Kitchen Knives- Ouch!

Yesterday in the kitchen, carelessly opening a package of pork ribs with a very sharp paring knife because I couldn’t find the edge of the plastic wrapper, the knife slipped and I jabbed myself in my forearm right near my wrist.

The wound was not fatal because today I am writing about it, but at the time, as dark purple blood gushed out of the wound and down my arm, I thought I might have punctured something important. I was at the sink so I grabbed a hunk of paper towel, wet it with cold water, and pressed it as hard as I could against the cut.

I thought I might be about to bleed to death and there was no one at home except Dot, a friend’s cat who is staying with us for a few weeks and is useless in a crisis. I thought I better write a note before I passed away so Gillie and my family, friends, and neighbors would understand that this was not an intentional act.

By then, although the wound was still gushing whenever I checked, it was obvious that there was not an artery involved because there aren’t any arteries in that spot, so maybe it was just a vein in which case I might not actually die. I wasn’t feeling faint. In fact, I was feeling fine but a little nervous about blood loss and how much is too much. (I’m an O+ donor so I have some idea of what a pint of blood looks like but it’s hard to tell when it is mostly spreading into the wet paper towel.)

At that point, I thought the best next move was to go upstairs to get a Band-Aid. The cut now looked pretty small—a mere puncture wound. The gushing had just about stopped. I applied a little Bacitracin in case of lethal bacteria from country-style ribs-contamination and a large Band-Aid. Then I wrapped adhesive tape 3 or 4 times around my arm to maintain pressure.

I began to think about my friend, Janet Savage, who is an expert on reading hands (http://handtales.com/). She wrote a book about hand injuries with an occupational therapist at our local medical school, exploring the significance of different types of injuries to different parts of the hand. I doubted that forearm jabbing was referenced, but I thought I’d look it up because I have been nicking and jamming my fingers a lot lately.

Hand Wisdom, a Holistic Guide to Hand Injuries and Your Health, by Janet Savage, MHA, MPH, and Julie Sonack, MS, OT/L, is based on the combined wisdom of occupational therapy (Julie),  life purpose hand analysis (Janet), and the insights of Louise Hay. Janet is a warm, insightful woman whom I’ve come to know over the past few years. I enjoy being in her gentle company. She enjoys a good laugh. I consider her a friend with solid goddess wisdom.

I looked up cuts and lacerations and what they might represent, other than being stupidly careless with a knife when there’s only a cat on hand to help. “A cut or break in the skin reflects a feeling of vulnerability, being exposed, a loss of safety or of being hurt by someone or some event…. It can be thought of as an opening of sorts, encouraging you to remind yourself that you are always loved and always safe from true harm of any kind no matter what your ego may be telling you! Let go of the fear!” Open up to change.

Today is good. The sun is shining. I am not dead. I’m not even that sore. And I am ready to move forward. I am standing in my strong woman stance, opening myself up to change in the new year, unafraid. I am also enjoying the company of a wonderful homesharer, Gillie, and a darn good cat.

A welcome companion

A welcome companion

Sweetening January

Sally and I both love fruits and veggies. For the most part, we are outside-of the grocery-store people: cruising the more perishable sustenance and mostly passing the processed (though we both have our weaknesses and always take a trip down the coffee and chocolate isles, and me into the baking section).

As I’ve previously mentioned, I have a sweet-tooth, and I try to appease it with lots of fruit this winter. I try and buy whatever fruit is in season, so I get a lot of variety year-round, and am pretty spoiled by primarily buying fruit only from it’s peak season, when it’s best. In January, this cold, and dark month, that means citrus, which of course causes one to think of the warm climates where it’s harvested as you munch.  Citrus is two-fold for us here in New England: It’s both some sweet vitamin C in the dank months when we’re prone to be catching bugs, and it also boosts our spirits with those thoughts of light and warmth in the trees that bear all the popping flavor that is citrus.

Resultantly, Sally and I have consumed bushels of grapefruit, oranges, clementines, lemons, and limes in the past month or so, and the produce drawer which is used primarily by me is just a study of shades of orange as I write.

Yesterday morning I made a citrus fruit salad at my sweetie’s. His roommates lamented that this was the second morning in a row I’d force-fed them my orange and grapefruit mash, and joked that I have the potential to single handedly meet the financial goal of a local school team which purveys citrus in the winter to offset costs of their program. I accept that, as my love affair with fruit justifies my substantial consumption.

So last night, when Sally suggested we have some orange in our nightly salad, I was thrilled and knew just the thing to do:

Winter Cheer Salad

  • Enough tender greens for 4 side salads (A few cups–we used a Mesclun Mix)
  • A few small, or one medium tomato, chunked or sliced
  • ½ cucumber, chopped as pleases you
  • ½ Avocado (if you like it)

Dressing:

  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 navel orange, or other orange, deseeded, peeled and chopped into  bite-size chunks
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, whatever you prefer
  • Pinch of salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Take out your salad bowl and pour your olive oil and vinegar in, stir with fork to combine, then add the orange, cilantro/parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine, taste, and adjust adding oil or vinegar, or even a splash of OJ if your taste buds request it.

