Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Year in Review

Looking back at 2014 actually seems exhausting to me right now. When I'm honest with myself, I can say that many good events and changes took place. When I'm feeling down, I may say that the year was tough and days were difficult to get through. I have a couple of people I know who are battling different types of cancer, and there by the grace of God go I. Really I am blessed and not dealing with a life-threatening illness. It is hard to keep that in perspective, however.

There is a wonderful saying that I think about in times of pain and stress: "Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind." Bruce Lee.. Many days I am the stiffest tree--in fact more than I'm comfortable with. It's when I notice that I'm being rigid that I need to get busy and change my patterns of behavior and my attitude.

I've begun again listening to Rod Stryker's Four Desires meditations. My favorite is the Bliss Meditation. It gives me the relaxation I need, the peace of mind, and the practice gets my head in the right place. If you haven't tried meditation, I suggest you do. Rod makes it so very easy with his soothing voice and simple instructions. It does take time to get used to sitting still and clearing your mind, but with patience and fortitude, you will get all the benefits promised.

At times I think I'm going backwards with my growth. When things do not go according to plan, I feel I am slipping. Not so, I have to remind myself. Maybe my soul/spiritual guides/God have decided that I'm ready to deal with the difficult situations that have needed to be addressed, and now, with the skills and tools I've gained, I'm ready to confront them.

What I do have going for me is that I am a willing participant in my life. I find ways to better myself through doctors and a therapist who makes me take hard looks at myself, but does so in a very gentle way. For anyone who has ever considered or wanted to try therapy, I fully recommend it. Honestly, if anyone has ever told you that it is shameful to go to a therapist, then you absolutely must change your thinking. My sister once said to me that people had often asked her why she chose therapy years ago, and she said, "Why wouldn't you?" And those simple words got my butt into therapy all those years ago.

Here are some of my wishes and suggestions for anyone who has taken time to read this: You are the most important person in this world. It took me years to figure that out. If you are not healthy in mind, body, and spirit, then there is no way you will be your best with your family, friends, and colleagues. Take the time out of your busy schedule to take care of yourself. In the long run it will be worth it. When I had my first child, I was afraid to be away from him. Going to work after my maternity leave was one of the hardest things I had to do. A dear friend of mine saw the struggles I was having and told me to get into an exercise program. I didn't have time and I didn't want to be away from my family. She actually told me I was doing my family no good in the state I was in. She was dead on right.

Please do not get the idea that I get this right all the time. I don't. Not even close. You teach what you most need to learn--not sure who coined that aphorism, but it is true. So looking to the new year, I will continue my self care and discovery, and my wish for all of you is that you take the precious time you need to refuel and re-energize your life so that you can live it to the fullest. Namaste.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Live Each Day as if it were Your Last!

Is it just the start of fall, the beginning of the school year, or the impending snow that inevitably gets me into a funk every year? I have seen this occur with many of my friends, so I do think the seasonal variations definitely have something to do with it.

This is my 22nd year of teaching. I can't believe it. Where has the time gone? And I feel this itch that I need to be doing something a bit different. I said to Jeff, "I wish being a yoga teacher paid as well as a public school teacher." Because quite honestly, I'd get my yoga certification in a heart beat.

But honestly, what is keeping me from getting it now? Most likely the cost factor. I have looked at the 200 hour courses and it seems to me to be cost prohibitive at the moment. My heart is truly there...but, knowing what I do about mindfulness, I need to be present in my life right here, right now.

This past summer I attended a program offered through the Illinois Writing Project. It changed the way I view myself as a writer and how I teach my students to value their ideas and get them on paper. This also has gotten me to think of offering professional development to different school districts, but you know that thing--Money?! Seems that school districts, too, are hanging on to all they have, like me.

That great saying that says 'Live each day as if it were your last'. Not sure I have the energy to do that. But here's what I'd do:

  • I'd practice yoga 1 1/2 hours a day in a beautiful, peaceful room in my house
  • Take long walks with my family
  • Watch funny movies often
  • Go to all the yoga retreats I could find
  • Explore all the exciting places in the U.S. with my family before my kids get too old to want to spend time with their parents
  • Learning more crocheting techniques. I'm 1/3 of the way done with my first afghan and I crocheted my first mitten--albeit it could fit the Hulk!
The list could go on and on. Remembering to do this is completely another thing all together. And here's the thing I really need to remember. There will be good days, bad days, days in which you are grateful that the day is over, and days that you wish were more of. What I do know is this: there will always be change. It's how I choose to react to it that will determine my peace of mind. Namaste.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New and Improved Gluten Free Bread Making with Video!

