Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Sweet Peace #19: What is it within us that insists on growing?

Mountains of Santa Barbara

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint,
a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.
What one can be, one must be."
-- Abraham Maslow

Maslow’s wise thought rests on one tiny word: can.

I read them and think: I can be anything. Then wonder: does that mean if I decide to be a musician, I can be a musician? Yes … but. It doesn't tell the whole story. There is something missing or implied in that simple word which he says opens the door to inner peace.

You could say it’s talent and that would be true, partially. Sometimes, as children, we do something a little bit better than others and people encourage us, find us teachers to guide our efforts, and we get better, gaining even more attention and encouragement. Eventually, we might claim art or poetry or golf or music or cooking as a significant part of our identity. It grows into something we must do.

However, what we can be is more than talent and teachers. It’s about what we do and how it makes us feel … time after time. It’s about doing something that makes us feel so connected, engaged, and joyful that we want to do it again … and again! 

Early encouragement can make a huge difference, but it isn’t everything. There seems to be some tiny seed deep within us which keeps trying to grow even when it falls on rocky ground. For me, the impulse to write came early, hand in hand with its dark cousin, rejection. I wrote a play in the fourth grade which was rejected because my writing was a tiny, unreadable scribble. First rejection.

In college, while typing student records as part of my work scholarship, I started writing poetry: dark, angsty lines no one wanted to hear. Two years of creative writing classes yielded nothing of interest to my professor, class mates or even self. I chose to major in business so I could get a job.

Years of periodic submissions to magazines met the same fate: rejection. Finally I launched my own 8-page newsletter (long before internet) where I wrote about anything that interested me and which eventually landed me a book contract. Something in me wanted to write in spite of the rejection and an almost total lack of interest or encouragement.

What is that something that leads us toward art or sports or gardening or raising children? Whatever it is, it’s where we find our peace; it’s what, as Maslow says, we must be.

As I write this week’s thoughts on Sweet Peace, it makes me think something similar is in process. My first husband came home from Vietnam with a chronic illness that stimulated my interest in health and the function of our bodies. There was no internet, of course, so I stalked libraries and bookstores for books on health and became a fan of Adele Davis, the early, and often controversial, nutritionist.

That fascination with health and nutrition plus the psychology of eating and food has continued through the years and brought me to Sweet Peace in my current experiment of one. “What one can be, one must be." 

This is more than a search for peace with food and body; it is part of the journey toward making peace with myself.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

What is the true cost of war?

Sweet Peace #18: Lessons learned and relearned


It has been an interesting week and hectic enough that I missed my Tuesday Sweet Peace commitment. Packing for my trip to Santa Barbara, I managed to leave my computer bag on the couch, so dictating my thoughts into my iPhone was better than not doing anything. Now, reunited with my writing brain, here are the notes for the week:

Yesterday was a glorious day. It was a road trip day which comes with a road trip mindset of junk food indulgence. The morning started when I picked up my friend ReAnn Scott in Solana Beach for our trip to Santa Barbara where we will explore the next phase of our life as we tour a senior community in Isla Vista, home of UCSB. I’m already on the waiting list for an apartment and ReAnn is checking it out to see if it fits her also.

Along the way when it was time for a pitstop, we happened upon an Indian food place, one of my favorites and something that hasn’t been on the menu for many years primarily because of garlic intolerance. A short conversation with the waiter solved the what-to-order issue and, somehow, naan, a favorite carbohydrate, also wound up in the order.

By mid-afternoon, we arrived in Santa Barbara and, after introductions, proceeded to the Bacara, an ocean front resort, where we found an outdoor table looking out at the endless Pacific and proceeded to order drinks and bar food (nachos). While not indulging in the alcohol was easy, the nachos were above average and I definitely ate my share. When we got back to Barbara’s home, where we would spend the night, there were more snacks, including my favorite: blueberry goat cheese log and seed crackers. 

While that may sound moderate; it was three separate carbohydrates in three separate eating events. After five days of blood glucose readings in the 80s and 90s, the reading the next morning was 118 and brought me back to reality: everything counts. This is not a game to see how much I can get away with. I know perfection is not the goal … or even possible … but everything is a choice … and blood glucose is a significant indicator or health.

Somehow I thought the lesson I had learned was that as long as I avoided sugar, I could eat anything I wanted as long as it was part of a meal. It’s time to redefine the parameters. As much as I love carbohydrates, my body needs a rest from them, especially processed carbs … those lovely, crunchy things that come in bags which invite open-ended indulgences.

