Friday, March 30, 2012

Omily Tarot: The Three of Swords

We've made it all the way to the three of swords! The swords have a bit of a bad reputation, and the three is when we first start to get an inkling as to just doesn't look like a very happy card, and it just doesn't have the most joyful interpretations. Of course, every card encompasses a range of positive and negative meanings, and this card is no different, but compared to the three of cups...well, it can be a bit of a shock.

Welcome to another installment of the Omily Tarot! Once a week a dedicate a post to offering you my interpretation of a given card in the deck, based on the Waite-Smith tarot, and my interpretations thereof making use of numeric, and elemental associations, along with inspiration from the images themselves. When I've completed all the interpretations, I'll be putting them all together in a zine which will be available for purchase for your personal perusing pleasure.

But in the meantime...

The Three of Swords
"So, the staves left us hanging as to what the consequences of our big step would be, and the cups showed us the most joyous outcome imaginable. Can you guess what brutally honest swords will depict? Take a deep breath! The image alone suggests one of the card’s traditional meanings: betrayal. A result like this may be exactly why the figure in the 2 of swords was hesitant to make a move. In this case, it may be the betrayal of sharing your thoughts with someone you trust, only to have them thrust the sword of truth into your heart: you are wrong, or, that will never work, and here’s why. It’s definitely not what we want to hear, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily just a nay-saying negative Nancy we can safely ignore. Moving from theory to reality is a scary step, but the stakes are only going to get higher.

If your new love stands you up when the bloom of infatuation is still making you cherish each moment together, do you really think he’s going to knock it off when things settle down to the day-to-day? If that new etsy shop you opened has gotten a grand total of two sales, one from each parent, is it a good idea to borrow money from a friend to ramp up production? Sometimes we need to face the truth, and sometimes the truth can really, really hurt. Maybe those stormy rain clouds look like they’re adding insult to injury, but on the other hand, maybe they’re the silver lining: bathing your wounded heart in refreshing water: the possibility of new dreams, new loves, second chances of all sorts!

In a reading of course, it behooves the querent to consider the more frankly ominous possibilities of this card. Does someone close to you not have your best interests at heart? Are you setting yourself up to take a big fall? Leaving your umbrella at home might be optimistic, or it might be foolish. Take the time to check your weather forecast. In the real world, we are rarely faced with scenarios that are 100% positive or 100% negative. The joy of new love may be muted by the realization that you’re going to have to cultivate a taste for Thai food. The pain of that new job not working out may be lessened by the opportunity to spend more time with friends, and the possibility of finding one that’s a better fit. In this way, the path of stave to cup to sword to coins has thus far told us that once the consequences of the twos start to reveal themselves, focus on the positive first, but take the time to explore the full ramifications of the negatives as well!"

Oh, the unavoidable embrace it now. Good luck!

Live Omily,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eating Omily: I Dream of Summer Salsa (Conscientiously...)

The name for this post, and the dish in question, came about Sunday morning when, knowing we'd be going for a run right after church, I wore my crop sweatpants to church, with my running shoes, a tank top, and this adorable little antique house jacket I got from my friend's Grandpa's attic. Ok, I was not about to win any fashion awards, and "What Not to Wear" would have had a field day with me, but we were just going to the coffee shop and then to church! Why bother taking my hair down from the knot on top of my head?

The husband didn't even make it out the door before he started snickering, and by the end of the first block he had decided I looked like a Genie (not a genie, the Genie: as played by Barbara Eden), and by half-way through Mass he was singing the song "I Dream of Jeanie" in my ear. Most distracting...

Well, to be fair, I actually made the salsa on Friday. But after two days hanging out in the fridge, it really came into its own, developing a cohesive texture and flavor perfect for chip dipping and fantasizing about warmer days to come, and the heirloom tomatoes they would bring...


Yes! Salsa in March!

If you're not on the locavore train you're probably wandering what the big deal about salsa in March is. Get caught up on that big deal by reading this post. Well, it's pretty much the quintessential Summer food: fresh, ripe tomatoes, sweet and spicy peppers, delicate herbs, all chopped and tossed together raw! In any other season, you won't find the necessary ingredients at your local Farmer's Market to make the stuff.

However, if you're a hard core locavore, the kind that owns a canner, and turns her or his kitchen into a person processing plant for those high-volume and high-flavor summer months, then you CAN have salsa any old time!

Pull out one of your quart jars of tomatoes (see this post for that recipe), your bag of frozen roasted bell peppers, and chilis, some fresh garlic and onion, and if you keep an herb garden on your window sill, cut a little cilantro.

The tomatoes are super easy to cut into chunks, being squishy from the canning proccess, and they come with their own hit of citrus acid and salt, too! Chop up your onion and garlic, and a handful of sweet and hot charred peppers, and stir it all together. The longer you can let it sit, the better it gets in terms of taste and texture. By day three, it's like what you'd buy in a jar at the store, except soooo much tastier! Bright, bursting Summer flavors in every bite...the perfect pick-me-up for those rough Winter months.

