I feel like I spend a lot of time telling readers about all the bad stuff around us and in our food—the sugar, the gluten, the chemicals, the pesticides, the stress, etc… On top of that, we are surrounded by negative events in the news (school shootings, wars, Ebola). So, this month, I want to focus on the positive. I want to address the little things we can do for ourselves to help us live a balanced life, beyond just making sure we eat our green vegetables!
- Be bold. I recently attended a horse-riding clinic taught by an Olympic medal winner. As I rode, he told me that I needed to be bolder when approaching the jumps, and go with the clear intention of jumping the jump. Because, after all, if I am not 100% sure that I want to jump the jump, why should my horse be? As I considered this afterwards, it occurred to me that we should all be bold in whatever we choose to do in our lives. We should choose our path and proceed with conviction. We may make mistakes but at least we are moving forward.
- Find something positive in your day, every day. Last spring, a friend challenged me to find three positive things that happened during the day for three days. It forced me to think about the little things that had happened to me during the day – small or large – that had made my day special. Similarly, I recently became addicted to Instagram. What I love about Instagram is that it forces me to see out the beauty around me, even if that is just one of my dogs playing with his new best friend. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily routine and forget to appreciate the small moments, even if it’s just your normally-grumpy teenager saying something nice to you!
- Pamper yourself with one (or two) special treats every day. I have one special moment in my day: it’s at about 3:30 p.m., when I sit down with a cup of tea and, occasionally, a cookie. This is an important part of my day when I sit down and take a breath. It’s time for me, and it allows me to regroup before my children get home from school. If I’m lucky, I can even get an extra 10 minutes to read my book or the newspaper…
- Learn something new. Throughout the year, I alternate between reading fiction and non-fiction books. I pick up a variety of non-fiction books so that I can be exposed to new information and gain a different perspective on the world around me. Similarly, I recently took an equine massage course. Since then, I have tried to practice on a weekly basis. It has become an important part of my week and I find that it also helps me relieve stress.
I know these might seem small and unimportant but, for me, they are crucial to living a balanced life. Oh, and eating your green vegetables also helps!
I spent the month of November trying different vegetable combinations for soups. One combination that I particularly enjoyed was a Curried Cauliflower-Sunchoke Soup.
Curried Cauliflower-Sunchoke Soup
1 onion, sliced
1 large head of cauliflower (about 2lbs.),
cut into medium-sized florets
1lb. sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem Artichokes),
peeled and cut into 1” cubes
4-6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1-2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. curry powder, more to taste
1/4 cup creme fraiche, optional
- 1. Melt the butter in a medium-sized pot. Add the onion and saute until soft.
- 2. Add the cauliflower and sunchokes and saute until lightly-browned.
- 3. Add the vegetable or chicken stock to cover. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer
30-40 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Season with sea salt, freshly-ground black
pepper and curry powder.
- 4. When the soup is done, let stand until cool, then puree in a blender.
- 5. When reheating, add creme fraiche, if using.
Medicine and What Matters
Gawande is a practicing surgeon, medical school professor and writer. His experience has allowed him to examine the limitations of medicine as people age. As Gawande notes, “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.”(p.259) Indeed, doctors often seek to prolong life at any cost. At the same time, many of the facilities – such as assisted living facilities or nursing homes – designed to take care of the elderly are limited in their abilities to truly take care of them. Gawande writes, “We end up with institutions that address any number of societal goals – from freeing up hospital beds to taking burdens off families’ hands to coping with poverty among the elderly – but never the goal that matters to the people who reside in them: how to make life worth living when we’re weak and frail and can’t fend for ourselves anymore.”(p.77) I saw this happen to my own father as he got older and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I always wondered why the medical staff lost sight of the fact that, at 85, all my father really wanted was to enjoy a cigarette and really who were we to say no.
As I read Gawande’s book, I considered the end-of-life decisions I would make for myself or my loved ones. On the one hand, I agree with Gawande insofar as I would not want to prolong my or one of my loved ones’ lives if we couldn’t experience it fully. On the other hand, I wonder whether I or my family would make the same choice in the moment. Don’t we always want to hope that there actually might be a better outcome? Being Mortal is a thought-provoking read that I highly recommend.