Choosing Joy

"The love of a single heart can make a world of difference." ~ Immaculee Ilibagiza
“The love of a single heart can make a world of difference.”
~ Immaculee Ilibagiza

I was “supposed” to be at convention. I was not there. I was home. My sister-in-law was there, and I was supposed to go and be there with her. And, I did not go.

The amount of guilt and concern that I was letting people down, no matter which party I chose, made me cry for three days.

I pieced together the trip, purchasing items as funds allowed. But, the last bit didn’t come through, and I chose not to discuss the full finances with my husband. Because of that choice, he didn’t know what significant amount I had already invested in my business trip. And, I chose not to go. And there was lots of sadness around.

Finally, after a few days, the husband told me he was sad I wasn’t going. I was shocked, as this was not an expected outcome. This was a breakthrough in our communication, where we opened up on some of these desires. We discussed the true cost. And, we set aside a plan for next year, that is budgeting the money as it comes in to forecast for the future.

This was and is an emotional time, for me, for many. And, with all the sadness and guilt over the choices I made, I am ultimately choosing joy for this decision. I am choosing joy for a lot of reasons. Mostly because, though the other emotions are informative and help me take responsibility, guilt doesn’t allow me to see and express love. Guilt gives me comfort in wallowing. Guilt pigeonholes me in a place where I regret and tell the same awful story over and over.

So, I would rather choose joy. I would rather recognize where I could have made different choices, and work really hard to communicate my needs and desires. And, I will work on asking for help.

Help was offered on loan. And part of choosing into joy in deciding not to go was to choose into getting ourselves out of debt. The company is a debt free company, and my husband and I desperately want to live debt-free lives. We want to pay for any future cars and houses in cash. We want my school loans paid off. And, we want any borrowed money from family repaid in full with extra for the burden carried.

Walking into convention with more debt did not feel like a joyful decision. And, that reason plus so many more, I sat at home as my plane took off with a group of women I longed to get to know better. I cried for three days until my husband and I had a breakthrough in communication. And, I worked on breathing into joy. I worked on breathing into love.

Choose joy.

Cudighi

IMG_1518My sister-in-law introduced it as another fine Yooper culinary treat. I had never heard of it. As a self-proclaimed Yooper (born, and raised until 8 when we moved to the land of trolls), I had only ever hard of and consumed pasties (not including the Polish food I grew up with). She described it as a sort of Italian sausage, half beef, half pork, with some seasonings… but different. She said you eat it on a bun, like a burger. She enticed, “There are even cudighi buns you can get at the grocery store.”

We were intrigued. We were game. We found the cudighi buns. There were two sizes. Sister-in-law asked for the thinner ones, and we obliged. At home, brother and sister-in-law prepared our meal and gave us the loose guidelines. It basically goes like this:

  • Bun
  • Cudighi in a patty with provolone (or Swiss) cheese
  • Sautéed green peppers and mushrooms
  • Pizza sauce

The cudighi was like Italian sausage, but spicier. And, the combination on a lighter ciabatta bun was fantastic. Sister-in-law gifted us two pounds, and this Labor Day, we recreated the meal with the benefit of a bit of research.

We found out that cudighi arrived about the 1920s with a wave of Italian immigrants. The speciality is found mostly in Negaunee and Ispheming. I grew up in Marquette, so that might make sense while we never heard of it. That and we didn’t go out to eat much. Here are some recipes we found.

recipe 1

1 (6lb) pork butt
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ to 1 cup of dry red wine
6 garlic cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove

recipe 2

3 pounds ground venison
7 pounds ground pork
6 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons black pepper

recipe 3

6 lb coarsely ground pork butt
1 clove garlic chopped fine
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
6 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons fennel seed

basic instructions

A few instructions said to grind it yourself, twice, so we’ll include that. More generally, just mixing up the ground meat and spices, then forming into patties or sausages is the key. Again, though, grinding the meat, and together if your using, say, venison and pork. Then, add the spices and grind again. The cudighi we had was very fine in appearance, which suggests to me a double grind. Also, the cudighi we consumed came from the Ishpeming Township fire department, and a fundraiser at that.

We read that you have the burger and eat with “the works”. So, tonight, this is what we did:

  • Ciabatta loaf (rolls were sold out)
  • Tillamook smoked provolone cheese slices
  • Sautéed red, yellow, orange, green peppers with yellow onion, and mushrooms
  • Homemade simple marinara sauce
  • Optional condiments included ketchup, mustard, and pickles

Cudighi was grilled on a charcoal grill. Reviews have it tasting quite yummy.

