Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Finding the Light

We are the third week in to March and I have been focusing on trying to get my health back. The last week of February I came down with what I thought was a typical cold.  I took the weekend to rest and care for myself.  I ate lots of chicken noodle soup, drank copious amounts of orange juice, slathered my feet in On Guard essential oil, slept, and slept, and slept.  Monday came around and I was sure I had it beat!  Then Tuesday came and as the day passed I found myself in denial, I was not fully recovered as I had thought.  I ended up missing a few days of work and found out I had bronchitis/early pneumonia.  That was the beginning of March and I still have remnants of the cough and congestion.  That one was a doozie!  A teacher of mine once told me that when we do not care for ourselves we get the little sickness.  If we do not listen and care for ourselves after the little sickness, we get the big sickness.  Ok okay I am listening!

Winter for me is typically a time of reflection and isolation.  This winter was particularly cold, dark and long.  It has been a good metaphor for where I have been at with my emotions.  It is such tricky water to navigate.  I try to sit in the feelings as they wash over and move through me, paying attention but not getting stuck.  I find myself often struggling with how much to sit in it.  I find myself questioning am I sitting in the darkness too much?  Or am I asking the question because it is an uncomfortable feeling?  One never questions if they are sitting too much in the joy!  Maybe I am asking these questions because life just continues to go on around me, and I'm projecting what I think others expect of me. 

 It has been a long time since I have felt like my authentic self, and I suppose I have this story in my head that others are expecting me to be that again.  The trouble is I have been exploring who my authentic self is and I am not sure anymore.  My authentic self has changed, and I will never be the person I was before I said goodbye to our little Amethyst.  There are definitely elements of the old me but I'm really trying to figure out how to sit comfortably in this new me.  I still hold the values of honesty, integrity, and respect at the forefront, and am struggling the most with the honesty and I feel like my public face is often a mask which to me feels fake.  Necessary but fake.  I've never been very good at hiding how I feel and it takes a lot of energy.  I find it often leads to coming home from work exhausted, cooking dinner, making lunches, and getting to bed as early as possible.  I think the fact that I am able to do that is the only way I have been able to continue putting one front in front of the other and not just staying in bed.  Honestly that's where I want to be. In bed. And just stay there.  Being sick gave me some space to do that, which I appreciated.  Now it is time to get out of bed!

I am making a conscious decision to dig deep into my inner spirit and lift myself up.  It's not to say that I am going to stop paying attention to my pain as it moves through me, but I am going to focus my attention on figuring out who I am NOW.  Part of that is to strengthen my holistic well-being.  I can't keep just putting one foot in front of the other, I need to feel alive again.

I haven't been content sitting in this place of transition.  I am ready for a big change, and change is right around the corner.  Last week I had the privilege of presenting to a Child & Youth Care class speaking to Cultural Awareness and Humility and it was the first time in a long time that I felt that fire inside me.  I am not feeling the same passion for my work anymore and it's feeling like I need to shift something.  I miss the social justice aspect to my work, I miss being a part of greater change.  It seems my fire has returned in some aspects of my life.  Sounds like a place to start... it's also time to re-visit how I am caring for myself holistically.

Somehow even with riding the roller coaster of grief and being sick I have managed to continue cooking.  I have been opting for the easier meals and the regular rotation because my brain power is limited.  Fish tacos are a regular meal item around here.  I like making these because I can do most of the prep the night before and just cook up the fish so they are ready in about 15 minutes.  There are some variations of them depending on what is in the fridge, but they always have white fish, broken into pieces and pan fried in my taco seasoning.  I make my black bean & corn salsa with red onion, lime juice, cilantro, salt & pepper, cashew cream, and my guacamole.  This one I used snapper, which is my preferred fish to use, and topped it with fresh pea shoots.

These ones I used haddock and a generous helping of cilantro. You can really use any white fish.  I have also used halibut, cod, sole, mahi mahi,& tilapia.  Like I said previously snapper is my favourite option, but I go with what's fresh or on special.

