Geranium seeds

Seeds of wellness for body, mind and spirit

I’ve moved!!

Dear readers,

I have a new address!! I am still unpacking and renovating, so pardon the mess but make yourself at home! You can now find me at http://prayersandchocolate.com

If you are a subscriber to this blog, I have moved your subscription with me! I am working on a new post too so that will hopefully be up soon. Come see me at the new place and let me know what you think!

Alice

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How to strengthen your resolve for healthy living (stop smoking, lose weight, etc)

Running in the freezing rain... really?! (Let's do this!)

Running in the freezing rain… really?!
(Let’s do this!)

Perhaps you have made a decision to lead a healthier lifestyle by eating better, exercising, or cutting out bad habits such as soda or cigarettes. Congratulations! Here are some tips to increase your willpower and get you to your desired goal:

1) Practice seeing yourself as the “chooser” instead of the victim”
You will undoubtedly be tempted to break your promise to yourself.  When this happens, it will also be tempting to see yourself as a poor victim who is being deprived of life’s great comforts, as if someone else is punishing you. This is how our poor little victim mentality may try to defend itself: “But I’ve had a long day at work and I’m tired! But someone was mean to me today and I deserve a treat! But everyone else is having a piece of cake!” And so on. Resist that by reminding yourself that you are not the deprived, but the one who is doing the choosing. Say to yourself: “I am choosing this for me because I have decided it’s best for me. It is my decision. I am doing this for me.” Repeat as needed.

2)Focus on making the best decison right this moment

If you think about never having another soda or cigarette or milkshake again, the thought will probably be overwhelming and unrealistic and make you want to quit on your decision altogether. Instead, focus on making the best decision right now. It doesn’t mean you will never be able to eat a double-greased-fried-bacon-burger again; you are just choosing to have a healthier lunch right now. You are not trying never to smoke again; you are just choosing another way to relax right now. Deal with each moment as it comes.

3) Sleep well and practice relaxation
In other words, take care of yourself. You are much more likely to be tempted to fall into the old habits when you are tired and stressed out. Schedule some “me” time, get a massage, do something you enjoy.

4) Gratitude is a great motivator, and it beats whining
Whenever you find yourself complaining about how tough it is to make these lifestyle changes, think about how you can be grateful. I practiced this recently in order to motivate myself to get up early for a run on a Saturday morning. I found myself in bed with thoughts like these: “It’s Saturday! I should be sleeping in! Lucas isn’t even up yet… I could have been sleeping longer.” So I turned the thoughts around to, “I’m grateful for having a group of friends to run with; grateful that I will get to enjoy a beautiful sunrise and fresh morning; grateful Lucas is still asleep so I can slip out easier; grateful I will be done with the run and still have the whole day ahead of me…” I had to practice the gratitude exercise again a couple of days later when my running partner Jocelyn and I ventured out to run in the freezing rain… hey, it works! And if everything else fails, this one always works: I am grateful for being able to move. So many people don’t have this luxury.

PS – If you’re wondering why Jocelyn and I are acting like crazy runners, it’s because we’re training for another half-marathon. Check out her awesome website: http://halfmarathonmom.com/

5) Try visualization
And I don’t just mean visualizing yourself at your ideal weight, although that’s helpful too. I mean finding an image that helps you get through those tough moments of doing the hard work. For example, when I am getting tired while running, I will often think about people in my life who might be feeling imprisoned by debilitating disease or depression, or areas in my life where I am feeling limited. Then I imagine myself or those people breaking/running free from the chains. It gives me an extra oomph to finish the run.

6) Make a deal with yourself
Give yourself permission to stop the workout or go for the less healthy food or cigarette if you complete a pre-determined activity. For some, that might mean you can eat the chocolate after you eat an apple; or smoke the cigarette after you’ve walked around the block for 10 minutes; or choosing not to do your scheduled exercise routine after putting on your exercise clothes and trying the workout for just a few minutes. When I started running again after having a baby, I read an inspiring book (Run Like a Mother) that had lots of tips for staying motivated. The tip that has mostly stayed with me has been to tell myself to run for just five minutes more. When I feel like stopping or slowing down, I give myself permission to do so — but only after running for another five minutes.

