Just Stand

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When he was asked what was the secret of an energized life Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “Christ is the answer.” Reminding us that in John, we read, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” When I focus on Christ as the divinity in humankind and God as divine energy expressing in each of us, I live and move and have my being. And the next time I feel sluggish or tired, I’ll pick myself up remembering what it means to have a life filled with energy, exuberance, and joy.

Two years ago I had a hysterectomy. I was 63 years old. It was elective surgery due to a fibroid tumor on my uterus. My doctor said my life would be improved “100%,” her words. It was not. In fact the past two years have not been nearly as good as I expected for it took me months to get over the anesthesia; I gained more weight than expected; and I developed pain in my lower abdomen. Because I had a colonoscopy a few weeks before and because my doctor did extensive tests before the surgery, I was assured that I was in good health before going under. So when the pain started a few days after the surgery and continued, I called the doctor and made an appointment. After a sonogram and physical exam I was told it was phantom pain. But I never had pain before the surgery. So I was perplexed. Now two years later the pain is still present and intensified at times.

I am not one to let pain interfere with my life as those that know me can attest. I spent the last few days meditating and visualizing the pain, thanking it for being present so that I could come to resolution for its presence. I knew that it was a direct result of the surgery and never considered other reasons, but felt I needed an answer to what it was. Because I do a lot of research online, I was not afraid to look up my symptoms (although doctors tell us not to make diagnosis online). I went to WebMed and the Mayo Clinic, both reputable online medical sites. I finally narrowed it down and discovered one side effect of both robotic and cut/stitch types of hysterectomies are scar tissue or abdominal adhesions which cause pain in the lower abdomen. And now I have my answer.

In the end, all I need to do is just “stand,” as I am called to do in Ephesians. “Stand fast, I say.” I have done everything possible and am content leaving the results to God. I can now focus on the divine energy of the Christ expressing in me. I have life and I am blessed.

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Go Green!

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the-importance-of-green-drinksWhen I was a little girl my grandmother used to say, “Oh look Pris, it comes in green.”  Green was not her favorite color, but it was a close second to the color pink.  I used think that is why her daughter, my mother, pledged Delta Zeta as pink and green were its colors and so became my mother’s favorite colors.  And oddly enough, they are my favorite colors as well.  But when it came to green food growing up, they were on my “no way” list.  I did not like fruit or vegetables and was not afraid to say so.

Thank goodness I outgrew that stage of life and came to love all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  But drinking a green drink never crossed my mind until I started growing my own garden and investing in my health.  By taking into my own hands what foods I eat, I found that green smoothies heavy with garden greens, fresh (or frozen) fruits, coconut milk, chia and flax seeds make for a great snack or meal.

Many nutritionists encourage us to not ignore the importance of a daily green smoothie.  And with lots of varieties to choose from, one could never get bored.  I found a recipe the other day that was a mango-lime-banana-kale-coconut milk green smoothie at only 318 calories which is low for an entire meal.  I freeze my bananas and cut them up before putting in the blender to make for a cold smoothie.

Vernon Dassler, CN encourages us in his book, “Sick and Tire? Of Being Sick and Tired,” to make a change in our eating habits. He reminds us that only we have the power to make the changes.  “Each individual must make wise choices as to the method of instituting these changes. Some start with small steps in the plan but others may do better by making more radical changes all at once. Connect with the wiser part of yourself and consider which type of personality you are before jumping into any change,” writes Dassler.

Green smoothies are also ideal for weight-loss because they are an ideal fat burning food as well as nutrient-rich, loaded with fiber and low in fat. Of course one should avoid obvious things like dairy products, fats, sugars and artificial sweeteners, store-bought juices, canned foods and powders other than hemp or rice. According to Tracy Russell at Incredible Smoothies, “Green smoothies work best if they are part of a healthy, whole foods diet that helps you lose weight and maintain your ideal size and shape.”

Next time I’m in my backyard, I’ll pick some kale and dandelion greens and make me a smoothie and can say, “Oh look, it comes in green!”

Healthy Bones

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A few months ago I had a hip bone density scan which showed no osteoporosis.  Considering only one hip was scanned, I feel secure that the rest of the bones in my body are fine as well.  I wasn’t surprised as I had been taking one 600mg calcium pill a day for many years.  But turning sixty-five, I wanted to make sure that was enough.  Although the results of the scan proved promising, my nutritionist suggested I change to liquid calcium with magnesium.  The one I use is supplemented with Vitamin D3.

I find this combination interesting because I drink coconut milk and it too combines calcium, magnesium and vitamin D in the milk. The vitamin D helps my body absorb the calcium.  According to Speaking of Women’s Health, “To maintain strong, healthy bones, you have to consume a diet rich in calcium throughout your life and your need for calcium becomes even greater as you age.”

