Thursday, January 21, 2021

Body and Soul - My Journey To Wellness

When I was in the second grade I was diagnosed with a "nervous stomach", what I assume by today's standards would be the equivalent to IBS. It's been a life-long problem and something that I've more or less learned to live with. I've gone through periods when it was worse than at others which I've now learned are known as "flares". Having suffered with this for more than 90% of my life thus far, over time I settled into a state of acceptance that this was just what my body does. I get stressed, my stomach gets upset, my appetite diminishes, and so on and so on. There are a multitude of outcomes with varying extremes. I'll spare you the details.

But then last week something happened that got my attention and shone a light on what I believe is, perhaps, at the core of my health issues. I noticed a post on one of my friend's FB feed. It was a picture, and in the picture was a familiar face, one that I'd not seen for over forty years and hadn't thought of, really, since childhood. What was interesting to me, though, was that not only was the memory of a person I'd forgotten restored within seconds, but it was quickly followed by a few negative emotions. Feelings I'd forgotten, but obviously, based upon their immediate affect, never dealt with. And that was when it hit me. Now bear with me here if this just seems oh-so-obvious to you, but for whatever reason until that moment I never fully understood the mind-body connection, nor did I realize the extent of the impact that our thoughts and memories have on our bodies.

Even though I'd read articles suggesting that our gut is our second brain, it wasn't until that moment that I made the connection between the collective experiences of my lifetime and my overall health. So often when I am dealing with a stressful situation, be it good stress or bad, my appetite will fluctuate. Often on our travels I will only realize I am hungry when Bill suggests its time for lunch, and even then I frequently begin by saying I'm not hungry, until I see or smell food, and then it sets in. It's as if something doesn't connect. At other times I get so busy that I simply forget to eat until late in the day, and as my mind is ALWAYS busy, I forget frequently. The downside to all of  this is that I become so hungry I then become ravenous and eat a large meal late in the day that my body struggles to digest. 

Another issue I've dealt with all of my life is clinching my jaw and grinding my teeth. Often I will be working on a project or reading, when I'll realize that I have been clinching my jaw for a long period of time. This, of course, is an indicator of underlying stress, which is likewise affecting my digestive system. In spite of realizing these actions and their affects, I had never been able to pinpoint the source of my stress. But based upon my experience last week, I think I may be figuring some of that out.

Without going into a lot of detail, my teenage years and even into my twenties and thirties were VERY difficult. The experiences I encountered in those years resulted in my being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety, mild Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I am likewise a Highly Sensitive Person. Being an HSP doesn't mean I cry a lot, in fact I rarely cry. But what it does mean is that I am easily affected by things such as crowds, bright lights, loud noises, etc. If you're interested in learning more just google "Highly Sensitive People", it will tell you more than you probably care to know. 

In addition to my formal diagnosis, I am INFJ-T on the Meyer's-Briggs Type Indicator Scale, which is the rarest of the personality types and accounts for only 1-2% of the population. I am likewise an Enneagram 5 with a strong 4 wing. They are so close in fact, that I interchange comfortably between them. If you are interested in learning more about the Meyer's Briggs Type Indicator and even want to take a free evaluation, I highly recommend this one. I've taken a number of these tests over the years, and while the result was always the same, I feel that this particular website does a very good job of explaining each of the personality types. I would say that I am definitely an Advocate,  And as I mentioned, I am an Enneagram 5 w 4 on the Enneagram Scale, also known as The Philosopher which I highly relate to. If you are interested in learning more about the Enneagram Scale, I suggest this site, which I believe is produced by the same company. I realize that all of this may sound like a bunch of hullabaloo to you, and I respect that. But for me, taking these assessments has helped me to really come to understand myself and my make-up, and I also find them entertaining. Often when I have some down time I will seek out various online tests, just for kicks and giggles. Sometimes they are enlightening, and often, especially those silly ones on FB,  miss the mark completely! Recently however I came across this fun little test and the results were that my color is GREEN, which made me happy.  You only need to look around here at my little cyber-home, to discover that GREEN and RED are my favorite colors.