6) Delve into spiritual practices
Prayer and meditation have been found to increase focus and willpower. And they will make you a better person.

7) Remember that healthy living is a practice
There’s no need to try to be perfect. As Oscar Wilde has said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

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Life is a gift… with an ode to joy

I’ve said this on this blog before, but after this week it bears saying again. Most nights when I rock Lucas to sleep it is a mostly sweet but still bittersweet moment for me. Having him snuggle up to me and run his fingers through my hair while I sing to him (sometimes he joins in, which is oh so sweet), or rocking this precious baby (toddler) in silence, then watching him fall asleep with that angelic face — that is very, very sweet. The bitter part comes with my full awareness that he will grow up too soon and be out of my arms, the knowledge that one day he will get hurt and I won’t be able to protect him from everything, and worse — my full awareness that we are not promised tomorrow and I simply do not know how many more times I will get to rock this precious child to sleep.

That may seem a little morbid but I can’t help it — I’m a hospice chaplain and I see people dying everyday. Young and old, people of every kind. People like me. Babies like my baby. It doesn’t depress me like many people think it might; knowing this has taught me the value of life and to appreciate it to its fullest.

This week the bittersweet moments have been even more bittersweet due to several events: first, a dear friend died on Monday. She was a happy, hardworking, active, wonderful person, mother, and friend. She had a nine year-old daughter who will miss her dearly. Then, a couple of friends experienced similar losses when two other parents of young children died this week. Finally, the shooting in Connecticut left us all numb and wild with grief at the thought of losing our own children.

A really great seminary professor of mine — John Claypool — used to say that “life is a gift.” His very young daughter died of cancer and he was later diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma — a nasty cancer that eventually took his life. And his response was this: life is a gift. It helped him to appreciate the time he was able to spend with his daughter, and the life he shared with his wife, family and friends.

That has always, always stayed with me. Life is a gift. Appreciate life.

By the way — here’s the back of our Christmas card this year!

cardback2012

And the front:

cardfront2012

And to finish up I have to share this with you… someone shared this on facebook today and I thought it was perfect timing since tomorrow we light the Advent candle of Joy… amidst all the grief! Flash mobs are awesome and this one is really special. Made me tear up! I hope it gives you some joy.

Peace, love and joy this season and always!! XOXO, Alice.

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Bust a move, because you can

Running the Michelle Brock 5K (November 2011)

A couple of months ago I ran the 3rd annual Michelle Litteral Brock 5k Memorial Race. The tagline of the race is “Run Because you Can.” Michelle died of Huntington’s Disease at age 40. Her family and friends started this race to honor Michelle and raise awareness and funds for the Huntington’s Disease Society.

When I met Michelle, she had already been suffering from Huntington’s for many years and depended on her family for total care. My husband, however, knew Michelle when she was a healthy and active young woman — the impeccably dressed college student who took an interest in teaching younger kids at her church.

Michelle Litteral Brock

 

It always seems like a great injustice when illness happens to people who have worked hard to cultivate healthy lifestyles. My dad is a prime example. I would be hard pressed to think of someone who has taken better care of his physical health. Never smoked, rarely drank (and even then, only a glass a wine), got adequate sleep, healthy diet, and exercise. For years, my dad would begin each morning with his exercise routine, and finish each day with a walk on the beach. He even did pilates, for goodness’ sake! A gastroenterologist by trade, he always took care to drink enough water and eat sensibly. When I think back to my childhood, I don’t ever remember my dad being sick with even a common cold. He certainly never missed a day of work. He was the last person I ever expected to get sick with a serious illness. And yet, in 2009, at age 62, my dad was diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

After the shock of the diagnosis wore off, I was grieved with the thought of all that ALS had robbed my father of… no more walks on the beach, or hiking up mountains, or dancing at weddings. No more endoscopies or lap band surgeries for this doctor who loved his job. No more holding his grandchildren in his arms.

