Monday, December 30, 2013

Clarity & Mindfulness: Practicing Buddhism with Sacrifice and My Vows for 2014

Today is a day for writing.  I say this because of the heaviness of emotions, including a sorrow, that has cast itself upon me and I have shrugged off, but still feel the impression.

Despite the meditation, despite the constant focus of being aware of the present moment, I find that the holidays are a time when the singular loneliness I feel is exacerbated, and I am sure it is that way for others.  That is not to say I am alone. I am surrounded by others, family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, but it is a time when dreams of what could have been creep back in again, and the reality of what is happens to be so very different than expectations.  It becomes a time of reconciliation. Renewed acceptance and letting go.

In April, I took a week long vacation to get away from the constant chatter in my life.   It started in Denver where I stayed with some close family members,  I rented a car, then spent a couple days in Moab (Utah), Sedona (Arizona), and Sante Fe (New Mexico), before returning to Denver. I wanted to have my own Mecca, my own rite of transformation, and I knew I had to be alone to perform this.  It was an empowering experience, but there was one aspect upon which I want to elaborate today.

When I was in Sedona, wandering the streets which are not unlike the quaintness of Lake Placid, I happened to come upon a Spanish restaurant that looked inviting.  So, in I went.  I saddled up at the bar and the bartender served me some drink, followed by a menu.  After a few minutes a woman sat next to me and we began a conversation.

Ultimately, the conversation ended with her telling me about the Buddhist sacred site, the Amitaba Stupa, which she said, I must visit.

After dinner, I googled the address and programmed it into the GPS.  Before I began toward it, I read a little about it on my phone.  It indeed was one of a few Buddhist sites in the west.

 In a matter of minutes I was at a red dirt road, lined with trees and a steep wall of yellow stone backlit by a sinking sun in the immediate distance.

The path to the Stupa was worn, and framed by stones that were stacked in a pattern that reminded me of Stonehenge, although on an obviously much smaller scale.

 When I reached the end of the winding path, it opened to a very large area in which the giant statue of the Buddha sat, easily 10 feet high, but the center was the stupa.  

There was an area south of the Buddha for seating and ceremony, and there was a bench directly in front of the stupa where people had left small gifts.  Some gifts were also scattered around in the dirt.

I had read that when a person visits a stupa, he or she may walk three times around it with a question in their heart.  Around the stupa there was a very worn path where many had done so before me.  I did so, and each time I passed the little bench, I took off a piece of jewelry I was wearing and left it as a token to the spirit of Buddha.

Perhaps you are wondering what it is I wished.  My wish was simple.  I wanted to know my path.   I asked, "Show me the way.  Give me the courage to follow the direction my life needs to take."

As the sun set, I walked around the rest of the site and created some stone structures myself.

That night I had a vivid dream, of which I still return and find solace.  As I woke the next morning, the vision in the dream clung to me.  I packed the car and by 6 am was on the road heading for Santa Fe.  Traveling the hundreds of miles on the empty road, I revisit the events in my dream:

I return to my old home, the gorgeous 1878 Victorian home that I had lived with in Brasher with my husband and children and that he and I, with the help of my family, had gutted and rebuilt.  From the outside it looks exactly the same, but the inside, it is empty.  While it is empty, it is also very clean.  Spotless.  There is no furniture.  There is nothing on the walls.

I am searching for something.  No, not something.  I am searching for someone.  Then, it comes to me.  I am looking for the twins.  Lily and Jerome. (I do have two children but they are not twins.  They are girls, named Madeline and Elizabeth).  I wander from room to room with an ache in my heart, feeling like I had lost them.  When I get to the bathroom, I study the shape of the wall.  It looks normal, but as I get closer, I see the foundations and the walls are all slightly bent.  The paint is fresh, the room untouched, but the walls are bowed out, convex. As is the floor.

In the bathroom, I hear a sound, a loud screeching, coming from the yard, I turn to it.  It is a man, and without speaking to him, I know he has come to help me find my twins.  I do not see this man emerge from the vehicle, a flat bed truck, a powerful vehicle, that he has driven onto the lawn, but I am compelled to him, desire his company.  He has come to help me, but I feel as though he is also searching.  Is he searching for the twins?  We both have something we are missing, and each balances the other.  It is a complete feeling.  A feeling of resolution and harmony.

The dream ends.

My analysis of that dream led me to many conclusions, all of which have resulted in my true forgiveness of myself and my part in my divorce and my ex husband and his part.  When I arrive in Santa Fe, I did further research about the names Jerome and Lily.  I was startled to discover some interesting information regarding Saint Jerome... and about the flower Lily and what it represents.  In this context and to those of you who know me, it will also make sense when I tell you that the flower that represents my baby brother that died when I was 8, is an Easter Lily.  My mom planted that flower in his remembrance and each time I see it I am reminded of him.

I won't analyze the dream to you, but it certainly spoke to me, as have others that have come since. I hope that you give your dreams an opportunity to do the same for you.

When I left the southwest and returned home, many things happened, but they happened slowly. My life began to take the shape that felt right.... felt natural... and was satisfying... but there was still something missing... and that something was this loneliness that I sometimes experience as I continue to strive toward my goals.  I feel like I deserve a partner on this path, but I have yet to find someone who could possibly accompany me on this path.

Yet while I did not find someone to join me, I did have a realization this year with a man I dated for many months.  I came to understand that, some people come into our lives to open doors for us, but not walk through the door with us.

