The Divinity of Animals

“Animals are divine messengers of miracles that go far beyond emotional comfort and practical assistance. Talk to those who have been transported to a heavenly place by the gentle purring of a kitten or whose broken hearts, burdened by worry and pain, have been mended by a dog licking their hand. They will tell you that animals connect them with the River of Life in ways poets imagine and mystics contemplate. They will tell you that their deepest and most sincere relationships with animals are spiritual partnerships.”

–  Allen Anderson, Angel Animals: Divine Messengers of Miracles

Ode to the First Amendment

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“The test of democracy is freedom of criticism.”  – David Ben-Gurion

And lest we forget:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
– First Amendment, United States Constitution

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to speak openly – without government restraint. It guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION:  It  forbids  Congress from promoting one religion over another and from restricting an individual’s religious practices. Regardless of the religion. Any and all religion.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION:  It  prohibits  Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.  Censorship is therefore prohibited.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY:  It  prohibits  Congress from  denying the rights of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.  The power of peaceful protest is our democratic right.

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Photo (of graffiti) via flickr.com.

Photo (of press) by Glenn Fawcett [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 7 of 7: The best is yet to come

“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
Ellen Goodman, American Journalist

Much to the wry amusement of my friends and family members,  “The best is yet to come”  is a mantra of encouragement that I use quite frequently. Especially since the Great Recession of 2008. I believe the saying comes from Robert Browning‘s poem which begin’s with “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be… .”

The phrase is also the title of a 1959 song  written by Carolyn Leigh and composed by Cy Coleman. Although it was originally written for singer Tony Bennett, it was Frank Sinatra who made the song famous. He recorded it in his 1964 album, It Might As Well Be Swing, accompanied by Count Basie and directed by Quincy Jones.  On the 25th of February, 1995, The Best Is Yet To Come was the last song that Sinatra sang in public and the words were immortalized on his tombstone.

I am a “glass is half full” type of person and so it is not really surprising that this is one of my favorite sayings. I truly believe that there is always something to look forward to and that every problem has a solution. We navigate our lives through a series of peaks and valleys. The valleys are made bearable because we know that, eventually, there will be peaks. And oh how glorious are those peaks! Well worth the wait and hardship. Optimism and Hope. May we all continue to have them in abundance.

2017 is going to be a simply “Mahvelous” year. I feel it in my bones. Or is that my early onset arthritis…? Just kidding.  

And please remember to:

Take the time to read (a book),
Walk the walk,
Let it go,
Feed your brain,
Get some sleep,
Be the architect of your own destiny,
and, of course,  rest assured that
The best is yet to come.

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 6 of 7: Be the architect of your own destiny

“New Year – a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story ?  Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.” 
― Alex MorrittImpromptu Scribe

I will keep this post brief.  The choices we make, whether proactive or reactive, set a chain of reactions and events in motion. How we act (or don’t act) and what we say (or don’t say) will  play a pivotal role in how we engage with others and in what we hope to achieve in life. Sometimes we find excuses for our own inertia or our bad choices. We play the blame game: “It’s his/her fault that this happened, not mine.”  In some instances, this is correct. But they’re the exception, rather than the rule.

Let’s face it, there are times that bad things happen. And it’s no one’s fault. But it’s how we handle  the hard times, the tragedies and disasters that determines our forward path.  The person who deals with hardship with humility, integrity and grace is the person who will likely also use every life experience – be it good or bad – as a lesson to learn from. True wisdom is hard-earned.  

So let 2017 be the year we, each of us, write our own life story. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for our actions and our words. 

Let the first chapter begin.

“Your life will be no better than the plans you make and the action you take. You are the architect and builder of your own life, fortune, and destiny.”
– Alfred A. Montapert

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 5 of 7: Get some sleep

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”
W. C. Fields

I think I must have been a cat in a past life.  I’m not sure whether I’m nocturnal by nature, or simply an insomniac.  One thing is for certain: I do not sleep very much.  And when I do, it’s a light sleep that is easily disturbed by sound or motion.

Most “night” people (a.k.a. insomniacs) know, in theory, that sleep is essential to good health and well-being.  In practice, however, we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re doing some of our best work late at night, when everything is silent and still.  Actually, a good night’s sleep will boost overall productivity by a much greater degree than a sleepless night will.  

