Category Archives: Weighty Matters

Rest and Digest ummmmmmmmmm not something I am used to doing

Moi/me in my pannier in Paris asleep and digesting yummy mommy milk. Nicole Asleep in her Basket by Helen Redman -1964
Moi/me in my pannier in Paris asleep and digesting yummy mommy milk. Nicole Asleep in her Basket by Helen Redman -1964

Rest and Digest

Normally I don’t need to do either of these very much. I’ve never had digestive issues, nor have I needed much rest. Normal is no longer the norm for me. I’m in a cycle of slowing down, being tired and actually for the first time having a little trouble digesting. For someone who has been bouncing around like Tigger or Wonder Woman for almost fifty years, this is a “sea change.” It is not one I am excited about, but also not something I feel I have any control over. I just can’t do the mind over body calculus anymore. The effects of life lived at this pace and level are catching up to me.

 

There are a number of factors connected to all of this, some of which I will write about in greater depth in one of the many books currently growing in my mind. Part of my need to rest is absolutely related to this impetus to create and the gestations that are going on deep in my being. I’m no longer birthing children, but I am beginning to  grow several longer and larger projects, and just like children evolving inside of me, energy and resources are required.

 

Some of the fatigue is related to my ongoing thyroid trials and tribulations (more details to come in the future on this). There are physiological reasons for my fatigue that are real and complex. I am addressing these and have been looking at them for the last year,  with great concentration, time and in-depth. Solutions are not just emerging from all my efforts, and how hard I’ve been scratching, experimenting, researching or trying different medicines and regimens. The reality is still somewhat occluded. Occluded realities require time and energy to navigate, so this is tiring and very time-consuming.

 

The other piece of my fatigue is about being in Peri-menopause, heading towards home plate and hoping to soon be done with bleeding away so much of myself every month. The loss of blood I go through and have gone through every month of my life since I was twelve, (except for when I was pregnant), is of epic proportions. I’ve been anemic as a result most of my life and have to supplement with iron, iron rich foods and generally crave meat in a very insane way a day or so before I start bleeding. I am often down and literally need to be in bed, for the first two to three days of my cycle.

 

So, all of these factors are playing a part in my need for sleep and calm and time to digest. It was my acupuncturist, Lupine Wread, who told me “You need to Rest and Digest.” She is helping me understand that I am in a new phase and that I have basically exhausted my parasympathetic nervous system from years of giving and doing for so many folks. Normally, I just source from the earth, from The Divine and from my husband (I am a secret vampire), but lately that hasn’t been enough and my sympathetic nervous system is now saying, “sorry girlfriend, we can’t just run the show anymore without you taking some serious down time.” I just cannot run, run, run anymore, and that is okay.

 

There is a gift in this, when I am not feeling like a slug. I like slowing down and the need for it is so clear that I cannot ignore it. I just don’t have the electrical capacity to go, go, go anymore. I may get some of that back as my systems get sorted out and after I have spent serious time resting and digesting. I may not. I am so much more internally focused right now and I know this is not just something happening to me.

 

It is a function of entering the “crone” or early crone, phase. I’m moving towards being an older woman. In September I’ll turn 50. I know there are women running marathons into their 80s and I hope to be doing a lot of wondrous things between now and whenever I leave the earth. But, this is a time of slowing down before I take the next curve in my  path onto roads unknown in my life. My youngest will be graduating from high school come Spring of 2015 and there will be no more children to raise or instruct or guide in my home. I will be free to pursue my own path without needing to address the needs of others quite so much.

 

Of course, serving the Divine, is my always path, so I will be addressing whatever needs come up related to that, which, of course means other peoples’ needs. The difference will be in how I skillfully manage to do that.

Skillfully Trampoline Jumping in my youth
Skillfully trampoline jumping in my youth

In Buddhism they use the term skillful means (Upaya) to describe getting somewhere more efficiently. You do not acquire “skillful means” quickly, they come with practice, guidance, and time to, yes, REST and DIGEST. Not only food, but ideas, and concepts and feelings need time to settle and move through me and all of us really.

 

I used to be into the Aikido kind of metaphor, where you take what is coming towards you and move it along, flip the energy over. The problem is I was never an adept at Aikido or any martial art. I am a sponge, a big fat wet and sloppy sponge. Being an Empath means I take in all the emotions, feelings and things around me and I process them through my body. I do not move them around me, I receive them inside of me. Changing that pattern seems pretty impossible, so I have worn out lots of my systems, without meaning to and now I am navigating this body territory in new ways.