I continue to work on the healing that comes from being broken after loving someone (my ex-husband) to the point of emptiness... but this year was a start for me in the right direction.  I know now that I want to love again.  Deserve to find someone who not only will open that door for me, but walk through it with me.

I know that will happen in its time, and I have been reading Rainer Maria Rilke whenever I become impatient.  In his Letters to a Young Poet he says, "...believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance and trust that in this love there is a strength and a blessing, out beyond which you do not have to step in order to go very far."  

I believe in that.  And I won't settle for anything less than that kind of blessing.  I will make the effort to allow life to be and not force what I want or desire upon it.

But, the initial thrust of my blog today was in regard to sorrow.  It leads me back to wondering what is this sorrow?  Why do I suffer? And the path of Buddhism offers clear answers regarding suffering.  I have made slight conversions to that path,  but overall my journey has not been a Damascus Conversion, more instead of a subtle, convenient conversion. Sparked by occasional moments of will power.  I want to go all the way this year.  I want to follow the Buddhist path with more commitment and discipline.

Buddhism is a life philosophy, not a religion.  I stumbled upon it a couple years after my failed marriage when a kind woman came to my door to discuss religion with me.  I don't remember which faith she represented. I welcomed her and we had an in depth conversation about the spirit and its place in modern culture.  She recommended some books to me, and not to be outdone, I returned the gesture.  one book she left in my safekeeping and which I now own is called, Mankind's Search for God.   Within the book there is a chapter devoted to all the major religious philosophies,including the spiritual philosophy of Buddhism.

When I read that chapter, I continuously found myself connecting to the words, the principles and beliefs.  Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths:

1. All existence is suffering.
2. Suffering arises from desire or craving (and/or attachments as I see it).
3. Cessation of desire means an end of suffering.
4. Cessation of desire is achieved by following the 8 fold path, controlling one's conduct, thinking, and belief.

Buddha believed that enlightenment came from the self, not from God, but from good and kind acts and from clarity in thinking.  Just like there are divisions in the Christian "schools" there are a variety of types of Buddhists, but the four noble truths and the 8 fold path are the foundation for them.

Buddhists believe that is soul is not "immortal" and is a combination of physical mental forces.  Buddhists belief is that humans are in a state of suffering based on past and present actions (karma) and are reborn countless times to give the opportunity in new lives to reach Nirvana, which is almost like the existence of a salvation or a heaven.  Nirvana is a re-acquaintance with the energy force that drives all life (kind of like Kabbalah) .  As defined in the text mentioned above, "Thus, some describe Nirvana as cessation of all passion and desire; an existence free from all sensory feelings, such as pain, fear, want, love, or hate; a state of eternal peace, rest, and changlessness. Essentially it is said to be the cessation of individual existence."

How do I become mindful?  It is hard to be so in this culture because to be mindful, we must allow our minds to be free of the chatter and to focus on what is happening to our feelings and our thoughts.  Like looking and studying ourselves from outside of ourselves.  How can we do this very well when  we are so accustomed to having whatever we want, whenever we want?

"It is ignorance that smothers, and it is carelessness that makes it invisible. The hunger of craving pollutes the world, and the pain of suffering causes the greatest fear."

We are bombarded with every type of entertainment, pleasure of the flesh from alcohol, drugs (both illegal and legal), social recreation, material recreation... we are gluttons.  We have numbed our minds and bodies, feeding them to the point of overindulgence.  And we crave more and more and need a bigger "hit" to get the same kind of high...just like an addict.  (Keep in mind gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins as well).

Being mindful of that craving (the desires) and making a conscious effort to stop that cycle is what is necessary.  A great short read on this topic is at

This past year and a half I have made many changes to my body to train it to stop craving.  I have made some headway working also on my mind, but it has not been enough.  The work on the mind must be accompanied by a deeper commitment to be conscious of the desires I have for sensual pleasures and those connected to my 'desire for becoming'.  The desire for becoming I believe is linked to the ego, which when being mindful, turns the ego off.  The ego is in love with pride, which, again, one of the 7 deadly sins....

The desire for becoming is explained as (from the website above):

...  it is actually linking to the craving or grasping after something immutable within us, which we feel constitutes our reality, or our self–it is this that you desire to go on forever.
 It is also the craving for novelty, innovation, new phenomena. You are craving to become this and that, in a round of endless stimulation, linked very much with [desire]. We are always looking for the new thing that is going on.
In an effort this year to live more aligned with the idea of being mindful of craving I have made a huge leap and am sharing that I will take the following vows beginning today and lasting through 2014: one of celibacy and one for the abstention of consuming alcohol. I will also make more of an effort to be mindful, cutting out the "mind candy" that is  a distraction to clarity of mind.

We shall see how the year ends.  I look forward to this journey with you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Simple,Quick Home Work-Out (Not just for Working Moms)

A quick, simple workout from home, designed for a beginner,  with my kids helping out.  We had a lot of fun doing this for you and we hope you enjoy!  Please remember I am not certified as a personal trainer (yet....) nor am I a fitness instructor or a nutritionist.  These 3 circuits take me about 30 minutes total, with rest time between sets and circuits included.

This home workout consists of three circuits, with some core, some weight and some   It's a combination I use when I'm at home.Each circuit should be repeated 3 times for beginners.  If the number of reps per set is too much, then decrease them.  For some of the exercises, I embedded a link.  You can click on the link for more info on how to perform that specific exercise.

