Friday, April 29, 2011

What I Want Most


JK!
(FYI: net lingo for just kidding)
Blogging has been a good thing for me. Social media, although quite controversial in some circles, in general, has also been of great benefit to me these past two years. I've mentioned before, prior to becoming sick, I was probably one of the tallest on the box - the soap box, that is. I believed that time spent socializing on the internet was what people did when they - well, didn't have enough real stuff to do. Beyond email, once I left work, sitting in front of a computer screen was the last thing I wanted to do. I voiced my opinion rather self-righteously, I'm sure. That is another story.

Not only is blogging extremely beneficial  from a cognitive exercise point of view, but it has become a place of healing, both for me and for many of those that take a moment in their day to read what I write. Quite often my writing is inspired not only by my experiences, but by the books that I read. I'm sure, if you were to know what book I am reading, you might be able to take a pretty good stab at what's next on the docket for posting. And if you're my family, by the time you read the blog, you've heard the general idea more times than I'm sure you would wish for. That's all fine and dandy if you're my family, or if you are one of those tried and true that follows my every post. But what if you're not?

Because I have made my email public, many of you have chosen to write me directly rather than to post comments at the end of the blog. I do this primarily because quite often the conversations that arise are deeply personal. For me, and for you. And often times, it is during these conversations that I realize that not everyone is my family, not everyone is reading the same book I am reading, not everyone has been following my train of thought since day one - and so, sometimes, not everyone "gets" what I am trying to convey. I'm cool with that. I hope, by this point in the journey, I've learned a few lessons about pleasing everyone. But it does make me stop and think.

I AM
Tom Shadyac
I recently had the most AWESOME pleasure of experiencing the movie I AM. I say "experiencing" because this is not a movie  you "go and see" - you experience it. It's not actually a movie at all, it's a documentary. And right now, unfortunately, it is showing for limited times in theaters that feature primarily independent films. I saw it at the Uptown in Minneapolis, and not only did I experience the film, I met and spoke to the man that wrote and directed it, Tom Shadyac. I can not say enough good about this film. It's the first thing - actually a movement of sorts - that brings me great hope about the future of our planet. But I'm not going to take up space here trying to convince you of all the reasons you should go see this film - or buy it when it becomes available. What I want to relate, and what seems pertinent to what I am writing to you, is one of the questions that was asked of Mr. Shadyac in the Q&A following the film. The experience of this film leads you on a journey, that in the end, leaves you with an amazing gift. An awakening of sorts, that in it's simplicity, becomes  transcendental. And the viewer is left with the ardent desire to share what has been learned. So the question was asked, "How, without experiencing a life changing event like you have experienced, do we pass this message on and help our children to understand it?" 

I was very eager to hear Mr. Shadyac's response to this question. For one, we both experienced a life altering   event  - almost losing our lives. Two, this event has lead us down a very similar path spiritually and philosophically, with much in common in our "end result". And this end result, this gift, is so capacious, so transforming, so inspiring that the desire to give it away - to share it - consumes me with a tenacious persistence that I can not ignore. I have never wanted the people I love to have something so desperately.
But there is a legitimate question here. And this was his answer...

Live it.

So much of what the world hears, so much of what our children hear, comes from words spoken by a society more concerned with perception than with truth. And believe me, no one knows hypocrisy more than our children do. The disparity between what we say and what we do, even in it's most minute and camouflaged form, glares so brightly in the face of our youth that their only recourse is to turn away. It's a simple answer really. Gandhi knew it when he so eloquently said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Every day we make choices. Big ones, little ones and millions lie in between. And you vote - do I base this choice on perception or do I make a choice based on the truth that arises from experiencing life conscious and aware - awake to this moment - right here, right now. Hence, Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say,'Lo, here it is!' or 'There! for behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you." And we can not see that to which we are not awake to or conscious of. So busy, living our lives in the past or in the future. Waiting for life to happen. Live it.

It's funny, when Tom Shadyac set out to create this documentary, he wanted to answer the question, "What's wrong with our world." In the end, he found out everything that was right in this world. What changed? The world sure didn't. When I gave up my soapbox and found healing and comfort in the world wide web, what changed? The world wide web sure didn't. 

Our minds.
Me. 
I changed.

So I guess it's not so much about the words that I write, the eloquence with which they are written or their grammatical correctness. Or even my ability to cultivate a particular train of thought (which can sometimes be a difficult task for me!). It's about the choices that I make every day. It's about being that change. I know that not everyone is going to "get" what I write. Good grief, sometimes when I go back a week or two and read what I have written I don't get it! But maybe what you do "get" is the new and improved me. Ironic that the better version is the one with Lupus and a multitude of other maladies. 

There is a lot GOOD with this earth. If you truly believe that the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you - and I do - then heaven is right here, right now. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." In some translations, "meek" is translated as humble. If you are meek and humble, there is no room for perception fed ego. The meek are "egoless". They are the people, that through consciousness, have been awakened to their essential true nature. They live in a surrendered state of Being completely conscious of the interconnectedness of All that makes up this planet. They are free.

