Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blessings in the Midst of Change

Hello again lovelies! Do you ever find that exponential change in one area of life creates like change in other aspects as well? It seems that's where I'm living lately. In the space of a handful of months, I've lost my mom, my firstborn is leaving the nest and I've become a working girl again. The scope of my job is changing rapidly, keeping pace with all the other aspects. This strange time of life is frightening, unsettling, exhilarating. I keep my eyes wide open for the many blessings bursting forth all around me in the midst of this chaotic growth period. There. I'll let that serve as an explanation/excuse for my meager postings of late.

Some of my beautiful blessings:

 Here are my wonderful kids at the Rose and Crown Pub in Epcot Center a couple of weeks ago. Epcot was on the way to Port Canaveral where we boarded the "Freedom of the Seas" (Royal Caribbean). Because we had such a wonderful cruise aboard the "Serenade of the Seas"with my parents, my brother and his family last summer, we decided to do it again. This time it was just the four of us since, without Mom, Dad is not ready to pay for the double occupancy stateroom for just himself. That's what he says, but I think he is really not yet ready for all the cruising memories. He and my Mom cruised a lot. We are hoping to get Dad back into it again when he is ready. This summer, Dad decided to vacation with my brother's family in Phuket. Dad will stay on in China, where they live, a couple more weeks.

Here's my little rock star in front of about a third of the ship as we were about to board.

The ship is huge. This is a shot of the Promenade, which is really a shopping and restaurant mall in the middle of the vessel.

Like last summer, there were so many bountiful choices for a vegan. I've no idea why I took no photos of the food this year. It was beautiful and delicious. I even had miso soup for breakfast! I usually had a gorgeous salad for lunch, overflowing with beans, seeds or lentils. There were whole grains and curries, vegetables prepared in salads with luscious (non-dairy) sauces or simply sauteed. I enjoyed strawberry kiwi water and mango water with my meals.

The cruise was such a wonderful experience and we met so many interesting people, with whom we are still in touch. We were speaking with one of our favorite bartenders about my parents and showed him their photo from our cruise last year and he remembered them from several years ago when they cruised on the very same ship!

There were many talented performers aboard. A highlight was an amazing ice skating show (yes - there is an ice rink on the boat!) We had a favorite bar for before dinner drinks where we listened to live music and watched people dancing, and making their way to dinner. This was especially nice on the formal nights. There seems to be a little more magic in the air when folks feel they look their best.

Speaking of magic, one of our favorite spots onboard the ship was the outer 4th deck, under the shade of the lifeboats. Lounge chairs were put to good use on this quiet, all-but-deserted, broad deck, overlooking the passage of the deep blue sea. Once, I was all alone down there with the daily sodoku puzzle, and I realized that Mom was doing it with me. I know it sounds crazy, but I actually have no doubt. The process was effortless and I was filled with joy, not grief. After completing the puzzle in a flash, I pulled out the one from the day before, which I had given up on since I had become hopelessly stuck. Sure enough, zip zip zip, Mom made short work of that one as well. Thanks Mom! It is incredible how healing that moment was for me.

More blessings -- a miracle, really. As we approached St Thomas early in the morning, I was lucky enough to wake and step out upon the balcony to see the first few rays of sun.

It rose quickly and dramatically -- what a show, from the comfort of our room!

The whole sunrise took about five minutes, then clouds rolled in, and we witnessed this little rainstorm:

The unobstructed view of life at sea provides such an amazing theater for nature's stunning power. The photos are pretty, but they don't do justice to the majesty of those fleeting moments. The rain was over as quickly as the sunrise.

My favorite island is St. John, I think. We docked at St. Thomas, another beautiful place, but, after a few hours exploring there, we took a ferry to St. John, since we had already experienced St. Thomas last year. The ferry boat ride was an adventure of its own, as we crashed over swells and huge wakes from other vessels -- so much fun! Our time on St. John was limited, but we made the most of it. we asked some locals how to get to some of the more beautiful beaches, and we were directed to a rocky trail up a mountain. The most amazing thing happened. We were all hot, tired, our feet hurt and we had no idea where we were going or how long it would take, but nobody complained. There were silly jokes and surprises along the way. We encountered five deer at different points along the trail, and a couple of large, wild mules  who were quite daunting for a few minutes as we had to decide to pass near them or turn back. We nervously skirted past them as they gave us the evil eye. We saw iridescent pheasants in the underbrush, wild chickens with their babies, many large iguanas and even a mongoose! After an hour of hard work we arrived here, which might just be my favorite place on earth:

