Saturday, December 15, 2012

Musings on Life

My 2 nieces at our wedding, on the right is my niece with the brain tumor
I know, I know. I said I wouldn’t blog anymore. But I couldn’t help it this time. Maybe I’ll just post when I feel like I need to - a virtual, albeit public, diary of my thoughts and musings.

Recently, I’ve had some things in my life that have made me contemplate quite a bit about philosophy, religion, life, death, happiness, the lot... Sound heavy? Sure as hell is. This isn’t to say that I’m a mess right now - quite the opposite in fact. Still as happily optimistic as ever!

But there have been two health related incidents with my family members that I have faced within the last few months. First, my niece, who was diagnosed last spring with a non-cancerous brain tumor at the age of 7. She was fine until after some chemotherapy to decrease the swelling in her brain (the tumor is on her brain stem, thus inoperable). After the first round of chemo, a whole host of issues essentially have brought my playful, devious, darling little niece to be in the hospital for the past 3+ months with a trach (so she can breathe) and in a motorized wheelchair. She’s relearning how to write, talk, use her hands, and getting used to life with a trach. Thankfully, she’s at one of the best children’s hospitals in the country (I know, I used to work there!), but still...

The second event was the disturbing phone call I received from my Dad a few weeks ago, who had just witnessed the collapse of my aunt. After working on her for about 30 minutes at my parents’ house, the paramedics transported her to a hospital, and the doctors proceeded to go through with therapeutic hypothermia (inducing hypothermia to let the body heal). Once they had brought her body temperature back to normal, they tried to see if she would respond to any stimuli - sadly, she was gone and my uncle decided to make her comfortable with morphine and let her go. She was a nursing instructor and someone who really influenced my decision to go to nursing school.

All of this has given me the opportunity to reflect upon my beliefs and to come to terms with death and life. I’m an atheist. I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that before. Some would call me an agnostic. Whatever I am, I don’t believe in god, but don’t deny the existence of a god. Nor do I necessarily believe that what I believe is correct. If I woke up tomorrow and god existed, that’d be cool. This position on religion has shaped my beliefs about life and death.

This being said, however, I would love to understand how atoms and the universe truly work. Where did the big bang come from? I’ve talked a lot about acupuncture and how much it has changed my life - but there is so much we don’t know about Chinese Medicine. You can’t dissect a human and find meridian lines. But we (at least those who believe in Chinese Medicine) know that they’re there. There is so much that cannot be explained about our surroundings and anatomy that it’s tough for me to not have some sort of spirituality.

So, am I spiritual? I never thought so until recently. With my new life (classes, volunteer work, part time job), I have made an emphasis to exercise a lot more. Now, I’m doing something 5 times a week. I LOVE it! And part of that is yoga. I’ve been going to a Hatha yoga studio for awhile now, and it’s awesome. We sing, chant, sweat (it’s heated to 95 deg F) and make personal offerings. Sounds kind of religious, huh? I’ve come to terms with this recently - my religion is the focus on clearing my mind and to treat everyone with love and respect. During yoga, when things get tough, I dedicate my practice to someone I love and who is in need. I imagine sending positive energy (whatever “energy” is) to that person and in it I find strength. That person can sometimes even be myself - I’m pretty type A and therefore can be quite hard on myself. So yes, I believe in energy, but what it is or what it means, I have no clue. And I would be happy to be told one day that “energy” doesn’t exist and here’s the proof. Cool. No problem. I’d accept my idea of “energy” as being a simple figment of my imagination - minds are powerful computers and I firmly believe that you can delude yourself into thinking nearly anything. Anyway, aside from yoga, when someone I come across in life is having a difficult time, I imagine funnelling positive energy from universe towards them. Sound crazy? It sure as hell is. But you know what? I works for me. And I like this religion so much more than the idea that only a select few are the only ones going to heaven. What kind of religion is that? Shouldn’t we love and care about everyone? Aren’t we all equal? Shouldn’t we accept everyone for who and what they are? Doesn’t mean I like everyone I meet... just saying, I have not come across a religion that is accepting of everyone and I hate that.

So back to the two cases of my aunt and niece (because many ancient philosophers have debated religion for millennia). What are my beliefs on life and death? I believe that life is an accident. A happy accident built of the amazing small probability that we would ever exist. It blows your mind if you just think about it. What’s the probability that I could ever sit here in front of this computer, writing this, while worrying about exams and skiing; that I’ll get to both by driving a car? Zilch. Almost zero. It’s quite incredible. As for death, I believe that we become atoms again and restart the circle of life. It’s a bit freaky (especially as I once used to be Christian) - thinking that death is so final. Yet, it’s so freeing. I now think of life as something to enjoy and explore. Not to just *get through.* I don’t believe in reincarnation - beyond the idea that the carbon atoms in my body may someday become a plant, animal or rock. Spirit? I believe it’s all in our brain. But you never know - this is what I believe today, but I don’t hold on so tightly to my beliefs that I’m blinded by other possibilities.