I also have to say that environmental factors play a part in all of this. I will write much more on this in the book I am gestating. For now though, I want to be very clear that I do not believe that any of us are exempt or safe from the degradation and wounding and polluting of our waterways, soils and planetary systems.

There is nowhere to hide and our bodies cannot escape, no matter how much organic food we eat or how many miles we run or how often we see the doctor or acupuncturist. We are all subject to the reality on this planet and no one gets away from the toxins and injustice here on this earth, even if it looks like they are “getting away with it or from it.” There is a cost for everyone, body, soul, heart and mind, one of your systems will be impacted or all of them.  We all have different capacities for handling toxins, some folks more than others, but all of us are exposed and injustice and harm wreak havoc on all of us because we are all ONE being.

 

See my poem Witch Hunt for a poetic take on this.

 

I always tell folks that my soul and spirit are permanently rejuvenated and rejuvenating. The thing is, my body is not. It is finite and has limits and challenges and I have to address those skillfully. I am not into judging myself or others for their body choices (at least not the ones that don’t harm others). You will face my wrath if you endanger others with your choices, but otherwise, we all have narratives and story lines we follow with our lives and bodies that are unique and personal.

 

Skillful means for me, means recognizing that I have to take my body and its needs a little more seriously now than I used to. I have to address “rest and digest” and actually do those two things more skillfully. I have no desire to do much of anything else right now, with the exception of my desire to pray more. I just cannot run and jump to the constant calls for action that are all around me. I am no longer available in the same way. Luckily, others are and can be and, I am not the only one who can be of service in situations. This is part of the story too, recognizing that I only need to do my part, not everyone’s part.

 

Across a few thousand years in time the voice of Rabbi Tarfon of the Talmud teaches and reminds me and all of us that:

 

“The day is short, there is much work, and the workers are lazy, but the reward is great and the Owner is pressing.” He added: “You are not duty-bound to finish the work, but on the other hand, you have no right to waste time from it; if you have learned much Torah you will receive great reward; your Owner is to be trusted that He will reward you for your efforts, but be mindful that the reward of the righteous is in the World to Come.” –

This passage is a translation: by Nissan Mindel.  There are lots of teachings in it. It is important to remember when looking at ancient texts that all Torah and teachings from others require perspective and explanation and contemplation. I have had the opportunity to study this teaching for years and years and it always yields fruit for me. The section, right now, that I am attending to is the idea of not being duty-bound to finish the work. I have not wasted my time or been lazy. I have to trust a little to others and learn more Torah. I need to rest from doing and digest teachings slowly in time so that I can be a skillful practitioner in a BODY for the next fifty years or so, B’ezrat Ha-Shem (with the Holy One’s Help).

May you benefit from whatever resting and digesting I manage to do that is of service to the greater good of Tikkun Olam (mending of the world). I wish you and all those in need of space and time, the space and time to also rest and digest!

 

Perfectly Poised and Precious Pickled Beets

Beets from Redwood Roots Farm, the same ones that end up in this recipe!
Beets from Redwood Roots Farm, the same ones that end up in this recipe!

Even those who eschew beets will like these. I have turned the palettes of many a beet hater with these. Those who love beets, love this recipe and it is in honor of Dr. Megan Jamilah Furniss that I am posting this recipe today.

Perfectly Poised and Precious Pickled Beets

  1. one or two bunches of beets (golden, red, or any combination thereof)
  2. one small onion sliced in half and then into thin strips
  3. dash of Mirin
  4. ½–1 whole cup of apple cider vinegar
  5. dash of white wine vinegar
  6. juice of ½ lemon or more
  7. pinch or two of good salt, (I used to use tamari or coconut aminos but now prefer salt, see my Let’s Talk Salt post)
  8. drizzle of olive oil
  9. ¼–½ teaspoon. of white pepper
  10. ¼–½ Tbsp. garlic powder
  11. ½ teaspoon. of dry dill or a bunch of chopped fresh dill, or parsley or tarragon (you need a greenish garnish)
  12. beet green leaves, sliced very, very fine and thin (optional)