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for calcium is 1,000 milligrams per day for men 51 to 70 years old. Postmenopausal women who are not taking estrogen should get 1,500 milligrams per day.  So if I combine my coconut milk (150 mg) and my vitamin supplement (600 mg), I’m only getting 750 mg of calcium a day – just half of what I should be getting per day.

To make up the difference, the next thing I did was look at is what other foods are high in calcium.  That lead me to things such as salmon with bones, sardines, kale, broccoli, dried figs and calcium fortified juices and breads. Not liking any of those things except kale and breads, I was beginning to get concerned.

With further study I found that I can remember to add 150 mg if I eat oatmeal for breakfast, then add an additional 94 mg for a forth a cup of almonds to snack on, and 111 mg of almond butter added to my 60 mg of whole grain bread for lunch.  Okay, now I’m 200 mgs short.  Snack on a box of grapes, add a cup of chopped kale to my daily smoothie and maybe I’ll get there, but most likely not.  And that’s okay.  The fact that I’m willing to work toward reaching my goal of 1,500 mg of calcium a day, is enough right now.

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My kale bed.

But here’s the part that is really frustrating.  I read Reed Mangels, PhD, RD at The Vegetarian Research group that about 20 mg of calcium is lost with each gram of sodium in the diet.  And higher dietary sodium is associated with lower bone density.  I do not want to go two steps forward in my journey and then take three steps backward.  I can control the amount of sodium I add to a meal but what about what’s already in the food I buy, especially canned foods?  The answer of course is for me to cook with fresh or frozen food, dried beans and even better grow my own vegetable which I enjoy doing every season.

Or as my husband suggests just take one of his 600 mg calcium pills and I should be good to go.  Now off to exercise and keep those strong bones working.

To Age or Not to Age?

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Resa Alboher asks in Spirituality & Health Magazine, “Why resist aging when you can celebrate the triumph of still being here?”  Afraid of aging, her life changed when she was faced with a diagnosis of a rare cancer.  She began seeing herself grow old and looking forward to it.

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Mama and Claudia, my Grandmother

Fortunately, I have never faced death from a disease, but I have questioned my mortality especially when I saw both my mother and her mother die in their early 60’s from cancer of the pancreas.  It took me years to realized I did not have to die like them; that in fact, I could easily live years longer.  And so I embraced my aging.  Not comparing myself to their deaths placed me in the present where I belonged.

By embracing my age and how I looked, I was able to also embrace the wisdom that came with aging.  I then began to celebrate my aging by sharing my experiences and writing about them.  When we tell our stories, according to Dr. Lissa Rankin, in Psychology Today, “It transforms our lives.”  She goes on to say, “There is strength in telling our stories.” Why? “Because telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth.”

Today, I keep my dreams alive.  Five years ago when I celebrated turning sixty I had a tiny fleur-de-lis tattoo inked just above me left ankle.  A symbol of my love for the place I grew up, Louisiana, I shared that experience with my forty year-old son getting like me his first and last tattoo. I have much still to do in this life and I have no plans to just sit around and wait for opportunities.  Instead, I make them happen.

I eat healthy, exercise generously if not regularly, volunteer in the community, take care of my grandchildren and serve as my oldest granddaughter’s Girprisl Scout leader.  I stay balanced writing in my daily journals and meditations. I grow vegetables and herbs in my backyard and cook most of my meals from scratch.  My goal is to not compromise what I’ve accomplished by having any regrets. Yes, there is always room for improvement, but I feel really good about having no regrets.

Finally, at sixty-five I’ve come to accept how I look now.  I realize I will never look like I did ten, twenty or thirty years ago, however, I feel I look better.  Every wrinkle, blue vein, age mark, and white hair on my head makes me who I am – unique and grateful for each day that I can grow older. My answer is clear; how about you?

My Leafy Green Garden

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lettuce 1In the April 2015 publication of Spirituality and Health Magazine, Traci Pedersen writes about how eating leafy greens make for a sharper brain.  She states, “A new study has found that eating leafy green vegetables – such as spinach, kale and mustard greens – can have a dramatically positive effect on our thinking abilities. In fact, older people who eat one to two servings a day of leafy greens have the cognitive skills of a person over a decade younger.”  – See more at:  Spirituality and Health.