Ah, sorry, got side tracked again. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve had a really hard time with the death of my aunt and the unfortunate events that have happened to my seven year old niece. I’ve thought about my beliefs and my ideas and had to come to terms with what I personally believe in. Essentially, I think it all boils down to the idea that no one can prove anything regarding god, metaphysics or even astrology. I feel like there is something that connects us all with the universe. Is that qi? Energy? God? Atoms? Nothing? But just because I feel that way doesn’t mean that it is. It’s just the way that I choose to live my life - I want to believe that we’re connected and I find comfort in that thought. I want to believe that there really is something to karma, that my actions today affect my future. That being “good” (especially to myself and to those I most care about) will set me up for a future life of happiness and good health.

As my Mom always said - “life is too short.” And you know what? She’s absolutely right. Live the life you’ve always wanted, because the time in which we are on this rock of a planet is so infinitely small in comparison to the scope of our universe...
My aunt who passed away 

Monday, October 8, 2012


Approx mile 70 of the Gran Fondo, Sept 29
I LOVE autumn. It’s my most favorite time of the year, yet one of the most challenging times of the year for me.

Here’s how it usually goes down - around summer solstice the amazingly beautiful yet cold and damp fog rolls into San Francisco. I feel like making soups and stews to stay warm, yet keep getting wonderful and delicious summer produce in our weekly box. And I love every tomato that I can get my hands on! But here’s the deal - usually after Labor Day, the fog takes it’s yearly hiatus (until the next summer solstice) and summer really heats up... in autumn! Last week we had a heat wave with a few days in the low 90’s!

So you can imagine the tug of war that occurs - just as I’m ready to bust out the pumpkin recipes, bake more, create warming and comforting food and start the chai making - and it’s 88 degrees out. The weather makes me want to be even MORE active - so I usually end up pushing myself beyond what the season is telling my body to do - sloooow down. So eventually, around the end of October, the dichotomy of “summer” being here, yet it being autumn, takes its toll. Usually in the form of getting a cold, being tired all the time or just plain not feeling well. This is where acupuncture is the most amazing and best thing I can do for myself. And not over doing it - but I’m pretty sure I will anyway!

So, since the last time I wrote SO much has happened! I think I have to put it in a timeline...

-Labor day weekend: My friend C from NYC came to visit with her boyfriend. We had a wonderful weekend of food, wine tasting and for them, sightseeing (R and I went for a training ride... get to that in a minute).

-C left to visit the lovely state of California... then a friend from Seattle came to stay in our apartment for the weekend.

-The same weekend, we had a 6:30a flight Friday morning, off to Albany, NY to attend a beautiful wedding at Lake George, NY. An amazing wedding. Beautiful beyond words and so fun to catch up with acquaintances that we haven’t seen in nearly 4 years.

-After the wedding, we drove to NYC. It was so odd to drive across the George Washington Bridge and think “wow, I lived here for THREE years!” That and quite a few non-choice words for the new bridge toll ($12!!!! F&#$!). We stayed in C’s flat as she and her boyfriend were still touring around California - how lucky am I?

-On Monday, the 10th, I turned 30! A beautiful, relaxing day of wandering around the city, enjoying gluten free cake (an amazing new GF store opened in our old neighborhood!) along with champagne and an incredible meal at Le Bernadin (with a surprise bottle of champange from our dear friend was just married 2 nights prior). I cannot imagine a better way to start a new decade!

-We flew back to SF the next day and then N and S flew in from Seattle to celebrate my birthday!! It was the best birthday present! A fantastic weekend of wine, too much cake, too much food and a wonderfully healthy dose of girl time had me feeling wonderfully happy (and hung over).

-The following week was a recovery week! I did freeze a flat of strawberries (because R was incessently requesting that I have his strawberries available for him for winter breakfasts). I canned a flat of early girl dry farmed tomatoes. I did an 88 mile training ride - ON PIG! Yes, Pig finally arrived and R put her together. She's a beaut!

-Two weekends ago, I rode the Gran Fondo!!!! It was 103 miles with over 8200 feet of climbing. And it did it in 9 hours 22 minutes. Great weather. Great people. It was such an amazing ride, so well supported and a huge accomplishment for myself. I’ve been training for this since about June and I’m pretty amazed at myself for finishing. I also helped to raise over $600 for charities and I rode for my darling little niece who is in the PICU at the moment (I’d prefer to not go into the details, but suffice it to say that she has a good prognosis). I can't wait to do this ride again next year and would like to be better trained and finish in 8.5 hours - wonder if I can do it?