You know what else you can have any old time of year? A kick-ass Italian style breakfast burrito! Just throw some of those frozen roasted bell and chili peppers in a nonstick skillet, and once they thaw out, use your wooden spoon to chop them into pieces. Add an egg (free range from your Farmer's Market, naturally...), some salt and pepper, maybe some dried herbs, and scramble up! Meanwhile, spread some of your homemade frozen pesto onto a tortilla. Your body will thank you for making it whole wheat or corn! When the scramble is done, I warm the tortilla on the burner itself, with the heat turned all the way down, or even off, so it's pliable. Pile the scramble in the middle of the pesto tortilla, fold up, and Nom! Great breakfast, even better lunch. It's only a few minutes to prepare, and you can eat it on the go!
In ever single native American language, the word for "February" translates directly to "Hungry Month", but that's because the native Americans didn't have canners and freezers! The seasons, and what you've put by, provide a constant source of ideas so that each meal is a delicious creation inspired by Mother Earth, and your own hard work. Damn, that is awesome!
My latest issue of Yoga Journal features a poll taken of readers about their dietary preferences. The breakdown goes:

41% some meat, fish, or poultry
28% vegetarian
14% conscientious omnivore
11% no limitations
7% vegan

My first response was elation that there was a category that I fit into, and pleasant surprise that every yogi under the sun isn't against consuming animal products after all, but these feelings were followed closely by confusion. There was only one 'conscientious' category, and just a little over a third of those who consumed meat were in it. Why so few, and why was there no conscientious category for vegetarians and vegans? Are we assuming that someone who doesn't eat meat obviously already deserves a medal for his or her heroic levels of conscientiousness? I ranted about this a bit in the 2010 Thanksgiving post. Being a vegetarian or a vegan can indeed reduce the amount of resources required to feed you, and do a lot of good for you body and the planet, but just because you don't buy CAFO meat doesn't mean your dietary choices can't harm yourself, the earth, and your local community. We should ALL be conscientious eaters, shouldn't we?

Shouldn't we be conscientious people?

I think, ultimately, that's the challenge I level at everyone who reads this blog. Be a conscientious person, and let that include how, and what, you eat. And if you don't know where to begin, click the 'eating omily' tag on the right, and do a little research! Delicious, delicious, research...
Sadly, no, magnolia blossoms can only be had for a few beautiful Spring days, canner or not...


Monday, March 26, 2012

Because I'm Not Sure You've Considered This, Either (Part II)

So, let's put aside for a moment the sticky issue of whether or not conscientious objection should apply to employers and institutions who feel contraceptive devices are morally problematic. After all, for that issue the question is: how far does religious freedom go? At what point does protecting someone's religious freedom begin to interfere with someone else's freedom?

I think there's a larger issue at hand.

Why should birth control be copay-free for anybody? Antibiotics are not copay free! Birth control, at least in the vast majority of cases, is not a life-saving medication. It does get prescribed for many conditions other than 'the potential to become pregnant', which, by the way, is the natural, healthy state of a woman in her child-bearing years, so the idea of altering that and calling it preventive healthcare is pretty freaking laughable, but one could argue that the societal important of preventing unwanted pregnancies, and the feminist issue of women having the freedom to make decisions regarding their sex life without the looming spectre of parenthood being too large, could dictate the necessity of affordable birth control for the citizens of this country. But really? Free? Planned Parenthood offers a full range of birthcontrol options for between $15-$50 a month. Wal-Mart offers birth control for $10 a month. As of 2008, 86% of insurance policies offered by employers covered hormonal birth control, and no discrepancy was found between coverage for viagra, and coverage for contraceptives. The urgent need for affordable birth control for all appears to be at least partially a myth. And at the risk of being hated on, I'd like to point out that viagra changes a diseased body and allows it to function normally so the person can have sex, and birth control, changes a healthy body to make it function abnormally so a person who is already quite capable of having sex can do so with less consequences. Those things are not comparable.

Ok, maybe you can already tell...the whole feminist stance that women NEED the freedom to have sex just for the sake of enjoying sex without worrying about pregnancy is a big eye-roller for me. I get that the whole point is that we should be equal to men. We SHOULD be equal to men in terms of treatment, opportunity, etc., and we absolutely are not yet there, but we CANNOT be equal to men in terms of having the exact same issues, the exact same lives. Having control over what happens to your vagina is not the same thing as wanting to pretend half of the biological functions affiliated with that vagina are illegitimate and shouldn't happen. We are different in important ways. Sometimes birth control fails, and a woman gets pregnant, and even if she's very comfortably pro-choice, and is prepared to terminate the pregnancy, she still has to terminate the pregnancy. The man does not. He may be there for her, but the surgery, the intrusion into the intimate spaces of another, and the stopping of a beating heart, is happening to her, not him. If she's not very comfortably pro-choice, things are a whole lot more complicated. Even if we're talking loving, committed partner who is a part of the decision-making process, going through the pregnancy and giving birth, or not as the case may be, the woman has a different, more direct experience than the man.

I find it highly offensive when it's suggested to me that our differences can be cancelled out by taking medication to keep me from ovulating.

I'm really terrified to live in a society that thinks sex shouldn't have consequences. Especially one that thinks by throwing the pill at everybody like confetti, we can make it that way.

Sex is a big deal!!

And has it occurred to ye feminists that men, the patriarchy, The Man, has a whole lot to gain by making sure all the women in this country can afford to artificially keep themselves from becoming pregnant? How about the health risks of being on birth control? An increased risk of breast cancer, and blood clots, among others. This is our indispensable preventive healthcare? How about the terrifying hormone levels being found in our water supply because of the quantity of excess hormone the millions of women on birth control are peeing out every day? What about the girls going into early puberty? And what about their breast cancer rates? Where the hell are my liberal protect-the-children-and-the-environment-at-all-cost petitions addressing those issues? We all turn a blind eye to those risks and those very real, measurable consequences in the name of women getting to enjoy casual sex. Well, thank God[dess] our priorities, are in line, huh?

You know what a woman's primary form of control over her reproductive health is? Not condoms. It is her FREEDOM to choose if she has sex, with whom, and under what circumstances. I am very nervous about anything that may lull women, and I'm talking about women who are young or naive enough for this to happen, into thinking they don't need to practice that primary form of control.