I wondered for a while if l would ever feel as free and light as I once had, before my dad had this terrible disease. It seemed as if life could never be sweet again. I can only imagine what my dad felt. He told me once shortly after the diagnosis that he had asked God to either heal him or take him home. He didn’t want to live with the disease. The fact that my dad had even prayed for divine healing is exceptional. This was a man who had always valued science over religion. But, that is the subject of another post.

That was then. I have seen my father change perspective over the course of these last three years. The disease is progressing every day. He has lost movement of his arms, and has hardly any movement left in his legs. But he wants to live. He is still holding out hope for healing, mind you. But he wants to be here, and he still enjoys life.

Dad and I, July 2011

And for me? Life is sweet again. A big part of it was letting go of what could have been or what cannot be, and embracing what is and was. So my father was a very healthy and active person before having this terrible disease. Thank God! He enjoyed his health. He traveled; he worked; he used his body and his mind. It was not in vain. And now he continues to make the best of his abilities.

The real tragedy, you see, is having health and not enjoying it. Having life and not doing anything with it. Being able to move and not being grateful.

Sometimes, when I am lacking motivation to start or finish a workout, I think of my dad, and what a privilege it is that I can exercise. That gives me some extra energy and gratitude for FREEDOM. And I then I pray that same energy reaches my dad, somehow.

Let’s remember to bust a move whenever we can. Because we can.

 
http://www.alsa.org/ The ALS Association
http://www.hdsa.org/ Huntington’s Disease Society of America
 
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Pick up a green tea habit

My daily water bottle, transformed into my daily green tea bottle.

I have known for a long time that green tea is good for one’s health, but until recently I had never been a green tea drinker. I just didn’t care for the taste (with the exception of green tea frappucinos from Starbucks. One of my faves – but I suspect the added cream and sugar outweigh any health benefit in them).

I decided to give GT another chance when I read that the tea might counteract some of the effects of smoking to the lungs. I get a lot of second hand smoke on my job, and it’s something I’ve always worried about. I’ve also always been very shy about asking smokers not to smoke around me, for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I don’t want to be impolite (especially if I’m in their own home, as is often the case at my job). One day, after being exposed to way too many cigarrettes, I decided to change that. I made “being more assertive about my need to avoid cigarette exposure” one of my new year’s resolutions. Smokers, I really don’t want to be impolite or judgmental (unless you’re smoking around kids, in which case I have to be a little judgmental). I have plenty of bad habits myself. And I know enough about the dangers of second hand smoke to know this is not something I want to add to my list. So, from now on, I’ll be asking you to please wait until I leave before lighting up that cigarette.

But back to the topic. I bought a couple of different varieties of green tea to try and went to work on my new healthy habit. I hadn’t shopped for green tea in a while, and was surprised about how many flavored varieties there are out there! My favorite so far is “orange, passion fruit and jasmine”. I brew a couple of bags in the morning and pour it over ice into my water bottle. Then, I sip the green potion all day long. Since I drink this everyday now, I decided not to add any sweeteners (to avoid added calories or artificial stuff). Two tea bags get kind of watered down in my 750 ml bottle, so I can tolerate the taste pretty well. In fact, I’m pretty used to the taste by now, and it’s kind of refreshing 🙂

Since I started my GT habit, I decided to research the benefits of the stuff. It turns out the little magic potion might ward off cancer, diabetes, dementia, stroke and heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol, and burn fat. The green leaves are full of catechins, plant compounds that prevent oxidation of cells. In other words, they prevent premature aging to cells and damage to one’s DNA. How’s that for a little green in your water? Now, many of the studies conducted on the benefits of GT have been lab studies rather than population studies… so it’s difficult to say exactly what the benefit is. Still, there have been too many studies to discredit the amazing power of this tea. (Read more about the studies and benefits here.)

This is one healthy habit that’s easy to pick up. Nutritionists suggest that you steep the tea for 3-5 minutes to reap the most benefits. It’s also best to brew your own rather than buying the bottled kind. You will get more benefits from a freshly brewed tea, as well as avoid any additives from the bottled kind. Besides, it could become an expensive habit to buy bottles all the time. If you are drinking for weight loss, you might like to know that some studies suggest the caffeinated kind helps drinkers lose more weight than the decaf counterpart. A recent study also suggested that combining green tea with a food containing black pepper may speed up weight loss.

