Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Cigar Smoking Poetess - Spotlight on Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was an award winning American Poetess, from a long line of brilliant people including a Harvard president and a noted astronomer.   She never attended college because, you know, it wasn’t proper for a woman.  Lowell was reputed to be a lesbian, which is reflected in some of her love poems.  She died at the age of 51 of a cerebral hemorrhage.  Her work enjoyed a renaissance in the 1970’s when the women’s movement got a foothold.
It may seem an odd time to ponder a poem entitled “Summer”.  I encourage you to give it a read, as it is actually singing the praises of winter.  What a lovely paradigm shift, and a sentiment I share with the author.  Poems about nature are very often too idealized or saccharin to feel sincere.  This one rings true to me, and I am adding it to my “Best of the Best Anthology”.
Let me know if you agree.
Summer – by Amy Lowell
Some men there are who find in nature all
Their inspiration, hers the sympathy
Which spurs them on to any great endeavor,
To them the fields and woods are closest friends,
And they hold dear communion with the hills;
The voice of waters soothes them with its fall,
And the great winds bring healing in their sound.
To them a city is a prison house
Where pent up human forces labour and strive,
Where beauty dwells not, driven forth by man;
But where in winter they must live until
Summer gives back the spaces of the hills.
To me it is not so. I love the earth
And all the gifts of her so lavish hand:
Sunshine and flowers, rivers and rushing winds,
Thick branches swaying in a winter storm,
And moonlight playing in a boat's wide wake;
But more than these, and much, ah, how much more,
I love the very human heart of man.
Above me spreads the hot, blue mid-day sky,
Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns.
The blue crest of the distant mountain, tops
The green crest of the hill on which I sit;
And it is summer, glorious, deep-toned summer,
The very crown of nature's changing year
When all her surging life is at its full.
To me alone it is a time of pause,
A void and silent space between two worlds,
When inspiration lags, and feeling sleeps,
Gathering strength for efforts yet to come.
For life alone is creator of life,
And closest contact with the human world
Is like a lantern shining in the night
To light me to a knowledge of myself.
I love the vivid life of winter months
In constant intercourse with human minds,
When every new experience is gain
And on all sides we feel the great world's heart;
The pulse and throb of life which makes us men!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Volunteer Work - Just Say NO

I’ve been noticing a trend that I do not like one bit - giving away one’s talent, services, and skills…for free.  This is not the pure thing it was in past, when Aunt Susie volunteered two days a week at the Pink Elephant store in town.  Oh no.  This is blatant disrespect, as I see it, for the professional creativity and skill of others. 
Now, I’m pretty sure we are all grateful for people like volunteer fireman, professionals who do pro bono work for those unable to pay for their services, and neighbors who step in to help when someone is in trouble.  As a massage therapist, I have offered my time and skills to various charities and individuals whom I felt I could help.  The operative word is “offered”. 
If I am solicited for my professional skills, I expect payment.  Now, before you tune me out and say “oh, there goes the almighty dollar, getting in the way of good deeds again”, let me explain the principle. 
Let’s say you have an art opening, for which you wish to have live music.  Your guests are coming free of charge, and as much as I LOVE art, I do not consider it a life or death necessity (ie you’re not the children’s cancer ward at the local hospital).  Why on earth would you not charge a dollar or two per person at the door and give some of it to your skilled help and performers?
Again, it’s principle.  You may only be able to pay 20 bucks to someone who worked all day to make YOUR event a success, but it matters.  And before you hold up the “gilded lily” of beefing up their resume’ or garnering future clients, let me say this – a PAID gig (the exact amount is not important) looks good on a resume’ and in my experience, those attending fully free events are not generally seeking the services of musicians, caterers and the like, so that’s a dead end. 
Furthermore, those who do this sort of gig out of friendship, or frankly, insecurity in their skills are setting the bar low for their respective industry.  In other words, you are screwing your own colleagues out of being taken seriously and ultimately making a living from their chosen profession. 
So please, think twice the next time some long-faced event planner hits you up for your time and service for absolutely zero effort or money.  There is almost always a more worthy recipient of your talents.
*smacks you on the ass*

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Hominy, Hominy, I Think You Dropped A Bomb on Me!"