For the past two years, I have had some ups and downs with making my own gluten free bread. I have finally gotten to the stage when I can be creative and develop recipes that really go far beyond those gluten free breads you buy in the store. This process is indeed just that: a process. The money I spent, the frustration, the endless hours have definitely paid off. I believe I have perfected it. I've learned to have fun with it as well.

That being said, I've updated my recipe, which I've am sharing, and I've included a step-by-step video to help you see exactly the process. Maybe this will help you avoid the endless hours of frustration. Have fun, and let me know if you have any questions. I will be happy to answer anything I can.

(This is my own recipe, so if you re-post this, please make sure to site this blog as your reference.)

Dry Ingredients (Make sure all are Certified Gluten Free)

1 cup brown rice or sorghum flour
1/2 cup teff flour
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup of potato starch (NOT potato flour. You can substitute corn starch.)
2/3 cup tapioca flour (sometime it goes by starch instead of flour)
1/4-1/3 molasses  (or more depending on how sweet you want this bread)
1 Tbls xanthum gum
1 scant Tbls sugar
1 tsp baking soda

I mix this ahead of time in gallon-size storage baggies with the zip--Ziploc works great. In fact, I mix the ingredients in the sealed baggie. Much quicker and neater than doing it by hand in a bowl. 

I store the baggies ahead of time and use them to make the process easier and less work. Make sure the flour is at room temperature (at least 3 hours out of the freezer/refrigerator)

Other Ingredients

2 XL eggs or 3 small
12 oz lukewarm tap water
1.9 oz. vegetable oil (sunflower oil works best)
1/4-1/3 cup honey or molasses (I prefer the molasses--add more or less depending on taste)
1 scant tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dry active yeast
1 ½ tsp salt (last ingredient to be added)
1/4 cup of amaranth seeds. (Toast them in an oven 350º or toaster oven (this works best) for about 3 minutes or until the seeds start to making popping sounds. Do not burn them. Watch carefully! Cool before you add them to the flour mixture.)

Putting it all together
  •  Place water and yeast in the bowl of a food processor (make sure you are using the attachment designated for dough) proof for 10 minutes (let it sit). Beat for 2 minutes on low speed.
  • Add molasses or honey and beat for another minute or so.
  • Add oil, eggs, and vinegar. Beat for another minute or so.
  • Add the flour mixture and pulse the food processor until the flour is mixed in. Then turn the processor on for 2 minutes.
  • NOW add the salt. Stir in well before you mix it again. Beat on low for another minute.
  • Let sit for 1/2 hour in the processor
  • When the half hour is up, beat again for another minute.
  • Transfer to a prepared loaf pan (I use cooking spray--make sure its GF!)
  • Cover with parchment paper and set in a warmish place for 1 1/2 hours.
  • A half hour before the bread is done, preheat the oven to 375º. Put a pan on the lowest shelf of the oven.
  • When the 1 1/2 hour is up, add a handful of ice cubes to the tray, remove the parchment paper, and immediately place the bread on the top rack of the oven.
  • Bake for 1/2 hour
  • Remove from the oven, cover the bread with aluminum foil, rotate the pan 180º and put back in the oven.
  • Bake for another 20 or so minutes. It is done when a knife inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.
  • Cool for a few hours on a cooling rack. (I keep it there until it is completely cooled--at least 4 hours)
  • Once cooled, use a sharp bread knife to cut loaf. Separate each piece with a square of wax paper. Store in freezer. Your bread will last longer this way. Warming or toasting it first really brings out the flavor.

Monday, May 12, 2014

My Dream Yoga Retreat

I have been looking into treating myself to a yoga retreat for my 50th birthday. I haven't been too dedicated since I have a year and a half to plan it. But last week, I found the perfect place advertised in the May edition of Yoga Journal. Before I tell you about that, I have to share with you a fantasy about the future I've been having.