Resources

Cudighi recipe

Venison cudighi

Homemade cudighi sausage

Make Your Own Body Butter

Body-Butter A few weeks ago, I ran out of lotion. I sort of despise going to the store to buy new personal care products. The labels confuse me. I don’t understand all the ingredients, what I need, why, what it’s good for. The longer and more chemically the name sounds, it raises more red flags than I care to admit.

So, my lotion ran out. But, I have sensitive skin that needs routine hydration. I have autoimmune issues that exacerbate that sensitive skin, so no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry it is outside, I need hydration for my skin.

What’s a girl to do? Well, not unlike my cooking, I went for whole ingredients. Herein lies the confusion, how do you make lotion? Why do you need certain ingredients.

Confession: I love to read and I love to research. But, if it’s not easily understood, then I pass. In college, I loved digesting complex ideas and trying to understand them. As my son has grown, and my family and I have settled into these roles, though, I find the more complex something is the more of a turn off it is.

So, when looking at a recipe, I found I want simple, easy to understand, just like my cooking desire of 5 ingredients or less.

Lotion added water. Body butter was straight plant fats, which meant simpler though there was a bit in the process. I opted for the body butter, because the whole thing felt simpler. Comparing some recipes, the ratio seemed to be 1 part plant oil to two parts plant butter, and for every 1 cup of body butter about 10 drops of essential oil. I decided on my amounts not unlike making soap. You figure out how much you want in an end product, and adjust accordingly. I figured 3 cups of finished product would be enough. And, I then proceeded to make about 4 cups! (Oops!)

Recipe & Technique

Materials

  • 1 bowl filled with ice
  • 1 bowl, smaller, to nest in iced bowl later
  • I crockpot for slow melting of fats
  • Container(s) for finished product
  • A stick blender for mixing

Ingredients

Butters

  • 1 cup mango butter
  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1 cup coconut oil (counting as a butter because of consistency)
  • A few shavings of coconut butter

Oils

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup jojoba oil

Essential Oils

  • 10 drops clary sage
  • 10 drops geranium
  • 10 drops lavender

I found this didn’t scent my body butter as much as I wanted. Next time, I’ll up the geranium and lavender to 15 or 20 drops each. And, next time, I’ll maybe have ⅔ cup each of the mango and shea butters and coconut oil.

Process

Add all plant butters and oils (except essential oils) to your crockpot. Put on low, and let sit until all oils are melted. One blogger noted that letting her oils melt together for 20 minutes refined them enough that the finished product wasn’t grainy. I forgot about my crockpot for a bit, so my oils sat for nearly two hours. Note, many recipes instruct you to use a double boil method. I don’t like it. Something about the steam and hot bowls that turns me off. I found the crockpot method works best for my “fix it and forget it” world.

When the oils are sufficiently melted together, you now need to cool them. After they had been in the ice bath for about 5 minutes, I added my essential oils and I began mixing with my stick blender. I didn’t have enough ice, so while I was using my blender to mix up the oils, I noticed it wasn’t coming together as well as I liked. I refrigerated the mixture for about an hour. Some recipes skip the ice bath and say to refrigerate for 2 hours.

I compared the process to making a meringue or whipped cream. The oils cooling, the mixing to change the texture, it felt the same. So, that’s what I used as my guide to know when I was done. Once the oils were cool enough, whipping them up was quite fast. The yellow color quickly changed to the thick white you see pictured above. I made enough to fill that container plus another.

About the Essential Oils

Clary Sage

The oil of clarity and vision, it gives courage to see the truth, see limiting beliefs, encourages openness to new ideas and perspectives. The body system affected by clary sage is largely the hormonal system, which is why it can help balance hormones and soothe monthly discomfort associated with menstrual cycles. Clary sage also soothes nervous tension and lightens mood. I chose it for this body butter because of it’s calming properties and how it is soothing to the skin.

Geranium

The oil of love and trust. Need I say anymore? It seems so obvious to me that for something I am putting on my body, it should absolutely include proving love, trust, and emotional healing. Geranium can even encourage forgiveness, and it fosters human love and connection. Geranium primarily supports emotional balance and skin. With skin, it promotes clear, healthy skin. It can also helps calm nerves and lessen stress. And, as a bonus, it supports liver health! We like to say, with using essential oils there are side benefits.

Lavender

Lavender is widely known for and used for its calming and relaxing qualities. But, did you know that it’s also the oil of communication? While it can soothe occasional skin irritations, helps skin recover quickly, and even ease muscle tension it can also promote emotional balance. It encourages positive emotions of open communication, being released, expressive with emotional honesty, and being heard.

Cottonwood in the Flood

I had the opportunity to view a special showing of Cottonwood in the Flood, Saturday, June 11 at the International Firehouse Cultural Center (IFCC). Bottom line: two thumbs up, beautiful exploration of history through the lens of one family.