As I write this, I can almost hear my husband rapping that phrase – which he invariably does when I make this soup.  Oh, and there’s a little dance that goes along with it.  I’m sure he will be thrilled I am telling you that.
Unless you frequent authentic Mexican restaurants, where this soup is typically only made on weekends, you may not have heard of Posole’.   Posole’ in Mexico is what we call hominy.  It’s a white corn, with distinctive, yet somehow mild flavor and texture.  The recipe, along with a lot of raunchy phrases in Spanish, were taught to me by the women I worked with in a manufacturing plant 25 years ago.  I have made it (and swore in Spanish, come to think of it) at least once per year ever since.  There’s nothing like coming home to an Army-sized vat of this soup on a cold day, which is why Nick tends to break into a little song and dance. 
I am going to publish here, for the first time, a vegetarian version – which could easily become vegan with one small change.  The original variety is very meaty, caloric and expensive to make if you do not stock multiple varieties of dried peppers in your cabinet.  I hope you find my updated, ultra-healthy version something you make throughout winter to warm you up.
What you’ll need:
-Large stockpot
-2 to 3 Chicken bouillon- try Knorr brand soft cubes (or vegetable broth for vegan) 
-A good 2 lbs. of tomatillos (green tomatoes).  Husks removed and rinsed, left whole.
-A few regular tomatoes, any variety, cut in half (this is a great thing to do with overripe ones)
-One large or two small onions, peeled and cut into quarters
-Crushed red pepper, black pepper, minced garlic, ground cumin….all at your discretion.  I’d say about a teaspoon of each.
-2 to 3   15.5 oz cans of Hominy, drained.  Bush’s is fine, or there are some Mexican brands (I can’t tell the difference)
What to do:    In the stockpot, place all tomatoes, onions, bouillon and spices and cover with cold water.  Bring to boil and let simmer until tomatillos “explode”.  They will get soft and seeds will spill out.  Let cool slightly.
Ladle the pot contents into blender.  It may take more than one fill up to blend it all, and it’s okay to leave the bulk of the water in the pot, as you are only trying to blend the tomatoes and onion.  Pulverize it and put back in stockpot.
Bring it back to a boil and pour in the hominy.  Stir well and it’s done!
Now, here the fun part.  When serving the truly Mexican version, provide one or preferably ALL of the following fresh “condiments” to go on top of the hot soup.  It’s like a salad on your soup. 
-squeeze of lime (this one is pretty much mandatory)
-Tabasco or other favorite hot sauce for the inevitable person who wants it hotter.
-sliced avocado
-sliced radishes
-finely shredded green or purple cabbage
-finely chopped onion
-Chihuahua cheese
-corn tortillas for dipping
Try serving this at one of your football gatherings this winter.  It’s a real crowd pleaser, and you’ll get points for thinking outside the “chili” box!

Monday, October 7, 2013

10 Things I Know For Certain - Jeanslist

A number of popular magazines have a section called “Things I Know For Sure”, or something similar.  Many times, I skip to this section – regardless of whose list it is.  I am fascinated by a summation of what life has taught any individual.  That is why I don’t feel it overly self-indulgent to create and publish my list for you (Although, let’s be honest. The very act of blogging is a pretty self-indulgent practice). 
 Many of you I have never, and will never, meet in person.  Why would you care what I have to say about the meaning of life?  You don’t necessarily, but it is my hope that it will inspire you to create your own list.
So please read the following, knowing that they are NOT presented as some sort of empirical truths, but rather “The World According to Jean”.  For me, this list is fluid and should change as new things come to light.  And since I believe the meaning of life is whatever the individual assigns to it, this sort of exercise is pretty important to me.
In a world where we are always faced with the unknown, and bombarded by just how little we do know, I find it strangely comforting to tie a string to my own kite of wisdom and watch it fly!
In no particular order……
1.       Being overly concerned with how others perceive you is narcissistic.  Claiming to not give any sort of shit about the perceptions of others is anti-social.  It is yet another thing we must balance.
2.      If you are doing them right, sex and friendship will get more satisfying with age.
3.      If you plan to live past 50, no suntan will ever be worth the ravages it leaves behind.
4.      One’s children are the only vulnerability that cannot be overridden.
5.      Doing a constant post-mortem exam of your past is an excuse to not listen to the answers that are in the present.
6.      Anything that science and psychology has not yet explained, has simply not been explained yet.  For me, there is no comfort in anything mystical.
7.      Love does not conquer all.  In fact, it is often quite impractical.
8.      Even “honesty” is subjective.
9.      The greatest virtue is kindness.  
10.  The greatest travesty is mismanagement of resources.  I’ve never met a person who did not in some way waste what was available to them, myself included.

