Adventures in Time

Tulip Time
Tulips on a snowy day

Remember to breathe Every good movement instructor has encouraged students in the studio with this phrase. When exerting yourself with physical effort it is potentially dangerous not to breathe, raising your blood pressure and straining your muscles. It seems obvious to just breathe, except we all need the reminder because sometimes we don’t breathe, and not only when exercising.

How many ways are there to describe it? Hold your breath, gasp for breath, forget to breathe, have the breath knocked out of you, takes my breath away

With phrases like these we suspend our action, hold still, wait for the next thing to happen. We are overcome with emotion in shock, fear, surprise, or grief, in pain, or deep in intense concentration.

In times of unpredictability we each need to raise our awareness to the breath, to assert our autonomy and breathe, rather than be held in a collective gasp, a population holding its breath.

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Tell me all about it

Reflect on your own resilience Breathing is your most basic point of control. Not being able to catch your breath is life threatening and breathing shallowly in your upper chest raises your anxiety. Deepening the breath draws you into yourself, settles your emotions, allows you to gather your strength. Use the moment of deep breath to feel your feet on the ground and pause before you act. It’s helpful to recall experiences of dealing with difficult situations in the past and how we got ourselves beyond them. Take the time to consider the lessons learned and how they might be applied in new situations.

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, there is no way to stop unanticipated and unwelcome news from arriving. I was recently reminded of this with an unexpected medical diagnosis. In my response I traveled down familiar side paths of reaction and arrived at the same place of transition I was headed to all along. I like to think I got there faster from experience. Time, we all want to believe, is under our control.

This month I have two books for your consideration:

The Child in Time Ian McEwan He is the master- I’m a fan. It’s very interesting to read this work from an earlier point in his career (1987). There are signature elements familiar to his readers and what have become cornerstones in contemporary fiction – the layered complexity of the narrative, the metaphysical exploration, and the sheer, breathtaking depiction of unspeakable loss. He toys with time and place with expertise and plumbs emotional depths we feel along with his characters. The Thatcher era political comments are quite timely for today. The tragedy and terror of child abduction strikes at every reader’s heart- and remains a danger. If you read this be sure to also view The High Street Abduction a recent video from BBC News. An adaptation of The Child in Time will air on BBC and PBS starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk Portia Nelson  This 35th anniversary edition contains her classic Autobiography in Five Short Chapters. The poem is an iconic statement on awakening to yourself, applicable at any age and repeatedly at every stage of life. The genius of her presentation is in a form so universally accessible to understanding it deserves your time.

Fresh Fig
Proof of Spring- Fig tree

Happy Daylight Savings Time!

 

P.S. Many Thanks to Ms Lizzie Cat for her Cattitude

All photos Claire Mauro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Cup of Tea

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Balance, energy, positivity- who doesn’t want that? This month take the time to connect to what you know to be your core strengths. Instead of the tired clichés how about some old fashioned FUNdamentals?

Simple luxuries on a snowy day have the added charm of being crafted creatively. Never mind that our heart’s desire is available by virtual reality, this is about hands-on simple pleasures. Savor the warmth in your hands circling a steaming cup of tea, float a slice of orange on the surface and inhale the citrusy goodness. Hover over the toaster waiting for the last slice of cinnamon raisin toast – that satisfying pop! when it’s done is music to the ears.

Your senses are free, my friend, make use of them! Whatever your winter landscape, snow and ice or sun and sand, suspend your caretaking of your future self, the dictates of the metaphorical rainy day, and be here now

How do we know anyway, that the person we will be when that rainy day comes will need what we have so carefully put by?

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Reading together — my Aunt Rae and Me

My love of books today came from the simple pleasure of childhood. The walk to library, one hand on the carriage as mom pushed my sleeping sister along the sidewalk, was a treat to be celebrated with a bit of skipping. I can see in my mind’s eye the child-sized chairs with the woven seats, carefully placed beside the shelf of picture books under the eaves of the old library. I loved nothing more than to sit as close as possible, examining the book covers for clues to the riches inside. Being read to and later reading myself, was a joy discovered early.

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While the holiday stack is long depleted the thirst for more is never slaked. New titles crowd my inbox and my personal room of requirement overflows.

We have what we need if we only know what that is. In my case it is Ali Smith’s public library and other stories  the always inventive, unexpected and thrilling nature of her characterizations reveals us to ourselves.

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Smith has taken the occasion of the advent of the all-volunteer library to enthrall me once again. Her sheer genius of burrowing into a character and drawing us into their world in the most spare and artful ways is always satisfying. She serves up a dozen stories and the offerings are interwoven with notable quotes on the value and expansiveness of a public space so rich in opportunity for all ages, the reminder makes one swoon, then rush off to borrow some books!

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In the aftermath of the latest snowfall- oh what a glorious silence! The tree branches are frozen, their icy crustings barely quivering with the undercurrent of wind. Holding still is the way to perceive the movement around me. A single leaf dances erratically while all its companions appear to stand rigid. The more still I am the more tiny movement I see until whole limbs and slender trunks are swaying in the woods before me.

