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A New Lesson in Time

I think it’s fitting that my first post back touches on the subject closest to my body, heart, and soul: womanhood.  If you’ve been following me for a while (has it really been 2 years?!) you’ll remember my post about learning to chart my menstrual cycle.  That was probably the most empowering decision I ever made, and it led to a lot of changes in my life.  It not only let me get to know myself, but it gave me the confidence to take charge of my life again, in more than just the physical aspect.  Knowing your body is the first step to loving it; loving your body is the first step to loving yourself; loving yourself is the first step to loving your life and the people in it.  And love is a powerful thing.  It’s all you need, after all.

I’m pleased to say that I’m still charting (though Glyde is still an integral part of my life).  There are so many things about a woman’s body that girls are sadly not taught in school, by their parents, or even by their GYNs.  All knowledge is power, and where better to start exercising that power than within yourself?  Knowing the exact day that I would start my period alleviated all the stress of wondering, of being a day or two late, of not being prepared.  Being able to pinpoint the day that I ovulated was perhaps the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself.  There, on that day, I had the power to create life.  There, on that day, I was a woman, in every sense of the word.  I had the power, I had the ability, I had the choice.  I used to envy men for not having to worry about pregnancy.  That envy disappeared the first time I circled a day on my chart.

Now, it’s time for an update on my journey to full goddess-dom.  Thanks to the fabulous Lauren at Empowered Sustenance, I’ve also incorporated the concept of Lunaception in my contraception plan.  First introduced in the seventies by Louise Lacey, Lunaception is a vastly underrated tool that can help women balance their cycles. Since Lauren does a wonderful job of explaining the idea behind this practice, I’m going to leave it up to her:

“Women’s menstrual cycles are wired to be in sync with the moon. In all early societies, before industrialism and processed foods disrupted traditional cultures, all women ovulated at the full moon and menstruated at the new moon. This is every woman’s intrinsic default setting… this is how we are meant to be. Hormonal disruption, however, causes biological chaos in our menstrual cycle…  Random and uncomfortable periods are the effect of a diet and lifestyle that disconnects us from the rhythm of nature. Modern living means that most women abuse their bodies with various chemicals, antibiotics, prescription medications, The Pill, extreme emotional stress, the stress of over-exercising, refined foods, and more.”

Naoko Takeuchi

Naoko Takeuchi

If anyone else out there grew up wishing she was a Sailor Scout, you’ll understand how exciting the idea of syncing my body to the moon was to me.

 

The idea behind Lunaception is that we can use light to get our bodies back into their lunar rhythm.  If you know anything about our circadian rhythm, you understand that our bodies equate blue light with daytime and red light with night, or firelight.  This is why using computers and TVs at night interrupt our sleep patterns.  Small amounts of blue light can also be used to simulate moonlight, tricking your body into thinking that it’s a full moon.  So, to practice Lunaception, all you have to do is sleep in complete darkness for all but three days a month – the day before, the day of, and the day after the full moon.  On those days, leave a dim light on to simulate moonlight.  I leave a small lamp on just outside the bedroom door so the light isn’t directly shining on me and keeping me awake.  Lauren recommends omitting the three light nights for a month or two to “reset” your body.

"Moon Goddess" by Alexandra Florschutz

“Moon Goddess” by Alexandra Florschutz

I’ll admit, the first month I used the light was awful.  I’m used to sleeping in complete darkness, so my first two “reset” months were a breeze.  But even my dim lamp kept me awake all three nights, and it seemed to take the entire next month to catch up on that sleep.  However, even on that first month of using the light, I noticed a shift in my cycle.  My cycle had always been extremely short – usually 25 days – because of the pill I was on for almost a decade.  But that month, it was 31 days!!  Imagine how terrified I was those extra 6 days!  I’ll admit, I hadn’t been taking my temperature because my work schedule didn’t allow me to wake up at the same time everyday, so I didn’t have the comfort of seeing my temp rise and fall.  Even though it was my first time using the light, my period came the day before the new moon.  The next month was another 31 day cycle, with my period starting the day after the new moon.  And last month, my cycle was actually 28 days, with my period starting the day of the new moon – for the first time ever!  If that doesn’t make you feel like a moon goddess, what will?!

