Monday, January 17, 2011

A Wagon, and a Quest for something Greater

 I was a pioneer girl, setting out with my little red wagon across the cornfield; the cornfield was a vast, desolate area next to my house in Illinois. It was especially brown and lonely this chilly October late afternoon. I was 8 years old, and I was determined to make it all the way to the forest, which meant going through the mud and over the corm stalk stumps from the summer’s harvest. 
The journey was treacherous. But I was desperate, desperate to reach the Promised Land. I trudged onward, yanking my wagon over the uneven earth. It was late October, yet still the Indian summer caused the Canadian geese to stick around a little bit longer than usual. Their honking overhead created an alarm, a warning, that winter was ahead, and I only had so much time before frost would put its icy chains over all that was living. 
I wondered how those geese knew to fly in a triangle, in perfect solider -like lines. I watched their powerful wings harness the sky and glide effortlessly over me. I imagined where they were going; what would they see in their journey South? Could I jump on, take hold of their feathers and travel with them? Oh, how desperately I longed to see the places they would see and feel the wind in my face and hair.

 It’s not that I wanted to escape my life. I had a chicken soup and hot chocolate type of childhood; it was safe and warm in every way.  However, at the young age of 8, my soul longed for completeness, and I was determined to search until I found it.   I wanted to be free from having to give my oral report in front of the class on Monday.  I didn’t want to think about my girlfriends at school, and not having the right shoes; I didn't want to feel the pressure to partake in the things that might happen at the slumber party on Saturday, or be made fun of for getting picked up in the morning by my parents to go to church. I didn’t want to deal with being known as “the shy girl” at school, with my awkward retainer and orange freckles. I didn’t want to practice my multiplication tables yet one more time only to fail the times test once again. 
In school, we studied about those brave frontiersmen and pioneers who ventured West in search for something greater. I believe I was on a quest to find that great thing. 
  When my wagon wheel finally made it back into the forest, I believed I had entered a different world. It was silent, except for the trees that danced in the wind and the long prairie grasses that were as nearly as tall as myself. They seemed to swallow me whole. They cradled me as I lay down in them, my body making a fresh indent in the seemingly untouched earth. The wind blew over me, catching the grasses and spraying its seeds everywhere. I closed my eyes,  and I listened. To the geese moving overhead. To the wind. To the voice inside that soothed my unsettled spirit. This is where I belonged, a mere blade of grass being tossed around effortless without being uprooted. 

 In my life I have had moments of this peace. It is a few minutes of  detachment from life on this earth and a taste of the future forever home. I call them “glimpses of heaven."
It is when all is right in the world, and the earth is spinning at a gentler speed. Being swept up in the rhythm of those swaying prairie grasses was one of my moments. 
And how I wished I could remain there forever. 
But in the distance, I could here a faint, familiar voice: “Dinner....Dinner.....” It was the voice of my mother, beckoning me homeward.
It was back to reality, and that was ok, because I knew my forest was a mere cornfield crossing away.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Final thoughts on detox...

So was it all worth it?... These three days of discipline and denial? Did I achieve what I hoped to achieve, and would I do it again? These questions came up in our discussion over dinner last night as my friend and I feasted at Screen Door in celebration of our cleansing victory. We decided that it was only right to properly contaminate our bodies again by drinking Texas Gold margaritas and dining on Southern comfort food. I have to say, drinking my first sip of my margarita was like jumping into a cold pool: I wanted to do it quickly before I could think too long about it. After my three days of detoxing, it was difficult for me to purposely blemish my perfectly clean, purified body; I imagined my insides like a sterile white canvas that was now going to be marred with big splotches of black paint. But as my friend and I discussed, we can’t live that way forever; and hence, I took my first long sip of my toxin…and I enjoyed every bit of it! 

God gave us food and drink in which to enhance our enjoyment of life. It would be ridiculous to refuse that gift; however, the pendulum can easily swing two ways. People can waste their life and energy obsessing too much about health; and people can think about it too little or not at all. Like anything else in life, there must be some kind of balance, and it’s easy to tip too far to one side. 