This is what I want for you. Not some futuristic idea of things to come. No one becomes "free" in the future. The only place we are free is Now

Namaste.




“When all your desires are distilled
You will cast just two votes
To love more
And be happy”
*
“I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing Light
Of your own Being.”
*
“Why go to sleep each night,
Exhausted from the folly of ignorance.”
*
“I
Have
Learned
So much from God
That I can no longer
Call
Myself
A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim,
a Buddhist, a Jew.”
*
“The
great religions are the
ships,
poets the Life
Boats.
Every sane person I know has jumped
overboard.”
*
“Every child has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts…
But the God who only knows four words…
“Come dance with me.”"
*
“Even after all this time
The Sun has never told the Earth
“You owe me,”
look what happens
with a love like that,
it lights the whole sky.”
*
“Die before you die,
Then do whatever you want.
It’s all good.”
                                ~ Hafiz

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Soup Day

 Pol√©vka den!

 Today was a kitchen day. Feeling better this morning than I have been as of late, I decided that I would get an early start on supper for tonight. If I feel well enough, starting supper in the early afternoon is always a good idea. I am more able to deal with things both mentally and physically, I have more time (since it takes me forever to accomplish a task) plus, it gives my family a break. 
With the rain and colder temperatures, soup sounded like a good idea. And home made ham and potato soup sounded especially good!


 One of the perks of getting an early start on supper...having yummy soup for lunch! This is such a simple recipe, the most difficult part (for me) is just peeling the potatoes. So it can be ready in less than an hour if need be...and you're not me. :-)


 Yep, this is what it looked like right before I scooped up! And no, I did not chop the ham up in nice equally portioned bite-sized pieces. A good short cut for this recipe is to buy a "bag-o-ham" all chopped up and ready to go.


 Bread is always a favorite at our house with home made soup. Home made bread would be outstanding...but I must admit, I don't have THAT much energy. Frozen bread does the trick JUST fine!


 Rising to the occasion!
Kind of.


 Oh, if you could smell my house now!!
There is nothing like the wafting aroma of baking bread. 


 And for dessert...Too Much Chocolate Cake! This is a super easy recipe using a devil's food cake mix. Super easy, and SUPER good!


 Another perk to starting supper early...I'm the ONLY one home to lick the bowl!!
A little lick.


 In the oven she goes!
(I had to snap fast for fear I would melt my lens!!)


I get so nervous about the "flip". And this one makes you wait over an hour before said flipping!

 Ahhhh....warm chocolatey wonderfulness. I'm thinking the vanilla ice cream that Dave bought at the store last night will make a fine addition to this yummy dessert. And by the way, dear, thank you for buying groceries last night...again. You are amazing.


Can you say, "carbohydrates"? Mmmm....me too!



I am so thankful for the days when I get to "be a mom". When this ridiculous disease loosens it's grasp ever so briefly in order that I might enjoy the things I hold so dear. 
Today was one of those days.






Theresa’s Potato Soup
  • 6 cups peeled and diced potatoes – I like big chunks.
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1-2  cups and diced cooked ham
  • 5 cups water (should be just over the top of potatoes)
  • 4  tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3-4 cups milk
  1. Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a big pot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.
  2. In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes. I usually end up with a huge sauce pan full of thick white sauce. I think the white sauce makes the recipe.
  3. Stir the milk mixture into the pot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately. Or, you can make ahead and turn off burner and just let it sit on the back of the stove until you are ready to heat and eat. I like to make mine in the morning and let it sit all day. Soaks in the goodness.
** I am a terrible recipe writer – so this is my best guess at a “pinch of this and a pinch of that”! Like I tell my girls…just do what seems right!



Too Much Chocolate Cake
From  allrecipes.com (one of my favorites)
  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
  • 1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a well greased 12 cup bundt pan.
  3. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cake thoroughly in pan at least an hour and a half before inverting onto a plate If desired, dust the cake with powdered sugar or make up a nice chocolate glaze. This time I just warmed up some chocolate chips in the nuke and added some butter and cream. Stir, and drizzle. 


Jenni the cat.




Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ananda



Laying under the trees on an island, summer 2010.
Today is not a very good day for me. When the alarm went off, I pretty much surmised that getting out of bed would be difficult. And then I rolled over. A simple task for most, but when things are bad, just the pull of the sheets can cause me trouble. Somehow, as I began to roll over, I put pressure on the back of my head which sent shooting pain from the base of my head all the way down my spine.

I eventually made my way out of bed and began to move around the house. But the longer I remained upright, the more pronounced the pain and stiffness became. So my day of Easter basket gift acquisition was regrettably squelched by the side-effects of pain medications, anti-inflammatory's and muscle relaxants.Ugh.

But my desire to complain is not why I write to you. I actually had an interesting thought and decided, despite my serious inability to process things in a comprehensible manner right now - I would give blogging a shot. It does help that I can write things down and go back to them - over...and over...and over again. So we'll see how this goes.

I don't take pain medications or mind altering medications very often. For me, I need to keep them on an emergency basis only. Today, I hope they keep me out of the ER. But I have noticed something. When I take these medications, I feel more peaceful. Now don't laugh - I know we ALL feel more peaceful when we get to take a little something. Same thing happens when I drink a glass of wine. Or oftentimes, I get the same peaceful feeling when I am really sleepy. It's one of those obvious things, but why does it happen?