I am most pleased to be reading this.  My garden is based on the plants we like, and each year we add more raised beds and include new and different plants.  This year our son built raised beds in his backyard.  Being a vegetarian, he was most interested in choosing quality seeds and so ordered them online from Survival Essentials.  They claim that their seeds are, “the finest Non GMO, Non Hybrid Heirloom Seed Bank anywhere on the Earth!”  In fact these seeds, if placed in an airtight glass jar in a freezer, have an expected shelf life from 10 to 20 years.  And he got enough seeds to share with us.herbs

In addition to our kale which survived summer heat over 100 degrees and three snow storms and temperatures below 10 degrees this winter and our two rosemary bushes that never die, our flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, lavender, sage, and mint all came back or survived the winter.  We had to replace the spicy oregano and sweet basil in the herb garden and added amaranth; however we are now ready for our leafy greens to sprout.

Returning are Crowder peas, okra, cucumbers, yellow squash, green squash (zucchini), sweet bell peppers, tomato plants and lettuce.  But this year we planted red-tipped romaine, butter crunch, and Prizehead lettuce.  We also planted arugula, beets, radishes, and not just for the vegetable but also for the greens.

lettuce2For fun we created a corner for strawberries.  But the first rainfall we realize the runoff from the neighbor’s yard runs directly down the center of the strawberry patch.  We laid some small gravel and that didn’t work so added a stone wall to guide the water away from the strawberry plants; so far so good.

In total, we have sixteen raised beds.  Waiting for the ground to be warm enough to plant was hard because it was only a few weeks ago when it was close to freezing at night.  But having a garden filled with leafy greens is worth it.  I’m not sure if it is the work involved in taking care of a garden or if it is eating the leafy greens that keeps an older person young, but I’m willing to keep on enjoying our garden and all of its bounty.  Eating healthy and liking what I eat and having the cognitive skills of a person ten years younger sounds great to me!

Good for the Soul

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Singer/Songwriter Joni Bishop sings, “I want to live so God can use me anytime, anywhere….”  This song as Joni said is hard to forget.  For me it reminds me to be accountable for my actions.  She uses a resonator guitar which reverberJoni Bishop CDates out into the world with such joy. Invented in the 1900’s, this guitar could be heard over the sounds of the outdoor spirituals.  Today, Joni’s sings her song with the same joy as only Spirituals can sound. When we talked, she told me this is one of her favorite CD’s that she published.  I can see why. Originally spirituals were sung in the call and response style.  And like her song, God calls me and I respond with the same joy; this is hard to forget. ~ Pris

Temptation

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Today I baked a cake.  Not just any cake but my sister-in-law’s very own “Deluxe Chocolate Pound Cake.”  Delicious beyond measure, it is hard to pass up, but I will.  Not because I don’t like it, but because it will make me sick.  Not literally but emotionally.  I am addicted to foods I should not eat and there are probably over a thousand calories in one slice of this cake.  And because my diet is based on eating healthy foods, (without butter, eggs, and sugar), I’m pretty sure I could not stop at one piece.

I baked this cake for several reasons.  One is that I love to cook and baking is just as fun as making a big pot of bean soup filled with garlic, onions, flax seeds, and kale.  The other is that it brings back such great memories. When I was a young mother I got this recipe at a ZETA alumni party.  Our alumni chapter at LSU made cookbooks and sold them to each other at the “Kandy Kitchen” fundraiser.  My sister-in-law, Wesley Anne submitted the recipe and so I baked it as a treat one Sunday when her mother, my mother-in-law came over for dinner.

We sat at my kitchen table, drinking coffee, listening to my oldest son, Brian who was three play outside in our backyard.  We had a fenced in yard with a swing set and patio for him to play on.  He could hear us talking as we could see and hear him playing.  The smell of the chocolate cake was just like it was today, wonderful.  Finally, after the required one hour and twenty-minute bake time, I pulled the cake out of the oven.  It was a mess.chocolate pound cake

I looked at my mother-in-law and could not tell if my face was red from embarrassment or from the heat of the oven.  We just looked at it – a crumbled, uncooked glob of chocolate.  I carried it the table and together we tried to figure out what went wrong.  With the recipe card, she started calling out the ingredients to confirm I had indeed not left anything out.  But when she got to five eggs, I hesitated, checked my refrigerator and sure enough, the eggs were still in the carton and NOT in the cake.  However, it was not a loss.  For you see, how can you go wrong with rum, butter, coconut extract with chocolate, butter and sugar?  We sat and ate our cake with a spoon and enjoyed every minute of it.

Temptation – to desire or crave something; I have the power to say no to eating this cake, but that won’t stop me from baking it or sharing it with those who can handle its delicious treats.

 

Finding Wholeness

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Rev. Kelly Isola writes in Rediscovering Your Wholeness, “When you experience harmony in mind, you experience harmony in body. And when you have a sense of well-being and peace within your body, you are at peace with your body.”