Cut the greens off the beets and put aside for salads or soups or keep a few choice leaves two at most to cut thin and add in at the end. Cut off the part of the beet where the stems grew and the pointy tips. Do not peel them. Put whole beets into a large pot with water covering them. Let boil for 20–40 minutes. Once the water begins to boil, you can turn the heat down, but make sure you keep it simmering/boiling a little. It’s okay if you forget about them for a little while. You may have to add water if too much of it evaporates while they are simmering. You want these puppies cooking hot. Don’t cover the pan, you won’t be able to see what’s happening. You will know they are done if you can easily slice or poke through one with a knife, or you can just go for the 40 minute time. Put the pot in the sink and run cold water over the whole beets for a while. The skins will slip off the beets as you rub your hands over them. If you are preparing these in a hurry, you will have to work with the beets hot, which isn’t so easy. Otherwise, while the cold water is running, the skins will just come off as you fondle the beets. It’s so cool. The beets should be cooked all the way through and cut like butter, otherwise they aren’t done enough. Place them in a clean bowl and slice them in rounds or in half and then into thin slivers, however you like, although I am not a fan of chunks. The more surface area you expose with your slicing or cutting the more flavor is released. This is a principle of BIOLOGY, not just my preference. Slice onion in half or keep it whole but make sure you slice very thin slivers and add to the sliced beets.

Pour a liberal amount of vinegar over these, at least ½ to 1 cup of the vinegar. Add the oil and sprinkle white pepper and garlic powder, dash of salt (tamari or coconut aminos) and Mirin and stir. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. If you have fresh herbs, chop these up and throw over the beets. You can use dried dill if you don’t have fresh herbs, but fresh herbs are better. Do not use basil on these. You can serve warm or cold. Taste the sauce and a beet. If it’s too sweet, add more vinegar. These should be stored in a glass mason jar and can keep for a week or two. They will be better the second day. The olive oil congeals in the fridge, so it’s best to take these out of the fridge and serve them at room temperature if you remember.

Perfectly Poised and Presented Pickled Beets in a small dish and on a platter both made by Paul Barchilon
Perfectly Poised and Presented Pickled Beets in a small dish and on a platter both ceramic pieces by Paul Barchilon

M.A.P.S.–Massage Acupuncture Pedicure Spiritual practice

Radiant Healthy Flowers on the Bima from Redwood Roots Farm in honor of the Jewish New Year
Radiant Healthy Flowers on the Bima from Redwood Roots Farm in honor of the Jewish New Year

A Quick Guide to the Alpha Female Jewish Mother M.A.P. + BIG S or a really good Recipe for Saving the World and Yourself

I generally am the person that everyone finds, asks or expects to be helpful, in charge, or doing the work; the Alpha, Alpha female in most situations. This recipe does apply for all people and genders, but I am definitely an Alpha Female, so I have to address this from where I am.

I am part of a large wolf-pack of sisters of amazing women who give huge amounts to their communities, their children, their spouses, their religious organizations. We all recognize each other, upon sight, and there is a sheer delight for me when I get to work with other power-house women. I know I can relax or flow in a completely different way than how I tend to operate when the only Alpha female in the space is me. If no one is in charge in a situation that I think needs some taking charge of, a flip gets switched in me. It’s a reflex, I just start moving into action.

Thirty-five years of Alpha female behavior wears on a woman (I started in my early teens). I will turn fifty in September of 2014, very, very soon. In order to maintain myself and navigate all that I do and am, I have a map I follow. Massage, Acupuncture, Pedicure and Shabbat/Sleep and Spiritual Practice. You don’t have to be wealthy to use this recipe or M.A.P. (S). You do have to have sisters or friends who will trade with you one or more of these activities. I don’t recommend seeing anyone other than a licensed professional acupuncturist though, (you will need to save money or work out a trade for this activity).

I have a monthly massage with a person I trust and who is a professional. I budget for this. When my budget won’t allow for this, I have a friend whose touch is lovely and we trade. I massage her, she me. I see my acupuncturist regularly two to four times a month. This is a maintenance issue for me now as I navigate menopause, a thyroid condition and as I experience the very real wear and tear on my body of a life spent doing and caring about and for lots of folks and the planet. I also get a pedicure once a month, either with a friend or at a local spa. So, I am covered top to bottom with this MAP.

The most important ingredient in all of this is my Spiritual Practice. It is really beyond this simple list, but since it conveniently starts with an S as do the words Shabbat and Sleep, it fits really well here. Sleep is not something I always manage to get fully, but I almost always have a day of rest. On Shabbat, I endeavor not to get out of my pajamas and to spend the majority of the day quiet in bed, on my deck or on the sofa. I study Torah, read a good book (when I’m not reading THE GOOD BOOK), nap, eat left-overs and visit with whomever shows up. I don’t check my email, or pay bills and I also try not to answer the phone, be on the computer, or deal with anything I don’t want to be doing. I have worked hard six days a week, most of my life, in various jobs (some that paid, others that didn’t). I don’t define work by the money I have been paid for what I do. If care-givers were paid wages based on what we do, we’d be millionaires, all of us.

