Archives for October 2013

Guest Blogger: Comfort

Guest post by my daughter, Stefanie White, who soon will be starting her own blog on being a vegetarian in a relationship with a omnivore.

It may sound odd, but some of my fondest memories of childhood are from times I was sick.  Not the sick part, but what went along with being sick.  My mother is the ultimate caregiver – she is one of the most comforting people I have ever known.  Growing up, my mother’s cure-all for any physical or mental ailment was potato soup and hot toddies.  Of course, we had to wait until an appropriate age for the addition of bourbon to the toddies.  No matter how awful I felt, her potato soup could always work wonders.  In my mind, there isn’t anything the oozy, gooey cheesy wonderful-ness cannot solve.  As an adult who lives several states away from home, I feel deprived of my mother’s natural remedies whenever I get sick or down.

On October 16, 2013 life threw my family a real pickle (I can think of several other ways to describe this but I’m trying to keep this PG).  My mother and I started the day off laughing and enjoying our time together.  My boyfriend and I were in Kentucky for the week visiting friends and family.  Weeks in advance, we scheduled an appointment for one of our favorite mother-daughter activities: a manicure and pedicure.  After our day at the spa, we received a devastating phone call.  My stepfather had passed away while visiting South Carolina.  Nothing prepares you for having to tell a loved one that their spouse has just passed away.

During the days that followed, I tried my best to find ways to comfort and support my mother.  After the visitation and funeral passed, I struggled to find ways to comfort her.  I asked myself what would she do if I were hurting inside.  One idea finally occurred to me.  Fix a big pot of potato soup.

This may sound like an easy task, but I faced several challenges.  Although I’ve been vegetarian for several years, for the past year and half I’ve been enjoying a vegan diet.  My aunt was also staying with us.  My Aunt Diane grew up on veggies, but for the past 40+ years has mainly been fixing a traditional Southern diet for my uncle.  The third challenge was that my mother had stopped eating potato soup years ago because it gave her indigestion.  Despite these challenges, I still felt I needed to make an attempt.

potato soup

I’m not the best at creating precise recipes but here is a general recipe I came up with.  The next time I fix the soup, I’ll update this blog.

Vegan Potato Soup

Step 1: Put on a really cute apron.  No matter how crappy of a day it is, a cute apron always puts a smile on my face.

Step 2: Saute until soft 2 cleaned and sliced leeks in 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Step 3: Wash and thinly slice 3 Yukon gold potatoes 3 Red potatoes.

Step 4.  Add enough veggie broth to barely cover the potatoes.  My favorite broth is Imagine No-Chicken Broth.  Next add: 1 teaspoon dried parsley; 2 tablespoons of dried mushrooms (I dampened then diced several dried morel mushrooms); 1/2 cup nutritional yeast; and salt and pepper to taste.

Step 5.  Boil until the potatoes are soft.  Do not cover the soup, because you want some of the liquid to evaporate.

Step 6.  Add 1 cup of Coconut Non-Dairy Creamer (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like coconut)  Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Step 7.  Open a bottle of wine and let the yummy vegan soup comfort you.

BTW: No indigestion from anyone with the vegan version of this soup.  If you’re wondering about her hot toddy recipe, don’t worry.  When she’s up to it I’m sure we can ask her to share it.




Day 9 – Gettin’ Zzz’s

Functioning without adequate sleep is stressful.  So, I’m assuming that getting enough sleep is one of the requirements of de-stressing.  I don’t have a good handle on this sleep thing.  I think I’m sleeping fairly well these days, but then out of the blue — a night of elusive sleep.sleep blogHere’s what I know will keep me awake:

  • Caffeine in the evening.
  • Watching a thriller type show before bed, and for me it doesn’t take much to be a thriller.
  • Getting sleepy and forcing myself to stay awake longer.
  • Any confrontations before bed — best just not to talk to me.
  • Knowing that I need to be up early the next day, and trying to force  myself to sleep quickly.
  • Working right up to bedtime.
  • A hot shower right before bed.
  • A barometric pressure change.
  • Having a nap during the day.
  • Worry.
  • Light.
  • Noise.

And here’s what I know helps me to fall asleep:

  • A warm, relaxing bath before bed
  • Reading a short inspirational reading before bed, or reading a semi-boring book.
  • About an hour of calm before bed.
  • An overdose of carbohydrates — obviously not a good choice.
  • Knowing that I can sleep in the next day.