For me though, this process has taught me how much of my joy comes from food; I never realized how much of my social life is based around food. I now have more compassion for those with severe food allergies! It can be really isolating when you know you can’t eat like everyone else, and going out to eat kind of loses its appeal. So much of socialization is done while consuming something.

As I discussed in my first blog post, this exercise taught me self-control and living more mindfully. I realized that I have grown so comfortable with having everything and anything at my disposal that I don’t really think or savor it anymore. Sure I may say a quick prayer before I eat, but now I realize the true abundance I have in front of me!  It has taught me that more mindful, disciplined living could benefit my outlook and attitude about not only meal times, but all of life in general. How much of my day do I mindlessly engage in activities, thus not fully enjoying? How much of the time am I wandering through life, not really relishing the small joys, pleasures, and people?

 Literally speaking, I believe the detox did do some internal good as well. I believe that my skin is clearer, my mind seems less foggy and I have more of a steady energy level. My friend reported the same. Now that I’ve feasted and put back into my body much of what I spent so much time getting out, what was the point? Well, I think that much like a bathroom drain with too much long hair coiled in it, sometimes your body just needs a good flush out in order for it to continue to work to its optimal level. :) I  do believe there are habits that I will keep, but I also know that I do not want to, nor should I maintain the strict regiment either. 
So, I also looked up the definition of this illusive "toxin." I found that it is defined as any poisonous substances that inhibits the body from working at it’s optimal level. Apart from literal toxins that I was trying to rid my body of, I reflected on other "toxic" areas of my life. What in my life is preventing me from operating and living life to the fullest? What is weighing me down, clogging my passion, and failing to ignite the energy to do all that God has for me on earth? Are there relationships that are draining me to empty, meaningless activities that just eat time, and worries that I need to surrender?
On the other hand, what things in my life provide nourishment….to my mind, my spirit and my soul? 
These are just a few things I’ve been pondering as we begin 2011. Perhaps you can ponder them too.

 All I know is that I have some really great nourishment in my life; friendships that sustain me; family who would do anything for me; a husband who amazes me; and a God who loves me.

So, who would have thought that a simple 3 day detox could dig up so much? 
And who would have thought that a margarita, with my dear friend, could taste sooo good. :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

DETOX: DAY 2 and 3

 Continued from last post....

Detox,  Day 2.

I awoke Tuesday morning to a text message from one of my friends  wanting to meet for coffee.  Usually, I would be so excited because I would get my grande mocha; but today, I rolled over in bed, mourning the fact that I would be drinking green tea. I realized though that instead of focusing so much on what was going to be consumed and enjoyed, I focused and anticipated more the person who I was going to see! I guess I never realized how much I emphasized the food part of getting together with friends. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is wrong about enjoying food, and I certainly always enjoy the people I am with. But it was different this time because one half of the equation was gone. Now I focused all my energies and excitement on the person! And it was great! I almost didn’t even miss my chocolate drink!
And, as a bonus, instead of spending over $4.00 on something that is gone in 4 minutes, I brought my own green tea bag, and the barista gave me a free venti hot water! So it was possible to have meaningful, enjoyable time with a friend without spending money or indulging my taste buds! 
Overall day number two was a lot more tolerable because it wasn’t such a shock to the system. I also added some non-animal protein to my diet. At night I made a simple broth soup of vegtebales and potato.

 Tuesday night, however, my friend and I took detoxing to the next level: Bikram Yoga. I have never done yoga before, but we bought this special package on Groupon a  few months back. I know so many people who practice yoga and just love it. What I didn’t know was that there were various forms of yoga. What I didn’t know was that this yoga practice was done in a room set at a temperature of 105 degrees for 90 min. The ultimate toxic purge---sweating. 
And sweat we did-profusely! I don’t know how extreme stretching and twisting could be so exhausting and painful, but it was! I could hardly keep a pose for 30 seconds. And I definitely wasn’t getting any energy supply from my deep breathing like my instructor said. All I got when I took a deep breath was light headed and a taste in mouth that resembled sweaty feet. I can say that at the end of 90 min, I was ready to be done.  Strangely, I left feeling energized though, and proud at making it through my first session. Would I do it again?  Perhaps…but not for a while…or so I thought….