Gather the stillness, wrap it like a cloak and take it with you through your day.

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Happy Valentine’s Day to All!

For more of my book reviews, check out goodreads.com

As usual All photos Claire Mauro

 

Happy New Year Redux

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Whew, what a strange trip of a January, unfolding into a non stop season of no snow, wildly shifting temperatures and lots of riled up interactions. It’s time for another new year- this weekend I’m happy to welcome the Year of the Fire Rooster.

In a month usually reserved for quiet, restorative practices I’ve been expending energy in every direction. Even a surfeit of well-intentioned activities, an abundance of good things, can add up to too much. I had to back off and re-calibrate when an old injury had a major flare up, sidelining me. The body holds a wisdom our minds may be too preoccupied to acknowledge.

Lighter nourishment fits the bill when pain slows us down. And an inspiring book or two will help to maintain a positive outlook. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

SOUP
Here are three of my favorites on our table this month. The glory of root vegetables from my favorite farm markets provided flavorful comfort when I needed it most.
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French Lentil Soup
A puree of green lentils, carrots and simple seasonings yields a satisfying lunch or dinner. Leftovers simmered down make a tasty side dish at the next night’s meal. I love the chameleon aspect of the smaller green lentils, which turn brown when cooked. You can find the recipe on Epicurious.

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Golden Borscht
Using a classic recipe like this one I’ve had for many years, I switched up the usual red beets for more delicate golden ones and used kale in place of cabbage and simmered it with shin bones for added flavor. You can leave out the meat if you prefer.

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Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup
Boston’s NPR and Globe correspondent Kathy Gunst is a welcome voice in my kitchen. I tried her recipe this month using roasted winter vegetable soup and the flavors are sublime.

READ
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Put Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime on your reading list. Stories of childhood tinged with adult perspective are capturing my interest right now and Noah manages the ultimate sleight of hand. His humorous, enlightening, poignant and wise memoir reveals a repressive system of government and a social order imposed by a ruling minority, as seen through the eyes of a child. If you want to be reminded of the resilience of the human spirit and the power of art, not to mention the enduring bond between mother and son, look no further.

Happy New Year!
Claire
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Photos, Claire Mauro

Winds of Change

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A Big Thank You to all who read along with The Parsley Way. The winds of change are blowing and even we are affected. With Chris stepping away for a while Claire will be re-evaluating the site, its aims and the content.

Creativity, Kindness and Nurturing continue to be the foundation on which our wellness practices are built. I hope we’ve illustrated some pleasing ways to bring them into your life. Maybe you’ve experimented and found a new and satisfying practice. Maybe you’ve re-discovered or re-invigorated a long-standing interest. It’s OK to take time at the beginning of the year to be discerning. Notice where you are directing your attention. Ask: what actually calls to me, enlivens my day, lifts up my perspective?

Use all your senses to get the most pleasure from your day. Take comfort in the familiar tasks and delight in the unexpected. Yes, delight — the unexpected may introduce friction into your well-ordered existence but it also opens an opportunity. Embrace it! And breathe deep.

2017, Happy New Year!

Gift Guide – A Heartwarming Tale

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Gift Guides are a popular way to streamline your holiday shopping at this time of year. So here at the Parsley Way I wanted to share one of the ways our family combined wellness and gifts this year.

Pet adoption is an anytime option, particularly if you are flexible with your choices. As a cat lover I love all kitties, baby animals being universally adorable. Selecting one for your family is another matter. So many questions come to mind and should. If you are an experienced cat owner then you may have concerns based on past experience, such as disposition, health and behavior patterns. Or you may be concerned as new pet owner about the myriad responsibilities and whether you are up to the task. You’re right to be concerned! Pets should never be treated as disposable gift items.

Our family raised Tangerine, our orange persian x tabby from a kitten. We even met his mother and siblings! And he lived 20 years, a much-cherished companion to our son and a comfort to all of us. The thought of “replacing” Tangerine was not automatic; our grief was as strong as our pet love.