I can’t stress how much charting my cycle has changed my life.  It’s the first thing I’d recommend to any woman who is working on her cycles, whether she’s getting off the pill, trying to get pregnant, or just trying to become more in tune with her primal self.  I also have to stress the importance of being prepared; playing with your fertility cycle is not something to do without an adequate amount of guidance, whether that comes from your holistic doctor, GYN, or someone who is well practiced in the art of charting.  I learned a lot about my physical self through the process, and part of it was that not everyone’s bodies function the same.  Charting is easier for some than others.  For some, like me, waking up at the same time each day to get an accurate temperature is difficult.  Maybe your work schedule fluctuates, or maybe you are working on some sleep issues.  For some women, it’s difficult for you to distinguish between the different kind of cervical fluid your body produces – also like me.  And if you intend to use charting as your only means of contraception, checking your fluid is an integral part of deciding when it’s safe to have sex.  Lunaception will help regulate your cycle, but things like stress or a vacation full of poor food choices can throw your cycle off for a month.  That’s why it’s so important to have a backup plan while you’re still adjusting.  Like Glyde.  Or Sir Richards.  Or Neem, though I’ve yet to find any conclusive evidence for its effectiveness (please share if you have!).  The bottom line is that these are all tools we can use to empower ourselves in our path to natural fertility and/or contraception, but every tool can be misused.

And while I’ve learned on my journey that maybe tiny noses aren’t as scary as I once thought, I’m definitely not ready for one yet!

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Hello Hello!!

I’ve been waiting to say this for such a long time… Welcome back , folks!  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve been here.  Life needed my attention time and time again, but I finally feel like I’m at a place where I can devote time to writing again.  And thank goodness, because there’s so much I want to talk to you all about!  Big changes have been happening everywhere, and my internet browser is brimming with bookmarks of stories and ideas that I want to share with you.  (See, even when I’m gone I’m thinking of this place!)

There isn’t time this morning for a full post, but I just had to say good morning and get my fingers typing again.  I also wanted to share my other project with you: the Seeds of the SS Soul.  My passion is herbs, but I’m growing some veggies for eating and canning, too.  I’ve also started experimenting with sprouts.  So tiny, yet so tasty!  I also got the opportunity to work on a new farm, The Good Farm, and got some herbs from them.  Check ’em out:

Baby Pea Shoots

Baby Pea Shoots

Adult Pea Shoots

Adult Pea Shoots

Watercress

Watercress

Purple Opal, Lime, and Lemon Basil from The Good Farm

Purple Opal, Lime, & Lemon Basil from The Good Farm

Calendula & Spearmint, Oregano, & Cumin from The Good Farm

Calendula from Greenbranch & Spearmint, Oregano, & Cumin from The Good Farm

Chocolate Mint from a fellow gardener in New England

Chocolate Mint from a fellow gardener in New England

Rosemary from The Good Farm

Rosemary from The Good Farm

Oregano Sprouting

Oregano Sprouting

Basil & Cinnamon Basil

Basil & Cinnamon Basil Babies

Mystery Squash, Jalapenos, & Brandywine Tomatoes

Mystery Squash, Jalapenos, & Brandywine Tomatoes

Black Trifele Tomatoes & Hybrid Snack Peppers

Black Trifele Tomatoes & Hybrid Snack Peppers

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Sunday Special: The Pizza From a Galaxy Far, Far Away

May the Fourth be with you.  And the Force, too.

For those of you unacquainted with the nerd calendar, yesterday was Star Wars day, my favorite holiday of the year.  To celebrate, we watched all 6 movies (minus most of II, because the only part that counts is the final battle scene) and ate some fabulous Star Wars food.  I made a Yoda pizza and light & dark side lightsaber cookies – and they were all Kaleo!  The cookie recipe was not my favorite, though they looked cute when finished.  The pizza, on the other hand, was most definitely out of this world.  And not just because it was Yoda-shaped.

I got this recipe from Paleo Diet [Evolved], and the recipe has evolved as well.  In order to make a green Yoda head, the pizza had to become more of a loaded bread.  It still has all the ingredients of a white pizza, however, so pizza it shall be called.  Either way, this recipe is definitely a new staple in my house!

CIMG3424The Pizza From a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Ingredients:
– 2 cups almond flour
– 1 tsp garlic
– 1/2 tsp sea salt
– spices to taste
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp spirulina powder (optional, for coloring)
– 2 eggs
– 1 tbsp oil (I used avocado, to stick with the green theme)
– 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
– 1 cup shredded greens
– 1/2 cup scallions
– 2 mushrooms for eyes
– a few greens stems for a mouth

Directions:
– Preheat oven to 350*.
– Chop scallions.  De-stem, wash, and shred greens.  I used kale and spinach, but anything green will do.  Save a few stems to make his mouth.  You can also chop extra mushrooms to put in the pizza if you prefer.  Or anything, really.
– Whisk together all dry ingredients in one bowl and everything else in another.  Mix together to form a dough ball.  Place ball on oiled pizza pan or preheated pizza stone and flatten into a crust shaped like the beloved Jedi master’s head.  Or his whole body, if you’re an overachiever.
– Bake for half an hour for a half inch thick dough or until cheese starts to brown.
-Eat, watch Star Wars, and wash down with some blue milk.

