Purple Sunflower Seeds

Quick post: Harvesting some sunflower seeds today! The darker variety that I’ve started calling the “Last Glow Of Sunset” has these lovely purple seeds!

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Aren’t they lovely and sweet?!

Here’s what they grow into:

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ABC Awesome Blog Content Award – The Illustrated ABC’s of Rachie

Hello there folks! I have to say I am gratefully shocked at the lovely awards I keep getting. It takes me a little while to post responses to them, and I apologize. I am making a conscious effort to work through them one at a time. My brain has a tendency to get lost down the rabbit hole! I want to thank Dianna at Thoughts of Yaussiechick for giving me the ABC Award! She’s amazing, and I highly recommend shooting over to her blog if you’re looking for new blogs with awesome people to make friends with.

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The rules of this award are:

  1. Add the ABC logo to your blog. (You can find the logo above.)
  2. ABC about yourself using one word or phrase (you don’t have to do pictures).
  3. Nominate however many blogs you wish.
  4. Let the recipient know via a link in their comments.

Now, I’ll admit that a lot of my “letters” aren’t about me, but they’re about things in my life – that counts!

A is for Apple Seeds

In March I started some apple seeds from store bought apples.

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B is for Bonsai

I’ve read that store bought apple seeds probably won’t create delicious apples because of the grafting of grocery produce fruit trees. I am going to attempt to make these little guys into bonsai-scapes over the next several years.

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C is for Cupcakes

These are the mocha cupcakes I made for a party.

Frosting

D is for Didgeridoo

I got my didge awhile back, and I’m finally getting a knack for it!

Didgeridoo

E is for Emma

Emma is my sock puppet! I’m working on some short videos to upload of her. You know how I’m all rainbows and unicorns with a sprinkle of sunshine? Emma is where I channel my inner saucy bitch. She’s hilarious, a tad bit inspirational, and I love her.

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F is for Fortnight Lilies

One of my favorite flowers in my front garden.

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G is for Grasshopper

We’ve had these cute little grasshoppers in our garden lately. They’re friendly and this one rode around on the hose while I watered my plants.

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H is for Havarti

One of my favorite ways to have a burger! Havarti cheese burger with “drunken mushrooms” and roasted red pepper on sunflower seed bread with black rice. We call mushrooms that have been sauteed in wine “drunken mushrooms”. Love me some drunken mushrooms.

HavartiSauteedMushroomRoastePepperHamburgerwBlackRice

I is for Ice Cream

Should “I” ever be for anything beside ice cream? This is my “Campfire Sundae” creation. Take a regular small waffle cone and stuff it with chocolate, marshmallows, nuts, and anything else you’d like to be all melty with goopey wonderfulness. I suggest a few chocolate chips in the point at the bottom followed by marshmallows. I like to put the marshmallows toward the bottom because then they don’t overflow so much as they expand when heated. Once you’ve stuffed your cone, cover it with foil – you only need to cover the top half. Place it on a BBQ, hold over a campfire with tongs, or broil on high for about 2-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside while you scoop your ice cream (rocky road is my favorite). Carefully remove the foil (it will be hot), and turn your cone upside down on the ice cream so it looks like a delicious “hat”. Ta da!

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J is for Jam

I made pink plum jam with the plums from my plum tree!

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K is for Karaoke

I love karaoke! I’m told I’m decent at it and it’s a self esteem booster for me. I usually don’t have any trouble getting up on a stage and singing in front of people I don’t know; however, I’m headed to an audition tomorrow and I’m feeling a little nervous. I don’t expect to win, I just want to have fun and show myself I can get up there and sing. Wish me luck! Here’s one of my favorite karaoke jams.

L is for Lana and Linus

I have two puppies that I absolutely adore. Lana is a shelter puppy that I adopted when she was only a few weeks old. They made me wait a week before adoption so they could run all the medical and temperament tests. I visited her every day until I could take her home! She’s so smart!  Linus is my sweet little boy that I got from Furry Friends Rescue. He’s such a joy and he even smiles!

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Linus

Linus Smile

Lana and Linus Tucked In For Bed

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M is for Moon and Mangoes

I took this picture with my camera during the recent “super moon”. I adore the moon. It’s such a peaceful reflection of the day to gaze up to at night. Sometimes I like to whisper to her. I love growing mangoes! They’re one of the most fun plants to watch grow. When they first sprout they look like a crazy “Tim Burton-esque” kind of plant. Every time they grow new leaves they start white, and turn red, and finally green when they’re fully grown. It’s like watching a rainbow grow. 🙂 Plus they have really large fun and funky seeds.

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N is for Naked Ladies

Don’t get too excited – I’m talking about the flowers! I installed a puppy play area for our dogs and the outside of the little fence is lined with these naked lady flowers.

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O is for Ophiuchus

Ophiuchus is my star sign in the sidereal zodiac – in the usual Western zodiac I’m a Sagittarius. Ophiuchus is the only star sign based on a real person. It’s the sign of the “healer” and is depicted as a man wrestling a serpent (think like the serpents found intertwined on the medical cross symbol). Some of this sign’s personality traits include being a healer (doctor, massage therapist, etc), having high aspirations, having vivid dreams, interpreting symbols, being lucky, wise, peaceful, and attracting a lot of jealousy. If you were born between November 29th and December 17th you are also an Ophiuchus!

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P is for Pomegranates

My pomegranate tree is loaded with ripening fruit! They’re just starting to turn red and we’ll harvest them in October. I’m planning on making pomegranate molasses.