Anyway, I feel like I'm starting to ramble here and completely missing the point of this post. In discovering that I (we) carry repressed memories, and repressed emotions as well, I think I am beginning to understand WHY it is that my jaw is clinched so much of the time. And while I realize, being a highly sensitive person, that any number of things can cause me stress in a given day, it just didn't add up. Even collectively, it didn't seem to me that those things would produce the amount of stress I am under. But in consideration of what I discovered last week, it makes sense. I realize now that my current stressors are probably only adding to the collective stress that I've been carrying with me for years. All those memories and emotions tied to unpleasant events in my past, and that's just the things I can recall. It doesn't even take the repressed memories and emotions into account, which makes the level of stress I feel in my body day-to-day much greater. With this in mind, I am looking for intentional ways to reduce stress, as well as working on some ways to deal more affectively with past hurts. I mentioned some of these practices in my post, My Winter Wellness Rhythm, and while I have been successful at implementing some of them, a few of them are still a work in progress.  

One thing I have added to that rhythm is Intermittent Fasting. Without going into a lot of detail because this post is already quite long, Intermittent Fasting is fasting from eating either for a certain amount of hours daily, on certain days of the week, or, for some, even for an extended period of time. While I have fasted religiously in the past, fasting as a regular part of my health routine is not something I have observed. But last week I happened on to a documentary on Prime called Fasting, which explores seven different kinds of fasting and a few of them claim some pretty amazing results. It's a little long, almost two hours, and while I didn't find all of it interesting or relevant, I was impressed with the results that Dr. Jason Fung and Dr. Julie Wai-Shatzel are seeing with their patients. 

Dr. Julie recommends fasting for a period of 12 hours and changing not so much what you eat, but rather when you eat it. It is based upon the Circadian Rhythm that our bodies follow, and encourages eating at optimum times when your body more easily processes and converts calories. The results that both doctors have seen, especially with pre-diabetic and diabetic patients are amazing! I am not diabetic, and my interest in fasting is to reduce my body weight, which I carry primarily around my middle, and to improve my gut health from a physical stand point. But I can tell you that I've been fasting from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. for four days now, and I am already less bloated and feel thinner through my mid-section. Seeing results quickly is so encouraging when you take on a new health regiment, and I'm very pleased.  It also hasn't been that difficult since you are asleep for most of the time you are fasting. I would say the most challenging aspect I have had to deal with so far is not making coffee as soon as I get up, which is typically around 5:30. You can drink black coffee without breaking the fast, but unfortunately for me, I tend to like a little coffee with my creamer.

I am implementing some other practices as well, but as this post is already longer than I intended, I'm going to go ahead and close. So what about you? Is stress a major factor in your life day to day? Any fellow jaw-clinchers our there? And if so, what some ways that you reduce or deal with stress? I'm open to considering just anything at this point! I'll be sharing more with you soon about other ways I'm looking to reduce stress and what aspects of my winter wellness rhythm are working.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Learning To Identify Birds and My Bird of The Year 2021

If you recall my 101 Things in 1001 Days List, learning to identify birds by sight and sound is #9 on my list. 

Identifying birds is something I've been doing since our homeschool days, but have gotten away from in recent years.  I even came across a form I made up just a few short years ago, for sighting a bird for the year as well as for noting other birds I observed and discovered.  I've updated that form, and if you're interested in printing out a copy, I'll provide a link below. 

Choosing a bird for the year is a fun tradition this time of year that I first heard of from my good friend and fellow seasonal blogger, Dawn. Dawn traditionally chooses hers based upon which bird she first spots each year. I did that for awhile, but as I often almost always first spotted chickadees, I began simply choosing a bird for myself. In the past I've tracked monthly sightings of chickadees, robins and even crows. This year, I've decided upon the cardinal. 

