Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year/New Look

Welcome to the fresh, new look of It Is What It Is. I am excited about the changes and I am looking forward to bringing you fresh, new insights. I will also be adding some fun applications along the way to help you utilize this website better. So for now, take a look around and reacquaint or acquaint yourself with what's happening on It is What It Is.
Refreshing Orange Slice photo courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt

Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Year Ends: Roller Coaster in Review

This past year has led me in several directions as I strived to get on top of my health issues. Many times I felt as if I was riding an out of control roller coaster. I started the year with the word theme of momentum. Even though I began with a slow, progressive roll, soon I seemed to be in a vertical drop with no vision in sight. I leveled off and made changes in the tracks ahead. I was rocked from side-to-side and looped-de-looped, but I kept moving forward with the power of one word.

The year of momentum in review:
The focus on momentum guided me throughout the year as I explored ways to help us all feel better and embrace the life we have. As I end the year with new medication protocols and a fresh sense of peace, I look to next year to continue my forward progress. I am optimistic that I will have less of a roller coaster existence and more of a full steam ahead approach to whatever tracks are before me.

Join me in the new year with a new look to It Is What It Is...

Michelle
Olympia Looping photo courtesy of Oliver Mallich
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, December 19, 2011

Now, Where Did I Put God?

How does one go about losing God? Do you misplace God like a set of keys? Is God rolling around somewhere inside your car or perhaps your purse? Can you lose God with a bet at a poker game? Is God with a sock you haven't been able to find since you did the laundry?

I've always known where I lost God. For me it was while I was attending Catholic school back in the 1960’s. I know, ironic isn't it? I was hung up on why being Catholic was the only way to God. Other religions believe theirs is the one true path. So who is right? Over the years I found many correlations with various forms of religion. Could we all be on the same path but singing different songs? I stepped away from what it meant to be Catholic and never really looked back. This left a void in my life, something I failed to realize. My negative views of religion had blocked my spiritual growth. I was confusing religion with spirituality.

Interestingly enough, I found God a few years ago. And no, God wasn’t wearing my long lost sock. I no longer think of God as a religion, but as an essence of who we all are. I believe God exists for everyone and is always there for you 24/7. God is held deep within our hearts, but you need to allow space in your life to hear what is being said. That God-space has become an important part of my knowing who I am and what is best for me. Whatever God means or may have meant to you⎯perhaps it is time to get acquainted or reacquaint yourself! If you allow the space, answers do come…

During this holiday season, I wish you peace, love and light.

Michelle
Photo courtesy of Alex Holzknecht
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Embracing Stress

I am learning to explore stress in my life and attempting to understand how I handle it. I realize it takes constant awareness on my part; otherwise, I may be looking at a crazy-eyed person in the mirror. That is a sure sign I have been off my guard.

Any kind of stress requires our bodies to release bursts of energy hormones. In small doses, stress usually does not wear you down, but over long periods of time, this type of constant push can cause many health complications. These health issues are not good anytime of the year, but can be particularly problematic during the holidays.

We generally know what negative stressors exist in our lives, but good stressors exist too. I think of good stress as what feels positive, but still requires the same burst of energy your negative stressors require. It’s like an energy checking account⎯you cannot keep withdrawing forever. So good stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing⎯unless your energy checking account is depleted⎯then it is just as bad as the negative stressors.

Have you ever thought about actually embracing stress? I am⎯the good, the bad and the ugly kind. It’s all in how I manage it. Stress is a fact of life, and it will creep in when I least expect it. Here are a few things I am considering:
  • Attitude⎯I must look calmly at problems. Giving myself the space to figure out each issue gives rise to solutions.
  • Balance⎯I know I cannot possibly do everything I want to do and have to do. The answer here is understanding the priorities.
  • Limitations⎯I must know my limitations. Understanding what these are will help me use the best of my time and energy, not to mention help me prioritize.
  • Breathing⎯I need to take a deep breath more often. Most of us have the tendency to take shallow breaths or hold their breath, so taking a deep breath will not only give me a space to think clearly, it helps me relax.
If you are facing stressful times in the weeks ahead, consider embracing stress⎯the good, the bad and the ugly; it is up to you to know the difference. Deal with those things you MUST and let go of everything else. I’m working on it. How about you?

Oh, and how does one build-up their energy checking account? By doing what you love silly! Here would be a good point to mention what my friend, Vivian, would say:

STRESSED spelled backwards⎯DESSERTS!

Michelle
Photo courtesy of cinnamon_girl
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Escape to The Night Circus

I recently read an absolutely delightful book, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. It is one of those stories that titillate the brain and sends your senses into overdrive. The smells, sights, sounds and textures are vivid. It is a rather dark novel, but you will find yourself smiling all the way through as it casts a spell of enchantment over you. It is a clever, well-written and magical escape.
Celia, one of the main characters, calls their circus, “a wonder and comfort and mystery all together.”
WARNING: This is one of those books you never want to end⎯you will wish you could escape to The Night Circus.

Give yourself a break this holiday season⎯create some space and tap into the joy of reading. Give yourself permission⎯you owe it to yourself and happier holidays ahead.

Michelle
Photo courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Made with Love


 “…And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
The Beatles
As I prepare for the holiday season, I am making it a point to think of my friend Ann. A few years ago, Ann decided she wasn’t going to do her usual holiday cookie baking. I have to tell you, Ann is not the normal cookie baker, she is a cookie-baking machine who makes over 2000 cookies to give to those on her cookie list. I am one of the fortunate people on this list and when she told me she was dropping the cookies, I tried to give her my best missing-cookies-already encouragement. You see, she was struggling with the overwhelming feelings of what one “thinks” they must do during this time of the year⎯ holiday expectations. Sound familiar?

After that particular cookie-less holiday season, Ann confided that she missed the baking so much it had not even seemed like Christmas, and she hadn’t realized how much the baking meant to her. She mentioned the pleasure she feels in the whole process⎯ baking the cookies, packing them in gift boxes and personally handing them out.

As holidays have come and gone since the cookie-less Christmas, Ann has not missed a minute of cookie-baking frenzy since. She pares down and adjusts everything else she does during this time with her intention being on the pure enjoyment of doing what she loves⎯baking her cookies off.

Ann made the choice and allowed space in her life to share what she loves with others. In doing so, Ann makes these cookies with love, and it is this love she is able to take in return exponentially as everyone expresses their gratitude for having received her wonderful gift. I’m holding on to Ann’s commitment during this holiday season. If my intention is not love felt, perhaps it is just not worth doing? Whether it is baking, decorating, gifting or whatever it is you find yourself doing this holiday season, join me, think of Ann and ask yourself, “Is it made with love?”

Michelle
Photo courtesy of MITCH3LL
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy Gratitude

The holidays are rapidly approaching. Everywhere we look we see the ads and enticements to buy, buy, buy. I ask, why, why, why? Does anyone really need one more thing? Oh, but it is such a deal⎯really? What’s in your wallet? Not as much as there used to be I would venture to guess.