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Q is for Queen

The band “Queen” that is! They gave us “We Will Rock You”, “We Are The Champions”, and “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I’m a big fan of Bohemian Rhapsody – it must be sung with friends, and as intensely as possible. Plus, Bohemian Rhapsody was performed by the Muppets, and you know I can’t get enough Muppets!

R is for Roses

My Dad loved tending roses, and I think this is something he inherited from his mother.  I suppose I have a bit of a green thumb, and I’m getting better at the roses. There’s definitely an attraction to them. Here’s a few of the varieties I have in my garden.

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RoseWhite

RoseRedOrange

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S is for Sunflowers and Swords

Mostly sunflowers! Sunflowers are my absolute favorite flower! I love them, and I love lots of varieties of them! Hooray sunflowers! 😀 They make me happy and I’ve taken lots of pictures of them! Also, I’m carving a set of swords to practice Escrima with from palm fronds.

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Sunflowers In Love: They faced each other and leaned into each other a little more each day until it looked like they were snuggling each other.

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Oh, and squirrels! S is also for squirrels! Meet Biscuit, Mama Scone, and Rex – they’ll be featured in a series of stories I’m writing.

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Mama Scone

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Rex

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He likes the squirrlie-snacks so much that he got some on his face while voraciously eating.

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T is for Tomatoes

I’m growing beefsteak and cherry tomatoes! Not ripe yet, but soon!

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CherryTomatoes

U is for University of California Berkeley

This is one of my favorite places in Northern California! Can you blame me? What about Southern Cali? Pshh, University of California Santa Barbara is one of my favorite places there! 😀

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Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens Statue

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V is for Vintage

I’m a little bit old school, and it’s an older school than me. Does that make sense? I love old music, retro fashion, and paraphernalia from a time long before I was even born. About three to five decades before I was born actually. When I “play dress-up” I often go for a vintage look.

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W is for Watermelon Cake

Have you seen those pins floating around on Pinterest for “Watermelon Cakes”? No? Here, have a look. I’ve seen this pin over a dozen times on my Pinterest feed. It’s a watermelon cut into a cylinder, “frosted”, and decorated with fruit and nuts to look like a cake. I decided to make a little single serving slice with Cool Whip, strawberries, bananas, and almonds. I cut the strawberries into little hearts. Why? Because it’s freaking cute! That’s why!

WatermelonCake

X is for X-Ray

I actually have a jpeg of an x-ray of myself. Woohoo! I can cover “X” no hassle! I even smiled for the camera! :-B Hi!

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Y is for Y

I love this Sesame Street song about the letter “Y” with Norah Jones. I love the song, and I particularly love this version. You can’t go wrong because it teaches “Y” vocabulary words, AND “Y” shows up at the end to yodel with Norah and Elmo.

Z is for Zelda

No, not the video game character. This is my Gramma Zelda and her husband Papa John. Papa John passed away before I was born, but Gramma Zelda lived with us during my childhood. I’ve been told I look a lot like her. She still plays an important role in my life even though she’s passed. She used to always tell us “where there’s breath, there’s hope, and you’re still breathing”!

GrammaZelda

Whew! The whole alphabet! Did you make it? That was long!

On to the nominations!

To the nominees: don’t worry about posting a response. I’m highlighting your blog, that makes me happy. If you want to nominate more people go for it – just sit back and take a compliment otherwise! 😛

Please don’t nominate me back! I’m very flattered, but I am going to put receiving awards on pause until I can give proper acknowledgement to the ones I’ve already received.

I’ve chosen 9 nominees because the number 9 has been in my life a lot lately.

1 – “Digging History” – First I’m gonna send you over to James at “Digging History”. He scours the wilderness (or the beach, riverbed, creek, etc) with his trusty metal detector! If that isn’t cool enough on its own, he also cleans up the area while he’s out there, then takes pictures of his “treasures” and posts them for us to have a looksee.

2 – “KnitXpressions” – Now, go have a look at “KnitXpressions”! Seriously, how talented is this lady?! I absolutely stink at knitting and I’m impressed with her creations and creativity. Plus, she shares practical knowledge so if I ever try to knit again she’s one of my first stops to read up on things.

3 – “NOAA’S Marine Debris Blog” – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Blog dedicated to Marine Debris. They clean up our oceans AND they have a WordPress Blog! Not only that, but they take the debris they gather and turn it into renewable energy! Let’s just stop right there and give them a round of applause.

*Applause*

4 – “Arthur In The Garden” – Want stunning garden photos and good gardening advice? Then go check out Arthur, his garden, and occasionally some other gardens. He even throws in some great recipes here and there. I want to try the blueberry jam!

5 – “Tes Wroblewski’s Sketches and Stuff” – Tes is a very talented artist from Northern California – and not just sketches! Go. Look. Be amazed. She’s a blogspot blogger so you’ll have to add her to your RSS feed manually to follow her creative creations.

6 – “Grow Your Innerself” – A hefty helping of peace and positivity. Such a sweet soul! Head over to “Grow Your Innerself” for some motivation and encouragement to “be the change you wish to see in the world”.

7 – “The Better Man Project” – Go say “hi” to Evan, over at “The Better Man Project”. As he puts it:  “The world needs better men. This blog is simply about my journey to become a better man and the things I run into along the way.” Way to lead by example!

