Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Strawberry Anyone?

Memorial Day weekend signals the onset of summer, and the start of the summer fruit season. May is designated strawberry month, and though we have reached the end of the month, it’s never too late to enjoy this perfect blend of tart plus sweet treat. Hands down, strawberries are one of my favorite fruits, and now that I am embarking on a journey to eat better, I love them even more because of their great nutritional value. Here are a five reasons you should eat strawberries:
  • Strawberries are high in antioxidants and plant compounds which aid in the fight against cancer.
  • Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C which is important for the immune system and skin health.
  • Strawberries are low in calories. A cup of strawberries is less than 50 calories.
  • Fresh strawberries are high in water (91%) so their carb content is very low.
  • Strawberries also have glycemic index of 40 which is fairly low.
If you’re like me, you don’t need an excuse to eat strawberries. I bought some just say I ate strawberries during National Strawberry month. But if you didn’t get to eat your fair share of strawberries this month, don’t worry; you have the rest of the summer. Eat up and enjoy!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mending the Mind

The air crackles with uncertainty. Every day there is a new development that angers, saddens, 
frustrates or scares us. We don’t know what’s happening in the world so we don’t know what to do.  I’ve noticed how the levels of anxiety have increased. I see it in my own life; I hear it in conversations with family and friends. I see it on the job with colleagues and students. I see it in the interactions between strangers. For the first time in my teaching career, we have had two suicide attempts in the same year. I teach in an elementary school. Most everybody is on edge. Something is amiss. What can we do? 

We have to take better care of ourselves and each other. We have to learn to recognize the signs of mental health deterioration and seek help. Sometimes it may a temporary problem like circumstantial depression or anxiety, or sometimes it maybe something that we have to learn to live with like bio polar disorder or schizophrenia. 

 Since 1949, May has been designated Mental Health Month (also referred to as Mental Health Awareness Month) by Mental Health America and their affiliates. And even though we are nearing the end of the month, it’s never too late to late to take steps to take care of ourselves.

There is no better time than the present to assess our mental health and mend our minds. So many people of all ages, ethnicities and income brackets are struggling with mental instability. Many suffer from some form of PTSD and are doing the best they can just to get through the day. Some don’t even bother trying. 

If our problems are temporary in that they are brought on by loss, or significant life changes, we must acknowledge our feelings and sort through them. This may require us to write it out, talk it out, cry or shout it out, pray, meditate or whatever it takes to get centered after being knocked off our square. We have to get quiet, get still, and go within. But when our self-medicating strategies, it’s time to seek professional help.
Gone are the days of thinking that only crazy people get therapy. If we take care of our physical self through diet and exercise, our spiritual well being through prayer, meditation, and fellowship, then we must also take care of our mental health. And we have to know when professional services are needed. Listed below are a few things we need to embrace to become our best selves.

1.     Like physicians, therapists are trained to heal what hurts, too. We have no trouble going to the doctor. We don’t try to heal our own broken bones or operate on ourselves. We seek those who are trained in the art of healing. The same applies to a therapist/counselor. While physicians heal the physical, therapists take care of our mental well being.

2.     Emotional and mental pain is an equal opportunity stressor. It’s time to let go of the myth that only “weak” people have breakdowns or that therapy is for CRAZY PEOPLE ONLY! The truth is most of us are dealing with life’s many stresses and we need coping skills for when the stress becomes too much.
3.     Once is not enough. Some us may have tried therapy once, and it didn’t work. That’s no reason not to try it again. We don’t lose weight the first time we step into the gym or play a beautiful piece of music the first time we sit a piano.

4.     One size doesn’t fit all. Shop around for a therapist just as you would a car or a pair of shoes, find the one that fits you. Knowledge is literally at the tips of fingers. We can “google” anything. And let’s not forget word of mouth. When seeking a therapist we should shop around until we find one who is suitable to our needs.