I just...I may be naive, old-fashioned, or both, but I don't think nearly as many people are doing whats best for themselves by having casual sex as are doing it. I suspect the vast majority of people would be better served if they didn't have sex until they were in a relationship both partners were committed to making permanent, at least in cases where the person is interested in eventually having one permanent, monogamous relationship. I'm not prepared to say that no one is capable of having sex without complicated hormonal and emotional reactions that result in a big mess when a safety net of emotional intimacy isn't present, but I suspect most of us are just mere mortals, and becoming very physically intimate with another person sort of tricks us into assuming the emotional intimacy is there when it isn't, and then it sucks really bad when it becomes clear that it wasn't after all, or even that it was at some point, but now it's not.

And sure, there's the argument that the pain and complications are worth the experience, that you shouldn't let fear of heartbreak keep you from having great sex with someone if you have the opportunity, or experiencing sexual intimacy in a healthy, positive but non-permanent relationship...that argument doesn't hold water if you ask me, but I suspect a lot of people disagree.

I hate that our society has swung so far toward sexual freedom that suddenly there's something wrong with you if you aren't really interested in sexual freedom. Abstinence shouldn't be the only option on offer, sure, but it should be a respectable option that is talked about, yes? It DOES in fact prevent pregnancy, STDs, a certain level of heartbreak, a whole lot of anxiety, awkwardness, etc. It DOES lead to a deeper level of trust and intimacy in that eventual permanent, monogamous relationship (again, assuming that's what you're aiming for), it DOES greatly reduce your statistical chances of divorce or unfaithfulness, your own, or your partner's. This makes sense to me. If you've never had sexual variety, you aren't going to miss it. You aren't going to feel entitled to have sex with different people, and have to retrain yourself to only have sex with this one person now, forever. People do it, of course, there's no excuse for infidelity (again, an honest, agreed upon open relationship is a different thing altogether), but it sounds really hard to me.

I think it gives you more freedom. Whether they know better or not, how many women and men have stayed in a shitty relationship because of the sex? How much collective time has been wasted over sex?? Sex may be awesome, but really, is it worth that?

So my convoluted point is, the assumption that free hormonal birth control is something that women are entitled to, and that anyone who gets in the way of that is anti-feminist, or anti-healthcare, is built on a lot of pretty rickety scaffolding, and instead of having a discussion about all this, we're throwing around words like "prostitute!", and "war on women!" Both equally inflammatory, and meaningless, because clearly a woman who wants access to birth control so she can live her sex life as she sees fit minus having to pay to prevent pregnancy is not a prostitute, whether you agree with her or not, and a political party who is anti-legislating healthcare is not waging a war on women by saying tax payers shouldn't be paying for birth control for everyone, whether you agree with them or not.


Live Omily,

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Three of Cups

And we're back, for another exciting installment of, The Omily Tarot! Once a week, I offer you my interpretation of a tarot card from the Waite-Smith deck (we're exploring the deck sequentially), based on numerical and elemental significances, and the images on the cards themselves. When I finish writing up all the interpretations, they'll be designed into a lovely zine and available for purchase. Yay!!

Today, we're on the Three of Cups, which is the perfect card for a beautiful Spring day, which it is in these parts. Traditional associations with this card include a gathering, or a party, and in no situation is it a particularly negative card, though of course, we all know partying without moderation can lead to trouble...

The Three of Cups
"Three women dance among a bounty of vegetables, their presumably full cups held overhead in a toast. The three of cups is an unabashedly happy card. It doesn’t take a psychic to see that this card could be foretelling a party, or a coming to fruition of one’s hopes. And don’t we all hope our dreams of perfect love (as in the ace), of meeting that special someone (as expressed in the two), and having all the butterflies and the rush of infatuation of that moment bear the fruit of real love: a healthy, sustainable, and supportive relationship will come true?

What better symbol of such than a productive garden? Any gardener will tell you of the hard, and never-ending work a garden can entail. For months out of the year you work hard with no reward, and then it seems like all at once, it starts giving back, with wild abandon and complete openness. We are inevitably reminded of the earth’s joyfully generous harvest of the coins by this card, and so we should be: the three of cups is about our emotional work, the risks and fears of negotiating a new relationship, being worth it.

If you’re crying, “Don’t tell me it always works out so rosy!” don’t worry; the swords will be there to present the cold, hard truth soon enough. For now, take a staves moment, and rejoice in the possibilities! The blue sky, and the red and yellow cloaks on two of the dancers allow this card to prominently feature the primary colors. Pamela Smith, the artist behind the Waite-Smith deck, chose a beautiful symbol of having all you need to make all you could want.

Ok, so their dance may end in a squashed pumpkin or a sprained ankle, so even healthy and happy relationships can end in broken hearts! Such is life, after all, and that being the case, it can’t be a bad thing to spend some time reveling in the times that our dreams do come true. In this card, we took a gamble on bringing our dreams into the realm of reality, and we won big!"

As always, this interpretation is only a starting place. If it doesn't feel relevant to the issue at hand when this card pops up in a spread, defenestrate it, and consider other possibilities: dancing with other women? Enjoying the fruits of your labor? Girls' Night Out? Done grocery shopping for the week? Your interpretation of a card in a given reading doesn't have to make sense to anyone except you and the person you're reading for, and if you're reading for yourself, then there's half the battle already!

Here's to a Three of Cups kind of day!

Live Omily,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eating Omily: Can You Believe it??

It's Spring again!

Yes, the giant rock we're existing on has traveled millions of miles at absurd speeds all the way around the freaking sun AGAIN!

I don't know about you, but that blows me mind every time. Twenty-five Springs later, it's still taking me by surprise.

