Do you have a life experience that you consider your wakeup call?
A few days into January 2014, I got the real flu, and rode out a week of
fever, split lips, aches, chills, a sore mouth and throat, and
the inability to concentrate on or do anything.
I hallucinated for a week.
I deeply understand how people die from influenza.
And I came out the other side of the flu with a new set of priorities.
I wanted to simplify my life.
I wanted manmade chemicals out of my body and home.
I wanted to stop worrying about taking “The Pill” at 10pm on the dot every night.
I wanted to plan out and cook cheap, healthy meals.
I wanted to pay off my student loans.
And these new desires evolved into new habits that radically changed my chemistry, my energy, and my life.
Getting the flu was my wakeup call.
What is yours?
Today I posted two new interviews for the Keeping Things Alive podcast, and both of them have to do with healthcare options outside of the U.S. healthcare system. I am fortunate to have health insurance through my job, but I also use acupuncture and herbal medicine to maintain my health and bolster my wellbeing. When healthcare is expensive and unreliable, I find it empowering to have affordable and effective options to turn to in my community.
During the interview, I mention that I attempted to paint what I see during acupuncture treatments. Here is the painting I am referring to in case you are curious:
My second new episode is with Sarah Sorci, community herbalist and owner of Sweet Flag Herbs. Sarah is a good friend of mine and I have learned so much from her about how to use edible and medicinal plants that grow in Western New York to support my health and wellbeing.
At around the 47:00 mark of the episode, we discuss various edible and medicinal plants that Sarah found that day in my backyard in Buffalo, New York. Here are pictures of the plants that she is talking about:
Self-heal or Heal-all. Here is the baby self-heal plant that Sarah found, without its flowers yet:
This is the fourth year that I’ve had a square-foot garden. It’s a four-foot-by-six-foot raised bed vegetable and herb garden that provides me with fresh food from May through November. The great part about square-foot gardening is that you can grown a lot of food in a concentrated area, so there is less weeding, less watering, and more production. I also happen to think that it looks beautiful.
My mom occasionally reminds me that as a child being forced to weed her garden, I swore that when I grew up, I would “never own a single plant.” I’ve changed 🙂
A number of the herbs that I planted last year (regular chive, garlic chive, oregano, sage, thyme, parsley, and lemon balm) survived the winter and are currently producing. It’s incredible how much these plants keep giving, without requiring much attention on my part. Free delicious food!
There is empty space in my garden to plant new sources of food for this year, and I have to decide what I want. The problem is that I’m currently in a boot and not very mobile. In light of my physical limitations, I’ve decided to go with greens. They require a bit less water (than say tomatoes) and I had a lot of luck with them last year. So about two weeks ago, my mom and I planted tiny seeds of lettuce, spinach, and an “Asian greens mix.” Unfortunately I don’t remember where I planted what (pro tip: draw a map or add labels as you plant seeds), so it’s going to be a surprise!
Today I went grocery shopping, and I have a lot of thoughts about this activity, so it seems like a good place to start writing. I’ll be writing about food a lot because it’s a big part of my life – I’ve learned from good and bad experiences that what I eat has an effect on my entire life.
I’ve been going grocery shopping on my own for over ten years, but it’s only been over the past year or two that I’ve been implementing a strategy. This strategy has helped me buy only what I need (way less wasted food) and buy ingredients that I later combine and cook into a meal, as opposed to buying ready-made and/or processed foods.
So here are my grocery shopping steps:
Before I leave the house, I find a small piece of paper. On the top half of the paper, I write out the next five or so days of the week and what I plan on eating for dinner on those days.
On the bottom half of the paper on the left side, I write out all of the ingredients from the produce department that are needed to make the above dinners. I also add bananas and maybe another fruit or two for breakfast and snacks.
On the bottom half of the paper on the right side, I write out all of the ingredients from the rest of the store (non-produce) that are needed to make the above dinners. I also add in cereal, almond milk, eggs, cheese, bread, chocolate, coffee, crackers, and any household items I need.
When I’m at the store, I keep the pen and list in my hand as I hunt down the items on my list and cross off each item as I put them in my cart. I get all of the produce items from the left side of my list first, and then I go around the rest of the store and grab the items listed on the right side.
I tend to cook similar things over and over again (soup, vegetable fried rice, lasagna), and once I learn the layout of the grocery store really well, I know where all the ingredients are and the trip goes by quickly. I also make large meals for dinner so I can eat them as leftovers for lunch, and I have no problem eating the same thing multiple days in a row. For breakfast, it’s almost always Ezekiel 4:9 cereal with a sliced banana, and a fried egg with salsa on the side.
One more thought: the incredibly huge grocery stores I’ve grown up with have conditioned me to expect access to countless varieties of fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or climate. Today I was looking for organic carrots, and received a reminder that the produce I buy really does depend on real-world weather conditions:
This is an example of severe weather affecting food production on a large scale. Although severe weather has been happening throughout world history, one of the effects of climate change is more frequent severe weather events. As time marches on, consumers are going to see these types of food production disruptions on a more frequent basis. Being flexible, adaptable, and more self-sufficient is important in this time of increasingly frequent and disruptive change.