Soup’s on

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Summer is a crazy time for me. The lodge is busy and I have the knack of having a multitude of side projects in the works while surviving my busy summer hospitality job. Some days feel like a smooth paddle on a calm lake and others feel like a roller coaster ride through Hell. By mid-summer, I am physically and emotionally drained and I need something to make me feel centered again.

Writing is a good place to start the process of realigning myself. Writing is cathartic. Typing words onto a screen makes the rest of the world fade slowly into the background until there is nothing left but me, my laptop and my imagination. The minutes and hours I spend writing make me happy and bring me to a level of calm that is somewhat hypnotic. There is only one other thing that can take me beyond hypnotic to being completely detached from reality and that is cooking.

It is 38 degrees today with humidity and my gut told me that it was the perfect time to make a summer corn and zucchini chowder. When my parents were still alive, the times we spent in the kitchen together were some of the happiest moments of our lives. My mom was the queen of baking sweet treats for everyone and my dad loved to cook. My brother and I inherited his passion for creating tasty dishes and homemade soups. My dad was never one to use a recipe, unless he was making Martha Stewart’s Shortbread, and his food was almost always delicious…..I will save the story of his scrambled eggs made with eggnog for another day.

To me, there is no greater satisfaction than creating something from a bunch of random ingredients. Individually those ingredients can taste good, but when you combine them in a way they compliment the flavor of the others, that is sheer bliss. The bacon is fried, the onions are rendering in the bacon fat and the rest of the ingredients are ready to be thrown in. The result will be a tasty summer chowder that would make my dad proud.

At the end of the cooking process, I will sit down to a comforting bowl of soup for dinner and feel thoroughly decompressed. My mind will be back in its happy place and I will relish the memories of my mother calling us for each and every dinner, regardless of the menu, by saying, “soup’s on”.

 

 

 

 

 

The results are in….

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In mid-June, I went boldly where I had never gone before – I went to a Sleep Clinic. My doctor is doing her due-diligence to help reveal the potential cause of my high blood pressure and she wanted to find out if Sleep Apnea may be the culprit. I wrote this post about my experience of trying to actually sleep so the study would be effective.

As it turns out, during the nine and a half hours I was incarcerated hooked up to the monitors, I got an assorted six hours of sleep from which they could extrapolate their results.  I do have a mild form of Sleep Apnea, but nothing that will require me to wear one of these while I sleep.

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I suffer from what they refer to as ‘fragmented sleep’ which is on the mid-to-low-level of Sleep Apnea. The amount of deep sleep I got was on the lower spectrum of what they refer to as normal but I was attached to over three dozen wires and made to sleep on my back. They should be grateful I slept at all under those circumstances, otherwise mine could have been the shortest sleep study in their history.

The fragmented sleep was something I was expecting. I have a brain that is extremely averse to shutting down. Falling asleep some nights is easier than others, but when I wake up at 4:00 am my brain immediately launches into hyper-drive and it is next to impossible to quell the rush of random thoughts. I am lucky if I can get back to sleep before my alarm sounds at 6:30 am.

The doctor at the sleep clinic gave  me a prescription for a sleeping pill that I will happily decline to take. As soon as he said the word ‘addictive’, he solidified my objection to taking the pills in the first place. Some of my best ideas for stories, or for my books, come in those wee hours of fragmented sleep and I would hate to still the rushing waters of creativity.

For now, I will be focused on more exercise, perhaps some meditation and whatever else I can do to still my brain so I can get a better quality of sleep.  Worst case scenario, book number two will be written before the anticipated deadline and I will have larger bags under my eyes!

 

 

Reducing stress = elevator music

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The term elevator music doesn’t get used much anymore which makes me think that I am older than I care to admit.  Too many people these days are plugged into too many devices, so the dulcet background tones in those confined spaces never have the chance to fall on ears that are close enough to hear them.

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For the last two days, I have been purposely subjecting myself to the calming sounds of that very music.  Stress is a very cunning adversary and I am using every trick in my arsenal to keep my worthy opponent at bay.  Between calming essential oils and the lulling sounds of piano and crashing ocean waves, I have been successfully keeping my blood pressure down while struggling to keep my eyelids up.

I am not a fan of taking medication, even if those tiny pills are relatively successful at keeping my numbers as healthy as they can be.  I have been following the DASH diet to ensure that my body has all of the proper nutrition to combat the high blood pressure and I have doubled the length of my daily walks, so my dog is absolutely thrilled.  Those things combined with my new home BP monitor seem to be giving me more encouraging numbers while giving me a much-needed sense of relief.

After learning all of the little tricks you are supposed to do before taking your reading, I am happy that my numbers are averaging in the comfortable to normal range, but tomorrow is anyone’s guess.  I have a follow-up appointment with my doctor and I’m sure all of my “happy” numbers will be cast aside and the “white coat” numbers will re-emerge.  Perhaps I should take some ear-buds with me tomorrow, plug them into my phone and let the smooth elevator music soothe my senses before the cuff tightens on my arm!