What greater miracle than the turning wheel of the seasons: the magnolia buds trembling to bloom one day, and wide open singing to the sun the next. The crocuses popping out of every crevice, and then the daffodils smiling grandly behind every fence...I can't say it's my favourite season, because I get this excited about them all, but it does offer the strongest sense of pageantry, I think.
And what better day than that first day I saw the magnolias had bloomed to pick up a pear and a raspberry danish and sit down in the sunshine amid the bustle of Union Square park?
Thank you, Bread Alone Bakery!

The flowers are quicker on the uptake than the veggies, though. Spinach and salad greens are making their way in, but they're still coming out of greenhouses. Asparagus will be the opening bell on the preserving season in a month or so, and I can't wait! This year I'm going to have to partner up if I'm going to get it all done without getting too burned out. I missed the window for marmalade and will have to cheat and do it in the Spring if I want to avoid an insurrection around here.

Of course, the reminders of how worthwhile the effort is pop up daily! Quinoa with lots of chopped pickles is a delicious dinner in a pinch, especially along side a baked sweet potato. The kicky vinegar from the pickled chili peppers breathes new life into my favourite cabbage salad. A couple handfuls of frozen greenbeans provide vegetal nutrition when I can't make it out to the Farmer's Market. The canned tomatoes are absolutely worth their weight in gold, or maybe platinum; they aint just for pasta sauce...but more on that next week.

These heralds of Spring, and preserving work to come, is also the warning that now's the time to clear out my cupbards to make room for the new! There will be a lot of zuchinni muffins to come, and dried green beans will be a permanent staple in the brown rice. All my lucky friends with Spring Birthdays will get jars of treats to herald their special day. I'm not worried about the tomatoes. We'll use every one of those. I can finally feel comfortable cracking open a jar of dills just to snack on them straight out the jar! My favourite fridge nibble...the seasons of plenty and lean come and go, but always we feel blessed.
Enjoy the Spring! Eat salads with goat cheese and nuts...


Monday, March 19, 2012

Reiki Clinic, or, Reiki Bootcamp

On St. Patrick's Day, I spent three hours offering Reiki as part of Jaya Yoga Center's Spring healing clinic. Thai massage, acupuncture, and Reiki were all available for $20 suggested donation for a twenty minute session.
From what I've heard, it was an awesome experience for our clients that day. For us healers, it was really intense! There was about eight of us Reiki-ers in the space, and depending on how many Reiki appointments we had, there were a couple people Reiki-ing together, shifting around the figure lying on the blanket with our yoga bolsters and blocks for support, attempting to stay comfortable with achey backs, sore hips, and very open chakras.

It was my first marathon Reiki session, and by the end of it I had learned a lot about Reiki-ing: about setting the space, clearing the energy, having boundaries, caring for myself, and the nature of sharing healing.

In general I'm very good with boundaries. I don't have a problem with telling people 'no' when I know saying 'yes' would be bad for me. But keeping up boundaries, and keeping your own energy separate from another person's is a whole new ballgame when a third energy is coursing through your body and into the other person's body, and you're picking up all kind of information about this person and his or her energy because of it. It's hard to do with just one appointment you can prep for and process afterward; six in a row with maybe ten minutes in between is a whole other ballgame than that!

So in some ways it was definitely a crash course in knowing when to take a step back, energetically or emotionally. It's hard to know what to share with someone who is sipping a cup of water before clearing out for the next appointment, because they won't really have the time or the space to process it properly. If you go too deep, you'll just sort of leave that person hanging.

It was interesting because, you learn all these things in Reiki: that you should leave time for the person to come back in his or her own time, that you should use various techniques to address various issues, that you need to take time to balance the person, do a final sweep, and then give gratitude for the Reiki, that you should invite the Reiki energy in each time, by name, and mentioning the person's name, and take the time to invoke any spirits or beings who are meaningful for you, and take your time to see where the Reiki wants to go, and if you should be using any healing tools to help you...

and a lot of this stuff just flies out the window when you have 20 minutes to Reiki a perfect stranger, and then ten minutes to prepare to Reiki the next perfect stranger! But, Reiki can also be used anywhere, at any time. On yourself, on plants, on animals, on the fly...

So it was beautiful to play with Reiki in such a free form way, and to experience multiple people's Reiki techniques and energies in the same space, on the same person, at the same time. A delicate dance happens when you're squatting on a block at a person's head, and the person at the feet is suddenly moved to switch to the person's side. Everyone has their own hot spots that they feel need Reikid, and ever practitioner has their own modus operandi about where to Reiki, in what order, and under what circumstances to deviate.

The rest of my evening was awash in residual Reiki energy, along with everything else that happened to flow over the welcome mat of my wide-open Crown chakra. As of the day after, my hips were still more open than they've ever been in my life.

I also learned that my nose will drain for a day or two after an intense Reiki influx. Just a weird cleansing response.

I'm so excited about the opportunities I've had lately to practice my different Spiritual Counseling skills. My network of mentors, clients, and everyone in between has been growing, and I know there's a lot of growth, success, and healing on the horizon for me. Come be a part of it, and live Omily with me!

For Realz,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Three of Staves

Happy Thursday, everyone, another week is almost gone! Where does the time go? I certainly don't know. I gave a tarot reading on Tuesday, and as always there's this slight worry that, this time, when I lay the cards out, they won't have anything to say. I'll just be staring at pretty pictures...but of course, that didn't happen. And when a particular card doesn't have much to say, the thing to do is, dig deeper. Ask the querent questions, ask the characters in the card questions, ask objects in the card questions! Consider what the colors in the card say to you, what emotions seem to be shown. Never mind what the card is 'supposed' to mean. Tune into your intuition to help you discern the message this card has for you. Sometimes those readings are the most fun!

Welcome to another installment of the Omily Tarot, where I share with you my interpretations of each card in the Waite-Smith Tarot deck, one card at a time, based on the elements, numerical associations, and the images on the cards themselves. I'm hard at work interpreting the whole deck according to this system, and when it's done, it will be produced in a beautiful zine, and available for purchase. In the meantime, get your fix here!