We know that the body breaks down, but we won’t admit that the mind breaks, too. Sometimes life punches so hard, that it takes all we can to get back up. Instead of sitting there trying to catch our wind alone, we might need the hand of a therapist to reach down and help us get back on our feet.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Post Mother's Day Reflections

I’m late. I know Mother’s Day is over, but I’ve been thinking about the meaning of Mother’s Day since Sunday. It seems as though Mother’s Day ushered in spring. It’s been quite chilly in Chicago, but leading up to Mother’s Day the cool weather gradually gave way to a balmy perfect day to honor moms. The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly with the slightest breeze that whispered that all was right in the world. God smiles on mothers. He loves them and so do we.

In 2015, in the United States alone, we spent 21.2 billion dollars for Mother’s Day—up 7% from 2014. Mother’s Day is the third largest retail holiday. We go all out to celebrate the mothers in our lives or to be celebrated if we are mothers ourselves. We do spa days and brunches. We buy flowers and candy and whatever will bring a smile to the face of the woman we know as Mother. Mom. Mama. Nana. Grandma.

My mother is simple. She just wants to see the faces of her children, grandchildren, and great grands. She wants to hear from the ones who live out of town. She loves cards--especially if they contain cash. She likes that we sit down and eat together and catch up. This year we celebrated the old hat mommies and the newbies as well as the matriarch. It was a good day. 

And even though the day was over, what kept coming back to me was how to honor my mother beyond Mother’s Day.  Through nature and nurture, my mother passed on some good stuff. Thanks to her, I think I turned out ok. Though we are different in many ways, I am definitely her child in a lot of ways. She married and had children. I did not. She loved to cook; I love to eat. But she taught compassion and respect. She showed me how to find my inner strength when life has thrown a fast curve and knocked me off my square. There’s so much to love and admire about the woman I call Mama.

Even though I’m a full grown woman, it still makes me feel good to make my mother proud. Every time I bring her an anthology I'm featured in or when I read her something I've written about her, I’m that little girl with the hand drawn picture taped on the refrigerator. I know that I am the woman  I am largely in part to her.

So yea, another Mother’s Day is come and gone, but I have time every day to honor my mother and let the world know what it means to be Mattie's daughter. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Salad Anyone?

Thanks to my friend Jennifer over at the award-winning blog, Pen and Prosper, I found out that May is National Salad month. Embarking on a journey toward healthier eating recently, the timing is perfect! My new eating plan is focused on fresh foods which means plenty of fruits and vegetables. And salads. Once upon a time, I thought of salads as lettuce (iceberg no doubt), tomato and salad dressing. Though we may think of salads as a healthy alternatives, not all salads are equal. Some salads are so loaded down with fatty ingredients, that you might as well eat a cheeseburger. 

Over the last year or so, I’ve learned to appreciate a good salad. One of my favorites is the cucumber, avocado and tomato salad pictured. I’ve learned how to toss together a great salad. Listed below are five things to keep in mind to create a tasty, healthy alternative to the traditional lettuce and tomato salad. 

1.      Ditch the iceberg. Go for the darker greens—spinach, kale, romaine or mixed greens. Not only do the darker greens have more nutritional value, they actually have more flavor. So, try a new brand of lettuce and spruce up your salad.

2.      Use dressing sparingly. One thing I learned is to use a fork instead of a spoon to add dressing to a salad. Most salad dressings are high in fat. Using less dressing cuts down on fat and it also allows you to taste the vegetables in the salad. I love oil and vinegar dressings!

3.      Add protein. Beans add fiber and fill you up faster. Grilled chicken, salmon or tuna are also good sources of low calorie protein. You can also add nuts or seeds to provide protein as well. 

4.      Add fruit. Cut up fruit and add just the right amount of sweetness to your salad. A fruit salad can also serve as a dessert to satisfy even the most finicky of eaters craving something sweet.

5.      Try a variety of vegetables. Mix it up. A salad is not required to have lettuce and/or tomatoes. As previously mentioned, one of my all time favorite salads is made up of mostly of cucumber, avocado and tomato. It’s tossed in an olive oil, and lemon dressing with salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I add chick peas or toss it on olive oil and lime juice.

The sky is the limit with salads. There are websites with recipes and videos with step-by-step directions. Salads are easy to make, good for you and good to eat. You can’t go wrong with a good salad.