Let the dressing sit as you wash and chop the rest of your salad, then plop the veggies in the bowl and toss everything just before serving.

Enjoy the sweetness in every bite!

Stretching the Limit

Sally participates in very diversified physical activity. She does yoga, jazzercise, bikes, hikes, snowshoes: Me, I mostly just run.

The weather here in the Green Mountain State was pretty gross yesterday, so when a couple of dear friends offered me a guest pass via one of their gym memberships, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve been hemming and hawing for months as to whether or not to get a membership due to the annual weather imposed running ban (poor Sally’s been stuck listening), so this “trial run,” on a soggy morning sounded just the thing.

But here’s the clincher: My pals Jo and Molly aren’t just runners. They are all-around-athletes. And all-around-athletes do whole body workouts… We weren’t talking 45 minutes on the track or treadmill.

Whoa folks. Who knew picking up chunks of steel could be so exhausting!?

Needless to say, I’ve been hobbling all day. My quads ache, my hamstrings ache, my shoulders sting, and my sides prick me every time I twist.  I’ve been moaning and groaning all day. The workout was awesome, bizarrely enough, and holy smokes do I need to diversify more!

I think they, and Sally, are really onto something. Doing just one activity which I find to be meditative is great: Doing three, that challenge my muscle memory, coordination, and move me in unfamiliar ways is definitely better.

It was almost like trying a new work activity: I’m pretty sure this challenged my brain as much as my body. I had anxiety as we talked about “lifting” (I don’t know if the bar with the tiny little disks I put on it really qualifies as “lifting,” but you gotta start somewhere, right?), and felt clumsy and naive as they showed me, but the boost to my self-esteem to know I can do more than just run if I want to, is multipurpose. I didn’t just get a workout: I got a NEW workout, to spend time with friends, to feel cared for and taught by them, and now I know I can try again, with a little less anxiety leading into round two. For as much as I’m hobbling today, it’s a good hobble, and I can’t wait to do it again. Here’s to hobbling, and stretching the limits!

Happy New Year!

Sally’s thoughts on January 1, 2015: Just Ask. If you need help, just ask. This is wisdom from singer, songwriter, performer, and activist Amanda Palmer. I just watched her TED Talk in which she shares how she learned to let people help her, and how that builds trust and creates strong connections. If you’re interested in her experiences, check her out here: (http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking?language=en)

I was intrigued by her analysis of what happens when you ask for help. I had learned from working as an event coordinator to never turn down an offer of help because in that line of work, you always need all the help you can get. From this I learned that people want to help, to be useful, to share in the effort, and participate in an endeavor. Amanda’s TED Talk made me understand why—helping creates connections that give depth to our relationships. It makes friends out of strangers. It brings meaning…

In our Yankee-independence, stand-on-your-own-two-feet, DIY society, we value self-sufficiency more than cooperation. It is hard to ask for help because it reveals vulnerability. If you need help, you are weak. I know this because I used to parrot the standard No Thank You to offers of assistance (which pushes people away) until I became an event organizer and learned to say Yes Please (which brings people closer). From that, I learned a lesson about how to offer help and changed the way I do that. When invited to a party, for instance, I will say, What can I bring? instead of, Can I bring something? to make it easier for the host to state a need; or ask, How can I help? instead of Can I help? Same thing. Makes it easier to bridge the vulnerability gap.

There’s no shame in it. In fact, there is connection. That is Amanda’s message. She has helped me to understand the obvious—helping is sharing, creating meaning, building relationships, receiving love. And it has inspired my New Year’s Resolution for 2015, which is, Just ask. The help will come and with it, so much more.

To you, I wish love, laughter, abundance, and lots of help in the coming year. Happy New Year!

Reasonable Resolve

Sally mentioned, as she was getting ready for bed last night, that there are only 2 days left of 2014. That got me thinking, of course, of resolutions. The internet (various sources: Forbes, Marist, Wikipedia— I know, I shouldn’t really be considering this a “source”) indicates about half of US citizens will make New Year’s Resolutions this year, and if we’re anything like we were last year, about half of us will then fail at keeping our resolutions. I don’t know that I’ve ever kept a resolution, and in recent years, I haven’t made any.

To me, New Year’s Resolutions just seem like a recipe for failure. I mean, come on: Really, Gillie? “I’m not going to eat a single dessert for the next year.” Are you nuts? Are you really aiming for a Guinness record for “most-boring-thirty-year-old-this-side-of-the-Mississippi?” And besides, what the heck is the point of that? Are you going to resign yourself to a life of prunes and all-bran for the next sixty years? Is that going to make you happy? Live longer so you can live boring? I don’t think so. And would you be able to keep it anyway? Probably not. One piece of pecan pie would be all it takes for instantaneous failure, because that piece of pie tastes of sweet memories. I don’t want to give that up. So what’s the point?

My annual pecan. Would you give it up?

My annual pecan. Would you give it up?