So, here we are, at the threes already! Can you believe it?? The threes are a big moment, numerically. Just as it takes three legs for a table to stand, when we go from two to three, we go from theoretical, or metaphorical, to literal, or physical. To borrow a phrase, shit just got real!

First up, as always, (You can picture them elbowing their way to the front of the line!) are the Staves. Fiery, and passionate, they should be pretty excited to lay it all on the line, right? Well, we'll see!
3 of Staves

"The two of staves, in his finery atop his castle, seemed pretty sure of himself, and the inevitable success of his ambitions. It’s easy to think that a ship sails beautifully while it’s safely tied up in the harbor. Taking it out into open water isn’t necessarily a recipe for disaster, but you’d be an unusual person indeed if, as the builder of that ship, you didn’t have even the teeniest knot in your stomach for that maiden voyage.

It’s exactly that transition, with the metaphor intact, that we see in the three of staves. That first stave isn’t bolted to the wall and ignored now; it and the second are stuck in the earth, at the mercy of the elements, and the third is held out to the side by the man, standing still high above the ocean, but considerably more exposed to unfavorable winds himself, missing even his hat! Literal bad weather is one example of an uncontrollable factor that can derail the best laid plans, but the ill winds he feels so vulnerable to are just as likely to be the criticism of others now that his plan is available for anyone to appraise. That watery ocean may be threatening to douse the fiery enthusiasm of this suit, but the color yellow floods this card, and between that and the red cloak our hero still wears, this sense of vulnerability and fear of failure should only be a temporary influence that cannot unduly alter the optimism caused by the huge potential that can be reached, assuming the latest step on the path toward world domination is successful.

Would the figure do well to heed his concerns, or at least explore them to see if they could be legitimate? Just what kind of soil are his staves stuck in? Are they secure in muddy soil that will allow them to take root and grow? Cemented in the rock of confidence that will keep them standing, even as they dry up and their usefulness blows away in the wind? Or a dry sand that will let them topple to the ground at the first breeze of adversity? The daring ambitions of the staves have been let loose in the real world. Will they burn the competition to the ground, or only the ship that’s attempting to come in? We’ll find out soon enough…"

Do you relate to the stave's passionate determination, or find their high-energy stubbornness to be exhausting, or downright obnoxious? Where in your life is there Stave energy, and how can you make positive use of it?

Live Omily,

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eating Omily: For My Next Trick I Shall Tackle World Peace

Yesterday was a beautiful day to drive along the FDR with a three-legged cat at my side. I am most grateful to the ASPCA for caring enough about the stress level of their fosters to foot the bill for a cab from Brooklyn to the upper east side and back whenever Linda's due for a check-up. She got her staples out today, and we were able to reduce her pain med dosage, so she's much more alert and active now, and looks great! Yay!

Anyway, so, the windows are open, a warm breeze is blowing through, we soar over the Brooklyn Bridge, and then we're riding around the curve of south Brooklyn, and there's the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and the whole glittering harbor...what a day! I could really go for a picnic!

Well, I had to make due that day with a trip to the Farmer's Market, but I hope to get luckier later this week, and maybe you will, too! No, not that way, good heavens, although this recipe is really good, and maybe the parks won't be too crowded yet...


you may or may not be aware that cabbage is super-good for you. It's an anti-inflamatory food, it scrubs your whole system clean, it fights cancer, it is awesome! Here's the bad news: if you cook cabbage, you reduce it's powerful health benefits quite significantly.
I do know people who are more than happy to sit around a table cheerily peeling leaves of a head of cabbage and eating it raw.

I am not one of those people. Cabbage is too harsh in both flavor and texture for me to enjoy straight up, and even with all the options cooking offered, it has never been my favourite.

And such a shame! So healthy! So widely available! So cold weather hardy! So CHEAP!

I've finally solved this culinary conundrum however, and brought cabbage from occasional looked-at-sideways visitor, to much-beloved nearly-daily staple. AND, prepared this way, it's the perfect side dish to your grilled burgers and dogs, or diagonally-sliced peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches. Allow me to introduce to you:

Carrot-Ginger Cabbage Salad

Nom. Step one: buy a big head of cabbage. I've only worked with green thus far in this recipe, but red would probably be lovely too, and pack an extra punch of antioxidants.

Stand the cabbage on its stem end, and cut it in half, and cut one half in half again. Unless you're feeding a whole lot of people, or have a small head of cabbage, one quarter will be enough: it feeds four with very generous portions.

You'll also need a couple carrots; two per quarter large head of cabbage.

You'll also need ginger. Ah, here's the rub! Ginger does not grow in these parts. Usually it hails from some place absurdly far away, like Thailand. I let myself have this cheat because a properly prepped hand of ginger will last you months if not years, and doesn't weigh much.

Take your hand of ginger, and cut it up into knobs of an inch or two each. Peel all the knobs (you can peel the ginger as best you can before cutting if that seems easier), then placed the knobs on a tray, and slide the tray into the freezer for a few hours. Once the knobs are frozen solid, put them in a freezer-safe, air-tight container, and put the container back into the freezer. You can easily grate frozen ginger.

So, you've got a quarter-head of cabbage, two carrots, and some peeled ginger. Cut the core out of the cabbage, and then slice it as thinly as you can (the rest of the cabbage, not the core). Put the cabbage in a big bowl, and then consider your carrots.

I like to use a vegetable peel to produce long, very thin pieces of carrot that easily mingle throughout the cabbage so you get some in every bite. Yes, peeling a carrot down to nothing is rather tedious. If you'd rather slice them thin, or julienne them, or grate them, be my guest.