-Last weekend was a “relaxing” weekend of canning *another* flat of tomatoes (1 20 lb flat of tomatoes ONLY makes 7 quarts - OMG, they better be worth it in the winter!!) and then another batch of strawberry jam, along with catching up with friends via skype in Europe and a lovely dinner at our friends’ house that we haven’t seen in ages.

Life has been quite chaotic. But what I’m realizing is that this is the way I love life to be. It’s quite amazing to come full circle back to where I was just a year ago - thinking about acupuncture school and hating my job. I’ve realized that I like to be busy and exhausted in the evenings. I like to push myself to the brink - where I think I cannot continue, yet I still climb another 1000 feet on Pig. I enjoy not having time to watch TV and where reading a fictional book is a treat. And most of all, I cannot believe how much I’ve changed within the short timespan of a year.

As of right now, I’m focusing my energies on 4 volunteer jobs, Statistics, part time marketing work (for my prior company) and how I'm going to apply to nursing school. I’ve decided to apply March 1 (for a November 2013 start). More importantly, I’ve decided to become a nurse - not a nurse practitioner! This is pretty huge. This means only 1 year of schooling, not 3. This means a high likelihood of making it into a program (versus a 15% chance) and this means that if I want to become a NP later in life, it will be much easier. Thus, winter is about to become extraordinarily busy! I’ll probably take 3 courses, drop 2 volunteer jobs and still work part time. If I’m not accepted, well, I can continue with my original plan and apply August 1 (for a April 2014 start). If I am accepted when I apply in March, that means I’ll start school in about a year!

Another note, I’m on the fence with continuing this blog or not. As life has made a clear definition of itself (or rather, I made a clear definition of what I want my life to be), it seems as though my medium of venting my frustrations in written format has become less important. Also, I love sharing recipes and what I’m doing in my life; little tidbits of my interpretation of Chinese medicine and wellbeing, however, it seems that it’s not reaching a wide audience (no offense to those of you who do read my blog!!! I still love you and please email me if you ever have any questions that I could possibly help with!) and that is completely fine! It’s just a whole ton of work to write, edit and post these pieces and given my commitments, I’m not sure it’s really worth it for me. But then again, the ever changing wave of life could certainly pick me back up and plop me in front of a computer and having me writing again. For the moment, just know, that I want to thank you, dear reader, for accompanging me through this turbulent year of discovery, encouraging me to write, commenting on things you found interesting and simply being there to share my experiences over the past year. For now, I shall leave my future blogging to be left with ambiguity. I may return, or I may not. But in the meantime, thank you.

Be well and find the things in life that make you happy!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm Back!

Hey there! I took a small (ok, 2 month) sabbatical from blogging. Life got a little hectic for awhile. But that’s the awesomeness of life, right? Well, here’s the thing, it was hard to think about blogging while things were so crazy. They’re still crazy now, but at least I’m used to the craziness. Here’s what I’ve been up to recently:

Cured Salmon - yes please!
 -I made pickles! They’ll be ready in 2 weeks and I cannot wait to try them.
-I made cured salmon!
-I made blueberry jam! We went to Portland to visit family and celebrate our 1 year anniversary. My father-in-law has a ton of blueberry bushes and right before we left for the airport, he loaded us up with 10 freezer bag pints of blueberries and 6 packages of smoked salmon (*in heaven!*).
-I passed my Psychology summer course! And I kicked its ass! It was quite intensive - 4 days a week of classes, plus reading and studying. Plus 2 volunteer jobs, plus working part time for my old job. Whew. No wonder I didn’t want to blog!

A tasty dinner with said salmon and psychology notes.
 -As mentioned before, I celebrated my 1 year wedding anniversary with R. First in Portland, then we had a weekend in Sonoma. We’ve never done that before, but he had a gift certificate from his former employer to a swanky hotel resort so I booked us a package that included a room, massages, a bottle of wine (but it sucked) and breakfast in bed. Then we woke up and did a HUGE bike ride in Sonoma. Well, at least if felt huge to me...
-I’ve been biking! A lot! I’ve done some big rides but I’ve also been doing a lot of time on the trainer. As I don’t have a gym membership anymore, my living room has become my gym! I’ve worked up to 45 minutes (what I call my “hour of power”) of interval training. I think I sweat out a pound every time I bike! It’s bloody awesome!
I made it to the top of Mt Tam! This was taken at the end of June.
 -I’ve started a regular yoga practice. Well, ok, I went for 2 weeks straight and took this week off (been fighting a cold and my schedule has been a tad wonky). But I got a 10 class package, so I at least feel like I’m starting a yoga practice! This place is absolutely wonderful. S, who is my awesome yoga instructor friend, introduced me to heated vinyasa yoga. And this place is it. And then some. LOVE IT.
L with the much needed Lemon Iced Tea (with plenty of sugar)!
 -Pig is almost here! I cannot wait to get Pig! The frame maker said it would be 1-2 weeks - but I’m erring on the side of 3-4. So at least Pig will be ready before the Gran Fondo.
-I have 18 days left of being 29! Yikes. But I have to say, I’m actually pretty excited for 30. It’s liberating to move out of your 20’s when life is so hectic, crazy and up in the air. I at least now know who I am, what I want out of life and things are more tangible. I’m now thinking of how my actions today impact what will happen tomorrow. In my 20’s I feel like I just went with the flow and only thought about today.

