all of the bottle I bought in one big gulp.  And still my body screamed for more.  It was that good.

This last week, I was over at a friend's house, having lunch.  We had a little beet kvass and I asked her about how she became interested and what the history of the drink is, then we moved on to how to make it.  She shared one of the basic recipes and when my husband went to the store, I asked him to pick up a couple few beets.  And some yogurt, because that's what I was going to use to drain off the whey that I would need.

For days, I kept pouring off a smidge of whey from the yogurt and then I contacted my fermenting friend and asked her about draining the yogurt and she suggested thin cloth or thick cheese cloth.  So I dumped the yogurt into a clean hanky and suspended it from a hanger over a bowl to catch the whey.  I was so excited to be able to make the beet kvass that I emptied a full cup of whey instead of a mere quarter cup over the beets and salt.  oohps.

That's ok, tho.

So I had a few bites of the creamiest, thickest, mildest, yogurty cheese ever.  It was yummy and extremely rich.  Can't wait to try the beet kvass!

06 February 2016

Mma Ramotswe, bush tea, and contemplation

Alexander McCall Smith is a rather prolific writer, who loves Africa, particularly southern African countries and cultures.  McCall Smith has related some of the oral folk tales of the region in written format, and I do think he performs his own readings of his work for the audio versions for Recorded Books.  He's also written multiple series, most have elements of humor.  He makes his homes in Scotland as well as Botswana.  In addition, McCall Smith is a medical and legal profession and has written texts in both fields.

One of his ongoing series is The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana, featuring Mma Precious Ramotswe.  When I first heard of this series, I actually listened to an audio book of some title further in the series, because the description on the back of the CD case didn't say that it was part of a series.  I was crafting, most likely crochet, while listening to it; and one of the first things that stood out to me was the slower pace, the more contemplative and reflective nature of the principle characters, and I felt I could breathe freer, more easily.  I began to listen more closely, and to not multitask, but to be more deliberate in my own movements.  I enjoyed the audio book more thoroughly than I'd thought possible.

The characters did something often that made little sense to me at the time, but upon reflection makes much sense.  They drank lots of hot tea, even in the intense heat.  I drink lots of hot tea, but I also drink lots of cooler tea.  However, it makes sense to drink hot liquids in intense heat.  When you drink iced drinks in the summer, you create more of a temperature disparity between your core body heat and the heat of the environment around you.  This can make the day's heat feel intolerable to you.  However, drinking hot liquid keeps your inner core temperature warm as well and you won't mind the day's heat as much.  Try it sometime and see what you think.

I was curious too, about this bush tea they drank so frequently.  Since I had just began to drink rooibos, or red tea, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that this red tea, or rooibos, was the same sort of tea that the author probably had his characters drinking.  Rooibos is very popular in southern Africa; which would make sense, since that is where Botswana is.

Recently, I found the first five books in the series for sale at the First Monday sale, at our local public library for three dollars.  I've been mooching the others from BookMooch, and have the first eight now.  Last week, I began to read the first book and enjoyed it immensely.  I've been reading more about Botswana, and other nearby countries; because I am curious about the culture ~~ the language, the food, the customs, their attitudes regarding family, women, men, elderly, marriage, education, etc.  Their traditions within the arts, the animals and insects that are common and part of daily life, their homes and clothing are very different from ours and each of those things help to shape their thinking and way of life.

By opening this one book, I've opened a whole new world that didn't previously exist for me.  This is the beauty of reading, the wonders of learning, and the absolute coolness of thirst.  If you've not read these and would like to, your public library might carry them.  If not, they can probably borrow them from another library for you.  Check it out!

30 January 2016

One month of winter down, two to go

I think it is because lots of people anticipate Christmas so much that they rush winter~themed things, like decorations, holiday parties, and consuming baked goods.  So many, it seems like winter started the day after Thanksgiving, thus cutting autumn short a month and adding an extra earlier month to winter.

Dudes, winter starts just days before Christmas.  So we are just NOW approaching mid~winter with Punxustawney Phil popping his head out to the crowds and decreeing that either way, we still have the second half of the season to plow thru {some more literally than others}.  Spring will get here when it gets here, in the meantime, enjoy what time there is left of winter, instead of wishing your lives away.