I graduated from Portland State University in 2008 (unbeknownst to me, it started as Vanport College). In my studies, which focused on urban planning, community development, and geography, Vanport was mentioned a few times. It can be summarized thus: ship building, segregation, and a big flood. The conversation was sometimes the start of tracking a history of Portland race relations where, often, poor and black found themselves the object of eminent domain (Memorial Coliseum, Legacy-Emmanuel Hospital, I-5 corridor), and most recently the increase of gentrification in North Portland. What was never clear to me was where Vanport was, who it really affected, and how we could have let something like this happen with the flood.

A friend in housing-social justice recommended I see Cottonwood in the Flood, so when the opportunity presented itself, I had to say yes.

Cottonwood in the Flood, written by local playwright Rich Rubin and directed by local artist Damaris (rhymes with “glamorous”) Webb, was a beautiful collage of local headlines, radio reports, and relevant history, knit together through the story of one family. The companion piece is the exhibit IFCC hosted on their second floor gallery, where you can see maps, local headlines, and other stories about what happened in Vanport.

What happened in Vanport – it has ended with a muddled history and retelling, until now. For example, to give a nod to the suffering, there is a display on one of the transit stops giving space for the history where it happened. It would be like taking all the suffering of Hurricane Katrina and siphoning it to one train stop. A train stop that has a particular audience, is off the beaten bath, and you have to be in the know to know it’s even there.

Thanks to people like Damaris Webb and Rich Rubin, along with the actors in the play and their community partners, we can explore this complex history more fully. Rich Rubin’s play, Cottonwood in the Flood, explores the allure of hope and a better way for a family under the cloud of war. His play explains the changing tensions, the unfairness, the subtle racisms, the overt racisms, the government double speak, while telling it through a family you easily fall in love with. Grandpa, mom, dad, and two brothers, who all they want is a better life where they can achieve their own human potential. It’s their story of how they navigate the social constraints, how it affects their moods, their livelihoods, and how they overcome … or don’t.

I spent four years at Portland State, and I never got a comprehensive story of what Vanport was. Two hours plus a 30 minute discussion, and I finally have a working understanding of the hope, the devastation, and the work we have to do to never forget.

See also…

The Mercury’s review
Vanport Mosaic
Damaris Webb
Rich Rubin

Setting the day up for success

I am not consistent with diffusing in the early hours to set the tone of my house. But, I’d be remiss to leave the house without my trusty oils by my side. Essential oils have the power to support moods, whole body health, and sometimes they just smell good. So, over the last several months, I’ve gotten in the habit of using ClaryCalm (the women’s monthly blend) and Whisper (the women’s blend) with coconut oil as my deodorant. This fragrance, by fair, gets the most comments. A day doesn’t go by when I wear these two oils that someone asks, “What is that smell?” or, “What are you wearing?” It took me a long time to admit that it was me!

Which oil do you sport daily?

From an enneagram 9: I matter

It usually starts like this: I decide I want to do something. Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s reading. Maybe it’s honoring the time I gave to work. Maybe it’s showing up at a meeting and holding back my opinion until I think it’s absolutely relevant. I am waiting, watching the energy in the room, inspiring myself to get the courage to be vulnerable or say what’s on my mind.

I identify as an Enneagram 9. One thing we 9s have a hard time with is owning our feelings and recognizing that we have an opinion that is worth hearing. If, for example, I appear to be lost in thought, as soon as someone asks me what’s on my mind or what my opinion of a thing is that might be happening at that moment, all those thoughts and conclusions I was drawing disappear with the interruption. It takes me, sometimes, a very long time to identify what I was feeling in a moment as I test out feelings, measure against experience, and see if that is right.

Some call Enneagram 9s the Peacemaker. At first, when I read that we 9s like harmony, it didn’t sit well. I resisted that thought. But, as it sat, as I rolled it around in my mind, I acknowledged that it does ring true. I don’t like to make waves. I want to be valued. I want everyone to be valued. And, I want conflict handled elegantly without too many raised emotions. Loud outbursts of anger, for example, make me withdraw. Unless it’s my own!

So, it starts with the formation of an opinion. And it often tracks where maybe I get interrupted. I raise my hand to speak, and someone speaks over me. I set up to write, and someone walks in the room and just starts talking. I voice an opinion in a group and someone contradicts it, in effect telling me that my opinion wasn’t just invalid, but not true.

And, I remain conflicted. I desire harmony. So this other, whomever it might be – a family member, a colleague, a friend, should be valued more than me. “I don’t matter” is the story I have told myself since I was small in the midst of large family gatherings where talking over one another was the norm, and I sat quietly at the table trying to make sense of it all wondering why no one would listen to me.

