Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eating Omily: OMB-Buddha Chocolate

So, I'm a major fan of chocolate. The giant 72% dark bar at Trader Joe's has a spot on my 'grocery essentials' list. If a cookie doesn't have chocolate in it, I'm not only uninterested, I'm offended by its existence. (Unless maybe it's super-dark, chewy gingerbread...) I go to Max Brenner's by Union Square every chance I get. I make hot cocoa from scratch on rainy nights. A enjoy a square of chocolate with my healthy breakfast. I will fight you to be the first in line for a fudgey chocolate cake. I. Love. Chocolate.

So, when raw organic chocolate bars went up for sale at my favorite yoga studio, chocolate made by excellent yogis and excellent people who I have the pleasure of knowing, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a bar.

While waiting for the L train, with shaking hands I tore the (beautiful, might I add) wrapper off a Crystal Salt bar, and took a bite. I know why it's called Buddha chocolate: instant transcendence. The chocolate was soft under my teeth, and began melting immediately, leaving a lightly cool sensation. The flavor was rich, dark, and just...sweet...enough thanks to organic, humane honey. And the sea salt crystals? The perfect foil. This was unlike any chocolate I've ever tasted. If you've had raw chocolate, you may wonder if that's a compliment, but trust me, it is! Buddha chocolate blows every other raw chocolate I've ever had out of the water.
Next I tried a superfood bar: the classic formula with added sources of potent nutrients, such as blue algea, and bee pollen. I could definitely taste those anti-oxident sources, but the chocolate was still rich and delicious, and knowing I was giving my body things that it needed into the bargain made it an especially feel-good flavor. If you want more bang for your buck by giving more love to your body, go superfood!
P.S. Yes, seriously, I could not wait until I got home and took pictures of these yummies to tear them open and take a taste. That good.

I also got to try a Buddha cup, which, good Lord, I'm not sure this is legal: classic Buddha chocolate. Filled with home-made, raw almond butter...amazingly delicious. The texture collision of melting chocolate with thick, rich almond butter was powerful magic, and I felt good knowing I was getting a burst of protein, vitamin e, and good-for-me fats to fuel my afternoon. Added bonus: I felt extra-entitled to eat the whole thing in one sitting.
This is another beautiful incidence in which the right thing to do is the most delicious: Buddha chocolate is handmade right here in Brooklyn by beautiful people doing the right things for the environment and their home. Even if you don't call the NYC area home, ordering chocolate from their website is a great way to choose not to outsource the costs of moving food around the planet, but to take it on yourself. This would be such an amazing Christmas (Birthday? Hanukkah? Etc.??) gift for the chocolate-lovers in your life. Check out Buddha Chocolate's website for more info about their products, places to buy these bars, or to get some of this stuff into your mailbox! They also have a very fun blog, and offer yoga! (Chocolate yoga? Mind=blown.)

Our Puritan roots in this country often lead us to believe that doing the right thing means sacrificing, that indulging is always bad, that there is a price to pay. That last bit may be true: in this case it's $7 a bar. You'll want to take advantage of that bargain. Buddha chocolate is good for the planet, good for the local economy, good for your body, and yes, over-the-top indulgent for your taste buds! Can I get a high five?

Live Omily!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our Simon: November 16th 1993-November 13th 2011

I swore up and down that if I died in high school I would come back and haunt the pants off of anybody who made me a myspace tribute page. Such bullshit!! Everyone pretending they knew and liked the kid in question before their tragic passing...not for me, thanks.

On the other hand, I am universally moved to tears by tribute videos/websites/posts/etc. for pets who have passed away, whether in an untimely manner, or not. I wish very very much that I did not have the honor of adding to that tear-jerking parade, but I do. This is for Simon, our pure-bred Siamese cat.
I'm sure most people will say they love their pets of whatever species, and that their animal is special, but everyone who met Simon was impressed with his intense stare, and obvious intelligence...that, and his distinctive voice. The sympathy card had messages from the doctor of internal medicine who saw Simon through his last days, as well as his cardiologist, who had been keeping an eye on his ticker for a year and a half:

"I know that Simon was a very special part of your life for the past 18 years, and will be missed greatly. He had a unique personality and will be missed by everyone at FAVS. My thoughts are with you."