My sweetie often doesn't get off work at his scheduled time so he's not able to help out with meals during his work week.  With my low energy I have found myself exploring more of the quick throw together dinners, but I also don't want them loaded with preservatives and junk.  I also don't want to be picking up restaurant food all the time.  My ability to be creative in my cooking has been lacking in the same way my energy has.  I found these yummy easy throw together dinners at Save On Foods that just require adding a few fresh ingredients.  I also find them versatile because you can cook them on the stove top or throw it in the crockpot and just walk away.  This stew was delicious, and I am looking forward to the other 3 I still have to try.  I suppose exploring these options could count for some creativity rather than just having a bowl of cereal;)

I love me some curry! My favourites are red and green Thai curry.  I have tried numerous recipes but they never taste as good as what I eat at the restaurant.  I found this delicious canned Green curry.

I sauteed carrots, eggplant, mushrooms, cauliflower, & bamboo shoots.  I made some basmati rice to serve it over. Doesn't look very inspiring, but oh so delicious!

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. 
~M. Scott Peck

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February 2017

I'm taking a relaxing weekend at home, although I will admit I have been somewhat forced as I woke up sick and there is an impending snow storm.  A month a go my usual vitamin routine came to a grinding halt, and I have a suspicion that is the culprit that made me vulnerable to illness.  I treat my allergies with high doses of Vitamins C & D and since I rarely get sick I believe there is a correlation.  I have been drinking pineapple juice and orange juice throughout the day, and dousing my feet with doTERRA On Guard essential oil blend diluted with Sweet Almond Oil. This will be the first time I have been able to put this oil blend to the test, so will see how that goes.  I also slept about 12 hours last night, and have  every intention of doing more of that!  One of my elders once told me that when we are out of balance our bodies get the little sickness to remind us to slow down and care for ourselves, but if we do not listen we get the big sickness that force us.  I'm listening...

The evolution of this grief has been so tricky to navigate.  I thought once I reached the one year mark a shift would at least ease the pain a little, or I would have a shift in focus, but that has not happened.  In fact I feel more and more lost.  There are some days that I don't even know who I am anymore. 

We have had such a a long series of loss in our families and this is the longest we have gone without a significant loss for the past 7 years.  I suppose it is a good thing because for once we are able to actually take the time to process all that has come with losing our little Amy, and all the feelings of hope that went with her.  Previously, I have not had this kind of time to process a loss before I am faced with another loss.  I am not sure which crappy road I prefer!  I have never felt such focused sadness for such a period of time.  At times it feels like it will never end.  Often I wonder how much longer I can go on.

There is this intense exhaustion that comes with pretending to be better than you actually are.  The day to day things that were once so easy take everything out of me.  I see no light in the darkness, I see no hope.  I thought taking the 30 days of gratitude challenge would help me shift my thinking to focusing on the positive, but it actually ended up feeling like more of a hindrance.  I was grateful when the gratitude challenge was over;)
There is so much intensity in the grief that flows through me and yet this is a road I walk alone for the most part.  Yes I have my husband to lean on and vice versa, but there is so much going on for us that there aren't enough hours in the day to share it all, and the pieces not shared continue to pile up and no one  sees all that is really there.  I don't want to talk about it because others can't understand and internally my thoughts tell me they are tired of hearing about my struggles.  So I internalize it and it pulls me deeper and deeper into the darkness.  Sounds like a pretty crappy place to be doesn't it?  Well life continues on... through that damn tunnel...

For now I have been trying my best to focus on the things I can control.  I have been doing some cleaning and re-organizing which I enjoy as it helps me feel like I have a bit of control in my life.  I have been spending a bit more time on my yoga mat which I also enjoy.  I need more time in the forest and at the beach, and once this round of the winter storm eases I will get back out and connect with nature.  I saw a cool video on YouTube that speaks to the healing power of nature, if you are interested, check it out How Forests Heal People.

On a positive note I have been spending a ton of time in the kitchen the past several months!  We haven't been trying a lot of new recipes, but we are enjoying some of our favs.