As always, find me on facebook with any questions or comments.

Circuit #1:

Squat thrusts (aka burpees):
15 each set. The photos above show the position of a squat thrust. 1. Start standing with your feet a shoulder width apart. 2. Squat down, then 3. thrust your legs out (almost like being in a push-up position). Then stand. That is one. Do 15.

Plank: See photo below. Great abdominal/core exercise.  Keep your body like a 'plank'.  Hold for 30 seconds

High knees: 45 seconds
Repeat, 3 time total. Rest between each set. I usually rest one minute.

Circuit #2

Jumping Jacks: 50 count
Reverse lunge: 10-12 on each side
Push-ups: Do ten.  If you need to do the "girl" version, then that's fine!

Repeat all three exercises above so that you do them 3 times total. Rest between each set.

Circuit #3:

Weighted Sumo Squats:  These are like a regular squat, except you stand with your feet a little more than a shoulder width apart. 10-12 reps
Jump rope (you don't really need a jump rope....pretend that's what I do inside): 1 minute
Weighted "forward" lunges (try 5 pounds on each side for a beginner):
12 on each side, so 24 total for each set (See below)

Repeat all exercises above so that you do them 3 times total.  Rest between each set.

Thanks and I hope this helped :)

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Quiet Desire Beyond Physical in Me Stirs

Grand Canyon, North Rim, April 2013

“As the earth dies your spirit will bloom; as the world fades your soul will rise and glisten.  Amongst the dehydrated crevices of a desert earth you will stumble upon your diamonds; in between the dry skulls and cracked bones you will find your sapphires.”

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going.  And I have trained myself to love it.  Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight.  And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to.  But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings.  You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the wind will carry you.”

~C, Joybell

I have never posted any of the poetry I have written, but today I felt compelled.

"A Quiet Desire Beyond Physical in Me Stirs"

I do not want to smile when I think of you.
I wait,
take two steps back.

I date others,
hoping that removes
the trace
of your touch.

You see,
I once
was brought to my knees.


I rebuild.

My walls,
No windows.
No invitations extended.
No one I want seated at my table.

You stand at my door.
I wave you away.
You creep back.

God damn.
So pesky.

Is this it then?

Is this the point,
6 years of dotted lines,
Connecting them so neatly.
Now I must learn,
to accept
You break my pattern.

I lean toward you,
Knowing the finality.
The expiration.

Holding my breath.


Don’t touch me like that.
Don’t make my lips curve up.
Don’t challenge me the way no other man has.

I hate myself for wanting,
It reminds me…

Reminds me of the weakness
In my knees.

How they could buckle.

I retreat.

Baby steps.
You teach me baby steps.

Your words,
They sting.

I don’t want them to.
A great misfortune?
I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore
What it is
What it isn’t.

They do. 
They do burn.

I retract.
I expand.

I am filling the spaces you create for me.
Do you know?

It is a woman’s intuition.
I brace.

I try. 
Like the other men,
I think of you as a car.
A shiny convertible.
Fast, sleek.
Sweet to slide into.
Turn on.
Feel your power beneath me.

But you are not a car.

I listen for the sound
Of your heart beating.
You are alive.

A life.
A spark.
A lamp.

I follow the light.
I am at the edge.

You are the edge,
I peek over.
The fall is so beautiful,

So breathtakingly beautiful.
St. Lawrence River, August 2013
Photography by Kim Marasco

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Hole No Cigarette, No Cabernet, No 8 Minute Mile Can Fill

Lately, it feels like my life has been building toward some moment that I'm not yet wise enough to understand.  After having a truly fantastic weekend, finished off this morning running a 5k in Syracuse in pelting ice-rain (yes, that's one word) I felt the heaviness of needing to sift through my thoughts.  When I finally arrived home, the weather was so balmy for November, that I threw on my running gear, again, and went off for another 5k.  I knew it would get dark soon, but my need to gain the type of understanding that only a good run brings was much greater than that worry.

Recently it seems that many people have made contact with me for inspiration of some sort or another.  While I am deeply touched and will continue to provide guidance, both spiritual and physical, for anyone who reaches out to me, I feel that I need to share how often vulnerable I, too, still am, and how raw my emotions can still be.  I think that if I tell you these things maybe it will make it easier for you to have faith and the courage to follow your heart, intuition, path...whatever you would like to call it.

Saturday night my ex-husband told me that his grandfather had passed away last Thursday.  Of course he was not "my" grandfather, but I was with my ex-husband from 19 to almost 31 years old...  We spent many days at Grandpa's.  I know his favorite food, the types of books he likes to read, the stories about his military service, his wife who passed many years before him and so much more.  I spent many many nights at his house before I was married and even after.  I cooked for him, helped him clean, bought and wrapped his Christmas gifts all through our marriage... and I shared my stories too.

When I talked with my ex, lets call him "Jack", about it, I was hurt that he had not told me.  Even after "Jack" and I were divorced I sent Grandpa Christmas and birthday cards and gifts.  When after some time I received nothing in return, I stopped.  I realized that "Jack's" new girlfriend had truly taken my place and I was no longer part of that family.  It was just another piece of a painful path that I was on.

I wanted to tell this because I think many of you who have come to me see me as this strong, independent woman who has made so many "good" choices and who has a vision of the future and will stop at nothing until I achieve my goals.   While that is certainly true that I have decided that I can't let anything stop me from my dreams, I have done so many things wrong and made so many mistakes.  I am uncertain, even still, and recently had to go to a good friend for support.   I still experience the ache of loneliness, and there are days that I truly do still miss the hopes "Jack" and I had for our future.