Instead of the frenzied focus on what I think I should be doing this holiday season. My focus will be intent on occupying a state of gratitude. How will I do this…
  • Make it personal⎯no quick thrown out there, “Thank-you.” But an eye locking, smile on my face, “THANK-you.” If that person happens to work in retail and have a name badge on then my thank you will include their name, which I try to do anyway, because it let's people know that I’m not overlooking the fact that I am talking to another person.
  • Make it a celebration⎯by celebrating those in my life who help make my life easier. I’ll make sure I do something special for my garbage and recycle guys, my mail carrier and newspaper delivery people⎯oh, and I can’t forget my hair stylist who helps me feel and look my best, and then there’s…
  • Make each day a gratitude filled day⎯by letting people know just how grateful I am for what they do, who they are or by the fact they are simply a part of my life.
I intend to inhabit gratitude. How about you⎯will you be able to find space in your wallet to dole out some gratitude? Come along with me and occupy gratitude this holiday season. You will be grateful you did.

Michelle

Photo courtesy of downing.amanda
© Copyright 2010 Michelle Clark

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What Would Scooby Do?

About ten years ago I had an unexpected visit from my next-door neighbor boys. Brothers Taylor and Greg had overheard their parents talking about my husband’s cancer issues and decided to do something about it. They baked a one-layer cake, and not just any cake; it was one of those very special Hasbro Easy-Bake Oven cakes that are about five inches across and half and inch high. Smack dab right in the middle of the chocolate frosting sat a crazy eyed, three-inch bobble-head Scooby-Doo with a big smile on his face. Of course his head bobbed uncontrollably up and down as the boys handed me their gift.

For those who do not know Scooby-Doo, I shall try to enlighten you. Scooby is a talking Great Dane cartoon character that showed up on our televisions in 1969. As a matter of fact, he still has quite a following today. He was known for his goofiness, being afraid of most things and pronouncing more R's than even a dog has a right to.

Taylor and Greg had asked their mom if they could bake a cake and include their favorite little bobble head. I accepted this lopsided, funny looking cake with great surprise. It was such a sweet and loving thing for these children, ages 9 and 7, to do. They had no idea how much it touched my heart. After a few days, I asked their mom if I could give them their Scooby back. She explained the whole story to me and how important it was for them to give me something they really loved.

Nearly ten years later, I am still looking at that silly looking dog. He is always a part of my basket of special mementos and sometimes sits by the side of my bed if I need an extra Scooby smile to hit me first thing in the morning and last thing at night. While he nods yes to everything, he is a wise old dog. He knows how much a smile and a nod can mean and never ceases to please. When I am feeling a bit off with the world, I can always count on Scooby because I know just what he would do⎯nod his head, smile and remind me of two little boys and the love they shared with me that day.

Sometimes all we need is what we have. Look around⎯what gives you a good feeling you can hold onto? Is it time to share something you love with someone in need?

Scooby-Doo Licensed by Hanna-Barbara Productions
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, November 7, 2011

Looking Ahead

When I learned to snow ski many years ago, one important fact stuck in my mind and has carried over into other aspects of my life⎯look ahead to where you want to go. That doesn’t mean just immediately in front of you, but further out so you may anticipate your moves and your needs. Funny thing is, my ski instructors were spot on. If I wasn’t looking out to where I wanted to go, I would end up doing a face plant, yard sale, or better yet, looking at a tree rather up close and personal.

For those of you who do not ski:

Face plant⎯usually happens when I am only looking off the tips of my skis and not down the slope. Plowing ahead at full speed without anticipating where you are going is not necessarily going to get you where you want to go...

Yard Sale⎯off balance at high speeds tends to scatter your gear all over the place. Once your body comes to a halt and you are able to assess the damage to person and gear you must make adjustments; otherwise, the same thing will happen over and over as long as you continue to be off balance...

Tree Hugging⎯it amazes me how I end up here, but if I am more focused on what I don’t want to have happen, it happens anyway. Hmm!

Whether biking, running, swimming, skiing or trying to negotiate the twists and turns of my life, I find I must look ahead to where I want to go. We are all guilty of taking a glance back once in awhile, but the moment my head turns to look back, my balance is off and I am out of control⎯which may send me in a tumble, impede my momentum and perhaps put a stop to my forward motion.

It is up to me to be aware of those times when I am not looking ahead. It can be scary looking down a steep slope, but I know I must do it anyway in order for me to get to where I want to go. After all, when I am looking ahead, I am looking out to my future. What are you looking at?

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Thorne
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, October 31, 2011

Marshmallow Time

Sometimes life should not be so darn hard. I know it is up to me to make whatever choices I need in order to bring about the changes that need to be made, but sometimes it is as simple as taking a time-out to roast marshmallows over the coals of a fire. That is what I did today. It's not summertime and I wasn't sitting around a campfire. I had been out for a run earlier in the day, tackled a few things in the garden and was looking forward to a bit of time to myself after lunch, but the coals of a nearby fire beckoned.

I cut a vine maple stick, poked around the fire, crouched down and roasted one marshmallow after another all by myself. It was heaven. It’s hard to roast marshmallows without thinking about being a kid, it’s hard to roast marshmallows and feel bad, it’s hard to roast marshmallows and not smile somewhat to yourself as you say, “This is right where I need to be, this moment, right now.” This is a choice I am making and I am choosing marshmallow time for myself. It just wasn't exactly what I had in mind originally when thinking of time to myself. Oh well.

The length of time I took to enjoy every⎯last⎯bite was an absolute delight. I won’t say just how many marshmallows I roasted because, quite frankly, I lost count. Yes, I know there is nothing good for you nutrition-wise in devouring marshmallows, but I do know it was a wonderful, sticky moment I will recall again and again.

Sometimes it is all about the marshmallows, nothing more.

Photo courtesy of Ken Bosma
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, October 24, 2011

Autumn Joy

I am the grass pushing through the soil of my garden. I must soak up the sun, the rain and the nutrients in order for my roots to spread deep into the soil. As the autumn rains wash over me, I am able to absorb the necessary nutrients to sustain me. The sun pulls me upward in a warm and loving embrace until the cool temperatures slow me down once again to a dormant state. Ah, the pleasures of an autumn day.

It must sound as if autumn is my favorite of all seasons. Well, it is right now, but come December as autumn moves into winter⎯that will be my favorite season⎯until spring and summer roll around, that is. Lately I have been out in my garden whenever I can manage to devote time to bedding it down before its winter nap. The low glow of the sun warms me as the brisk bite of wind stings my face and ignites a sense of peace throughout my garden and myself⎯the kiss of autumn joy. Tending my garden mirrors the need to tend to my own needs as well. The more I tend my garden, the deeper and stronger the roots grow. Deep roots help overcome famine, drought, pestilence and whatever storms blow my way. The ability to stand firmly planted and create joy in your life for yourself is not something you merely consider⎯it is something you must do.

