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Recommendations

Choose Foods That Will Make You Feel Better

Hello, my precious friends! I hope you’re feeling sunny and bright on this wonderful day. But even if not, I’m so glad you’re here!

What I have to share might help with some physical, mental, and emotional angst we’re carrying. Much of it is likely linked to what we’re eating. Why not choose foods that will make us feel better?

I want to choose better foods to address three specific areas of interest

1. Brain Cognition

If you read my last post, you know I have been dealing with brain fog. It has been interesting. You all have been so supportive and kind. I really appreciate your encouragement and prayers! I have been doing some research and reading up on things that can help with clarity of thought. I’ve been specifically focusing on which foods I should choose for better brain cognition.

2. Lower Cholesterol

I conducted a similar study awhile back when I received lab results indicating unexpectedly high cholesterol. I wanted to do better. I discovered that I could choose foods which would lower the numbers.

It was a chaotic time in my life and instead of making the necessary changes, I put my research in a file for a later date. My most recent lab tests revealed that my cholesterol is still a problem. No surprise there since I never really addressed it.

3. Gut Health

Another interest (just pure fascination), which has caused me to study food choice, is gut health. I’m learning about foods in both probiotic and prebiotic categories. By maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, we can counter much of the inflammation from which we suffer. I’m not an expert, by any means. I’ve just done some digging and saved the information I’ve gathered into my growing file of findings.

microbiome: noun / the microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).

Dictionary.com

An overlap in the research results?

Was there a significant overlap in the suggested diets for these three areas of interest, or was it my imagination? This week, I finally sat down and opened my fat file to pull my research together. I charted it into a concise cheat sheet with the goal of centering my diet on these healing foods. I also wanted to share it with you because life is beautiful, and we enjoy it most when we are feeling our best!

A chart illustrating the overlap of suggested foods to eat for enhancing cholesterol levels, brain cognition, and gut health
Choose foods that will help you feel better! Here is a cheat sheet.

I put the foods which I read could help lower dangerous LDL cholesterol into the blue circle. (Some of them can also boost the helpful HDL cholesterol while they’re at it!) The teal ring encapsulates foods which have been found to assist with brain cognition. The foods in the purple circle are said to improve gut health.

There really is a large overlap! The foods that are known to be good for all three areas of interest are nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables, green tea, fruits, and soy products. These are in the center where the circles converge. Choosing these over other things can help you feel relief from several ailments at once!

The graph also logs foods which have been shown to help with one area of concern or overlap on two of them. Around the edges of the illustration, I have listed the specific items I found mentioned under some broader category headings. For instance, “whole grains” are widely touted, but specifically, I saw oats, bran, quinoa, and brown rice repeated in my research.

A few disclosures

I cannot certify that these findings are proven or complete. This is just a compilation of what I read, from sources I consider to be reputable. I plan to use it as a tool for my own meal planning and thought you might be interested as well.

Full disclosure – One of my granddaughters is visiting for a couple weeks and my grandson will arrive just after she leaves. Summers and grandkids pretty much require ice cream dates and other treats which are not on this list. They yield a different kind of wonderful feeling and I’m all here for it while I can be! I will embrace these ingredients completely in my daily menus next month.

But I’m looking forward to mid-July to see if I begin to feel better. I will eat with intention and keep you posted. There, now I’ve said it “out loud” and I welcome the accountability!

Use the cheat sheet in any way that is helpful

How about you? Have you noticed a correlation between your quality of life, sense of wellness, and your diet? Do you choose foods based on what will make you feel better? Are you interested in any of the categories I’ve studied? If so, please feel free to save, print, share, or do whatever you like with this chart I’ve made. Here’s to better health for us all!

One more thing…

P.S. one last thought. I called these foods “healing” because of the benefits they offer to our physical bodies. But they are only so because they were designed and given to us by an All-Powerful God who is Jehovah Rapha, our Great Physician. He is our Creator, Healer, Life Giver, and Sustainer.

Never do I want to elevate the created thing above the Creator. My faith is in God. He is the Good Father who gives good gifts. Healthy food is one of those gifts, given for our enjoyment and benefit. So is the gift of taste. I’m incredibly thankful for the creativity in His provision, aren’t you? All glory to God by Whom we are enabled to live well, eat well, and be well!

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Celebrations Conversations

One Father’s Day Post Remarkably Limited by Brain Fog

Pssst, friend, do you have a second? I’m so glad you dropped by! I want to talk to you about something. It’s kind of personal, but I’m hoping for your insight and grace.