Tangerine at 20
Tangerine at 20

When I started to consider a cat again, as it often turns out by the law of attraction, feral cats appeared in our yard in late summer. Mama and babies stayed for several days and just as I was contemplating taking in the entire family, mama cat moved them on. I took this as further proof I should consider adoption. Did you know? –You can visit shelters and rescue sites online to see what pets are available. Local veterinarians can guide you too. For a short time we had a nearby Cat Café, but alas, they closed before I could meet my pet match!
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After several missed opportunities, during the past month I knew I had to move forward no matter what. I contacted a network of cat rescuers and sure enough within days I had a list of current pets seeking new homes. Calamity befalls perfectly nice pets and they face homeless shelters and potentially the remainder of their lives in cages. This was the case with our Miss Lizzie. When I heard her story—living alone in an empty home after the death of her elderly owner and the adoption of her feline companion, well, I took one look at her photo and was smitten. The rescue worker quickly followed up on my interest by providing a video and then a meeting was arranged. The rescue worker assured us there was no obligation; I should base my decision on a feeling of connection with the cat. It was so sad to see this lovely, friendly cat in an abandoned home. She had a neighborly caretaker to be sure, but no family routine. It’s a match!
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A month later we are happily growing used to one another, finding delight in our daily life together. We were provided with a health record and a regular check in with the rescue worker to monitor our adjustment to each other. I’m pleased to say Ms Lizzie performed all her necessary cat business the first evening, eating a meal, using her litter box and finding a comfy bed on a familiar pillow on a window seat. Since the first days we’ve introduced age appropriate food, presented her with cat toy options and lavished her with as much attention as she is willing to accept. She’s a curious, well-mannered and altogether independent Miss who will seek out her own activities or consent to play with us. And WE are pretty well trained already too. She will drink from a water bowl but prefers a running stream. The first time she jumped into the shower was quite a surprise! Now she will wait for one of us by the bathroom door and we will open a tap to run a trickle for her. I think she must have a bit of fisher cat in her Tabby bloodline!

The Nimbus 2000 of cat toys
The Nimbus 2000 of cat toys

We’ve hit the jackpot with Ms Lizzie for sure! We’re grounded in our daily life by the loving caregiving and pet companionship, a mutual relationship! Her soothing purr is beneficial for our health; keeping her well feed and cared for is good for hers. Her constant inspection of our home is a mouse deterrent and good feng shui, too. She moves the stagnant chi with her attention to the nooks and crannies of our home, delighting us with her independent spirit, love of play and expert attention to repose. Our new addition to the family proves to “tend and befriend” is a good antidote to what ails you. May you be well this season!

Mizz Lizzie Among the Pines
Mizz Lizzie Among the Pines

Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

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A Holiday Treat! Welcome our guest to The Parsley Way, health coach Donna Morin of Better Off Well, answering a question often asked at this time of year.
How do I stay healthy through the holiday season?
It’s a question that makes me chuckle because I know I am not the guru who has figured out how to say no to the pumpkin pie or the home-baked bread or the mashed potatoes with savory mushroom gravy or the….well, you get the point. I love to eat and I love good food.
But while I salivate over candied walnuts with the rest of you, I have made a number of strategies part of my lifestyle habits so that holidays don’t destroy the health I’ve built up over the years. It’s too important for me not to.
The best advice I can share is to start by listening to your body. It has an intelligence all its own and if you listen very carefully, you might find you learn a lot.
How can you do this?

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Ask the BIG question.
WHY do you want to make good choices over the holidays? Why it that important to you? Do you have children you want to be a good role model for? Who you want to stay active with? Do you feel better when you eat certain foods versus others? Are there things on your bucket list you want to do that require you to have energy? Have you been living in pain and you don’t want to any longer?
Asking yourself these questions brings you to a place of awareness. When we bring awareness to our choices, particularly AS we are making them, we give ourselves space to make the ones that serve us best. And here’s an important piece…if the reason for wanting to make good choices through the holidays is all about your weight- that number on the scale- good luck with that. Until we dig deeper to find out why it’s important to feel good, the number on the scale will rule our lives and distract us from making sustainable change.

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Take a deep breath…actually take many.

Too often in our lives we run on fumes. We plan for tomorrow before today has even begun. We live in yesterday while worrying about a fictional reality of the future that we have played out in our heads.
It’s enough to make anyone want to jump into the red velvet cheesecake and never come out again.
While stress has its advantages and keeps us focused when we need to be, chronic stress does a number on our bodies. It messes with the hormones that help us to sleep, that tell us when we are full, and that make us feel good about ourselves, just as we are.
During the hustle and bustle of this season, take a few minutes- even three makes a difference- every day to just stop. Breathe. Deeply. Buddha belly on the inhale; pull in your belly on the exhale. Detach your shoulders from your ears.

Be here. Right now.
This may not be the standard holiday advice you were looking for, the kind that tells you to use smaller plates when you eat, to avoid socializing in the kitchen, and to use an app to count your calories. Sure, those things can help, along with exercise, hydration, and getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night, but it’s when we begin to go to deeper places of mindfulness and presence that we understand ourselves better. We love ourselves better.
I started to give myself a little love 10 years ago, and it has made all the difference. Through consistent mindfulness practices, I have gotten to know my body much better. In fact, we’re pretty tight now. There are certain foods that make me feel great, and ones that make me feel like I went on a bender. There is a life force in whole foods that keeps me going unlike any processed food ever could.
My body is great about telling me when it’s not happy, and I am doing a much better job listening. For me, that’s the best gift I can give myself this holiday season.

Donna Morin is a certified health coach, writer, founder of Better Off Well Coaching & Consulting Services, and Board President for the Savvy Women’s Alliance. Find more tips and recipes through http://www.betteroffwell.com

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Photos Claire Mauro