So there it is.  It took me a surprisingly short time come up with these -and I could likely write 20 more fairly easily.  It was not an emotionless endeavor.  Some of these were learned with great pain.  Still, looking at them all in a row is the adult equivalent of turning on the closet light to scare off the Boogeyman. 

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with a black and white list of your own.  One day, when you feel particularly adrift, it might just be your anchor.

I bid you peace.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Parent/Teacher Conferences - Thanks, But No Thanks

We just received notice by mail that Parent/Teacher Conferences will take place this month at our tenth grade daughter’s school.  At our high school, the scheduling, or rather “requesting” of a conference time is a multi-step process involving logging onto to the school website, using a password, asking for your most convenient time and then awaiting their response – at which point a computer randomly selects the times anyway.
I unapologetically admit to you that I have not been to one of these formal conferences, for either child, in years.  To some this may be unthinkable, so allow me to explain my position. 
I have been impressed over the years with our schools – and especially our high school.  We attend the Open House Curriculum night and of course, registration.  The teachers and other officials are always “on the ball”, things are organized and inspire confidence.  I’ve just never felt the need for the contrived “check in” of conferences.  Sure, my girls have had personality conflicts, good and not so good times academically, and a few pink slips over the years.  How do I know?  Because we talk about it, the school sends copious written and email communications, I read their reports and have never hesitated to phone or arrange a talk with a teacher, if necessary. I feel quite strongly that there is nothing you could tell me in an “8 minute maximum” sit down that I do not already know.
Also, from a teacher’s perspective, I have heard that the preparation leading up to conferences is more than one would think.  Many parents DO require detailed information, and perhaps a pat on the back for raising such a wonderful person.  Ahem.  I submit that those weeks of stressful preparation could be better served by providing extra study help, discussion groups among teachers or hell, throwing a party.  I would also support a formal meeting between teacher and student, 8 minutes in duration, to discuss their own strengths and weaknesses.  That sounds like great practice for being evaluated in a future work environment.
The first year I skipped, I remember my older daughter worrying a bit about it.  I asked her to “give me the bullet points” of the semester thus far.   As she did, a few new pieces of information surfaced.  We hashed out a plan, on paper, to make her feel more in control.  Voila -an exercise in adult problem-solving!
Look, I am not trying to marginalize teachers - quite to the contrary.  Their job is hectic enough wrangling young people all day long, checking up on their work, planning lessons and tests and meeting standardized requirements.  Not to even mention getting into teen angst and the inevitable behavior patterns of that time of life.  As I said, there must be more constructive uses for the time they would save were it not for this ritual of Conference Time.
My position is clear, and I am comfortable with it.  I welcome feedback from all sides. Here are some thoughtful questions.
-What, if anything, do you or your student get out of these meetings?
-Do you faithfully attend, no matter how inconvenient?
-Any teachers want to share how they prepare for conferences?
-Do you, as a parent, prepare in any way to meet with the teachers?
-Do you worry about the perception on your family if you do not attend?
Sound off!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Our Pets, Ourselves - Does Your Dog Bring Out the Best in You?

Dogs are everywhere.  Statistically, about 44% of American households have at least one dog – which is higher, in some counts, than have children. 
As I stare at my own two little Boston Terriers, I begin to wonder exactly what it is that is so rewarding.  I think it’s safe to say that the added expense, housekeeping, and general responsibility for another living thing should be a deterrent.  But clearly, this is not the case.  Why do we ignore the impracticalities of pet ownership?
Well, I have said on more than a few January Firsts, that “this year, I want to be the person my dogs think I am”.  That pretty much covers the ridiculous excitement that ensues every time I come home – even when I’ve been gone 10 minutes.  It can be intoxicating to be exalted, just for being you.  Then there’s the effortless companionship that comes with a day on the sofa watching movies, or spontaneous walk when no one else wants to go.  I am thankful for these things often.
But, on closer examination, two less touted reasons for the relationship with our dogs, comes to light.
  1)  They are our “forever babies”.  Unlike raising children, we have no expectation of them ever functioning independently in the world.  They do not need to have other successful relationships, earn a living, or even learn to drive.  For us, this takes all of the pressure off of the relationship, and lets the cream rise to the top.  It is something like what I imagine has been described to me as the “perfection of being a grandparent”.    We require nothing of them but to not bite, and not poop in the house.  And let’s be honest, we forgive even those things pretty easily.
2)  In the case of most dogs, the comedic element cannot be denied.  On many occasions, they do things that can only result in a genuine and spontaneous laughter.  In our home, this is held in the highest regard.  What higher calling can there be than to bring levity and being present in the moment to a household?  Dogs achieve this without even knowing it, and we respond with genuine grateful affection -never complaining about following them, in the rain, with a plastic bag.
So, next time you come home to your guileless groupie of a companion, be sure to give him or her an extra pat and a kind word.  Enjoy the unencumbered love with shameless abandon and strive to be the person your dog thinks you are. 
PS.  Here are a few fun and helpful links for dog owners.  These are vetted (no pun intended) by yours truly, and highly recommended.
Pet sitting and walking services.           Call Sharon at 630-915-6912
Fun dog items delivered monthly to your door.
Dog Grooming at Happy Tails.               9018 31st St. Brookfield IL           708-485-6976