My issue

I’ve been experiencing remarkable brain fog. It is frustrating, maybe, but honestly my mind is too murky to feel the frustration. It’s a strange sort of apathy. I have thoughts and ideas which lack cohesion and disappear before I can take decisive action.

Do you know what I mean? Have you encountered this type of thing? I’m sharing mine for two reasons.

  1. An explanation. I have been trying to only write as God blesses me with clarity. Admittedly, my blogs have been fewer.
  2. A request. If you have endured brain fog and obtained insight on how to overcome it, I’d love to learn. What worked for you?

My ideas

I have a few ideas as to why this may be happening:

  1. Age. I’m at that middle-age stage where hormones (or decrease of them) wreak havoc. I know brain fog can be part of the deal.
  2. Altitude. I’ve recently moved from sea-level to 7000 feet. I returned, last month, for a week-long visit to the town from which I moved. I’ve noticed my brain fog has been especially thick since I’ve come back to high altitude.
  3. Spiritual Warfare. I feel like there are spiritual truths I’m not quite grasping. A train of thought starts chugging and gains momentum for an intriguing minute but then it fades before the end of the track. It could be that the enemy is using spiritual warfare to run interference.
  4. Exercise and Nutrition. I finished a metabolic reset about a month ago. It was a set menu and exercise regimen. The workouts would have been extreme for me at sea-level, but they were really hard without time for proper adjustment to the altitude. I told myself I would either end up in the best shape of my life or dead… but maybe I ended up foggy. The nutrition was excellent during that two weeks, but not sustainable for my lifestyle or budget, so it’s possible the inconsistency is affecting my mind.
  5. Covid. I had Covid at the beginning of the year. One of the symptoms I experienced was brain fog and it was similar to what I’m noticing now. I’ve heard that, for some people, it persists for months. This could be my plight.
  6. Answered prayer. Ever since I decided to make SEO Someone Else’s Obsession, I have asked God not to let me write anything that isn’t worthwhile. Maybe my ideas haven’t fit His definition of meaningful and He has simply hazed them over in my brain. If that is it, then I’m thankful for the answered prayer.

My apology

So this is where I offer an apology. I really wanted to write a post of encouragement and appreciation to dads in anticipation of Father’s Day. Maybe I still will. But so far, I haven’t been able to hold onto any of my ideas long enough get a post done.

I had a moment of clarity yesterday while I was out on the trail and wrote an entire article in my head. When I got home and tried to type it out, I lost it. Chalk up another point to brain fog.

My thanks

For now, I hope a simple THANK YOU will suffice. Dads have it rough in today’s world. I know, I know – we’re told they have privilege because they’re men and we’re pressured to lend our support elsewhere. I say, hogwash!

I think dads who do what it takes to protect and provide for their families deserve more respect and appreciation than we could possibly muster. This world is trying to steal the leadership role that God gave to fathers in their households. A Godly man must work tirelessly to simply stand his ground, not allowing a godless society to envelop his family. And then he has to go above and beyond to model and instill a legacy of lasting faith for the coming generations.

If you’re this kind of dad, wow! You deserve great honor. If you have this kind of dad, celebrate him – not just on Father’s Day, but especially then.

And that is all God has helped me to put together for now. Tell me, have you been limited by prolonged brain fog? What was the cause? How did you overcome it? Do you have any suggestions for me?

What can you tell me about your dad? Do you have a favorite memory with him? If you’d like to honor him in the comments, it would be my privilege to celebrate him with you this Father’s Day week.

Related post: 5 Things You’d Have to Endure from Me if I Were Like My Father

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Reflections

Out In the Pines, I Understand The Popular Mountain Vibe

“What is the vibe of Northern Arizona?”, our friends asked us. When we first fell in love with the place on our vacation in fall of 2020, people wondered why. I don’t think it was the vibe then, although we definitely noticed there was one.

“Outdoorsy”, was our answer. People ski, play disc golf, raft, climb, bike and hike, just to name a few of the most popular pastimes. Residents of the area work hard and play harder, outside in the fresh mountain air.

In the first week after moving here, I commented to a friend that the whole region smelled like Christmas. The fragrant cover of fresh cold pine reminded me of tree lot excursions and piles of bough wreaths. Being outside and inhaling deeply made my heart happy in an almost giddy way.

“The smell of pine needles, spruce and the smell of a Christmas tree – those to me, are the scents of the holidays.”

Blake Lively

I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

Mama Lava
Blooming cactus coming up amidst the pine needles and pine cones.
When you live in the mountains, but it is also the desert, you get pine cones and cactus. This is spring in the mountains of Northern Arizona.

