health


Fly. Earn. Share.

It’s 10:05 on a Friday night and I’m standing in the longest line EVER at Duane Reade.  I just want to get home and peel my Spanx off; not only was that date an absolute waste of time, but I missed getting to Trader Joe’s before closing and now I’ve got to pay double for organic milk.  Oh my god I’ve never seen this many people in a drugstore in my life.  OdoubleMG, the guy in front of me on line just turned around I swear to god he’s a model or something.  He’s got a British accent, but very non-posh, like a Cockney or something, and he’s calling to some woman behind me to grab a couple more.  That’s when I see the half-dozen boxes of Lucky Charms he’s cradling in his arms. And then Niki, I shit you not, this Adonis must read the questioning look on my face and says, “they’re twice as much at home, like 8£ a box”.  I’m too stunned at this waste of beauty to respond.  I guess he thinks I’m still confused because he adds “that’s like $16?”

8 min on the F train 4/25/14
prompt from Jet Blue transit ad


*for integrated scales only*

It was a spa of the future.  Tammy had been saving for it since college.  There were the requisite super soft cozy robes made from bamboo silk.  The sheets were nine thousand thread count hemp fibre.  For the few who could afford the elite fees, there were guest rooms bathed in either pink or golden hues from the rose quartz or carnelian lamp sconces.  Every detail a prescription to sooth the system and coax the release of deep-seated toxins.  But by far the most amazing feature was Dr. Glinda’s full body assessment chamber.  It identified the root cause of every excess pound.  Tammy was finally going to lose the forty pounds she’d always blamed on her mother.  It turns out twenty-eight pounds were from the three years of summer camp and eight pounds were the four years she was Candice Barry’s ‘wingman’.

8 min @ my desk, 5.22.13

source: Karma Co-op sales receipt


Then be pleased, Clark.

Celeste is pissed.  She is literally sick and tired of people telling her how she should feel.

“Thanks, but no Mr. Macklethorn, I don’t think things have worked out well all things considered.  Online Editor of Benefits wasn’t the position I wanted and I don’t give a fig how many assignments I can file remotely, before and during my leave.  There’s no upside to my leave of absence sir.  And if you’re going to keep calling me by my surname, call me Ms. Clark.”  Celeste doesn’t wait for a response, she just gets up and leaves his office.

She’s glad she got it out.  It feels good to get it out.  The name thing had been eating at her like the cancer.  Fuck Cancer.  Her sister had ordered them matching ‘Fuck Cancer’ T-shirts.  They are going to wear them when they go in for the bone marrow transplant.  Of course she is grateful that her sister is a match and of course she is grateful that she even has a shot at prolonging life with this shit hand but why isn’t she allowed to feel shitty and pissed about the goddamn fact she had cancer.  Shit, that’s all she wants, to have a sober rant once in a while.

8 min at home on 5.7.13

dip source:  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


Picking Vices

Sam James Coffee Bar

As time passes and the cells tire I find my vice count dwindling.  Some things I’ve simply gotten smarter about, like smoking.  There is still a Pavlovian trigger when I see an image or movie from France, Spain or Italy, but the desire to follow through and actually stick a cigarette into my mouth is lacking.  Finally.  I backslid a quarter-dozen times in the seven years it took to reclassify myself as a non-smoker.  

Willpower and discipline are key in dislodging most monkeys from most backs.  Getting obsessed about self-healing also helped.  Learning that there is a direct connection between the health of my lungs and the health of my skin motivates me to keep tar-free.  You could say Ayurveda and vanity are my beauty secrets.  Yoga and Ayurveda have taught me a lot about how to manage my physical and mental wellbeing.  I live and eat in ways that support the best health of my constitution, but with some vices like caffeine and red wine, I compromise.

It’s a compromise called moderation.  I don’t have any illusions of becoming the sagest of the sage.  I believe we’re spiritual beings having a human experience, and part of that experience involves certain degrees of hedonism.  Enjoying good-feeling things, like sex and chocolate is part of the sentient experience.  I believe in moderation for the very human and honest reason I cannot imagine a world without good-feeling things like dark chocolate or espresso.

I’ll talk about chocolate another time but the pros and cons of caffeine make the rounds regularly in health and fitness publications.  So many opinions!  My brother-in-law’s naturopath believes caffeine is worse than alcohol.  A highly regarded yogi in new York is a self-confessed java junkie and it is rumored he doesn’t give it up even when he fasts.

Twenty years ago, in the infancy of my coffee addiction I got some sound advice.  I was living in Paris when my daily habit started.  During a debate about the dangers of caffeine, a Frenchman clarified in that imperious way the French have about all gastro-centric facts — “coffee is good for the heart, it’s that watered-down shit America drinks that is bad”.  Being fluent I understood he meant that espresso coffee is good, and drip coffee is bad.  This was good news for my future lattes, cafe con leches and cortados.  To this day I only drink espresso coffee, but I actually have real facts to back up the claims of its superiority.

  • 6 oz of drip coffee contains  100 mg of caffeine
  • 1 oz of espresso coffee contains  40 mg of caffeine
  • Robusta coffee beans have twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans.  Most espresso comes from Arabica beans.  The darker the roast the less caffeine.
  • If you want to improve the antioxidant quality of your caffeine,  6 oz of green tea contains 30 mg of caffeine.