I like that.  Harmony is my friend.  If situations in my life feel out of sync, I pause for a moment for prayer.  I am reminded that, “All things work together for good.”

Many times when I feel out of sync it is because my body is not responding the way I want it too.  My goal is to find a sense of peace and well-being with the food I eat.  I seek balance and find wholeness. And as Rev. Isola goes on to say, “Connecting to our wholeness is the cornerstone to a happy, healthy, meaningful and abundant life.”

It does not matter how I choose to enhance my body – regular exercise, eating nutritional food, spiritual practices, meditating, yoga, or daily walking; if I don’t connect with my inner Being and focus on how I can express individually as I AM, I’m wasting my time.  This means I must have thoughts of wholeness fill my mind to create the healthiest and most vibrant person I can be.

Going Home to Baton Rouge is Good for the Soul

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People ask me why it is so important for me to go home to Baton Rouge at least once a year, and I tell them it is because I am nothing without these people. They are part of what makes me who I am and are at the core of my being. They are my cloud of witnesses that cradle me and keep me from falling.

This past weekend “home” began with a visit with Debby Burge Cartwright and her mother, who will be 90 this year. Debby came into my life in fourth grade at Walnut Hills Elementary School. I can still remember spending nights on weekends at her house and waking to the smell of fried bacon and sitting at the table with her sister and parents to share that breakfast. Even when I was a student at BRHS, I never felt intimidated by the presence of her father, Mr. Burge, the principal at BRHS.

On Friday a small group of classmates met at BRHS which had been fully renovated since our last reunion in 2008. Guided by the Executive Director of the BRHS Foundation, Lauren Ford, we had the grand tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. Preceding our tour was a tour for the Class of 1953 who were most excited that fellow classmate and a member of the football Hall of Fame who played with the Green Bay Packers and All-American from LSU, who graduated from BRHS, Jimmy Taylor was present at their tour. We didn’t see him but reveled in his success and saw his trophies in the new glass cases. (Personally I was reminded of a day when I was 15 and got picked up by my cousin, Jim O’Neal and a friend.  We were going to his house so I could baby-sit his four children.  His friend was at LSU and I soon figured out that I was riding in the car with THE Jimmy Taylor.) Following the tour, we joined other classmates for pizza at the Pastime Lounge, a college favorite then and now.

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Peggy and Barry Altazin

Saturday night the reunion was at Mike Anderson’s. It was a smaller group than the 40th reunion, but still we had fun and enjoyed catching up with everyone. It was especially nice sitting with my Girl Scout “budde” and old friend Carol Fenton Butler. We go back to grade school and four years as camp budde’s at Girl Scout Camp Marydale. Another old friend, from pre-school age was Barry Altazin who joined us at our table. Barry lived across the street from me on Eugene Street until I was 10 when I moved up the street to the “white house” near Raymond Blvd. He and my brother John (Jack) Nason were always good friends. Again, it was good to see that none of us had changed (on the inside.) I can say that being one of the few classmates, (including Rene Esnard and Buddy Porta) with white hair.

Lunch with the girls

Sunday after church at the UUCBR, I met old friends Ellen McGraw, Janet Noland and Debby for lunch at Bistro Byronz in Baton Rouge. Ever had fried catfish filets smothered in crawfish etouffee? Not bad, not bad at all. Ellen and I have been friends since second grade when I started Walnut Hills. She lived a few streets over on Zealand and so riding bikes to and from each other’s homes was easy. After 56 years, I am proud to say we are still dear friends.

I met Janet at Westdale Junior High and can honestly say I never met a sweeter funnier girl until then. We were kindred spirits and had in us the power to become the women we wanted to be. It was with Janet that I first came to realize that no one has the power to tell me what to do and when to do it and how to do it. That power comes from me and God inside me. And to think it all came from JFK and his physical fitness plan that forced the PE teachers at our school to make us physically fit. When you are 5’2” and weigh 90 lbs., you are lucky the wind doesn’t blow you around the track much less run for what seemed forever. We were two girls on a mission and our epiphany was exactly what we needed at that time in our lives. (So maybe being physically fit isn’t that bad after all.) I was sitting next to Janet when we learned about Kennedy’s assassination; she introduced me to her classmates at LaSalle Elementary, many of whom became fellow Girl Scouts in Mrs. Gray’s troop; and she stood by me in Boosters at BRHS until we graduated from high school.Linda and John

Sunday night, the Mundinger family joined us for dinner at my sister Lindy and her husband Dale’s new home in the Garden District. I’ve known John since the day he was born, although I was only three years old. His parents and my parents were best friends and we consider ourselves brother and sister and family. Joining us was his daughter Kathrin and her fiancé Mike and son J.T. and his fiancée Christina. (She is a brave soul being an Ole Miss alumni marrying into a LSU family.)

