Heartburn cure

I had bad heartburn and talked to my nutritionist. He told me that the problem is that our stomachs produce LESS acid as we get older, not more. The solution is to add more acid instead of take antacids.

The dosage is determined by taking a tablespoonful of apple cider vinegar (The brand to use is Bragg’s, with “the mother”) after a meal. Simply take it straight. Wait. If you feel burning in your stomach, stop there. You don’t need more acid added to your diet.

If not, take two spoonfuls of it at the next meal. Wait and see how your stomach feels. There will be a burning sensation in your throat – that is normal. This is acetic acid, after all. You want to see if you feel burning in your stomach, and this takes a little time to reveal itself.

If there is no burning, repeat the test by taking three spoonfuls at the next meal. You can take up to four spoonfuls.

When you feel the burn, then your dosage is one less than that. So afterwards, take that number of spoonfuls in a glass of water (you can add a spoonful of honey), after each meal.

Also, while out and about, you can take a supplement called betaine hydrochloride instead. It is much easier than toting around a glass bottle of vinegar.

Now, this does not mean that you can “eat like a kid again” like the heartburn medicine ads tell you. It is like trying to keep a house intact by setting it on fire and then dousing it with water. It is better to not set it on fire in the first place. Your body is your first and best home. It is important to treat it well, because you can’t buy another house when this one falls apart.

It is insane to think of hot dogs and funnel cakes as “food”. Avoid fried and greasy foods not because they give you heartburn, but because they are unhealthy and will kill you. Eat fresh, colorful foods – more vegetables than meat.

In whose hands?

Some of us started talking about our deceased coworker, and I mentioned that his death of a heart attack at 42 just furthers my belief that I need to take care of myself. I said this to the coworker in my department who is obese. She has a Y membership and has been maybe four times. The last time was about a year ago. She eats the same way that the dead one does. About monthly she says she “really needs to go back to the Y.” And she never does.

She said “It is all in God’s hands.”

No, it isn’t. We have free will, and sure, Jim Fixx, the guru of running, died of a heart attack. People die when God chooses. But they have a vote in it. They can take care of themselves. As my chiropractor says, we can’t add years to our life, but we can add life to our years.

We are called to be good stewards of God’s creation. This includes our bodies.

The other person in the department smokes constantly, and is out sick a lot.

I’m afraid I’ll be left by myself. I’m afraid they will both die and I’ll be stuck. It takes a long time to train a new person. We joke “It’s all about me” is our phrase in that department, and that sounds self-centered, and it is. But it is true.

But there is something deeper going on.

To not take care of yourself because you think that it is “all in God’s hands” is bizarre. Let’s compare it with the phrase “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” You shouldn’t do something you know to be stupid just to test God.

Honestly, I don’t know why I bother. They are killing themselves, and they know it. But to drag God’s will into it? That takes their own power out of it. It means they are helpless to do anything about it.

What a life of victimhood.

Not letting the disease win.

Sometimes my motivation to do something is simply so that the disease will not win.

I have bipolar disorder, which is a polite way of saying I am manic-depressive. I’ve noticed that I tend to become unbalanced when I stop taking care of myself. The biggest thing I can do to take care of myself is to make sure I get enough sleep and avoid stress. Eating well and exercising also help a lot.

It is easy to equate avoiding stress with not doing anything that is difficult. But to me that is letting the disease win. It is very important for me to not let it win so I set goals and reach for them so that I get stronger. And every time I achieve one of these goals it makes it easier for me the next time.

It makes it easier for me to look at this disease when it says “No, you can’t do that” or “That is too hard for you.” and say “But look at these four other things I’ve done and I did them just fine.”

That is why I take classes. One of the hardest classes was the pastoral care class that was downtown on Tuesday nights. It was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of taking a class every Tuesday for nearly three months. Then it was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of having to drive myself downtown at night. It was hard for me to even imagine asking my boss for that time off to do it. But I did it, and I did it because I knew that what I was doing was important. I did it because I didn’t want the disease to win.

While I knew that what I was going to learn from the class was going to be important, what I was going to learn from just attending the class was going to be even more important. It was going to teach me that I can take care of myself.