Bru some tea, for those Br days.

29 January 2016

Summer Shindig 2016

It seems that for me, most every summer, there is ONE really big event, and several other events of various sizes and importance.  Last summer, two HUGE events took place in July for us, family reunions of sorts.  That's not counting all the other events thru out the year.

To some extent, I feel like staying home and not doing major traveling this year; or at least not this winter, spring, or summer.  Perhaps this autumn, we'll see.  In part, to recover from the last several years, which have had both scheduled and unscheduled big events.  Death is seldom scheduled, nor is it usually tidy.  And then there is the various surgeries and other happenings. Rest and restorations seems to be vital at this time

Another reason that I want to hold off on traveling is because we have a few events already scheduled for this summer, that I really need to be right here, at home, in Starkville, Mississippi.  I have guests coming.  I would be a very poor host indeed if I were to leave home when they are due to arrive, don't you think?

Now, long time readers might remember that I do have a childhood friend from Catawissa, Pennsylvania, where I grew up; she and her family come to visit us every four years and we go to visit them every four years, so it comes to every two years, we are either coming or going.  This year, they are coming here.  Not sure if their kids are coming this time, as the oldest is graduating high school and the younger is not so found of it here, or anywhere, really, that doesn't include his own bedroom with the tv, gaming consoles, internet, and rest of the set up that is in his home there.  The international community of one of his massive online role playing something or other would notice his absence and perhaps perish.  He has his routines and I can understand.  Besides, adults, ew.  Parents, ew, shudder.  Adult friends of parents, *retching*, ew, shudder.

Also this summer, there is the Crew.  The crew is a group of girls that I've known since ten or twelve.  To some extent, most of us have kept in contact with each other, in some way.  Some of the contact is rather sporadic, and honestly, I think the last time I was in contact with one person was most likely twenty years ago when we both became newly fledged Southerners.  I had relocated to Valdosta, Georgia to work on my Master's and she had moved to New Bern, North Carolina to teach, meeting and marrying the love of her life and settling in, planting roots, and raising children of her own.  She doesn't FaceBook, might not eMail, doesn't seem to answer her phone, so I sent a letter.  A very loooong letter to her.

In the autumn of 2014, I finally joined FaceBook.  I reconnected with many of my highschool and VoTech graduating classes, since that was our 25th reunion.  That's when I found two other members of the crew, one of whom is located in Wisconsin and has been for years, since she became a librarian.  The other was one of my best friends for many years and has lived in Virginia for quite some time.  Her youngest is about to graduate high school and for some reason, this knocked me on my ass and because it all of a sudden really settled in how old we have become, how much life has occurred for each of us that the others of us have not been a part of, and how fragile our time can be {just two months later, my mother would be dead and suddenly, I realized that I am no longer a child, not even an adult one; but a full fledged adult and not entirely successfully adulting most days at all}; I thought, I would love to actually get together with the rest of the crew and catch up, do some remembering sure, but get to know these people who were once some of the most important people to me, who now are not quite complete strangers to me, but have had families, work, travels, adventures, concerns, interests, etc that are completely new to me.

And then a fourth member of that group of girls my mom called "the Crew" joined FaceBook as well.  She is the only one of us to stay in Pennsylvania, though not in the same area we grew up.  Still a few hours from our childhood homes is a hell of a lot closer than a few hundred, or in my case, a thousand miles.  So that's five of us.

The six person is the one person most of us have kept in contact with over the years.  Tho she does not FaceBook either, she does eMail, and at times, can be reached via phone and also snail~mail.  She may at least get those messages, even if it takes her awhile to respond, she does keep informed at least.  She lives in Ohio and has since graduating college.  We see each other from time to time, talk with each other more often, and eMail more frequently than that.  I know that if I really needed her, she'd be there.  So I'd sent her eMail in autumn 2014 as well.