Pulled pork is one of my absolute favourite things.  At our local Wild Poppy Bistro they serve an amazing Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese that is mouth watering.  I have never had the patience to make a 'proper' slow roasted pulled pork, I cheat with my crock pot.  I slowcook one or two pork tenderloin in broth until cooked though, and cool it enough to pull it apart with my fingers.  After trying numerous barbecue sauces, both store bought and homemade, this one is my favourite.  Sadly I wish it had some better ingredients, but every now and again I feel okay with it, until I find something a little less glucose-sucrosey:(

I am a fan of serving sangies open faced on a toasted Portofino white gluten-free bun.  Our favourite coleslaw recipe is a Classic Memphis Style dressing.  I like to use lots of fresh cilantro as my garnish.

I love to make Pulled Pork Pizza with leftovers after having sangies. I do a light layer of barbecue sauce, then the pulled pork, sliced red onion diced apple, a ight layer of cheese and fresh cilantro.

On the theme of pulled meat sangies is the Pulled Chicken Sangy from My Weekly Dish is an all time fav around here.  This pulled chicken sangy soaks up the flavour of a mustard based barbecue sauce. When I don't have avocado around I just use a random Pinterest coleslaw recipe that uses apple cider vinegar.  My Weekly Dish has evolved to Middling Mom, so be sure to check out her Facebook page. 


As a kid I didn't like tomato soup at all, and I don't think I have ever even thought about making it, until I came across this recipe for Creamy Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup, they had me at tortellini!  I chose a prosciutto tortellini, but this would be good with whatever tortellini you prefer.

A blast from the past snack.  As a kid we lived close to our school and I would often go home for lunch.  One of my favourite things to have was Triscuit crackers with cheddar cheese melted in the microwave.  I had today with some black olives and green onions since I had some in the fridge to use up.  Reminded me of good times past.

You must face the pain together.  The pain is her legacy to you both, it is proof she was here.
~Walter Bishop Fringe, Season 5

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Happy Lunar New Year

Happy lunar new year!  That moon has been absolutely amazing to watch.  I lovely moment of being completely present staring at the wondrous site of it's glow.  Today I am bundled up and trying to stay warm amidst a snow storm.  I have hit a bit of a bumpy patch, and it seems the one year mark has shifted the grief although it certainly remains present.  I have been thinking about the milestones we have missed out on, as well as the bigger picture of a continued generation and family line.

I am feeling frustrated and exhausted from pretending to be okay and I am not sure how much longer I can do it.  I had a knock your breath out of you moment a few days ago. The first time since my loss that someone asked me if I have kids.  I said no and was then asked if I want to have them (I could go for hours about why you should NEVER ask someone that but will leave that for another day).  I replied by saying I have a little girl in heaven and that doesn't appear to be part of my path.  I know it's a natural question people ask, but I wish it wasn't.  I personally prefer to ask people I meet to tell me about their family so I don't ask if the person has kids.  I wish people had more awareness of what a loaded question that can be.  And why on earth would someone think it's okay to ask someone if they want kids?  Really?  We cross paths with so many people every day and we have no idea about the trauma people carry.  Seemingly simple questions can hurt so much.

I have been getting out for walks more often and spending more time out in nature, which I am enjoying and appreciating.  I love the Cowichan Valley where we live, and there are so many amazing trail systems and hikes.  My sweetie and I are trying to explore a new trail system each weekend we are home.  The snow has us pretty home based this weekend, but also gives me some time to research different trails to check out.

I have been spending more time in the kitchen which has been good.  I have been dedicating Sunday to food prep for the work week, which has been very helpful!  I made fish tacos with fresh snapper.  I pan fried the snapper fillets with a little lemon juice, and broke the snapper fillets up into chunks, checked it over and pulled out the bones, then added homemade taco seasoning.  I warmed wrap shells and layered them with fish, blackbean & corn salsa (with lime juice & fresh cilantro) cashew cream, homemade  guacamole, and pea shots.

We had blackbean and corn salsa, tomato, and cashew cream leftover, so we had taco pizza. I got a pre-made pizza crust and slathered it with Amy's Organic Refried Beans, I spread a layer of blackbean and corn salsa, and some white cheddar, I popped it in the oven at 425 for 10 minutes. 

 I cut it into slices and once on a plate drizzled it with cashew cream, lettuce, avocado, green onion (and tomato on my sweeties).  This is one of my fav pizzas!  It is kind of messy so we eat it with a knife and a fork, but soooo good!