A basic-style yurt
When I retire, I have this vision of becoming a certified yoga instructor who works with people with chronic pain. As a chronic pain sufferer myself, I know the benefits of yoga and how it can calm down even the worst pain. So I was telling my husband about having a house with a large piece of land that I could turn into a yoga retreat. I would like to have 3-5 yurts on the land to accommodate up to 15 people. One of the yurts (the biggest one) would be a dedicated yoga studio. Of course we'd need enough capital to get this started, but again, this is just a dream, and if we have a windfall of sorts, this is what I'm going to do.

OK, now back to what I found in the Yoga Journal. They listed the best retreats they found, and you know? This one happens to be in my home state! But better than that, it is a place where you garden and learn to live organically and fully. AND they have tents or YURTS! Man! I just found the perfect spot when quite frankly, I wasn't looking. It just appeared, and now I know. This place, Stonehouse Farm in Paw Paw, IL is just amazing! Check it out! It is also very economical. I can't wait to spend the weekend or a few days more nourishing my body and soul. This place is definitely calling out to me.

Hope all you mothers out there were spoiled rotten on Mother's Day. I know this mother was. Namaste.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Taking Each Day as it Comes

I am a deep thinker. Plain and simple. Not one to allow a thought to pass through my brain going unnoticed--nuh uh, not gonna happen--I will stop and wonder why on earth this thought decided to pop into my brain right at this very moment (sometimes at very inconvenient moments!) And, if I allow it, I will let it go and move on to the next thought.

There have been people (my therapist especially) who have thought it wise to make friends with my demons. This I struggle with, for I have no love in my heart for those demons. And maybe, unfortunately for me, therein lies the problem. What would happen if I did allow myself to extend love to those parts that I deem are wholly unworthy of my attention. My therapist feels that I would understand them better and let them go.

Looking back through my life I see that I have had many miracles happen as a result of the struggles.  Had I not chosen to marry my first husband, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to realize what I didn't want out of life. I wouldn't have been given a new life with Jeff and my two kids. The divorce was painful, but necessary. It took me years to forgive myself and move on. Rarely do I think back on it now, but when I do, the pain is much less.

Currently, as I have blogged about before, 2013 has been probably the most difficult year of my life. The Whelan family is still recovering, but the acute pain we experienced that year is now down to a dull ache, and improving every day. While I did not enjoy 2013, I was given many gifts as I mentioned in Starting to Emerge into Youthful Yogini. Still, I cannot seem to get past certain areas of my life that have me stuck. I wish I could bypass all the work that needs to be done, but I know that's the coward's way out.

An area where I struggle the most is trying to be good to myself without forsaking others. My guiltometer seems to run at full tilt. I would like to be able to relax into learning how to develop my individuality more deeply, rather than worrying about what I'm neglecting in the process. Whenever I take care of myself, I find that my relationships deepen. So why the worry? I honestly do not have the answer to that question.

Some of the people I admire most are those that "appear" to have made peace with their lives and have made no excuses for their choices. Usually these people are a few years older than me and have experienced life in more ways than I have. My biggest wish is to be able to adjust to my desires and embrace them fully with a zest for life in the process.

Maybe all of what has happened in my life has made me a better person. I don't know. Maybe one day I will learn to deal with my deep emotions and embrace them (warts and all as a friend of mine likes to say) and not be afraid to confront them and even "snuggle" with them occasionally. That I'm afraid will take quite a while to get used to.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

It Doesn't Hurt: Natural Ways To Treat Pain has contributed a guest blog post on Natural ways to treat pain, and I am thrilled they chose this blog. I hope you all find this informative and professional. Thank you, Leslie Vandever, for the thoroughly researched submission. Enjoy! Namaste.

It Doesn’t Hurt: Natural Ways to Treat Pain

By Leslie Vandever
It’s in the news: a lot of Americans are addicted to narcotic painkillers. Teens steal them for parties, people “doctor-shop” so they can get a steady supply to sell at a huge profit on the streets, and some people plague the emergency rooms, faking pain to score pills for a weekend high.

News like that makes the rest of us a bit leery of taking painkillers. We don’t want to get addicted!

The fact is that opiate-based painkillers are very effective at relieving severe pain—and that most people never become addicted or dependent on them. Still, it’s worthwhile to explore other, more natural—and less controversial—ways to relieve pain.

