Posted in pets

Furtastic Fridays

Photo credit: Jamie Wiedow

Meet Dozey! This pretty girl has unlimited energy and loves food.

She likes to play, take walks, go in the water and for a ride in the truck. She also enjoys hanging out with her owners and chasing her sister, Dozer.

From her dad, Jamie Wiedow, myself, and of course, Dozey, have a furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your special pet featured in a future Furtastic Fridays post, please contact me.

Posted in food

Better than Bushra’s Chickpea Salad

From Book 4: Swiss Cheese & Sibling Rivalry

First, a quick explanation for anyone not yet familiar with my cozy mystery series. While it’s not a recipe book, each book does have about 8-10 recipes. Most (though not all) involve either cheese, salami or bread, keeping in mind the Whine & Cheese bistro theme.

Click here to order the book!

http://www.open-bks.com/library/moderns/swiss-cheese-and-sibling-rivalry/about-book.html

For a quick little back-story on how the recipe came about, scroll on down to the bottom. Otherwise, let’s get to it!

For our first official summer weekend, this is a great accompaniment to any BBQ. It pretty much goes with everything.

You will need:

  • 1 large can chickpeas, drain and rinse well
  • 1/4 cup good quality, light-tasting olive oil
  • 4 tablespoon lemon juice (the juice from those plastic lemons works fine)
  • 1/2 of a large, firm tomato or 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 green onion (white and green parts), diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro (a must- don’t skip this ingredient and it must be fresh, not dried)
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin (also a must)
  • a few shakes of dried dill weed (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsly
  • 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh chives
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chunks of feta cheese (optional)

Next:

Combine all ingredients, mix and enjoy. Keeps well in the fridge for a few days, if you don’t eat it before then. To take it over the top, if you are familiar with a good quality feta cheese, it’ll make the salad to die for.

Note: if you are adding cheese to this dish, it should be eaten the same day.Don’t be afraid to experiment. I often put a diced radish in this salad too.

Backstory:

Here’s a story about a girl named Bushra. She was 16 at the time that I wrote this, and made the best damn chickpea salad that she sold at her Syrian food stall at the local farmers market. Well, second best. Smirk.

I didn’t want to ask her for the recipe: a magician never reveals their tricks, right? So, I set out to re-create it myself. I have a pretty good palate and can pick out a lot of flavours. That, combined with some internet searches for somewhat similar recipes, gave me a good base to start with.

I like to take what appeals to me from each recipe, combine it all together, and add my own “bit of this and a bit of that.”

The end product (in my totally un-biased opinion, of course), was simply Wow. Now you be the judge! Let me know if you’v e tried it and added anything different so that I can try it, too! This time, I added in some celery and green peppers and probably put double the cilantro. Yum.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Friday

Photo credit: Jenn Van Dusen

Let’s wish Bobby-Ryan happy birthday! He turns five on June 22nd.

He’s adopted from the Humane Society. Bobby-Ryan loves to bird watch, suntan, roll around on the deck and get belly rubs. Sounds like my soulmate!

He’s chatty in the mornings and loves baked goods- especially fruit explosion and carrot muffins.

From his parents, Jenn and Jamie Van Dusen, myself and of course, Bobby-Ryan, have a furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Friday post, please contact me.

Posted in yoga and meditation

Do Nothing

Overlooking part of the orchard

“Even when we are doing nothing, we are doing something.”

-New Skills Academy

Think about it. How often do you actually sit and do nothing? I mean absolutely nothing, other than the necessities of life that your autonomic nervous system takes care of for you?

Although our various gizmos and gadgets are supposed to make our lives easier, we’ve become slaves to them. Who’s guilty of checking their various social media accounts as soon as they wake up?

Sigh. I know I am, and I hate gadgets! Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and place for all of them, but when it replaces time spent with friends or the family members you live with, that’s where the problems start.