While reminding myself of the reality of carbohydrates, I am also congratulating myself for my successes. There were a lot of sweet things available and, when my blood glucose shot up, I had several moments of frustration when I thought, “Why not go for the sugar, too?” I resisted; and even though I’m no longer on the sugar fast, I have 46 days without sugary sweets.

All in all: lessons learned, commitment honored, and I am grateful to be on this journey.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Love Letters to My Life: #46 - Is life just pebbles on the beach?


The Gathering

   It is claimed that just before he died, Isaac Newton said, “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

    While these words have not been found in his writings, it is a charming thought and makes me wonder how much any of us know about the great ocean of truth which lies all undiscovered around us as well as the great joy of playing with pebbles and shells on the beach.

    Thoughts of the beach come like waves as I contemplate returning to Santa Barbara, a place I fell head-over-heels in love with in 1980. The combination of mountains and beach was … and is … everything this kid from Kansas dreamed of. In a few days, I will find out if there is an apartment waiting for me in a senior community in Isla Vista, the community surrounding UCSB. It’s an interesting story and one that is offering me a chance to return to the only place that feels like home.

    In the late 60s when protests and riots were inflamed by the war in Vietnam, a new dorm had just been built. One February night in 1970, a riot began, the Bank of America building was burned, Governor Reagan sent in the National Guard, curfew was declared, and SWAT teams were sent in control the situation. Two months later, a 22-year-old student was shot and killed, some say as he tried to set fire to the temporary BofA building; others say he was putting out the fire.

    Anyway, with all the unrest, student population plummeted and a group of people purchased the now-unneeded dorm and turned it into a non-profit Senior Community and, possibly, my forever-home. (It’s not polite to guffaw!)

     In the midst of thinking about this possible move, I found an artist statement I wrote for a gallery show in Reno … in a unique, community-oriented auto body repair shop! I needed a new artist statement, one which matched the humor and outlook of the venue. I don’t remember writing this, but here it is:

Connecting through Art

beauty is not a luxury … 

nor an art,

it is the soul’s breath of life,

infilling each cell, 

moment by moment.

In my electronic art studio, a mystical process begins.

Gathered beauties, stored in a lonely room,

 begin to call to each other,

finding playmates, so to speak,

running through the halls of imagination,

changing frocks or hats,

trying this color or that,

like children in a costume shop.

           This costume play 

     continues as I follow along,

pushing buttons, sometimes suggesting a possibility,

              until a young one squeals in delight,

                    shows me something new.

             Suddenly, a fog lifts, my breath catches,

       as a colorful image, never before seen, appears.

       After that, it’s my job to sweep up the shop,

          rehang the costumes, tidy the supplies,

           and prepare for another day of play.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Sweet Peace #17: Blood Glucose and an Unexpected Solution

Finally, after several weeks of having my blood glucose bump up into the unacceptable range, I have finally found an answer … one I hadn’t expected.

Over these weeks, I tried many things including a 30-day sugar fast, and the elimination of almost all high-glycemic foods and processed carbs. It was frustrating and I began to wonder if I was losing the struggle against diabetes, which runs through my family. After reading about emulsifiers, I wondered if the issue could be eggs and cottage cheese, protein staples in my food choices.

When eliminating those foods didn’t seem to have an effect, I was truly worried that somehow my body had passed into a new stage of pre-diabetes. I dug deeper into Google and began to monitor glucose levels before and two hours after meals. 

Nothing seemed to make any sense … or difference. At one point my fasting blood sugar rate was higher in the morning than it had been the night before (with no food inbetween) and I discovered something called the “dawn effect,” which was scary because it seemed to refer to diabetics taking insulin.

Then a thought occurred … what about in-between meal snacks? I had been eating nuts and cheese rather freely since they are low glycemic. However, could they be maintaining my blood glucose at a high level so that it never had a chance to recover? Three days ago, I stopped anything in-between meals and the result was immediate, even when I had eggs and cottage cheese, even when a meal included a bit of carbohydrates.

This morning, for the first time in the past three weeks, my glucose rate has dropped back into the normal range I’ve been striving for (under 100). I know that the recent spike was created when I got lax about avoiding sugar. I thought a few days of no sugar would get me back on track, but it didn't. Then, when I substituted snacks of nuts and cheese for the missing sugar, thinking that would help, it only maintained those elevated levels.

I don’t know if this is a universal solution since I haven’t read about it on my information searches, but it seems to be working for me and I’m staying with it. While sugar is not a healthy food, I may not have to give it up entirely as long as it’s in moderation and balanced with a healthy meal. On the other hand, snacks need to be watched carefully even when they are so-called “healthy snacks.”