Detox, Day 3.

  I found myself thinking about that yoga session all day today. Maybe it’s the athlete in me, but I kept going over my failed attempts at the poses and analyzing how I could do even better. And I found my feet carrying me through the doors of the yoga studio for a second session-less than 24 hours later! It still smelled like feet. And I still sweated uncontrollably. The room was more packed than the previous day, but I felt the energy from the other participants in the room. What a better experience this time around!  I knew what to expect, so I didn’t feel dumb, or weak . I felt stronger and more confident. I left feeling tired, but in a way that makes me appreciate my body and what it is capable of doing. Plus, I knew I had gotten rid a some more toxins! :) 

Today was the final day of my detox plan, and I was getting used to my new diet and routines; however, I found myself rationalizing why I should sneak in some cheese or milk. “I was almost done….it wouldn’t hurt…what’s 12 more hours…” 
But I didn’t. I wanted to finish strong, and I wanted to feel good about it. My friend suggested that we do a celebratory dinner on Thursday night to honor our dedication and commitment. I wanted to truly celebrate knowing that I stayed on target. 

Now a few questions lingered: Would all this be worth it? Would we be able to feel the difference of our 3 days of disciplined eating and sweating?

Stay tuned to see "if it was worth it...."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I’ve realized that much of my daily joy comes from my routines and food. If you haven’t’ read my last post, this week my friend and I embarked on a 3-day detox journey that caused me to dream about scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. Literally. 
On Sunday night as I went to bed, I had a small panic attack because I realized when I woke up the next day I wouldn’t have my coffee with French vanilla creamer and gingerbread biscotti that I’ve grown so accustomed to. Therefore, I decided that I needed one last hurrah, and proceeded to indulge in various exceedingly sweet, utterly creamy, and dreadfully caloric treats right before turning into bed. I didn’t know what my problem was; why was I freaking out, believing that I needed to store up food? It wasn’t as if I was hibernating or going without food for the next three days! I was only going to be abstaining from animal by-products and anything processed or sugar-laden. Basically I was only going to eat things directly from the earth, left in it’s purist form. I realized that although I always prided myself on a pretty healthy diet, much of my joy comes from treats that are far from their original form. 
What I gained from this journey was more than perhaps an internal cleansing. This process taught me, in a very small small way, to go without. It taught me discipline and self-control. In a small way, it humbled me and made me realize how very comfortable I’ve gotten with my American way of life with convince, and instant gratification. The past three days have perhaps changed the way I view food, and joy, and made me assess the way I want to move forward from here.

Monday morning I awoke with false hunger pains. I’m totally serious. I was going in and out of sleep, believing that I was starving, when in reality I was only upset that I wouldn’t be enjoying my latte and sweet bread. I didn’t even want to get out of bed!!! I am ashamed to admit this, but it’s true. I realized that part of my motivation to get up in the morning is knowing that I get to enjoy my coffee and sweet. When I finally did get up, my head felt fuzzy; I needed caffeine, now! Part of the detox plan is to first drink hot lemon water. It is supposed the help cleanse the liver and flush out the toxins. I forced myself to do this, but only to finish and realize that my fuzzy head still remained.
 Today I would drink green tea instead of coffee. I rummaged through my cabinet and found the box of green tea stuffed in the very back. I tore open two bags and dumped them in the pot of boiling water over the stove. 
 I took my first sip of green tea and…yikes!! This was definitely not vanilla creamer! Earthy. And not sweet. And it tasted like grass. Realizing that this was my only chance at caffeine, I forced myself to drink the liquid. I felt a little better, but I soon realized that green tea was not as strong as coffee….and drinking MORE of it was not appealing. So I settled, and decided that I should just move on to my breakfast smoothie.
 Now I LOVE smoothies, but I usually love them with some sort of dairy base, such as yogurt or soymilk. Today, the base would be water and carrot juice. I dumped in a whole orange, a handful of blueberries, a banana and carrot juice. I then poured in some powder that looked-and tasted-like lawn clippings. It’s actually called “amazing grass”, and it’s basically various vegetables, probiotics, and algae condensed into a powder that is easier to consume.  A quick whirl from my Vita-mix and BOOM-breakfast is served. It actually wasn’t all that bad: pure fruit and powdered vegetable. The true breakfast of champions! After that I was off to work…with my Tupperware of raw broccoli, celery and carrot sticks.

