Two pups on a journey

Bandit and Mama Bear

Last years vacation

My dogs, Mama Bear and Bandit, love a trip.  Every walk is an adventure for them already.  So when we leave out tonight on our long car ride to Michigan, they will think of it as an exploration…a journey…a mission.  I have taken the same route for the past few years with them.  Do they remember the smells at the stops along the way?  Is it a memory for them or is each trip unique…new smells, new discoveries.

These two beautiful dogs of mine have been on an adventure their whole lives.  They were both rescued by Animal Rescue New Orleans separately after Hurricane Katrina.  Bandit was running around Harahan…the Hound of Harahan they called him.  He was first seen as pup, I believe, with his mom and siblings and was separated from the group and then on his own.  Apparently as a feral dog, although fearing humans, he was fed quite well by restaurants, bars and an older woman, Miss Sue, who left him ground beef and rice.  Mama Bear however had a tough little life, also a feral dog she wandered the streets battered and bruised with her 2 puppies and was eventually found by a group of boys from out-of-town (many people came to rescue and rebuild after Katrina) under a house with her pups scared to death.  ARNO found a home for Mama Bear’s puppies together at a home out-of-state.  This is where Mama Bear and Bandit met….two lonely, frightened feral dogs, rescued by humans and not knowing what all this meant.

Good things happened though…Bandit and Mama Bear became buddies…friends…or I call them soul mates.  If you never have believed in soul mates, the moment you spent time with them you would believe.  These two were ARNO’s first feral rescues and the love they showed these dogs is almost impossible to describe.  They domesticated them and cared for them like they were their own children and no home would be good enough for either of them.  Until I came along.  Three years ago I lost my dog, Molly.  I was devastated, but to know and love Molly, would be to know you could pass on love to another animal…she made it easy, the angel she was.  About a month later I went to ARNO just to see.  I walked a few dogs and played with them then they brought out Bandit to me.  One ear up and one ear down…he was quiet, kind of sad and extremely sweet…and he came home with me.  We became buddies.  He took well to my cats (another story of course). And then we moved.  A bigger house with a yard in New Orleans.  I had wanted a yard again for Molly, but now Bandit would get that yard and I was so excited…he needed this!  He loved the house, found a chair to lay in and he was happy.

But, he was sad when I left for work…he cried.  My neighbor told me he cried all day.  I felt so bad for him, but what could I do?  Well, a few weeks before Christmas I was on Facebook and happen to see a little letter about Mama Bear…she was still at the shelter and needed her forever home and then it said she was so sad and lonely because she missed her friend Bandit.  I cried…sobbed.  She can’t be alone…that’s why Bandit was crying…he missed her too.  I replied to the email on the post and asked if I could adopt Mama Bear.  Now I had everyone at ARNO crying…this was HUGE!  This was their dream and a Christmas gift.  So I took Bandit the next day to the shelter to get his girl.  Wow…happiness!  Everyone was there to see these soul mates ride off in the sunset together.

They are inseparable!  They are so happy together and they make me happy too.  There is nothing sweeter than to be on one of our many walks and see Mama Bear reach over and give her Bandit a kiss.  It always makes me smile.  They really love each other.

That is why our trips, our journeys are so special…every walk is special.  And when we go to Michigan, people say “You are driving all that way by yourself?”…No, I have Bandit and Mama Bear with me…we are off on our big adventure.

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It Really is the Best Medicine

The laughing fit was today.  My friend and co-worker was reading an article online to us about pick-up lines and he started laughing…laughing so hard he couldn’t speak to tell us what was even funny!  Apparently Steve Martin came to his mind as the “Wild and Crazy Guy” back in the old Saturday Night Live days.  The laughing fit went on so long that all 4 of us were cracking up!  It’s infectious…when you hear someone laughing genuinely hard; it is automatic you will laugh along with them.

This reminded me of my mom.  Now just to go back, she was in the hospital battling leukemia in a hospital in Toronto and the one thing that makes me smile still about that whole sad situation was a time we walked in to visit her and she was laughing so hard with her roommate about something silly…and she always used the line “laughing so hard I’ll pee my pants!”.  They couldn’t even remember what they were laughing about that was so funny…tears of joy!  It was so good to see her laugh…you could see it made her feel better.

Again a wonderful memory.  My dad was the epitome of a fun time.  He created the definition of laughter…he loved to laugh and to make everyone around him do the same.  He mastered it.  For anyone who remembers him, the memory will always include something funny he did or said…and whoever tells the story will inevitably start laughing.  I can think of too many right now!