I found this recipe for Honey Garlic Baked Pork Bites on Pinterest, which I made in my dutch oven.  They were very tasty and I will make them again for sure!  I can see doing a ginger orange spin on these in the future.

Another Pinterest recipe we enjoyed is this Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara.  I chose this because I am still trying to limit my dairy intake.  I seared some scallops in butter, a splash of cooking wine, sea salt & pepper.

Grief can be a burden, but it can also be an anchor. You get used the the weight, how it holds you in place ~ Sara Dessen

Saturday, January 21, 2017

One year

Today marks one year since saying goodbye to our Amethyst Emerson.  It marks one year of survival through the absolute darkest time of my life.  I have learned a lot about how I want to be when someone I care about is grieving.  I will be the person that can sit in it with them.  I have learned that a simple quiet presence is the most valuable gift you can give those grieving.  I have learned that when you can be with those who give you space to be your authentic self that is precious and rare, especially when you are grieving.

I am here, we are here, stronger.  It often feels like it is anything but strength, but I know it is.  I have had my core values shaken, but I am still standing.  It has been so hard to not be my authentic self with others on a daily basis.  I'm so tired of I'm fine and changing the subject, because people don't want the continual negativity.  You can see their discomfort and uncertainty about what to say.  We are a society that avoids pain and discomfort and we don't want to be reminded of the struggles life can give us.  It's okay so say that sucks and acknowledge the pain.  It's okay to simply say you are in my thoughts.  I am stronger because I have sat in the pain, listened to it, felt it to the core of my being, watched it evolve and shift.  It is exhausting and my heart is so tired, but I am still here.

 I have delved into the exploration of hanging on and letting go, to the brink of an existential crisis.  I still don't have the answers, and often think it will take my lifetime to work through the exploration, even then I may not have figured out what it means to me.

Part of me is so afraid to not hang on because she taught me so much, and I feel this need to honour and recognize her short time and it's deep impact.  I have learned so much about myself, about my close relationships, and about other people.  As the world has moved on all around me I feel as I continue to walk this journey I am walking with a huge part of me missing like a giant hole in my heart.  You do not see it but it is there.  I have grieved this loss like no other loss, and I am forever changed.

For the rest of my life I will mark time as before and after the loss of Amy.  I will wonder what she would have looked like. Would she have had my eyes or my husbands smile?  What would she have been like? Would she have my husband's outgoing nature and wicked sense of humour, or be a quiet introvert like me?  Or would she break the mold and bring forth new traits.   So many questions we will ever have the answers to...

It's such a quiet struggle.  You know others go through it but no one really talks about it.  You know every day someone is thinking about how old their child would have been or a milestone they would be crossing.  We have no idea what people are carrying with them in their quiet minds.

Unless you have walked the road of the fertility struggle, you cannot comprehend the journey.  There are no guarantees that things will work out in the end, and there is nothing worse than when people say or imply that is the case.  I have people in my life who wanted nothing more than to be parents and are not.  That is just reality.  For myself and many people like me, we are grieving more than the loss of a child which is hard enough on its own.  We also grieve that we may never know what it is like to hold our child and witness the wonder of their growth. 

I know life often doesn't work out the way we hope or plan, and I also know it can't rain all the time.  But seriously I'm about ready for the rain to stop because I don't yet have it in me to dance in the rain.  I think I have managed to pull out the umbrella and keep going, but no dancing here.

I look forward to the day I can be my authentic self again and shed the mask.  In the meantime I will carry Amy in my heart and give thanks for knowing her however brief.  Over time my heart will pull the pieces back together, and hopefully until then the cracks and breaks will allow the light to come back in.  And in the meantime I will gently move forward.

The reality is that you will grieve forever.  You will not 'get over' the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it.  You will heal and rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.  You will be whole again but, you will never be the same.  Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to. ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross & John Kessler

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hello 2017

I don't want to come across as unappreciative or hopeless, and at the same time this past year has taken me to a level of comfort with the darkness I never realized I could be comfortable in.  There is learning in that too.   It has been nearly a year since we said goodbye to our Amethyst Emerson and I am forever changed.  There is life before her and life after her; she is the great marker of my life thus far.  Having her even for the short period of time we did was a shifting point for me. 

