Slow Cooking A Life



At age seventy-two, I’ve suddenly realized that having a happy life and living authentically, is like slow-cooking. It’s about allowing myself to gather the ingredients for a recipe and letting it simmer on the back of the stove on the lowest flame possible. When my mother taught me to make her heavenly, cure-all chicken soup, she said, “Put all the ingredients in the stock pot, bring it to a raging boil, then turn the heat down until it’s just smiling.” What she meant was that it needed to cook very slowly. There would be no bubbling; only a slight shimmer on the surface of the liquid, and then you let it sit like that all day, while you went about your business.

In 2008, I finally accepted the fact that I was struggling with PTSD. It made sense because of my history of being abused as a child, and spending most of my adult years suffering from depression and extreme anxiety. Not wanting to spend the rest of my life being unhappy, I decided to seek help and quit blaming my pain on everyone else around me. Taking full responsibility for who I am and what I put out into the world was/is my goal. After three years of therapy with a psychologist whose specialty was dealing with trauma, I was well on my way to becoming whole and finding ways to deal with life on my own terms. This is how I did it:

I imagined my life as huge layer cake with too many dense layers to count. The layers themselves never had distinctive flavors. They were simply made up of different parts of my life, including what I do on a daily basis; the getting up, going to work, and then to bed kind of things, that go on day after day, like paying the bills, shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, and putting up with the dog across the street that barks all night.

In between each layer I hid the nitty-gritty stuff; my raw emotions, unhappiness, anger, losses, my victimhood, shame, boredom, laziness, fear, depression, and lack of hope. But mixed in with all that bitterness were tiny bits of something rather pleasing that I couldn’t identify. It was like a distant voice telling me to wake up and smell the roses. On occasion it sang to me and presented me with visions of huge bouquets of freshly picked tulips and daffodils.

Tired of that same old, same old, wanting to hear more music, and be given magnificent bouquets of flowers, I set out to bake a new cake for myself. I wanted the layers to be lighter and flavorful. Almond, dark chocolate, honey, or vanilla were just a few possibilities. I imagined it’s butter cream frosting sprinkled with red and pink rose pedals, and dusted with finely shredded coconut. In between the layers I envisioned things like fresh strawberries, chocolate ganache, marzipan, pineapple, and a host of other delicacies that would make life sweeter and a happier place to be.

The first thing I did was sit down outside in the sun and allow myself to stare into space. I tried to envision where I could find some of the necessary ingredients for this new cake. Instead, I found my eyes closing as I listened to a light breeze whispering through the pines. A mockingbird called out, trying out its own version of meowing as it flitted through the yard, teasing Lilli, the cat. I dozed off and woke feeling deliciously peaceful.

After several days of returning to the same spot, hoping to discover the place where I could find those seemingly unattainable ingredients, I realized I had found the most important one. By allowing myself to relax, empty my mind, and feel the warmth of the sun all over my body, I felt calmer, and happier. Over time, I found I could repeat the experience, even stuck inside on cold, rainy, or snowy days. The burdens I’d been carrying grew lighter.

Instead of feeling constantly rushed by what I thought I needed to be doing, I took to saying, “NO,” when asked to do things that overwhelmed me. I refused to be rushed into making snap decisions, or driving like a maniac to get to the theatre, movies, or appointments on time. It was hard. Everyone around me was on speed. Used to taking care of everyone else’s wishes but my own, I often slipped backwards into old patterns, feeling further abused. I blamed my slip ups on everyone else, while kicking myself in the butt for being stupid. But with practice, it got better.

I instead of filling my journal with rants about life and a litany of mundane things I’d done each day, I began adding notes about things I was grateful for, including those wonderful “light bulb moments,” that suddenly began appearing on a regular basis. From there I started several blogs where I published poems I’d written, and longer pieces about the natural world.

When the idea of writing a book came to me, this current blog, was my starting point. I posted family stories here and as the idea of writing a memoir became real, it’s where I continuesharing my stories and exploring my journey as I continue to heal.

Through writing about one small part of my life in, Me, Myself, and Mom, I see my life and those within it through new eyes. It’s all been sitting in the stock pot on the back burner of the stove, taking its sweet old time. And after a very long bake, is the best cake I’ve ever baked. It too has taken time. There is no instant gratification doing it my way, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been before. And life is sweet enough that I’ve given up sugar and gluten as another way to stay healthy.

Is your life boiling away into thin air, or is it on the back burner, smiling as it slowly cooks?

A Sure-To-Cure Remedy

Herbs for Medicine

Herbs for Medicine

Here we are in the middle of November. Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away and the big December gift day will follow on it’s heels.  Not being one who enjoys shopping for things that I imagine other people will like and then find them  never used once given, I’ve turned to other ways of giving.  I’m one of those health nuts who believe that food is medicine and that what is on most dinner plates and in many medicine cabinets these days is the cause of our dis-ease. This is the time of year I head to the kitchen to prepare a few gifts that a number of family members especially ask for and that actually work.

One of my favorite thing to make is what I call Sure-To-Cure Elderberry Elixir, originally known as Kiva’s Ultimate Elder Mother Elixir. I found the recipe on-line a number of years ago when I was studying and learning to use medicinal herbs. This one is a cure-all for colds and flu and I regretted not having some with me on my trip to London.  When I have plenty on hand I find myself taking a swig every day or so even when I’m feeling good, just to keep the bugs away. And it’s yummy on vanilla icecream as well.

I’m getting ready to order a few of the ingredients I’m out of  for this year’s gift giving.  I order most of my dried herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, out in Oregon.  They have good prices and just about any herb you can imagine. They also carry premixed teas, and bottles for your herbal concoctions.

This tasty remedy is simple to make and oh, so appreciated when received as a gift.  Here is the recipe if you’d like to make some for yourself:

1 cup dried Elderberries
1/2 cup dried Elderflowers
1/4 cup fresh Rosehips or 2 Tbsp. dried
3 Tbsp. fresh ginger chopped or grated
1 Tbsp. Fresh orange zest or dried chunks
pinch of Osha (optional, dried or fresh)
A small handful of wild licorice
Raw honey
Brandy, dark rum or good whiskey

Mix all of the herbs together and place in a one quart jar.  Cover herbs with honey until all are fully coated.  Then fill the jar with the booze.  Let it sit for four to six weeks. I turn it occasionally to keep it mixed well.  Strain through several layers of cheesecloth and bottle it up.

For best results, 1/2 to 1 dropperful every couple of hours until cold/flu symptoms disappear.

Please note that the photo in the header of this blog and my website is of a small elderberry shrub that grew in my garden at the last place we lived before moving here.  I have started growing one here but it hasn’t yet produced berries.

The weatherman predicted snow showers for today.  So far only gray skies and a biting wind out of the north.  Brrrr!