SSR BYE: Hello energy 

Energy, it’s been awhile. I’d toootally forgotten what you look like.

I’ve finally adjusted to Wellbutrin after an initial 14 days of extreme ups and downs.

The vain me is relieved that a non-weight gaining stimulant appears to jive with my brain chemistry.

I’m way less hungry, which is different, because one of my nicknames is Snacks.

I usually gain five pounds after even looking at a damn piece of chocolate cake. Thus, I’ve been a serial MyFitnessPal user for years. I quit during my mini-meltdown /med transition phase these last few weeks. Now I’m back at it and get this – making sure I eat enough. WHO AM I?

I weaned totally off of the 25 mg of Zoloft I’d been taking to kill the Wellbutrin edge. The obnoxious SSRI withdrawl brain zaps are much less extreme and infrequent, almost gone. I’m not taking BuSpar, the anti -nxiety drug my doctor gave me, either, because the tight feeling I had in my chest disappeared. Since I have a new friend called energy, I began my exercise regimen this week after almost a month of not doing jack squat. I even, like, baked. I baked muffins for my kids. Then I baked a frittata. WHO AM I?

It’s alarming how good I feel. Not manic or invincible. Not robotic or snappish. I am calm and yet still able to feel a range of feels without any one getting out of hand. Yes, I felt annoyed at my children for moving like slugs when we were already late for school this morning. I deposited them, hussled a scoop, pulled an assist and scribbled a ‘splainer online on account of a disaster that is pulling resources from this region of the land and thus increasing the workload of those who write about what’s going on. And I felt glad to do it, because it’s nice to be even a little useful in the middle of a national disaster.  I felt gratitude that a friend gave Laila school dresses and that we got to chat for a few moments after school. I felt sad a few moments ago when I did a little meditative breathing exercise with Eli, who told me it feels bad for him to breathe. We kept breathing. He held my hand here in the dark. And he drifted off to sleep.  I felt so happy that I am his mommy, and with Mark and a very capable team of doctors who care for him, we will together get to the bottom of what hurts his lungs, and help him feel better. It is an honor, little one, to care for you.

And after I plunk these words out on my mobile whilst lying in the dark next to Eli, I’ll have to go pack some lunches, and de-gross the kitchen. A few weeks I’d have given up and gone to sleep, because a few weeks ago I was so tired I could hardly function. By evening? Fughettaboutit. Done. My body sent me some alarming signals and I finally listened. I decided to start tending to my mind in the way I tend to the needs of others. I don’t feel crushed by life today. Tired? Check. But I am also invigorated by the prospect of tomorrow.


Good night.

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Easy Sunday soup: Minnesota Heartland 11-bean soup

Heya!

A few weeks back I declared a renewed focus on soup, which can be gussied up, slimmed down or fattened with ease. Bonus: It is budget-friendly.

And as the New Year turned, I began to think about what I’d like to do more of here, and less of here. Food is, obviously, key to survival, and my kid needs extra calories and nutritional attention due to his medical issues. I’m trying to slim it on down, and Mark and Laila are the pickiest eaters on the planet. I find no joy in baking. I am interested in upping my cooking game as in the right frame of mind I find it – dare I say – like a form of free therapy! Yet we are so pressed for time it’s not even funny haha.

Where does that leave me?

There are so many bloggers who do food waaaaay better than me. Pioneer Woman, anyone? The niche I can carve out is for the set of moms and dads and busy people who need to get dinner on the table like an Indy 500 team needs to get a race car tire changed.

My goal is to get a weekend post up on some big batch we’re cooking up, and then sprinkle in super-easy recipes and occasional reviews of products that help real working people with kids get real food on the table real fast. Farm to table? HAHAHAHAH. Try box or bag to table, revamped leftovers and other hacks.

I always write here under severe time limitations, so let’s call this an experiment and see how it goes! I hope I can keep it up!

Enough blathering. Here’s my first foray!

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset
Minnesota Heartland Eleven Bean Soup Mix, pictured with avocado, spicy sauce, lime, salt and cilantro to jazz it up.

