31 August 2013

Sunsets and Sunrises

Sometimes you glide so slowly from one chapter of your life into the next that you barely notice you've turned a page until the plot suddenly feels unfamiliar.

Other times the door slams.  So you shrug, slide the deadbolt, turn your back and then walk off into the sunset like the end of a spaghetti western.

After experiencing the former over the course of the past two or three years to the point that I barely recognize myself (which has its pros and cons), the latter came out of nowhere recently.  I do understand how difficult I am to care about, especially when I unexpectedly isolate people.  Sometimes it is out of depression; sometimes it's because my moods are cycling for weeks and I don't want other people to have to deal with that; sometimes I just want to be alone because I'm feeling good, doing well, like where I am at the moment, and feel like being around others will get me off-track.  But it's never personal and doesn't mean I don't care, although I can see why other people may take it that way when I don't communicate. 

At this point, it is what it is and I've already swiftly moved on because that's what I do.  This blew up?  Doesn't seem fixable?  Okay, what's next?

In other news I've been tiptoeing on the line between identifying myself as a Buddhist or a Buddhist leaning Agnostic.  That is an entirely different post for another day (which I will hopefully write in the few days if I can keep my writing momentum going).  Suffice to say that I've slipped pretty firmly back into Agnostic territory.  Partially because my views regarding food, specifically the karma of hunting animals for food and the act of eating animals in a more general sense.  This has been a source of conflict in my mind and heart for years now.  My views on the ethics, sustainability, and humane (or inhumane) nature of food sources haven't changed as much as sorted themselves out into a cohesive set of principles.  Perhaps this is a peripheral effect of sorting my brain out in the broader scheme of things.

On the topic of brains, mine has been doing pretty well even during the recent personal upheaval.  My Lamictal dosage was recently increased from 200mg to 300mg and although I am only on Day Seven of the transition I am already noticing a significant difference even with the accompanying side effects.  This is par for the course and most vanish or decrease within a week or so.  Now that it's been a week my constant fatigue is becoming sporadic, my energy is increasing, and my ability to focus has improved quite a bit. 

Another new development in the realm of mental health is that I've found an AMAZING online Bipolar Disorder support group which I am so extremely grateful for.  Being understood is important to everyone, but even more so for people who have Bipolar Disorder.  Unless you have experienced what this illness feels like firsthand there is really no way to understand completely what we go through no matter how much you read, research, try to understand and try to show compassion.  Believe me, we ALL appreciate when those around us do what they can to support us and really try.  I know that isn't remotely easy and most of the time there really isn't much you can do.  Finding a group of people where you have the safety to speak openly, vent, and express yourself without fear of judgment is without parallel.  The therapeutic benefit is enormous.

The title of one of my all-time favourite novels seems an appropriate phrase to conclude this post:
The Sun Also Rises

30 August 2013

TED Talk: Ruby Wax on Mental Illness

Below is the link to an absolutely brilliant TED talk given by Ruby Wax on the subject of mental illness.

One of the best points she made is that when someone has a physically visible illness or injury, the outpouring of sympathy can be (and often is) enormous.  You break your leg or are diagnosed with a chronic illness and everyone is sending flowers, cards, visiting you, offering to walk your dog and water your plants, etc.  The difference?  A broken leg is an injury that heals and you're more likely to get loving care & support from a broken leg than a nervous breakdown.

Like any chronic illness, mental illnesses and disorders require doctors, medications, and treatment plans.  Unlike other chronic illnesses our symptoms manifest in thoughts, feelings, words, and actions because it is our brain that is the affected organ.  Yet even when our illness is known by those around us we're accused of being melodramatic or making things up.  Of being selfish jerks or not trying hard enough because we fail to meet our obligations or disappoint those around us.

The worst is being told to "snap out of it" as if it's something we could overcome if we simply applied ourselves.  Or to "perk up" (as Ruby Wax put it) when we're depressed.  Because if that was possible, we would never have thought of that!  Right?!

Not that the insensitivity of others is deliberate even though it is still hurtful.  Most of my family doesn't know or doesn't want to talk about it or thinks of my bipolar disorder as something in the past that I've "grown out of " or that my symptoms will entirely go away because I'm on medication.

By the way... those last two items?   Not even remotely true; that's the thing with many chronic illnesses: they don't go away and they don't have a cure.