I used to be really good at driving. I used to drive myself everywhere alone for hours at a time. I drove by myself to Washington, DC work one summer. That was a 10 hour drive, one way.

But then something changed when my bipolar disorder manifested. Shortly after I was diagnosed, I went on a camping trip and I got so unwell that I had to be driven home. Everything I owned had to be packed up for me by my friends, and I had to have someone else take me home.

It affected me, not only because it was embarrassing, but also because I don’t want to be a burden to other people. I don’t want to get to a point where I have to have someone else rescue me. So it is important for me to not put myself in situations where I think I’m going to fail.

But that sometimes meant that for years I didn’t put myself in any situations at all. It meant that sometimes I only did things that were safe. And when I only do things that are safe, I don’t grow or get stronger.

And that is letting the disease win.

And I can’t let it win.

Personal accountability

I knew a guy who joined a gym, and he wanted me to “Make him accountable.” He wanted me to remind him to go, and to ask him if he had gone. I didn’t. I made sure to tell him that I wouldn’t.

That isn’t my job. I’m not his Mom, or his wife, or his boss. And here’s the most amazing thing – even if I was any of those things, it still isn’t my responsibility.

This is the heart of codependence. He was trying to get me to be responsible for his actions, rather than making himself responsible for his own actions.

He has to want to change, and to want to make it happen. If he isn’t motivated enough to do it on his own, he isn’t ready for it yet. If he needs a coworker to remind him, he isn’t ready.

Imagine what would happen if I had said I would remind him, and I didn’t. Then, the fact that he didn’t go would have been my fault. This is the heart of it all.

Blaming other people for your problems is the problem itself.

Once you become an adult you are responsible for everything you do. Nobody gets you up in the morning to go to work. Nobody makes your breakfast. Nobody takes you to work. Nobody does your work for you. It is all you, all the time. Anything less than that and you aren’t an adult.

Being over 21 doesn’t make you an adult. Your actions do. And the core of all of that is being responsible for yourself and not expecting other people to take care of you. Going hand in hand with that is that if you make a mistake, you own up to it.

If you have to have someone else make you do something, then you really didn’t even do it. You can’t take credit for it. The work isn’t really yours.

Cooking as an empowering act.

I’ve come to see cooking not as a chore but as a truly artistic and creative act. It is so empowering to feed myself.

It is amazing to know that the majority of the prepared foods we have in our refrigerator at home were prepared by me. Hummus. Pesto. Banana bread. My green breakfast drink. Even dessert – all prepared by me. From scratch, and organic as much as possible.

How did we as a society get so far away from this? We all used toprepare our own foods. Large grocery stores are a new phenomenon. Sure, there were greengrocers. They had fruits and vegetables. Then there might also be a local baker. Baking bread takes a long time and is hot work. In some villages in Greece it is common for women to prepare their bread but then take it to the baker to get it cooked. They return later to pick it up.

But we used to all know where our food came from, and what was in it. We used to all know, because we made it ourselves. In some cases we knew because we grew it ourselves too.

In getting away from making our own food, we’ve gotten away from ourselves. We’ve given away a part of ourselves. We are what we eat after all. If we don’t know what we eat, then what are we?

There are so many foods with ingredients in them that we can’t even pronounce. They are more chemical than real. One of my favorite examples is this.


If you have to tell me it is a real lime, then it isn’t. Real limes don’t need labels.


Look at all the preservatives. It isn’t hard to buy a real lime and to take the juice out of it. Of course it has preservatives. This is the only way it will last from the production plant to your house. As Michael Pollan says in his book “Food Rules”, eat plants, not food made in plants.

It takes some time, sure. It can be done. I work 40 hours a week, and I had no cooking experience, and I can do it. Take it step by step. Pick one thing you like to eat that is prepared, and learn how to make it. You can get a book from the library, or watch a video on YouTube, or you can ask a friend who knows. Or you can experiment and figure it out on your own. That is fun too.

The more you make for yourself, the healthier and happier you will be.