But, this post isn’t about the whole “unplug” movement. I mean, it can be, if that’s what you take away from it, and it is a step in the right direction.

I’m talking about after you’ve put all your devices away. And, ehem, I’m sure I’m not the first person to note that the word “vice” is embedded there in “device”, right?

Back to my point; you’ve put everything away, and perhaps you’re sitting outside one beautiful morning, listening to the birds, having your morning coffee or tea or warm water with lemon or whatever strikes your fancy. I’m not here to judge. Drink your green goo, if that’s what makes you happy. Because, really, this post is about finding happiness.

Our favourite apple tree, Bob Gnarly

Let’s return to our peaceful outdoor setting. Is your mind quiet? Is it at peace? Or, instead of enjoying that beautiful moment, are you mentally conducting your to-do list, planning your day to the last detail, or reliving old hurts, arguments, issues?

So, really, you’re not doing nothing, are you?

I’ve been meditating for just over two years now, in various ways. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, but I do know that who I am today, I owe largely to meditation.

Lately, I’ve been out of whack. I could feel myself spiralling, feeling frazzled, coming unglued. Full moon? That could have something to do with it. But I know myself enough to know that something was going on but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Getting back to our gadgets for just a minute…there I was, on my gadget, scrolling for some meditation music. Sometimes, I like music, sometimes I like nothing. There’s no right and wrong, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

But what was wrong was that I then started scrolling through my social media feed. On my yoga mat. Bam.

This wasn’t me- not the me I wanted to be, or thought I was! Ironically, what made me become aware was a social media ad for an online mindfulness meditation course.

I read the course outline and it was then that I realized that at some point over the last couple of weeks, I’d stopped doing nothing, and was multi-tasking even during those rare few minutes when I attempted to do nothing.

And I felt it.

Of course I signed up for the course. I read the first module at 11:30 that night, in the dark (on my gadget). There was something magical about reading it in the dark, as it truly eliminated all other distractions and I could focus fully. All that existed in that space were the words that I was reading. Words that reminded me to do nothing, to notice my thoughts, then let them go, not to attach myself to them.

This isn’t anything new; I knew this already. My yoga teacher often says those very words at the studio that I attend. The first time he did, during my second time there, I bawled my way through class, and many times thereafter along my healing journey. Luckily, there are numerous boxes of tissue scattered strategically around the studio.

No, it wasn’t anything new. I had simply forgotten. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything that we sometimes forget how essential self-care is. Self-care for your mind.

Do yourself a favour; if nothing else, set aside one day this week where you will try to spend just ten minutes doing nothing. Nothing. Hear the sounds around you, smell the smells, exhale it all out, let it go, and do nothing.

A whole lot of nothing.

Namaste, sat nam, cheers, my friends.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Fridays

Photo credit: Kelly Benish

This is Anya. She’s two years old and her breed is…muppet?

Anya loves to watch squirrels and attack unwary toys and dandelions. She has a gentle soul and is a truly a lovable, well behaved ball of fur.

Her favourite saying? “Where ya going, Mom?”

From her parent, Kelly Benish, myself, and of course, Anya, have a Furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Friday post, please contact me.

Posted in health

Your Voice: EDS & Hyper-mobility. Grace’s story

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

A lot of people haven’t heard of the term Hyper-mobility, or the conditions related to it. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome & Joint Hyper-mobility Syndrome are among these conditions.

EDS is a connective tissue disorder, where the body has faulty collagen. This means that the joints don’t have the necessary connective tissue around them, allowing for easy dislocations and subluxations along with a giant list of symptoms that you’ll find below. 

Now, before I bombard you with information about Hyper-mobility, I’ll provide a brief back story on how I got diagnosed with Hyper-mobility Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and what led me to the diagnosis just a few months ago.

I was 18 at the time, completing my yoga teacher training certification. The training was done in spurts of twenty hours every second weekend, for four consecutive months.