Those who have not tended to their garden with love and care find they do not have deep, robust roots to make it through the difficult times. I am the garden and my roots grow deep. How about your roots⎯could they use a bit of autumn joy right now?

Michelle
Photo courtesy of Mizrak
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Great Expectations

 “You are the light of the world…”
Mathew 5:14
 A friend’s son just came home from his two-year missionary stint in Ghana, Africa. I saw Russ today and we chatted a bit. While he still has his wonderful smile, I could see he was dealing with the feelings one has when living in such a different place. I asked him how he was doing, but it was difficult for him to put into words. I mentioned that years ago I had an intern working with me who spent time in Thailand with the Peace Corps and Care. I told Russ that Lynn had shared her experiences and feelings with me in letters while she was overseas and when she came home.

As I was quickly outlining some of the frustrations Lynn felt, I saw a look of recognition of those same frustrations Russ was experiencing:
  • You are setting off on new horizons with great expectations.
  • Nothing is ever exactly what you imagined until you experience it.
  • You set and re-set your goals as you watch your “great expectations” shrink away.
  • You wonder how whatever it is you are doing can make a difference at all.
Now that Russ is home, he is re-experiencing his home life in a different way. Understandably, it is hard to live in a remote place then BAM⎯home again to a completely altered way of life. I told Russ it would take time and to ALLOW for the time to feel the experience and carry it forward in his life.

After talking with Russ, I got to thinking, the same four points hold true for whatever “great expectations” anyone is embarking on. But it’s okay, head for those new horizons anyway. It doesn’t have to be on mission in a far-off land. Your new horizons may be doing something you have always wanted to do, it may entail changing bad habits or creating new ones, but most importantly⎯great expectations can change your life by learning to simply be a better you. The fact you even tried will make a difference⎯even if you can’t see it for what it is until you have time to look back at the experience...

I know Russ will soon be embarking on more great expectations. Someday he may understand that his adventure in Ghana changed more than he realized. Just showing up with that amazing smile of his touched everyone he came in contact with. His is a smile you would never forget for it lights up the world. Where will your great expectations shine?
…“let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds…”
Mathew 5:16

Photo courtesy of shuttermonkey
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rejecting the Ugly-Self

It doesn’t matter which ugly-self comes to mind, but I am willing to bet many of us have a few things about ourselves we would rather not have others see let alone know about. Just because historical bad behavior follows you like stinky cheese, it doesn’t mean you can’t start changing the aroma a bit.

I was talking to Kay the other day as she was in the aftermath of yet another confrontation with her ugly-self. We talked about what brought this particular battle on and why she thinks she responds the way she does. Many times it involves other people⎯you know, the ones that push your buttons. Then again, it may involve no one else but little old stinky you. Your ugly-self pops up when you least expect it. It’s sneaky that way⎯hmm, sneaky and stinky are not words I want following me around.

I was already familiar with other aspects of Kay’s life and how many things SEEM to be out of control. The more out of control our life SEEMS, the more ugly-selves we have staring back at us in the mirror. Kay mentioned she really did not want to act the way she does, and it only makes her feel worse about everything in her life. I pointed out that her past behavior had not served her well and there was only one way to address it. STOP!

The ugly-self usually reacts immediately in any given situation, so I have found in order to make a change:
  • I must become aware of the moments I want to change.
  • I need to STOP in those moments!
  • I need to take a breath, or two or three…
  • I need to make a choice (do nothing, respond in a positive way with no lingering aroma, or let the stink fly and deal with the consequences).
Simple⎯STOP, take a moment, take a breath and you decide in that moment how you will respond. In that moment you can take control and make a difference in your life right now. You see it really is up to you. Other people may set you off, but you are the one allowing ugly-self to respond. In my life I find it much easier to make a change if I start out by keeping it simple. Thus, by taking a pause, I have a moment to do a quick analysis of why I am feeling anger, stress or whatever the negative emotion is, and because I am making a real concerted effort to change ugly-self behavior, I change.

DO NOT let your stinking history foul up what is happening now. The more you pause and become aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions of that space in time you can change. Kay listened and in an absolutely confident voice she said, “I can do that!” There is a big learning curve here for everyone, and we will all experience a whiff of stinky cheese every once in awhile, but the more you STOP and take control of the moment, it becomes a habit. Now that is the sweet smell of success I can live with.

Photo courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, October 3, 2011

Releasing the Rhythm

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

As I was swimming laps in a pool a few weeks ago, I was contemplating the rhythm of the beat. Every stroke of my arms, kick of my feet and rolling of my head for a breath reminded me how in control I was at that moment. With the waning days of summer I could feel the pull of autumn reminding me to slow down just a bit, telling me it is time to savor the beginning of the next season with a slowing of my rhythm.

Those heady, warm summer days have released me into autumn. Today I was reminded once again of the need to slow down as I strolled the autumn air. I could smell the leaves and feel the release of their weight as they drift unhurriedly to the ground. I could hear the dewdrops falling in the trees telling me that rain will soon follow. The sounds of autumn begin my day with a lazy, foggy quiet that reminds me to listen and hear my heart, my voice⎯reminding me to plug into the rhythm of this season. As the trees drop their leaves and begin their annual slowing into winter, I will follow their cue. Mother Nature knows all about rhythm, so I will listen to her primordial voice. There are times when one must release the need for control to go about the natural rhythms of the day. You just can't argue with Mother Nature!

How will you release your rhythm into autumn?

Photo courtesy of Randy Robertson

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, September 19, 2011

First Flight

Ever since I was a child, I have often dreamt of flying. Not the flying in an airplane kind of thing, but the arm flapping, soaring like the wind flying. It’s always exhilarating and the rush I feel when I wake-up follows me throughout the day. Sometimes I don’t remember dreaming, but I know, I feel it, “Must have been flying again!”

Years ago I was always hesitant of the first step into the unknown. The longer I waited, the more difficult it would be. It was like my flying dreams, I knew I wanted to believe I could, but it was almost paralyzing. I learned to trust my self, my instincts⎯I learned to believe. Ever since then I have taken many “first” flights. You know the feeling, something you want to do but are afraid to do. It can literally take your breath away. You feel as though you are stepping off a cliff into the unknown. You are supposed to feel that way⎯attaching wings and learning to fly is not easy. Let the momentum of your belief in yourself catch in your wings so you may soar to new heights! Close your eyes and take the first step, you will be glad you did.