Of the six of us, there are at least four of us, and possible all six, who will gather at my home here in Mississippi.  Just us "girls", without spouses and kids, for a weekend, a week, or however long they should decide to stay.  My husband's five adult children did all have their own rooms, after all, and their mom had a room stocked with material, yarn, and other crafting supplies.  So four of our rooms are guest bedrooms.  And it would be fairly easy to temporarily convert another to a fifth.  So we'd have enough room for all six of us, without stacking ourselves like cord wood, or sprawling sleeping bags on the floor, as we had lots of times in our teen years.

So that's to be the major Summer Shindig for 2016.  A reunion of good friends that haven't seen each other in years.  I've been brainstorming and planning, we'll probably have roast a pig, catch some sites, but mostly visit with each other.  I'm very excited.

25 January 2016

Utes Has Left the Building

There are times when I want so badly to share something with my mom, like the fact that all this time, my lady parts have had a spread cape.  It's only now, that I've had a hysterectomy, that I knew that.  She would have found that hysterical, as do I {pun intended}.

Last week, I had my uterus, cervix, and Fallopian tubes removed.  We left my ovaries, like so many cannoli and took the guns of the matter.  I'm fine, walking within an hour of surgery, admittedly with assistance.

I have vague memories of me insisting on using the toilet and NOT the bedpan {at 275 pounds, can you blame me?  I find balancing challenging enough, let alone when I'm under the influence of anesthesia.  Besides, once I broke myself of the habit of voiding supine as an infant, I never could do so again}.  So last Monday, I remember having tremendous relief upon the toilet, in the company of two nurses and being absolutely delighted with myself.  I crowed, "yes!  Best Poop Ever!" to which the nurses said, "hang on there, loopy; let's get ya cleaned up before you return to bed".

Back to the womanly cape thing.  The reason I did not realize this until this past week is because very few illustrations are accurate, and the only reason I did realize this when I did was because I watched several laparoscopic hysterectomies on youtube.  I saw all the connective tissue and thought, "wow, I never realized that was there."  I mean, it totally makes sense, else how would all your parts stay in relative place?

That and the fact that when I asked if my ovaries would be movable, migrating nuggets that I could play with and chase around my body, repositioning them as huge nipples; my doc replied, "no" after a round of laughing that surprised her as much as it did me, "no, they are attached in a fashion".  I knew better than to ask if I could have my uterus, cervix, and tubes upon removal; because they like, my wisdom teeth, thyroid, and kidney stones, are considered hazardous waste and the hospital must dispose of them appropriately.  This means that not only do I not get to see them myself, but I also don't get to terrorize and disgust future generations as my grandmother did when she would whip out her jar of gallstones and rattle them around while describing to my ten year old self that these were inside her, in a small pouch that was only as big as her hand {which she would then demonstrate by emptying the jar's contents of gravel~like lumps into her cupped palm}.

And you ask why it is that I can speak of such things in a fairly public format as my hysterectomy?  pft.  I learnt that nothing is too sacred to discuss when I was yet at the knee of grammy.  Just wait til I start whipping up my shirt to point out surgical scars, cuz that ought to be exciting for you and me both.

09 January 2016

my non~strengths & non~weaknesses

Over the holidays, somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my daughter in law and I were talking about our strengths and I mentioned that I really don't like the term that goes with that, as in "strengths and weaknesses".  Mostly because those things, areas, etc are NOT weaknesses; they are just not outstanding strengths of mine.  I do have weaknesses, I do have strengths, and I do have some non~weaknesses that are non~strengths.

Is it any wonder we have so many folks who feel they live from one extreme to the other?  We have such clearly delineated dichotomies in our language, and not many neutral areas for the ordinary norms, those areas we do not hate but do not love, those activities that we do not excel at but do not fail at either.  It's awkward to speak of these things, our language itself doesn't seem to be structured in that way.  Our culture doesn't seem to value not having strengths that are not weaknesses either.

I remember when I was perhaps 13, and I was chatting with a friend of mine on the telephone.  I asked if she ever noticed that the magazines didn't show an example of how to apply eyeshadow if you had normally spaced eyes that were not too large or too wide or a nose that was too narrow or too low or eyebrows that were not too high or too thick/thin/long/short.  What if those things are all normal, average features and you just want to learn how to apply eyeshadow?  My friend laughed and said that those people do not exist and if they do, they would not need advice, they'd already know how to do those things.  Already she had bought into the idea that we all are flawed in some grievous manner and need to use illusions to distract onlookers from our too wide/narrow/fat/thin features.