Enough of my pontificating.  Onto the video!  I guarantee you will enjoy it, laugh a few times, and quite possibly learn a few things while you're at it.

(Click the link above to view video.)

22 August 2013

20 August 2013

Today: 8 August 2013

Two thunderous booms, one flash of lightning, thirty raindrops on the external side of my bedroom window, and a little post-lightning rumbling... then it's over.  Just an afternoon storm; here and quickly gone.

This song entirely expresses how I feel today:

"Primavera" by Ludovico Einaudi

16 August 2013

Vocabulary Lesson: Couler

You learn something new everyday; or you can if you make an effort.  Yesterday I learned what the term "couler" means when describing an action a pointing breed dog can perform in the field.  There is a link to a very informative YouTube video at the bottom of this point (because I couldn't get it to properly embed).

Makes me wonder if that is what Gatsby is actually doing (on his own, without my direction) when he points and then starts creeping toward pigeons (who are usually milling about).  I will have to watch him more closely to see if he only does this when the bird he's found is on the move.  He definitely has a more solid point on doves, which tend to be pretty stationary.  Gats does seem to enjoy menacing and chasing pigeons, which he doesn't do with other birds.  More on that in the following paragraph.

Not knowing about his past training (I got him when he was 6) and relying on the opinions of a field trainer and a couple experienced upland bird hunting friends (one w/ GSPs, the other w/ GWPs) to determine what Gats knows/doesn't know... general consensus is that he's without doubt been hunted but doesn't have the manners of a field trial dog (also he's huge and FT dogs tend to be small & quick) or competition dog.  He's also a point stealing jerk who flips out if another dog gets to retrieve the shot bird, but that's another story for another day.  Like I said: no manners.  The dudes also think that his desire to bump pigeons (causing them to fly without stopping/pointing) could be because a lot of trainers use them and he doesn't take them seriously because he knows they're not "really hunting" when he's been exposed to them.  I will absolutely admit that I don't know enough about this subject matter to agree or disagree and am very open to other interpretations of Gatsby's behaviour.

Anyhow, I've gotten completely off track (typical) and having provided a definition for the term I began to write about in the first place.

Couler is when a dog points and then begins to creep stealthily toward a located bird, usually because the bird is moving and they're trying to get it to set (sit still) to reestablish point so that the hunter can flush and shoot.  From what I understand, dogs are not supposed to do this on their own and should only do so when signaled to do so by their handler either by touch or motion/gesture (or a very quiet verbal command, so as not to startle the bird).

~Click on the link below to watch an instructive and well presented video demonstrating what this looks like in an actual field setting.  Trust me, it's fascintating and worth a few minutes to watch!

14 August 2013

It's Not You, It's Me

This past weekend was an uncommon and unusual one for me.  I had social engagements two nights in a row and went to both.  One was a LOT more fun than I had expected and the other went, well, as expected.

Regardless of how anyone, on either night, behaved in general or toward me it was ultimately my choice how I felt about it and dealt with it.

In retrospect these two events (each with a very different "crowd") seem like a metaphor for the balance I am striving to create in my life.  Instead of the Old versus New, it is more like the Old versus Recent.  If you can qualify the past three years as "Recent."  The New, The Now, is somewhere in between those poles.

I felt much more comfortable and warmly welcomed in a group were I knew almost no one than I did in a group where I knew most of the people.  Why was this?  Read below.

Friday's Lessons:  Sometimes all you need is a reminder that there are people who own and love dogs, but are outside of the obsessive, takes-over-your-whole-life dog rescue world.  Being able to discuss my other passions with like-minded ladies was refreshing and good for the soul.  Dressing up and doing girly stuff makes me feel good about myself, as opposed to schlepping around in yoga pants and a tank top (covered in dog hair) all the time.  Don't expect me to be hitting the grocery store in high heels and red lipstick (like I used to), but a nice cotton sundress and pinning my hair up into the semblance of a hairstyle is a big step up from my usual errand-running attire (which looks an awful like dog walking/running attire).

Saturday's Lessons:  Sometimes not feeling like you "fit in" is exactly that.  You don't.  Or in this case, I don't.  To be honest, I don't really feel a sense of belonging to the dog rescue community as a whole anymore.  I've often not really felt "a part of things" when among Tucson dog rescuers, but Saturday night really drove that home.  