From one moment to another, it reminded me that laughter really is the best medicine. It’s infectious, contagious…and priceless. When you share your laughter you can make a whole room happy if even just for a few moments.  It enhances relationships between friends or couples.  Your fondest memories quite often include laughing. Or maybe you look at a friend and that one look brings back something so funny you bust out with laughter. It lightens the load from your shoulders, keeps you grounded, improves a bad mood, decreases stress, relaxes your muscles…and it’s free medicine.

So laugh at yourself, laugh with friends…that good ole belly laugh, laugh so hard it hurts, the embarrass yourself giggle, the face turns red and you start crying kind, laugh so hard while you are drinking it comes out your nose, laugh so hard no sound is coming out, laugh so hard you squeeze your eyes shut while shaking your head, laugh so hard it gives you a cramp in your side…and laugh so hard you gotta pee your pants! Giggle, chortle, chuckle, howl, guffaw.

The best part of it is looking back on the moment, if it doesn’t at least make you laugh again, it will bring a smile to your face.  Ahh I feel better now!

And I’m Feeling Good

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

The fear of change is very real, but all it takes is believing in yourself and the movement of one step forward.  What do you have to lose? Even if you tell yourself you can’t make a change, you have to think past that; think past the heart pounding or the lump in your throat and just move forward.  Every time you make a decision to do something that makes you feel better about yourself or makes a beneficial change in your life, your whole experience will be great.

When you stick to your health and fitness goals the change may take a while but great things happen to you.  I am often asked about my change and my experience.  The first step was the decision to make the change in my life and these are the wonderful things that happened to me.

The first time I was able to buy a smaller clothing size.

Learning how to weight train properly and then managing my own training routine.

Deciding to eat clean and feeling proud of the change in how I felt and then quickly losing weight.

Meeting my first goal of losing 25 lbs.

The time I could fit in my skinny clothes, which were a size 4.

Reaching my next goal of losing 35 lbs and feeling confident and hungry for more.

The time I went to buy a pair of jeans and it was a size 0 and so happy I told everyone about it, even the girl at the store!

Going to a different store and verifying it really was a size 0.

The feeling that I could do anything!

Bringing all my former skinny clothes to the Salvation Army.

Noticing some muscle definition.

Reaching my next goal of 40 lbs lost.

Changing my eating and living plan again, deciding it is a life change to give up sugar, processed foods and grains.

Losing 2 more pounds for a total of 42 lbs and 2 more inches off my waist!

Being able to lift heavier weights easier.

Actually having muscle definition in my arms and legs and noticing stomach muscles for once in my life!

And others noticing too!

Being able to do 2 semi-assisted pull-ups.

At 44 years old I now look younger and feel 20 years younger.

Feeling super confident, sexy, healthy and alive!

I made the decision to step forward and change my life; to nourish myself and my well-being and I don’t mind patting myself on the back because I feel good!  And if you are looking to make that change…go ahead give yourself the push to take that step!

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.” ― Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol in His Own Words

A Day of Cooking for Eating on the Road

I’ve been very busy preparing for my road trip home this week.  By eating Paleo, I will not stop at a fast food place along the way, besides I just want to drive and get there, so I will pre-make food to eat along the way.  It’s approximately 17 hours and I always want to eat when I drive… chewing keeps you awake.

First up was pumpkin pancakes and chocolate banana pancakes.  You can see my so-called recipe on my Breakfast post a few days ago.  I still don’t have a set recipe, so for those who asked or those who wish to make it, you will need to adjust the wet and dry ingredients.  And just to advise you they are not sweet and not meant to be (no sugar, right?…has anyone conformed yet!?).  Anyway  ingredients include organic canned pumpkin, eggs, unsweetended almond or coconut milk, coconut oil, almond butter, cinnamon, spinach, flax seed, baking powder,almond and coconut flour (this is not flour, it’s just ground product and nothing else…no grains!).  For the chocolate banana, I used 3 bananas and about a half cup of pure cocoa powder (which tastes awful alone).  Cook them in coconut oil and top off with some fresh chopped fruit…Yum!  I only eat 2 because they are very filling.  Although I can’t heat them unless I stop at a truck stop, they will be great right out of the cooler

Second thing I made was turkey sausage meatballs, which are so simple to make and also the recipe is on my Breakfast post.  A pound with the other ingredients makes 16 meatballs.  I can have 4 of those and a couple hard-boiled eggs and some veggies.