8 – “Animating Your Life” – Now go over and visit Rob at “Animating Your Life” for some art and introspection. You’ll always find some food for thought from this “inspirational speaker, playwright, college prof., father of two and…ART ADDICT”.

9 – “Tuesdays With Laurie” – I saved a special blog morsel for last. Laurie blogs on writing, life, and self discovery. One of my favorite posts from her is the challenge of a “Six Word Story“. Can you write your memoir in six words?

That’s it for now, folks! I’d like to extend my appreciation and gratitude to my readers for their patience with my delayed posting lately. Have a beautiful day everyone!

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Now For Something Completely Different

Now For Something Completely Different

You won’t find me posting a whole lot of religious stuff anywhere online. This will be a rare happenstance. I just needed to get this out.

All the hate swirling around in various religions is exhausting!

Here’s a brief background on me. I’m a cradle Catholic, and completely fascinated with science. I had the opportunity of being able to start college when I was 12 years old, and A LOT of exposure to various sciences. So, when I was still very young and “knew everything” I spent a couple years identifying myself as an Atheist. I’m inherently a very spiritual person so that didn’t last very long. To be perfectly honest, the more I learn about science the more I can see miracles woven into our universe and our everyday lives. Just because you learn about something and come to understand it doesn’t make it any less miraculous. I don’t think spirituality is intangible or beyond the realm of what might someday be empirical. Protons and neutrons were beyond our comprehension of empirical at one point as well. I think it stunts our growth as a society and a species to try and put such strict finite parameters on a world where we at least have a concept of infinity. What happened to pushing open new doors? Where’s our explorer spirit?

That said, I have a healthy respect for all religions. I grew up watching my Dad completely and undeniably rooted in his own faith and yet able to learn about other belief systems with a respect for other faiths. I’ve grown up in California, and this state is completely blessed with diversity. You wanna learn about Hinduism? No problem! Buddhism? Let’s get to it! There’s a plethora of first hand experiences to be had that can only amplify your personal spirituality whatever that may be. This is one of the ways I honor my father. God isn’t about right and wrong, good or bad, reward and punishment. God is about love, and growth – knowledge, and gratitude. If you are learning, if you are growing, if you are grateful and coming from a place of love then concepts like “right and wrong” become obsolete. We are not cattle or dogs to be trained, we are humans gifted with abstract thought and we’re completely missing the mark if we don’t use it.

Did you know that the root meaning of the word “sin” didn’t mean to do something evil? “Sin” originally meant that you missed the mark, there was a mistake made, and more practice was needed to get it right. Yes, we’ve all made mistakes – it’s the fact that we keep trying to improve and learn new ways to interact that makes us special.

When my father passed away they sent a chaplain right away to speak with us while we were at the hospital. He was very obviously rushing things because he’d been called out in the middle of his dinner. He had crumbs on his sweater and explained the whole mid-dinner thing when he brushed them off. I was horrified that a person in his position could be so rude with a grieving family. I spent a few years studying to be a chaplain. I’ve learned about so many religions and my personal take on things is that they aren’t that different.

Each religion has different names for things that aren’t really that different. I’ll use English as an example – assume all parties in this hypothetical example speak English. If I ask people from different faiths about their beliefs they will use different words and I’ll hear them all in English. You can stop right there and say “these are different words, they must be different things”. Where does that get us? Imagine those different words all mean the same thing. They’re not actually different words. They’re different languages. They’re cultures, and societies expressing themselves and unfortunately getting lost in translation. English is an extremely limited language in that there are many things we have only one word for – just that single way to express a thing or a concept. Other languages around the world have numerous words for the same things so they can be expressed in an array of all the facets it can possess.

You know what unites the major belief systems around the world including Atheists? We all have a creation story. From the Mayans, to the Egyptians, to the Pacific Islanders we all care about that from which we came. Why do you think that is? I say let’s use Occam’s razor on this one. William of Ockham gave us the logic that “the simplest answer is usually the correct one”. Why do we all care about where we came from? Where we came from must be a pretty important place if we’re all hard wired throughout the generations to think about the topic. It doesn’t matter to me what you call the place, or how you define it for yourself, or what you’ve labeled it – the point is that it’s the same place – a place of infinity with infinite ways to be expressed.

One other thing unites us… one thing we never seem to give enough credit.

Love.

Every single human being knows what love is.

You can call it love, you can call it amour (French), elsker (Danish), liebe (German), szeret (Hungarian), ความรัก (Thai), amore (Italian), الحب (Arabic), В прошлом месяце (Russian), or the translation of love in any language you like. It’s still love – you “feel” it. It’s a concept that we can see in actions, hear in words, touch in gentle caresses, and taste in kisses and food.

What’s the secret ingredient?

It was made with love.

More than that, love has the deepest blessing of being something we feel with our soul.

It is our gift and our grace.

That love inside of us is where we connect.

That is where we find God in this world.

That is how we live Divinely guided lives in this world.

We are meant to feel and express the full spectrum of emotion.

Yes, be angry, be sad, and it’s okay to be upset.

Feel them, know them, understand them.

I’m betting you also know you probably don’t like how those emotions feel.

So focus on joy.

Focus on affection.

Focus on exhilaration, and awe, and curiosity.

Focus on love.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

First learn to love thyself thoroughly through the understanding that you are a living, breathing, walking, and more importantly, thinking miracle in this world. At your very core, in the atoms you are composed of from the calcium in your bones to the protein in your muscles – from the gifts of thought, and communication, and love you can bestow upon others in this life – from your unique talents and everything that is you from head to toe YOU ARE A MIRACLE.