Put the prepped carrots in the bowl, too, and then grate a knob of ginger into the bowl. I'm a huge ginger fan, and will happily use the whole one-inch knob, but if you prefer a subtle hint of ginger to complement the sweet carrot, and cabbage, use less.

Now add salt, and vinegar. I usually use red wine vinegar, but cider vinegar is good, too. Don't skimp on either one of these ingredients! The action of the salt and acid over time is what tenderizes the cabbage to more of an iceberg lettuce consistency. Drizzle on some good olive oil, and toss, toss, toss.

You can eat this salad immediately, but it'll only get better over the next day or two, so feel free to make it ahead, just an hour or two, or a whole day. It keeps well in the fridge, and is perfect for getting your veggie fix at lunch when you're in a hurry. It's delicious cold from the fridge, but nice at room temperature, too.

I give up on the fork within a few minutes and just use my fingers. I wanted to put a picture of the salad I was eating at the bottom, but I finished eating it before I took a picture of it...ah well! Next time!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Because I'm Not Sure You've Considered This...

So, the Catholic church, aka my Home Boyz are in the news again. The good news is, it's not for abusing children! The bad news is, they're still taking a lot of flack.
It seems, in my neck of the woods at least, there's a pretty big backlash against anyone who's not super gung-ho about requiring everyone to provide women with birth control and sterilization services with no co-pay. Such people are, you know, pretty much evil, misogynistic, ignorant, hateful, and probably a crazy Christian along with all of the above.
Well, ok, I'm just going to have to expose myself (no pun intended...) and take the fall-out. I. Am not all gung-ho about requiring everyone to provide free birth control and sterilization to all women.
Let me be clear: I am NOT anti-birth control. I'm a user who regularly thanks the Divine for it. I'm not really anti-sterilization, although it does rub my sensibilities the wrong way, that's just a personal thing.

I am NOT anti-affordable birth control. I was pissed as anybody when my chosen form got pulled off the market for safety reasons, and when it went back on, they were reissued their patent that made it illegal for a generic form to get on the market for a long time to come. I paid $100 a month for birth control, and I did not like it. I didn't have insurance at the time. I got it through Planned Parenthood and a fat lot of good it did me.

I AM anti forcing people to do something they feel is morally wrong. This is a free country, we have freedom of religion, we have conscientious objection, etc. This is a huge and vitally important part of who we are.
Let me break down this example for you. It will probably not change your mind, but it should at least give you some food for thought.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York is a non-profit company, affiliated with the Catholic Church (obviously). Among other things, like helping immigrants get the help they need to find homes, jobs, schools for their children, free English language classes, help with navigating America's laws and obtaining citizenship, etc., they serve 6.1 million meals a year to New Yorkers in need.
IMPORTANT POINT: They do not ask to see your rosary at the door. They offer their services to anyone in need, regardless of what they do or do not believe, because that is what Jesus taught.

They also hire anyone who is qualified, regardless of what they do or do not believe.

I believe this is called, not discriminating based on religion, and it is widely considered to be a positive thing.

Because they do not discriminate, because they offer their services to anyone who needs them, they do not fit the Affordable Health Care Act's exemption for religious institutions. This exemption only covers institutions that only hire and serve members of that faith. Which...would mean the institution is discriminating against those with different beliefs...which...I kind of thought...was bad? Hmmm...

So, because they don't qualify for the exemption, in less than a year, as things currently stand, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York would be required to offer free birth control and sterilization, things which the Church views as gravely wrong, because it teaches that sexuality should always be open to creating new life, to all of their employees.

The government thus far has made a small compromise, by putting the cost of the birth control onto the insurance company, instead of onto Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. By not making them pay for something they find abhorrent, they have certainly improved the situation, but they're still forcing them to violate their conscience by offering it to their employees.

AND, who are we kidding here? Foisting that cost onto the insurance companies is not going to make them go, "Oh, boohoo!" and cut their profits. It's going to make everyone's premiums go up.

Let's be clear here: women who feel their birth control should be co-pay free don't have to work for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York! True story! They have the FREEDOM to work anywhere they want! They also have the FREEDOM to buy a generic form of birth control without insurance for a remarkably low cost, OR to obtain it from Planned Parenthood for a remarkably low cost. Sterilization is a bit more expensive, yes, but again, these women can work wherever they please.

I realize there's much more to this issue, many more facets of it to consider. Oh, rest assured, I have sooooo much more to say, and yes, I promise, I'll get around to arguing the other side, too. I wanted to clearly explain this viewpoint that I feel gets totally ignored by just about everybody, because I think it's important. If we allow the government to say that any institution's freedom of religion is not legitimate, or doesn't matter, or doesn't count, we place EVERYBODY's freedom in jeopardy.

We'd better have a pretty damn good reason for letting ourselves head in this direction, and if you ask me, "Women shouldn't have to pay a $30 copay for medication that makes their body work in an artificial way so they can have sex without the naturally occurring consequence of pregnancy!!" is not a good enough reason. And no, I don't think it needs to be free because women use it for hormone replacement therapy, reduction of PMDD symptoms, or anything else either.

Can you argue that Catholic Charities should be willing to pay for it if it's being prescribed for these other reasons? Yeah, totally. My parent's old insurance functioned that way: it was only covered if the doctor called the insurance company and told them the condition it was being prescribed for, not for pregnancy prevention. Will they agree with that assessment? Oh, well, probably not.

Hey, I never said the Church was perfect! Or that I am, for that please,

Debate; don't hate!

I'll be back to add more fuel to the fire in a week or so, after an Omily Tarot post and an Eating Omily post, hopefully.