People often tell me that I will marry again.  People often say, and I understand it, that I have commitment "issues".  A part of me agrees that I do have issues with commitment, but it has less to do with committing to someone and everything to do with being afraid that someone else will stand in the way of my dreams, instead of supporting them.  I've been there and I was in love.  When I said my vows,  standing on a sandy white beach in Maine where we had vacationed for years together,  looking into my soon to be husband's eyes, my own eyes brimming with tears unspilled, I meant every word.  It was my for-life vow.  A real promise.   There was never a time when I doubted my commitment to that vow.

But it takes two people to keep a commitment.  So I had to let go of my promise.  Break my word.  And even though my heart was saying, you will not go back to him, look what he has done to you, the truth is that for a period of time, a couple months, I would have done anything  to keep my family intact, to not have to drive away from my 17 month old daughter crying, her face pressed to the glass door, to feel my Jack's hands intertwined with my own.

But there came a point where I knew in my heart, that this was for the best, so I moved out (he wouldn't).  I realized that he didn't love me anymore, but he was willing to stay in that loveless marriage.  I would've been miserable. I was miserable.

When I left, I felt as though I was going into a nightmare.  It was dark.  I was so very despondent and unaware of who I was.  I wasn't a wife anymore.  I didn't have a man to clean after, cook for, plan a vacation for, choose a Christmas tree with, turn to in the middle of the night.

Yet even though there was an ache, I walked away.  I knew he couldn't treat me like that, so disrespectfully.   I'm a woman, not an object.  I'm not meant to be used and tossed away. And yes, it hurt.  It ached.  There was a hollow that nothing could fill.  No cigarette, no cabernet, no 8 minute mile, could fill for many months.  But slowly, I began to heal, because I wanted to.  Because I made that choice that this was the right thing, the best thing, for me.  That I was meant for bigger and better experiences.

Now while that is true and I believe that there is a world out there that I am soon to know and have taken baby steps, working very hard this last year so that I can step out into it, that hole, that deep wound, that ache, has not fully healed, but it has scarred over.  I don't know if it ever does heal all the way.

I have learned to believe that my path had to veer away from his, because he was suffocating me, depriving me of my true potential.  So, when it comes to that ache of being alone or lonely without a man's touch next to me at night I can honestly say at this point in my life, I would rather be alone than make a decision that goes against the song I feel in my blood.  I would not make a commitment to any man at this moment because I can not.  My heart belongs to the future.

Having said that, I think it's important to recognize that there will be a man that may come into my life that I have feelings toward...

Like Anna Deveare Smith said, "I never know when somebody's going to knock on the door of my own unconscious in a way that I wouldn't have anticipated."  

That has actually happened to me this year. About 3 months into that relationship I felt myself needing to pull away.  I hadn't had those feelings about a man since Jack, that fondness, and that attraction that is difficult to put a finger on.  It was unsettling.  After detaching myself and spending some time dating other men, I decided that I needed to let go of my fears and just enjoy the moment, be mindful that this relationship had an expiration date (he is moving in January) and not try to make him be what I want him to be.  Facing my fear that I could develop deeper feelings about him, I began seeing him again, and have felt powerful beyond measure that I can be with someone, know it will end, and savor every each moment together.  

Early in the relationship, I said that I thought we should stop seeing each other because I was developing feelings, and he responded  that the "timing" was just not right for us.... I agreed and we stopped seeing each other, naturally, without any anger, bitterness or resentment.  It was difficult because I wanted to be with him,  was intellectually challenged, and this was a feeling that I haven't experienced, ever.  It was absolutely frightening to me to want to be with someone on that level. 

What I have come to realize is that it wasn't the timing was off, it was that I wasn't able to see this opportunity for what it was.  I couldn't grasp that I could be with someone for a temporary amount of time, and then have to let that person, who I could potentially care for, go.

The timing wasn't wrong at all.  My thinking was.

I like to think of spending this time with him now as an experience, almost like a vacation.  Would you forgo a journey into the vacation of your dreams just because you knew it would end?  Of course not.  You set your mind, understand the implications of the experience, and go into the experience with an eager heart and the knowledge of the pending finality.  That doesn't make the experience any less sweet.  In fact, it makes it sweeter, because you know it will end, and so you go headfirst, without caution, mindful of the moment.

I am telling you these things today because I am both wistful, missing my old way of life despite how often miserable I was at the end of the marriage,  yet feeling blessed that I have had the experiences I would have never had, living the dreams I never would have lived, had I stayed in my relationship, which was making me miserable.

And best of all, I am learning how to be mindful of the moment: living day to day, following my heart, taking baby steps, chasing the rainbows that one day will be over my head.  I want to live deep and with intent, experiencing the sadness as divine, not just the joy.  This reminds me of Thoreau, so I must quote him,

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

I am telling you these things today because I know so many of you are depressed, afraid, confused, uncertain, doubtful of yourself, as was I, as I am still sometimes.

Yes, it is frightening, but go into the "woods." Go into that fear.   You can only ever truly understand the intense love, peace and joy life can bring if you go earnestly into the dark places and know those, too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Simple Sample Vegan/Clean Eating Meal Plan & Grocery List

After repeated requests, here is my "Simple Sample Menu Plan".  Keep in mind, it's just an idea: I DO NOT plan out my entire week like this every week (I'm so not that organized), but these meals are my weekly "Go-To" meals.  I've included a sample grocery list after the menu plan.

