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The (Not Necessarily) Impossible Dream
My childhood memories, I’m happy to say, are swimming in Broadway musicals and their soundtracks. Man of La Mancha is one of them. When I read the BBC News report about the recovery of the tomb of Miguel de Cervantes, known as the “father of the modern novel” and the Spanish author of Don Quixote, I had a flashback of seeing the production and listening to the original soundtrack including the song, “The Impossible Dream,” which became an American standard.
It’s been 400 years since Cervantes walked the earth. When he died and was reportedly buried in 1616, his coffin was lost. The question begs to be asked: How do you lose a coffin? Assuming it was the kind of coffin used today---large enough to accommodate the body of an adult---I can’t imagine how such a thing would be misplaced.
Apparently, the bones of Cervantes’, his wife and others who were buried with him in Madrid’s Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians were discovered by a research team equipped with infrared cameras, 3D scanners and ground-penetrating radar to locate the underground burial site. Believe it or not, late in the 17th century when the convent was rebuilt, their remains were lost in the move to the new building, and were recently found in a “forgotten crypt underneath the new building,” according to the BBC News website. Cervantes was 68 when he died, which sounds rather old for the time, and had survived being shot and wounded in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. That was long before he published the first part of what was originally titled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha in 1605. The second part was published in 1615, the year before his death.
In the story, which apparently was not autobiographical, Don Quixote is a chivalry-obsessed knight, who happens to be “mad” as he sets out on his old horse with his “faithful squire” Sancho Panza, and has visions of a monster (actually a windmill), among other things, along the way. The ending is sad, but leaves one with the memory of the importance of not letting go of your dreams, no matter how impossible they may seem. And sometimes, the simple act of dreaming is even more important than having the dream come true because it naturally leads to other things.
Perhaps your dreams feel impossible because of OCD, substance abuse, prescription addiction, depression, anxiety, bereavement or stress. We all have low points in life, but sometimes it’s an indication of a bigger issue and you may find yourself in what feels like a web.
Brookhaven Retreat offers a way to take your power back and immerse yourself in the warmth of recovery. The Lily Program® is a 90-day individualized mental health treatment program consisting of many therapeutic and inspiring components suited to your specific needs.
We all have a vision of what we want our lives to be, but often circumstances stand in our way and we see monsters instead of windmills. Dreams we once imagined with unmistakable clarity suddenly become lost. Recovery is a battle worth fighting so that eventually your impossible dreams become possible again.
One rather fascinating woman, who can lend inspiration to modern women during National Women’s History Month, is Coco Chanel, whose mark is still being made on the world as I write this.
If I were to choose one word to describe her contribution during her 88 years on the planet it would be passion. Jacqueline Dawes, founder of Brookhaven Retreat says, “Do it with passion or not at all.”
Chanel agreed wholeheartedly. She was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in 1883, though she sometimes preferred to say she was born in 1893. Who doesn’t want to be 10 years younger? Her fantastically chic style and attitude probably made her believable. Also interesting to note is that she remained single her whole life. Whether or not singles live longer is debatable, but it obviously worked for Coco, whose nickname was given to her by appreciative soldiers during her stint as a singer in cafés and concert halls of France.
After her unmarried mother died of bronchitis at 31, her father gave up their five children. At 12 or so, Chanel learned to sew in the orphanage of a Catholic monastery in France. When she left, the 18-year-old Chanel worked for a tailor. At 23, she designed hats when she became the mistress of a rich ex-military officer and textile heir in 1908. After that, she had a relationship with a wealthy English Industrialist, who financed her first shops. In 1910, she opened a millinery shop and eventually had more than one boutique. In the 1920s, Chanel was officially on the map-to-forever when she designed the first-ever loose jersey for women. Both in style and fabric, which was traditionally used to make men’s undergarments, she opposed the stiffness that restricted women’s comfort. Her passion for fashion attracted anyone and everyone who wanted to break free from old-fashioned trends.
