Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Mexican meal in homemade ceramic casserole.

I confess. I am not experienced at cooking Mexican recipes. Luckily for me, a friend loaned me her Sunset Mexican Cookbook. It’s packed with wonderful, authentic and creative recipes. I’d like to say that I’ve been following the recipes exactly but that's not the way I cook. I use recipes for inspiration and ideas, then look around for what I have on hand.

I had leftover beef and pork. Flour tortillas. Salsa and some leftover roasted red pepper soup. Sour cream. Green Onions. Cheese. What to do? Looking through Sunset’s cookbook for ideas, I stumbled on the chapter about Enchiladas. Most are made with mole sauce. Since I didn’t have that, I got creative.

Here’s the recipe(as far as I can remember) baked up in one of my own hand built ceramic bakers.

Creative Enchiladas
1 cup left over roast beef cut up
1 cup left over pork loin roast cut up
½ onion chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Saute the above in a non-stick fry pan with a little olive oil.
In a sauce pan, heat up ½ carton Roasted red pepper soup and ½ jar salsa. Dip the tortillas in the sauce, fill with filling and some cheese, roll them up and place side by side in the casserole. Cover with more sauce and cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until the cheese in melted and bubbly.
Serve with dollop of sour cream and chopped green onions.

It might now be authentic, but it was yummy! Even my husband, a big fan of mexican food, said it was very good!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Natures sculptures: A robins nest.

Shadows of birds wings swooping outside my kitchen window was the first hint. I figured the birds were after twigs for nest building. I even found the beginnings of a nest on my stacked patio furniture. Bits of willow twigs, mulch and leaves from the garden were neatly woven together for the base.

After a while, I noticed they abandoned that nest. We have a cat, so I figured the robins decided to move to a higher place. They did move, but not to a tree. They built a nest right on top of our backyard motion light. It’s a good choice. The light provides warmth, a stable base, a good location on an inside corner, protected from the rain, wind and curious kitties.

The swooping shadows have stopped. Mother bird is settled in the nest keeping those eggs warm. I can’t wait to see how many little beaks peep up. I may not be able to get a close up picture of the nest or babies, but I can still admire her sculpture work, neatly woven in and around the motion light from a distance.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Throwing clay days = Therapy and Play.

When I throw, I am happy. I’m calm. I’m also a mess. I get clay on my clothes and in my hair. But it doesn’t matter because I’m the only one there, except my dog, Jilly. I wedge up various balls of clay. Gather up my tools, towels and water. Put on my apron and slap that clay on the wheel. As I center the clay, I center myself.

If this sounds a little too spiritual, here’s some reality for you. If I’m out of whack in body or mind, so is the clay. And as much as I push, squeeze or pull the clay, it only works when I stop. Take a breath. Listen not to my monkey mind but to the silent clay.

When I listen with my fingers, I succeed. I pull up the clay into a nice even cylinder, push it out and play with it a little. When I listen to my mind, I fail. I pull up an uneven wall, try to fix it and have it get more wonky than before. But I’m learning to trust my fingers and fix my mistakes. This pitcher? A mistake at first.

I love to throw. It’s play. And it’s my own private therapy. I succeed and fail and still feel satisfied. Even when I screw up and utter some bad words, no one hears me but my dog, Jilly. And I know, she’d never tell. Especially if I play ball with her afterward.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dealing with feelings without drugs.

A new book, “Rethinking Depression” by Eric Maisel

I was 16 when my parents moved across country a month before my junior prom. I cried and cried. My stomach got upset and my face broke out. I cried some more. The solution? The doctor prescribed phenobarbital, 3 times a day.

I didn’t feel sad or anxious or mad anymore. I didn’t feel anything. I went to school each day completely zoned out. The drugs dealt with my normal, yet unpleasant adolescent feelings at the time. Years later, I found out that drugs don’t take unpleasant feelings away, they take you away from yourself.

Now, most people would say that I was suffering from depression. That I needed an antidepressant. After what I went through with drugs as a teenager, I disagree. Taking a pill only makes you feel less. Your feelings feel good and bad, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or your feelings. Sadness is a feeling, not a disease.

Eric Maisel, PhD, a licensed psychotherapist and author would agree. His new book, “Rethinking Depression”, does two key things: 1) it disputes the prevailing view that depression is a disease and 2) it introduces a complete program for addressing human sadness.