Love thyself as that miracle first, then “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

As you can imagine I didn’t bring up this topic for nothing. It is to emphasize my opinion of what’s really important. This blog post is about growth, and peace, and love. Please focus on expressing things of that nature if you feel you want to comment.

Blog Awards Boogie

I’ve been trying to organize my blog better and get on top of my “to do” list. I cannot express enough gratitude for the overwhelming amount of positive feedback you’ve given me. I’ve still got my blog awards page under construction, but just looking at it makes me feel so very appreciated and welcomed. This is my 5th month blogging and it is such an enriching experience to be connected to so many amazing people across the globe. In fact I think I’ll make up a new happy-dance and call it the “Blog Awards Boogie”!

It may take me awhile to get things done, but I’ve decided I need to stop my regular blogging until I can post some responses to these awards and give them proper acknowledgment.

https://rachieadventures.wordpress.com/blog-awards/

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Spaceballs: “Lonestar” Stuffed Crust Skillet Pizza & Sassiness

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See, it’s “Lonestar” because I made a star out of the pepperoni and I was watching Spaceballs while making/eating my creation.

If you haven’t seen Spaceballs you need to remedy that in the near future!

Alright, on to the yumminess!

I love pizza! I try to make it myself as much as possible instead of ordering out. This is a really easy way to get a deep-dish-esque stuffed crust pizza. You will need a cast iron skillet (mine is about a 10 inch diameter), and I highly recommend parchment paper or foil for easy clean-up. I prefer parchment paper because it doesn’t get hot like foil and it will be easier to handle.

Ingredients:

Pillsbury Grand’s Buttermilk Biscuit Dough (1 package of 8 biscuits)

4 slices of cheese – whichever kind you want to stuff your crust with – I used provolone

1 Tbs of BBQ sauce

1/4 cup regular tomato pasta sauce

1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella

1 egg

Garlic powder, Parmesan, and Italian Seasonings to taste

Your choice of toppings – I used pepperoni and olives

Directions: Line the inside of the skillet with foil/parchment paper and smush “Pillsbury Grand’s Buttermilk Biscuits” into the bottom and up the sides.

I cut a few slices of provolone into strips with kitchen scissors and laid them against the edges with some pepperoni. Yes, the crust on this pizza is stuffed with cheese AND pepperoni. If you’re not a pepperoni person just nix the pepperoni.

Fold the edges down over your crust stuffing and press into the bottom dough.

Whip up an egg until it’s frothy and brush it over the dough on the edges of the crust – basically anything that’s not going to get covered with toppings.

Sprinkle with a little bit of garlic powder, Parmesan, and Italian seasonings.

If you’re a fan of BBQ I highly recommend adding a tablespoon of BBQ sauce to a quarter cup of regular tomato pasta sauce to use on your pizza.

Smear your sauce in the middle.

Add your cheese, add your toppings, and put it in the oven.

If you were baking regular biscuits it would be in for 12-17 minutes at 350 degrees. Your pizza will likely need longer. This came out pretty perfect and was in for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Your crust should be a nice golden brown when it’s done.

When it’s done baking take your skillet out and set it on something heat resistant.

This is the best part…

Lift your pizza straight out of the skillet with the parchment paper and onto a cutting board.

Loosen the bottom edges with a spatula and slide it right off onto the cutting board to be served.

Easy clean-up after nomming on delicious pizza is always a good thing.

I’m sorry I don’t know what the international equivalent of Pillsbury biscuits are, but 176.7 degrees Celsius is the equivalent of 350 degrees Fahrenheit if you manage to get some and want to give it a whirl.

Alright, now on to the sass!

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This is my “sassy” face, not to be mistaken with my “gremlin” face which looks like this:

RachelGremlin

Let’s go over that one more time…

“Sassy”

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“Gremlin”

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The gremlin face indicates “I feel like crap today and I’m making a goofy face to distract myself from the crappiness”. C’mon we all have a face like that! There’s quite often a nose wrinkle and a mouth twist to go with it – it’s like you tasted something sour and you didn’t squint your eyes. That’s not the important face today. I just threw that in there in case you feel like crap today so it would make you laugh and offer distraction.

The important face today is the SASSY FACE! The sassy face indicates “I feel like a strong confident mixture of comedy and badassery – let’s take on the world”! It’s such a very important face and I find that many people don’t ever refine their sassy face because for whatever reason they don’t allow themselves to feel sassy. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you do, or what you deal with on a day to day basis – if you have DNA you have the capability to express sassiness in you somewhere. I urge you to find that part of you that can feel and be inexplicably sassy. Stand in front of the mirror and practice. Let me be clear this is not a war face! There is no seriousness to this face whatsoever. Your sassy face doesn’t need to be anything like my sassy face. It can be like mine if making that face makes you feel empowered, but your sassy face needs to “fit” you like a favorite pair of jeans. Go head to a mirror right now. Look at yourself and wave!

“Hi me!”

“Hi me, you’re lookin’ good today!”

“Oh, thanks. I’m feelin’ sassy!”

*strike a pose*

It may take a few tries until you find it, but when you find one that makes you laugh and think “oh, I like that person in the mirror” you’ve found the winner!

This is your homework for this week: Superman arms up at least once at any point in time – and find your sassy face!