To this day, Maison Chanel located at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris is still the headquarters of Chanel’s empire. Her second brand-building product was her fragrance, Chanel No. 5, which remains one of the most popular ever since 1922. And three years later, her signature cardigan jacket was followed by the equal booming success of the “little black dress.”
Chanel was a nurse during World War II, but after that, she regained passionate momentum in 1954, when she introduced pea jackets and bell-bottoms. Europeans didn’t appreciate her new collection, but it became wildly popular in the US, where Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, became fans. In fact, Hepburn played Chanel in a Broadway musical of her life in 1969.
Chanel never stopped working it, and all the while became one of more quotable women of her time. Years after her death in 1971 in her private apartment at The Ritz Hotel in New York City, Karl Lagerfeld became responsible for keeping Chanel’s passion alive. Since 1982, he has been Chanel’s chief designer.
Some of my favorite of her quotes are as follows:
“I never wanted to weigh more heavily on a man than a bird.”
“Since everything is in our heads, we had better not lose them.”
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.”
“Fashion changes, but style endures.”
“Don’t spend time beating on a wall hoping to transform it into a door.”
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
“A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed.”
“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.”
“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
This beautiful dish is a great take on creamy risotto that uses brown rice and butternut squash with a selection of spices and herbs to add a flavorful finish. Packed with vitamins and minerals both butternut squash and brown rice are a great way to support good mental health. Butternut squash is a good source of Vitamin C, which is essential in the production of several mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, including dopamine. Brown rice contains a great deal of potassium, which is essential to a healthy mind and can help fight off anxiety and stress, both of which are detrimental to the body. Not only does this dish support good mental health, it is a great way to add color and flavor to any meal.
- 2 large butternut squash
- 3/4 of a cup of brown rice
- 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of tahini
- a handful of fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 lemon
- olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Start by cooking the rice per the package directions, this will take about forty-five minutes. Once you put the rice in the pot with the boiling water add the salt, a drizzling of apple cider vinegar and a sprinkling of dried herbs to add some flavor. You may have to add more boiling water if the rice starts to stick to the pot.
While the rice cooks, chop the squash into bite-sized squares, cutting off the skin as you go. Then place the squares onto a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Bake this at 375F for about 20-30 minutes, until the cubes are perfectly soft and delicious. Roasting the squash concentrates the flavors, making it much more delicious than if it was steamed.
Then put three quarters of the squash into a food processor with about a quarter of a cup of water plus the nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, tahini, salt and lemon juice. Blend until a smooth creamy consistency forms.
Once the rice is about 5 minutes away from being cooked, and there is very little to no water left, stir in the creamy squash mix. Then add the remaining pieces of squash and a handful of finely chopped parsley.
Adapted from deliciouslyella.com
The word is out that turmeric heals, but it’s not news. In fact, it’s been used since ancient times in India and China in food and in medicine. Because of its healing powers for inflammation, fighting the aging process and cleansing the skin of toxins, it’s a great addition to your natural beauty supply cabinet.
This recipe is also quite edible, and if you do, you may put a dent in feelings of depression. Studies have shown that stress-induced damage to the hippocampal neurons may be why you’re depressed in the first place. And turmeric has been shown to affect neurogenesis.
You can even eat the mixture for good health, but if you put it on your face, you can start reverse aging, naturally hydrate your skin, remove dead skin cells and rejuvenate your complexion.
What you’ll need:
- 1 tablespoon raw organic honey
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon raw milk
What you do:
- Stir turmeric into the honey and milk until it becomes a smooth paste.
- Apply to face and leave on for about 20 minutes.
- Rinse with warm water.
Enjoy the sweet-smelling glow of your face. If you haven’t used it all, don’t let it go to waste. Eat it!
Ah, turmeric. It’s the color of a glorious sunset. And although the flavor is slightly bitter, honey and other ingredients tame it into a flavor you’ll want again and again. It brings me back to my 20s when, as a new vegetarian, I was willing to try anything and everything I thought would revitalize me and restore natural health. My vegan guru at the time made me a home remedy when I had a sore throat and had lost my voice. It made me feel about 50 percent better within a few hours. I was amazed at how quickly my body assimilated it. Little did I know it could also make me feel happier.