Sleeping shouldn’t be this complicated!  Ever wonder why they call it, fall asleep?  Just what takes you from one state to another?  I’ve never been one of those lucky people who get into bed, and no matter what the conditions, they are immediately are asleep.  Clearing my mind and paying attention to my above lists seem to be the most reliable way for me to cross from awake to asleep.  Yet, even after all these years, I don’t have the process of passing from one state to the other down pat.

What are your tips for good sleep?

Mind on my Brain – or – Brain on my Mind

Day 7 of BlogtoberFest and 31 Days.  Obviously, day 5 and 6 are missing.  Everyday is just too much blogging for me, and probably too much reading for you.  Yes!  As a public service, I’m saving you from excessive blog chatter.

On to minds and brains, which does have something to do with stress reduction.  I’m not being chased by lions; there is no “thing” out there to cause me stress.  Yet, my body continues to respond as if that were indeed what was happening.  My cortisol overload is coming from my mind, from my thoughts.  mind blogThe mind and the brain have always intrigued me.   When I was a philosophy student a zillion years ago, Immanuel Kant was my hero.  Kant believed that time and space are constraints that we put on our perceptions rather than being something outside of us.  Of course, this is a simplification;  after all, it took him volumes to say it.  Never the less,  it gave me a starting point for understanding.

This interest was peaked again a couple of years ago by a TED Talk by a neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who had a stroke.  If you haven’t seen this, and I know it’s 20 minutes long, it really is worth it.  She’s funny, too.  Since watching it, I have read her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey several times.  I read it again this summer, and now it seems that every book I pick up has to do with brains and thoughts.  You’ll be hearing more about this gray matter.

Would love to hear what you think of Dr. Taylor’s TED talk, and if it gives you pause for thought.  It’s on YouTube here and has been viewed over 2.5 million times.

Day 4 – Massage

Yes, massage relaxes me.  No question about it. massage blog

A monthly massage is  a splurge that I give myself.  Although, I consider it not a splurge but rather a medical necessity.  I found the most wonderful massage therapist about three years ago.  Selfish of me, but I’m not giving you her name, since she already stays booked months ahead.  I often think that finding her is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to me.  She, however, probably doesn’t think the same of me.  She is amazed by my continually tight muscles.  It seems that some people improve over time.

In addition to short periods of relaxed muscles, she has also re-introduced me to scent.  A zillion years ago, I gave up everything scented.  It seemed that any scent aggravated my allergies.  On my first visit, she had me sniff about six unidentified bottles and then choose one.  Bergamot.  Never heard of it.  But over the next year, every visit I went through the same sniffing process.  I was determined to pick something different.  Every time, Bergamot.  Believe it or not, in some ways, I don’t even like Bergamot.  Now, I’m experimenting with essential oils myself.  I ordered several bottles, including Bergamot, of course.  My friend, Rachel, has an online store and she knows her essential oils.  Wonder if I can sniff my way to relaxation.

If I could afford (time and money) to have a massage a couple of hours every day, then I think my cortisol levels would come down.  Bliss.  Or who knows, maybe I would tire of it.  How much massage is too much?

Day 3 – Stress-Reduction CD

Another day, another tactic.  I know at this point that sitting on a cushion and clearing my mind isn’t going to work.  There is just too much chatter.  Today I  listened to a stress-reduction CD.  Brian Weiss, MD has a little book on Amazon with lots of stars, Eliminating Stress, Finding Inner Peace which has with it a CD.  The book is a basic summary of the nature of stress.  Most of the reviews say that the best thing about the book is the CD that comes with it.meditation blog

Sitting at my desk in the early afternoon, I listened to the 33 minute CD.  Dr. Weiss’ voice was clear and very soothing.  It was easy to listen.  Occasionally, a bit of chatter would find its way in, but I tried to focus on his words.  After about 5-10 minutes, the CD was over.  Where did the other 25 minutes or so go?  Hmm.  I do feel refreshed and very mellow.  A little too mellow for the work ahead of me this afternoon.  If I can figure it out, I’m going to put it on my iPhone (without the zillion other songs in iTunes).  I want to listen to it lying in bed instead of sitting in an office chair.

The book includes a CD transcript.  But, I think I’ll stay in suspense about the other 25 minutes, and listen to it a couple more times before I read it.  Surely, I can trust Dr. Weiss; after all, he has been on Oprah.

As a side note, both dogs are sound asleep and appear to be totally stress-free.