Now that I am back from my summer break, I thought I would share a moment of my summer with you. One of my favorite things to do is have an early morning cup of something hot to drink and sit out on my front porch. After months of watching the comings and goings of my annual Chickadee family, I was allowed to watch “my” babies leave their nest. The following video captured the last babe to leave. The other two had left the day before, but this one did not want to have anything to do with it. The mamma Chickadee had to coax this one out. So here’s to your first flight, whatever it may be. Gotta fly…


Photo courtesy of yapsnaps
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, June 20, 2011

Get Moving into Summer

"The greatest thing in the world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving."
Oliver Wendell Holmes
It is another cool, rainy day. Spring never quite arrived, so I have my hopes of warmth and sunshine set on summer. Summer brings with it a certain lightness of being. I can pack away the fleece and bring out the cotton, I can count on local garden-fresh fruit and vegetables to invigorate my meals, I can lounge in the warmth of a lazy summer day, I can pick up the pace of my summer walks or runs as the early morning sun rises, I can enjoy the parade of blooms as we move through summer, I can delight in the basil growing in a pot on my patio as I add it to almost everything I eat, I can savor my morning cup of coffee or tea on my front porch as the sun peaks its way above the trees, I can stop and listen to the songs of summer as the birds drift in and out of the area, I can kick off my shoes and let my feet wander. Oh summer⎯I welcome your returning grace.

How might you enjoy summer?
  • Catch some sand between your toes
  • Head out for a swim or a float
  • Camp in the woods
  • Scrape off the BBQ
  • Grab your boat
  • Dance at a festival or outdoor concert
  • Devour a humongous ice-cream cone
  • Go outside and get moving
Summer may scream more work in the yard, but that is a good thing. We need to move and stretch our bodies and do the things outside one does when summer rolls around. No matter what type of summer we have, I will take advantage of a bounce in the temp even if the rain continues to fall. I am going to keep moving and use the momentum I am gaining to enjoy all the spoils of the season. It’s summer after all, and once it is gone⎯we will have to wait another year. Don’t let this one slip by.

As I begin moving into summer I will be taking a break from my weekly postings. I may send you a thought or two along the way to keep you moving; otherwise, I will plan on catching you up in the fall.

Here's to an amazing summer of moving in the right direction. How do you plan on moving this summer?

Photo courtesy of Guiri R. Reyes
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Flash of Anger

I am not an angry person. As a matter of fact, I am probably the exact opposite. I don’t like the way it feels when I become angry or the way it makes me feel when I am around anger in any way, shape or form. Even the most composed person can be pushed to the limits in a flash when anger invades our space. We may even be surprised by the fact it happens so quickly, and we may even feel momentarily out of control. Momentarily or not, this is not a good place to be.

The last few years I have been working on observing my actions and reactions to the everyday ups and downs of my life. This has brought me face to face with anger⎯how I react to it and how I deal with it. My observations helped me realize there are alternate routes to dealing with my feelings. I don’t need to feed the anger but dissect it in a way that helps me determine if my anger is going to be productive. I am learning to just stop, take a moment, and in that moment, LET IT GO! My observations have shown me a few things about anger:
  • Anger clouds my thinking⎯I don’t necessarily say what I mean or mean what I say.
  • Anger produces caustic emotions⎯These negative feelings build quickly and grow more volatile leading to additional emotional pain and provoke even more anger!
  • Anger hurts me and whoever else is in my line of fire⎯It physically invades every cell in my body creating a pain that my body responds to. It unleashes the fight or flight behavior. My muscles tense, my heart starts to pound and the heat begins to flush throughout my body. Have you ever noticed how long it takes to calm yourself down once that starts? Even if you have mentally stopped anger, it continues to course through your body for a time as stress.
  • Anger is not productive⎯It complicates things and generally takes me down roads I didn’t even consider taking, and creates quite a mess in the process.
  • Anger scares me⎯Who is this person anyway?
  • Anger is ugly⎯Have you ever seen your angry self or perhaps the aftermath?
  • Anger is not healthy!
  • Anger does nothing but motivate me to change my behavior.

Learned habits can trigger an anger response in a flash, but you can do something about it.

  • Start paying more attention to what you say, think and feel.
  • Take a breath, take a moment but learn to pause before you react.
  • In that flash of emotions ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
  • Let it go!
When I let it go, I feel my muscles begin to relax as my heart rate slows and the pulsing heat fades away. My observations have helped me to stop the anger before I feel the physical change, and guide me to walk away from whatever it is I am feeling in that moment, because I know⎯it’s just not worth it. Walking away from anger helps me to be my best self. How about you⎯can you learn to walk away from anger with me? Take a big breath, now doesn’t that feel better?

Photo courtesy of Leland Francisco
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, June 6, 2011

Growing Pains⎯Tending the Garden


Every step in the right direction has growing pains⎯but you need to do it anyway!
My friend June was recently telling me how difficult it was for her to move forward in the new life she had created for herself. June finds she is falling into the same pitfalls of living she was trying to leave behind. On the other hand, June also finds herself frozen at times and is not sure how else to move forward. She knows what she should do, she just doesn’t know HOW. It then becomes easy for her to fall back to what she knows⎯it’s safe.
  • Safe makes you feel secure
  • Safe feels harmless
  • Safe gives you shelter
  • Safe keeps you insulated
  • Safe is a place many of us want to live because it requires little effort on our part
  • Safe is a place many of us cannot move away from because we are stuck!
I told June what she was feeling was normal. She has taken the steps in the right direction but she is now feeling the growing pains⎯you know, the stresses and strains of development. Just what are growing pains in this circumstance?
  • Evolution⎯gradual development of wisdom
  • Maturation⎯the process of growth
  • Expansion⎯ to a new and better self
  • Progress⎯forward movement, momentum
  • Improvement⎯making life better
Growth takes time⎯like when you plant seeds in a garden. You don’t plant seeds without taking care of them properly, otherwise they will not grow. One must tend the garden.  Water the seeds and once  they have started to grow, focus on the roots by continuing to water and gently feed them. This will allow the roots to develop into a healthy base in order to support the life of the plant. It doesn’t stop there. You must continue to nurture the plant in order to sustain continued growth.

We all feel growing pains from time to time whether initiated by ourselves or the circumstances of our lives. Yes there may be setbacks, but you weed out what is not working and plant seeds anyway. YOU KNOW HOW⎯one small step at a time. I am proud of anyone, like June, who chooses to make a move in the right direction, for continued growth provides more healthy roots and buds of pure joy, which will eventually open into blooms of love and happiness.

Step outside yourself and grow, grow, grow! You can do it, I know you can.

Photo courtesy of AmandaLouise
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Camp 1965

In a few weeks, schools will be closing for summer break and many children will be heading off to summer camp. This thought brought back memories of the summer of 1965 - the war in Vietnam worsened while the anti-war movement grew, kids were crazy about skateboards, women’s skirts got shorter while men’s hair grew longer, gasoline per gallon was 0.31, the average income per year was $6,450, Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov took the first steps into space and I stepped onto a bus with my friend Lynn for my first visit to summer camp.