I would need the entire following week to rest and recover since I was in the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. I was the youngest person in my teachers class; why did I feel as if my body was being ripped in half, while others twice or even three times my age only had mild discomfort?

“Why did I feel as if my body was being ripped in half…”

I took muscle relaxants, assuming that I was just pushing myself too hard. Co-incidentally, I finally had an appointment to see a neurologist for the chronic migraines I’d had since the age of twelve.

When he asked me what I did, I was so happy to tell him that I was a freshly graduated yoga teacher that I think I almost screamed it!

At that moment, I noticed that something in his face changed; it’s like a lightbulb turned on in his head. He asked me if I was double jointed and again I excitedly replied yes. He performed a series of tests, pulled my skin to see how stretchy it was (yes, seems weird but I’ll explain after) and there we had it, my hEDS diagnosis. 

So what is Hyper-mobility?

Being flexible is awesome, right? I thought so too, until I realized this was literally breaking me. I am not saying that flexibility is bad for everyone, just if you are hyper-mobile.

Photo credit: Stuart Miles

Let me clarify that yoga didn’t actually “break” me. This condition is genetic and was in no way caused by yoga. Yoga was just what led me to realize something in my body wasn’t right.

Those of us with hyper-mobile joints will have joints that extend beyond the normal range of motion for that joint. For those of us specifically with hEDS, this is because we have faulty collagen, which is one of our connective tissues.

Someone without hyper-mobility has joints that act like rubber bands, which can stretch to a certain limit and then retract back to their normal state. If you are hyper-mobile, have JHS or EDS, then your joints are more like string and just kind of do whatever they want. This is also why my skin is so stretchy.

I am one of the lucky ones who don’t experience multiple joint dislocations in a day. I do, however, frequently sublux (partially dislocate) my neck and shoulders at least 50 times in a day.

“I am one of the lucky ones who don’t experience multiple joint dislocations in a day.”

A lot of people with EDS and JHS go their entire lives without being diagnosed. My condition has such a long list of symptoms and complications that all my doctor could instruct me to do was research this condition to the best of my ability.

For so many years, I went to my family doctor with random complaints and health concerns that either went away in time or were dismissed as IBS and hormonal changes.

This is the case for so many who struggle with EDS and JHS; they simply have so many symptoms that seem like they couldn’t possibly relate to each other.

In my opinion, this isn’t a rare disorder because not many people have it- it is a rare disorder because it just isn’t known about or diagnosed. I was extremely lucky to have a specialist so knowledgeable in EDS. He assured me that there were many like me in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, who also struggle with this condition. 

I will list the possible symptoms and side effects of JHS and EDS. I’d like to note, however, that if you decide to research more, there are 13 types of EDS, one of them being the hyper-mobility type, which I have. Hyper-mobility does come with almost all 13 forms of EDS though, as they all relate to the faulty connective tissue, collagen. 

By sharing my story, I hope to bring awareness to this condition, and hopefully help someone who thinks they may be in a similar situation.

JHS and EDS symptoms: 

  • Joint Hyper-mobility
  • Joint pain and stiffness 
  • Dizziness, or increased heart rate when standing (Diagnosed as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) 
  • Loose or unstable joints that dislocate easily
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse
  • Recurrent strains and sprains, these also feel more intense for those of us suffering from hyper-mobility (I only ever had 1 dislocation in my life, but strains and sprains were and are a daily thing) 
  • Redundant skin folds on the eyes
  • Bladder control issues
  • Fainting or feeling the need to faint, this can sometimes look like a seizure 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Dental issues are more common
  • Random spells of flu – like symptoms 
  • Headaches/Migraines 
  • Constant muscle spasms 
  • Brain fog 
  • Hormonal imbalances, heavy and painful menstrual periods (for women) 
  • Locking or clicking joints 
  • Extreme Fatigue 
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Hernias and organ prolapse 
  • Poor coordination 
  • Scratches that can easily tear skin or leave friction burns 
  • Lack of muscle tone, because we are using our flexibility rather than strength 
  • “Flat feet” 
  • Risk of pregnancy complications
  • Jaw pain
  • Stretchy, loose, velvety skin. (I describe mine as baby skin) 
  • Skin that bruises easily (I cannot count how many times I had bruises & hickey looking marks that were not caused by any type of injury.) 
  • Digestive issues such as heartburn or constipation. 