May the Force be with you, and be prepared for the Revenge of the Fifth!

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Happy Spring, Folks!

Hello and welcome to my new and improved blog, the SS Soul!  Thanks to everyone who followed me at Ginny, and my deepest apologies for my long absence.  (Has it really been a year?!)  I never meant for this transition to turn into such a large project, or for it to take so long.  I had some other things going on in my life as well… like getting married!  But while there is still some spring cleaning to do around here, I’m back and will be sending some green goodness your way soon.

In the meantime, I’m sure you could all use a healthy dose of spring after our Bitterest Winter.  Though there’s still some cold weather ahead, things are starting to grow in the greenhouse at Greenbranch Organic Farm where I work.  Seeing these little guys makes even the chilliest mornings a little warmer.

Swiss Chard, Red Russian Kale, Lettuce, and Beet Seedlings

Swiss Chard, Red Russian Kale, Lettuce, and Beet Seedlings

All of my greenhouse memories are filled with music, so I’ll share my favorite springtime song too.  It’s called “The Garden Song,” and my favorite version is by John Denver.

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin’ down

Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones
Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand

Rainful rain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother Earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care

Old crow watchin’ hungrily
From his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I’m as free
As that feathered thief up there

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground

An inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumblin’ down

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And Men Have Lost Their Reason

Yesterday, March 26, while I was happily biking to my local farmers’ market to buy dinner ingredients from local organic vendors, Obama signed into law bill H.R. 933, which contained the rider known as the Monsanto Protection Act.  This bill gives Monsanto and other biotech companies complete immunity to any safety act in place on either the federal or state level.  It grants the Department of Agriculture the ability to veto any judicial ruling that halts the planting or sale of GM seeds due to safety concerns, effectively overturning the principles of judicial review and check and balances.   Hoping to avoid the furor it knew would arise, Big Ag quietly attached the rider to a budget legislation meant to prevent a government shutdown when the previous budget expired.  Faced with the coming budget crisis, the legislation was certain to pass, along with any riders attached, and Monsanto took advantage of that fact.  Despite a petition circulated by Food Democracy Now that garnered over 200,000 signatures, Obama failed to veto the rider when he signed bill H.R. 933 into law.  Obama, who promised during his first campaign to label GMOs, whose wife is a health food activist, who eats from his very own organic garden on the White House grounds, has given Monsanto dominion over his countrymen and their food.

The news is even worse for Marylanders.  The rider was introduced anonymously while the bill was under review by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by our own Senator, Democrat Barbara Mikulski.  Instead of forwarding the rider to the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees, whose branches are directly affected by its contents, Mikulski allowed it to slip through without even reviewing its language or provisions.  It’s easy to criticize the president, so far away behind his white walls and bodyguards.  Betrayal from your home state is harder to ignore, and wounds much more deeply.

What does this mean for us, the people?  It means that the purses of biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont are more important to our government than our safety.  It means that not only are we denied the right to know what’s in our food, we are denied the assurance of that said food is safe to eat.  It means that eating organic is more important now than ever.  Most importantly, it means it’s time to get angry, get active, and get LABELED.

Food Democracy Now has started another petition expressing their outrage at Obama’s betrayal and demanding that he protect his constituents by labeling GMOs.  While I’ve lost any trust in our government that remained in my being, I can’t give up hope yet.  This country was built on the will of the common people; if one revolution can start a country, surely another can save it.  If not, well, I hear the waves are great in Australia – and so are the labeling laws.  Maybe I’ll learn to surf.

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Blame it on the Groundhog

It seems that mother nature has forgotten about the east coast in her yearly springtime fashion show.  Instead of flowers, we get snow.  Instead of bright mornings with birds singing, we get snow.  Instead of colorful skirts and light jackets, we get… snow.  Sigh.  Shiver.

For those of you who suffer from asthma, you probably dread cold weather as much as I do.  And with the bizarre, frigid weather we’ve been having lately, your snow days probably haven’t been anymore fun than mine.  Cold weather, as well as allergens like pet dander, dust, pollen, and harsh chemicals, can trigger an asthma attack that can leave you breathless in seconds.  I’ve had several pretty terrible ones in the past few days, and while I told you in an earlier post that my Earth Solutions aromatherapy inhaler works well for small issues, it was simply no match for the kind of problems I’ve been facing.