As an adult, one thing I struggle with is rewriting the story. It’s just a script, I am reminded by coaches and self-help gurus. And, the thing with a script is: it’s just words. You can change the words. Our human world is complex. We are messy. We all have an important point we bring to the table, coupled with a valuable fear that shapes our human existence.

I am writing this, harkening back to a comment a friend made how my blogs are very-diary like. Though that’s not my intent, I can see how it reads that way. Especially with a post like this. I am reluctant to post it. It feels too vulnerable. I can hear people chiding me for feeling this way. I can hear voices saying things like, “suck it up, life ain’t fair,” or similar. But, those voices reinforce the old script, that I don’t matter.

Here’s to a new script. Your voice matters, even if it’s expressing loudly and angrily. Your voice matters if it takes all the courage to speak up and you are still as quiet as a church mouse. MY voice matters because I am the only one that shares this perspective with my experience. I have something to add to the conversation, and some days, my patience wears thin waiting for my turn to speak.

Sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.
Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.

Using Oils Internally

One of my favorite ways for getting the benefits of any oil in me is through internal use. When I started using the oils, I added orange oil to my water. At the time, I was locked into an 8:30 am – 5 pm desk job. I was a main point of contact, so my mobility was limited. Colleagues would often walk to the nearest convenience store, and they would generously ask if they could get me anything. I routinely asked for something sweet, like a brownie.

Now, here’s the thing. We weren’t talking about a quality brownie. There was no richness. There was no delectable quality of cocoa and flours coming together to satisfy an intense chocolate craving. No, we are talking about the most replicable, boxed, processed thing in all its unhealthy glory.

And I would eat one, every single day. Every single day.

Until the oils were introduced. And I noticed my cravings weren’t calling out to me. My water tasted bright and uplifting, and I wasn’t relying on a sub par dessert to get me through my morning.

Here’s another great resource on using the oils internally.

A great summary of the benefits and some uses of Wild Orange.

Renewed Whole 30

Two full Whole 30 plans. The rest of the year was a loose 80/20 following, lowering our grain input, but not saying “no” to prohibited foods like Oreos when cravings arose.

What does this mean? When we focused on eating right, managing stress, and getting that nutrition right, our bodies shifted. We slept better, our hearts got right, our waists got thinner, and doctor visits were radiant.

Separately, during the 80/20 time, we noticed stress rise, then our waists got thicker, and movement got harder. So, another plan was in order. We attempted to do it during Lent, mocking last year identically. But, we didn’t. We enabled each other towards cravings. Until the husband had it with the tightening belt, and we started again on March 27. Frankly, it’s been a hard week. We’re hungry and relearning what we can eat.

The boy had a sleepover, so we cheated (completely against the rules) on Saturday with a compliant meal peppered with a very non-compliant Mimosa.

Today, we’re out of food and pay-day is tomorrow. So, I’m scrounging in the fridge to find enough food to stave off hunger. I purposefully used up our store-bought mayo a few months ago. Our protein source is down to a dozen boiled eggs or canned tuna. What’s a girl to do? No real mayo, no eggs… Google to the rescue and it gave me Jane’s Healthy Kitchen recipe. Having all the ingredients, I had to try it. I desired to make it Whole 30 compliant, so I withheld sweetener, but all I tasted was the apple cider vinegar. So, I added about a tablespoon of local honey to cut the acid.

My nutrition friend Leigh, crediting ATP Science, added, “the ACV will help manage the insulin response… so that’s a good addition. If you added turmeric in, the vegetable oil will convert to DHEA omega 3 like fish oil.” Definitely try for next time!

Which parent will I be?

“I got two A’s,” the small boy cried.
His voice was filled with glee.
His father very bluntly asked,
“Why didn’t you get three?”

“Mom, I’ve got the dishes done,”
The girl called from the door.
Her mother very calmly said,
“Did you sweep the floor?”

“I’ve mowed the grass,” the tall boy said,
“And put the mower away.”
His father asked him, with a shrug,
“Did you clean off the clay?”

The children in the house next door
seem happy and content.
The same thing happened over there,
And this is how it went:

“I got two A’s,”
the small boy cried,
His voice was filled with glee.
His father very proudly said,
“That’s great, I’m glad you belong to me.”

“Mom, I’ve got the dishes done,”
The girl called from the door.
Her mother smiled and softly said,
“Each day I love you more.”

“I’ve mowed the grass,” the tall boy said,
“And put the mower away.”
His father answered with much joy,
“You’ve made my day happy.”

Children deserve a little praise
For tasks they’re asked to do.
If they’re to lead a happy life,
So much depends on you.

~ Author unknown