Somehow, I feel that I still haven’t fully explained EDS or JHS to you, but I don’t think I ever could. I am still learning about this condition myself. It is so complex, and I think that is why it’s so under- diagnosed.

If you think you, a friend, or family member is hyper-mobile, then do some research on it and talk to your doctor. Below are some links to the diagnostic criteria for Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome as well as the Beighton Test, which is used by doctors to determine hyper-mobility.

Although this condition is rare and will never go away, I don’t stop moving and neither should you. I am continuing to learn safe and healthy ways to move, pain free.

I still practice yoga, just in a much safer way for my body than I had previously been doing. My mantra is “Less is more. I will get stronger everyday.” I encourage anyone suffering from EDS or chronic pain to remember this, and use this mantra in your daily life. 

Namaste & Sat Nam my friends, 

Grace

Photo credit: Matthew Henry

https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/assessing-joint-hypermobility/

https://www.ehlers-danlos.com/heds-diagnostic-checklist/

A big thank you to Grace for writing, and sharing, her story with us today. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Judy via the contact page or feel free to share in the comments section.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Fridays

Photo credit Anna Racicot Katz

Meet Gracie, the tri-paw!

Gracie is 4 years old and was rescued from a dog hoarder, where she had been left in a cage for one year.

Four months after she became Anna’s pet, it was determined that one of her legs was severely fractured. Gracie never complained; she lost her leg, but not her spirit.

Gracie is truly a gift and is the love of Anna’s life.

From myself, Anna and Gracie, have a furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Fridays post, please contact me.

Posted in Empath

A day in the life of an Empath

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

Are you unable to watch or listen to the news? Watch certain movies? Feel overwhelmed around some (most) people? Pick up on bad vibes right away? Feel drained, tense or even nauseous after being around people? Do you need a lot of “alone time” to recharge?

I first came across the word Empath about a year ago in my Pinterest feed. I clicked on it, rather annoyed, because I thought it was a typo. “They spelt the damn word incorrectly,” I thought to myself. “It should be empathy.”

Then, mind blown. Post after post, there were tests that you could take to see if you’re an Empath. It was an actual “thing”. And I very quickly determined I was this thing.

Out of  a list of 31 traits, I had 28. Suddenly, so many things in my life made sense. 

What is an Empath? It’s not a disorder, though it can be crippling if we’re not careful. For one, we tend to be highly sensitive and/or intuitive. It is someone who has an extreme amount of empathy. We can literally feel what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. For me, it can be very uncomfortable.

It’s usually categorized into 6 main types, though I’ve seen it broken down into as many as 15. I’ll quickly go over just a few. If any of this strikes a chord with you, I invite you to do your own research and start your own journey.

The most common type is the emotional empath, who easily picks up on other people’s emotions.  This is what I am.

Next, we have the geomantic. These people are attuned to the physical landscape, will be drawn to nature and need to spend a great deal of time in it.  I think a part of me leans in this direction as well, as long as I have all the comforts of a real bed and heat or air-conditioning close-by.

Photo credit: Jack Moreh

A physical or medical empath will pick up on what ails another person. Understandably, these people often become healers, either in conventional medicine or alternative therapies.

Plant empaths will sense what plants need and have a gift of caring for them. Some even receive guidance from trees or plants. While I think this is cool, I know it would freak me out, so I’m thankful this doesn’t happen to me! Yes, I talk to my plants, but I don’t want them talking back to me.