You may already know it as the ancient remedy used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. But it’s also popular in Chinese herbal medicines---Xiaoyao-san and Jieyu-wan---traditionally used to manage stress and depression-related disorders, hypochondriac pain and mania.
Also known as curcumin, turmeric comes from the root of the curcuma longa plant with tough brown skin and deep orange-colored flesh. It’s been called the Indian saffron because of its color. If you’ve had Indian or Chinese food chances are good, you’ve had turmeric. In curry, perhaps? This dark yellow spice is often used to add spice to curry. It’s a rather distinctive flavor that isn’t just popular because of what it does to food.
According to Power-Of-Turmeric.com, a website out of India, recent studies have shown that stress-induced damage to hippocampal neurons may be depression’s culprit. Turmeric (also known as curcumin) has been shown to affect neurogenesis.
The site also says, “Reductions in neurogenesis in the hippocampus and concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) generally result in stress, anxiety and depression.” It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power has been touted for years as an ingredient with medicinal properties. Need manganese or extra iron in your diet? Eat turmeric, which is also a good source of vitamin B6, fiber, potassium and copper. Not sure how to eat it? Add it to rice dishes, curry dishes, anything made with beans, cauliflower, macaroni and cheese, or egg salad.
If you mix it with honey like my friend spoon-fed me for my sore throat, it becomes edible and is also helpful for the flu and inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis, among other things. Studies have shown the relief it also provides for people who suffer from cystic fibrosis, liver disease, heart disease, and also can protect you from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
If you put the mixture on a wound, it might heal faster. Whatever you do with turmeric, you can’t go wrong.
Why does it seem like death separates the living from each other? There are days when I can’t seem to communicate at all with those who are closest to me. Despite, or perhaps because of, how close we are, we can’t get our points across without someone becoming offended. Ever since my brother died, it is possible that my knack for communication died with him.
In a professional setting I can be clear, concise, thorough, and objective when communicating, whether it is written or oral. I can talk down a budding conflict in the grocery line. I can mediate my friends’ marriage troubles through instant messaging. But the difference with those exceptionally close to me is emotion. Emotions, such as guilt, impatience, and feeling hurt or criticized, cause miscommunication, misinterpretation, and tension.
In all of the articles I researched about communication skills, two key components repeatedly emerged: listening and not blaming. But how well can you listen if the other person shuts down? And how can you sound non-blaming if you know the other person is wrong? Okay, sarcasm probably doesn’t help matters, either!
It doesn’t matter how eloquent of a speaker you are, communication with a loved one is a learned art. It requires balance, both sides giving in, and a lot of thought before words are spoken. If there are traumatic events in the relationship’s past or complicating factors such as depression and anxiety, communicating effectively can be a real hurdle.
My brother was the peacemaker. He used his quick wit and sense of humor and also his practical advice to smooth over any situation. With this role unfulfilled in my inner circle, I have to remind myself to be an instrument of peace. It doesn’t always work. But making the extra effort is an act of love that would make my brother proud.
Having compassion for oneself is important. As human beings, we all share the common bond of human error. We all make mistakes. It’s part of how we learn. However, mistakes can be costly. Having compassion for oneself is similar to having compassion for others. To have compassion for others you must first be aware of their suffering. Compassion also involves feeling moved by that person’s suffering so that you respond to their pain. This requires being capable and willing to feel that suffering. The word compassion literally means to “suffer with” and that requires you to join that person on some level. Contrary to the beliefs of some, the point of this process is not to feel helpless in the face of emotional pain. Instead, compassion allows us to feel empowered by warmth and caring, the desire to help another in some way, because it brings people together with the kindness and understanding that can glue us together in safety as humans. When you are able to do this for a person who feels that they’ve failed or made a mistake they are welcomed and repaired in contrast to the feeling of being outcast from your family or community that comes from being judged harshly. Shame and fear very often are at the root of violence. When people are able to come together through compassion, though, rather than via pity or isolation, they are able to come together knowing that suffering, failure, and imperfection are simply a part of the shared human experience.