But now that spring has sprung, and the sun has warmed the pine needles, the musky scent is an altogether different kind of wonderful. It smells like camping trips and adventure. I can barely stand to be inside. I suddenly wonder whether outdoorsy people are drawn to the mountains or if the mountains draw people outdoors.

I suspect it is the latter. Out among the pines, I understand the popular mountain vibe. It beckons me to join, and I feel helpless to resist.

“The ground’s soft with pine needles and the occasional crunch of a cone. The air smells like it’s just been born.”

Libba Bray

“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.”

Helen Keller

“God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them.”

A.W. Tozer

“Lord, you have been our dwelling-place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

Psalm 90:1-2
Categories
Reflections

I Suddenly Saw Myself in a Massive Maze

Imagine, if you will, a maze. Picture it with many long, winding paths. Some of them wrap around back to where they started, and others are dead ends. But a few connect to each other and lead to the other side.

As I was reflecting on the past months of my life, I suddenly saw myself in a massive maze. I tend to think in pictures. This one was fitting and helped me to understand something important.

I had started at point “A”. I needed to get to point “B” but choosing the path to get there was daunting. There were countless options and none that I tried had succeeded. I was discouraged and confused.

Bushes cultivated into a maze: I Suddenly Saw Myself In a Massive Maze
Photo by Steven Hylands on Pexels.com
It is easy to get turned around and lost in a maze.

Have you been there? I’ll bet you have. When I suddenly saw myself in a massive maze, I realized we’ve all been there. It is called life.

Life is a series of complex mazes.

Navigating life can be challenging! There is a route from where we are to where we need to be, but it only takes one wrong turn to put us on a long and winding detour.

When I saw myself in this massive maze, I stopped and prayed. I realized that God could see my exact position in this crazy, twisting maze of life. He could also clearly see the route forward.

Aerial view of a complete maze: I Suddenly Saw Myself In a Massive Maze
Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com
From His vantage point, God can lead me through the mazes of my life.

I needed to quit relying on my limited vision and let Him instruct my steps.

God was incredibly faithful! He spoke. He repeated Himself. He gave me signs. He sent experienced people to share their insights.

But I was hard-headed! I peeked down the corridors He didn’t choose. I hesitated when they looked intriguing – you know what I mean?

That’s when things went awry. I noticed little fires erupting around me. Family discord, work struggles, health issues, interruptions, drama, trauma… my progress all but stopped

I asked God why there was disturbance on my way. When I had suddenly seen myself in a massive maze, I had depended on Him to show me through. Now, so many of the optional routes were closed.

Even just writing that, I feel foolish. It was so obvious, but He had to explain it to me. He told me that He’d seen me peeking down the paths that led astray. He knew I was prone to wander, and didn’t have time to waste on traversing wrong avenues.

So when I started looking longingly down them, He had let them erupt. He blocked the wrong paths to show me the right one. He had done exactly as I’d asked.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.”

Proverbs 3:5, 6

Sure enough, when I turned to look, there was one peaceful path ahead. It was unmistakable because it was the only clear one left. I’d been disheartened by the chaos instead of seeing it for what it was – an answer to prayer.

A path in a corn maze: I Suddenly Saw Myself In a Massive Maze
Photo by Nicholas Ceglia on Unsplash
God blocked the wrong paths so as to make the right one more noticeable.

I’d asked for direction and easily saw it in the positive words, signs, and confirmations when they came. I heard “Go this way”. But when the instructions came as negatives, “You can’t go this way”, I got curious. I didn’t recognize them for the blatant blessings they were. Can you relate?

I had to ask myself why I felt such a need to explore all of my options. I realized it was more than curiosity. I thought I was being thorough and doing my due diligence.

But sometimes, most times, it is best to leave well enough alone – especially because I’ve trusted Jesus to be my guide. All I need to do is listen to Him and move forward. There is no need to peep left or right down the avenues God has not indicated for me.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

Isaiah 30:21

“Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

Proverbs 4:7

Endless options, good and bad, may make you feel like I did when I suddenly saw myself in a massive maze.

My friend, where do you need to go? Are you looking for employment? Trying to make an important decision? Planning for a big life event?

What obstacles have you encountered? Have disruptions along the way hindered and frustrated you? If you take a step back and look at the big picture, you might recognize that your hardships are blocking you from going in one direction because you’re supposed to head in another.

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.”