When I think of my coffee habit in these terms it barely qualifies as a vice.  Even more so when I mitigate the caffeine by adding a pinch of cardamom to my espresso pot.  Cardamom neutralizes the impact of the caffeine on the nervous system.  Victory over vices is sweetest when you don’t have to eradicate them, just moderate them.


i needed to change something

She came into my room with some socks she found in the dryer.  She stopped short, taking in the changes in the room. 

“I needed to change something,” I explained.  She looked down at me sitting on the rug and I could see I made absolutely no sense.  It was late at night after a very long day.  In the short time we’d been home, I had moved the bed, the table and the art on the walls.

“I needed to change something,” I repeated.  She continued looking at me with that blend of confusion and bemused indulgence that mothers of the young and long time friends are expert at.  My sister is both these things and so very expert with this look.  I opened my mouth to use new words, more words, words to clarify but the same five came out.  The scent of death had permeated the afternoon and befuddled my brain.  I saw understanding dawn upon her.  I summarized, “I’m hoping I’ll sleep better.”

I did sleep better.  This is good because today features the words oncologist, cancer center and radiation oncologist.  These are words I cannot change but having a rested and clear mind will help me navigate the words and treachery of cancer land.


my voice

So many voices.

So many voices inside my head that when I was ten I worried I’d inherited the crazy gene.  I had heard the stories about the crazy aunt in Jamaica.  I had my own memories of her, so faded I had to squint to remember but the craziness was clear, and I’d experienced them firsthand.  Curses and needle pricks, white ghosts running barefoot underneath the house.  I worried that if it wasn’t already in my marrow, that childhood visit surely infested my bloodstream.

During the full on crazy of high school and  what is clearly the hazing stage of being human, I felt a little less crazy.  We try on different personas and voices when we’re figuring out who we want to be in the world.  I decided I was going to be an actress. Even after we decide we still maintain a few different voices:  the voice for telemarketers, the voice used with the boss,  and the voices we use for children and dogs, which are often interchangeable.  As an actress I get a free pass to carry as many voices, personas and quirks as needed.  I practice  accents whenever I call customer service or order take-out.  beerjohnny rice and sac panyear por favor.

So it’s been curious to find myself struggling the past week to find “my voice” for this blog.  I made an assumption that it was a singular thing; I had to find IT, the voice.  But if I am the sum of all my parts (literally, on and off stage and screen) then who am I to edit in the middle.  If  the middle notes are a compendium of observations, knowledge and experiences, it has to reflect its varied sources.

It’s no coincidence, to my mind, that I’ve struggled with losing my voice this past week.  So symbolic – use it or lose it.  But also very real – a swiftly diverted cold became a raspy hoarseness with an intermittent cough.  And then phlegm.  I’m an avid believer in self-healing and prefer to raid my own pantry rather than use drugstore fixes for minor maladies.  So today I share my Ayurvedic yogi voice.   This is my go-to brew when the first signs of a cold appear.

  • 2 knuckles of ginger, thinly sliced; 1 clove garlic; 1 stick cinnamon; 5 whole cardamom pods; 5 cloves; pinch of chili flakes or cayenne; 4 cups of water
  • bring to boil and steep for 5 minutes.
  • squeeze in half a lemon and stir in 1 tbsp raw honey.

Garlic and ginger can be adjusted to taste.  Drink as often as necessary or desired.  My pal Monica B. has a great post on coughs and Ayurveda here.


Manifesto: pay it forward… and results from last week

I went to the store as usual making my best effort to read the labels and make conscious choices.  Then I started sleuthing.  Many clicks later and this is what I confirmed.  Conscious consumption takes diligence.  Lots of it.  Here are some of the fruits of my labor:

  • Loblaws doesn’t want me to have the freedom to make healthy choices.  If they won’t play fair I guess I’ll have to take my marbles and play with someone else.  Sadly, I had already traded some for their PC granola, PC wild Alaskan smoked salmon and PC smoked trout fillet.
  • I can get eggs from rowe farms and feel confident that the loonies are going to Canadians.  It’s also the place for meat eaters to assuage their conscience.
  • Liberte dairy products passed my test – and they make creme fraiche, hallelujah. Extra points for being Canadian.
  • A purely Scottish company produces Nairns oatcakes and cookies.  Points for being delicious and ethical.
  • Stash Tea, originally from Oregon is now owned by Japan’s Yamamotoyama.  Points for honoring the tradition of tea.
  • ShaSha and Dimpflmeier breads are Canadian and ethical.  The best hummus not made by my own hand comes from Quebec (Fontaine-sante).
  • I have to find a new ethical chocolate because Kraft foods owns Green & Blacks chocolate.  Rule of thumb is that when a product is suddenly widely available someone bigger is facilitating that.
    parking meter

    parking meter (Photo credit: Slideshow Bruce)

As edifying as all this research has been it takes some of the fun out of food.  Especially when I’m going to have to start making half a dozen stops to affordably fill my larder.  As this will be an ongoing effort, this week’s challenge is simple and direct.  I’m going to pay it forward the next time I pass a parking meter that is near expiration I’ll buy the driver some time.    It’s a small thing but if it helps someone avoid a $50 ticket, that’s a big karmic return on the investment.