For later in the day I will have a grass-fed burger or a chicken breast and some veggies.  Again eating chilled or car temp, but I like it anyway.  Cavewoman eating 🙂

Paleo beef jerky

Last up, the best part was for the first time I made beef jerky!  I used the recipe from the Latest in Paleo site and I attached the link to the recipe.  A friend of mine made it last week and I loved it and Ithought it would be a perfect snack for the road trip.  It turned out awesome except I added maybe a little too much cayenne.  And by Louisiana standards that means eyes are watering and must drink a bottle of water after consuming (maybe I should put that on the bag).  I have found a wonderful butcher, Emmett’s close to work.  He carries only grass-fed beef…actually all his meats are great quality and he’s honest if it’s not the quality I am looking for.  And Emmett is personable…gives you that old style butcher quality.  He cut the London Broil for me, 3lbs worth; cutting it the way he makes his jerky.  Next time I will ask him to go a tad thicker on the cut…just a preference.  The big part that was different from the recipe is I did it in an oven on the lowest heat…except my oven is about 80 years old and well, the numbers aren’t really there anymore and the lowest number I could see was 250 degrees so I guessed at the temp to be about 170 or so. Without a dehydrator I lined the cookie sheets with foil and laid out the meat not overlaying so it dries evenly.  Set a timer in case you are distracted.  Put the trays in on different levels.  Depending on the thickness it will take 4-5 hours.  Four hours later a big, well not that big batch of beef jerky.  I found out that 3lbs of meat when dried looks like about a half a pound! It’s a great, easy, healthy recipe if you want to try it.  Only other thing I wish I would have done was make some plain ones for the pups, but I have their treats ready for the road anyway.

Latest in Paleo beef jerky recipe

Another thing that helped me out in my food preparation and an item I will get a lot of use out of is a handheld Foodsaver.  It vacuum packs your food so it freezes better with no freezer burn and helps store better keeping it fresher longer.  It was only $20 plus the bags…this is compared to the machines, which are $80 to $130 and too far out of my price range.  If you portion food like I do it’s a great item to buy.

My new Foodsaver kitchen toy

Anyway, food is ready.  Time to pack!

Find Yourself, Live Now, Find Happiness

I have invited a dear friend as a guest blogger.  She says we were sisters in a prior life and I also believe this is true…

As a society we spend so much time making lists, adding to and crossing off, that we never live for NOW. I told my Mom just today to stop worrying about when she will be able to go home, (she is staying with me until after her foot surgery at MD Anderson for melanoma), just enjoy being HERE. As Westerners we have been indulged with belongings and an extreme sense of urgency. We worry now for tomorrow, we worry now for next week, and we always want to be somewhere other than where we are now. We have done this our entire lives; we raise our children that way. We do not know how to experience NOW.  We spend lots of time preparing for things and then when the time comes we have no idea how to enjoy the moment, we are on to the next worry of the day.

I am that person that Pogirl discussed with a life of frustration, stress and anxiety. This has caused health problems and exhaustion.  I went to the Dharma Center for meditation, to de-stress and to find a center.

Religion has never made much sense to me and Eastern philosophy answers my questions in a way that I can understand and believe. “Blind Faith” is just not in me.

To make sense of it all, I have resigned myself to the scientific belief that energy is neither created nor destroyed and I believe our soul is energy. I am not trying to say there is no Creator, because I believe there is, but I do have trouble believing in the “all seeing, all knowing” Creator that allows such evil and suffering in the world.

At the Dharma Center and with Buddhism in general they teach you to live in the NOW. Experience NOW, Live NOW, Love NOW and learn to just BE.  Don’t spend your life waiting anxiously for what is next.  It only causes anxiety and stress.  Live Now and Know You! That is what I am finding to be the path to happiness.

Rebekah (aka Rebel)

Sleep is Calling My Name…

My eyes are half closed so this will be a quick post. I am on call this week for work…my duty. It requires about 70 hours in the office plus weekends, phone calls out of the office and waking up at 0345 each morning. Even though my personal time is shortened by about 3-4 hours each day during this week, that doesn’t mean I skip any workouts. I try to keep them to an hour and work as hard as I can. Of course add in time for the dogs and cats, preparing meals, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, maybe some time for artwork and of course blogging…this leads to less sleep and one tired chick.  But you know what does not get done? Housecleaning. Screw it!  It’s not high on my list when my time is so valuable.  There is no choosing between “me” time and mopping floors.  That kind of stuff in your life won’t vanish…it will still be there when you are ready to tackle it.

Lesson:  do what’s important in your life first, keep your obligations, minimize chaos, keep time for yourself, and please don’t worry about cleaning the damn house! Oh and sleep. I just turned on my nature sounds app.

Peaceful.  Sweet dreams.

Focus ~ Desire ~ Dedication ~ MOTIVATION

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I read motivational quotes for fitness and life; absorb them and live them.  I watch motivational videos to keep me going.  I try to inspire others.

There are no excuses for me anymore.  I have FOCUS, DESIRE and DEDICATION and it’s all from the motivation to reach my goals, and the next goal after, and my future goals.  From the moment I stepped in the gym one and a half years ago I told myself I would press on…you can do this Denise…I can move through the pain…I can lift heavier weights…I can lose weight…I can be healthy…I can be stronger.  The “I can” led to “I will” then “I AM”.  I FOCUS on HAPPINESS.