Monday, August 26, 2013

Musings on Emily Dickinson

Every year, in late August, I am struck by the changes in light.  The shorter days and new angles of sun spur the leaves to change, and it happens whether or not temperatures drop, or school has started.
So that is why, during the hottest week of summer 2013, it’s time to dream of autumn.  From the chill of air conditioning, out any window, I no longer see summer.  Gold is creeping in, and squirrels we have not noticed for months are in the yard, doing their squirrel work.
Emily Dickinson wrote a poem called, “The Name of It is “Autumn”, which is one of my favorites.  Emily was born to a prominent family in Amherst, Massachusetts, lived a remarkably sequestered life, and died in 1886 at the age of 56.   Taken at face value, this work is a beautiful depiction of fall landscape.  However, given that it was written in 1862, it is clear that the dark reality of the Civil War did not escape her.  She read the daily newspaper from the safety of her family home in the Northeast, and came up with this Haiku-esque beauty.
The name – of it- is “Autumn” -
The hue – of it – is Blood –
An artery – upon the Hill –
A vein – along the Road –

Great Globules – in the Alleys –
And Oh, the Shower of Stain –
When Winds, upset the Basin –
And spill the Scarlet Rain –

It sprinkles Bonnets - far below –
It gathers ruddy Pools –
Then – Eddies like a rose – Away
Upon Vermillion Wheels –

Now, since Emily never married, and by all accounts scarcely left her parent’s home or even her own room, I leave you with the following poem to ponder.  She did not tend to title her work, just assign it a number.  This one is 506.  I find fascinating the fact that such a proper and reclusive lady had a rich, inner life.  But in this case, it sure sounds like somebody was getting some action…  Just sayin’.
He touched me, so I live to know
That such a day, permitted so
I groped upon his breast
It was a boundless place to me
And silenced, as the awful sea
Puts minor streams to rest

And now, I'm different from before
As if I breathed superior air
Or brushed a Royal Gown
My feet, too, that had wandered so
My Gypsy face—transfigured now
To tenderer Renown
Into this Port, if I might come
Rebecca, to Jerusalem
Would not so ravished turn
Nor Persian, baffled at her shrine
Lift such a Crucifixial sign
To her imperial Sun

Well, how about that?  The last stanza is a bit convoluted - but the first two?  Come on! 
My habit of irreverence aside, today I invite you to take a few minutes and ponder this woman’s rich inner life and written legacy, coming to you from a far away Autumn.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gratuities - Think Before You Thank

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the custom of tipping.  It seems like standard procedure to do so, when receiving a service.  These days, with “tip” jars on every coffee shop counter, and services like Massage Therapy gaining in popularity, it bears review. 
The practice of leaving a gratuity for service seems to have begun in 16th century England.  Houseguests would leave something for the “help”, since they had extra duties while they visited.  It was a way to compensate underpaid workers, and this is why it can be considered faux pas to tip the owner of a business.  The general custom of tipping did not begin in the US until after the Civil War, when travel abroad exposed us to that culture, and we brought it back.
Since it’s opening in September 2008, Mindful Massage has had a zero gratuities policy.  There is a little sign in my studio that reflects this fact, and I am very comfortable with the decision.  Regular clients have grown accustomed.  I do, however, get asked about it quite frequently – even by colleagues.  Here are my top reasons, and darned good ones if I do say so myself.
1.       As the business owner, as mentioned above, gratuities should not be accepted.  Many people still tip their hair stylists, even if they own the salon.  Salons have much higher overhead than I do, and different atmosphere, so a case could be made.   Massage Therapists working within a salon/spa setting depend on tips, since they only make a fraction of the fee charged. 
2.       I see Massage Therapy as a necessity of good health for many.  As I have said, “you do not tip your physical therapist, personal trainer or dental hygienist, do you?”  It is a way that I bring the healthcare element to my industry.
3.       As a Massage Therapy client myself, I know that I spend the last minutes of the massage at a new place wondering how much I should leave.  The very idea that anyone on my table would spend one second calculating a tip is cringe-worthy!  Add to this the fact that many clients know each other and may wonder how they compare as a “tipper”.  Ugh!
4.       I intensely dislike the implication of a bigger tip yielding better future service. 
5.       When you buy a massage as a gift, wouldn’t it be nice not to require the recipient to pay for gratuity out of pocket?
6.       It’s simply a better value and easier to budget monthly when the price is just the price.
What I hope to accomplish with all of this is to spur more thought on this gratuity thing, which should be commensurate with quality of service.   It is meant as a “thank you”.  We all work hard for our money, and it should not be a perfunctory duty to leave extra every time you turn around.  Reward the good ones generously, but do not feel compelled to give 20% extra for passionless work!
And next time you see “tip jar” on the cashier’s counter, put a scrap of paper in that says “don’t smoke in bed”. 
I dare you.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cauliflower - It's What's For Dinner