Firstly, I run a primarily purebred dog rescue.  I own two purebreds and one crossbreed.  I'm not rampantly anti-breeder, as so many rescue people are.  I have good friends who are wonderful, responsible breeders.  My next dog will be a German shorthaired pointer puppy from a breeder.  I'll always have a rescued GSP, but I also want a dog that I can show and compete in field events with.

Over time the gulf between myself and the majority of rescue folks has increased until it has become a concrete fact.  I am not really bothered by this.

In summary, change is a good thing.  Sometimes you simply change differently that those around you.  It isn't good or bad, it just is.

09 August 2013

Green Recipes: Avocado & Kale

At the request of my Aunt LaDeanna I've put together some easy to make, healthy, and tasty recipes using avocados, kale, and one simple salad including both!

First let's talk a little bit about avocados.  I have certain friends who avoid them because they do contain a goodly amount of fat and for their small size are rich in calories.  Don't fear the fat!  While a diet low in fat is healthful there are good fats and bad fats.  Your body still needs some some dietary fat (along with protein and carbohydrates) to create energy.  Energy = good.

In a nutshell:

Dietary fats to avoid:
  • saturated fat (found mainly in animal-based foods)
  • trans fat (occurs naturally in some foods, mostly animal-based, but most often from food processing)
Saturated and trans fats are usually solid at room temperature.

Healthier dietary fats:
  • monounsaturated fat (found in a variety of foods & oils)
  • polyunsaturated fat (mostly found in plant-based foods & oils, as well as fatty fish)
Unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature.

So... where to avocados fall in the realm of dietary fats?  One avocado (while being around 300 calories, depending on the size) contains about 30 grams unsaturated fat and only approximately 4 grams of saturated fats.  Avocados also contain fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and high levels of vitamins C and K.  Avocados = Good.

Wow... I didn't intend this post to be a lesson about good versus bad fats, but there you go.  Bonus lecture.

Moving on...

KALE.  I'll try to keep this short and sweet.  Kale is awesome.  I probably eat it 5 days a week (I also love chard, spinach, collards, etc.) and I make a point of eating something leafy & green daily.

Kale is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet.  One cup of kale is only 33 calories (yay!) and has a boatload of vitamins & minerals.  It contains well over 100% of the recommended daily amounts of vitamins A, C, and K in addition to being a good source of minerals copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium PLUS it has a lot of calcium!  Yes, not only can you get about 9% of your daily calcium from a vegetable but it's also full of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

Kale is extremely awesome.  I could write an endless number of haikus about it (but I most likely won't).  Just make sure to remove the stems; they're bitter and yucky.

On to the recipes!

AVOCADO & KALE SALAD (four servings)
  • 2 bunches of kale, stems removed, *bruised & chopped
  • 2 avocados, peeled & cubed
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped or sliced thinly (your choice)
Honey Mustard Dressing
  • 3 T. Dijon or stone ground mustard
  • 3 T. honey (I prefer raw honey)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 T. poppyseeds, if you happen to like them
  • splash of apple cider vinegar (I use the organic & unfiltered kind)
  • 1-2 T. fresh lemon juice

Prepare leafy veggies as directed above.  Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl/dish/whatever and briskly whisk with a fork.  Or a tiny whisk if you have one (I don't).  I use a vintage Corelle creamer because it's small, has high sides, and a nifty spout to easily pour the dressing.  Add the spices/season last and whisk again.  Drizzle over salad and toss to evenly distribute dressing.  Add more salt and/or pepper if desired.  Or if you're like me, add enough hot sauce that almost no one else wants to eat it.

*Bruising greens basically involves taking handfuls of greens and rolling them between your palms to soften their texture.  It's employed to soften tough greens and to increase the flavour/fragrance of fresh herbs.  For best results stems should be removed from both green veggies and herbs prior to bruising.  Rosemary and thyme stems will gently stab you.  Ow.