Minnesota Heartland Eleven Bean Soup mix.

Found:

At Braum’s, an Oklahoma chain I love. Also, online at frontiersoups.com and on amazon.com.

Cost:

Roughly $6 from Braum’s will get you 10-12 servings, not including the meat add-ins. It’s on sale at frontiersoups.com for the same price, but on amazon.com, the price varied widely, so be choosey!

Perks:

GMO-free ingredients, low-sodium, gluten free if you’re into that, no preservatives or MSG, easy to make.

Our legume pals are a protein-rich, full of iron, complex carbs and fiber and other nutrients. Beans are basically a budget-friendly superfood!

Beans are a good way to set your plate right as Dietary Guidelines for Americans note that nutrients found in beans are are among those most of us don’t get enough of.

Cons:

Long cooking time, I didn’t add enough salt (easy to fix that, though).

The instructions are easy enough, but plan to be around your stove for a good 5-hour stretch to knock this puppy out.

Directions:

Key equipment

I dusted off my big red soup pot from Target. Love my big red soup pot.

target-stock-pot

 

Improvisations:

Right. Didn’t have a ham hock! Didn’t have a kielbasa. Didn’t have the celery or green pepper! Didn’t feel like going to the store! I did have bacon and frozen chicken, the onion, garlic and canned, diced (and organic!) tomatoes in my pantry.  I cooked the bacon while thawing the chicken in the micro. I had about 3/4 of a package on hand and cooked it all half, though  I would use only half for the soup. I reserved the fat.

I set the bacon aside and browned the chicken, about three breasts, in the bacon fat.

Why did I do that? I’ve heard browning meat before you throw it into a soup or crock pot will encourage flavors to come out and party.

Ooooh, also, I poured all that reserved bacon fat along with the chicken into the soup, eventually. Fat is flavor’s friend, that’s why! Fat keeps you full. Fat is not the enemy! (Grew up in the low-fat 90s, trying to reverse my mentality!)

The directions are above, I’m just noting my improvisations.

Note: Am prone to improvise while cooking, sometimes to disastrous results! YAY.

Note: Exhausted while cooking this, as it was actually on a Monday, not a Sunday, a week back! Better to do this sort of project on a Sunday if you can swing it. Due to said exhaustion, I threw the chicken into the pot, without cutting it up, at hour 4, rather than waiting until the last half hour. I told my husband to pretty please turn off the oven and put it in a giant container in the fridge because I really needed to go to bed. He did. And that’s what I call romance.

Results:

After my, shall we say, ample suite of improvisations, I lived in fear that I had made a vat of flavorless bean primordial ooze.

Imagine my surprise when I lifted that first bite to my mouth and the soup was excellent! Full of flavor! Just the right amount of tomato tangy and smoky. Hoo-ra.

Not perfect, though. It needed more salt.

The chicken was tough. I plucked the breasts out of the soup and diced ’em up into little pieces to fix this hitch. I expected to be able to shred the chicken with a fork. I’m not sure where I went wrong here. Anyone?

I punched up subsequent bowls of my bean soup with avocado, lime juice, salt, cilantro that is somehow still alive in my garden after two ice storms and a snow storm and Louisiana hot sauce. YUM.

Family reviews:

Laila loved the soup! By that I mean, she loved it the first time, then refused to eat it!

Eli refused to eat it because he is a threenager.

Mark refused to eat it because he eats like a pregnant woman.

WTF?!

I ate a lot of bean soup this week. I loved my bean soup. What is wrong with my family members? Don’t answer that.

Leftover strategy:

The recipe left me with a vat of soup and only one person actually diving into it. ME. Hmmm.

I used one larger tupperware to store five cups of my glorious-yet-underappreciated soup. I next used a strip of Duct tape (it’s the best!) and a sharpie to label it. I had three one-cup servings I froze in smaller containers, labeling those also, that I’ll be able to grab for lunch.

Will I make it again?