My husbands eye for beauty.
Most people's lives are cluttered up with things - things to buy, things to do, things to think about.... things. Our minds are full to the top with the clutter of thoughts. Winston Churchhill so truthfully stated that our lives are defined as, "one damn thing after another." This state of existence is so often our constant state of reality that no wonder our lives are out of balance. Tolle calls this "object consciousness".  "Space consciousness", he states, on the other hand, is the space we create around our thinking. Kind of like when you take a step back and think about what you are thinking about. I do this sometimes when I get really bad news. I have an intense moment of quiet when I think about what I have just heard. When all other thoughts go away and I think to myself, "what just happened to me?". There is a sort of "space" around your thought. Like it's packed in air for just a moment. You become very aware. So aware you could hear a pin drop. And awareness implies that you are not only conscious of things (objects), but you are also conscious of being conscious. (Thinking about what you are thinking about.)

Now, think about being conscious - or aware - in a positive way. No bad news, just being conscious. Able to remove all the "clutter" and think only on one thing - or just a few things. People who have mastered meditation do this very well. And those who meditate will tell you that doing so not only brings them great peace, but emotional and physical healing.

So what does this have to do with pain medications, wine and falling asleep? Why do these things seem to bring me peace? Because my thinking begins to subside. And when our thinking subsides, we remember less and less of our mind-made problematic self.

But with pain medications, wine and falling asleep - you may feel more carefree or relaxed for awhile, but eventually all lead to "unconsciousness". In the case of medications and alcohol - the price paid for temporary relaxation can be quite high. Instead of rising above your thought, you fall below it.

"Space consciousness" has little to do with being "spaced out". The only thing they have in common is that both are beyond thought. Space consciousness as the byproduct of being aware - or being Awake - to your life and all that is around you, is extremely liberating. It represents not only freedom from all that our egos demand of us, but also from dependency on things of this world - from materialism and materiality.

A peaceful roadside moment in southwestern Minnesota.

It's an empowering thing for me to know that true peace is always within my grasp. That I don't need to acquire anything to get it. In fact, quite the opposite. It's the getting rid of things - things to buy, things to do, things to think about - that I find true peace. I don't have to read a book, follow a plan, go to a certain location, take a particular drug or understand any great philosophy or theology to experience peace. It's in becoming empty that we are filled! What an amazing realization!

Sound familiar?

BWCA Trip - September   2009
When you are able to un-clutter your life and your thinking, there is a sense of well-being, of alive peace. Sometimes that sense is quite intense and sometimes it is so subtle that is sits in the background of your life as quiet contentment. The ancient sages of India called this Ananda - the bliss of Being. It is the most subtle layer of our lives, the joy of living itself. It is the pure experience of  Being without thinking or worrying or judging.

This time of year can be so busy, so cluttered for us all. We get all wrapped up in what our minds tell us needs to be done, that we forget what needs to be undone. To be let go of.  To set aside, if only for a moment.

 This holy Spring, I wish for you and for me -

Ananda.









Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April Snow = Baking




Theresa's Yummy Toffee Bars


Ingredients
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter 
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided   (1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I like pecans with this recipe)
  • 1 (14 ounce)  can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (8 ounce) package toffee baking bits, divided   (4oz, 2oz, 2oz)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat 9x13-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In large bowl, stir together flour and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg; mix well. Mixture will be dry and crumbly.
  3. Stir in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips and nuts. Reserve 1 1/2 cups mixture for topping. Press remaining crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes.
  4. Pour condensed milk evenly over partially baked crust. Sprinkle 4oz toffee bits over layer pan. Then sprinkle reserved crumb mixture and remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips over top.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining 2oz of  toffee bits. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Store covered. Yum!



Today is one of those days that I have to work really hard at. To make a long story short, getting off track with my IVIg threw my body into a mild, but relentless, FLARE. Ugh. Combine that with the lovely April snow and I'm working especially hard at keeping things in line both physically AND mentally! I've mentioned this before, but sometimes the best thing for me to do physically, if I'm not "down for the count", is to plan small "accomplish-able tasks". Yesterday was Tupperware, today is a pan of delicious bars! It's kind of like PT and OT all wrapped up into one!
And for my mental exercise of the day, a quote from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

A person can make himself happy or miserable, regardless of what is happening 'outside', just by changing the contents of consciousness. We all know individuals who can transform hopeless situations into challenges to be overcome just through the force of their personalities. This ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people most admire in others, and justly so; it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life, but for enjoying it as well. To develop this trait one must find ways to order consciousness so as to be in control of feelings and thoughts.It is best not to expect that shortcuts will do the trick."

Oh Mihaly, you make it sound so simple! I think I'll go eat one of those bars...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

R.A.O.K.'s





Lunch and flowers from a dear friend…




Surprise Easter wishes from my cleaning lady 
(a.k.a. Superwomen/friend/all around beautiful person)…


I
Am
So
Blessed.








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