Not surprisingly, and I’m sure many have already heard of this since “animal whisperers” are quite common now, there are animal empaths. Animals and small children tend to be drawn to them and they may be able to communicate telepathically with animals.

Other common types are telepaths, who can read minds, and mediums, who can see, hear or even feel the spirits of dead people.  Did you think it was all fake? It can be. But there’s definitely some legit ones out there. One is a dear friend of mine- I’ve seen her in action. Again, mind blown.

Here’s some fun traits about being an emotional empath: we can “feel” other people’s emotions- I mean, actually feel it.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell if my feelings are my own or if I’ve soaked up someone else’s. I can also tell if someone is lying. I’ve only been wrong once, to my knowledge.

As I’ve gotten older, and especially since learning this about myself, I’ve learnt how to cope. The first way is to avoid people who have a tendency to be negative.  It’s not that I don’t want to be helpful- oh no, because, of course, being an empath, I want to help everyone and everything, and then add in being a yogi on top of that, it can be overwhelming.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be helpful….”

No, it’s about protecting myself from energy vampires– people that are drawn to me because I calm them, yet they will suck the life-force out of me. This is not a healthy exchange.

I’ve also come to accept that no matter how hard I try to help, there’s no getting through to some people.  Such exchanges leave me feeling frustrated, drained and agitated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a great listener. I am logical and give great advice, but when the negativity continues, it eventually beats me down. Since I have cancer, I cannot and will not allow this to happen; I must surround myself with positivity.

Empaths generally flourish in a peaceful, calm, quiet setting.  I, personally, seldom watch the news, horror movies, deeply sad or disturbing movies because it can affect me negatively for hours.  Even watching an embarrassing scene on a show or movie will leave me feeling uncomfortable and fidgety.

I’m not a fan of crowds and I prefer small gatherings with friends or family. In larger settings, I actually have trouble focusing on any one conversation and eventually give up altogether. I am often hyper after such events, then later come crashing down as the energy wears off.

Now, to be clear, this post isn’t aimed at anyone in my current life and it’s not that I don’t want to be around others. I have a wonderful circle of friends whose camaraderie I treasure and enjoy immensely, but in order for me to function optimally, I thrive in small gatherings and for fairly short periods of time.

Does this sound anything like you? Here’s a few common traits of empaths in general. Do you connect with a large number of these? You might be one, too!

-You’re often told you’re too sensitive

-You often have a sore neck, throat or migraines and/or suffer from mental or physical fatigue

-You absorb other people’s emotions

-You must have alone time in order to recharge

-You cannot stand to witness violence or other forms of cruelty

-You are a good listener

-Strangers tend to share their problems with you

-Children and animals are drawn to you

-You are nurturing and caring

-You cannot tolerate drama

-You have mood swings

-You can feel the physical pain that someone else may have

-You seek balance (hello yoga!)

-You are creative (music, art, writing, cooking, baking)

-You avoid crowds

-You direct most of your emotional energy to helping others

-You are stressed when you’re over-stimulated

-You will go out of your way to avoid stressful traffic

-Most people don’t understand you (I’m the crazy one, folks- and I’m okay with that!)

-You experience a healing energy when you’re in nature

-You dislike “small talk”

-You need to dress comfortably otherwise you will feel distracted all day

-People might think you’re cold, shy or snobbish

-If you have a disagreement with someone, you may feel drained for days

-You are often overwhelmed with joy or, alternatively, fear and sadness

-You frequently experience co-incidences

-You often have digestive disorders and lower back problems

-You are drawn to healing and holistic therapies

-You find it hard to do things that you do not enjoy

-You strive for truth (hence find it hard to do things you do not enjoy!)

-You are always on a quest for knowledge

-You consider yourself a free spirit

-You might be prone to carry extra weight

-You cannot be around egotistical people

-You do not like antiques or second hand items as they carry the energy of the previous owner

How many of these traits do you have? Please feel free to share!