I had just turned 9 and while I was looking forward to a week at Camp River Ranch, I was also sad because I would miss a family wedding. Lynn and I were shy but were determined to make the best of it as we headed out for our first week away from home. We were assigned to the same canvas tent along with four other girls. On our first visit to the lake we were divided into groups by swimming ability. There were three of us who knew nothing about swimming. Lynn and I fell into that very small group. Instead of receiving lessons or guidance, we were asked to sit on the rocky beach during lessons and during free swim we were allowed to stand up to our knees and splash each other⎯fun times! After “swimming” each day, we would hang our wet swimsuits on the supporting ropes outside the tent to dry. Upon our return, Lynn and I always found our swimsuits in the mud below the ropes. We were continuously teased and tormented by those who thought they were better than anyone else. I became homesick but tried to make the best of it.

At the end of camp, the first thing out of my mouth when seeing my parents’ was, “I want to learn to swim.” I began taking lessons and didn’t stop. Along the way I joined a swim team, became a lifeguard and a water safety instructor⎯all by the time I was 16. Two years after my stay at Camp River Ranch I attended Camp Don Boscoe, which had a complex of outdoor swimming pools. Once again, I was not given swim lessons. This time I could outswim everyone including the instructors, so I helped out around the pool. The fact I could swim did not graduate me to the realm of most popular. It had quite the opposite affect, but I didn’t care.

While I missed being at my uncle and aunt’s wedding, I gained so much more⎯the human experience. I began to learn my own way in this world. I learned what it was like to be an outcast. I learned the meaning of focus and drive and setting goals. Two summers and endless hours in the pool later, I learned what it was like to achieve one's goal, and that it was okay to stand outside the crowd⎯for ME to be ME. It was my first major personal triumph.

I could have just gone on about my shy way in this world and may not have even learned to swim. I might be a very different person today if it wasn’t for the experience I gained in 1965. We may not always know the impact we make on our lives with the choices we make along the way, but one thing I know⎯you will not be happy unless you are BE-ing who you are. Take a look at your life today, are you making the right choices? If not, today can be a new day for you, set your goal, focus and drive even if you are driving outside the crowd. Take the first step⎯you may just make a splash!

Photo courtesy of AlexanderY
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, May 23, 2011

Technology the New Grindstone

Are you one of those goal oriented types that forgets to look up from the grindstone once in awhile to stop and smell the roses? Perhaps it is time to not only look up but also unplug the freaking thing.  Remember this⎯there are no replays here, and life will march on as they say, with or without you.

Welcome to the 21st century where the new grindstone is technology. Since my brain is now connected more than ever, thanks to my smartphone, I am finding being connected at all times to be a brain sucking habit that takes over until you find yourself addicted to constantly plugging into something. This constant plugging in zaps my ability to think clearly.  For all the wonderful things being plugged in provides, it seems to take more time away from what is truly important.

Being one of those highly organized, goal oriented types, a smartphone seemed like a perfect fit for me. BUT like setting goals⎯goal is set, work like a dog to attain the goal, then what? Sometimes, many times, attaining “that” goal is not what I expected, and can be downright disappointing! Being connected all the time is not what I expected and is disappointing because it is such a time drain. It seems to speed up an already faster pace of life. ENOUGH ALREADY! This is not a place where happiness resides. Nose to the grindstone leaves us feeling empty and searching for something more, and that something more is⎯LIFE! This is true whether plugged in or not, but unless I unplug regularly I start to lose my sense of self, my place in the hierarchy of constant connection to everything but ME.

So today⎯unplug yourself. Begin by taking 3 deep breaths and  unplug for 5 minutes, then tomorrow unplug again and again until you can give yourself a day or a week of unplugged bliss. The idea here is to get into the habit of unplugging regularly. What does unplugging mean?

  • No projects
  • No deadline
  • No shopping
  • No cell phone
  • No texting
  • No emails
  • No radio
  • No television
  • No lists
  • No nonsense
  • No whatever it is you are normally plugged into!

Stop planning, stop worrying, stop thinking and DO something you would not normally DO:

  • Go for a walk in a garden, nearby park or arboretum, perhaps even your own neighborhood!
  • Go to the mountains
  • Go to the beach
  • Sit on your patio
  • Stare off into space
  • Breathe
  • Listen to the sounds around you
  • Find one simple, beautiful thing to focus on even for a few glorious seconds
Unplugging⎯here is where you just might find the answers to the emptiness, the something more, the something that is truly important and missing in your life! Stop and smell those roses and you may just find a new pace of life called happiness.

How do you unplug?


Photo courtesy of Juliana Coutinho
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happier Birthday to YOU!

You cannot stop growing older but you can celebrate your birthday by making it an event, even if it is an event for one. I know people do not like to make a fuss necessarily in front of others, but how about taking your birthday to another level and making it a special day for YOU. After all, you probably spend most of your time doing everything else for everyone else. You deserve to be “birthday girl” or “birthday boy” one day a year.

My friend Lynn had a birthday last week and was feeling a bit blue. When I asked her what she had planned she said, “Nothing out of the ordinary.” No wonder she was feeling blue. As for myself, I love being the “birthday girl,” opening the cards, receiving phone calls from family and friends and just making a point of doing something special for me. Here are a few tips for making a happier birthday for YOU!

First of all⎯if it’s a workday⎯take it off! There have been a few times I have worked on my birthday and I regretted it. Even if I was going out to dinner for the evening, working did not make my day special. I needed the WHOLE day.

Begin your day by opening a birthday card. I read them out loud even if nobody else is around. I feel the meaning behind the words expressed and the love and caring of the person sending me the card. I continue to open cards throughout the day. Between the cards and the phone calls I receive, I build on that “birthday” love until my head hits the pillow and I say one more time, “Happy Birthday to you girl!”

Don't forget the cake! Each year I bake my own cake. Yes, you heard me right. I made the mistake a few times by actually making my cake on my birthday⎯not advisable because that might be considered work and does not qualify as celebrating your birthday. So, I make the cake ahead of time. I start a month or so ahead planning what kind of cake I might like to have. I find this adds to the whole fun of celebrating. If you don’t care to bake the cake, pie or whatever yourself, perhaps you would enjoy ordering a special something from the bakery.

What I actually do on my birthday varies but the idea remains the same⎯something different from my ordinary day with the focus on ME. Perhaps it is…
  • A day of reading and relaxation
  • A favorite movie and snacks
  • Putzing around the garden
  • A massage
  • A day of shopping for me
  • A walk through a favorite garden nursery
  • Spending time with a special person
I’m sure you get the idea. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Simple is best. It is in the simplicity in life where we find our best self. As for Lynn, I didn’t think she should have to wait a whole year before she could plan HER day so I suggested she pick another day soon, call it her re-birthday and plan accordingly. What have you got planned for your birthday? Don't let another one just slip by. There is only one you and I think you deserve to celebrate!

Photo courtesy of  D. Sharon Pruitt @ Flickr
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom



When I was a kid I always liked planning special things for my mom or dad on their birthdays, wedding anniversary or on Mother’s and Father’s day. I remember asking my mom when there would be a kid’s day, she replied, “Everyday is kid’s day!” I’ve never forgotten what she said because it really hit me⎯she was right. So much of everything parents do in their life is centered on raising their children. Of course a kid might say, “AND rightly so!”