Honeymoon Beach, St. John! We quickly shed our shoes and stinky outer clothing, hanging them from the branches of these trees to air out, and then we sank into the deliciously cool, clean water. Ahhh! This beach can only be reached by boat or by hiking. We lingered for an hour, swimming and snorkeling. A stingray harmlessly brushed our feet and fish of all sizes and colors were fearlessly sharing the pristine water with us. Since we were unsure how long it would take to get back, we headed out after we were fully refreshed. There were not many humans here, but we asked the folks we did see about what would happen if we took the trail in the opposite direction from how we had come. We were told we would come upon a resort at Caneel Bay where we could probably catch a taxi to the harbor. So we took it. This last hike was easier, mostly downhill, and took only about 20 minutes. we found the resort, built on the ruins of the stone buildings of a sugar mill, and got our ride back to the boat in the nick of time. We were all so proud of ourselves for stepping outside our comfort zones and reaping the rewards of our efforts.

Blessings -- grateful!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Cuke-less Juice

It's not the prettiest thing you've ever seen, but that's what a carrot will do to juice. Remember the color wheel: green+orange=brown. The flavor and physical effects were lovely, though. Regular AMLV+ readers know by now that for the last few months I've over-shared ad nauseum the grief process after my dear Mom's unexpected passing. It is what it is, and I will either continue to share it or cease writing altogether. You've probably noticed I've resorted to a bit of both. Feel free to either bear with me or tune out. You won't hurt my feelings. The only benefit to having one's heart torn out -- nothing else could ever hurt as much.

The first couple of months I deluded myself into thinking I was supergirl, since I was still upright and seemingly fully functioning, actually working professionally for the first time in 20 years. I had let my enthusiasm for a more macrobiotic approach to food slide, however, sometimes indulging in sugar, alcohol, pastas, breads and processed "vegan junk food". My habit of at least two leafy-greens servings per day, as well as my daily juicing, fell by the wayside.

A couple of weeks ago I began what I'll call "phase two" of the grief -- I've seen a shamanic energy healer, had a psychic angel reading, I've prayed. I've napped, I've cooked whole grains, I've remembered my leafy greens. I've eschewed as much conflict and turbulent energy as I could, whether it be in the media, or in my living environment. I've purposely released the tight hold I've had on my emotions, allowing myself to "break open". Through this process, I have "felt" my mother, and have even smelled her breath -- the gold Listerine she used to gargle. She was the only one I knew who opted for the gold kind over the mint, presumably because it seemed more medicinal. Smelling this unmistakable scent was comforting -- I've missed her so.

After I saw the energy healer, the back pain began in earnest. I have debilitating muscle spasms right at the heart and throat chakras. The primary care doctor has prescribed muscle relaxers, steroids and codeine, each of which provide temporary relief, but add to the overall taxation of my system."Trigger point" injections of traumeel have helped a little, but I understand this pain to be part of the process of tending to what I've been trying to avoid. I'll go back to the energy healer on Tuesday, and hopefully she will be able to help me to begin putting myself back together again.

But, back to the juice -- It's too darn hot to go grocery shopping by the time I'm home from work each day, so the other morning I made juice from what I already had in the fridge. I usually have piles of cucumbers, but I guess I used them in salads, so I made do with a fennel bulb, a head of romaine, a couple of stalks of celery, a carrot (tending those neglected lower chakras!) a knob of ginger and half a lemon. The result -- delicious, calmer digestion, "a peaceful easy feeling" and a rooting to the earth, at least for a little while.

In other news, my garden is finally flourishing after months of neglect. My winter crop of romaine and collards went mostly uneaten by humans as it bolted early in this Georgia heat, and was inedible. I pulled it out late and added it to the composter.

This is the left side of the garden, which I planted before the demise of the winter greens. There are chinese long beans from the dried pods of a few beans from last year, cucumbers, tomatoes and okra. I've not seen Buster yet -- the darling, marauding chipmunk from last season.

On the right side of the garden, where the winter greens were, I've planted the root end of some organic celery I bought at the grocery store (I saw this technique on Pinterest -- eat the top, plant the bottom --  it really works!) some french breakfast radishes and several zucchini seeds. Only two of the zucchini seeds germinated, but that's fine, since these plants require a lot of real estate.

My husband surprised me a couple of years ago by building my little garden while I was away at my girls' weekend. He named it after Grandma Eula's magical creation, featured in "My Vegan Story" -- it was one of the sweetest things he's done for me.

Finally, I will close with this pretty view from my garden to the front yard. As with all beautiful things, sunlight through the trees reminds me of Mom, and I am grateful.