P..S. There is a ton of material on “healthy snacks,” especially for Type 2 diabetics who need to regulate their blood glucose. Do you need snacks, healthy or not, is a question I didn’t find an answer for. If you have a blood glucose issue, you may have to find the right answer for your own body by monitoring more frequently. I have been tempted to buy a continuous monitor to get better readings about how my body reacts to various foods. For now, though, I’m just going to continue to test the idea of avoiding snacks and limiting sugar.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Sweet Peace #16: Spiraling into Understanding

Rainbow Spiral

 Today is Day #29 of a 30-day sugar fast, and yet my blood glucose is elevated. I’m keeping a food diary to try to figure out why. Processed carbs are gone, hidden sugar foods limited, and I’m walking regularly, so I’m frustrated by the numbers I’m getting. This morning was 120, not a scary-high number but confusing considering the efforts I’m making, and my history of lower numbers normally in the 90 - 110 range.

Obviously, I can’t go back to eating sugar with my numbers at this level. Do I go for another 30 days or just stay mindful of the hazards of sugar? Could I really do sugar in moderation? Probably not yet. Love that word “Yet!”

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to find the universal guidelines which can form the foundation of my approach to food and have come up with 3:

  1. Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
  2. Focus on Fiber
  3. Avoid processed foods and emulsifiers.

Emulsifiers was a new one for me. One definition from The Conversation (academic rigor, journalistic flair): 

“A recent study suggests emulsifiers – detergent-like food additives found in a variety of processed foods – have the potential to damage the intestinal barrier, leading to inflammation and increasing our risk of chronic disease.”

The study was done with mice but the results are considered a warning for humans.

The Conversation explains: “The lining of our gastrointestinal tract has one of the toughest jobs around. It must allow fluid and nutrients to be absorbed from our diet, while also acting as a barrier to prevent the invasion of toxins and harmful bacteria into our bodies.”

Emulsifiers allow oil and water to mix as when the lecithin in eggs allows us to mix lemon juice and oil to make mayonnaise. In the study, two common food emulsifiers were added to the water of mice. The results of the study showed, “In comparison to control mice, previously healthy mice that were fed emulsifiers had low-level gastrointestinal inflammation, ate more food and gained more weight (especially body fat), had higher blood sugar levels and were resistant to the action of insulin. The condition of the mice resembles a human condition that is increasing in prevalence called the metabolic syndrome.”

This note about the lecithin in eggs caught my attention: “Daily intake of lecithin from food sources can be up to 6g in a Western diet, with a single egg yolk containing around 1.5g of lecithin.”

My food diary for the past ten days shows a lot of eggs, normally 2, for a total of 3g of lecithin. Also, a recent food focus is cottage cheese, and its label shows carrageenan, a common emulsifier.

An article in HealthyFood states, “A few studies have linked carrageenan with impaired glucose tolerance in mice and inflammatory responses in both mice and human tissue. A 2018 article highlights the knowledge gaps on these emulsifiers as a) a lack of information on how much people are actually getting in their diets, b) uncertainty about their effect on the microbiome and inflammation and c) a lack of knowledge around differences in these effects with susceptible groups, such as older people or those with irritable bowel disease (IBD).”

While all of this is still in the research stage, I’m going to do an experiment of one and avoid eggs and cottage cheese for the next 3 days. Will report next week.

Friday, April 1, 2022

I Wonder Why?

April 1, 2022 - This poem, written in 2015, reflected what I thought was a confusing time. Somewhat like the sign above, found in Gerlach, Nevada, I didn't know if it was a beginning or an ending. Now we know: strange times were just beginning. Where or when it will end is still to be determined. Maybe it's just part of the human state with almost 8 billion people trying to make it through the day on one fragile planet.

I wonder why?
I wonder why I, who believes in no dogma,
Who can no longer wear the badge of Christianity,
Keep asking myself, “What would Jesus do?"
And receiving an answer so different
from what I see around me?

I wonder why?
I wonder why we who live in the shelter
of freedom and abundance, allow mega-corps
a free ride while our wounded wander homeless,
our children go to bed hungry, and those who
have never known freedom or abundance
are turned away from our door?

I wonder why?
I wonder why we lock our doors at night and then
turn our backs on the creeping devastation coming our way?
I wonder why we still pour our money into weapons of mass
destruction as we climb into our cars and drink manufactured
water out of invincible bottles that will inherit our earth?

I wonder why?
I wonder why the heroes of our grandchildren are vampires,
zombies, and dead souls weaving their way through a dystopian
world without hope or reason, and why they inflict pain 
on their tender bodies in a search for art and meaning?

I wonder why?
I wonder why we lost our way?