Also, I eat as many fresh fruits and veggies daily as I want.  I ate 4 apples one day last week...
Disclaimer-- I'm not a nutritionist, although in this age of teaching & education, I kind of wish I were!
Day 5 Dinner

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Early Morning
Coffee &
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Coffee & banana
Mid morning
Oatmeal with walnuts and honey
3 Homemade two ingredient cookies- oatmeal and bananas (I also put in pecans and cranberries)
Oatmeal with walnuts and honey
Odwalla Bar/
Honey and Oats Bar
Oatmeal with walnuts and honey
Fiber One Nutty Clusters and Almonds with Almond Milk
V-8 Juice
Whole Avocado
Hummus & peppers/carrots/ celery
Pita with Hummus,
Lettuce, cucumbers,
etc veggies

V-8 Juice
Whole Avocado
Hummus & peppers/carrots/ celery
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich


V-8 Juice
Whole Avocado
Hummus & peppers/carrots/ celery
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich


¼ cup pecans and
Bottle of Water
Veggie Straws
Orange Juice
70% Dark Chocolate
Orange Juice
Oats and Honey Bar
Bottle of water


Veggie Straws
Orange Juice
“Stir Fry”
Frozen peas
Brown Rice

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

Ciabatta bread

Beets & Green beans

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice
Baked Asparagus

Butternut Squash

(served hot or you can premake and chill: with cranberries, sliced   celery, pecans, oranges (diced) a sprinkle of brown sugar if you’d like and some balsamic or fresh squeezed orange and lime slices for juice)

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

“Taco Night”
Bake your own pita chips
Veggie Ground for the “beef”
Whatever other veggies you like

*If you are using sour cream, try yogurt instead

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice
Baked Balsamic Portabello Mushroom on Ciabatta Bread (with vegenaise)

Farro or
Brown Rice

Sweet Potatoes

Squash &Peas

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

Add as many veggies as you want

*no cheese* although you can buy vegan ‘cheese’ at Hannaford

Bottle of Water and/or Orange Juice

My Vegan/Healthy Eating Grocery List:
Buy Fresh and Local/Organic When Possible… Avoid Can, get frozen instead

Fruits & Veggies (I buy a variety of these every week)
Avocado (3-4)
Portobello Mushrooms (3 caps)
Peppers (night shades are best)
Sweet Potatoes
Onion (I choose red or sweet Vidalia)
Frozen Peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach +
Limes (slice and put in water)

Breads & Grains
Artisan All Natural Alexia Ciabatta Bread (Frozen food section)
Brown/Black Rice,
Quinoa/Red Quinoa
Pita Bread (St. Joseph’s Kosher 60 Cals per pita)
Ronzoni Garden Delight Spaghetti
Fiber One or Great Grains Cereal
Arnold Healthfull 45 Calorie Slice Bread
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Cascadian Farm Organic Crunchy Honey* and Oats
Odwalla Berries Gomega Bars
KIND Plus Bars
Cranberries dried
Veggie Straws
Claussen Pickles
70% or more dark chocolate

Vegenaise for a mayo replacement
Coconut oil
Reduced sodium soy sauce
Balsamic Vinegar
YVES Veggie Hot dogs
YVES Veggie Ground (like ground beef)
Veggie Meatballs (mostly eggplant)
Organic Marinara Sauce

Spring Water
Orange Juice
Almond Milk
V-8 Juice
Coconut water if you like it is also good

*Honey is not a vegan food.  I still eat honey, but technically, since it is produced by an “animal” it’s not a vegan product.  If you’d like to use an alternate, try Agave Nectar.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Worst Wish I Could Wish is Not a Beheading: A True Story for any Divorced Woman Whose Past Love has Started a New Family

When I first left my husband, only a few months after he told me, "I love you but I'm not in love with you anymore," I truly believed we would get back together.  I thought that it was a road block, well more like a boulder blocking an interstate highway, but movable, albeit with a lot of work.  I knew he was having an affair and still, I would have done my part and worked to repair the marriage in order to keep our family intact.

I left on September 1st. The last opportunity I gave him to fix our relationship and forgive him his indiscretions (which he was still denying), was the last weekend in October of the next month.  After that, when he said he was happier without me, in my mind I decided it was over and it was time to begin mourning the death of my marriage.

Over the course of the next few months, the woman with whom he had been intimate and who he claimed still only as a "friend" who was helping him "through this" became more of a permanent fixture in his life.  Eventually, in April, only 8 months after we split, he informed me he was introducing the girls to her.  There was little argument I could give as I was boarding a plane to Mexico.  The last thing I wanted to ruin my vacation was thoughts of my daughters and this woman, who, quite honestly I hated passionately, playing a mothering role to them.  It was at this point that without admitting he was in a relationship with her, he was admitting he was in a relationship with her.

There were many things that went through my mind as I sat on that plane ride.  My heart was full of anger and bitterness.  My chest ached and my heart, again, was hurting intensely.  I called them both names.  I wished terrible things on him.  Then her.  They were mostly awful things that involves some kind of accidental poisoning or beheading. Then, when I couldn't think of anything more to wish that was terrible on either of them, I began to fantasize about  the worst things that could happen to them in 'real' life.  I decided the worst thing I could think up was what I believe propelled my marriage into its demise: the birth of my children.