If you had told 12 year old me I'd be craving what is in this photo, I would have laughed my roller skates clean off!  But that is just what happened today, and nothing else would do.  Nothing fancy or complicated, for sure.  But it is my own made up combo, and I thought you might like to try it.

1 head fresh cauliflower, cut into size you like.
1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and cut in quarters if large ones, half for smaller ones.

Place prepared veggies on a single baking sheet.  Today I used about 1/4 cup of avacado oil, but olive oil is great too.  Pour it right on there, shimmy the baking sheet to distribute and add sea salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper and CURRY.  Omg curry is the magic ingredient.  The house smells divine!

Roast in preheated 400 degree oven for a good 15 - 20 mts.  Serve on top of whole wheat pasta, which gives it protein, for a complete meal!  Oh, sometimes I add a bit of feta or parmesan cheese if I'm feeling crazy like that. 



Sunday, July 28, 2013

More Massage Therapy FAQs- Lotion and Talking

Very recently, I've had some new questions asked by the-person-on-the-table-who-shall-always-remain-nameless.  I really enjoy it when clients ask direct questions about their treatment, and relish the opportunity to demystify any aspect of massage therapy.  Of course, my answers are from my perspective and experience, but I hope they are helpful.

Also, you do not have to be a client to have your Q answered here.  Feel free to email me at with anything you'd like to say - massage therapy, or otherwise.  Your idea may appear here anonymously (or with full credit, if you prefer!)

Q:  What type of lotion do you use for my treatment?  What's in it?

A:  Some people think in terms of actual ingredients (and rightfully so). I've heard the statement "don't put anything on your skin that you would not eat".  It's a great concept, as skin is a breathable organ, but perhaps a bit of an overstatement.  For example.  Would you drink the pool or lake water you swim in?  Do you use Neosporin on your morning toast?
It makes sense to minimize the number of ingredients in the lotion we use, but most of what is on the mainstream market is generally considered very safe.  I have gone almost exclusively with professional products like Biotone and Lotus touch, which are widely used in the industry.

My largest concern when choosing a product is whether it is fragrance and petroleum free and the correct viscosity for the particular type of massage.  Thinner lotions are more conducive to Swedish-style work, while thicker lotions tend to absorb more slowly and are better for deep tissue.  Those of you that have been on my table know I use a minimal amount of lotion for most treatments.  Lifting the tissue and sports work calls for little or no emollient.
Also, I personally do not like the feel of oil, no matter how fine, on my skin.  This is one exception to the "don't put your preferences on your client" rule.  If I am creeped out by the feel, how can I be effective?
I do use a tiny drop of aromatherapy oil here and there, mixed into the other product, however.
Finally, I always invite you to bring your own product(s) if you have sensitive skin or a strong preference. 
I will roll with it!

Q:  Does it bother you (the therapist), when I talk during my massage? 

A:  It probably does not come as a surprise that I LOVE to talk, and I am NEVER bored by the chats I have with clients.  I also recognize that talking can be part of the relaxation process - it was for me when I first started receiving massage.  It's a safe place to hash out your day, discuss your recent vacation,  upcoming event or even an annoying store clerk.  I really do consider it an honor to provide an atmosphere of privacy that allows this to flow.