Motivation is a very powerful word.  If you don’t have it in any aspect of your life then you cannot succeed.  If you want to succeed then find pictures, videos, quotes, anything to get you to focus on your goals…talk to someone you know who will keep you motivated.  Make sure you have goals set and stick to them.  Write down your goes and put them where you can see them…on your desktop, on your mirror, on your fridge.  Know you CAN and WILL reach your goals.  You are the ONLY person who will make it happen so plan to keep yourself MOTIVATED.  YOU CREATE your desire and your dedication.  You have NO EXCUSES!

I have been watching this video for about a year now.  For a long time I watched on my phone as soon as I got to the gym along with a couple other videos.  The words and the are motivating enough and the workout aspect makes you strive to do more, but the video of Brock Mealer working to reach his goal to walk is very inspiring and he can’t help but to motivate you.  Doctors told him he wouldn’t walk again, maybe a 1% chance.  He was in a automobile accident on Christmas Eve with his family that killed his father and his brother’s girlfriend and left him confined to a wheelchair.  With the encouragement of his mother and brother, a Michigan football player, and the motivation to walk, he sought the help of the strength and conditioning staff at the University of Michigan. His goal was to walk out on the football field for the first game touch the banner that many Victors had before him.   You can read the story, but watch this video. That, my friends, is motivation and determination.

Not the Same ‘Ole Breakfast

I love breakfast…a good Cavewoman breakfast! I think it should be a good hearty meal that puts fuel in my body to start my day. It gives me energy, not the kind of meal that makes you want to nap. So are you tired of the usual or ready to take the white-knuckled hold off that cereal box?  Think outside that box and eat some great tasting food that can keep you full until lunch.  On the weekdays I eat when I get to work, dragging out my containers of food.  Inevitably everyday someone makes a comment about my food…”Smells great”, “You’re eating dinner for breakfast?” and my favorite “You’re really going to eat all that!”.  The food you put in your body should be thoughtfully made and it should make you feel great.  And they should be easy.  When I plan a breakfast I usually make a few to several servings to save me time for the rest of the week.  I do the same for my lunches or when I need a quick nutrient dense meal after my workout.

I won’t put calories, or fat content, or carb content for any of my recipes.  Know the portion size you need or desire.  It’s just me and I’m on a budget so when I get home from the grocery I portion the meat in 4, 6 or 8 oz and freeze. (Next purchase is one of those vacuum pack Foodsavers).  Also, on this way of eating I eat good-sized portions of food and I am full.  Since I do not eat sugar, processed foods, grains, soy or legumes this leaves the door wide open on how much I can eat.

Here are some of my favorites and as I continue to create more or find some good ones online I will post:

Breakfast “sausage” meatballs with 2 hard-boiled eggs and broccoli

This was today’s breakfast:Turkey Sausage Meatballs with eggs and broccoli

To make the meatballs:

1 lb of ground turkey or ground pork or a combo

2 eggs (free range)

4 tbsp-approx course ground flax-seed (no breadcrumbs!)

4 good shakes of cayenne

4 good shakes of tumeric (optional

4 good shakes of sea salt or kosher salt

garlic powder, onion powder and poultry seasoning – a good amount of each

Make into meatballs and fry in unrefined coconut oil.  This makes 16 meatballs.  You can freeze them or keep them for the next few days.  Partially cook your broccoli so you can just reheat.  Top with some grass-fed butter.  And 2 hard-boiled eggs.  I usually make 8 or 10 to have available for the next 2-3 days for meals and snacks.

Other breakfast ideas:

  • Sweet Potato patty topped with bacon and a fried egg, fried in the bacon grease or coconut oil.  Season the mashed sweet potato with cinnamon, chili powder, cumin, salt & cayenne then form in a patty and fried up in the bacon oil or coconut oil. Don’t forget some veggies.
  • Green Eggs and Ham: chop spinach, broccoli, green onions, salt and pepper, saute then scramble in 2 free range eggs.  Serve over a ham steak or slices of good ham (low sodium, not processed) – homemade pesto would be great also if time and ingredients permit.
  • Pulled pork cooked with diced apples, onions and garlic and served with vegetables and top with some walnuts.  Crock pot the pork so you have quite a few meals.
  • Sweet potato hash from Everyday Paleo and she has a lot of great recipes especially if you have kids.  Here is the recipe http://everydaypaleo.com/2010/09/25/baa-baa-breakfast/ very simple and you can use it a variety of ways.  Looks like a good snack too.
  • Another one I like from Everyday Paleo is the Paleo Apple Muffin recipe.  Have one with 2 pieces of low sodium/low or no sugar bacon and a fried egg. http://everydaypaleo.com/2010/07/07/server-problem-solved-and-paleo-apple-muffins/
  • Grass-fed beef burger or steak topped with sautéed spinach and mushrooms and an egg.  Cook the egg any you want.
  • Chili with spinach and avocado recipe:

 Saute 1 chopped onion, 6-8 garlic, 1 chopped red bell pepper, Anaheim or jalapeno pepper, celery in coconut oil and put in crock pot.