First, though, let’s look at what hurts. Is your pain the result of an injury? Is it joint pain from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis? Did you strain your low back muscles carrying that 20-pound bag of dog food from the car into the house yesterday, or do you hurt because you have fibromyalgia? Is your pain mild? Moderate? Severe?

Different pain circumstances—and different people and their perceptions of pain—can mean different treatments. For instance, a capsicum- or camphor/menthol-based salve that you rub into the skin (for its heating or cooling sensations) can soothe sore muscles nicely. But the same salve might be only slightly effective on a joint flaring with rheumatoid arthritis—if it works at all.

Some topical, applied-to-the-skin remedies for muscle and low back pain include the above mentioned salves (made with natural ingredients), and cold or heat packs. These can be as simple as a bag of peas from the freezer. Just wrap the bag in a dish-towel and apply it to the sore place for 20 minutes. Then get that nice, grain-filled cloth bag you got for Christmas and heat it in the microwave. Apply it to the sore spot for another 20 minutes. Alternating cold and heat can be very effective at relieving muscle and back pain.

Some foods can be helpful in relieving pain, too.  Inflammation in the body and around the joints is behind much of the pain of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Research has shown that turmeric, the deep yellow, powdery spice used in Indian cuisine, can lower inflammation levels in the body somewhat. It’s important to understand which foods alleviate pain and what are the foods that cause inflammation.

There is also some evidence that the paleo diet can lower inflammation in the body. With paleo, you are free to eat lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits (sparingly), nuts and seeds, and healthy fats, like olive and canola oil. You eliminate dairy products, foods made from grain, beans and legumes, any processed foods or foods containing sugar, starchy foods, and all alcohol.
According to the American Nutrition Association, “Common dietary staples, such as cereal grains, beans, and legumes, contain lectins. These have anti-nutritional properties that influence enterocytes (cells that line the intestinal wall) and lymphocytes (cells in the blood, lymph, and lymphoid tissues that are part of the immune system).”

Lectins can quickly cross the gastrointestinal barrier. They enter the bloodstream intact, spreading easily throughout the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, they directly interact with the synovial tissue (the lining between the joints), causing inflammation and, in due course, stiffness, swelling and pain.

Eating a nutritious diet to maintain a healthy weight, getting plenty of sleep, taking time to get about 30 minutes of moderate exercise four days a week, and using topical cold and warmth all work toward lowering pain levels. When pain is severe, though, talk to your doctor. She may have some good ideas for treating both the pain and what’s causing it, too.

For more information on this and other health subjects, click here.

Leslie Vandever—known as "Wren" to the readers of RheumaBlog, her personal blog about living well with rheumatoid arthritis—is a professional journalist and freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience. She lives in the foothills of Northern California.

·         Exercise Helps Ease Arthritis Pain and Stiffness. (2013, Feb. 14) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on March 10, 2014 from
·         Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. (1999, Aug. 30) Cordain, L. Toohey, L., Smith, M.J., and Hickey, M.S. British Journal of Nutrition. The Nutrition Society. Retrieved on March 11, 2014 from
·         Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Frassetto, L.A., Schloetter, M., Mietus-Synder, M., Morris, R.C., and Sebastian, A. (2009, Feb. 11) European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved on March 11, 2014 from
·         Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis. (n.d.) Nutrition Digest. American Nutrition Association. Retrieved on January 7, 2014 from
·         Using Heat and Cold for Pain Relief. (n.d.) Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved on March 11, 2014 from

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Getting Through Cold and Flu Season the Homeopathic Style

This winter, as I've shared before in the post, "And After a Long Hiatus", has been brutal, but since last Saturday evening, I've had a cold/flu bug that has a strangle-hold on my body and now, unfortunately, my sinuses. I have friends recommend remedies, but one friend in particular, Maryann Young Davis, was able to really give me some recipes for herbal teas--some of which I've adapted to my own needs and tastes, and one of my own. I've just posted the best ones!
My dear friend, Maryann Young Davis

The first one she gave me was from this website Fiveremedies: Natural Home Remedies. Here's the recipe she sent:

2 teaspoons sage
juice of one lemon (or one teaspoon lemon balm herb)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey

To prepare the tea, pour one cup boiling water over sage and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain out herbs, add remaining ingredients, and drink hot.