According to Maisel, “There is something profoundly wrong with the way that we currently name and treat certain human phenomena. When we call something a “mental disease” or a “mental disorder” we imply a great deal about its origins, its treatment, its intractability, and its locus of control. The mental health industry has its reasons for calling life’s challenges “disorders” but we have few good reasons to collude with them. In fact, the word depression has virtually replaced unhappiness in our internal vocabularies. We feel sad but we call ourselves depressed. Having unconsciously made this linguistic switch, when we look for help we naturally turn to a “depression expert.” We look to a pill, a therapist, a social worker, or a pastoral counselor — even if we’re sad because we’re having trouble paying the bills, because our career is not taking off, or because our relationship is on the skids. That is, even if our sadness is rooted in our circumstances, social forces cause us to name that sadness “depression” and to look for “help with our depression.” People have been trained to call their sadness “depression” by the many forces acting upon them, from the mental health industry to mass culture to advertising.”

In reviewing the book, I came across alarming statistics about depression and drugs.

 1 in 10 or 11% of people in the U.S. are taking anti-depressants
 20 million Americans are diagnosed with depression each year.
 120 million people worldwide are reputed to be suffering from depression.
 From 1996 to 2005, the number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled
 Antidepressants are the most prescribed drug in the USA.

Here’s what Eric Maisel says in “Rethinking Depression” about drugs and depression.

“Chemicals have effects and they can alter a human being’s experience of life. That a chemical called an antidepressant can change your mood in no way constitutes proof that you have a mental disorder called depression. All that it proves is that chemicals can have an effect on mood. There is a fundamental difference between taking a drug because it is the appropriate treatment for a medical illness and taking a drug because it can have an effect. This core distinction is regularly obscured in the world of treating depression.”

Eric explains the need to let feelings be feelings and not an illness.

“By taking the common human experience of unhappiness out of the shadows and acknowledging its existence, we begin to reduce its power. At first it is nothing but painful to say, “I am profoundly unhappy.” The words cut to the quick. They seem to come with a life sentence and allow no room for anything sweet or hopeful. But the gloom can lift”.

Eric’s solution is to live a life with meaning. Where there’s room for feelings and a life where you decide what is meaningful for you.

“Living authentically means organizing your life around your answers to three fundamental questions. The first is, “What matters to you?” The second is, “Are your thoughts aligned with what matters to you?” The third is, “Are your behaviors aligned with what matters to you?” You accept and embrace the fact that you are the final arbiter of your life’s meaning. With this approach to life, each day is a project requiring existential engineering skills as you bridge your way from one meaningful experience to the next.”

“If we can begin to move from the “depression is a mental disorder” model to the idea that human beings must deal more effectively with the realities of human existence, including the realities of sadness, despair, and grief, we will have taken a giant step away from “medicalizing everything” and toward lives lived with renewed passion, power and purpose.”

I wish I’d known all this when I was 16. I’d have been able to see that my sadness and anger were normal feelings and crying was a normal outlet especially for a teenager. Maybe, with support and understanding for my feelings instead of masking my feelings with drugs, I would have moved across the country and through my feelings to experience confidence from making new friends in a new high school.

Here’s some more information about Eric Maisel and “Rethinking Depression”

Eric Maisel, PhD, is a licensed psychotherapist and the author of Rethinking Depression and numerous other titles including Mastering Creative Anxiety, Brainstorm, Coaching the Artist Within, and A Writer’s San Francisco. He blogs for Psychology Today and the Huffington Post and writes for Professional Artist Magazine. Visit him online at
Excerpts from Rethinking Depression ©2012 by Eric Maisel. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Where is she? A real life mystery #3

(I'm posting short installments of this true life experience. String them together and guess, where the main character is stuck.)To catch up and read the other two installments, click here and here.

The cell phones came out slowly and silently.

As she looked around the group, she counted 3, now 4 people quietly texting on their phones. She wondered once again, why no one had dialed 911. Here they all were, still stuck, and not one person had dialed the fire or police. Instead, they were all quietly texting their nearest and dearest on their cells.

Her chocolates were still there in her pocket but her pop was gone. It was getting warmer and she could feel the tension rising with the temperature. The woman in the far back corner looked up from her cell and coughed nervously. The woman opposite took off her coat with a sigh. Another woman next to her looked up from her texting and asked, “You ok?” A shaky smile surfaced on her face as she nodded.

Suddenly, the texting stopped as all the heads snapped up at once and turned towards the sound in the distance.

“What?” The woman closest to her said, “I can’t hear you.”

Everyone held still and leaned forward listening intently. Why were they all just standing there? Why were they all silent? Why were they just waiting? They were standing around like this was some kind of intermission between acts in a play, instead of what it was, a group in need of rescue.

She couldn’t stand it anymore. Maybe they couldn’t make a move, but she could. She couldn’t be silent another second.

“Call 911!”, she shouted.

Around her eyes popped. Looks were exchanged. Surely, someone out there in the distance would hear her.

Still no one moved or said a word.