Because this mixed bean soup got such mixed reviews, I’m going to hold off on making it again soon, but don’t let my weirdly picky eaters discourage you from giving it a try. Mark’s not a fan of beans. Eli is a threenager. Laila – she’s an unpredictable little soul prone to love something one day and despise it the next.

Would it have yielded better results had I followed the directions like an obedient cook? Hmmmmmmm.

The question is – will you give this soup a try?

xo,

j
minnesota-heartland-soup

Will a half hour a day take the holiday fluff away?

I kept my goal for the Healthy 65 wellness challenge vague.

“Strength.”

When in doubt – be vague.

But what does this goal even mean, strength?

Staring down 2016 I feel more confused than ever about my fitness goals.

Over the weekend, I took this confusion to Google. Google took me to YouTube, where I found just what I needed:

Continue reading Will a half hour a day take the holiday fluff away?

Journey to the heart of the red earth

Hey ya’ll!

Happy New Year!


I like to contemplate what I’m doing here on the world wide webs, especially when a year turns over, new leaf style.

What do I want to do more of? Why did the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” pop into my head as I wrote that? What do I want to give up? Along those lines, I’m going to *try* to write or share an adventure piece every Tuesday.

That’s because, if I’m not traveling, I’m fantasizing about traveling, reminiscing about traveling or planning to travel.

#traveltuesday, ya dig?

But as it’s after 9 p.m., and I’m just sitting down, we’re going to re-visit an adventure I had on the job as a plains journo.

A newcomer in a strange land and a lonesome soul, I had a lot of time to wonder about stuff after my family moved to Oklahoma from the Midwest in ’12.

Maybe too much time.

I up and decided one day to figure out why the Oklahoma dirt is red. But beyond that, I wanted to know if there is some deeper, symbolic meaning to it all. Yes, the dirt fascinated me. I am fascinated by dirt.

Anyway, before I digress, here is the piece I wrote about my journey to the heart of dirt. Red dirt!

***

 

Driving deep into the central Oklahoma countryside with veteran Oklahoman photographer Steve Sisney, I looked out the windows at the landscape: an amalgamation of sky, field and cattle. Twisted dead trees, the wreckage of a home and the rusting shell of a car flashed by, remnants of a tornado that had raked Grady County several months earlier.

All of it sat atop a striking element: the red Oklahoma earth.

“Wow, look at that,” I said.

“What?” Sisney replied.

“The dirt. It’s so red. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Uh huh,” a far-less soil-enchanted Sisney said.

“It’s dirt.”


It was early January 2012 and my second day in the state. We were on our way to the trailer home of Sarah McKinley, who just days before, while surviving on top of that red soil, had shot and killed a knife-wielding intruder as her 3-month-old son lay crying in a back room.

Since that dramatic introduction, Oklahoma has become my home.

My family moved here from the Rust Belt in search of a more stable future. We joined thousands coming to Oklahoma; in 2013 alone, 109,255 people moved here from other states.

Subtle regional differences across the U.S. fascinate me, and as a relative newbie just three years in, I’ve got my eyes wide open.

To get behind our state’s quirks and characteristics, I’ve proposed this occasional series, dubbed “Oklahoma Observed,” an open-ended foray into unique Oklahoma topics.

If you have a suggestion for the series, I’m collecting ideas. Please send an email, leave a comment or write a note to the paper. You don’t have to have come from out of state to make suggestions; anyone can join in and help me to explain a piece of Oklahoma that would fascinate, surprise or enlighten us.

The soil of central Oklahoma, that red earth, is our first piece in this series.

I know I’m not the only new arrival to be hypnotized by red dirt. Scanning the Oklahoma History Center archives, I came across a mid-1980s oral history project interview with a woman named Edna May Armold, whose grandfather, in 1893, rushed “into the Cherokee strip,” the largest in a series of 1890s Oklahoma “land runs.” Armold recalled her own family’s arrival in the state from Minnesota in 1914.

“The soil in Minnesota is black, and was red in Oklahoma, and the whole family was fascinated by the red dirt,” she recalled.

So, it’s not just me. Thanks for the proof, Edna. Moving on.