Psalm 37:23

Maybe you’re not as hard-headed as I am. I hope you’re compliant and teachable, undeterred by the distractions around you. If not, maybe the lesson I learned when I suddenly saw myself in a massive maze will encourage you.

God sees you. He knows where you’re headed, and He can guide your way. Will you let Him?

A maze mapped out on paper: Photo by Nicholas Ceglia on Unsplash
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com
God shows us the way.
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Conversations

No Disinformation Here: Our Genuine Experience with COVID-19, Omicron variant

We have COVID-19. Everyone in my house is sick. Because there is so much conjecture and disinformation on the subject, I thought I’d share our experience with you. I do not intend to be political, or to have any agenda at all. I just want to give you the genuine facts. If everyone who got the Omicron variant did something like this, I think we’d all feel more empowered to make better-informed decisions.

No disinformation here: Our genuine experience with COVID-19, Omicron variant

Our background with COVID-19

There are 5 adults currently living in my house. Let me give you some background on each of us, up to January 1, 2022.

Daughter 1: Was very ill and tested positive for COVID-19 in late 2020. Had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in spring 2021. Has some comorbidities.

Daughter 2: Severely ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 at least twice in 2020 and 2021. Never took a COVID-19 test. Not vaccinated. No comorbidities.

Son: No major illnesses in 2020 or 2021. Pfeizer vaccine in spring 2021. Exposed to COVID-19 many times, all tests negative. Some comorbidities.

Husband: Sick a few times in 2020 and 2021. Tested for COVID-19 each time, all negative. Moderna vaccine in spring 2021. Several comorbidities.

Me: No illnesses in 2020 or 2021. Moderna vaccine in spring 2021. Exposed to COVID-19 multiple times, all tests negative. No comorbidities.

We are five people, coming at this virus from 5 different angles. My son, husband, and I lived with daughter 1 while she was infected with COVID-19 in 2020. That was before vaccines were available. None of us got sick, although our third daughter, who lived here at the time, did.

Our current timeline with COVID-19, Omicron variant

The above background brings us to January 1, 2022. Here is the timeline of what has transpired since.

  • Jan. 1: Daughter 2 finds out she’s been exposed to COVID-19, Omicron variant.
  • Jan. 4: Daughter 2 tests positive.
  • Jan. 7: Husband tests positive.
  • Jan. 10: I test positive.
  • Jan. 11: Daughter 1 tests positive.
  • Jan. 12: Son tests positive

Daughter 1, Son, and I fell ill at the same time, but our tests were on different days, according to what was required to satisfy the regulations of our different employers. The results confirmed our suspicions that everyone in the household is infected with COVID-19.

Having been vaccinated, or not, has not made a difference. Which vaccine we had, has been of no consequence. Having previously contracted a different variant of COVID-19 has changed nothing. The existence, or not, of comorbidities has not been a factor.

Notably, we are all experiencing the same symptoms, along the same trajectory, at the same severity.

Our symptoms of COVID-19, Omicron variant

Our symptoms, in the order we’ve experienced them have been:

  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Feverish hot/cold spells
  • Headache and pressure in the eyes
  • Brain fog/difficulty with focus
  • Mild congestion
  • Coughing fits
  • Back and chest pain
  • Dizziness and nausea

While the above has been fairly miserable, it has not been debilitating. We are not bedridden. We are quarantining, but those of us who can work remotely have continued to work. We have treated our headaches and coughs with over-the-counter medicines, which have helped some. We are able to take it slow and care for ourselves, each other, and the kids.

I have not discussed the kids because it is difficult to know exactly what they are feeling and I want this post to be completely factual. There are two 2-year-olds and one 5-year-old living in our house. They are also sick.

Our questions about COVID-19, Omicron variant

The questions we are pondering are these:

  • Is our experience typical?
  • Can anyone expect to avoid this?
  • How long will the antibodies last?
  • Will the antibodies from this variant be effective against another?

I guess time will tell. In the meantime, if you’ve had COVID-19, Omicron variant, how did it go for you? Was your experience similar?

I have gone over this post with everyone listed above to be sure there is no disinformation here. The consensus is that this is, indeed, our genuine experience with COVID-19, Omicron variant. We’d love to hear about yours!

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Recommendations

How an Outrageous Act of Kindness Led to This Magnificent Muffin Recipe!

The house was gorgeous! It sat on a corner lot and had tons of natural light. There were huge bay windows and extra-large sliding glass doors. Each room had several windows, and the cross breezes were heavenly. It was more than my husband and I had imagined when we decided to move with 5 small children between the ages of 1 and 8. We moved in, all giddy-like and wonder-eyed.