And while I don’t make specific “New Years” resolutions, I do, however, set goals for myself throughout the year in hopes of ongoing personal growth. And more reasonable personal growth to boot: Currently, I minimize my refined sugar rather than restrict. That I can do. Peanut M&M’s don’t taste of sweet memories, so I can forgo them, and I’ll keep my annual pie.

So I’ve set a personal-growth-non-New-Year’s-goal this week: Increasing mindfulness. After the crazy bustle of the holidays and this oppressive darkness, and given the funk I’ve found myself in, how about I ground myself? Sounds good, right? So I’ve restarted doing some body scanning and paying attention to my breathing.  With that, I feel myself settle into the Earth, and be where I am. I relax into my body and my surroundings, and honor myself.

Rather than trying to improve myself in this or that way, I’ll start 2015 hoping to better like myself, and spend time being with and in my body, and just celebrate where and who I am. The media are going to barrage me in the coming weeks with, I’m “too” this, or “not enough” that, and I’m just going to breathe deep and and just be me, and where I am.

The Simple Act of Giving

Season’s Greetings from Sally!

Giving someone a gift should be an act of simple generosity and love. Yet gift giving can get way more complicated than that. Talking with a close friend while we were enjoying coffee together the other morning (I’ll call her Diana), I was reminded how difficult it can get. For example:

She has found her tense relationship with her former husband to have eased and softened somewhat. He is the father of her daughter (I’ll call her Jeannie), who is now well into her 30s and lives in another state.

Diana and her daughter had been invited to his annual Christmas Eve party. This is the first time Diana has been included in the invitation and she thought it would be a nice gesture of their new almost-friendship to take him a small gift. She had enjoyed a book written by a mutual friend and thought he would enjoy it too. She ordered a copy to give to him. A couple of days later, she got a call from her harried daughter who asked for a favor since she had no time to shop: would Diana get a copy of that book for her to give to her dad.

Oy! Long story short, and for many complex reasons, Diana gave up the gift so Jeannie could give it to her dad. Now she has to come up with another idea for her ex-husband since the perfect idea has been taken over.

This is the season when we celebrate love, family, friends, community, and the universal value of sharing. We eat outrageous amounts of fabulous food. We decorate our homes with festive greenery and seasonal blossoms. And we give each other gifts—simple acts of love, supposedly, that are so often entangled in worry, guilt, expectations, misunderstandings, and anxieties of all varieties.

In contrast, giving to the food shelf, the homeless shelter, or Meals on Wheels for homebound seniors feels good. And who wouldn’t want to be the philanthropist who hands out $100 bills—in random acts of kindness—to the poorest people in his town? Acts of giving like this change people’s lives! To have that big an impact must feel amazing—powerful, even intoxicating. And uncomplicated.

Gift-giving ought to feel good. I hope for you it does and that you have a wonderful holiday, however you celebrate it, with just the right gifts, in the true spirit of giving. And I hope you are fulfilled. That is my wish for everyone, plus Peace on Earth.  Merry Christmas!

All Kinds of Gifts

Gillie here. It’s been a while since I’ve written as I’ve been sucked up in the busyness of this season, and also have been struggling with tough feelings holidays can bring on. I’ve had a case of the “bah humbugs,” so to speak.

I work in child welfare. As unfashionable as that is to admit in Vermont this year, it is my reality. And at most times of year, I actually muster up primarily positive feelings about my vocation. But holidays are especially hard. No one likes to see kids and families suffering by being apart or not having “enough” at this time of year. I’ve had more calls in the previous few weeks that have saddened me than I care to think of.

Not only that, but the December holidays bear a lot of personal baggage for me. At a time of year that is supposed to be “magic” and filled with tradition, love, and stillness, these holidays are, for me, instead a reminder of how transient my own life has been, and yet how starkly unfair my own social and physical comfort is.

Yesterday, while talking about my holiday angst, I was reminded that these tough and messy feelings aren’t actually bad, and they are justified. I was encouraged to sit in them, and to honor that sadness is another kind of stillness. So this holiday, I’ll be celebrating the impending return of the sun with loved ones, and cherishing them by the giving of gifts and sharing of meals, but I’ll also be thinking of those I’m not spending my holidays with, and the other folks out there separated from people they love. I’ll try, as I do every year, to make new traditions, and enjoy time with the people I am spending the day with. And I’ll give myself the gift of forgiveness for my funk, and the kindness of stillness in my thoughts.

And I am so grateful for all the gifts of my life this year. Sally and I will spend a chunk of the day together: What a blessing she is. My sister, one of Sally’s good friends, and hopefully one of my good friends will join us for dinner, which Sally and I will prepare: What a blessing. I’ve had two Chanukah nights with my sweetie in the past week: What a blessing. I’ll get to take care of some friends’ pets, and celebrate my love of animal companionship this week: What a blessing. And I’ll talk with other loved ones, near and far: Blessings all around.

Holidays are the bearers of gifts of all kinds. My mother gave me a card after my most recent heartbreak, in which she quoted Mary Oliver:

“Someone I love once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

This time of year comes with gifts of light and dark. I hope to sit in the stillness and honor both, for the richness they add to my life.