We're turning into biking twins! L will have a bike like Pig - her's will be called Blue Bike.
Blueberry bath.

-I started volunteering at a true hospital! And I love it. It’s been an incredible experience. Per hospital policy, I cannot publicly state which hospital it is that I’m volunteering at, but I can at least say that I’m really enjoying my volunteer work there. I spend 2 hours in the morning in oncology in-patient (i.e. what you normally think of a hospital) and 2 hours in out-patient (people receiving chemotherapy). What I love most about this work is the RN’s that I work with. They’re all incredible people. The work isn’t all that exciting, but being there and seeing what’s going on really cements this crazy notion that I’ve followed - I really need to be a nurse!

Aaaaand the making of jam!
 -I have surprisingly discovered that I may not be as interested in becoming a Nurse Practitioner (i.e. receive a master’s in nursing to treat and diagnose patients). After being in the hospital, I found that I’m really interested in bed side nursing. This is great because it means less schooling! :) But it’s hard because there is only 1 school in the Bay Area that has an accelerated course. This means that I’ll be applying all over the west coast - so who knows, we could live in another city for a year! But this finding is HUGE. It means I can focus my efforts on nursing specifically and becoming a RN. The pressure to get a master’s is off my shoulders and it opens up a lot more opportunity for schools. Besides, if I feel the need to become a NP, I can go to grad school later! And bonus, this means I’ll still take the GRE just in case, but I won’t spend a shit ton of moo-lah on a GRE prep course...
-I’ve started fall semester and I’m taking statistics. I may regret saying this later, but wow - it’s easy! My first class was almost laughable. R keeps asking me “when will I be taking statistics???” hehehe - maybe he won’t half to??? (Ok, back story here - he’s what got me through physics my senior year of college - it wasn’t pretty, but he got me through it).
-Lastly, I've just found out that S + N from Seattle are coming to SF for my birthday!!! I'm SUCH a lucky girl to have S, A + N all here for my big 30th! :)
And I think that’s about it! I'll try to be better about blogging more and about wholistic health/nutrition/cooking, but I'm not going to promise anything!

Be well!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Venus, Strawberry Jam and Quitting!

Life has been chugging along - each day silently folding into the next. I’ve been exhausted (stupid allergy meds - I’ve quit them so that’s helping). I’ve been excited. I’ve been scared and I’ve been... I don’t know. Me. Cooking. Reading. Geeking out over Game of Thrones and Mad Med. And Venus!

Today is my last full day as an employee in the corporate world. Sure, I become a contractor and work Fridays in the office and from home during the week until they hire someone, but today is my last day as a “responsible, 40 hour a week working person.” It feels weird!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m stoked to not make this horrific commute every day. Especially when there’s a fire and Bart doesn’t work and traffic is a bloody mess. I can’t wait to use that time to devote to studying for the GRE, reading my psychology textbook (the class I start on Monday) and focusing my energy on volunteering. It’s just so against me. I’m a control freak. I’m type A. I think I’ve mentioned before that I color coordinate my closet. I want to know what’s going to happen. I like knowing what’s in store for me in the future. It’s how I function. I find comfort *knowing.* I’m the person who plans out everything - my entire day, my weekend, my vacations. So, you can probably understand why I’m kinda freaking out a bit about my immediate future. I don’t know what my schedule is. I have volunteer interviews and training next week. I don’t know where I’ll be volunteering yet, who I’ll be working for or what I’ll be doing. I’ve played the game of “let’s not think about that...” but now it’s all there waiting for me come Monday morning! Exciting and terrifying!