Now. Here is the other side of that coin.  There are times when (usually a first-time client) feels the need to "entertain" me while I work.  This is very common, and I pride myself on putting people at ease.  So, usually by the second or third treatment the topics change, and they are able to relax more quickly. 
Also, when receiving work to the front of the neck, face, or scalp, it is HIGHLY recommended that the client not only be silent, but also meditate on letting go of each area touched.  Even 10 minutes of this will be day-altering! 

Lastly, it is absolutely more than fine to say at the beginning of treatment that you really desire quiet.  I am usually pretty in tune to when to stop engaging a client in talk - you know, the moment when your brain goes numb and begin to trail off.  But, you will not hurt my feelings by requesting an hour of complete silence at the outset.  I even keep music to a very background level so that it can be tuned out completely when your brain is relaxing. 

Bottom line:  It is YOUR time.  One of my favorite aspects of my job is leaving myself at the door and being present for another person.  Do what feels right to you in regards to communicating.  Sometimes you may know what you need on a given day, other times you can let it  happen organically.  Just be sure to make it about what YOU need in the moment.  Massage should be a different experience each time you receive.

We fight gravity all day every day, massage is your opportunity to let it win for an hour.  Have fun with it!




Saturday, July 20, 2013

In Praise of Western Medicine

Man, I love to play devil’s advocate.  On the subject of traditional v holistic approaches to wellness, I have a fairly good view from both sides.  My mother was an old school Registered Nurse, before and up until the shift in the healthcare system.  For those of you who are not old enough to remember, let’s call it “the time before open heart surgery was practically an outpatient procedure.”
Common in our house growing up were graphic hospital work tales of motorcycle wipe outs, accidental needle sticks, and various and sundry unchecked venereal cases.  Somehow, out of this, I grew to have a deep respect for medical doctors.  Along with this appreciation, we were taught that our health was, ultimately our responsibility.  A doctor is one person, who largely uses the information you provide to help you.  He or she does not have a crystal ball, and it is your job to help them connect the dots when you are sick, and express concerns you have about staying well.  For example, you’d be surprised the number of women who cannot tell the obgyn when was the start of their last period.  C’mon ladies. 
Ask yourself this:  What if next time I went to the doc, I whipped out a well kept log of (insert symptoms here), including times, possible triggers, what I did to calm it, etc.    Do you think maybe the doc would respond in kind and be grateful for an informed and motivated patient?
I am a practitioner of what is largely regarded as a holistic practice, Massage Therapy.  Though I would argue that it can be very clinical, it meets the holistic requirement of facilitating the body’s natural inclination to seek homeostasis, or “perfect” balance. 
Obviously, I am a huge believer in massage and its power.  But, I am respectful of the boundaries of “natural” practices, up to and including acupuncture, hypnosis, homeopathy, yoga, chiropractic, reflexology and a whole host of others.  Just as these have limits, so too does traditional medicine - and  I don’t ever want to be without either side!
My point is this.  All practitioners are just human beings.  Doctors do not live inside your body, feel what you feel, and they cannot be expected to hatch a proper course of treatment without your help.  I hear a lot of anti medical community banter, and I don’t agree with it.  I assure you that doctors are not lying awake at night trying to figure out how to poison you with pills.  And if you have a condition that can be controlled ONLY with holistic practices, that is wonderful.  It is my greatest wish for all of us.
But should you ever need something a bit stronger, please give your MD a little something to go on.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Babies Juggling Chainsaws - A Story of Craigslist Faith