Fat shaming

There’s been a lot recently about how people who are overweight are tired of being picked on. They want to be left alone. I get that. I used to be obese. I wasn’t hot on the fact that I couldn’t easily find clothing that fit me. My first clue that I was larger than the average was when I realized I couldn’t buy underwear at Target. I didn’t think I was that big at a size 22. I thought I was fine.

There is a stigma to being overweight, certainly. There is such a stigma that we use euphemisms. Someone is heavy. Or portly. Or large. They aren’t ever fat or obese or even morbidly obese. We use euphemisms about everything we don’t want to deal with. Someone didn’t die. They passed on. They transitioned. They have left us.

Fat is the new normal. We Americans are so overweight that we don’t even recognize when we are fat. We think obese is 500 pounds. Yet there is still a stigma. There is still social pressure against fat people.

Don’t take it personally. People pick on anyone who is seen as different. Any deviation from the arbitrarily determined norm is seen as weak, and weakness is picked on. If you drink too much or smoke at all you’ll be picked on. If you don’t watch TV you’ll be picked on. If you vote the wrong way, dress the wrong way, talk the wrong way you’ll be picked on.

It isn’t personal. In fact, it is as impersonal as possible.

Society picks on people it deems as different because they see them as weak. It is the same as in the animal world. Baby birds that are seen as less than perfect are kicked out of the nest. Male lions eat their young for the same reason. It is to thin the herd to make it stronger. Weakness isn’t tolerated.

We’d like to think we aren’t animals, but we are. We are animals first and humans second. What makes us human is when we embrace differences and are welcoming to strangers. What makes us human is when we act with kindness and compassion. What makes us human is when we overcome our animal nature and work with each other instead of against each other.

Obesity is attacked because it is seen as a sign of weakness, specifically a lack of self control. It is seen as a sign of gluttony. At its heart it is seen as an addiction, even though few people would be aware enough to name it as such.

While it would be lovely if we could all be what we want to be and nobody got bullied for any reason, there is some good to fat shaming. If it encourages a person to get healthy, then it is great. If their response is to learn healthy coping methods, then it is awesome.

Sadly, this isn’t usually the case. Sadly, most people who use food to deal with their problems don’t suddenly learn new ways to be healthy in mind or spirit. Our society doesn’t teach that. It doesn’t teach self-care.

It teaches blame everybody else and don’t take responsibility for your actions. It teaches people to be a victim. It teaches instant everything. Don’t wait, don’t work for it. It teaches people to get lucky from playing the lottery rather than hard work.

People don’t need to lose weight for losing weight’s sake. They need to get healthy. People need to move more, eat better, and develop healthy ways of dealing with stress and anger. I’ve done it. It can be done. It isn’t easy. Anything worth having isn’t easy. Health is worth having. Learning to deal with problems other than stuffing them down is a valuable thing to know.

I remember where I was in my head four years ago before I started to get well. I remember thinking “how dare they tell me I’m fat” when I’d have to go to the “large” section of the store to buy clothes. I remember. And then I remember I went to the hospital with a racing heart, feeling sick. I remember always feeling out of sorts and out of shape. I remember just not feeling like I liked my body very much because it didn’t fit me very well.

I started moving. I found exercises I liked to do. I started eating better. I started loving myself enough to take care of myself.

I’m glad that society didn’t tell me that everything was fine for being so overweight. I’m glad, because if I’d kept going that way I’d be immobilized. My knees were giving out. My heart was weakening. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of even walking up and down my street. Crime wasn’t keeping me from leaving my house; fear of my body giving out was. Being fat was crippling me. Eating instead of facing my problems was crippling me too.

Poem – How to get sober.

One moment at a time, not one day.
At the beginning, a day is too long
too stretched out,
too scary.

At the beginning an hour feels like an eternity
packed with uncertainty
and dread.

At the beginning of our coming
to consciousness,
of our coming
back to ourselves,
even an hour is too long.

That is why we got high, got stoned, got drunk.
The day stretched out before us with
more questions than answers,
more problems than solutions.

We are adults in name only.
We were shortchanged
on the skills
to be human.

We have to relearn
and unlearn
a lot.

It is hard, this being human.

It is why we ran away
for so long.