"Simon was well known around here for his good-natured (loud!) meows & and for beating the odds for so long. I know he was a wonderful friend & companion to you - you truly have all my sympathy for your loss."

We took Simon to the clinic around 2 a.m. on October 30th, because he had thrown up blood and was lethargic. Because of Simon's heart arhythmia, we were limited in terms of diagnostic and treatment methods, but the best his doctors could discern, Simon had a kindey infection, and a GI bleed that wasn't able to clot because of the meds he was on to keep him from throwing a blood clot and suffering a heart attack or stroke. Simon needed fluids immediatly to flush out his kidneys, and protectants to try to stop the bleed and heal the ulcer, and later, a blood transfusion. We were warned that his prognosis was uncertain. We visited him everyday. We spent hours holding him, talking to him, encouraging him to eat, telling him to please be strong and try his best to get better. The news was up and down for a few days, but by Monday he appeared to be stabilizing. The blood transfusion appeared to be holding steady. The doctors released Simon home to us, along with antibiotics, and stomach protectants, and a daily instead of every-other-daily fluid regimen.

We were so happy to have Simon home with us! I had been praying Rosaries for him daily, blessing him with holy relics, enlisting friends and family to pray, send reiki energy, and everything else I could think of. Trouble was, even though Simon had eaten alright his last day in the hospital, he didn't seem to want to eat for us. I tried everything to tempt him, but it wasn't working. I talked to his doctor about it at his one-week check-up. The check-up went really well: Simon's kidneys were back to normal, and his red blood cell count had climbed a few points! We felt like Simon was at least close to being out of the woods. The doctor prescribed an appetite stimulant, to try to get Simon over the hump and back into his normal eating behavior...the medicine in question was a human anti-depressent that affects appetite by affecting serotonin levels. It made Simon feel a little funny, and he didn't hesitate to let us know with his infamous voice. The medicine didn't seem to be doing much for his appetite though, so we tried him on a different one, this one a human anti-hystimene that worked in a similar way. This one didn't seem to be doing much either, and I was getting worried that Simon wasn't going to keep getting better if he wouldn't eat, so even though the doctor had said we could take him back in ten days, we made an appointment for only a week later.

Simon was sleeping in his new favorite spot near the table when we went to bed the night before the appointment. I awakened after the sun had risen in a panic because he had never come to join us in bed. I found him laying down in the hallway, and carried him in to sleep with us until we woke up. He purred and snuggled up between us. He got up and walked over my face three or four times, as was his custom, stepping on my hair, and generally interfering with my sleep. I was so happy to have him near us, acting like his old self.

Later that day we bundled him into his carrier and took him on the shuttle bus and the train back to the vet. We thought it would just be another check up, that maybe we'd try a different appetite stimulant. If I had had any idea what was about to happen, I would have held Simon in my arms the whole way.

Our doctor took Simon downstairs to weight him, take his temperature and draw some blood. He and Simon came back up 20 minutes later, and I knew right away something was very wrong. Simon's body temperature was too low; he was dehydrated; his blood pressure had crashed; his kidney levels were twice as high as they had been when we brought him in the first time: he was dying. We could try fluids and a blood transfusion again, but his elevated potassium suggested his kidneys were shutting down, and anything we did would only prolong the inevitable, and his discomfort. I looked into Simon's eyes and begged him to tell me he wanted to fight, that we could get through this together. He purred, and rubbed his face on my hand, but I could see it now, that he was tired, and weak. That maybe he didn't want to fight anymore. I remembered all our years together, the countless times I had soaked his fur with my adolescent tears, and he had stayed by my side anyway, purring. He had always been there for me. Even though it was the worst thing I would ever do in my life, I knew that I had to do it. We had to let Simon go. I would never have had the strength to make that decision without my husband, gently explaining, and coaxing, being patient with tears and confused accusations. We cried together, helplessly. We hadn't wanted it to end this way. We thought that if it came to this, the doctor would come to us, that Simon would die warm in his bed with the people who loved him.