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How to go the f**k to sleep, and balsamic strawberries

You know this popular little book, right? I thought of it last night when my 15 month-old woke up at 3:45 am and decided to stay awake for the next 2 and half hours. Thank goodness I am off work today and could sleep in a little to make up for the lost time. By the time he drifted off to sleep at 6:15, I was too wired to just go to sleep myself. So, I had to employ some of the sleeping techniques I’m about to share with you.

You don’t have to have a 15 month-old to have trouble sleeping. Nights are hard. After the lighs are off, it’s just you and your thoughts. I once heard a sleep doctor say that he thinks people stay up watching TV, etc, until they are absolutely exhausted because we have a hard time facing the time alone with ourselves in bed. We just want to collapse asleep and skip the alone time. There may be something to that. For many of the people I see in hospice work, nights are often the time when they have the most pain and restlessness. Our spiritual care director once told us (chaplains) that a good indicator of someone’s spiritual pain is to identify what it is that keeps them awake in bed at night.

I learned some time ago that the best way to go to sleep at night is to turn off my thoughts. Once we get into bed, the tendency is to go into “movie mode” — replaying the events of the day or thinking about what will unfold tomorrow. There is probably some benefit in the reflection time (especially if you’ve not had any alone time during the day), but not for too long. So when it’s time to sleep, I do two things: employ my senses, and use visualization.

To employ my senses means simply to focus on what I am feeling rather than thinking. Thoughts may still come, but I let them go by and focus instead on the warmth of the bed, the softness of the pillow, the sounds in the room, etc. One of the simplest ways to do that is to focus on your breath, feeling and hearing the air coming in and out. You can do this as a form of meditation during the day while sitting up (it’s a good way to rest the mind). When I do it lying down with eyes closed, it very often puts me to sleep.

If I need some extra help, I enlist my visualization techniques. First, I envision myself going down a spiral staircase, to symbolize going deeper into my relaxing place. Then, I imagine myself there. For me, it is very often the beach or the woods, always with some water element (a waterfall, or a hot spring).  Again, I employ my senses, but this time with my imagination. I feel the wet sand between my toes, hear the sound of the crashing waves, feel the warmth of the air… you get the picture.

If a problem or decision to be made is keeping you awake, use your imagination to let your subconscious work it out for you. I often envision sitting underneath a “wisdom tree”, or next to God. Or, I may ask God to speak to me in a dream. You can also envision a “worry tree” where you hang your worries for the night. Once I get into my relaxing place and let my worries rest, it is not very long until I’m in lala land. So try these; it takes some practice, but you will get the hang of it. And if you still can’t fall asleep, tell yourself it is OK to lie there and REST. Just enjoy being in your relaxing place for some good alone time.

So what does all this have to do with balsamic strawberries? Nothing, except that I had that for dessert today, and it was delicious. So I thought I’d share! Here’s what it looked like:

I LOVE balsamic vinegar. I use it for bread dipping and sometimes add it to sauces. Sometimes I marinate fruit in it and it makes a great dessert! This time I marinated the strawberries in dark chocolate balsamic (yummy). Fast, healthy and delicious! You can find flavored balsamic vinegar in specialty stores, but plain balsamic vinegar tastes good with strawberries or oranges, too. Add a little extra virgin olive oil and some fruit jam, and you’ve got a great vinaigrette, perfect for fruity salads!

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A blog is born!

New year, new blog!

Does the world need another blog? Probably not. But, I needed a place to focus all the energy I have  around the subject of health and wellness. And so geranium seeds was born!

Why geranium seeds? Besides being beautiful, geraniums have several medicinal qualities.  The oil extracted from these plants have anti-fungal, anti-depressant, anti-viral, anti-biotic, analgesic, and astringent properties! Not only that, geranium oil also promotes cell regeneration.

My hope is that this blog will give you little wellness tips and encouragement that will assist you in your process of growth and regeneration.

So, here’s for a healthy 2012! Cheers!

Did you know? You can purchase geranium oil and massage it into skin, dilute it into a bath, or use it in a diffuser. Here’s one I like:

 

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