And then night fell. None of those incredible windows had any blinds or window coverings. We felt like fish in a very clear fishbowl, visible to everyone. And we didn’t know what to do. My husband’s aunty came to our rescue with an outrageous act of kindness. I had no way to repay her, but to feed her. The following is the story that led to this magnificent muffin recipe.

Plate of muffins next to a Bible: How to Repay an Outrageous Act of Kindness - Feel Free to Start with These Muffins!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Bible study and magnificent muffins? Yes please!

Aunt Jenny lived an airplane ride away. But she is a talented seamstress, and when she heard about our dilemma, she came. She stayed in our guestroom for weeks. She advised us and gave us style options. Whatever we could want, she could create. She took me to the fabric store and was extremely patient while I perused, touched and envisioned each pattern. She helped me to calculate and stay within budget.

She was a Godsend! Aunt Jenny made a total of 3 trips to help us. That was three round-trip flights just to come sew all day, every day. If she took a break, it was to accompany me to the fabric or hardware stores.

She crafted curtains for all our windows and even created sheer drape panels to hang from my girls’ three canopy beds. She made custom window seat cushions and throw pillows to match for each couch and bed. She didn’t stop until there was nothing more we could think to sew.

I tried to repay her with treats whenever possible. I noticed how much she enjoyed the bran muffins at Starbucks. One day, while she was busy sewing, I busied myself where I had a bit of creative talent – in the kitchen. I recreated the Starbucks muffins and received Aunt Jenny’s heartfelt stamp of approval.

I made other meals and goodies to spoil Aunt Jenny, but I think these muffins were her favorite. I made them by the dozens, and we ate them for more than just breakfast. In fact, even after her outrageous act of kindness was complete, she said she’d do it all again for these magnificent muffins!

Muffin with wheat on a fall table: How to Repay an Outrageous Act of Kindness - Feel Free to Start with These Muffins!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Magnificent muffins make good use of Autumn’s outrageous and bountiful flavors

If you enjoy the satisfying textures of wheat and bran, the soothing spiciness of cinnamon, and the hearty sweetness of pineapple, raisins and carrots, this recipe is for you! I think they are best in the fall, warm from the oven. But truth be told, they are a wonderful treat any month of the year. And they smell absolutely heavenly as they bake!

Mamalava’s Magnificent Muffins

Servings: 24 – Prep time, 1 hour and 10 minutes – Oven temp. 400 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 1and 1/2 cups Raisin Bran cereal
    (or 1 and 1/4 cups bran flakes and 1/4 cup raisins)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable (or preferred) oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 pound carrots, grated
  • 2/3 cup pineapple (chopped, drained and patted dry)
  • 2/3 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stir together flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine raisin bran, milk, and carrots. Let stand about 3 minutes or until cereal softens.
4. Add eggs and oil and mix well.
5. Add flour mixture to wet mixture, stirring only until combined.
6. Stir in pineapple, and nuts if desired.
7. Portion batter evenly into 2 and 1/2 inch muffin cups. (Can use silicone cups or tins coated with cooking spray or lined with paper.)
8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Serve warm!
I prefer to eat these just as they are. They are also amazing sliced and spread with butter and honey, or cream cheese, peanut butter – however you like!

Notes:

1. If you would rather make a cake or loaf shape instead of muffins, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Exact baking time will vary according to size of pan. Cakes will need to cool for about 45 minutes and loaves for approximately an hour before slicing.
2. You can change the pineapple or raisins for blueberries, cranberries or other fruit of your liking. This recipe was to mimic the muffins Starbucks was offering at the time, but it is customizable to suit your tastes.
3. I imagine you can swap the sugar and flours for alternatives too, but I’m not an expert at those conversions.
4. If you like seeds, they can be sprinkled on top of each muffin just before baking. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are my most frequent choices. I’ve also been known to sprinkle these muffins with a pinch of raw sugar crystals for sparkle and crunch.
5. This batter can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. I like to double (or triple) the recipe in advance and quickly bake fresh batches just before serving. If you’re baking cold batter, add 2-5 minutes to the baking time.


Is there anyone you’d like to thank? Do you know someone who would benefit from an act of kindness? Is there someone you’d like to spoil? Maybe it’s you! This recipe is well worth your consideration. A basket of magnificent muffins is sweet to the taste, the appetite, and the heart.

Make gifts meaningful by putting the time in creating them, whether baking and cooking, or in making arts and craft. It will all have more meaning for the giver and receiver.

Lidia Bastianich

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord… since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Colossians 3:23a, 24