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The World I Live In

The World I Live In

It is my personal belief that a major root cause of unhappiness and restlessness is the cessation of striving to achieve our highest potential. Sometimes we pause consciously to redefine and adjust our course as necessary. Other times we let everyday frivolities distract us from the fact that we have potential beyond our present state at all. We forget to dream or worse… we dismiss our dreams as nothing but mere fancy. That two year old that you were is still inside of you asking questions. “Why? Why not?” Why not turn all of your wildest dreams into actualities? I’ve started looking at my life as a story. I think about how it needs to be written to achieve the ending I want. I’ve started looking at the obstacles life throws my way as dynamic and engaging antagonists. Nobody wants to read a story without some kind of antagonist or battle – the more struggle the more engaging a story is with the more potential for a spectacular outcome. Needless to say I feel renewed motivation to live fully and to press the limits of my own highest potential. It’s an amazing and refreshing feeling that I’ve sincerely missed! I just felt like sharing that.

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Every Bit Of Amazing: Near Death Or Near Life?

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This may sound strange, but I’ve come to a point where I am very, VERY grateful for all the obstacles that I’ve encountered on my path. I’m only sharing my health issues because I feel I can put a positive spin on things – and maybe it will help someone else in a similar situation to have hope. It has not been an easy road and this may be hard to read, but I assure you that there are blessings within everything.

When I was a kid I was blessed with school smarts and a love for sports. Not just those things, but an abundance of other things. Everything came easily and it seemed to me like that must be the “norm” for everyone. I had two parents that loved me unconditionally and it’s unfortunate to realize what a rarity that is these days. For all intents and purposes I had a very lucky and wonderful childhood.

I know there are plenty of people that disagree with my choice of academic career. I can’t even count how many times my parents and I were told that I was missing out on a “normal” teenage high school experience. The fact of the matter is that I would not have done well or thrived in a regular high school environment. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you know that I started attending college classes when I was 12 years old. I went to a charter school between ages 12 and 15 so I could finish my regular curriculum and take classes at the local community college at the same time. During that time period my grandmother passed away. She had lived with us my entire life and was a huge influence on me. I was very distraught and my parents sent me to counseling in hopes I could have a place to sort things out. The counselors deemed I was grieving “excessively” which actually meant I was asking the “big questions” and struggling to make sense of the world in which we live. So they recommended Prozac, and after the sermon on what a wonderful drug it is and how I “needed” it my parents and I warily agreed. That is when my brain began plummeting into real depression – not just grief, but inability to cope normally with regular downs. These days they don’t suggest that kids or teens take Prozac because it actually makes them suicidal – things got much worse for me, and yes, I became suicidal. Back then they didn’t recognize it as a side effect of the drug, but diagnosed it as my “grief” or “depression” getting worse. This only started a parade of new drugs with terrible side effects that never allowed me to be truly “happy”. I could smile, and plenty of people were unaware of the depression I was going through; but inside I was a zombie – I couldn’t “feel” things properly. The anti-depressants also brought a horrible battle with my weight – which is something that’s already an irritating part of being a teenager anyway.

When I was 17 years old I graduated from the local community college with highest honors and transferred to the University of California Santa Barbara as a paleobiology major. I’d joined a Martial Arts group and walked the few blocks to campus every day. I felt on top of the world! I dreamed of moving on to UCLA for a PhD  in exobiology and working for NASA exploring our solar system. It had only been two months of bliss when I got a very nasty spider bite. I’m allergic to most creepy crawly toxins anyway, but this was some kind of mutant spider. I didn’t see it bite me, but I found it in the window frame next to the couch where I had been napping. The allergic reaction was vicious and I wound up in the emergency room a day later. They gave me a course of an antibiotic called Keflex, and when that didn’t work they gave me a course of an antibiotic called Bactrim.

The bite infection healed quickly and the headache started. Notice I didn’t say “headaches” because it was one long continuous headache that got better and worse, but never went away. I became so ill I had to withdraw from my classes. The room would spin, and I would throw up a lot and often without warning. The head pain was excruciating and had some migraine properties like visual disturbances. My Mom took me to the emergency room nearly every week for three months because the symptoms were so severe and frightening. They kept sending me home saying I was dealing with migraines. Finally, on my 18th birthday, when my vision had narrowed to a tiny tunnel and they were concerned about an aneurysm they performed a spinal tap and I was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri also known as intercranial hypertension thought to have been caused by the Bactrim. The word “pseudotumor” sometimes makes people think “fake tumor” like it was just a figment of my imagination. A better word would have been “mimustumor” because the symptoms mimic a brain tumor. What actually was happening was a build up of spinal fluid in my skull and spine similar to what happens when a person gets a concussion. They had brushed a nerve when inserting the needle, and the spinal tap leaked for two weeks. I was admitted to the hospital while it healed. The pain of the spinal fluid leak is literally the worst pain I’ve felt in my entire life. The best I can describe it is like my spinal cord was a drain that was pulling my brain down as it tugged at the inside of my head. Usual treatment for pseudotumor involves regular spinal taps and sometimes a spinal shunt to relieve the pressure. While more spinal taps were talked about several times I never agreed to actually having another one.

The spinal fluid pressure pushed down on my brain and the back of my eyes from the inside. It could not have killed me. The only things it could have done were blind me and/or make me a vegetable from brain damage. The pressure would build up around my eyes and cause them to bruise as if someone had punched me. My school ID looked like I had a big shiner on my left eye. I lost some of the feeling, but not muscle tone in the left side of my face which always felt like pins and needles (this was eventually remedied with acupuncture of which I am a big fan). As you can imagine the depression got worse again.