One thing that always strikes me as odd is that you never know how much your co-workers like you until you leave. Why is that? I’ve had so many “you’ll make an excellent nurse!” “fantastic!” “I’m so excited for you!” and “I’ll miss working with you” statements over the last two weeks that it’s a bit overwhelming! I never knew people actually liked me that much. Why is that? Do we just hide under our “status quo” so much so that we don’t actually tell people what we think? Eh, probably. Whatev’s - I’m really not going to miss this work, but I will miss the people.
Venus crossing the sun. The black dot on the upper left at the edge of the reflection of the sun is where Venus is just starting it's journey!
So, one thing that’s cool about working with a bunch of science geeks, is that they go all out when crazy astronomical events like when Venus crossed the sun. I got to see it! There were two telescopes - one with the paper projection (see photo) and one with a proper solar filter so that you could really see Venus. Someone even brought eclipse glasses, but I couldn’t see anything with those. It was so cool! A planet! It exists! And I could *see* it! Yeah, I’m a geek. I’ve given up trying to hide from it.
Coworkers looking at the wonderfully creative way to project the Sun and Venus' travels.
Yeah, we're geeks!
Last weekend, I spent a second session canning. This was a much more pleasant experience than when I canned beets. I got a discounted flat of strawberries from the farmers market last Thursday and they were stinking up our fridge. So, after wedding dress shopping with A (*sniff, sniff* she’s so beautiful!) I went home and got to the sweaty, messy business of making and canning strawberry jam. First time ever! It was hard, hot and messy work (canning, people! stay with me!) but well worth the finished product of having 16 jars of beautiful jam finished! Hooray! I calculated the savings - about $100 of not buying expensive, organic jam at Rainbow (don’t get me wrong, I love supporting Rainbow, but c’mon, $8 per 10 oz of jam?!). And I even made it with honey! No processed sugar! Pamona’s pectin - I think I love you.

Other than that, the only other exciting thing in life aside from the whole minor detail of quitting my job is that I’m finally deciding on the finishing touches for my new bike! In order to bribe me into doing a century with him, I made R get me a custom made bike for my 30th birthday. And so I’ve decided to have it painted in pink. “Pig” pink. And, I’ve decided to call it “Pig.” :D I am SO ridiculously happy to name my new bike Pig. Yeah - I’m quarky. I color coordinate my closet, make kombucha, can strawberry jam and call my bike Pig. And it makes me happy.

Anyway, get out there and actually let people know what you think of them. Pretend that today is the last time you’ll be working with someone and let them know how you feel. Why not? Why pretend? And really, why wait? Nothing in life is forever. Not even Pig.

Overripe strawberries ready to be made into jam and canned!

All 16 jars of canned strawberry jam. Yum!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Increasing Qi

Life has calmed down. The parents came and had a wonderful week here in SF. It was awesome to spend time with them, eat, drink, have friends over for dinner and my Mom was totally cool and went to hot vinyasa yoga with me - she did great! I about died as my shoulder hasn’t really allowed me to do yoga for 3 months, but back at it! I want to start going once per week (and secretly want to recruit R - I mean, it will help his biking, right?? Maybe that’ll get him).

My parents during the solar eclipse over a lovely glass of wine in San Carlos
 Since things are less stressful, I’d like to spend some time writing about how food can be a medicine. If you read this blog, I’m pretty open about my feelings on Chinese medicine (or Traditional Chinese Medicine - TCM). In this first post, I’ll give a overview of TCM and the principles. This will help to explain what I mean by “hot” foods or “cold” foods, etc.

Disclaimer: I’m not a licensed acupuncturist. If it were up to me, I’ll tell you to go see one. My opinions here are not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. Everything written here is simply my opinion or paraphrased from a TCM class I took in January/February, books I’ve read or personal experience. Please don’t ever try to prescribe yourself supplements or herbs - see a licensed acupuncturist for recommendations.

R and me during the eclipse - he's so cute!
 The basics - if you do not want to understand TCM except for at a microscopic level, then please stop reading now - TCM won’t make sense to you and it will just infuriate you. This was the hardest hurdle that I had to overcome in my understanding of TCM. By “microscopic” I mean “reason” or “cause.” In western medicine, we take drugs to interfere with or create chemicals in the body to treat disease, to treat a cause. Western medicine addresses disease at the microscopic level - or chemical level. TCM couldn’t give a shit. TCM looks at the macroscopic level - mostly known as a “holistic” medicine. TCM doesn’t care that you haven’t been sleeping, eating well and have a lack of veggies in your diet so now you have a cold. TCM doesn’t have you take a medicine to decrease inflammation at the protein level like Advil. TCM looks at all the disharmonies within the body and attempts to make those disharmonies balance - to prevent you from getting that cold or help you deal better with inflammation.

We all have disharmonies. Harmony is based on yin and yang. Remember that symbol that was so popular in the 90’s? That’s the TCM symbol for yin and yang. Yin is cold and yang is hot (I remember this by thinking yang has an “a” and so does “warm”). Yin and yang are much more than cold and hot, but there are books out there that describe it much more eloquently than I and I prefer not to plagiarize. Yin and yang have an infinite quality and all things are made up of yin and yang.