Live Omily!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Linda-Example to Us All

I iz sorries! I was all excited to write this blog post yesterday, but it was rather an overwhelming day and we were late to bed, but on the bright side, by waiting for today I have way more pictures for you!

I signed up for the ASPCA foster program last month, a wonderful program that allows animal-lovers all over the NYC metro area to provide the specialized care necessary to prepare pets for adoption to animals in need. Some of these animals need medical follow up care, some need additional socialization, some are kittens not yet big enough to spay, or neuter. Some are just wonderful adult cats who need a break from sitting around the shelter environment.

I attended orientation February 16th, and have been anxiously awaiting our first placement since then. Finally, on Tuesday, I caught the e-mail: Linda, an adult spayed female, was a recovering high rise victim. She felt from an apartment window, and though she survived, she got a nasty wound under her front leg, and her rear right leg was so badly damaged it couldn't be saved. She underwent an amputation, and stayed at the ASPCA veterinary hospital for the initial recovery period. She needs time to adapt to life on three legs, building strength and coordination, and the wound on her front leg needs special care and time to heal properly. She needs pain meds, antibiotics, both oral and topical, twice a day.
I am so proud to be a part of Linda's story. She is an incredibly sweet, and outgoing kitty, in spite of the horrendous trauma she experienced. Obviously you can't help but anthropomorphize a little bit. Cats can't comprehend self-pity, and they don't have social stigma to deal with, or even a very concrete grasp of how this change will affect their lives in the future. But I can't help but be inspired by the way Linda pulls herself up, and hobbles wherever she needs to go. I can see how much of a struggle it is for her, but all she wants is a good ear scratch, and she's purring away.
Not that she's all sweet acceptance, she's plenty spunky. We tried to give her a break from the collar and it only took her two minutes to turn around and start chewing on the staples where her leg used to be, so back on it went. I helped her out of the cattery this morning so I could clean it out, and she bullied right past me and made a beeline for our bedroom, where our resident kitty was hangint out. I intercepted her and attempted to point her back in the direction of the kitchen. One would think a newly three-legged cat would be minimally agile, and somewhat docile. Nope. She squirmed and wriggled till she got herself turned around and past my legs, and she took off much faster than she had given evidence of being able to move previously. I was finally able to successfully secure the borders, so she sat behind the cattery and protested rather loudly before deciding her time would be better spent napping.

I gave her a sponge bath today. It inspired her to attempt some cleaning of her own, but all she can lick is her collar, poor thing.
Her vets suggested I give her a break from the collar as long as I could stay there and watch her, as that might encourage her to eat, so I did, and was relieved when she did tuck into a can of fancy feast with apparent relish. After eating half of it, she started washing herself, which I figured was fine, but she licked at the wound on her front leg too much and tore a big scab off of it, which sent me spiraling into a dark whirlpool of 'OhmygoddessI'materriblemother!' thoughts. I applied a clean papertowel to the wound to encourage it to re-clot, and scurried out of the room to text the husband and e-mail her vets. For the third time today.

She was lying down quite cozily when I left, and I swung the door to her cattery open to inhibit her escape, but clearly she was more determined (for unfathomable reasons) than I thought, because I heard a deep, throaty, feline growl, saw Truffle hiding behind the chair in the living room looking quite stiff, and rushed into the room to see Linda hobbling toward Truffle without an apparent care in the world. I scooped her up and rushed her back to the kitchen, this time reinstating the whole cattery in place to block her escape, and went to comfort Truffle, who had high-tailed it out of there as soon as Linda was secured in my arms.
Oh yes, this beautiful, brave kitty is a handful! But I'm glad to see that she's curious, and not afraid to take off on her three legs for adventures unknown...I'll just have to be more vigilant about what she's doing when her collar's off, and keeping her fenced into the kitchen. Starting next week, she'll be allowed to have more space to explore, once she's a little bit stronger, and I'm hoping that in the next two to three weeks she and Truffle will work out their social hierarchy and be friends, but it's hard to say with cats!
I solemnly swear not to let this turn into a foster cat blog, but I will keep you posted on significant progress along Linda's road to full health and a forever home! If you're interested in a spunky little lady who loves to be petted and scratched, Linda will be available for adoption through the NYC ASPCA in four to six weeks.

Live Omily,

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Omily Tarot: The Two of Coins

Oh my! Is it Tarot Time again already?? A little past, actually, but that's alright! Today's card is the Two of Coins: a lively, fun card about having your cake and eating it, too. If you tend to bite off more than you can chew, over-commit, and double-book yourself left and right, and love every hectic minute of it, this card's for you! If you do those things out of a sense of obligation, or to maintain your reputation as a really nice and helpful person, this card speaks to you, too, but the message is a little different.

It's so important to tune into our hearts and really ask what our motives are for taking actions. To some extent of course, we're complex human beings, and our motives are hardly ever 100% noble, or pure, but doing that gut check and refraining from doing something that really logically seems like the right thing to do because I want to do it for the wrong reasons has actually been serving me really well the last few weeks. It's something to think about.

Catch-Up for my Newbs: The Omily Tarot is a series of seventy-eight posts I'm doing once a week to slowly post my interpretations of the entire deck. My interpretations are based on numerology, the four elements, and the images on the cards themselves. I'm using the Waite-Smith deck, because I have a copy of it that's very meaningful for me, because it's at this point a classic interpretation of the tarot, and because it's one most tarot students have, and if you don't, it does make sense to spend the $10 or $20 to add one to your arsenal. When I finish interpreting the entire deck, I'll be designing and self-publishing a book of my interpretations, and it'll be available for purchase on my website, so if these interpretations are really striking a chord with you, that may be worth spending a little money on, too!

Now that that's settled...