Here's my adaptation:

I used all fresh herbs (as does she), and added large-leaf basil and Thai basil, and mint. I did not put this into a mug (not yet, at least), but rather steeped it in my French press for a half an hour. Very soothing.

Another recipe she adapted is Turmeric tea.

Turmeric tea stains anything it comes into contact with, so be extra careful!

1/3 cup/80 ml good, raw honey (I used Agave syrup)

2 1/2 t of dried turmeric
lots of freshly ground pepper
(she uses water, but I use almond milk)
(I added a tsp of coconut oil which seemed to bind the turmeric and help keep it from separating--it also is a yummy addition.)

Work the turmeric into the honey until it forms a paste. You can keep this on hand, in a jar, for whenever you'd like a cup.

For each cup of tea, place a heaping teaspoon of the turmeric paste in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot (but not boiling water) into the mug, and stir well to dissolve the turmeric paste. Add a big squeeze of juice from a lemon and a good amount of black pepper (do not skimp on!) Enjoy! Stir now and then as you drink it, so all the good stuff doesn't settle to the bottom, or top off with more hot water (almond milk) as needed. ENJOY!

My tea recipe:

In my french press I add:

1/4 cup of each (cleaned and chopped) 

fresh large leaf basil
Thai basil
peppermint (or any kind of mint--fresh or dried is fine)
1/2 lemon squeezed and then place lemon (rind and all) in the French press
honey (to taste)

Make sure to warm your French press first using hot water (from the tap is fine)

Empty water

Place all ingredients in the order they are listed into the French press

Stir to coat the leaves and lemon with honey. I find it helps the taste.
Then add just-boiling water to the French press and steep for 1/2 an hour. Plunge the ingredients with the top of the French press. (If you do not have one of these, you can do this in a 3-cup container and strain the leaves and lemon prior to drinking.)
Enjoy. This is yummy.

And of course my neti pot recipe, though I do not use a neti pot, but rather I use a cup and snuff the warm liquid until it enters my mouth, and I spit it out. My husband and children are GROSSED out when I do this, but it feels better to me than a neti pot does. It takes getting used to. 

Thank you, Maryann! Your presence here in IL is truly missed, but I'm so glad we continue to keep in contact. More now than when you lived in IL. Go figure!

Love to all. Namaste.

Monday, February 3, 2014

And After a Long Hiatus...

Other than the winter of '79, I do not remember such a brutal winter. Sure we in the Midwest experience cold snaps often during the winter months, but hey, we're used to it, right? Midwesterners are hearty people who thrive during adverse conditions. Well, let me tell you: this Midwestern girl has had enough. I haven't been so sedentary for this many months on end. I've gained weight, been down in the dumps since I can't go outside (too flippin' cold), and most importantly, I'm out of shape! So much so, I've kicked myself in the pants to get moving again.

I woke up on Sunday feeling oddly rejuvenated. I started to question why, but then my good sense kicked in and I went with it. I got my kids breakfast, got my hubby coffee, got dressed (sans makeup), and headed out the door to my yoga class. The warmth of the poolside was so familiar, it's like I hadn't been away for so many months. The instructor, Liz, seemed pleasantly surprised that I returned. I was certainly glad to be back. Thank God for my weekday asana practice (albeit 15 minutes) or I would have really struggled. I spent maybe a bit more time in Child's pose than I liked, but surprised myself by flying in the crow pose. The five minutes of savasana  was not nearly long enough, but I did get a chance to seal in my practice.

Once I got home, I noticed I was extremely irritable and, to be quite honest, angry. Why? I had a terrific workout? Jeff tried to engage me in conversation (his way to check my internal barometer, I guess), but I just could not seem to get rid of the irritation in my voice, so I just gave one-word answers. Mature, I know. I went and took an Epsom salt bath, and finished my savasana. And it hit me right between my eyes. I was angry at myself! I had gotten so out of shape that I was berating myself. Honestly, I was really surprised I felt this way. Quickly, I turned my thoughts over to gratitude; giving thanks that I actually had the energy and willingness to start up my practice again. The mind can be a dangerous place to navigate, let me tell you. Thank goodness I was able to take that first step getting back to the gym. Now if the weather would cooperate, I could get out to my garden. I hope this finds you all toasty warm and safe. Namaste.