Rocking Chairs

It’s 7:04 Thanksgiving morning, and I’m sitting on my parents’ deck in my pjs, slippers, and coat, about to have a cup of blackcurrant tea. I  haven’t  had it before, but it has this deep cured fruit scent that I already love. The cold I can ignore for a nice moment like this, on a day we got up extra early–earlier than for work. There will be plenty more cooking to do, but the turkey’s in the oven.

There are many more animals here, more birds talking to each other than where we live, another 25 minutes closer to the city. They nestle in the tall lilac bushes, the pine tree my father painstakingly trained straight over many years, the old apple tree at the back of the yard. Beyond is a field and stream, home to many creatures. A family of ground hogs has live across the path under a tree as long as I can remember.

After a few weeks of business and stress, I’ve managed to carve out a few moments to sit and listen. The tea is as deep and fruity as it smells, and I hope there’s time to savor it slowly.

NaNoWriMo 2016

The approach of NaNoWriMo was an event I noted back in August, with the thought that I would probably make a decision on a story by the time it came about. While I am still committed to finding a story based primarily around people of color, I have not found it yet. So the mental search for that will continue.

On October 31, I pondered simply continuing with the Mally & Les story, but even then, the mad rush of words is not something I’m interested in this year. Therefore,  I have decided to carry on as usual, and write as I usually do, at the usual pace.

Other things are happening in life, and at present I don’t feel a great deal of energy to do all the things. So for now, I’m trying to take things a little slower, and not do so much. To care about less off the stuff going on, and more about taking things a little easier. That’s where life is right now, really.

I had been working quite a bit on Cora’s wedding, which was in October, and while I’m still thinking about it, in the last week I’ve only worked on Mally & Les, which is a nice change. But now I have to go back to refresh on what was written before. It seems to be a story of spurts of writing here and there, and probably won’t be finished for quite a long time. I know the beginning and the end, but most of the things in between will likely be exploratory writing when we get there.

So that’s what I’m working on right now.

 

 

Fried Deviled Egg

Chopped deviled egg coated in breading and deep fried. Red chili pepper seasoning.

The egg in the very middle was yummy, but breading and seasonings were not. Might have been lovely given the tempura treatment.

Writing and Health: Part 1

I’m proud to introduce Dr. Terri Wenner, a friend and new blogger & podcaster, as the first ever guest blogger here on my site. With 25 years of nursing and 10 as a nurse educator under her belt, she’s using her considerable knowledge base to help others live a healthier, more balanced lifestyle, and overcome health barriers.

To this end, I’ve asked her to write a bit about writing and health, and since then have come to the conclusion there is much to stay on this topic, and will subsequently do more blogging about it, which is why this is part one. However, Terri’s got us of to a wonderful start with her work below on the connection between writing and general health.

 

Seven Reasons Why You Should Start Writing More Today 

When you hear the word “writing,” what do you think of?  Do you immediately start to daydream about sitting in your favorite chair with a journal and a pen?  Or do you have flashbacks to the dreaded writing assignments you had to complete in school?  Regardless of your previous experience with writing, I want you to consider seven great reasons why you should write more often, and why you should start today!

 

A photo by Aaron Burden. unsplash.com/photos/xG8IQMqMITM
Photo by Aaron Burden at unslpash.com/@aaronburden

 

Research supports the many benefits of writing down our thoughts in both private and public ways.  Baikie and Wilhelm (2005) found that expressive writing about traumatic or very stressful events could improve both physical and psychological health.  Chan (2013) reported that writing might help you focus on positive things, be more grateful, and even sleep better.  Additionally, Saez (2016) noted that writing increases clarity and productivity. We do have to careful to make sure our written expression ends up in the right hands, but otherwise, let’s focus on how writing more can improve your life.

1. Purging

Whether good or bad, when our minds are filled with thoughts they keep us occupied. We can rehash situations that were upsetting.  We can run and rerun scenarios of how a different result might have been possible.  Ciotti (2016) noted that when we have too many ideas floating around in our heads, it’s like having too many internet tabs open and becomes overwhelming.

Getting your thoughts onto paper allows you to put them in a safe place and frees up space in your mind.  You can always retrieve those thoughts later if needed.  But often you feel much better after getting them out and don’t need them anymore.