Just like a person who was born with legs
but never used them,
We have to be patient with the process.

We have to relearn how to walk
when we never learned in the first place.
We have to relearn how to live
when we never learned in the first place.

We have to be patient with ourselves.

Patience isn’t one of our strengths though.

We were raised by a world that taught
“Get rich quick”
“You deserve it”
And instant enlightenment,
no waiting.

So now what?

Go for a walk
Soak up the sun
or the cold
or the rain.

Be open to what is
right now,
not what you want it to be
not what you think
it should be.

This is a time of relearning
what it is to be


Just like a person who has spent
her life in a cave,
going outside is painful.
The light is too bright.
The sounds are too loud.
Nothing is familiar.
Nothing is comforting.

Don’t go back
to the cave.
Don’t go back
to being asleep.

Take a small step.

Take another
when you are ready.

No hurry.

You can sit outside that cave mouth for a long time.

You don’t have to go running
because if you go too far too fast
you’ll fall
and retreat
back to that cave.

Slow and steady does it.

A lot of getting sober
is unlearning.

You aren’t alone
in this process.

We are all unlearning
and relearning
what it means to be ourselves.

You are beautiful. You are needed. You are loved.
And you can do this.

Poem – friend. (predictive text)

First of a little (there are some)
for example and I am not a lot.

Remember the old standbys?
Remember what you want and need.
Rather than being eased
really our own feelings lead.

It isn’t about making a lot of friends.
In fact you can spend the time
If you want on your own site.
I don’t think that you can be found there.

Now what?
Your note for the way home is stuck
to the side of your shoe
caked with mud.

Don’t worry about it
Did you get the best in show?

Who cares if the result is beautiful or well groomed or well trained?

Give me a mutt any day.

Some thoughts on this poem/meditation.

What is a friend? Does it matter if she is popular or polite? What is more important, amount of friends or quality? I’m relearning what friendship means, and a lot of it is about being accepted for who I am and having a cheerleader for who I am becoming. Old friends who complain a lot are being cut out of my life, no matter how long I’ve known them or if they are family and I’m expected to be friends with them. People who don’t take my correspondence with them as private and discuss it with others behind my back are being cut out too. I need honesty in my life, and if it means having only a handful of people that are helpful and healing for me, then so be it. People who don’t make time for me aren’t worthy of my time either.

This started out with the letters in “friend” and then needed a little more so I free wrote the fourth stanza and the last two lines.

Thanksgiving, the other way.

I hate the holidays. They always feel like a nasty game of musical chairs. If you end up without a chair at a table, you are the loser. So everybody tries to find a place to be, even if that place isn’t that nice. We’d rather spend the holiday with people we don’t really like and who don’t really like us than spend the holiday alone.

Thanksgiving is the first of the holidays. I dislike Thanksgiving. I love giving thanks, I just don’t like Thanksgiving. It is a trial run for Christmas. Both holidays are where you push yourself into a role that isn’t you, to please people you don’t like.

The holidays have left me cold for years. They always make me feel artificial. I’m expected to cook when I don’t cook. I’m expected to cook foods that are only cooked this time of year. I’m expected to wear nice clothes and act nice and play nice.

For twice a year we get together with people we don’t spend time with during the rest of the year because we really don’t like them. If we liked them, we’d spend more than twice a year with them.

Perhaps this is why so many people drink during the holidays. Perhaps this is why so many people go out to see movies or to the mall during the holidays. That way they don’t have to spend any time with each other that involves any semblance of having to communicate with each other. Perhaps this is why so many police get domestic disturbance calls during the holidays.

Nothing puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” like the holidays.

I propose something different. Instead of doing the way that we’ve always done it, let’s do it differently. Let’s do it the way that we really want to do it. Let’s reinvent the holidays.

This year’s Thanksgiving could have gone really badly. I’d gotten into a huge disagreement with my sister in law. I’d realized that I’d been faking it going over to our parents in law’s anyway. Skip it. Skip it all. Why pretend anymore? I got tired of that gnawing feeling in my belly that says “something’s wrong!” I’d ignored it, suppressed it, hidden it. It was just part of dealing with the holidays. It was part of my childhood, ignoring that feeling. That sick feeling was just normal.