I started having trouble in my classes. For the remainder of the brain disease I felt stuck in that I couldn’t seem to learn or retain any new concepts. Science and math, in general, are conceptual subjects – it’s not like you can memorize facts and get by. I did fine in the classes that were repeats of things I’d already learned. I failed in classes that were new material. It was the first time I’d ever received a low score on a test at all let alone a score that didn’t pass.

To top it all off they gave me a corticosteroid called Prednisone to save my eyes which caused hallucinations and my whole world felt very dark. It also caused my facial features to change so I looked like a chipmunk and didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I blamed myself for a lot of my predicament. I would get angry at myself for not forcing exercise through the pain.

“Why can’t you just be happy?” I’d ask myself.

My brain was swimming in a stew of psychiatric medications and “guinea pig” medications for the pseudotumor – that is my best guess at why I couldn’t seem to be happy. I made things harder on myself by taking up smoking, and when I was very low I had started cutting. Yes, I realize it’s very taboo to talk about. I am not proud of it, but I am very happy I overcame it without having to carry the damage. I’m very lucky that the scars are so faint that most people never notice them. I was always teetering on the edge of my spinal fluid pressure spiking and causing projectile vomit. Yes, this is gross to talk about, but it happened. I threw up without warning almost every day for years. My dad had worried about bulimia, but that wasn’t it – it would often happen in public and was VERY embarrassing! Once it actually happened on a date. We had gone out to lunch, talked for awhile, and as we walked back to the car I could feel it coming. It was raining and I handed him the umbrella and ran to the bushes at the edge of the parking lot. There wasn’t any way to get to a bathroom in time and it seemed like the least populated place to get it out. He started walking toward me with the umbrella worried about what might be wrong. I had my back turned to him in hopes that I could hide it and it would just fall into the bush. No such luck – projectile vomit, remember? Just as my body was retching the wind picked up and it all blew sideways onto the ground as he came up behind me with the umbrella. I was horrified! Can you believe he still wanted to date me after that? We eventually broke up, but I have to give him credit for that.

By now you might be asking, “wait a minute, I thought there was a big positive spin on this”?

There is!

There are a few more bumps before the awesomeness – bare with me.

Toward the end of the brain disease I got a mild concussion which caused me intense pain on top of the pseudotumor pain.  I can only describe the pseudotumor pain as feeling like a railroad spike had been pushed through the side of my head at angle. My regular pain killer, Dilaudid, had been upped to 16 mg every 8-12 hours to allow some relief. It was the only thing that offered a small break in the intense pain, and I will never touch the stuff again. If you don’t know what Dilaudid is it’s a step above Morphine. Each mg of Dilaudid is equal to six mgs of Morphine without any Acetaminophen. It was a blessing in that it took away a lot of the pain, and curse in that it worsened my mental state and depressed my respiratory system. The smoking had caused asthmatic symptoms and on top of everything I had walking pneumonia that I didn’t know about. This is when I had my near death experience. The walking pneumonia and the high doses of Dilaudid had paired to cause respiratory acidosis – I was poisoned by the carbon dioxide in my lungs because I wasn’t strong enough to exhale. I was told later that the paramedics had carried me out of the house wrapped in a canvas because they couldn’t get a gurney up the stairs and through the oddly shaped hallway. Later, I “woke up” in the emergency room surrounded by doctors with all sorts of odds and ends attached to me including a breathing machine. During the time I had “checked-out” I found myself in a warm and comforting space. There was no up or down or sideways – just a warm dark space and a tiny pinprick of light that seemed very far away. I didn’t actually see anyone, but I knew I wasn’t alone. I was rather enjoying the experience when a voice told me…

“You have to go back, you have a purpose.”

“But I don’t want to go back. I like it here.”

“You have to go back, you have a purpose.”

“If I have to go back what is my purpose?”

“You have to go back, you have a purpose.”

Then it was over. I opened my eyes in the emergency room for a few minutes and then fell asleep.

After recovering I flung myself into trying to figure out what my purpose is and trying to define it for myself. I was trying to put together a plan of action to fulfill my purpose and make a big impact on the world for the better. I still want to pursue that plan of action even if I wandered a little off course recently. A few months later the pseudotumor symptoms started disappearing. I had lived with a constant headache for seven years and I started getting patches of full relief. My neurologist said that some people actually “grow out of it” since it seems to mainly effect young women. I was relieved! It was like getting a special “get of jail free” card! I started to become more hopeful and ambitious like I had been before the whole mess.

Towards the end of the year I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to get off the psychiatric medications because I didn’t think they were helping, and possibly making me worse. He told me that I “needed” to continue them and perhaps take more because if I got off of them he told me I would “wind up in a mental institution or dead”. Yes, I quoted him verbatim on that last bit there. I told him that I would be taking myself off of them and he could either help me with a taper program or let me do it alone. He put together a very short taper program and set me up to fail. Had I stuck to his taper program his prediction might have come true. I looked at the piece of paper when I got in the car and crumpled it up. I had been on some combination of these medications since I was a young teenager – I didn’t expect myself to just adapt to being on nothing over a few weeks. I took six months and very slowly tapered off everything a quarter of a pill at a time.