The awful ugly truth is, I never wanted to become a mother, nor a wife.  I grew up steadfast in that, and I asserted that claim often.  I rarely dated in high school, believing guys were extremely immature and just not at my level.  Despite this, the culture in which women are groomed has pushed us (me) into the belief that a happy woman has a place, and that place is beside (or more often behind) a man, with her children in tow and a washcloth and spatula handy at all times.  When I met my ex-husband I indeed fell head over heels in the way only a 20 year old girl can, naively, without thinking about the consequences, just utter abandon.  I rushed headfirst into a commitment he made to me, having not pushed him into it. I still remember the first time he said, "I love you" at the end of a phone conversation, and I said it back, out of reflex, then hung up immediately.  I did not love him yet, but I did care about him.

My dreams of being a journalist and writing about third world countries while working for the Peace Corp after college were as easily washed away as food stains on a counter top.  I began to believe that maybe all that time thinking I didn't want a husband or family was just my misguided youth.  Maybe I did want the house, the dog, the white picket fence.  Maybe I could carry a baby on a hip and whip up a great dinner (meat, potatoes and vegetable of course), then put the baby down for the night and scrub the dishes, floor and toilets.  Maybe....

As much as I love my daughters, and they give me a joy so pure and a pride so immeasurable,  when they entered the world, I began to expect things from my husband.  I wanted him to carry some of the burden of this responsibility.  And yet, the more I tried to engage him in that, it seemed the more he pushed away.

There was one night that stays forefront in my mind when I was up for Madeline's 2 am (maybe 4 am) feeding.  While she was nursing at my breast, I looked down at her, the child who had emerged from me, who I knew I should adore because she came from love, and all I felt was an overwhelming feeling that I had done something from which I could not escape.  The thought I remember going through my mind was, "What the f*ck did I do?"  Months later, I did fall in love with Madeline, as she grew and smiled and laughed her first real laugh (at our lap dog, Max, when he was jumping high up to my hand to get a treat).

And so my ex husband and I had another child.  I wanted the babies to be close in age.  Having a second was even more work for me.  The rift which had begun with Madeline (before Madeline actually, but that's another story) began to widen.  Soon we would fall into it...

And so, when I was sitting on that plane, after hearing that my daughters, Ella not quite 2, and Madeline having just turned 3 in August, were meeting the woman who destroyed my family, the worst thing I could imagine happening to the two of them was having their own family, and experiencing the sadness, despair, and painful, painstaking work that raising a child is... in our society which is still very set in the gender role of woman as caretaker.  I wished that heartache on them.

A little less than a month ago, as my ex husband picked up the girls, as usual, around 4 o'clock, he let them head out onto the porch first, then he turned to me and said, "D------ and I are getting married.  And let's hope it's a boy."

I never expected to hear those words from him.  She being older than I, with a daughter who is a senior and one in college, I never expected she would want to create a new family.

Inside I was hollow.  I quickly searched to feel something, anything, but there was nothing.  My mind wandered. And then I took over.  The new me.  I stood up and touched his shoulder and genuinely said, "Congratulations, I'm so happy for you."  He laughed and turned, saying, "I will be telling the girls tonight." (He only told the girls about the marriage, not the baby.  They have since married.  If you know my daughters, please do not say anything to them).

I shut the door and sat back down and waited.  In the quiet of the house, I listened to the ticking of the clock on the wall.  10 minutes went by and I felt nothing.  What's going to come?  I kept thinking.  Am I going to be sad?  Bitter?  Angry?  Wish ill on them?

None of those happened.  The only feeling that came was a reaction to how this was going to change the world for my daughters.  How would they react?  How will their "family' change?  A hundred worries crossed my mind.  And then I also began to realize that I had feelings, too, and none of them were envy.  I was happy it was not me.  I did not want to be her, having a family at this age, at this stage in my life. I have worked so hard to get healthy and get back in shape; I was glad it was not me, watching my body change again.  Although I loved being pregnant, any woman who has gone through it knows it is not easy to "bounce back" when it comes to weight.  And our bodies are never the same.  And emotionally...well... it's not easy.

I truly was and am happy for him.  And her.  And my daughters and her daughters.

And also, just a little, very little, sad, that I would not ever be able to give my daughters a sister or a brother... but she will. And they will have a baby brother or sister that will give them so much joy, that they will talk about and laugh about and want me to understand, and I will have to be the best mom I can be and laugh along... And I will give them that... but at this juncture, I can't give them a baby.... and I probably never will.

But what I am giving my daughters is more than that.

I am giving them purpose, every day, that they can become what they want, follow their hearts and dreams. That they do not need a man to be satisfied, but that if a good, considerate man comes into their lives as a friend, and that is a part of their happiness, then they should follow that, too.  I am teaching them that they are only limited by the walls they build, and that falling down is a part of climbing a mountain... And I am teaching them that commitment is not something you say, nor is it a piece of paper you sign, but it's something you do, every day, ugly days and sunshine days, because you said you would.

And best of all, I am teaching them to believe in themselves and be their own best cheerleader... because the only person you need to make your dreams happen is you...

As Ella says, "Dream big, Mom, and make it happen."
And I respond, "Think like a champion, my baby girl."


Sunday, October 13, 2013

From Violence to Vegan

It was a bitterly cold December day when I watched my baby brother die.  My mother was clutching him tightly as he struggled with his last breaths and a face turning blue, her frantic cries and the intensity of the scene is what is vivid in my mind.  I was 8 years old.