Self-compassion allows us to be gentle with ourselves. It involves treating yourself with the same love and respect that you would offer others in your place. When you are having a rough time, wrestling with feelings of failure, or become frustrated with any aspect of yourself that you don’t like, you have the option of practicing self-care instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for you inadequacies or shortcomings. Self-compassion means being kind to your self while being aware that no one is perfect. You try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy because you care about yourself, not because you believe that you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness in the same way you know you must accept the same of others. If you stop and listen to the way you talk to yourself, ask yourself this question: If I were to talk to another person that way, would it be okay? Often, the negative self-talk that goes on in our minds could be considered abusive if we were to replace the “I am” with “you are”. If you wouldn’t speak to someone else like that, it might be a good idea to ask yourself why you think it is okay to talk to yourself like that.
Things will not always be the way you want them to be. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of resisting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion as you experience life. Now that we’ve defined self-compassion, perhaps it is important to also recognize what it is not. How is having compassion for oneself different from self-pity? Self-pity is being immersed in one’s own problems and not being conscious of the fact that other people may have similar problems. It is forgetting about your interconnectedness with others and becoming absorbed in the idea that you are the only person in the world who is in the midst of suffering. Self-pity tends to emphasize egocentric feelings of alienation. Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows one to see the correlating experiences of self and other without such feelings of isolation and disconnection. Also, individuals lost in self-pity often become carried away with and get pulled under by their own emotional drama. It becomes harder to step back from being subjective or to adopt a more balanced perspective. In contrast, by taking the perspective of a compassionate other towards oneself, "mental space" is provided to recognize the broader human context of one’s experience and to put things in greater perspective. (“Yes it is very difficult what I’m going through right now, but there are many other people who are experiencing much greater suffering. Perhaps this isn’t worth getting quite so upset about...")
Self-compassion is also different from being self-indulgent. Some people might say that they are reluctant to be forgiving of their faults or suffering because they’re afraid they would let themselves get away with anything if they did not punish themselves for their perceived crimes. This is not self-compassion. Being compassionate to one self is about seeking out a happy and healthy state of mind in the long term. It is possible that giving oneself short-term pleasure may harm wellbeing in the long run. Giving yourself health and lasting happiness involves some level of delaying gratification and patient willpower as you work towards your goals. Shaming oneself into action is counterproductive. That approach often backfires if you can’t face the hard truths about yourself because you are too afraid of hating yourself if you do. As a result, weaknesses will remain unacknowledged in an unconscious attempt to avoid self-censure. In contrast, the care intrinsic to compassion provides a powerful motivating force for growth and change, while also providing the safety needed to see the self clearly without fear of self-condemnation.
What an incredible meeting of strong women we had! As I looked through the faces at Brookhaven Retreat Annual Alumnae Reunion to see which ones I recognized, one thing was truly notable. Every face was smiling, and behind every smile a story and a long journey leading to this day of celebrating recovery, fellowship, and continued strength for what lies ahead.
What a beautiful sound - laughter from every room - and a beautiful sight to see friends connecting. I saw faces that had overcome depression, fear, and anxiety… I met eyes that used to hold shame, but now shine with hope.
The words of one beautiful woman stay with me: “Life still happens around me, but I am in the middle, and I am calm.” To be able to say that you can remain steadfast, stable and strong despite life’s struggles is a terrific achievement. The tools taught at Brookhaven Retreat showed themselves in the air of confidence from every woman at this event, and I was honored to be among them.
Lenna Frances Cooper
Celeste, my wise and wonderful 82-year-old grandmother, is one of the few people I know over 60 who doesn’t take medication on a daily basis to either keep her alive and healthy or to keep anxiety or depression in check. In her younger days, she created magnificent meals often with organic produce from her garden. I can’t help but focus, particularly since March is National Nutrition Month, on her wonderful cooking antics I witnessed throughout our years together.