Let me make it very clear that it wasn’t immediately all peaches and cream. I went through a very real, several month long withdrawal period that was made worse by the relationship I was in. In some ways I think the bad withdrawal period triggered worse abuse within that relationship. For a short time I dealt with a fear of being seen because of how he had treated me. I had covered all the mirrors and didn’t want to leave the house because I felt ugly and worthless like I shouldn’t burden the public with having to look at me. However, if things hadn’t gotten so bad between us I don’t know that I would have had the resolve to say I wanted to be done.

I’ve been told by one of the only doctors I trust that complete rehabilitation from the psychiatric medications could take up to five years. I’m currently two and a half years through. The first two years were a fine balance to walk and tougher than I’d like to admit, but the last six months or so have offered me exponentially more recovery. I haven’t escaped completely unscathed… yet. My body still has trouble making vitamin D because I was on the Prednisone for so long – that is something I’ve had to accept. I’m never going to try and live above latitude 42 ever again because it is too stressful on my body and taxing on my soul even with supplements. If you don’t already know this our Earth gets variations in sunlight due to the tilt which causes the seasons as it passes along the elliptic. Everything higher than latitude 42 doesn’t allow enough sunlight, and isn’t at the right angle to provide sufficient light for a healthy body to produce vitamin D. This is why a lot of people in Northern regions get the blues in colder months, and one reason why Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

A few months after being done with the psychiatric medicines I was able to quit smoking without really trying. I had tried to quit in the past with intense withdrawals as a result. The current, still undiagnosed abdominal pain began about three months after I was free of the medicines, and began with about a month of unexplainable full body edema that put an extra 60 pounds (27 kg) of weight on my body.  It put me in a wheel chair and I could barely sit-up let alone stand. Finally, they gave me a diuretic and over the course of about nine days I peed out 60 pounds of weight. That’s when I started to see more significant weight loss and my body started changing back to something closer to what I remembered having before all the sickness. That was in April and May of 2011, and the abdominal pain has had it’s own ups and downs since then.

So where am I today? The girl who nearly died, has had more hospitalizations than fingers, battled medication-induced depression for years, and spent over a month in a wheel chair unable to walk is doing particularly well! I’ve learned to accept that my body has been through a lot and gave myself permission to be extra good to myself. I’m still getting off that last bit of weight from all the medications, but I’m proud of myself for continuously making progress. I just happened to step on the scale the other day to find that I’d lost seven pounds last month. I dance and go for walks – sometimes I will just do yoga or pilates, but I am able to move like I haven’t been able to since I was a teenager. Heck, I’m able to wear clothes I haven’t been able to since I was a teenager! Since I was able to quit smoking I got my singing voice back and being able to sing gives me a lot of happiness. I don’t ever doubt the power of vitamins and supplements. I take 2,000-4,000 IUs of vitamin D per day and it has made a world of difference. I also take omegas, spirulina, vitamin C, vitamin B, and red raspberry leaf as well. Slowly but surely my immune system is repairing itself – I get more days where I feel stronger, and more days without pain. I feel like I can think again… not just mundane everyday things, but I feel like I can enjoy coming up with new hypotheses and concepts again. I can learn again! This has been one of the biggest blessings! I go through my old text books and I often stay up late researching new things online. Our world is a fascinating place!

This may seem like a lot that has happened. It really is only the tip of the iceberg of circumstances I’ve overcome. It would be overwhelming for me to put everything on the table in one post. Maybe some day I will write a memoir.

Some of you might be thinking – so what? If you didn’t go through all of that in the first place you wouldn’t need to be so happy about getting your health back!

Being chronically ill for that long taught me things that I would have never learned otherwise. It taught me a level of compassion and understanding that would have taken me a lot longer to obtain. Trying to get healthy taught me so many ways, tips and tricks, and a holistic approach to healing. For example, regular unsweetened coconut milk has an amazing blend of nutrients that will calm you down and ease your nervous system. One cup of regular unsweetened coconut milk every five hours as needed has worked better for me than any anti-anxiety medication they ever tried to give me. The only “side effect” is it can make you sleepy until you get used to it. I learned meditation that helped me understand my own mind and cope with aches. I try not to take anything stronger than Ibuprofen, and my body is healing. I can’t explain it exactly, but I can feel it healing.

I learned about people… they often put people in groups for pain management or counseling. I met so very many amazing individuals that have dealt with so very much. There are very few people that are exposed to all that in their 20’s. I learned a respect for what it feels like to have aged far before my time. I learned a respect for the fragility of life and the importance of maintaining a sense of awe even in the throws of agony. I learned that spending time on a swing set pretending I’m flying off into the sunset can be the small thing that makes all of the pain melt away. In any healing process it is necessary to laugh on a daily basis – it is not only the best medicine, but also an essential medicine. I learned that my body will react to how I treat it – I pamper it, feed it well, and make sure it gets exercise. It may seem simple, but connecting to the body I’m living in has been so important to me and I don’t think I would have already learned that connection without having dealt with illness. These days I also get to feel the joy of being truly happy. Not just smiling through internal pain, but really truly happy like I got to be in my childhood.

I’m currently 27 years old. I’ve been so ill that I know what it feels like to wonder how much longer I have left to live. Experiencing that has taught me that none of us will ever really know how much time we have left – healthy or not. It’s taught me to find blissful enjoyment in everyday life. It’s strengthened me.

I don’t believe in “impossible”. I only believe in infinite possibilities, the beauty of the present moment, and the very bright future I am building for myself. I know that I will continue to not only overcome any obstacles in my path, but thrive from learning from them. I believe in miracles.