After lunch, I have to admit, I felt a bit light headed and weak. I didn’t have enough caffeine in my system, and the raw vegetables for lunch just didn’t cut it. I got a sad text from my friend who was suffering the same. “Should we be eating protein? I’m having head spins right now!” she pinged.  This got me a bit concerned; however, we decided that this was just part of the detox process, and we decided to venture onward.

By 9:00, I was cashed out. I hungrily ate my potato, broccoli, brussel sprout and carrot medley. And yes. I did cheat a bit and sprinkled a bit of salt on it. Just a bit. “I’m going to bed,” I told my husband.
He eyed me suspiciously. “At 9:00?!” 
Yes, at 9:00. What was the point of staying up? Usually I would get to enjoy a little sweet treat later in the night, but now that that was gone, what did I have to look forward to? Plus, I truly was exhausted. I think the lack of caffeine in my system really took a toll on my ability to function. And sleep sounded sooo good…..and sleep I did. Soundly. For almost nine hours.

Stay tuned for day 2 of detox…..

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year; A Fresh Start

Life is simply a bunch of “getting ups” and “going to beds.”  After you do that 365 times, you bundle it and call it another year. 

Welcome 2011. 

Last year we were reviewing the decade, celebrating the culmination of 10 years into the new century; Next year we will celebrate the beginning of the end of the world...(according to Mayan calendars). 2011…well…it’s kind of sandwiched in between the two. Yet I wonder what it holds.  I opened my eyes on the morning of 1-1-11 to another day; a day like any other. However, I must admit that the air outside always feels a bit more energizing on January 1.
I started the year by purging my closets and cabinets. I went through everything and analyzed the last time I used or needed the object. If it had been several years, I shoved it into the “Good Will” bag. Sometimes I would suddenly have a moment of panic, of second thoughts, “Well, perhaps I will wear that flannel again. It would be perfect for a night under the stars camping.” Camping? I think we’ve gone camping once in the six years we’ve been married. When I decided to toss the item in the bag, I couldn’t look back. This was a good, purifying exercise for me. I was ridding myself of excess material things that I didn’t need or use. Cleansing project number 1….Done!

The second purging endeavor is an attempt to undue the internal damaged caused by excessive merriment during the holiday season. My friend Kristin and I decided to do a body detox this coming week. Yes, DETOX.    It sounds so serious, but it’s really only a three-day whole food, "green" diet that is supposed to balance and realign a body.  Right now my fridge is  filled with lovely vegetation: brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, lettuce, celery….I didn’t have to ask my husband to not eat it. The result is hopefully clearer skin and an energized mind. What better way to usher in a new year? So, here we go. Starting Monday we plan to revitalize our insides with the stuff grown in the dirt.

So, why do I--and others--feel the need to cleanse and purify at the start of a new year?
 I think there is something in us that makes us want to be better, to do better and start off with a clean slate. I think we get weighed down throughout the year. We say things, make choices and fail to live up to dreams and expectations. We yearn for another chance, and we cling to the hope that this time we will do better. We want to free ourselves from the “clutter”, and move forward free, fresh and redeemed.  Will a trip to Good Will accomplish this? Will nourishing my body solely from the raw material of the earth suffice? I know it won't, but I view it as simply an outpouring of my good intentions. 

So, cheers. 
Cheers to a new year. 
Cheers to a bright future. 
And cheers to my green spinach cocktail that I will enjoy early tomorrow morning. ;)

Ps; Stay turned for updates on the detox process this week....