So this idea of some middle ground, some acceptable average that is neither this or that, a third option that exists between the dichotomy of extremes; that moderate range where in actuality most of us do exist in many ways doesn't seem to be an option in our language.  What would YOU call a non~strength that is not a weakness either, but still exists?  That thing that isn't a deficiency but really isn't outstandingly great either?

I know I have strengths and this other category of not~strengths that aren't weaknesses.  I have some weaknesses, sure.  These are the things I would like to improve on.  For instance, I'd like to have better self control around food.  I'd like to have more commitment toward exercise and the gym.  I'd like to make healthier choices.  And I think I am improving in those areas.  Then there is a vast area of things that I do well, not great and not poorly; just ordinary.  And then I do have strengths, tho sometimes {like now} I am at a loss for what they are {they are there, tho, I know}.

Did you see what I just did there?  I was able to list weaknesses, sure.  Focusing on the narrowest part of what makes me, me.  That vast array of stuffs that does make up me, I just skimmed right over.  Chances are YOU do too.

Words are very important to me, and if I cannot even think of the words to label something, the concrete form of thinking about that nebulous thing, then how can I focus on it?

What are YOUR suggestions for how you think of these things?

26 December 2015

Sometimes when I write about me, it's really for others::Anxiety

I can really empathize with my friends and family who experience heightened anxiety.  Perhaps my own experiences will help others, in some way.  Sometimes, folks just need something they can relate to.

While I was listening to a friend the other day talk about the paralyzing anxiety she feels at times when she is least expecting it, I was reminded of the horrible anxiety and panic attacks that I suffered from throughout most of my life.  I've not felt it quite so much nor quite so often within these past few years, to that degree.  But starting in my midTeen years and lasting to my early forties, anxiety and panic lurked, loomed, seized me, and basically made my life pretty unpredictable.

Anxiety, fear, panic; those can be good preservation skills, protecting you from danger.  But when that anxiety begins to escalate and spin out of control, when it affects your ability to function; then it is passed the "pay attention" stage and can be debilitating.

My first experience with unbidden, unstoppable, out of my control panic that seemed to come completely out of the blue happened on my first day of tenth grade at a new school.  I was fairly sensitive as a child, but as an adolescent, I would become volatile at times and by the time I in neared sixteen, explosive rage would consume me.  I generally had pretty good control of it, that I wouldn't lash out and hit or scream others was remarkable because I certainly felt like it an amazing amount of time.  I think that not investigating those feelings in a safe place or way led to some other problems like overwhelming panic that implodes with little to no warning.

I totally freaked and lost my shit, on the school bus, at the end of the day.  It was alarming to me, to all the other students on the bus, and to my bus driver.  The level of the noise that triggered it was so bad that my bus driver pulled the bus over and parked on the side of the road.  Since the driver decided to assert and establish her domain on the bus by telling us that she would not move the bus until we all quieted down, the students' noise escalated, and I could feel myself getting dizzy, short of breath, sweating, and so I tried to get off the bus.  The bus driver blocked the way and I lost my shit.  Was it handled well?  No.  But the thing is, it was only a matter of time before the anxiety got the best of me.  If it wasn't that day, that incident, that bus driver, then it would have been some day, some incident, some body.

The next day, I could not make myself get back on the bus.  It felt horrible that I was having this reaction and I was miserable.  I went home, crying, and woke my father with my panicked sobs.  His reaction was to ask me if I wanted to be like my crazy aunt, who everybody knew was a hypochondriac, and that I best get control of myself right.NOW.

Over the next few years, I became hypersensitive to everything.  Sensory overload made me feel like I was aware of every.single.thing.  Every detail of every nanosecond bombarded me.  That's when I became aware that time is taffy, stretching and shrinking, but mostly streeeeetching.