Then, lo and behold, Natural News came to my rescue.  I found an article on their site this morning about 10 superfoods that help keep asthma symptoms at bay.  These shouldn’t be used in place of a rescue inhaler, but eaten daily, then can help reduce your risk of having an attack.

Natural News’ List of Breath-Friendly Foods:


images1) Avocado. The fruit with the highest known concentration of L-glutathione; avocado is an excellent anti-asthma food that helps protect cells against free radical damage and detoxify the body of pollutants and other harmful substances. Widely recognized as the “master” antioxidant, enabling all other antioxidants to function, the L-glutathione in avocados helps quells inflammation systemically and repair damaged gut health, a process that in turn helps prevent triggers of asthma from engaging.

kale-bunch-lg2) Kale. An excellent source of all-natural vitamin C; kale possesses a unique ability to block the free radicals responsible for causing contractions of smooth muscles in airway passages. Kale is also a great source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant phytochemical capable of both alleviating existing asthma symptoms and preventing future ones from forming.  [Really, though, who needs yet another excuse to eat kale?  It’s so delish!]

images23) Spinach. A study involving 68,535 female participants found that high intake of spinach is directly correlated with a lowered risk of asthma. This may be due to the fact that spinach is high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is prevalent among people with asthma, and emergency intravenous (IV) treatments with magnesium have been shown to help halt an asthma attack. Spinach is also high in potassium, a deficiency of which is also said to exacerbate asthma symptoms.

images34) Banana. A banana a day could keep asthma away, according to a 2011 study out of the U.K. Researchers from Imperial College London found that children who eat just one banana a day reduce their risk of developing asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing by about 34 percent. Bananas are also naturally high in fiber, which can help prevent respiratory conditions like asthma from developing.

images45) Water. For many of the people diagnosed with asthma, dehydration is the true cause of their asthma symptoms. In fact, according to water expert Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, the set of symptoms commonly labeled as asthma is actually just the body crying out for more water. So unless you have aquagenic urticaria, also known as water allergy, it is definitely worth your while to drink more clean, fluoride-free water every day to avoid developing asthma symptoms.

images56) Ginger. Loaded with anti-inflammatory nutrients that pervade the entire body; ginger root is another powerful anti-asthma herb that some people say works better than antihistamine drugs like Benadryl at clearing up airways and stopping inflammation. And the best part about ginger root is that it does not cause harmful side effects, which means you can safely add it to everyday foods and beverages for good health.

images67) Turmeric. The inflammation responsible for swelling the lungs and constricting breathing passages during an asthma attack is no match for turmeric, the active ingredient of which is proving to be one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory nutrients in existence. Because it helps dilate blood vessels and relax muscles, turmeric is a powerful weapon in keeping asthma symptoms at bay.

images78) Elderberry. One of the richest plant-based sources of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant compound, elderberry is an incredible immune-boosting fruit that helps fight colds, flu, and respiratory illnesses like asthma. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), quercetin is particularly effective at blocking the release of histamines and other allergic and inflammatory chemicals in the body, including those associated with asthma.

images89) Apple. Similarly high in quercetin; apples have been shown to provide powerful protection against asthma. A study out of Europe found that pregnant women who ate at least four apples per week were 53 percent less likely to bear a child with doctor-confirmed asthma. And the same study that linked banana consumption to lowered asthma symptoms also found that children who drink apple juice are about 50 percent less likely to develop asthma symptoms.

images010) Chia seed. A powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and quercetin, chia seeds are another excellent addition to your anti-asthma diet. The omega-3s in chia seeds are known to help decrease inflammation in both children and adults, as well as restore natural balance to the lipid walls of cell membranes. A study involving the long-term use of omega-3 supplements in asthmatics has also confirmed that the nutrient can lead to a significant reduction is asthma symptoms, particularly in those suffering from allergy-related asthma.