Add to crock pot approx 3lb grass-fed beef roast.

Add 8-10 sliced mushrooms and 2 tomatoes diced

Season well with chili powder (lots), cumin (lots), sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, onion powder

Let cook overnight and it will make you about 12 servings

Serve hot over spinach and topped with sliced avocado and or a fried egg.

  • Chicken breast topped with an egg, avocado and vegetable (fried or poached) – hint for egg in a microwave: grease a ramekin and carefully break an egg inside and microwave for 20 seconds
  • Muffin Eggs – many recipes online, but basically grease muffin tins well, season and cook some beef or bacon or turkey and chop some vegetables and place in the tins.  Pour beaten eggs overtop the meat and veggie mixture almost to the top and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degree oven.
  • Pumpkin pancakes (or banana) recipe – I am still playing with this recipe, but here is the approximate recipe and work with it and it will be good

Makes approx 18-20 pancakes and they freeze well to take out when needed:

3 cups of almond flour or coconut flour or a combination

7 or 8 whole free range eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened peanut or almond butter (any nut butter)

1 can organic pumpkin or 2 bananas mashed

3 tbsp organic unrefined coconut oil

3 tbsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk or 1 can organic full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup ground flax-seed

3 handfuls fresh spinach

1/2 tsp salt

Put all the ingredients in a blender until it’s pancake batter consistency.  Adjust with wet or dry ingredients.  Refrigerate for about 30 min to set.   With coconut oil heated in your pan, drop by 1/4 cup full into hot oil and flip as you would a pancake.  They are not big, but 2 or 3 will fill you up.  Top with a tablespoon of organic unsweetened apple sauce or diced apple or any seasonal fruit and a couple of pieces of bacon.

There is many more recipes you can find online or just be creative.  Basically breakfast doesn’t have to be what you think it should be…just use real whole ingredients, plan and cook ahead when you can, make it satisfying and most of all enjoy your food!

If you have any good ideas for breakfast that would follow this plan, please let us know!

Pink-Slime Chicken and Cheese in a Tube Anyone?

This may be shocking to many of you, but much of what is consumed in today’s diets is just edible food-like substances that passes itself off as food.  It is stuff that your great-grandmother would scratch her head trying to decipher what the 15 ingredients are on the label or hell, food was actually food in her day so they didn’t have labels and warnings!

Do you accept that because of the outside of the box (the marketing ploy) tells you the content is “healthy”, “nutrient-rich”, “low-fat”, “diet”, or “gluten-free” then it must be true?  It has a picture of a skinny person on it that it will make you thin? That these people really care about your health?  Surprise, surprise…they don’t and it’s not true.  We have all believed the scam and by now you know I have done my research and none of the crap they tell us is true; it is not good for us. Hell a lot of that food won’t even go bad even if you haven’t touched it for months!  Example…I threw out an open bag of shredded cheese a few weeks ago that had been opened a few months prior and the crap did not have a speck of mold on it.  In fact still smelled and looked fresh as the day it was purchased. (I use the word “fresh” lightly”) What the hell did they put in it to make it stay that way?  Maybe this is another way of telling you don’t eat food that won’t rot!

Eat the way we humans were designed to eat, eat Real Food.  Don’t be part of a science experiment. Nearly all foods that are processed contain some kind of ingredient in it that has had its “DNA” interfered with by scientists,  I’ve heard it called “Franken-foods” (great name) – tested in labs and determined “good” for you and your family.  Scary. Whether you call it Franken-foods or Synthetic-snacks, they are filled with crap you can’t even pronounce and sadly people are buying it and injesting in huge quantities daily. There is plenty of facts documenting the hazards on health of this so-called food.  Some of the items in these fake foods your doctor may even tell you will cure you…like whole grain (that’s a whole other blog post).  There is Potted Meat in a Can…gives me the shivers to think about it. And I saw yogurt in a tube. I guess the containers are too cumbersome. What’s next, Pizza in a can? Or how about chocolate chip pancakes, syrup and breakfast sausage in a tube? (oh I don’t know those could be on a shelf now)……just squeeze it in the pan and fry in some plastic margarine that apparently cures heart disease.  And processed food can look totally normal…look at the ingredients in pretty much every cereal and granola bar…pretty soon you will hear “Clean Up on the Diabetes Aisle”. Take a look at any “diet” food.  They replaced the ingredients, which they think you shouldn’t have, with more mystery ingredients and names that are otherwise known as sugar just to take calories out. Well, people buy this stuff, then go to the doctor, who gives you drugs to take.  Then what…statin drugs, insulin reducers, and blood pressure meds in your food? That vicious cycle is possible if you keep buying into it. The fact is that companies come up with these crazy ideas and people actually buy them.  And I am all about making money, but come on!  Think about what you put in your body.  The old saying “you are what you eat” really is a true statement.