You don’t have to be Jewish or wealthy to take care of yourself or observe a day of rest. You can make your own map. Acupuncture may not be something you can imagine wanting or needing, likewise a full body massage may not be something you want. They are incredibly important and useful to me. My particular MAP makes a good acronym, but yours may not, it still needs to be explored.

Yoga, gardening, Qi Gong, meditation, hot-tubs, swimming, hiking, biking, running, anything that gets your blood circulating and helps you feel nourished counts. It has to be helpful to your full being though, not just punishing and aerobic. I think the aerobic stuff is very important but it is very different than the self-care, relaxation and deep nourishment that I am talking about here. Also, if one of these activities is your paid work, then it doesn’t necessarily count as self-nourishment. If what you are doing has a purpose, like losing weight or “being good for you” while making you unhappy it is not part of my recipe. I’m not advocating against exercise, but what I am talking about here is really different. I want to be very clear about this.

Exercise and body engagement are extremely important, but the worship of the body that our culture thrives on is not healthy. Our bodies are vessels, temples of Holiness and the homes of our souls. They have very short life-spans, even if you live to be 120, that is a nanosecond of time on a universal time-scale. Some folks are born with different abilities and bodies than others, some folks are in accidents or have compromised immune systems and they will NEVER look like or feel like the culture tells them is healthy. This is FLAWED. Health cannot just be the provenance of the few lucky folks who don’t have any medical issues or who have been born with amazing genetics or who happen to look like the airbrushed models or stars onscreen and in the media.

Real health is a much GREATER thing. When you relax your body and you actually feel it, the blood flowing through it, the magnificent feeling of BEING in a body, there should be a strong sense of gratitude and a quality of Presence beyond Self that accompanies that. This is HEALTHY. The grace of having a body and being free to breathe or taste or love or sing is a gift and just using our bodies without giving thanks for them is wrong. Likewise taking for granted the bodies we have, regardless of their issues, “flaws,” sizes and shapes is not advised by this Jewish Mama.

You cannot navigate the terrain (of being an awake and caring person on this planet) without some kind of self-love and gratitude map. Folks often wonder how I do so much. There is no quick answer for this. I generally have more energy and chutzpah than most folks, but part of how I walk on this path and and why I do what I do is because I am not just doing for others. I also DO for myself and I take it seriously, not once a year or if I get a break, but regularly, weekly and monthly. I am also constantly, really all the time, in a state of gratitude. When I’m not, I know something is off and I have to re-align or get a Massage, Acupuncture or a Pedicure or I have to wait for Shabbat and remember to actually observe it.

Spiritual practice, which runs through everything I do, whether it is “Praying in the Lap Lane,”  cooking, riding my bike, or attending religious services is what keeps me not just in my body, but ALIVE in my body. My engaged practice with the Divine informs and inspires all of what I do and who I am and how I am. There are as many ways to connect to something larger than self as there are selves on the planet. It doesn’t make any difference to me how you define Holiness, but it does make a difference to serve a greater or higher purpose that is meaningful and real for you.

The inspiration to continue or to move past fatigue or to engage once again with pursuing justice or getting back up off the ground when we fall, needs to be linked to something bigger than our finite sense of self and whatever energy we have to spare. If it is related to a real relationship with beauty, excellence, grace, mystery and delight it will sustain us, inform us, guide us and prepare us while it also will continually bathe and soothe us as we work to mend what is broken in our world or in ourselves.

So, the Alpha Female Jewish Mother MAP/Recipe for the whole world looks something like this: Start to look into or further cultivate your relationship to something greater than yourself and don’t forget to give yourself a lot of juice and love along the way and while your at it, endeavor to find your gratitude and to cultivate it and be generous with who you are and what you have been given.

If you do all this, well, the world really will be a better place and you’ll be happier to be in it and on it for the eye-blink of time you’ve been granted to be in the body you are inhabiting at this moment. ENJOY!

 

 

Brazilian Sweet Potato, Tomato and Carmelized Onion Soup

The Eye of Ha-Shem to Bring you a taste of Heaven, like this soup will!
The Eye of Ha-Shem to Bring you a Taste of Heaven, like this soup will!
Sopa do Batata Doce (Brazilian)

I got this recipe from an old Boulder High School buddy, who is a foodie like me. We are still good friends. I love it when folks bring me new recipes. He uses chicken or beef stock, but since my husband is vegetarian, I usually make all dishes vegetarian unless I know he won’t be eating them. If you make the Roasted Root Vegetable Stock recipe below, like I do, you will not miss any flavor. If you don’t have time to make this stock, make sure and use some kind of vegetable or other stock, even if it is something from the store (for shame!). It really gives this soup a better flavor.