Even though your mom may no longer have children at home⎯she still cares, worries and loves each one every single day. So whether or not you are planning something special on Mother's Day remember this⎯the love of your mother is like no other kind of love⎯today and every day. This is something we should all be grateful for!
Happy Mother’s Day



Polar Bear photo courtesy beingmyself @ Flickr
Rhino photo courtesy of walanbaker @ Flickr


© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, May 2, 2011

How to Finish Something You Started

From the 1940s through the 1960s souvenir shops across the United States sold drinking glasses to commemorate where you have been. As roads improved to turnpikes and freeways, families began driving around the country on vacations. My friend Ann was one of many who collected these souvenir glasses.

Ann was telling me she recently was in an antique store and found two state souvenir drinking glasses she had been looking for. She told me that back in the 1950s she would collect a souvenir glass from each state she visited but had failed to collect the last four. Over the years she would look for the missing glasses from time to time when frequenting antique stores, but had not found them until the two she recently bought. Ann was saying she wasn’t very good at finishing things and this was one thing she really would like to finish; after all, she had been to all the states except one! We talked about looking on EBay and guess what she found⎯yes, the other two glasses she needed to finish her collection. The first glass she ever bought cost her 39¢. The last two were somewhere around $5 each and shipping cost twice as much. The other day Ann proudly showed me pictures from her collection. I asked if she was going to display them and she said she had boxed them up for her family to have someday, and that she was just happy to finally complete something that she started for a change.

It wasn’t so much about the collection anymore for Ann⎯it was something personal. I think it is the same for many of us. We may be good starters but how many of us have Ann’s perseverance and determination to see “it” through? How do we become better finishers? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. What is the purpose? Determining how committed you are to something gives you a chance to be selective. This may be hard to hear but YOU cannot do everything. It will only drive you crazy!
  2. Are you passionate enough to see it through? If the passion ain't there baby, forget about it!
  3. Is perfection getting in your way? Perhaps it is good enough! A little flexibility here goes a long way.
  4. Is it necessary to finish everything you start? NO! We all know how it is when you lose interest and motivation. So, I am going to give you permission to drop it, forget it or move on if you want to.
  5. Do you value whatever “it” is? If not⎯don’t start in the first place!
I loved Ann’s story and the excitement she expressed. She obviously valued what she started and was committed to seeing this project through. What may have started on a vacation long ago became a nearly 55 year journey. But the story is not over yet⎯she still needs to make one more trip to that one state she hasn’t been to. I think a trip to Alaska will be in her future.

Is there something you started at one time and never got back to? Perhaps Ann’s story would be a good launching point for you to finish on. I know it has me thinking...

Photo courtesy of Country Living

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Using Momentum to Start Small

I’ve been evaluating my own procrastinating ways lately and have considered starting small as mentioned in the STOP Procrastinating post. As I work towards a “less-is-more” way of approaching life, I am slowly getting to those “things” I’ve been meaning to do⎯even if it takes years. My theme or word for the year has been momentum as mentioned in an earlier article. I consider this word from time to time when I feel the need to do more, do something else or when I just feel stuck. I basically ask myself, "Will this move me forward and bring momentum into my life?" By asking myself this question, momentum has brought me face to face with my procrastinating ways. It's time to start small...

Just exactly what is starting small?

  • Starting small is a simple way of considering the whole tree.
  • Starting small is simply considering your project as a seedling and growing with your seeding one branch at a time.
  • Starting small is a simple approach to breaking down the bigger project.

One particular seedling of mine came to mind because it has been trying to plant itself for 6 years. I’ve had the fabric to make curtains for my guest room. I have even set it out where I can see it every day, only to put it away when spring rolls around⎯because after all, it is a winter project. It is funny how after awhile you just don’t see what is right in front of you.

I’m happy to report, after approximately 10 hours spread out over a few weeks, my curtains are done. I focused on one branch of the project at a time and allowed the momentum to carry me to the next branch. My curtains are now hanging in the window of my guest room and I feel a yippy-skippy dance coming on! I'm feeling momentum move me on to the next project...now I just need to continue to start small...

By the way, how are you doing with your word for the year? Perhaps it is time for you to catch the momentum of the year and start fresh. What seedling do you want to start with?
Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eating to Live: Lifestyle Changes

My recent foray into dietary changes to improve my health has come down to what one would call lifestyle changes:

I’ve been asked quite a few questions about my recent lifestyle changes and I thought I would share them with you?


How much work is it?
I think it all comes down to planning. The more you can plan for buying what you need and setting time aside to clean veggies, for example, the likelihood of this process working out for you. When the work becomes a habit and a way of life it ceases to be work.

Do I cook a different meal for my husband?
I would not subject anyone to major dietary changes unless they were motivated personally. Yes, I’ll mix starches with proteins for Dennis, but I only eat one or the other with a side of vegetables.

Am I losing weight with these dietary changes?
Gluten free does not mean low calories. I can see where people may lose weight initially by simply steering clear of anything with gluten, but there can be more calories in the GF foods out there so read the labels! With food combining you can easily lose weight because you are eating healthier. As for me, I do not need to lose weight, so it is a challenge with all the dietary lifestyle changes I have made to maintain my weight.

Is it difficult for me to grocery shop?
Not really. I have never been one to eat prepared foods much. But there are a lot of things due to the gluten-free aspect I miss. I guess you could say I am still in the mourning phase.

Since I love to cook and bake, has this been a difficult transition?
Yes. The food combining can have its shortfalls but overall it is fairly easy to do. The gluten-free is another animal altogether. If I decide that GF is something I will do long term, I will eventually get into the recipe end of it and start finding good substitutes for the foods I love to cook and bake. For me, this is all part of character building. Over the years I have given up many foods I love, but I learn to move on and get over the loss.

What are the most important aspects of making lifestyle changes?
To know better is to do better AND never forget patience is a virtue! If I decide to step outside the boundaries I have set, once in awhile, it’s okay. Although, it is probably not a good idea to continually step outside those boundaries because then you forget you had boundaries in the first place.

"The truth of the matter is that there's nothing you can't accomplish if:
  • You clearly decide what it is that you're absolutely committed to achieving,
  • You're willing to take massive action,
  • You notice what's working or not, and
  • You continue your approach until you achieve what you want using whatever life gives you along the way."
Anthony Robbins

I am feeling better and am having no digestive issues as long as I watch what I eat. Other than the naturopath suggesting I try gluten free, these lifestyle changes are my attempts to correct an unhealthy imbalance. These are not changes any of my conventional doctors suggested. There is so much you can do on your own to take back your health⎯you are the person in control of your life and of what goes into your mouth⎯YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! You have no one else to blame. If I can make these changes, so can you my dears. I won’t tell you that it will be easy, but the benefits are worth it. Take back your life⎯you know you want to. Start small or jump right in⎯whatever works for you. The choice is yours. The question is⎯are you willing to take massive action?