  • *2 pieces of whole grain bread or 1 whole grain English muffin, halved
  • 1 egg or egg substitute
  • 1 T. olive oil or Earth Balance (I use Earth Balance most of the time)
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 think slice **organic tomato
  • 2 t. Dijon or stone ground mustard (I like Annie's Naturals, but there are a lot of great brands available!)
  • salt & pepper
  • Optional: 1 t. hot sauce (I use sriracha or Tapatio)
  • Halve the avocado and using a sharp knife cut slices into one half without removing the peel.  This is usually 5 or 6 slices.  Using a tablespoon, scoop out slices and set aside.  Wash & dry tomato and using a serrated (or very sharp) knife slice until you get the size you'd like.  Optional: slice and eat the rest of the tomato.
  • Heat a skillet to medium-high; when hot add olive oil or Earth balance, swirl around, then throw in your egg/egg substitute.  I don't have to tell you to remove the shell (I hope).  
  • While keeping an eye on your egg, toast the bread/English muffin/whatever.  Spread each with with mustard.  Place tomato slice on one half; sprinkle with salt & pepper, if desired.  Smash/smush avocado slices onto the other half (otherwise they will slip around and try to escape from the sandwich with every bite you take); sprinkle with salt & pepper, if desired.  If, like me, you love hot sauce I highly recommend adding it to the avocado side of your sandwich components.
  • Placed cooked egg onto one half and top with the remaining half.  Voila, you have created a breakfast sandwich!

*You can also use healthy, whole grain frozen waffles.  I recommend Kashi or Van's.  Their caloric content and nutritional attributes are very similar to whole grain bread or English muffins.  Whichever bread-item you choose be sure to avoid ones that contain bleached flour and multiple sugars/sweeteners in the list of ingredients.  Especially avoid corn-based sweeteners like corn syrup solids, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, high maltose corn syrup, etc. but even if food is organic it can still have multiple sweeteners like brown rice syrup, honey, turbinado, agave nectar, etc.

**I prefer organic, vine ripened tomatoes for two reasons: #1, traditionally grown tomatoes were sprayed with a LOT of pesticides; #2, traditionally grown tomatoes are picked unripe and sprayed with ethylene to appear red & ripe but tend to be rather tasteless unless you consider "watery and bland" a legitimate "taste."  I don't.  If food doesn't taste good it's not worth purchasing at all, even if the price is lower than its organic cousin.

(So much better than your run-of-the-mill breakfast 'taters, I promise!)
  • 1 medium sweet potato or yam, scrubbed, skin on, quartered then sliced
  • 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed, skin on, quartered then sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed, skin on, sliced
  • 2 smallish or 1 largeish parsnip, scrubbed, skin on, sliced (halved & sliced, if largeish)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (red, yellow, orange, green... doesn't matter)
  • 1 or 2 jalapenos, halved, de-seeded, sliced (optional)
  • 2 T. olive oil or Earth Balance, separated
  • 2 T. olive oil or Earth Balance, separated
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • smoked paprika, to taste (maybe around 1 teaspoon?)
  • cumin, to taste (roughly 1/2-1 teaspoon?)
  • fresh or dried thyme (*1 sprig, de-stemmed, if using fresh; about 1 heaping teaspoon if using dried)
  • 2 cups kale, stems removed, chopped
  • About 2 T. of water

  • Clean and slice root veggies, onion, & peppers.  Heat up a **large skillet (medium-high) then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or Earth Balance.  Wait until the pan is hot!  Trust me on this one.  Add veggies and keep an eye on them.  Toss or stir when they start to stick and add the second tablespoon of olive oil or Earth Balance, if needed (usually this is needed).  You want them to be a little brown and mostly cooked before you add kale.  
  • While the veggies are cooking, remove the stems form the kale and roughly chop.  
  • When veggies are about halfway cooked (test their tenderness with a fork), add spices and herbs.  I usually add pepper toward the very end so that it doesn't burn.  Toss/stir veggies to evenly distribute spices & herbs.
  • Add chopped kale to veggies, toss in a couple tablespoons of water, quickly place lid over skillet, and reduce heat to low so that the kale can steam.  Wait a few minutes before checking to see how wilted the kale gets.  How long you cook the kale is entirely a matter of preference.  I like mine to have a little bite to it, but some people like it to be cooked until softened.  
  • Once the kale is a vibrant green, stir around to incorporate into your veggies and place the lid back onto the skillet.
  • Test your veggies to ensure that they are "fork tender" and you are done!  You can add more salt & pepper at this point, if desired (I usually add more pepper and some hot sauce before serving).
*Tip for using fresh herbs with woody stems (thyme, rosemary, marjoram, etc.).  Pluck/remove leaves into a small dish (I used a ramekin) prior to adding to a pan or pot of cooking ingredients.  Otherwise you could still be picking leaves off while the food overcooks or burns.  If you've done this before you know how time consuming it can

**Make sure that you are using a large skillet or pan that has a lid!  You will be using it.