Next time you are at your box grocery store, take a look in some of the carts and see what is in them, then look at the people.  Astonishing right? Now…take a look at your cart.

Real food is my rule.

Here is a video from George Carlin on food.  Boy, not only was he hilarious, he had the most clever and honest way of putting our real life situations.  If you are offended by cuss words then don’t watch.  Enjoy!

A Night of Meditation

I had a whole other post idea for tonight, but then I meditated and well, that seemed more important right now.

A friend of mine badly wanted to clear out her mind, body and soul.  Stress was pushing it’s limits on her well being.  We all know that feeling too well.  She suggested going to the Blue Iris Zen Sangha over on the Westbank to learn about meditation. I was skeptical since I am not a religious person, and didn’t want to chant, but we checked it out and it was all about meditation.

I had previously meditated some on my own with an iPhone app and pretty much fell asleep when I did it.  You are not in a sleep state I learned, but that is the peacefulness of meditation.  With that in mind I was excited to learn more.

It’s not flashy, but very humble.  A Zen garden with dogs and a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, whom we talked to for a few minutes and learned of his travels.  I could tell my friend’s husband was fascinated with the Monk, I mean you just want to ask him so many questions and the Monk is a man who just wishes to pass on his teachings.  Next we went to the meditation temple, pillows lined up on the floor.  It was a thoughtful setting, not formal and the 14 or so people there were the same.  The three of us were the new ones in the group.  You sit relaxed and they have an open talk of a Buddhist discussion for the week.  Tonight was about Impermanence.  A pretty griping subject considering I’ve changed so much in my life and have taken the good and bad away every time.  I think all three of us wanted to speak or shout out in agreement with everyone who spoke, but we were wide-eyed and concentrating.  The one thing I got out of it is the only thing that is truly permanent is change, therefore life cannot continue without impermanence.

Then it was the meditation.  There are two 20 minute cycles of complete silence with a stretch walk in between.  Concentrate on your breathing; little or no movement.  This is the peace and tranquility time.  I think I can speak for all of us that we really felt it…I know I got there to that deep meditative point if just for a few minutes and it felt great.  When it’s over it just feels like all the craziness in life washes away from you.

Lets just say I went there with a very busy mind and left in total peace.  Quiet all the way home.

This is a portion of the Four Takes on Impermanence:

“If we are not empty, we become a block of matter.

We cannot breathe, we cannot think.

To be empty means to be alive, to breathe in and to breathe out.

We cannot be alive if we are not empty.

Emptiness is impermanence, it is change.

We should not complain about impermanence, because without impermanence, nothing is possible.”

-Thich  Nhat Hanh

Finding Inspiration in the Spirit of Another

“I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

Walking through the French Quarter today…taking in the beauty, history, antiques, voodoo shops and art galleries.  I was looking for my weekly inspiration and the French Quarter is spectacular for that once you walk away from the crowds and focus on the creative energy, which is all around you.

Kalle Siekkinen

I had thought about blogging about other local artists I love and today I discovered a new artist, Kalle Siekkinen, and his mentor William Hemmerling, who passed away 3 years ago.  Mr. Hemmerling had a kind soul, a true artist by nature.  I had seen him a few times at Jazz Fest and really enjoyed talking to him about his work.  He painted folk art; the kind of folk art that grips you, gives the viewer meaning.  You see, Bill Hemmerling did not start his art career until he was 60 years old and had no formal training, other than working for Sears creating interior displays.  Even without a formal art background, his mind saw intensly beautiful people and situations that is obviously expressed in his art.

On the day Bill Hemmerling died,  Kalle Siekkinen found himself as the artist…as almost a reincarnation of his dear friend Bill as he passed.  Once again, Kalle had no formal training. He learned from Bill; watched him paint and listened to his life stories.  That is how his love for art grew and since then he has created a beautiful and meaningful collection of art.  To look at his artwork is like Bill Hemmerling is part of his paint brush.  He is carrying on the soulful creativity.  Kalle says it best on his website, “I like to think that when I paint now, that Bill and I connect.  At least on some level.  Many times I can feel his presence while painting and often times I light a candle and welcome him onto my own canvas.