My soapbox is very small today

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I survived my doctor’s appointment with little concern for my safety.  After explaining my long-term relationship with my decongestant eye drops, my doctor was very understanding and said that many people have no idea about how much they can be affected by over-the-counter medication.  A friend of mine who is a nurse uttered the same sentiments.

While my post today may seem like a public service announcement, it is more of a message to all of you to be selective about the medication you purchase without a prescription and to ask the Pharmacist questions about how these easy-to-access medications could be potentially harmful to your health, especially if you are on prescription drugs.

The more I researched the side effects of my eye drops the more shocked I became.  Not only were the active ingredients in those drops enough to counteract my BP medication, they could also increase my blood pressure on their own.  And if the drops themselves weren’t bad enough, the way I had been putting them into the corner of my eye made them a bigger problem because they went directly into my tear ducts and straight into my bloodstream.

I will gracefully step down from my soapbox now with the hope that you will take a few moments to look at the chemicals in any over-the-counter medications you may have in your medicine cabinet and make sure they are the best choices for you to be taking.  Better to be safe than sorry.

This one says it all

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As I have said before, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I do, however, follow certain mantras and this one is at the top of my list for 2018.  I have let undue stress affect my health and well-being far too many, very unnecessary, times.  Thankfully, I have mastered a few techniques to bring myself back to a relaxed state of mind before I become a victim of a rapid pulse and high blood pressure.  Recently, I have also been using essential oils and find them very calming.


The key to dealing with stress is to figure out the trigger points and avoid those situations entirely.  Much easier said than done for most, myself included, but I have spent a great deal of time pinpointing the worst of my stressful situations and learning how to gracefully excuse myself from those circumstances.  It may not be possible all the time, but at least I am aware of the biggest triggers of my stress and can make better choices for the sake of my health.

I may be trying to achieve the impossible, but at least if I remain aware of how much stress affects my body, I can enjoy a very happy and healthy 2018.

 

The wait is over

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There is a palpable energy in the air in my small town – a feeling only locals can understand when we are within arms reach of getting our town back.  The Labor Day Long Weekend is upon us and, for those who are fortunate enough to have today off, that means a three-day weekend.  The multiple-lane highways that once allowed travelers to reach our vacation destinations in Muskoka are already becoming congested in the Southbound lanes and the stress levels of those trapped in their cars in slow-moving traffic is escalating exponentially.

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But as the tension increases in those turtle-paced vehicles leaving our little piece of paradise, the stress in the minds of the locals slowly abates.  Faces that have not been seen during the summer daylight hours slowly peek out of their windows, tentatively gauging the right time to emerge from their summer hibernation and engage in the life we left behind a few months ago.

The summer is over.  We have survived the tumultuous invasion of a population that we graciously accept for two months, although their civility leaves much to be desired.  We have overcome the barbarity of those who demand instead of ask, of those who expect instead of request.

And along with the manners of our city guests, my writing brain and my spare time to read have been held hostage but the window of those long-lost opportunities has finally been cracked open.  The breath of rekindling those passions has been blown into the stale air that I have been breathing the last few months and the breeze of creativity has begun to churn the dead leaves in the corners of my mind.  There really is light at the end of our summer tourism tunnel.

I hope you all had a great summer and I look forward to greeting the many faces, and blogs, I have missed over the last couple of months!

Green means GO!

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I have been keeping myself busy with ideas for a new book while I have been anxiously awaiting my first book review from my nephew.  I had to keep reminding myself that it IS summer and he IS a 14-year old boy with other interests besides reading so I have cut him, and my nervous mind, some slack.

It is difficult to quiet a cacophony in a mind that is continually feeding on its negative thoughts.  Like an inferno that is started with one tiny spark, my mind became the spark and my stress was the oxygen that fueled the fire of my doubt.  The longer I went without any sort of feedback, the more I convinced myself that the book was terrible and my nephew didn’t know how to tell me that it was a flop.  Self-doubt is a vicious thing.

I silenced my doubts this morning as I prepared my meals for this week based on my new plant-based diet.  Being in the kitchen always allows me some escape from my reality.  After creating my meals, I ran into town and stopped at The Apothecary Shop for a few things.  I decided to use the blood pressure cuff to see if my change in diet had made a significant difference to my blood pressure.  While I was in mid-check, my nephew had seen my car and come into the Apothecary to find me.  The sight of him must have unnerved me because my blood pressure reading was ridiculous!

I couldn’t imagine what was going to come out of his mouth but I began to tug my arm out of the cuff before it had finished deflating.  He stood beside me with an apologetic smile.  He promised to finish the book before the weekend and that was all he said.  I said one word that seemed to hover in the small space between us….

“And………..”, I asked.

“It’s REALLY good”, he replied.

So now I sit, comfortably ensconced in my living room with words churning in my brain for my second book.   I have always loved the phrase ‘green means go’ and I feel like I have just been given the green light to continue my writing journey.  I’m already excited about this next book and can’t wait to dive in!  See you on the flip side.