That is only one of a series of tumultuous scenes that haunt my childhood, a childhood that is equally full of the joys of building forts, getting lost in the cornfield, and playing late night hide and seek at the Collette farm.

What I assimilated early being the oldest and a witness to the way a life can be drained from a person I so loved was a spirit of protectiveness over my younger brothers and sisters.  My step-father's alcoholism further deepened this quality, as I spent many days being a buoy; keeping my father pacified was important, but I also wanted my siblings to be safe: after all, when your father comes home drunk and angry that your mom is still at work and doesn't have a hot meal on the table, so he smashes his truck with an axe, as the oldest (and 12 years old) you have no choice.

To make a long story short in the spirit of blogging, I became a pacifist, a protector, very early in my life, because I wanted to keep everyone happy and keep everyone safe.  Becoming a Buddhist was a natural extension of this.  Most recently, I became a vegan.

I never set out to become a vegan.  I believe it chose me.  Vegetarianism for me was not a new idea.  Years ago, when in Bio class we dissected a pig, I became a vegetarian for quite some time.  It wasn't the blood and guts.  As the oldest I also doctored my younger siblings cuts and gashes and had seen my share of gushing blood.  It was the idea that I had opened a life, an infant life, perhaps like my brother. My brother had also been opened.  An autopsy had been performed to try to find the cause of his death.  There was a finger pointing in the direction of my mother, perhaps she did it.  But the autopsy found that he had a variety of issues, the biggest being a parasite found in his digestive tract that was stealing the life from him.  A parasite that was later linked to the ecoli that comes into the water source as a result of run off when spreading manure on semi-frozen fields.  (Ecoli eventually infected the wells in the town in which I grew up and became a local issue).

I did not eat meat for some time.  It didn't seem natural to me that I would take a life for my own selfish desires, any kind of life, including "just a cow".  There came a point when the smell of burning,cooking flesh literally made me feel sick.

But eventually, as a result of the culture of that time (after all this was 20 years ago), and the little access there was to vegetarian options, I reverted to my flesh eating ways.

This past year, I began to investigate the meat packing industry further. What I discovered was appalling.  You'd think that having an FDA would make us safe, but that's not so.  And that's not to mention the disgusting conditions in which the animals live.  I won't bore (or disgust) you with the details, as you can google "appalling meat packing industry" and read all about it yourself if you'd like.  What I will say is the food the FDA stamps its approval to is killing us.  Truly killing us.

That, in conjunction with discovering that much of the pesticides and herbicides used on foods emulates hormones and causes unnecessary health issues, pushed me into going organic and meatless.  I may have eaten beef altogether 5-6 times this year, and not at all after mid August.

I began using almond milk much earlier in the year as an alternative to regular milk because it was better for a calorie count, but after reading in the book Skinny Bitch thanks to my sister who is also learning to eat clean, and learning about how humans are not made to digest animal products, I realized that it was time to go from vegetarianism to veganism.

What I thought about vegans, before I decided to become one, quite honestly, is that they were a group of food elitists who separated themselves to impress upon others this kind of snobbery or superiority.

Vegans choose not to eat animal products or by products, such as eggs, milk, or (cringe) honey.  (I might still eat honey... I'm struggling with full conversion).  In becoming vegan, I have had to allow myself to eat more whole grains than I normally would, because foods like eggs and cheese definitely were staples to keep me full, and I literally ate a boiled egg every day.  I have also had to figure out how to get more protein in my diet.  In conjunction with these changes, my doctor ran a whole gamut of tests on me to see what deficiencies I had in August.  This has helped me identify the specific vitamins or herbal supplements I should take.

What's most interesting and challenging has been how hard it is to eat animal free.  Most foods have some product in them that comes from animals.  I have allowed myself some liberties as I transition.  It's important I think when converting to a new way of life to change slowly, so that the change is complete and stays with you.  Allow yourself mistakes in the beginning and give yourself breathing room. Forgive your setbacks and move on with your goals.

This new lifestyle feels very right.  It feels like it was in me all along. I just wasn't open enough to receive it.  I had too many prejudices formed and I had to lose sight of that shore before I could find new ground.

My health is only a piece of who I am.  It's so much more than that, but our health is the foundation for our attitude.  So love your body.  Make it your temple.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Letter to a Grieving Woman Whose Husband Has Gone Astray

I think in life sometimes we find the path we are meant to take, without ever having intentionally set foot upon it.  I have been divorced for almost five years now and I have come to realize that many people have come to me for guidance in their relationships. I have accepted this role naturally and it gives me much joy to be able to help others through the challenges in their relationships.

Most recently, a situation occurred with an acquaintance that brought me immediately back to my own situation and the grieving and loss I endured after my husband and I separated.  Because of this recent event, I have written this letter.  I have never written anything like this before.  It is the stages I "suffered" through before rising again as a new woman.  (And still I rise....)

For all the women who are grieving the loss of a husband because he has abandoned you and your children for another woman.... I have you in my heart.

My Dear friend,

If you are reading this, it is because the unthinkable has happened.  The man you woke up to each morning for days upon days, who cuddled you through countless movies, who made you crazy with his faults and who held your hand when you pushed and pushed until you gave birth to a child who came to melt both of your hearts.... that man has died.  I say that to you figuratively, of course, because the truth is, that man has abandoned you and the flesh of your flesh, your darling babies, for another woman.  I speak to you not only as a friend, but as a woman who grieved the loss of the man she loved.  I needed a friend to counsel me, and I had many.  I would offer you some words to comfort you, too.