Deeper meaning

I first consulted a state soil brochure — yes, we have one of those — for answers.

The bright red soil characteristic of Oklahoma has a name: Port. First recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1942, the “Port series” of soil is the state’s most common and can be found in 33 of 77 counties, covering about 1 million acres in central and western Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. In 1987, Oklahoma lawmakers named port silt loam the state soil.

Port draws its name from the small community of Port in Washita County in western Oklahoma.

Port soil in Oklahoma can range from dark brown to dark reddish brown.

According to Brian J. Carter, a professor of soil science at Oklahoma State University, iron oxide gives the soil its color, the result of the weathering of reddish sandstones, siltstones and shales of the Permian Geologic Era nearly 300 million years ago.

From a scientific standpoint, I got it. But there had to be a deeper meaning.

I next called the Red Earth Museum in Oklahoma City. The nonprofit that runs the museum also puts on the Red Earth Festival, an annual event designed to celebrate diverse native cultures in Oklahoma.

The staff suggested I call Gordon Yellowman, a chief, educator and peacemaker with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, one of 39 federally recognized tribes with headquarters in the state.

Yellowman shows each year at the Red Earth Festival as an accomplished ledger artist. Plains Indians developed the transitional genre in the 1860s after being forced onto reservations and losing access to traditional materials like animal hides. Instead, scenes of daily life, of bravery, of military intervention, were scrawled, initially, on accountants’ ledger paper.

I wondered what Yellowman, an American Indian, artist and a thinker, would have to say about red earth.

I drove west of Oklahoma City to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal headquarters about six miles north of El Reno to find out.

Yellowman works in one of a handful of green and tan one-story buildings clustered together on the 10,000-acre expanse of tribal land, where wagon ruts are still visible from the post Civil War-era cattle drives from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail.

There, Gordon shared the story of how the Cheyenne arrived in Oklahoma — of a violent clash of cultures spurred by Westward expansion.

Ever-encroaching European settlement in the 19th century prompted the federal government to forcibly relocate American Indian tribes to Oklahoma in a series of bloody encounters and death marches. Textbooks call it “Indian Removal.” American Indians today call it genocide.

On Nov. 29, 1864, Col. John Chivington’s Colorado volunteers massacred a peaceful band of Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek, Colo., killing 148, more than half women and children.

What became known as the Sand Creek Massacre prompted some of Yellowman’s ancestors to flee to Indian Territory in what is today Roger Mills County, OK, according to historians. There they sought protection.


They didn’t find it. Only four years after Sand Creek, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer attacked a sleeping encampment of Cheyenne along the Washita River, killing 103, mostly women and children, as well as Chief Black Kettle, considered a peacemaker, according to historic accounts.

Today, the battleground is a National Historic Site within the U.S. Forest Service’s Black Kettle National Grassland near Cheyenne, about 140 miles west of Oklahoma City.

We left the office to explore Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal land in a pickup.

What looked like giant craters that exposed expanses of bright red soil were actually buffalo wallows, carved by untold thousands of buffalo that rolled in mud and dust years ago, Yellowman said. The red earth carries special meaning for the Cheyenne and Arapaho and other American Indian cultures here, Yellowman said.

“That pigment is a reflection of who we are, a representation of who we are as native people,” he explained.

“It’s our blood. The red earth takes care of us and protects our identity as native people, but it also secures and reminds us of our wound, where we come from. And we were made from earth, and we shall return to earth.”

Today, 168 head of buffalo and a sizable colony of prairie dogs populate the land. The tribe rents its buffalo herd to filmmakers and is exploring selling meat to retailers like Whole Foods.

It’s part of the continuing adaptation of American Indians to the Oklahoma earth, Yellowman said.

“We were forcibly removed here from our original homelands,” he continued. “No matter where we were, we always adapted with those harsh conditions. We lived in harmony with the environment. One of the very first things we learned to adapt to was the lands.”

 

 

 

 

 

Problems, problems, how you gonna solve ’em?

Sometimes you just gotta write through the fog of despair to find clarity.