Patricia Schmieder, Me, Sharon and David Nason

Patricia Schmieder, Me, Sharon and David Nason

Monday, Lindy and I joined our cousin Patricia Schmieder for lunch at Albasha Greek restaurant in Town Center.  We closed the lunch crew down laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  Later Patsy came over to Lindy’s and we joined our other first cousin David Nason and his wife Sharon.  Again we laughed and cried tears of joy and sadness as David and Sharon told us of their recent fire and losing their home.  I was able to give them a memento from some things that belonged to my father but originally belonged to David’s father and Patsy had an antique tea cart with glass tray that belonged to our grandfather which she brought for them.

The day ended with a trip to Zachary and a bit of time with my nephew Neil Weiner and his wife Whitney and their three children Matt, Abby and Emily. What a sweet and darling family they are.Sammy's

On the way home, Lindy and I stopped at Sammy’s for a cup of crab bisque and fried eggplant. The mural on the wall said, “Sammy’s Grill and Seafood – under the overpass on Perkins Road.” It puzzled me because I grew up under the overpass on Perkins Road – sort of. My house was on Eugene Street and the overpass crossed the railroad tracks that went behind my house. The Colonel’s Club was housed in a Quonset hut directly under the overpass. Today it is Chelsea’s, but maybe in between then and now it was Sammy’s.

I can still remember sitting on my back porch steps listening to the live bands play, including the Grass Roots. I can still remember the smell of the ligustrum plants that lined my drive-way and I can still remember the sound of the trains coming down the tracks. All the friends, sounds, smells, foods, and memories keep me centered. This is why I love to come “home” and why doing so is good for my soul.

My New Year Fitness Plan – Life

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Last year about this time I started a new Weight Watchers program.  After five or six months I quit.  Believe it or not, that is not easy to say.  I liked the program, but I didn’t see any results.  I didn’t gain any weight, but I didn’t lose any either.  And I did follow the regime right down to counting housework and gardening when it came to exercise.  But some of you may remember that I was only a few pounds short of my maintenance weight and so it looked to some that I might not belong in a Weight Watchers class.

Not only did I get questionable looks, I got remarks that were just short of unkind, and I also felt like the instructor was not up to standard.  She was kind, nice, and for all practical purposes met the needs of most of the folks in the class.  But she came ill-prepared, started the class late, and rushed through the three classes that were required for beginners.  (I forgot what they were called.)  I learned more from the website and reading the material on my own.  And most importantly, I repeat, I did not lose weight.

What happened is not pretty.  Since then I gained at least seven pounds.  The good news is I can still fit into most of my clothes but holding my breath to zip a pair of jeans is not what I call a fun time.  Therefore, I’m back where I started a year ago: needing to lose weight.  This time, I’m going to start where I did in 2009 when I lost 20 pounds in nine months.  I counted calories.

I have this neat app on my smartphone that is called MyFitnessPal.  Unlike the Weight Watchers app, I have not figured out how to add calories not in their data bank, but so far it is working well.  I know I need to eat 1200 or less calories a day and that is my goal.  I also know that I have to avoid sweets and chips, both hard to do in my case.  A couple of small glasses of red wine in the evening will do no harm, as long as I count the calories.

You may wonder what prompted this next phase of weight loss.  Maybe the “mother-of-the-groom” dress I need to wear in April or my high school class reunion in May or a beach trip with the grandchildren in June?  Who knows?  More than likely it was a gut feeling that my body is not right when I’m over weight.  Ernest Holmes wrote, “Learn to trust life…and prepare not to die, but to live.”  For me that means I need to stop doing things (like eating the wrong foods) that harm me and begin eating healthy foods that help me to live.

I inherited an Ankh Egyptian cross from my mother when she passed away.  Ankh Egyptian CrossIt is heavy and large but she wore it with pride, hanging around her neck as she dressed in beautiful turtleneck sweaters.  Known as the key of life, it represents the concept of eternal life.  I like to take the cross out from time to time and remark on its beauty and remind myself of its symbolism.  And although my mother is no longer with me, she lives eternally in my heart, young and healthy.

My body may ebb and flow, like the seasons, but I rejoice as I am reminded that I have the power to appreciate the path I am on; a path of endless self-expression and it is all Good.  This gift of life flows through me and I am blessed.

Happy New Year….Cheers to trusting life…., and Let the calorie counting begin!