Driving up Mt. Tam looking towards SF
 Qi (or chi) is the “energy” in the body. Qi isn’t really energy, but I haven’t yet wrapped my mind around what it is other than to call it energy. So we’ll stick with energy - you and I. Sometimes I feel qi moving (after a good yoga class, during acupuncture, sometimes when I exercise) but qi is always moving - yes, I know I sound like a freak, but stop and pay attention and you might feel yours too. It’s that pleasant tingly feeling that you get sometimes (no, not when your foot goes to sleep...). Sometimes qi is weak or stagnant. In TCM, this is when disease can set in (i.e. a cold, sore muscles, sleeplessness, heart disease, cancer, etc etc etc). There are also different types of qi, but I won’t go into that - mostly concern yourself with the qi that you can work with yourself: nourishing qi. You can “nourish” your qi through sleeping, eating a healthy diet and unrelated but equally important - maintaining your emotional health. Remember, you want equal balance in your body - between yin and yang, between too little and too much. Anything in excess can cause disharmony and subsequently get you sick.

View of Richardson Bay, the SF Bay and SF at the top of Mt. Tam
 In TCM, if you’re healthy but are having a deficiency in some area, a practitioner will likely try to “tonify” your qi. All this means is to give you a boost, an increase in qi. Acupuncture helps here because the acupuncturist places a tiny needle (the width of a hair) into acupuncture points. Think of meridian lines as rivers and acupuncture points as tiny wells or reservoirs. When you stick a log in the middle of the well or reservoir, the water will speed up around the log. Acupuncture acts in a similar fashion to move qi and balance qi. Full disclosure: the needles don’t usually hurt (unless you’re a woman and get acupuncture right before your period - yeouch!) and if they do initially hurt, the pain subsides in a second. I’m also terrified of needles, so when I get acupuncture I turn into a big ball of sweat, but once the needles are in place, I feel fantastic! Luckily my acupuncturist is incredibly understanding with my sweaty antics.

Tonifying qi is excellent when you’ve been working out too much, haven’t gotten enough sleep or think you’re on the brink of a cold. Food is medicine, right? Aside from acupuncture, here are some foods for tonifying qi:

Beef (100% grass fed, organic), cherries, avocado, yams (sweet potatoes), carrots, shiitake mushrooms, beets, barley, coconut (water, shaved, milk), hazelnuts, brown rice, corn meal, oysters, kidney beans, black beans, almonds and apricots.

These are just my favorites. The easiest way to get a full list is to google “foods to tonify qi” and the first link that pops up is a Word doc. Make sure to incorporate a lot of complex carbohydrates with veggies and unrefined grains, eat small frequent meals and avoid “cold” foods such as citrus and raw foods.

My parents are so cute! 
 This post is dedicated to you N - she called me up a week from last Friday and told me how she was tonifying her qi with a glass of pinot grigio! AHAHAH! Love that girl. She’s been riding 35 miles round trip to and from work for bike to work month in May- 2 to 3 times per week - WOW - so proud of you N! And I of course being the crazy, crunchy woman that I am told her to tonify her qi. FYI - alcohol is used in TCM, but for use with herbs and usually with the elderly. Full disclosure: I love wine and still continue to drink it! You can’t take life too seriously...

You likely think I’m a bit nuts. Yes, I’m skeptical as well about TCM. The only reason why I am interested in TCM and the reason why I think it’s true is because it has worked wonders for me. TCM is about a series of patterns that make up a story that help your practitioner understand how to restore harmony to your body- thus the idea of “holistic.”

Again, from here, I’ll blog about how food can be a medicine and what to try for specific things. Changing my diet has made an enormous improvement in my health - and it wasn’t all that drastic. Small changes over time, and taking the time to stop and understand how my body reacts to those foods, helped me to get to where I am today.

Can’t wait to share my awesome weekend in Tahoe last weekend! Will post soon about that and yin deficiencies.

Now go tonify your qi - or just think I’m crazy! I’m happy with either.
Lunch at Fish in Sausilito - YUM!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jumping Out of the Box!

Solo 32 mile bike ride while R was in Australia. A quick boost at the top of the Marin Headlands. Such a beautiful day!
I did it! I spoke with my boss last week and told him about going to nursing school. He knew something was up, so he wasn’t surprised yet he surprised me by being incredibly supportive and kind about the whole thing. My last full day is June 15 and I have signed up for a summer class that begins the following Monday. It will be challenging - class from 8 - 10:30 am everyday except Friday, along with part time work (until they find a replacement for me), volunteer work studying for the GRE and preparing for the new changes!

I have three volunteer positions lined up and another 2 waiting. I’ll be volunteering at Glide Health Services (a practice that serves the homeless and underserved populations of SF), the Jewish Home (assisted living) and SF General Hospital (a level 1 trauma hospital). Then I’ll try to get into the more “normal” hospital settings at CPMC and UCSF. It’s going to get crazy! But my hope is to volunteer at each place for 3-5 hours per week on top of my prereq courses. Life is going to get busy! I have to volunteer because when I apply to UCSF for the direct entry program (1 accelerated year to become a RN - for those of us without degrees in nursing and 2 years for the master’s to become a nurse practitioner) I have to apply to a specialty. Without volunteer experience and job shadowing, how am I to know what specialty to apply to? Also, in the fall or spring of next year, I think I’ll try to become a nurse’s assistant - a bit of a shitty job (pun intended) but will certainly gain valuable experience! Whew - that’s the huge life change in a nutsell.