2. Pleasure

Some types of writing are intended for more personal or private use such as journaling. Young girls often call it a diary where they list the day’s events or dreams for the future.  Adults can benefit from such activities as well.  You could start a gratitude or blessings journal.  On the other hand, you could write about your troubles and keep track of how each one of them eventually worked out.

Perhaps you are someone who enjoys the outdoors.  You could choose to describe the beauty of the changing seasons or even the fragrances in the air.  Another option would be write poetry, songs, or creative phrases.  Whatever brings you joy and provides you pleasure is fair game!

3. Perspective

No two people think or act exactly the same way all the time. We are each unique compilations or our genetic makeup combined with our life experiences.  So much has happened to and around us that it has shaped our viewpoints and how we feel about things.

When you choose to write your thoughts and perspectives down, it gives others the opportunity to expand their thinking.  Not everyone will always agree with your point of view, but it always enriches our lives to learn from others and listen to what others are thinking.  No matter what you are thinking, it deserves to be heard by others.  The only way that can happen is if you bother to write it down.

4. Productivity

This type of writing may not be as glamorous as the others are, but it serves a very useful purpose. I have always been a big “list person.”  I regularly keep an excel spreadsheet of things that need to be done.  Otherwise, I’m likely to forget or miss important deadlines.  Additionally, once an item is on the list, I can clearly see in front of me what I have determined is important enough to make it to the list.

Some of the items are essentials like paying the bills.  But others are things that I have decided to make a priority, like encouraging a friend who is going through a tough time.  Regardless of how high or low a priority an item is, I am much less likely to forget it or get it done late if I have it on the list and have given it a priority on a particular day of the week.

5. Potential

In addition to our young dreamers writing whom they want to marry in their diaries, we can all benefit from setting goals and dreaming a little more.  My husband and I are entering a phase of life where we hope to begin traveling more.  We’ve always tried to spend wisely and extravagant vacations were not always in the budget.  Now that our children are grown, this is a new priority for us.

I haven’t yet made a list because idealistically I want to see everything in the world.
But realistically, none of us can predict the future and we don’t really know how many trips we will get to take.  I think I will start with a top ten list and make them different enough that I will feel like I got a nice variety no matter how long or short my travel itinerary is when all is said and done.  What type of dreams do you have that you willing to write down?

6. Promises

Sometimes we make promises to ourselves because we know something is in our best interest but extenuating factors prevent us from taking action now. This is a perfect time to put it in writing.  Much like verbal promises that you want to make sure you get it in writing during a job interview, promises to yourself are equally as important.  It’s easy to lose track of rewards we promise ourselves or that will bring personal benefits, so write them down so they’re not forgotten.

Other times we may have made someone else (children, spouse, best friend, employee) a promise that we also need to keep in the forefront of our minds.  It’s not that we care so little that we forget, or we want to shortchange anyone.  However, the busyness of life and frequent interruptions can interfere with even the best minds.  In these cases, write the promise down so you don’t forget.

7. Posterity
The last but certainly not least benefit of writing more is to leave something for future generations. There is a two-fold purpose to writing for future generations. First, our writings can benefit our own descendants and society as a whole.  How many history books or novels did you read in school that were written many years ago, but still brought value to the class you were taking at the time?

The second benefit of writing for posterity is for the writer to be able to share wisdom and expertise in a way that shows their personal value.  Each of our lives has great value, but unless it is recorded in some way, future generations may miss out on the wonderful insights and blessings of the life you lived.

The Benefits are Worth It

Write more.
Write now.
Write tomorrow.
Write the day after that.
It’s the right thing to do!

 

References

Baikie, K.A. & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment 11 (5) 338-346. DOI: 10.1192/apt.11.5.338

Chan, A. L. (2013).  Six unexpected ways writing can transform your health. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/12/writing-health-benefits-journal_n_4242456.html

 

Ciotti, G. (2016).  The psychological benefits of writing. Help Scout. https://www.helpscout.net/blog/benefits-of-writing/

 

Saez, F. (2016). Ten benefits that writing gives you. FacileThings Blog. https://facilethings.com/blog/en/benefits-of-writing

 

 

If you enjoyed this guest blog, and would like to see more, please do let me know, and check out Terri’s site at drterriwenner.com for more encouraging posts and her engaging podcasts.

In later writing and health posts, we’ll take a look at some topics like how writing is used by mental health professionals and ways in which creative writing in particular intersects with health.