This is a true story of a situation that could have gone very wrong, but didn’t.  I choose to view it as a testament to old fashioned trust, meeting up with a great work ethic.
This spring I had finally had enough.  The yard had been steadily getting worse over the last 3 – 5 years, as we were doing only the bare minimum to keep up with it.  We had to admit defeat over the overgrowth of bushes, trees, weeds and uncharted, plant-able areas.  I say “we”, because my husband lives here too, but would rather hang by his toenails than spend weekends carrying out landscape projects.  Whatever happened to kids (my own, the neighbors’) who would do odd jobs for cash? 
On a whim, I opened up my local Craigslist page and searched “landscapers”.  One of the first to pop up was clearly put up by an individual and not a big company.  The ad said they served ours and the towns surrounding us, and contained a number I spontaneously dialed.
After an initial overview, we settled on a date for him to come out and look at the job.  He showed up promptly, in a new pickup truck with a small wood chipper unit in back.  I was struck by how young he looked, but he listened intently and was professional.  We settled on a date to start the work.
On that date he showed up ready to work and brought his younger brother.  Adorable, brace-faced kid I figured for maybe 15.  What followed was the most anxiety-inducing afternoon of my life
Watching two kids, on a ladder, with a chain saw hacking and trimming and using a wood chipper was agony.   I mean, it literally felt like I’d hired babies to juggle chainsaws on our property!  I gave the younger one some work gloves, and sheepishly asked if they had safety goggles.  Nah.  I also distantly wondered if their mother knew where they were.
They worked like troopers until nearly dark and did an amazing job.  In one day, the yard was taking shape!  I will not tell you what they charged, but I will tell you I paid about a third extra and told them they are under-valuing their work.
I found myself inviting them back for more yard projects.  Instinctively, I knew I’d found a gem.
The second visit, he brought his sister.  A beautiful young girl who pulled every weed, no matter how small.  I couldn’t resist asking “how old are you and your brother?”  She replied that she’s 18 and he is 26.  Twenty six!  A grown man, who I had taken for maybe 19.  Sadly, everyone looks like a teenager to me these days.
They have been back to our yard 4 times, and scheduled for a 5th.  Last time, an older brother came, too.  He worked until dusk with the other guys.  That time, as I brought them sandwiches, I couldn’t resist asking “how many of you are there?”  To which he replied, “twelve”.  I’d like to shake the hand of those parents. 
How many of us, usually myself included, would be too afraid to take such a leap of faith?  I mean, they could have been anyone, and up to anything.  But in this instance, not over-thinking it yielded one of the best contractor experiences I’ve had as a homeowner.  And, it feels good to give money to such industrious, professional and pleasant “children”.   
So, for me the moral of the story is that sometimes, “cover your ass” mentality keeps you from the very best things.  Try a little more trust – in your own judgment, as well as the decency of others. 
Helen Keller said “Avoiding danger, in the long run, is no safer than outright exposure”. 
Wonder if she ever used a chain saw.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Your Lymphatic System and You. Yes You.

Of course I love muscles. They are the “meat” of my business so to speak.  But today I woke up thinking about the lymph system (I know, it’s a problem).  We spend a significant amount of time studying it in school, only to not speak much about it in practice.
Stimulation and draining of the lymph system is believed to be one of the biggest benefits of regular massage.  A good deal of the relief you feel after a massage is due to even incidental movement of lymph fluid back into the “hopper” as I call it.  Unlike blood, lymph does not have an automatic pump to move it through the body to be cleansed.  It requires muscle contraction to force it along.  Think of the analogy of a self-winding watch.  Leave it on the dresser and things stop moving. 
Now, the job gets done primarily by living our daily lives, walking around, exercise programs etc.  Massage can give a serious boost to the process.  There is even a specialty in massage called MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) that is gaining popularity.  It requires lot of additional training and in future I believe will be used widely as a pre and post operative treatment, particularly for oncology patients.
So what IS lymph fluid?  It is a clear, watery fluid containing protein molecules, salt, glucose and urea and works sort of like a soldier – collecting the used components from around the body and returning them for cleansing and responding to invaders.   You do not lose or gain significant lymphatic fluid (we each move about 3 liters per day), it just keeps wagon training through.  You can see how the filtering of it through the lymph nodes, spleen and liver are vital.  It’s the ultimate recycling process!
What does this mean to your life?
If you were inclined, you could get much more detailed information about these things by searching Google.  What I am hoping to impart is a wider appreciation for the water consumption, movement throughout the day (ahem, office workers), and regular massage that we Massage Therapists are always preaching.  By the way, you can ask your therapist to give priority to lymph fluid movement.  That is a completely valid request and the firm, consistent pressure feels great.  Consider this type of massage before and after a long trip, or even a long week behind your desk.  You will feel better and give your immune system a boost!
Thank you for giving 5 minutes today for this unsung hero, Your Lymphatic System.
Please enjoy your day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Irish Have Oatmeal - A Recipe