But this year I chose to do something different. Why spend time with people I don’t like? Why cook foods I don’t like, or that I only eat twice a year. I mean, I like sweet potatoes and all, but what about the fourth Thursday of November says I have to eat them? And why is there nothing healthy to eat on Thanksgiving? No fresh vegetables to be seen – everything is baked or broiled to within an inch of its life. It feels a little creepy to give thanks over food that is going to kill you.

It seems like the healthiest part about celebrating Thanksgiving means actually doing something to be thankful for.

This year was just my husband and I. This disagreement came just two days before Thanksgiving so there wasn’t enough time to wrangle an “Orphan’s Thanksgiving” like I’ve done in the past. We ate at the dining room table for the first time in a decade. We normally eat in the living room, while watching TV. This time, no TV. This time, candles. This time, just the two of us, facing each other, enjoying our meal, and spending time together.

It was very healing. It was exactly what I wanted. It was exactly what we needed. I caught a glimpse of what Sabbath is like.

We used special plates. We cooked what we wanted. There was turkey, sure. I don’t think it is possible for me to rewrite Thanksgiving without at least having turkey. But there was more, and it was healthy. It was all from scratch. Mashed potatoes made with purple potatoes, seasoned with cilantro and thyme. Sautéed carrots and snow peas, cooked in butter, white zinfandel, and turmeric. And crunchy bread – hoagie rolls, fresh from the bakery, heated up in the oven with a little butter. It was perfect. It was just enough, and not too much. I think we’ll do it again, and not wait a year to do it.

Maybe next week.

Today, I’m thankful for the courage to make new traditions. Today, I’m thankful for the desire to take care of myself. This was a good Thanksgiving.

Friends – to be, or not to be

What constitutes a friend? When is someone just an acquaintance? Can you really say that someone is your “BFF” if you’ve only known them for a year? When is it time to admit that they just are not that into you?

I have very few friends from high school. In fact, I have very few friends I’ve known for more than ten years. I’m a little exacting about what makes up a friend. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to be present. And they do have to be kind and considerate.

About five years after I graduated high school a person I knew showed up at my workplace, asking if we were still friends. I would think that she already knew the answer by that point, but we were young and nobody had told us what the rules were about how to have a friend or how to know when a friendship is over.

We’d not talked in years. I was surprised she even knew where I worked. We’d just drifted apart, because we had nothing to hold us together. Leaving the artificial environment of high school does that. Life does that.

The fact that she just showed up where I work rather than calling me first and asking to talk to me was a clue that things were over. Regular friends are considerate of your time.

She wasn’t a regular friend. I was assigned to her when we were in fourth grade. A teacher came up to me and asked me to be her friend because she was a loner. Her life was a bit sad. Her father has died, but before that he had been abusive. Her mom was doing the best she could raising her alone, but they were poor. The already bad start was just compounded. The teacher was trying to help her out by pairing her with someone she thought would be sensitive and kind.

I don’t think the teacher thought about what this would do to me.

It taught me that friendship is about sacrificing your own needs for others. It taught me that friendship is about taking care of others. It taught me that my own needs don’t matter. It taught me that I had to be there for the friend, but the friend didn’t have to be there for me.

I read recently “I’d rather have four quarters than 100 pennies.” The person was writing about friendship and about quality over quantity. When I first read it I didn’t get it. They both add up to 100. Surely it is the same.

But it isn’t the same at all.

Time is precious and life is short. I’d rather have a few real friends than a bunch of acquaintances.

I had a gathering for my birthday recently at a local vegetarian restaurant. I invited about a dozen people. Most were able to come. It was a very good evening. Nobody was needy. Nobody had to be entertained. Everybody there was the kind of person who is comfortable being in her or his own skin, and it showed. Everybody there was the kind of person who knew how to get along well with others, especially ones that they didn’t know.

And I felt better. I’m glad that I’m making healthy choices for myself. I’m glad that the food that I’m putting in me and the people I’m putting in my life are healthy ones.

It has been a long time to get to this point.