I’ll never forget the day she said, “No one should eat cookies.” This was, of course, only part of the conversation and smack in the middle of tearing into a box of cookies my daughter had sold her. It was hilarious because although we knew we were going to eat them anyway, she felt the need to preface our commonplace behavior of eating something almost entirely void of nutritional value.
She wasn’t necessarily referring to a particular kind of cookies, but rather most packaged cookies that are high in saturated fat with the first ingredient listed as, you guessed it, sugar. I knew she wasn’t wrong, but it made me laugh and now any time I reach for a cookie, I hear those words.
I imagine Lenna Frances Cooper to have been someone like my grandmother, who might tell people what they should and shouldn’t eat, though Cooper did it on a much grander scale. Cooper was born in 1875 and died in 1961 at the age of 86. Her life’s work was to create a platform for dietetics as a science as well as a profession. She had been educated as a nurse and became the protégé of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, director of the Seventh Day Adventist sanitarium in Battle Creek, and his wife, Ella. With their guidance, Cooper immersed herself in the study of nutrition and became a trailblazer in the field.
Cooper accomplished a lot of firsts. By 1908, she was the first appointed director of Kellogg’s School of Home Economics, where more than 500 dieticians graduated under her directorship. The American Home Economics Association, founded in 1909, and the Michigan Home Economics Association founded in 1911, both benefitted from Cooper’s involvement as a charter member. In 1917, she co-founded the American Dietetic Association (ADA) to answer the need for national standards in dietetics. In 1918, though many of her recommendations weren’t adopted until World War II, she was the first dietician ever to serve in the Army. In 1929, she became the first president of the Michigan Dietetic Association as well as a consultant for the establishment of the department of dietetics in the research hospital of the National Institute of Health.
Although her ideas were called “radical” for the era, people listened and eventually understood her way of thinking. Proof was in acknowledgements like being named one of the 10 most distinguished women of achievement in Michigan in 1928.
Cooper was also senior author of Nutrition in Health and Disease, which was used for 30 years in dietetics and nursing programs all over the world. She wrote two other books about nutrition, but her most famous is perhaps her cookbook, “The New Cookery: A Book of Recipes, Most of Which are Used at the Battle Creek Sanitarium” published in 1929. The book’s copyright is 1913 and in the foreword, Cooper writes, “Until recent years, little attention has been paid to the scientific preparation and selection of foods. For many years men have been versed in the proper feeding of stock, but strange to say, it has only recently occurred to man that equally as good results come from the proper feeding of the human being as from the scientific care of animals.”
Cooper was said to have been kind and soft-spoken but at the same time strong-willed and persistent, which is possibly what made her so successful. More than three decades after her death, in 1993 she was posthumously inducted into the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame for her work in dietetics.
She has truly left her mark, not only with her books and the organizations that recognize her to this day. For the past 51 years, dieticians have been given the Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Award and must give the Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Lecture where a combination of new and old ideas is shared with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I imagine it exceeds the infinite wisdom and advice not to eat cookies.
This simple Asian noodle bowl would be great with any combination of veggies you have on hand, but make sure to use a skillet that seems a little too big, as it will fill up quickly. This dish gets extra flavor from the addition of sesame oil, which has been used for thousands of years to prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol and promote heart health. This meal is also a great way to transition to eating a plant-based diet, which can help you create the ideal environment in your body for good health. Additionally, it is based on foods that provide energy and can help combat other issues that may lead to anxiety and depression and help ward off conditions including exhaustion, body aches, and excess weight.
- 8 oz soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 bunch scallions (white and green parts) sliced (1/4 cup reserved for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced
- 15 oz can baby corn, drained
- 1/2 pound broccoli florets (about three cups)
- 1/2 pound fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add the noodles or pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.
- Heat the canola oil in a wok or a very large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the scallions and ginger and cook, stirring until fragrant but not browned, about 30 seconds.
- Add the chicken and cook through 4-5 minutes.
- Add the baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms, pepper slices, broth, and soy sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender and the peppers are crisp-tender, 5-6 minutes.
- Add the noodles and sesame oil and toss to combine.
- Divide among 4 bowls and garnish with the reserved 1/4-cup of scallions.
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