 

Culinary Inspiration and Influences

Yesterday ‘s post at Cooking without Limits, “Muse in the kitchen,” has given me pause to think about some of the people who have inspired me cook, and who, in my opinion, has created a desire to cook better good. We all have our own styles and responses, and sometimes these align with others, and sometimes not. Some celebrity cooks are full of passion and charisma, while others are quiet and earnest–but all are in love with food.

Family

In my culinary journey, I’ve been lucky in that I have been surrounded by people who know and are interested in knowing how to cook. Everyone in my family, for instance. Mom is a great baker, puts together an awesome beef stew, and swears by Nigella Lawson’s Christmas pudding. Dad has signature dishes like corn fritters and waffle ice cream sandwiches. My brother is a great cook, and spent many years in the food industry. My Uncles and Aunt, likewise, enjoy making all kinds of dishes–from turkey burgers stuffed with extra veggies, the best au gratin potatoes, to homemade pies.

The Ladies

And then there are the church ladies, who can cook their way into anyone’s hearts with their  homemade breads, french toast casseroles, and sticky buns, and hearty winter soups, and have taught their children to do the same. We’ve been to far too many church events where we’ve come home stuffed with delicious things. I’d be happy to know, someday, that I’ve become one of them.

Celebrities

Celebrity chefs, on the other hand, arrive to us through vastly different venues. Thanks to Julia Child*, they now reach us not only through cook books, but via TV, magazines, and other mass media. And yes, Julia Child is someone I find great inspiration from. Not only was she a pioneer in bringing great cooking to us, the masses, she did so with the firm conviction that yes, we can. Cooking great food was not just to be the secrets of great chefs, but available to all. And of course, I’m greatly inspired by the parts of Julie & Julia which bring us her story–the best parts of the movie, really.

Now, for the Food Network bits. The best show they ever had, hands down, was the original, Japanese, dubbed Iron Chef. DH and I watched this in college, and if it was available on DVD, I would throw my money at it. This show, and the chefs on it, changed my culinary life and expanded my horizons in a very real way. Today, there is almost nothing I wouldn’t try. We began to understand the concepts of what great food is really about, beyond our American pallets.

Good Eats with Alton Brown and Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten are my two other Food Network picks. I enjoy watching food shows with people who are knowledgeable and able to easily explain the science of food. Not to mention, Good Eats was entertaining, and I must admit I love Ina’s upscale lifestyle. But both are compelling and produce food I want to eat.

Another person, who I originally shied a bit away from, but have found really does know what she’s doing, is Martha Stewart. Not only does she cook, she also does decor and flowers, another great plus for me. Her recipes are well thought out and have nearly always turned out for me. If you are interested in the entire art of entertaining, she’s someone you should be looking into. Though I’ve managed to catch her cooking show only a few times, her earnestness comes through despite the extremely calm and collected personality she portrays.

More recent influences for me come from the UK. If you haven’t watched The Great British Bake Off (The Great British Baking Show as retitled on PBS), you should. Mary Berry, a well-known home cook in the UK with numerous cook books under her belt, is delightful as one of the judges on the show, and always knows why a cake hasn’t turned out properly. Hosts Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc are also delightful. The show itself, and the many bakers who have been on it, is refreshing after the advent of US reality shows, and quite inspiring.

My other pick here is the indefatigable Raymond Blanc.**  Having recently watched several series of his cooking shows, this self-taught chef has a restaurant that I’ll likely never be able to afford to eat in, but a huge talent for showing how simple incredible food can be if one only has patience, and for inspiring others. His charisma is infectious, and one simply can’t watch one of his shows without wanting to run into the kitchen and make something.

I have one final honorable mention. Two Fat Ladies*** is a BBC2 cooking program which stared Clarissa Dickson Wright** and Jennifer Paterson, two experienced cooks in their own right. While their recipes vary greatly, they are always a joy to watch–they are large in both body and personality, and this is a show I occasionally watch when not feeling well. I dream of making some of their recipes–Peaches Cardinal, Summer Tomato Pudding, or Onion Soup with Stilton. Clarissa Dickson Wright also has other food shows which are also lovely.

*Mastering the Art of French Cooking was recently gifted to me, and I can’t wait to get into reading it. A shoutout to DH, who got me a first edition when he totally didn’t have to.

**Raymond Blank and Clarissa Dickson Wright’s programs are available on Youtube, which is where I watched them.

***Two Fat Ladies is available as a DVD set.