Last weekend R and I went to a beautiful wedding in Yosemite. I’m an idiot and forgot to pack a camera, so no pictures - sorry! But it was really beautiful! What a fun weekend and I completely didn’t realize just how beautiful Hetch Hetchy was (the reservoir that supplies all of SF it’s drinking water) - I feel pretty naive, but it really blew me away. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore because of the wedding festivities, but nonetheless, it was amazing. R officiated the wedding and it was really funny to overhear other people say “wow, if that R doesn’t succeed in his day job, he could take this on as a second career!” Pretty funny. The bride was amazingly beautiful, the groom wonderfully sweet. The speeches were perfect and of course, there was the one awkwardly perfect drunken speech - the reason why weddings are always fun! :) Lots of dancing, lots of drinking and a terrible hangover - must have been a fantastic wedding!!!

There was *so much* pollen in Yosemite that it got the best of me. *sigh* I had to get on the allergy medicine bandwagon after sneezing my head off and just generally feeling like shit. But I feel like a normal person again. My allergies get so back that it’s just like having a cold and I get quite miserable. Hopefully I won’t have to take this drug for too long (you know how much I hate taking meds).

Other than that, I’ve been biking and been generally preoccupied with this life change.

One thing that’s made a huge impression on me throughout the past week and notifying my colleagues of my changes is everyone keeps saying “wow, I’m jealous” or “I wish I could do that.” I just want to give them a hug and say - “YES! YOU CAN!” I know this is slightly hypocritical of me given how long it took me to come to this conclusion, however, you can do anything you want to do. You really can. It might involve sacrifice and of course you need to find out if its’ worth it, but really, you can do anything. I think my parents have taught me this wonderful lesson. They currently sacrifice by paying a huge bill each month for emergency health insurance but they both are entrepreneurs after being successful in the banking and software industries. They just found that living in Seattle wasn’t working for them any longer and they moved into my grandparent’s home in rural Portland. It suits them and yes, its not perfect, but they’re happy. That’s what’s most important. Stop sacrificing happiness! If you’re from my generation, you should really spend 5 minutes and read this article - 9 Dangerous Things You Were Taught in School - and I love #5 “There is a very clear, single path to success.” I think that says it all.

I still am planning on a wellness series soon - so stay posted. I just need life to calm down a smidge so I can think about what I want to cover.

Open a bottle of sparkling for me!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Escaping the Box

Here’s the big news: I’m going to escape my cubicle of a box! Planning on quitting my job here in the next few weeks. I feel like I’m telling the world, I may as well publish it here, too. 
View of SF from Sausilito (bike ride 2 weekends ago)

I’ve alluded to things changing. New and exciting times. Now it’s time to make those changes. I feel like I’ve come full circle to my “saturn returns.” I know the idea of saturn returns is pretty out there, but I have seen everyone of my friends who go through this time in life and make a change. Likely it wasn’t a big one, but I see a shift in how they think and look at the world. I think I’m there now too.

About two months ago after whining to my ever listening-though-probably-doesn’t-like-it-much husband about my job and exclaiming “so! what do you think I should do!” like a 5 year old in a tantrum (I never said saturn returns makes you more mature), he finally just looked at me and said out of exasperation “why don’t you just become a nurse!” And *PING* the light went on.
Signage en francais in Sausilito "walk your bike on the sidewalk"
Now, this is silly. I’ve always said, “in a different life, I would have gotten my bachelor’s degree in nursing.” I’m the person who gives nettle tea to those with seasonal allergies, detox tea or kombucha to those with hangovers, band-aids to those with a cut and I vividly remember stitching up N’s finger in college with terry strips when she cut herself to the bone and refused to go to the ER. I’m that person. I’m the person who wants nothing more than to make you feel better when you’re sick (though, I do get impatient with man colds - I love the man, but he can drive me nuts sometimes when he has a cold). I’m the annoying person who keeps asking you if you feel better or if there is anything else I can do to help. Of course I should be a nurse!! And, oh yeah, I think it runs in the family. My grandma was a nurse assistant in WWII, I have two aunts who retired from nursing and teaching nursing and an uncle who is an assistant dean in nursing.
View of Angel Island from Sausilito
So! The big news! I’m quitting my box, becoming a volunteer, student and housewife; once I have a volunteer job. I’ll start prerequisite courses this summer and study for the GRE. I’ll apply to the UCSF MEPN program (1 year advanced training to become a nurse, 2 years to become a nurse practitioner) in 2013 for a *hopeful* start date in June 2014. Here’s the tough part: UCSF is crazy hard to get into. They accept about 15% of those that apply. Yes, there are other options for me, but this is the program that I really want to get in to. If I don’t get accepted, I’ll probably have to get a second bachelor’s degree in nursing and apply to a master’s program at another time. Not awful, but not what I would prefer. But who knows - life has a really funny way of taking in you in the right direction; even when it’s not what you want.
Hike up San Bruno Mountain; view of the fog, Mt Tam and the Eye of Mordor (Sutro Tower) - last Sunday hike w/ M & A