We spent the next day together, mostly wandering around Prospect Park, reminding ourselves that there was still such a thing as beauty, as life. And we cried. I had feared that since Simon was such a part of our marriage, losing him would put a rift between us, but in that moment of indescribable pain, we found each other and held on tight. I know we will only be closer for having gone through this experience together. We will always remember everything that Simon taught us:

Patience, non-attachement, mindfulness, but most of all, love. He will always be in our hearts. At night, I can feel him close by. I can almost feel the weight of him settling against my spine. I know that he's free now and at peace, with no pain or fear, but I know that he misses us, too, and until we can all be together again, he'll keep an eye on us. He truly was an incredible cat. And as I told him that night, just before the end, I will have other pets, and I'll bond with them and love them dearly, but I'll never stop loving Simon. He will never be replaced in my heart. I am so grateful to him for the beautiful years we shared. I can't help but wish there could have been many more, but I could do no less than respect his final wish: to go home, and wait for me there.

We love you, Simon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy Your Pantry

So if you've been keeping track, you'll be happy to hear that my sweet kitty is safe and sound back at home with fully functioning bone marrow and kidneys! If you're just wondering where in the hell I've been, I've been in a dreadful holding pattern for the last week or so worrying about my cat, who was hospitalized very early the morning of Sunday the 30th.

But now I'm back, and there are so many things to write about...

Yesterday I was scurrying down 16th street, as usual, on my way to the Farmer's Market to pick up some things before the 4:15 yoga class at Namaste Yoga and Tranquility Center. As I approached University Place, I heard a commotion coming toward me from the north. I saw grim policemen on motorcycles next, warning people to stay on the sidewalk, and then, the commotion solidified into a sea of voices:


I had somehow managed to arrive at the corner of University Place and 16th street at the exact same moment as the Occupy Wall Street movement's latest march did. The light was against me, so I could not cross, and was gratified to realize I had a chance to use my stampede survival knowledge: I stood with my back to a light post, so as to avoid getting stepped on, run into it, or swept away with the crowd. They parted like the Red Sea around me: such a huge variety of people. All ages, all races, an equal number of men and women. Many held signs. Most chanted along.
Almost all looked in my face as we crossed paths. I felt so many things in that moment: a patriotic stirring, a simultaneous urge to join their song, and a stifling embarrassment that kept me quiet. I wanted to fall in step along side them, to find a piece of scrap paper in my bag and write a sign in motion.
But I had a heavy bag, and a full schedule, and when the light changed I crossed the street. Turning to watch the rest of the march go buy, standing up straight, as respectful as I had ever been of the flag carried by veterans, and for the exact same reasons.
I felt guilt then, too, for letting my day-to-day life keep me from showing my support, and doing my part within the movement. The last stagglers crossed the street, and the policemen in their motor cycles drove off after them, allowing cars coming down 16th to finally turn up or downtown and continue their journey.
I too turned, downtown, and looked for the brown awning that hailed the Bread Alone tent.

I chose a loaf of wholegrain health bread (which I would later partly devour furtively, chunk by delicious chunk, while waiting for my yoga students to appear), and then moved down the block to pick up my weekly share, and one dozen (medium) eggs. My bags far heavier than before, I made my way down to the subway entrance, the guilt weighing something substantial alongside the produce.

Until I realized that I was doing something just as powerful and meaningful in support of Occupy Wall Street and the 99% as those marchers drawing our collective attention to the situation right now. I was supporting, with my hard-earned dollars, the 99% instead of the the 1%. Instead of funneling my food dollars back to fancy offices atop skyscrapers at the expense of the economies of nations who should have been able to easily feed their populations, but instead those people languished in poverty as they watched their children die slowly of malnourishment, I was sending each and every dollar right back into the food system that directly supported me: these farmers' children would be fed, clothed, and educated with my money. The food I buy from them next year will have been planted and tended with my money. It would stay in this community, passing from hand to hand, linking together the 99% of the region while helping each of us to prosper a little bit at a time.