You must remember first and foremost that you deserve to grieve the loss of this man, even though he still lives.  This is the most difficult grieving because you see him and he physically looks like the man you adored.  But he is not.  The man you adored is dead.  The man who adored you no longer exists.  I want to be clear in this: The person who looks like that man no longer belongs to you nor you to him.  You must not cling to him any longer.  Allow yourself all the pain and heartache that you deserve.  You may want to be angry, too, and yes, be angry, but don't deny yourself the pain.  All the love you once felt must resolve itself and the way for this transformation is through your grieving. 

There will come a day when you wake from sleep, and groggy, come slowly to the reality of this new life, and the pain will burn you again. You will wish for sleep.  Endless sleep. This will happen often.  You will want to die.  You will feel that your death would be better than waking each day to the hollow emptiness that threatens to explode in your chest.  I assure you it is not.  The ache is you healing.  The amount of love you felt for him will be equal to the ache. 

There will be moments when you have an extraordinary insight, or your little girl does something remarkable, and your heart strings tug at you and you think of him first, of telling your love.  And it'll be like a car slamming into a brick wall because you remember he is not your love and you can not tell him.  Because you can't.  Because he doesn't want to share your joys any more and he doesn't care to share your sorrows. 

Expect that you will slip up at some point and call him babe or honey, or sweetheart.  Maybe you will hang up the phone and say out of habit, "Love you," and then remember with a shock that you aren't allowed to say that anymore.  How could you have forgotten?  You will go shopping at holiday time and you will see something that will remind you of him and you may yearn for him.  For his scent.  For the freckle hidden where only you know, or the way his cheek dimples when he gives you a lopsided grin.  You will feel the tears again and your chest will burn.  It will take all your emotional stamina to smile when your daughter turns to you and says, "What's wrong , Mama?"  But you will.  Because you are beginning to grow strong.

Now, when you see him, you are going to be confused about how you should feel.  You will have the love you felt like a current always swift and strong underneath the confusion, frustration, fear and anger.  You will want him to hurt as much as you hurt.  The real truth is you will want him to just see you again.  The woman who loves him, who said, "I do."  Who cooked him hundreds of meals and who sent his family birthday cards and Christmas gifts.  There will be a deep need for him to look at you the way he once did.  This feeling will pass.  I implore you to allow yourself the grieving before you move on to the next stage, which is when the anger invades.

When the hurt subsides the bitterness and blame will set in.  This stage is poison but essential to healing.  You will be so angry you may be unrecognizable to yourself.  Logic (and your friends) will tell you that you need to be cool, control your temper, that you are just "giving him what he wants."  And it's true, but while you're hearing the words of logic, you can not seem to control yourself.  It's normal.  Before you were hurt and crying, now you want to be violent and punch somebody, preferably him or his girlfriend, right in the face.  But you can't.  You know you must be the "better" person.  Why? Who cares why.  It just is.  Be the better person because it's the right thing to do.  Not because you have some hope that he will "get what's coming to him." 

If you can remember only a few words of wisdom from this letter, then remember this: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  Your anger will not hurt him.  It only hurts you and the people you love. 

When you have finished blaming him, you will blame yourself.  You will spend hours recounting what you could've done differently.  But it doesn't matter.  You can't change what it was, only what it is.

Anger and guilt require a vast amount of energy and eventually you will tire of holding onto it.  When this happens, it will be time for acceptance.  During this stage, you will have the blessed opportunity to fully know yourself again.  

You will go an entire day without love/hating him.  You will go an entire day without thinking of him at all.  It will feel amazing.  Activities and hobbies you once had will again creep their way into your life.  You'll try something you never knew you would dare, skydiving or hiking alone in Arches National Park in Utah.  You'll begin to be able to look him and her in the face without having to fully fake courtesies.  You will begin to look forward to your "me" time and actually feel blessed that your children are spending time with "them".

You will say for the first time how good it is that you have time for yourself when there are loving people caring for your kids.  The independence and strength you feel doing it all on your own, although new perhaps,  will be addicting.  You will begin to listen to the song in your heart and you won't step away from what it says to you, fearing your future.  And when you feel confident enough to date again, as this new woman, you will accept the men for who they are and not for who you want them to be.  And you won't accept anything less than you deserve.  You will be able to walk away from men and situations that don't serve the song in your heart, your life's path.  You will accept that most relationships are finite and that you can't hold onto everyone.  And you won't have bitterness about that or anger, or a sense of sadness.

And then the day will come, and it will, when you will feel like you could be friends with him again.  You will acknowledge that you miss that friendship, that you could never love him again nor are you attracted to him, but that you could be friends again for the children, and for you.  It will start slow, perhaps as less arguing, a thank you where before it would've gone unsaid.  You'll test these new, unchartered waters, unsure where your ship belongs. 

And then, one day, he will tell you something funny your child did, and you'll genuinely smile at that.  And not too much later, you'll tell him how your daughter did something crazy like shaved her eyebrows off (yes, this actually happened to me) and the two of you will laugh hard, like the old days.

And you will realize you have forgiven him.  And most importantly, you will forgive yourself.  You will wake up and see the most beautiful, independent, strong woman in the mirror, and at first, she will seem foreign.  But eventually, you and she will settle into each other.  This new woman will be you.  You will have risen from the ashes, like a phoenix, born again.

Be Blessed,