The Two of Coins
"The 2-cards up to now may have seemed to get heavier and heavier, but the pattern is broken with the jovial jester figure on this card. With his silly hat and brightly colored outfit, he dances as he juggles, keeping both pentacles in the air.

After looking ahead at what else may be out there, negotiating with the stakes very high, and considering all facets of a decision before possibly relinquishing one path, the coins pull us back the other way. This is the card of the multi-tasker. This high-energy character keeps both coins in balance, and the infinity symbol around the coins suggests he could keep this up forever. On the other hand, the sea behind him is choppy, suggesting the cost to keeping so many practical concerns going at once is the tranquility and stillness of our emotions.

Does his heart leap into his throat every time a coin is arrested by gravity in the second before his hand appears to catch it? Maybe he’s capable of juggling forever, so in-tune with his craft that he’ll never miss a beat, but is it worth the stress? This card carries the ambivalent messages that you don’t have to choose, and yet sometimes it’s better to let a ball drop, allowing yourself some extra breathing room. To choose or not to choose is the real choice behind this card. Trust abundant pentacles to have to answer that conundrum before even considering what to let go of."

You might take a page from this character's book to help you assess where your priorities lie, and what you could sooner part with if you need more time in your life: choose objects to symbolize the different activities or commitments you have, and experiment with holding them all at once. Does that feel good? Overwhelming? Impossible? Try holding sets of two, one in each hand. Did you choose a bowling ball to represent one of your activities? What is your subconscious telling you? Even if the activity is bowling, you could have selected a bowling shoe instead. Does holding a pencil in your hand feel complete and perfect even when your other hand is weighed down? Be sure to swap hands out, too, and consider the implications of your dominant and non-dominant hands reacting differently to different objects. Take notes of the thoughts and sensations this exercise brings up, and then assess.

Live Omily!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's Ok to Suck at Meditation

The 28-Day Meditation Challenge is over now. You can read the blog entailing my experiences with it here. I had high hopes at the beginning: I really wanted to finish out the month with my meditation practice cemented in my daily routine, an unbreakable habit. I wanted to experience long stretches of mental quiet, just me and my breath. wanted to recognize my thoughts as they floated past, and release them easily. I wanted to observe my fluctuating emotions and sensations from a place of inner stillness and peace. Well, I can tell you after four weeks of experience:

That stuff is hard as shit!

I spent a lot of the practice asking myself if I was making any progress yet. It didn't seem like I was, and I wondered, off and on, if I was doing it right, or if it should be taking this long. Then this happened...

On Thursday, the first post-meditation challenge day, my sister-in-law had minor hand surgery, so I kept her mom company in the hospital, and stuck around to help them both get home and settled. We piled into the cab that was taking us from the hospital back to her campus, a bit exhausted, obviously, from the experience. The cab driver pulled away, and I forgot to tell him to stop at a drugstore before going home so we could pick up the Tylenol she was supposed to be taking for the pain.

About halfway through the trip I remembered, and I asked the driver to please take a detour so we could run that errand, and he just got so upset. He berated me for not telling him before, pointed out he had come all the way across town and didn't know where a drug store was now, and was just totally thrown for a loop. I apologized for not telling him sooner, recognizing the inconvenience I had caused him, but insisted that this was important and I needed him to turn around. He only got angrier once he had, waving his arms and yelling. My poor sister, overwrought from the anxiety of the operation, and probably still dealing with the anesthetic in her system started crying, and of course her mother was furious, and trying to comfort her at the same time.

"That is enough." I stated in a voice certainly not free from an angry tone, and loud enough to be heard over his ranting. I reminded him that I had acknowledged the inconvenience I was causing him, and that I had apologized, and while I understood he was upset, he had expressed that already, and he could not keep yelling at us for the remainder of the ride.

It didn't actually stop him, of course, he just got on his radio and yelled at the dispatcher instead, who also told him he needed to calm down. I pointed out he might give himself an ulcer if he carried on this way often. We pulled into a grocery, and my mom-in-law ran in to get the medicine. Meanwhile he left the car to call the dispatcher, thank goodness, giving us some quiet in which to regroup. The next thing I knew he had thrust his phone at me, and was yelling at his dispatcher to "tell HER that then!"

I took the phone and calmly explained to the confused dispatcher that I was the fare, and he had handed the phone to me. The dispatcher was able to explain that since the ride was being expensed to the school, there was no way to charge them for the time spent waiting in the parking lot. I apologized, and explained I hadn't known that at all; our driver hadn't said anything about it, and offered to pay the difference myself. By the time we left the parking lot, the dispatcher asked, very apologetically, that I give $4 to the cab driver and we'd call it even. He was silent the whole way home, and when I handed him the money, I thanked him, and suggested that in the future he might want to try calmly explaining the situation instead of losing his temper.

We were all fine, of course, and went on with our day. It wasn't until I got home that night and read the final section of Sharon Salzberg's book, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, which the challenge was based on that something clicked.

"I think the meditation is working." I said to the husband.

"Oh?" he asked.

"No matter how out of control that cab driver got, even though I was angry with him and knew it wasn't acceptable how he was treating us, I never lost track of the fact that he must have been coming from a place of great pain or fear to be responding like that to a simple request. I really felt sorry for him. I didn't lose my temper, or feel overwhelmed, or frightened, or hurt because I knew that this was something that was happening to him, not me. He was hurting himself, and we just happened to be there. He wanted to be happy just like us, and wasn't very good at it yet."

So what was in that final section that made it all fall into place? Something that I think should be heard at the very beginning of a meditation practice:

"We don't meditate to get better at meditation. We meditate to get better at life."

So the next time your crazily careening brain tells you you're no good at meditation because sitting still makes you antsy after five minutes, you can tell it to put that memo in its pipe and smoke it!

Meditation will change your life. That's something I can promise you.

Live Omily,