Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A bit more on coping

Since we first started discussing coping, I've read some interesting, related articles:

"But as she learned to knit and purl, hours melted away. She realized she was no longer focusing on the future, imagining catastrophic things happening to her loved ones." 
This is your brain on knitting via CNN

"Children like Luke, who experience neglect, severe stress or sudden separation at a young age can be traumatized. Without appropriate adult support, trauma can interfere with healthy brain development."
- Teaching kids to calm themselves via New York Times

Question - What did you think of this "recommended reading"?

I was struck by how the coping mechanisms were equally relevant in times of great trauma as well as daily stress. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

An introvert's dilemma

I don't like attention. Several years ago, at our wedding, I felt so happy to be marrying my husband while wearing a beautiful dress. I felt less pleased about all the people watching me do so. Who could possibly blend in while wearing a tiara?

Lately, I've been experiencing some deju-vu. Over the last couple of years, I've been trying to overcome my predilection for schlubbiness. I wrestled with tiny elements of style that other people befriended effortlessly. I bought more jewel tones. I got some tinted lip gloss. I plucked my eyebrows more frequently. And I served these changes alongside a newly fit me. Adopted over time, the changes energized without overwhelming.

Then, other people started to notice. I felt happy receiving compliments from acquaintances. I felt less pleased with prolonged looks from strangers. What do you do when the thing that makes you happy makes you unhappy as well?

Question - How do you feel about being the center of attention?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Coping: a case study

Through my work over the last few years, I have been confronted with the issue of coping, both that of others as well as my own. 

To be clear, I don't have a theoretical background in this area. Instead, my practical experience relates primarily to coping with caregiving, bereavement and medical crises. However, coping also relates to many other situations, such as: disaster, relationships, depression, abuse, PTSD and change. Not surprisingly, coping looks like many different things, varying greatly depending on the stressor, the individual and the individual's state in a given moment.

I certainly haven't mastered the skill, but I've become more aware of some of my coping mechanisms (and hopefully embrace them more readily):

faith - My faith is the most important part of my life and therefore, also, my coping. During a particularly hard time, I remember reading A Path Through Suffering on repeat, finishing it and immediately starting again at the beginning.

books - Speaking of reading, sometimes the very act can help me clear my mud-mind and take the next step. Recently, I found myself pacing through the apartment, too angry to do anything other than wander around with an exclamation thought bubble hovering over my head. Then, my eyes fell on the poetry collection on my nightstand. Just reading one passage helped distract and steady me enough to begin troubleshooting. 

home - Left to my own devices, I would probably spend all day puttering around at home. I embody the word "homebody" not as a preference but as a need. As an introvert living in an extrovert's world, I need the space to re-collect the energy required to navigate the challenges of daily living.

exercise - Partially, I started running because I wanted to be a runner, but I also started running as an outlet for the nervous energy and/or restless mind that anxiety sometimes generates.

emotion - Tears can facilitate my coping. Crying acknowledges the grief I am feeling instead of suppressing it, Once I've admitted that the sadness exists, I can address it. Though sometimes just exposing it to the light gives me the ability to move forward instead of being weighed down by the sorrow.  

Question - How do you cope? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wish me luck today

St. Patrick's Day is sort of a big deal in NYC. Not in the sweet way it was over the weekend, with families and kids wearing shamrock headbands pouring into the center of town for the local parade. Not like the fun of hanging out with friends during the annual corned beef and cabbage dinners in the school gym throughout my childhood.

It's more like inebriated 20-year-olds trying to stuff themselves under their seat on the train so they don't have to pay the fare...during the morning commute.

Here goes nothing.

Question - How are you celebrating today?

I'm wishing you shamrock headbands and irish soda bread.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


What I've been reading (in 140 characters or less)...

Contemporary story of faith. Really commits to capturing moments, which makes the ending Q&A w/ the author a valuable, thematic commentary.

Most accessible poet ever encountered. Great for reading quietly, reading aloud, cheering yourself up & centering yourself down. #wordplay

These books both came from my most recent stroll through the library. I used to visit the library every weekend, and now it's fairly rare. I simply must get back to my roots.