I use most of these ingredients daily in my juicer, and my asthma most definitely has less of a choke hold on my life than it did before I discovered fresh veggies.  But as I’ve recently found out, there are still times when I need my inhaler.  If, like me, you threw yours out in your quest to rid yourself of pharmaceuticals, severe attacks can be pretty scary.  I’ve learned two tricks that can help: coffee and magnesium.  During the worst of my recent attacks, I frantically scoured the interwebs for any home remedies that sounded promising.  All the sites I visited agreed on one thing, and that was caffeine.  Countless asthma sufferers touted the benefits of a strong cup of coffee during the attack, as the caffeine helps relax the inflamed muscled in your airway.  (Sounds counter-intuitive, no?)  So there I sat, gulping down air and extra dark java, and within minutes I noticed the vice on my chest starting to loosen its grip.  I haven’t tried the magnesium trick yet, though I have Natural Calm mag powder and Ancient Minerals mag gel on hand for the next time the cold gets its icy claws onto my lungs.

Maybe Mother Nature needs some caffeine.  Or maybe we need to teach this groundhog a lesson, because his penchant for extending winter is not cool.  Watch out, Puxatony Phil.  We’re onto you.

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Spring Has Sprung a Leak

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Truffula trees in spring – Dr. Seuss Wiki

Happy spring folks!  This is one of my favorite days of the year, and today couldn’t be more beautiful.  The sun is shining and warm, there’s a vase of fresh-picked daffodils on my windowsill, and baby veggies are sprouting in the greenhouse at Greenbranch.  I’m celebrating the day by watching The Lorax and reinforcing my belief that everything you need to know about life can be learned from a Dr. Seuss book.

While spring brings sunshine and flowers, summer has the potential to bring some serious environmental troubles.  Congress faces a host of crucial decisions, as do many individual states.  GMO labeling is a hot topic in several states, fracking is spreading its poisonous gases (the Maryland Senate just dropped a bill that would ban fracking in MD – sign the petition to revive it!!), and the Monsanto Protection Act could ruin our crops and our health if passed.  But today, I want to focus on a topic I haven’t touched yet: the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.  Fancy name for a tube of toxic sludge, no?

In The Lorax, the Onceler chops down all the trees to further his own business plans, polluting the land, water, and air.  Old and sorrwful, the Onceler tells a boy of his mistakes and his hopes for a brighter, greener future.  “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not,” he says.  I think every politician could learn something from the Onceler.  And it’s a lesson that needs to be learned soon, before the pipeline brings Canada’s toxic tar sands to the US.

Let’s start with the basics.  The TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline is a 1,200 mile oil pipeline that will bring tar sands from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast for refining.  TransCanada, the company in charge of the project, promises that it will bring thousands of jobs and help free America from its foreign oil chains.

Nebraska portion of the pipeline - ResourcefulEarth.org

Nebraska portion of the pipeline – ResourcefulEarth.org

Now, let’s get to the facts.  Namely, the things TransCanada doesn’t want you to know.  Yes, it will create badly needed jobs.  But once the pipeline is completed, most of those construction jobs will vanish.  Yes, the US will get some of the oil produced by the refineries.  But the majority of the refineries TransCanada plans to sell to are in Foreign Trade Zones, where the oil can be exported without being taxed by the US.  And the oil that we do get is the dirtiest, costliest fuel on the planet.  “Producing synthetic crude oil from tar sands generates three times the global warming pollution of conventional crude production. Extracting tar sands bitumen – a low-grade, high-sulfur crude oil that must be extensively refined to be turned into fuel – uses vast amounts of energy and water,” says the National Resources Defense Council.  Extraction of tar sands releases high levels of heavy metals and toxins into the environment, including mercury, arsenic, and lead – all known carcinogens.  Countless citizens of both Canada and the US have come together to protest the use of tar sands on the Sierra Club’s website.  And while TransCanada has thrown out numerous environmentally-friendly promises, the oil industry has made it clear that the environment is last on their list of concerns.  We’ve seen enough oil spills in the recent past to know that no oil container is foolproof.

The money-grabbing schemers in Congress are so impatient for the promised fortunes to start rolling in that they’ve introduced bills into both the House and the Senate to approve construction of the pipeline before the State Department finishes its environmental evaluation later in the summer.  Congress is expected to vote on the bill in May, taking the reigns from Obama and forcing the issue to be resolved months before all the necessary information has been collected.  In other words, screw the people and the land, we want the money.

I am the Lorax!! - Dr. Seuss Wiki

I am the Lorax!! – Dr. Seuss Wiki

I wonder what the Lorax would have to say to our Congressmen.

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I’m asking you sir, at the top of my lungs – that thing! That horrible thing that I see! What’s that thing you’ve made out of my truffula tree?”  The Keystone XL pipeline!!

Since the Lorax can’t actually speak out again the pipeline, it’s up to us to do so.  Several online petitions have been started to stop the pipeline, so take a minute and sign one – or all of them!