There are often meanings associated with different birds, and for the cardinal they include loyalty, as cardinals mate for life, good luck, it is believed in some cultures that you will have good luck within twelve days of the sighting, and the Indians believed they were spiritual messengers, and that upon sighting one the spirit of a loved one was nearby. Such a lovely bird with even lovelier sentiments!

In our homeschooling days there were a number of books that we enjoyed that taught us a lot about birds. I thought I might revisit a few of these and even use them to aide me in my sightings. Here are a few.

- Bird Neighbors by Neltje Blanchan (A personal favorite!)
- Birds Worth Knowing by Neltje Blanchan

In addition, I wanted to put you on to the sweetest little series of books, The Robin Redbreast Series by Madeline Leslie. Written in 1860, our Kate adored hearing the tales of the little robins when she was a little bird, herself.

They really are just the sweetest little books, and revisiting them brings back many pleasant memories. Before I discovered The Internet Archives, Google Play provided us with a large library of books from days gone by that added so much beauty to our curriculum. Sharing some of the resources we used in our homeschooling years is one of the things I've been considering sharing with you here. I once had a separate blog to house it, which boasts a pretty large archive. I can't decide whether to include it as part of this blog, or simply to reopen it and direct you there. What I do know is that there are many worthwhile books  that could easily be incorporated into your curriculum, or simply enjoyed with the littles in your life! Or, if you're like me and believe you will never outgrow children's literature, are equally as enjoyable as adults! I did want to mention that almost all the books linked above are also available at the archives. I chose to link them from Google Play because that is where most of my online library we used for homeschooking is housed. However you may find the format at the Archives more agreeable, in which case you could simply search there with the title of each book.

In the days to come I hope to craft a few bird treats to hopefully help attract a few cardinals and other winged friends, as well. I'll be sure to share! :) In the mean time if you want to select a bird for the year and track your sightings over the next twelve months, as well as keep a record of other birds you spot, you can download my updated form below.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Small Things

and this one form the archives, What If All I Want Is A Mediocre Life?, so good!

A few books from the Internet Archives that look interesting . . .
Simple Words:Thinking About What Really Matters
by Adin Steinsaltz

The Holy Way: Practices For A Simple Life
by Paula Huston

I've long been a fan of Steve Tyrell, ever since discovering his music in the movies Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II. I listen to him often, and this song, in particular, is one of my favorites.

by Steve Tyrell

One of my goals this year is to build a home apothecary, and I have elderberry syrup on the list. You can read about the benefits of elderberry, here.

from Recipes and Rituals

Growing up, there were a couple of casseroles that were  on a regular rotation in our home, often on Friday nights. I remember with excitement coming in to see my mom putting it in the oven. Served with a side salad, these are two of my favorite recipes from my childhood.

King Ranch Casserole
2 c. cooked, diced chicken
1 pkg. (18) corn tortillas, quartered
1 chopped onion, sauteed in margarine
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 c. grated cheese

Save hot broth from cooking chicken . Combine onion, Rotel tomatoes, mushroom and chicken soups, chili powder and garlic salt. Heat until hot. Dip tortillas into hot broth. Dip quickly and line baking dish with tortillas; add chicken and more tortillas if all are not used. Pour hot soup mixture over chicken. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 8-10.


Hamburger Rotel
1 small pkg. corn tortillas
1 lb. ground hamburger meat
1 can Ranch Style beans
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Rotel Tomatoes with Chilies

Arrange in layers beginning with tortillas and ending with Rotel. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Just yesterday I discovered a lovely magazine and blog, The Joyful Life. One of my favorite bloggers, Monica Wilkinson, wrote an article for their website, How To Cultivate A Spirit of Coziness In Your Home, perfect for this colder winter months that find us more in doors. But the entire website is full of other wonderful posts and resources. I briefly skimmed through it and found a few that I wanted to make a note to read later. If you're not familiar with it, be sure to visit and be inspired!

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