So if you are strolling through the French Quarter, stop by the gallery to view the artwork of Kalle Siekkinen and his mentor William Hemmerling at the Hemmerling Gallery of Southern Art at 733 Royal Street.

Oh and by the way I also received my creative inspiration from the both of them and their story today.  I am off to work on my painting…

Are You Leading a Positive Life?

“I am strong and persistent in reaching my goals”

“I am centered, calm and balanced.  I declare peace and harmony within me and around me.”

“I am ready to see my own life in new and exciting ways”

“I accept good health as my natural state.”

“Today I speak from a place of love and kindness to those around me.”

“I am confident, competent and strong.”

“I reach my dreams by taking one step at a time.”

“To accomplish great things I must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

“I am responsible for my life and always maintain the power I need to be positive and have joy”

Almost every day, one of my closest friends sends me a positive affirmation such as one from the list above.  We had made a pact to try to stay as positive as we can and surround ourselves with positive people and energy.  We are both trying to reach our own personal goals without negative intrusion from others or our own selves.  With so much negativity around us, not only does it spill into our own lives and attitudes, but can make us turn around and create the same in another person’s life.

We are the deciding factor in our lives of whether we are happy or not.  The moment we wake up in the morning we decide if it will be a good day; we choose to approach the day in a positive way.  Which do you choose when you start your day?

The toughest parts of life can consume us…make it hard to wake up in the morning and start another day.  A couple years ago my niece told me about a book by Louise Hay, “You Can Heal Your Life”.  I read it once and read it again focusing on the parts that pertained to me.  I cried when I realized what I was doing to myself; I was depleting myself of happiness day by day.  I learned to get rid of anxiety, be more positive…and take control of my life and my destiny.  Every day is still a learning challenge.  I wake up with postive affirmations and remind myself of them many times during the day.  I try as much as I can to remain in this favorable mood (a very difficult task sometimes) and steer clear from the negativity, in fact a couple times this week I walked away from it literally; cleared the head.  Surround yourself with positive people.  Is it worth it to keep the negative people in your life?  If you have no control over them, maybe it’s family or a co-worker, then like I said walk away when they cloud your day or better yet let them know. Focus on the positive, be strong and confident.  It’s up to you to be happy and live a well balanced life!

Besides repeating affirmations to yourself, a couple other things you can do to keep yourself positive:  say hello or good morning to people you see, be attentive to your moods, go for a walk or ride a bike to clear your head, meditate, work on a hobby,  look at the good in someone before the bad, listen to good music and oh, and how about smile!

Now how will you wake up tomorrow?  How about a good stretch and say, “Yep, I know it…today is going to be a good day!”

Not Just Another Friday the 13th in New Orleans

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From the time Drew Brees signed the first contract and became a Saint in 2006, he stood in the hearts of over a million people around Louisiana (and many displaced still at the time) whose souls, thus far, felt crushed after Hurricane Katrina.  He brought such a positive feeling to this city that he absolutely turned us right side up again! We wait for his motivational chant before every game and shout “Who Dat” as a hello greeting to those we meet on the street. We cried with joy the first game in the re-opening of the Dome in 2006.  Stunned, we cried again with joy when the Saints won the NFC Championship… “Pigs have flown, hell has frozen over” Jim Henderson exclaimed.  And we sobbed with such happiness and gratefulness  after the Superbowl win, watching our hero as he held his child up in the falling confetti of the celebration.  Then we cheered as a city and team when Drew broke the all-time passing record this past season.  Today again, people are celebrating in the streets of New Orleans…Black and Gold day once again! That euphoric feeling once again.  That feeling of hope again.

If you live in New Orleans you already know Drew Brees, our local hero, finally signed the contract.  He gives so much to our city that we know a big chunk of that money will come around to us.  From his charitable donations, opening businesses, supporting programs for the city, he and his wife living and raising their children in New Orleans, he is dedicating his life to New Orleans.  And we know it.  He is our neighbor and our hero.

Twitter and Facebook exploded! People are pulling out their Drew Brees jerseys…t-shirts around New Orleans will read “Team Drew”, “Praise Breesus”, “I’m Feeling a Cool Brees”and “Drew n ‘Em”.  We are ready for football.  We are ready for our leader of our team and our city to bring our spirits to another high.  We have faith. Finish Strong.

Because of Drew, we all want to be in that number When the Saints Go Marching In…again.

Who Dat!

Modern Day Cavewoman Eats Real Food

I am strong, lean, fast and healthy!  At least getting there by taking on the cavewoman approach.  I’m not a hunter and gatherer, but thankfully due to our modern world I can create my own cave world.  Of course I am a Po’Girl too so I’m having to learn to shop, cook and prepare meals that include the highest quality food I can afford.  My intention is to fill my body with healthy REAL FOOD!  This is not only for weight loss, to make you strong and lean, but to be healthy and to do everything I can to try and avoid heart disease, inflammatory diseases, diabetes and most cancers.