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Am Tired


  • I am tired of not feeling well more times in the last year than I can remember.
  • I am tired of telling myself "you go girl" when there is no more go’in to be had.
  • I am tired of doctors and tests.
  • I am tired of pills.
  • I am tired of trying to put a smile on my face.
  • I am tired of searching for something more.
  • I am tired of not getting a good night sleep.
  • I am tired of having restless legs.
  • I am tired of looking at the tired person in the mirror.
  • I am tired of all the gray days we have had.
  • I am tired of the 20 inches of rain we have had since January 1st.
  • I am tired of not being able to eat what I want, when I want.
  • I am tired of not being able to cook the things I love.
  • I am tired of being too tired to workout.
  • I am tired of being tired.
Have you ever had one of those days, day after day? That is how I am feeling today. Let it be known, I have released my inner petulant child! My stable temperament has gone into a yo-yo effect this last year. I can’t seem to go for more than a few weeks without having gut issues.

Over the last few years I have worked hard at becoming my best self and being who I am meant to be no matter what the circumstances are, but this last year has been difficult. We may all learn many things from the struggles of others but it takes our own battle weariness before we truly grow. I know when I feel the fatigue wash over me it is important to not only go from day-to-day but minute-to-minute. I can look, feel and be better a minute from now for it is my choice.

Sometimes I choose to give into the battle fatigue and have a good cry. While the puffy eyes afterwards do not exactly help me feel better, the tears sometimes provide a cleansing and sense of relief. Many times, by letting down and giving into the tears, I have found new meaning to what I may have been searching for. This allows me to move forward once again.

As I made the list above, it felt good to give my inner petulant child a voice. I know we are all tired of something in our lives. When you feel the wash of battle fatigue, it is time to step back and evaluate where it is coming from. Pinpointing it like that may just take the power away from it and give you the answers you need. So…just what are you tired of? Is it time to let your inner petulant child speak?

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eating to Live: Eat Your Veggies

So far I have talked about food combining and gluten-free living. All choices I have made in order to relieve my digestive distress. At this writing I have been food combining for 8 weeks and gluten-free for 6. Both dietary changes stress the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.

Eating raw fruits and vegetables generally causes problems for my digestive system, but now I need to somehow consume more vegetables and fruit than I have ever considered. Two weeks into the gluten-free diet, I was still having occasional digestive problems. While eating breakfast one morning, a thought came to mind⎯what if I juiced the vegetables or fruits? Wouldn’t that make it easier for my gut to move the food on down the line, and perhaps the wonderful power of vegetables would aid in healing any inflammation I might have.

I really feel like I am on to something with this vegetable madness⎯and get this, I even have a juicer! Yes, I just never used it. It was given to us when my husband, Dennis, had cancer. What was I waiting for? I pulled out our many books on juicing and began reading that very morning. Yes, I even had books on the subject⎯all of this right under my very nose. The books I had even covered juicing recipes specifically for many ailments including, wait for it⎯Crohn’s! The next morning I went grocery shopping, list in hand.

I have now been juicing for the past month. I love it. I feel like I am drinking some sort of secret healing elixir. I have never, never eaten so many vegetables. At this writing I am juicing once or twice a day. It’s easy for me to go through five pounds or more of carrots within a week! I keep looking in the mirror to see if I am turning orange yet!

Unless you are a vegetarian, most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables⎯period. Juicing provides a rather simple way for us to EAT OUR VEGGIES! Here are a few tips to keep in mind...

1. How does juicing work with food combining and gluten-free?
First off ⎯veggies and fruit do not contain gluten, and what I am reading about juicing correlates very nicely with the food combining. Veggie juices combine well with protein OR starch⎯remember I cannot mix protein AND starch when food combining. I’ll sit down to a meal of protein OR gluten-free starch, vegetables AND a veggie drink.  My body doesn’t know what to do with all the goodness I am sending it⎯well actually I hope it does know what to do with it!

2. What about the mess of cleaning all the vegetables AND the juicer?
I never thought of juicing other than it would be a pain to mess with. Yes, you need to clean all the fruits and veggies and clean out the juicer, but I have found it much easier to clean all my veggies once a week and clean out the juicer once a day. No biggie!!! It’s kind of like I had one of those V8 moments⎯why didn’t I think of that before! The easier you can make it, the more you will do it.


3. Your mother always said, chew your food!
Because you are drinking vegetables, it is important not to drink the mixture rapidly. It is best to sip and allow the enzymes in your mouth to set the whole digestive process into play. It is even a good idea to actually chew it a bit as you sip. I understand this is really important to anyone drinking nutritious smoothies or other healthy drinks. The lack of chewing does not release the appropriate enzymes, which may lead to digestive distress. When enjoying my juice, I sit down as if I were having a meal whether it is a meal or not. I sip my juice and sip a bit of water to help the fiber move on its merry way.

4. Chlorophyll Cocktail:
My go-to gut drink is five carrots, a large handful of spinach, a couple stems of parsley and one celery stalk. If I choose to sweeten it up a bit I’ll add one apple⎯yum! Even Popeye would be proud.

Crohn’s or no Crohn’s, I am feeding my body with amazing nutrients. This is another gift that has been given to me via Crohn’s. Humans are funny animals, we don’t necessarily do what is best for us unless there is a problem⎯and even then we don’t do what is best. I am thinking juicing is something we should just do, problem or not. The world would be a better place for it…there I go⎯visualizing world peas⎯I know⎯corny⎯see I can't get veggies off my mind.

Are you feeding your body the way you should? Think of one small thing you know you should do, know you can do and just do it! And hey, YAY for you!

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eating to Live: Gluten Free

Two weeks ago I began sharing some insight as to the new path I am on in response to my digestive problems, and how much better I have been feeling by food combining. Today I will update you on the second change I have made⎯wheat free/gluten free. I can’t believe I am going down this path as I was tested for wheat allergies and have none, so why bother since it obviously was not a problem for me. Ah yes⎯living to eat again! I’ve watched a dear friend, Jean, struggle with gluten free to get on top of her celiac disease, an autoimmune condition. Celiac's  must stay away from gluten or anything containing wheat, barley and rye…and now look⎯here I am trying the same thing. So what's up?

Who persuaded me to try wheat free?
Five weeks ago I had my first appointment with a naturopathic doctor. I have heard of this particular doctor for a few years and know a number of people who have been helped when conventional medicine was not working for them. One of the things suggested was eating wheat free due to the fact many people with intestinal problems, while not celiac or allergic, are sensitive to wheat/gluten.

What is gluten?
A protein present in many grains, especially wheat. It is responsible for the elastic texture of dough and the light, soft texture in baked goods. It is also used as a starch, binder and filler in many processed foods.