McCann’s Irish STEEL CUT Oatmeal is so under appreciated.  The texture is a bit different than traditional “Quaker” type oats, but I actually prefer it.  It is less processed and has more nutrients and fiber naturally than quick cook oats.  I think it’s used less often because there is a 30 minute cook time.  But made this way, you’ll have breakfast for a whole week prepared in your fridge and ready to go.
Use recipe on container of McCann’s Irish STEEL CUT Oatmeal.  Up the recipe to make SIX servings.  Package says 30 minutes cook time, you can lessen that just a little bit to keep more of the grainy, chewy texture (I love that!).  Also, lessening the amount of water used in recipe just a tiny bit will ensure that it will get nice and solid in the fridge and be easy to cut into portions.
Once it has cooled a bit, pick one or more of the following to stir in (or come up with your own twist)
-Raisins or dried fruit of any kind
-Cinnamon or nutmeg
-Nuts of any kind.  I like walnuts, pecans or sunflower seeds best
-Sugar or Stevia
-Dark chocolate bits or even cocoa powder
Fold your choices into the oats and pour it all into a (preferably) glass baking dish.  Put into fridge overnight.  In the morning, cut into six slices.  Each one is a meal.  You can eat it cold or better yet, put a bit of milk or cream on top and heat in microwave for one minute. 
As prepared (without the goodies you may have added), one serving has 150 calories, is loaded with both soluble AND insoluble fiber, low sodium, zero cholesterol, and has just a half gram of saturated fat. 
Ah, those Irish : )

Monday, July 8, 2013

Proper Hygiene for Insomniac Zombies

Since I was a kid, people have been saying “Hi Jean”, and then chuckling when they realize it sounds like “hygiene”.  So let’s get that little joke out of the way first. 
Tapping foot…

Okay.  I’m not actually talking today about cleanliness.  Most of us have that down pretty well.  But the (I think underused) term Sleep Hygiene is an important topic.  With the ever changing and growing stresses we all face, proper sleep of 7 to 9 hours in each 24 hour period can seem elusive and luxurious.  I’ve also sensed an undercurrent of status among people who almost brag about being tired, but too busy to rest. I gotta say, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Time to make it uncool to zombie your way through the day.

Some of you are now saying, “What does she know?  I want to sleep, but can’t!” We’ve all been there.  This piece is not about the truisms of being sleep- deprived.  To those excuses I say - all the better reason to make sleep a priority!
Here are just a few examples, for clarity.

Just had a baby, work stress, spouse snores, going through menopause, can’t fall/stay asleep (no particular reason), too much to do, caretaking a loved one, financial woes, only have late night time to myself, shift worker, side effect of medication..did I miss any? 

So now I am on a soapbox and, as such, better come up with something that is not in your basic Google/Bing search result.  I am not a doctor or researcher, most of this information IS anecdotal.  But a lifetime of considering sleep sacred may have yielded something you can use. 

-If you’ve ever put a child to bed, you know that a routine leading up to bed time is invaluable.  Consider what you do the two hours before sleep.  Whatever you decide is appropriate, keep to it as much as possible.  Your body will grow to think of these things as “sleep triggers”, just like a child.
Note:  Hot shower or bath is great.  However, our bodies require a drop in temp to become drowsy and fall asleep.  Do all hot stuff a good two hours before bed.

-Your bedroom is for sleep and intimacy.  Make it dark, cool, quiet and uncluttered.  Even a small amount of light can cause you to wake for seemingly “no reason”.  Do you have a computer in there?  Charging your phone, with a glowing cord?  TV….really?  I’ve even put a piece of tape over the fan I run in the bedroom.  It has a little yellow light on top.  Oh, that reminds me, a fan or other form of “white noise” is a must to drown out little noises.

-This is a very personal point, but during difficult sleeping periods, it may be helpful to have a retreat.  If possible, have a separate space to go to for rest.   Your significant other will understand!  Being able to turn on a light, read and move about freely will at very least make time awake more comfortable for you both.  It’s okay to leave the wrapped-up-in-the-sheets scenes for the movie screen sometimes.  No, really, it is. 

-As Homer Simpson once said, “Alcohol -the cause of, and solution to ALL of life’s problems.”  A drink or two may help you fall asleep, but even if you haven’t made the connection, is a common cause of middle-of-the-night wakefulness.  This is primarily due to a drop in blood sugar from the pure sugars of booze.  If you do wake from this, a sensible snack can make you drowsy again.  Try a small bit of cereal with milk, toast with butter etc.  Also, eating a pure protein with dinner can help regulate the blood sugar overnight.

- Keep realistic goals.  Even 20 extra minutes per night can make a big difference.  We need less sleep as we age, too.  I’ve noticed that some nights, 5 hours is plenty.  Other times I get 8 and feel pooped.  Who is to say what our body’s rhythm is?

-Finally, if you have a bought of truly unexplained insomnia, be the willow and not the oak.  Consider it an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time.  Experts recommend if you are awake for more than 20 minutes, you should sit up and do something else.  Lie down again only when you feel drowsy.

Hope you found something here that is helpful.

Please make sleep a priority.  Crabby is never a good look.