In my twenties, shopping became a nightmare.  Too many options and choices would overwhelm me to the point I would flee and return to my apartment, shaken and feeling cowardly and bewildered.  In my thirties, I would awake in the grips of a physical panic attack, blood racing, mind revving, nerves jangling, unable to catch my breath.

That was an especially horrifying and frustrating time.  It was frustrating for me because I couldn't figure it out.  It was also frustrating because counselors would say that I must be worried about something and it was my mental state that brought about the physical state.  In actuality, I tried to explain but was often dismissed, it was my physical state that brought about the mental anxiety to match the physical anxiety.  Regardless of the chicken or the egg, I wanted it to end, or at least to understand it so that I could somehow figure out what to do to get thru it.

The secret?  Sometimes the only way out is thru.  I am not the first to have said that, but it certainly seems to be the case for panic attacks.  I had begun to fear the fear itself.  I would panic because I was panicking and that never seems to end well.  So instead of trying to stop it, get off the train barreling down the track; I'd reassure myself that this is not going to kill me and most everything that can happen during this moment is fixable.  I also learned not to care quite so much about not embarrassing others who were with me when it happened, because it's not about them, and they are the ones choosing to be embarrassed by something they have no control or ownership of.

For a time, thru my thirties, I took medication that was specifically aimed at reducing anxiety and panic.  I still do, tho the medication that I take now is not quite as strongly sedating.  I don't like that drugged feeling and that would actually cause me to be more anxious rather than less so.  I also stay away from highly addicted medications that are for acute panic attacks, like Xanax.  The thing with that is that the effect escalates quickly, peaks, and then drops just as suddenly.  Which then means that folks are more likely to feel they need it more often and that can be not only habit forming, but ineffective, and not the best way to cope with shit.

I also was receiving counseling.  Still do, most for maintenance and reality checks.  I've a complex set of disorders that require lots of self monitoring, which I manage pretty well.  But sometimes I need to make sure that something was an appropriate reaction or just to check in and have a more objective observation than my own.  I'm in my own head, so I can't exactly get out of it in quite the same way that someone who is outside of me can, ya know?

I learned a ton of coping skills that work for ME, because just like my experience with any one drug is going to be mine and not necessarily everyone else's, some coping mechanisms work for me that won't work quite as well for others.  And I learned what my triggers were more likely to be, so that I could prevent a building of anxiety by avoiding those triggers or limiting my exposure to them.

Sleep became a hugely important issue and diet and exercise also factor in as well.  Do I still get anxious?  Yes, of course.  Some anxiety is normal and to be without it means that I would be dulled and affectless which is not desirable at all.

The thing about this sort of anxiety that becomes panic is that it can happen for NO discernible reason what so ever.  That's the thing that most people don't seem to understand.  Chances are that you aren't choosing to panic, you aren't choosing to be anxious.  And it becomes extremely frustrating for you and those around you.  Your spouse might be completely puzzled and not get that if you could control this, you would.  Oh you so would.

I understand their confusion, because I felt that way too.  As a child, I had been raised to value logic and reason above intuition or feelings.  I was constantly told in a myriad of ways that being sensitive was a bad thing and that I needed to toughen up.  So I often ignored those things about myself, until they became so explosively overwhelming that they demanded my attention.  So I would ridicule myself in an attempt to make myself listen to reason and stop all that nonsense, what am I crying about anyway?  It's just noise, it's just a crowd, it's just this and that, it's only ...

But the truth is, sometimes, enough is enough is enough and this is just too much.  So the next time you're handed a straw, it might be enough to break your back.  So if you feel this approaching, sure, do what you can do to head it off.  But you might also be to the point where there is no building up, there is no approaching to sense; because you go from calm to being panicked in a nanosecond, much like a vehicle that goes from a stand still to 120 in one minute.  You're not meant to move so fast, and that can wear you out and break you down.

Being balanced in many ways allows me to function and flourish.  Find your balance range, in your ways.  It took me a looooooooooooong time, with more than a few setbacks, and lots of assistance to get to where I am now.  Your journey does not need to be nearly so long.  Resources are available, you can do this.  I have the utmost confidence in you.