P.S. I’m not afraid to be seen anymore, and did I mention I love smiling? Smiling is my favorite!

SidePonyCropped

SMILEWOO

SMILEavi

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Did You Put Your Superman Arms Up Today?

Did You Put Your Superman Arms Up Today?

Just a reminder…

Sometimes in the middle of everyday life we need to be reminded of the sheer awesomeness of our lives in every form.

The ups and downs are just footnotes in the saga of our amazing, interweaving, fully dynamic, and inspiring adventures.

Take a few deep breaths…

Notice your heartbeat – it’s a scientific miracle of nature that you found your way into existence from the first single celled organisms to the phenomenal complexity that is you.

You are here to do great things…

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¡Ay, carambas! : Sweet Mini Peppers With Shrimp And Bacon

¡Ay, carambas! : Sweet Mini Peppers With Shrimp And Bacon

Since I’m growing sweet mini peppers in my garden I’ve been looking around for some good sweet mini pepper recipes. I saw a recipe for “La Roca’s Little Bulls – Toritos” from Wilson Produce. The ingredients didn’t sound particularly good to me, but I liked the idea of stuffing ’em with shrimp and wrapping them in bacon!

This dish takes a lot of work, but it was so good it doesn’t bother me to think of taking the time to make it again.

Alright! Here we go!

You Will Need:
1 package (12 slices) of bacon
12 sweet mini peppers
½ pound of large shrimp (at least 12 peeled, deveined, tails removed)
Approx. 40 toothpicks

Shrimp Marinade:
1 Tbs taco seasoning (your choice of brands)
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp lemon pepper
1 ¼ cup milk

Cheese Spread:
8 oz whipped cream cheese
½ Tbs paprika
2 (4oz) cans Ortega diced green chilies

Citrus Cilantro Rice:
1 ½ Tbs fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 cups white (or jasmine) rice
5+ cups of water

Start by putting all of the toothpicks in a bowl of water to soak. Let them soak for at least an hour before use.

Mix the lemon juice, lime juice, cilantro, and apple cider vinegar in a small dish. Refrigerate this mixture. The rice takes about 45 minutes in a rice cooker, and it may take longer than that to put everything else together. I didn’t want the rice sitting while I was finishing everything else so I waited a bit. It’s your choice though. Let the cilantro leaves soak in the juice for a little while prior to making the rice either way. Pour 3 cups of rice in a rice cooker. Pour the citrus cilantro mixture into a 1 cup measuring cup (the mixture will only fill about a quarter of the cup) and fill the rest with water. Pour over the rice. Add 5 more cups of water. Stir everything up in the cooker before turning it on.

Cut a slit down one side of each mini pepper from the stem to the bottom. Place them in a pot of water on the stove. Bring to a boil. Cover and boil for 30 minutes.

For Softer Peppers: Line a colander with paper towels and set on top of a plate. Scoop the peppers out of the water and into the colander. Cover with paper towels immediately. Steam peppers in paper towels for 10-15 minutes. Stems will easily pull off. Pepper will fall open from the slit you already cut. Be careful! Some peppers will still have hot water in them. Seeds may pull out with the stem. Scoop the seeds out if necessary. Peel the thin translucent skin off the peppers. I find that peeling for the pointed bottom towards the top is the most efficient. (HINT: Red peppers are easier to peel for whatever reason. If you’re going for this method choose all red peppers.)

For Crunchier Peppers: Drain peppers in a colander. Being cautious of hot water still in peppers de-stem, and scoop seeds.

I suggest putting the peppers on to boil and getting the shrimp marinade put together while the heat works its magic on the peppers. Choose an oven safe dish that will hold ½ pound of shrimp and the marinade. I chose a small oval glass casserole dish (about the size of a large bread pan). Add dry ingredients and cover with milk. Whisk ingredients together. Pour in shrimp. Cover. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole dish in the oven for 25 minutes. They won’t be completely done at this point. I used a BBQ basket to finish cooking them over the flames. You want them cooked before putting them in the peppers however you choose to cook them. A frying pan would work too.

Strain the diced chilies, mix with the cream cheese and paprika with a spatula. You will have excess cheesy-goodness after. It makes a great dip for tortilla chips. Mom decided to cover her pasta with it last night and heat it up. I’m not brave enough to try this, but Mom said to tell people it makes a great pasta sauce.

Lay the strips of bacon out flat on a plate. Place a mini pepper laid open at one end of each strip. Smear the cheese spread along the inside of the pepper and place a shrimp on top of the cheese. Wrap the pepper sides around the shrimp and roll it into the bacon slice. Use 3-4 toothpicks to hold it together making sure the toothpicks go through the shrimp. I suggest using a BBQ basket if you have one large enough. If you don’t you can place them directly on the grill and turn them individually (this is how I did it). The toothpicks will get very charred, but they will hold enough moisture to keep it all held together. Leave on the grill turning periodically with tongs until the bacon is cooked. Remove onto a plate and take out the toothpicks. I chose to serve them on a bed of the citrus cilantro rice. This was really, REALLY good. Sometimes my homemade recipes only turn out so-so. I’m saving this one FOREVER!

It might help if you sing “The 3 Caballeros” theme song while you put them together and shout: ¡Ay, caramba!

So, if you’re up for the craziness of putting this together I hope you enjoy the fruits of your labor! Let me know how it goes.