2-3 white sweet potatoes (sometimes called Hannah or Japanese sweet Potatoes, you can also use the orange kind, but it is better with the white ones)
2-3 onions
4-6 medium flavorful tomatoes
4-8 Tablespoons unsalted sweet butter

4-8 or more cups of Roasted Root Vegetable Stock or stock of your choosing.

Roasted Root Vegetable Stock:

Wash well all the veggies. It is better to not peel any of them for this stock. Chop up a bunch of veggies, I use carrots, celery (including the tops with the leaves), onions, turnips, parsnips, mushrooms, etc.. big chunks are fine. Combine all of the veggies in a large bowl and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and some fresh herbs like parsley, (stalks and all) and don’t forget several cloves of garlic.

Throw all of this onto a baking sheet and bake at 350-400º for about an hour. During that hour use a large spoon or spatula and move the veggies around a few times. Start a large pot of water to boil on your stove and dump all of the veggies into it. At this point I add chard or beet greens or kale, just a few leaves chopped up. Let all of this water and veggies boil and simmer for at least an hour, if not more. Strain the veggies through a colander with cheese cloth or a very clean thin dish towel over a strainer into another large bowl or pot. You can use a pan or spoon to press out all the good veggie juice into your strained stock. You can let this cool and freeze for future use or start making the soup, right now!
Peel and chop sweet potatoes
Simmer sweet potatoes in stock until cooked
Peel and chop onions and sauté onions in some of the butter until they are carmelized, which I think takes about an hour or more. You must cover the pan the onions are in and stir frequently and keep the flame on pretty low.
Chop tomatoes
Add tomatoes and onions to soup
Cook a few more minutes
Puree the soup
Add the rest of the butter
Add good salt and pepper to season
Garnish with parsley or use some of Esti’s Parsley Sauce to spice this up a bit.

Enjoy!

Nicole

Pico de Gallo for ShaKia

ShaKia my new Granddaughter and I. She loves this recipe and I promised her I'd upload it as soon as I got home.
ShaKia, my newish Granddaughter and I, she loves this recipe and I promised her I’d upload it as soon as I got home from visiting with her and my daughter and her intended.

Fresh Salsa makes any meal much better. This is very easy to make. The trick is to cut everything really tiny and to have the cilantro clean and dry. Prepare the garlic the way I have already outlined multiple times (Perla’s Peppers, Esti’s Parsley Sauce). This Salsa will keep for about two days at the most. It’s really best fresh. If you want to use if for longer, cook up the remainder and blend it up and keep if for a few more days in your refrigerator.

2–4 fresh tomatoes

2–5 serrano or jalapeño peppers

a good bunch of cilantro, well cleaned and fairly dry

one white onion

juice of ½ lemon or lime

4–6 cloves of garlic (with centers removed)

salt and pepper to taste

Chop up the peppers, very finely (it’s best to use a chopper tool if you have one) and put them in a medium size serving bowl. Then chop up the tomatoes and add this to your bowl. Add the chopped onion, lemon juice, pressed garlic, salt and pepper and the chopped cilantro and mix it all up. The spiciness of this salsa depends on the spiciness of the individual peppers you use and the amount. Adjust to taste. I occasionally use habañeros in this salsa, when I know I won’t have visitors who can’t handle that level of heat.

Jewish Mother Warning:

When handling any fresh spicy peppers, wear vinyl/plastic/nitrile gloves (if you have any cuts on your fingers). If you aren’t using gloves, wash your hands two times with warm water and soap, immediately following cutting of peppers. Wash your hands after discarding the gloves as well, because you may not realize you got a drop on your hands. Do not skip this step, it is very important! The oils from the freshly cut peppers are very harmful to your skin and can truly cause terrible pain and if you forget and rub your nose or eyes, you will know what all those attacked by pepper spray know, basically torture that can incapacitate you. If you do forget and rub your eyes by accident, get in a warm shower and open and close your eyes in the stream of water for five to ten minutes until the burning stops. (I learned this from Poison Control, who I called one time, when I myself forgot this step and was suffering mightily.) I have never had this problem again, and the warm water shower solved my problem.

Now, don’t be afraid to make this salsa. It’s worth it. Just WASH YOUR HANDS!