Even with great reflection I cannot put my finger on when the darkness became normalized.  I have been sitting in the dark, and enjoying the moments of light. 

To say the past year has been challenging really doesn't totally capture it.  I am trying to let go of the all consuming sadness and focus on hope for the future but it is a slow moving transition let me tell you, and some days are much better than others.  I try to focus on the gratitude I have for the people, things, and privilege in my life.  This is something I work at every day, and hope that in time it will become a more natural default.  Kind of like when you learn how to drive a standard car and at first you are so aware of when and how you are shifting gears, but then one day it just becomes natural and you don't even realize it.
The glimpses I get of my old self I am usually connecting with nature, the trees, the birds, listening to the sound of the water.  It's those moments when I am totally present in the quiet of the natural world, and not pretending to be anything other than what I am at that moment.  I haven;t had a lot of time outdoors lately with the cold temperatures, but enjoy the moments when I do.  It's the simple things like sitting with a cup of tea and watching the snow fall, appreciating it's gentle beauty.

I had a couple of moments ths week with birds.  Earlier in the week it was this eagle.  I got about 20-25 feet away from this beauty and it was awesome!

I was filling up the hummingbird feeder this afternoon while it was snowing and had a visit from little back yard friend.  I think this hummingbird is very happy we have been providing food over the winter.

Speaking of food.... It has been over a month since I reintroduced wheat and dairy back into my diet.  I am still being very mindful of how much I am consuming, and still no pain.  Yahoo!  I would say this means I am doing a good job of reintroducing and not overdoing it.  So I will keep it up:)

The food I missed the most while on my wheat free dairy restrictions was Mexican inspired food.  I love tortillas and have found the rice ones just don't cut it!  I got some tomato basil wraps form the store and we had burritos.  I sauteed 1/2 of an onion and added a generous portion of cremini mushrooms, then added ground chicken.  Once cooked through I added taco seasoning and some water.

I make a batch of taco seasoning and keep it in the pantry.  I mix: 6 Tbsp chili powder, 4 tsp cumin, 3 tsp paprika, 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.  I cannot remember where I found this recipe, but I am very happy with it & often make a double batch when we are eating Mexican inspired fare more often.

I laid out the ingredients including romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, grated aged white cheddar, cashew cream (which we happen to prefer over sour cream), guacamole, and salsa. 

DIY burrito!  I worked in the food service industry as a teen so I like to tease my sweetie who can't roll a wrap without everything falling out to save his life!

The other thing I really missed is quesadillas.  I like these which are a spin on the smashed blackbean and yam quesadillas from the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook. I steam chunks of yam & when cooked through mash them and mix in chili powder, cumin, salt & pepper.  Then I spread it out with a fork on half of the tortilla wrap.

I add a layer of my black bean & corn salsa, which is equal parts blackbeans & corn, lime juice, cilantro, salt & pepper.  I often add red onion as well if I have it on hand.

Then a light layer of cheese, just enough to help it stick to the tortilla.

Fold over the other half of the tortilla wrap and place in a hot frying pan. Keep your eye on it & when it has browned flip it over.

Cut into 3-4 segments and enjoy!  We serve cashew cream, guacamole, and salsa on the side.

For the first couple of days of lunches I made quinoa bowls.  I started with a layer of cooked quinoa.  I cut up the yam at the same time I prepared the yam for the quesadillas, but instead of steaming them these were tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees until tender.  I used the left over black bean & corn salsa, put a handful of tomatoes in my sweeties and a serving of pulled pork in barbecue sauce.  I had cooked the pulled pork in the slow cooker during the day.   The lime is to squeeze on just before eating, along with sliced avocado, green onion, and fresh cilantro which I put in a separate container. I will make this again for sure!

One of our plans for the new year is to get back to having a smoothie once a day.  This week I made the same smoothie every day because it's pretty tasty! 2 handfuls of spinach, half a handful of cilantro, half a frozen banana, 8 chunks of frozen pineapple, 1 carrot, a chunk of fresh ginger, a splash of pineapple juice or mango juice, some orange juice, and a little water. I often make my lunches and smoothies the night before because getting out the door in the morning is always a struggle when you are not a morning person.

Carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment. ~Martin Luther King Jr