Now, back to the big turning 3-0 and saturn returns. I finally feel I’ve had the “ah-ha!” moment. I’m ready to “give up” the last 7 years of my life and career. And I’m ok with it. I’m struggling with the thought and the idea that I’m giving up my independence and have to rely 100% on my husband, but on the other hand, I cannot keep stalling - so I’m ok with it. It does feel like I’m taking a leap off that figurative bridge into god knows what. And, in just over 4 months, I’ll be 30. Yikes! Struggling with letting go of my 20’s, but it’s been a decade of confusion about where I want to go in life. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve accomplished, done, seen and enjoyed a lot, but time to move on. I remember an old hair stylist telling me when I was 20 that “your 20’s are effing hard and then you figure your shit out in your 30’s.” Well timed, m’lady.
View of downtown SF from San Bruno Mountain
In other news in my life, the boy is frolicking around Australia (for work, umm hmm) and I’ve started getting back into road biking! The tendonitis in my shoulder is nearly healed and I’m starting to up my mileage. Perfect goal for my 30th birthday - bike the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo in Santa Rosa, CA just days after I turn 30. 103 miles. 9000 feet of elevation gain/loss. Brilliant.
View of the bay from San Bruno Mountain; Mt Diabo in the background to the right (I've got to bike to the top of that thing...)
Keep your eyes out for a series of posts that I’d like to start... My Dad has been struggling with arthritis and I went all crazy on him and gave him a 2-page long email of food suggestions (remember, I think food is medicine) - he then said, “why don’t you have a newsletter or something?” Hrmm... been thinking about that one for awhile. So, I’ll start a series about how food can be medicine. If you have an ailment that you’re concerned with, let me know! I would be happy to do a bit of research.

Also, some inspiration from my CSA veggie/fruit box. An empty house brings feelings of lonliness and I cannot wait for R to come home. On the other hand, the house is much cleaner... hrm... Anyway, back to food! I live to eat and eat to live. I think about food all the time. So as I came home to my warm, empty, full of light apartment with veggie box in hand and no agenda for dinner, I came up with this recipe. It’s easy! It will take about 45 minutes and is completely adjustable to whatever veggies you have on hand. Seriously. Delish. I call it spring inspired pasta. But of course, add whatever you want!

Spring Inspired Pasta
Serves 2-4
45 min prep

6 oz dried pasta (I used GF Jovial - YUM)

1/2 lb small potatoes, cooked and cut in half
1 bunch dandelion greens, chopped (or use dino/lacitino kale or arugula)
2 large carrots cut into half moons
1 onion chopped
1 lb English shelling peas (shelled) or 1 cup frozen peas
½ lb sweet peas (stemmed and chopped)
Green garlic to taste
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Anchovies to taste
Fried egg to top
First, bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the small potatoes (I’m talking 1 in in diameter). Boil for 15 min and remove with a slotted spoon to let cool. Saute chopped onion and carrot in olive oil in a large skillet. Add pasta to the already boiling water (I just know some chef just choked on his caviar - sorry, I hate doing dishes... but shhhh... I kind of like it in a tormented sort of way... please don’t tell my husband). Once pasta is done, drain, add back to the pot and immediately add the chopped dandelion greens, shelled peas, sweet peas and green garlic. Add more olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat back onto low and heat up to wilt the dandelion greens. Once everything looks happy, add in the sauteed carrots and onions. At this time, I chopped the potatoes in half and add those too along with ½ can of flaked anchovies. Then make sure it tastes perfect with more olive oil, salt and pepper. Fire up the skillet again and make a fried egg over easy (I use butter and then season with salt and pepper). Add on top of the pasta dish. Voila. Deliciousness.

Simple, tasty, healthy and perfect for spring. Be sure to add a glass (or two... or three) of pinot noir (bourgogne for those of you in France). YES.
Impromptu dinner with inspiration (Flavor Bible) and a bottle of wine from my 18 Reasons volunteer gig last week - I couldn't wait to eat, so here's a pic of the leftovers
P.S. this wasn’t garlicy enough for me. Even though I have an obsession with green garlic. Please add garlic to the sauteed mixture of carrots/onions. It won’t disappoint.

P.P.S. make it seasonal with whatever veggie deliciousness you have on hand

P.P.S.S. parmesan and/or satueed mushrooms with truffle oil would effing make this dish... wow... can’t even talk about it. YUM.

Be happy. Escape your own box. Jump off that figurative bridge.