(a fun link-up)

Question - Do you ever read poetry aloud?

I don't think to do it very often. I'm more likely to do so if I can read aloud to someone else. Spoken poetry strikes me in much the same way that audio books do. It's just an entirely different experience than reading to yourself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spicy peanut stir fry // a long-time favorite, re-worked

Somehow, over the last several months, I've developed a strong aversion to handling raw meat. 

Actually, for quite a while now, I've tended to make/eat vegetarian main dishes, so much so that our favorite waitress at our favorite restaurant recently said to me, "You're a vegetarian, right?" I'm not, but I would consider myself veg-oriented, meaning, vegetarian dishes often appeal to me. However now, I can't seem to force myself to handle raw meat unless I'm cooking for loved ones who prefer eating as omnivores. Nowadays at home, I don't eat much meat and what I do eat is pre-cooked (i.e. - deli turkey, prepared sausages, etc.), and while I'm out, I'll still order a dish with meat if it sounds the most appetizing. 

To accommodate this strange new world, I've been re-working some of our favorite meals. My most recent accomplishment on this front has been converting our well-loved chicken stir fry recipe into a vegetable stir fry. I consider it to be a great success. 

I've found the key to be including a variety of textures so has not to miss the unique texture of the chicken. You'll see in the ingredient list that I really like crunchy water chestnuts. This dish has a lot of similar flavor characteristics as my new favorite fried rice recipe, but I consider the flavor to be even more magnified in the stir fry. The sauce is a winner - salty, slightly sweet and as spicy as you want. And we definitely want, however, we've left out, without harm, the crushed red pepper flakes when entertaining others; so feel free to leave it out if you prefer.

Spicy Peanut Stir Fry

2 bunches of green onions, trimmed and chopped (green and white parts)
2 generous teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
10 heaping teaspoons smooth peanut butter (I use the natural, unsalted variety.)
2 cups of water
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons honey
1 12 oz bag frozen shelled edamame
1 16 oz bag frozen asian vegetable stir fry mix (I used a mix that included broccoli, green beans,sugar snap peas, carrots, celery, red peppers, water chestnuts and onions.)
2 8 oz cans sliced water chestnuts (slices halved)
cooked brown rice
chopped, unsalted peanuts

If preparing rice, begin cooking as directed on package.

If possible, prepare sauce mixture in advance, and let sit in the refrigerator (1 hour - 1 day) to allow the flavor to intensify. To prepare the sauce, in a medium bowl, stir together the green onions, ginger, soy sauce, peanut butter, water, red pepper flakes and honey. 

Pour the sauce mixture into a large non-stick pan, and cook over medium heat. When the sauce bubbles, reduce to low heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Stir often to prevent burning.

Add edamame, frozen vegetables and water chestnuts. Increase heat to medium and cook until heated through.

Serve over rice, topped with peanuts.

Serves 6

Question - Have you ever developed an aversion that surprised you? If so, please share. I'm still trying to demystify my own.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A daylight savings weekend treat

A bit of warmth peeked out this weekend, and I almost lost my head over it. I honestly felt like hugging myself, like I could preserve the warmth by clutching it around me.

I decided to celebrate this hint of Spring by gifting myself with a treat that I haven't given myself in a while - a long, leisurely wander through my favorite, local, public library branch. After careful perusal and deliberation, I walked away with four books and an audio book (approximately half of items that I had originally picked up). I don't really know what it feels like to delight over a shopping spree, but I imagine it feels like this - a wonderful, satisfied feeling.  

Some other treats from the weekend:

Best eat - Alvarado St. Bakery sprouted multi-grain bread - a new-to-me loaf with an excellent, chewy texture.

Best read - "The 'Boys' in the Bunkhouse" via the New York Times - A nuanced look at the lives of a few dozen men with intellectual disabilities, their neglect and eventual re-introduction to society.

- What gives you that "wonderful, satisfied feeling"?
- What is the best article you've read recently?