Why does it seem more people are having a problem with gluten?
"A new study in the journal BMC Medicine may shed some light on whyIt shows gluten can set off a distinct reaction in the intestines and the immune system, even in people who don't have celiac disease...Although much remains unknown, it is clear that gluten can trigger an immune response like an enemy invader...People aren't born with this. Something triggers it...One possible culprit: Agricultural changes to wheat that have boosted its protein content." The Wall Street Journal, 3/15/2011, Health & Wellness section, by Melinda Beck, Clues to Gluten Sensitivity.


Where does one find gluten-free (GF) products?
Fortunately, gluten-free products are showing up at your local grocer. There is even a store dedicated to gluten-free not far from my home. BUT, many gluten-free products are not created equal. Until recently, living gluten-free has been difficult. I watched Jean try product after product, recipe after recipe trying to find food she liked well enough to eat. I am happy to report there are some rather decent gluten-free substitutes showing up every day and Jean is pointing the way. With more and more stores carrying gluten free, obviously GF products are being embraced by a growing number of people who are finding they just feel better gluten-free.

When does one start eating gluten-free?
There is nothing like the present. I started out cold turkey as they say. It was simple. Just don’t eat anything with gluten. Right! Do you know how many food products may contain gluten? Two weeks later the cravings hit! Off to the store to start trying GF products for the types of food I was missing⎯pasta, bread and something sweet like cookies or muffins. While these products have helped stave off cravings, and I am able to eat corn and rice products since they do not contain gluten, I still need to figure out how to get the right balance of carbohydrates back into my diet.

How do you know if gluten-free is right for you?
If you are having gas, bloating, intestinal cramping, acid reflux or other forms of digestive distress⎯what are you waiting for? Get the conversation started. I previously mentioned talking with Jean, but I also found the person who owns the local gluten-free store is also GF and so is the health food department manager of the local grocery store. Talk to real people who can guide you to the better tasting foods and then dive in. I previously mentioned food combining as outlined by Sherry Brescia from Great Taste No Pain, but she also has a website for gluten free food combining, Great Taste No Gluten. It can’t hurt and once again, may just help improve intestinal distress. If you are one of the many people with gut issues, don’t let gluten stand in your way.

As for Jean, she has been GF for four years and counting. Her health has improved exponentially! As for me, I will continue GF for a time and will see what happens when I introduce gluten back into my diet. I am thinking of my body as my own personal scientific research project; after all, I am eating to live. It is possible, since I do not have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, I could have gluten on occasion or in small amounts. We shall see, so stay tuned…

I am using momentum to move forward in my life and will continue to make choices and changes until I find what is right for me. How about you? Are you making the right choices and do you have the guts to make the changes necessary to live your best life?

© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Toy Story⎯Joy in a Handful of Marbles


My mother-in-law recently distributed a number of old toys to my husband and his sister. I now have a handful of marbles sitting on my kitchen cupboard because it was something they did not want⎯but I did. We have had an unusual amount of gray days and rain for months and I was feeling a bit gloomy. Over the last day or so I have been flooded with joy-filled marble memories, which lifted my spirits because I had not thought of marbles since I was in grade school...

When I was in the fourth grade a few of the boys brought marbles to school, which proceeded to start a new attraction at recess. Before we knew it, many of us lugged coffee cans from home to school and back each day full of our marble winnings, and yes I was one of those marble enthusiasts.

At that time, my Uncle Lee was living with our family. I was tired of losing more than winning plus I had my sights set on some choice marbles. He began teaching me the art of shooting marbles⎯in other words: how to knuckle-down, aim my shooter, knock the opponents marble out of the ring and make my shooter stick the spot. I started practicing at home on our bumpy, avocado green carpet. I thought if I could shoot well on my carpet, the fine sawdust in the play fields would be easy-squeezy.

Before I knew it, I was winning. My marble can grew from a one-pounder to a three-pounder! Every now and then a particular coveted marble would surface. I kept watching a prized red puree (clear colored marble) pop up from time to time. Purees were coveted by all of the shooters at the time, and while I had a nice collection, I only ever saw one of those red purees... Fun memories especially when I no longer have my marble collection and do not even know what became of it. I guess we grew out of playing marbles and moved onto something else as children do...

Perusing the marbles on my counter brought back the wonder of childhood collections and gamesmanship. Every time I look over the marbles I can’t help but smile. I loved playing marbles because I loved winning something hard fought for, and of course beating boys at something they thought was their territory.

These memories remind me of how precious a memory can be and how you just never know when they are going to come flying out after you. Memories that bring joy at any period of time in your life are memories to treasure. I’ve decided to display those marbles from my husband’s childhood in something I can see on a regular basis⎯because I love finding joy in an instant. And by the way, I finally removed the prized red puree I won so long ago from my jewelry box and will now include it in my new-old marble collection.

Give some thought to what brings you joy in an instant. Keep a list if necessary or display your joy prominently⎯you just never know when that flash of joy will change your gloomy attitude. Thanks Uncle Lee…
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark

Monday, March 14, 2011

Eating to Live: Food Combining

Today⎯I feel great. Feeling good has been somewhat difficult in recent months so great is amazing. I mentioned I was on a new path recently, in response to my digestive issues, in an article about dropping the anger . Today will be the start of a series of three articles outlining what dietary changes seem to be making a difference for me⎯a BIG difference. These changes may even help you should you suffer from gas, bloating, intestinal cramps, acid reflux or other forms of digestive distress.

What is food combining?
A way of eating foods so they do not work against each other and cause pain. Proponents believe different food groups are digested optimally when eaten in the following combinations:

  • Proteins and starches should be eaten at separate meals
  • Proteins may be eaten with vegetables
  • Starches may be eaten with vegetables
  • Fruits should be eaten alone

I was introduced recently to Jerry, who suffers from chronic colitis. He has had a very difficult time over the last few years trying to determine what he could eat without causing pain. During the last year he started food combining and feels great! He told me he had followed the plan as outlined by Sherry Brescia in, Great Taste No Pain. I examined her website as well as other sites on the subject. I felt it couldn’t hurt me if I pay attention to eating a well balanced diet. Within the first 48 hours I noticed a significant difference after eating⎯NO GAS!

I’ve now been testing this food combining theory for the past 6 weeks and am happy to report that it seems to help. I am still trying to figure out the nuances, but I didn’t want to bog myself down with too much all at once. Most of what I was reading on the subject had the same basic principles as outlined above. What gets a bit confusing is how much time to allow between the different food groups. I am making my food combining efforts my own and will determine what works for me.

Over the years I have made various changes to my diet in order to find a balance living with a chronic digestive disease. I love food, I love GREAT food and I love to craft it into amazing meals. I’ve held back on doing more drastic changes because I was holding onto being able to eat the way I eat for as long as I could⎯in other words, I was living to eat. At this time, I am exploring the fundamentals of eating to live. If Jerry could give it a go, so could I. Change can be difficult if you let it, no matter what the change is. It is my choice and I have now chosen to change. I am in control. I am the driving force in my life.

How about you? Can you change? Can you be in control? What or who is the driving force in your life?
© Copyright 2011 Michelle Clark
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...