That’s what I did Saturday, starting at 5:30 a.m., before my kids were up, so I could let go of a crummy week and have a fun Halloween with the family.

I discovered that when you put it out there, solutions float your way. Some come in the form of an epiphany. Some come from the wisdom of pals who know what’s what.

Problem 1: My son decided he doesn’t want to do any physio for cystic fibrosis, and instead prefers flipping chairs, thrashin’ sis and popping mom in the nose in protest

Solution: Epiphany= visit Amazon.com and order youth punching bag w/ 2-day shipping (we can’t take it any more)

This punching bag as as substitute for the rest of us.
This punching bag as as substitute for the rest of us.

Problem 2: Getting Eli’s treatments in before and after work and an extra session for crud cough battle

Solution 2: Friend idea=Let someone else do it!

After I lamented all my woeful woes, a CF mom (Hi, Becky!) texted me. Our kids go to the same day care, which caters to children with special needs. Crazy thing about CF – our children can’t get within six feet of each other due to infection concerns. They aren’t in the same class and don’t threaten to infect others – but CFers lungs like certain types of bacteria and can spread that bacteria to each other. This day care is so on it they basically follow our children around with Lysol any time the other is in a common space. Anyhow, other CF mom e-mailed me to remind me that our day care handles this type of special need – like vest sessions and breathing treatments.

This solution was so right there and so right on and we’d tried it once before, then gave up. Why? Mark brought Eli’s vest to school once and Eli stared at it in silence as tears streamed down his face. Pops never had the heart to haul the equipment to school after that. I guess we were both resigned to being the party responsible for pissing off our toddler with his treatments.

Becky reminded me that the school is there to help, as a partner for parents who need partners in care. YES.

Eli needs three sessions on a shaking vest a day to shake up his lungs so he can circulate and/ or cough out the thick sticky mucus his body makes. He needs good sleep because he’s a growing boy whose body is always fighting invisible battles. And we need to get out the door on time and sans exploding heads.

So off to daycare pops and the vest go again! It packs up in a bag the size of an XL carry-on, but it has rollers.

This was all a good reminder: We can’t get through this crazy game called life alone.

We need punching bags, friends and a helping hand!

xo

Let’s start a revolution. The ‘won’t do’ list.

Now and again I get the type of break elusive to most parents: a momcation.

We took the kids to visit family and go to a friend’s wedding in Chicago last week. I went, too, but Mark’s got a lot more time off. I flew home. Husband and kids stayed.

I’ve been flying solo for days.

Ahead of my ‘time off,’ which is going to last a solid week, friends and fam alike asked me what I would do with all that time.

“I think I’ll finally organize the garage sale,” I said.

I started making a to-do list in my head.

I boarded the plane. I ordered wine. Had an epiphany.New idea: I won’t do anything with my time off that I don’t want to do.  I got home, alone and free. I ripped up the mental ‘to-do.’

What did I do next?

Continue reading Let’s start a revolution. The ‘won’t do’ list.

The struggle is real. Get a grip.

I’ve haven’t been up for writing about our efforts to save in the face of chronic disease lately.

Why?

Get a grip
Get a grip

Continue reading The struggle is real. Get a grip.

Friend to the rescue, cheers to that

“I’m in deep shit.”

So went the classy text I sent my friend, Khina.

Continue reading Friend to the rescue, cheers to that

The best thing I did all week was not flip out at my kid #healthy65

My family’s morning usually begins at 6 a.m., when my daughter’s feet pitter pat down the hallway, she creaks open my bedroom door and announces,

“Mommeee. I have to go pee peeeeeee.”

Recently my daughter, Laila, 4, woke up at 3 a.m. screaming instead.

Continue reading The best thing I did all week was not flip out at my kid #healthy65

Mark Twitter wars with Pioneer Woman, news crew visits house, mommy wears election headphones, newspaper hats: The week in review

What an odd week.

Continue reading Mark Twitter wars with Pioneer Woman, news crew visits house, mommy wears election headphones, newspaper hats: The week in review