What do I eat?

  • grass-fed meats,
  • free-range chickens
  • free-range eggs
  • wild caught fish and shellfish
  • lots of vegetables including sweet potatoes and most tubor vegetables
  • fruit
  • nuts and all natural nut butters
  • good fats such as coconut, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, walnut, lard, grass-fed butter, fat from meat
  • Water is the drink of choice, organic tea, unsweetened almond or coconut milk, Kombucha when I can
  • rarely alcohol such as red wine, vodka, tequila (gotta drink in New Orleans sometimes!)
  • rarely dairy, but when I do it will be organic or raw and whole fat

What don’t I eat?

  • all grains…yes ALL grains, breads, cereal, oats
  • all processed food and all it’s toxins (pretty much anything that is packaged and has ingredients you can hardly pronounce)
  • all processed seed oils (Canola, vegetable, soy, corn etc.)
  • all soy products (all soy has pretty much been genetically modified)
  • all sugars (and it’s other names fructose, corn syrup, corn sweetener, sucrose, dextrose…anything that ends in “ose”
  • all of those “other sugars” such as pasta, potatoes, white breads
  • most dairy
  • legumes (beans)

Besides all the research, one of the first things I had to do was clear out the cupboards and fridge.  Wow, what a task, but I was so happy to do it.  Then I went to a few grocery stores and bought a bunch of the above mentioned Real Food items.  Sticker shock at first, but I went home unpacked and portioned out all this meat to make sure I got my full money’s worth out of it.  Since my first shopping day I have found Emmett’s Meat Market in Harahan, the Crescent City Farmer’s Market and Dewit’s Fruit and Veggie Stand on River Road that give me affordable quality choices.  The search goes on for more farmers and butchers.

Then the fun part, but the one that takes the most to manage: cooking, preparing and packing for the next days.  That is when the crockpot comes in handy too!  Boil a bunch of eggs.  Then get creative!

Mix the grass-fed ground beef with 1 egg, ground flax seed, garlic powder, sea salt and cayenne. Fry the bacon and use the bacon fat to saute the spinach and cook the burger.

Then to make the garlic mashed cauliflower:

So easy…use a steamer pot with water at the bottom.  Cut the cauliflower in chunks or florets and put in pan with 5 or 6 chopped garlic, salt well with sea salt or kosher salt and pepper.  Cover on and let steam until fork goes through very easy.  Put in a dish with about 2 tbsp of butter and mash with a fork.  A whole cauliflower makes about 4 servings.  So I had some for this meal tonight and breakfast tomorrow and the rest in the fridge for when I want some.

See, Cavewoman/caveman food looks delicious and it is because it’s Real Food made thoughtfully.  I make food that fuels my body; food I really enjoy.  The PoGirl way will keep it simple yet decadent and delicious.

I Don’t Have Time Again!!!

To me, my art is not a hobby, but a way of my life.

Or I wish it was a way of my life.  Good intentions.  I always have full intentions every night of finding time to paint, but I can rarely find time to dedicate to my art.  Why is that?  Is it really time or some kind of fear?  I’ve been working on one painting (albeit a large one) for quite a long time now and I have so many ideas of what piece to start next.  When I cannot find the time for my art, it has sometimes lead to tears; feelings of being overwhelmed.

I find I lead a very busy life.  I don’t even understand how people with children even manage to have time for other activities they love to do!  With travel time, work takes about 12 hours of my day and more when I am on-call and that’s average for people these days.  My fitness routine, which is not an option to give up takes up 1-2 hours 5 days a week, then there is cooking, taking care of my dogs and cats, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, getting in sufficient sleep…blah, blah, blah…we all have this routine.  I would also believe that most of us have a strong desire to do something they really love to do nightly or at least a few nights a week and only a handful of us actually get that time.  Do you really wish you had more time for your “hobby”, whether it’s artwork, writing, wood working, crafts, reading, gardening, cycling, hiking, sports?

These things we love to do are a large part of complete happiness, so I think it should be a priority, at least for me it is.  Am I willing to sacrifice something else going on in my life to accomplish this goal?  Are you?

Writing this, I have no solution right now, however I hope that you will leave a comment and tell me and everyone else how you make time to do the activity you love and make it a way of your life or what you may be willing to give up to reach this goal.  Or tell me if you are having the same problem.  Help me out!!

I would hope when I do get routine art time, I will have a blog post with ideas for everyone.

Now I am off to complete my nightly routine and maybe have time…well, maybe not tonight…maybe tomorrow?