If it seems like a stretch to draw a connection between children starving to death across the planet and my artisan bread, let me give you a mini lesson in world trade:

America gives millions of dollars to foreign nations struggling with poverty. We don't walk down the street distributing tens and twenties: we write fat checks to the government. We are not naive enough to fail to realize how little of that money actually helps the people who need it. In exchange for our generosity, these nations must agree not to tax good imported from our nation. Pretty soon, we've flooded their market with cheap Tyson's chicken (for example), and every raiser, seller, and server of chicken meat is pushed out of business. Or, a Dole representative pops up and announces they want to grow pineapples (for example) near this town. The rain forest gets mowed to the ground, and jobs get created! Jobs that pay pennies! Meanwhile the pinepples are not being sold to the people of this community. They are getting flown halfway around the world: the water, the farmable land, is being sucked up into luxury fruits to impress guests at dinner parties in the U.S.! If the people could raise their own chickens and grow their own pineapples and sell them within their communities, they would have a FUNCTIONING ECONOMY!!!!! Get it?

You can make that difference along with me and Occupy Wall Street, where ever you are. The next time you stand in a produce aisle and are tempted by asparagus in Autumn, or watermelon in Winter, pineapples any old time, or apples from New Zealand, remember, the whole world is watching. With hungry eyes.

Live Omily, and remember that ultimately, we are all the 100%

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This is the Greatest and Best Cat in the World...

I'm sorry for the lag between this post and the last one; I thought I'd post some Halloween news and pictures, but we had bigger fish to fry.

If you look at the title to my blog, you'll notice a series of seemingly unrelated pictures next to it: a lotus flower, some pickles, and a cat. Well, the lotus flower is for yoga, the pickles are for my self-sustaining kitchen obsession, and the cat is my cat: my beloved Simon. My family got Simon and his brother, Sidney, as kittens, when I was six years old. We grew up together. We lost Sidney toward the end of my college career, and when my husband and I married, we included a memorial to him in our program. Simon came with us live in New York, along with the latest edition to our family, a little fluffy calico named Truffle. Those two cats fought like tigers for several weeks in our roomshare in bed-stuy before finally settling down! Our heat didn't work too well, so every night, Simon would crawl into bed, and under the covers to nest near our feet. My husband, who had never owned a cat as affectionate as mine, was enchanted, and the two became best friends.

When we moved to our own one-bedroom in Kensington, Simon and Truffle came, too. By then Simon was receiving sub-cutaneous fluid injections to keep his kidneys flushed out, and was being fed a special kidney diet in addition to his twice-daily thyroid medication. He started seeing a cardiologist soon after that, and was put on aspirin and plavix, and later, a beta-blocker. In spite of his daily medical routine, Simon remained the same amazing cat, strong of personality, huge of heart.

Early Sunday morning, we rushed Simon to the emergency clinic in Manhattan because he had vomited blood. They weren't able to conclusively diagnose him that night, so he was admitted, and tested more thoroughly the next day. A G.I. bleed that wasn't clotting because of his meds was suspected, so they were stopped, but they can linger in the system for up to a week. His red blood cell count was dropping, his kidneys were declining, and he was tired and not eating. He was medicated for the G.I. bleed, and received a blood transfusion. He perked up immediately, his blood pressure stabilizing, kidney values improving. The next day he started eating again. We are still watching his blood cell count carefully, but it seems to be stabilizing. He may or may not need one more transfusion to tide him over.

Today he is coming home. After days of prayer, long-distance Reiki, healing with Holy Relics, and the best veterinary care we could afford to provide, we are so deeply grateful to have more time with our precious cat. The bond we share with Simon is incredibly strong and deep. He is a part of our marriage.

In our efforts to support Simon as he fought for his life, we've extended ourselves financially more than we can comfortably manage. We can, and will, make sacrifices and handle our financial responsibility, but we are reaching out to anyone who may feel moved to donate to help offset Simon's medical bills via the link below. No offering is too small, and of course, sharing the link with everyone you know is a big help as well.

Here is the link you can share:

Thank you so much for kind thoughts, kind words, prayers, positive intentions, healing energies, spreading of Simon's story, and any financial help you feel moved to provide.

We are living Omily, as Simon always has,