5 simple reasons why sleeping through the night is a good thing:

  1. It improves your memory
  2. Boosts creativity
  3. Gives you more energy
  4. Makes you feel younger
  5. Makes you look younger
“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”
William Blake

5 medically-proven reasons why prolonged bouts of not sleeping can kill you:

  1. May cause inflammation which, in turn, may result in high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, premature aging and death
  2. May cause your metabolism to slow down and your weight to increase
  3. May make you accident-prone
  4. May contribute to depression and/or mood swings
  5. May adversely affect your immune system – making you more susceptible to colds, viruses, pneumonia
“Your life is a reflection of how you sleep, and how you sleep is a reflection of your life.”
Dr. Rafael Pelayo

Did you know that approximately 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 sleep disorders? I kid you not.  

So, how much sleep do we really need? Although it depends on the person, the general credo is that 7-8 hours sleep (for adults) is ideal. The National Sleep Foundation has provided a chart showing the ideal sleep duration per age group, including the ideal time to go to sleep – see below:

sleepchart

Personally, I intend to make an effort to sleep more (and earlier).  The odds will not be in my favor, if I don’t make this critical life change.

To all the insomniacs out there: please, please get some sleep!

“And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new created.”
D.H. Lawrence

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 4 of 7: Feed your brain

I stared at the man.
‘How many tins of sardines did you eat, Jeeves?’
‘None, sir. I am not fond of sardines.’
‘You mean, you thought of this great, this ripe, this amazing scheme entirely without the impetus given to the brain by fish?’
‘Yes, sir.’
[From Very Good, Jeeves, (c) 1930 by P.G. Wodehouse]

How many times a month do you eat seafood? And, more importantly, why should you care? Well, according to a recent study¹ published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, it was determined that weekly consumption of baked or broiled fish is associated with large gray matter volumes in the areas of the brain that are responsible for cognition and memory. Fried anything, let alone fish, is not healthy (although it sure is tasty!).

Another study² published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) on February 2, 2016, reinforced what many of us suspected all along: that, mercury levels aside, fish is really good for the brain. In fact, eating fish regularly can actually reduce the risk of dementia – more specifically, Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that as we age, we lose a critical lipid in the brain, DHA, and that “fish consumption (therefore) may be more beneficial with older age.”

But why wait until then? We should be proactive and start consuming fish regularly… now – well before we reach our golden years. I intend to significantly increase my intake of seafood in 2017. In fact, I ate salmon on January 1st and today (January 4th) I ate a phenomenal serving of spaghetti with sardines. It  was the tastiest spaghetti that I have had in a long time. Now I have never posted a recipe on this blog site. Ever. But I will today. That’s how fabulous this recipe really is. You can add your own elements to it – but whatever you do, don’t leave out the sardines!

BRAIN FOOD

Spaghetti with Sardines

spagsard

Ingredients

  • 14 oz spaghetti  (I use Rao’s homemade spaghetti)
  • 1 tbsp  olive oil
  • 2 garlic clove, crushed
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • 8 oz can chopped tomato (or the equivalent amount of chopped fresh plum or Roma tomatoes)
  • 2 cans skinless and boneless sardines in tomato sauce (or in olive oil)
  • 1/3 cup of pitted black olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  • Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to the instructions on your package of spaghetti.  Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium pan and cook the garlic for 1 min. Add the chili flakes, tomatoes and sardines, breaking up roughly with a wooden spoon. Heat for 2-3 mins, then stir in the olives, capers and most of the parsley. Mix well to combine.
  • Drain the pasta.  Place the pasta on the plate. Add the sauce on top or and mix well (your preference). Garnish with the remaining parsley.

Yield: Serves 4

Endnotes:

¹ Raji, Cyrus A. et al. “Regular Fish Consumption and Age-Related Brain Gray Matter Loss.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Volume 47, Issue 4, 444-451.

² Morris MC, Brockman J, Schneider JA, Wang Y, Bennett DA, Tangney CC, van de Rest O. “Association of Seafood Consumption, Brain Mercury Level, and APOE ε4 Status With Brain Neuropathology in Older Adults.” JAMA. 2016;315(5):. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19451

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 3 of 7: Let it go

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“Cutting out drama… Healthy mind and body choices… Intent followed by action… Keeping real friends and letting go of the pretends… Livin’ clean for Twenty Seventeen!” 
― Steve Maraboli

“Losing weight” almost always makes the top 5 list for New Year’s resolutions. But here’s a revelation for you: losing weight is more than just pounds and ounces. Physical health aside, most of us carry around a lot of emotional baggage or dead weight. Like a grudge or a misunderstanding or a worry that keeps gnawing at you. Do you know how much time, on average, we spend worrying? Approximately 5 years of our lives, according to a study conducted by UK healthcare provider Benenden Health. 5 years!

Worrywarts of the world (myself included):  Let it go!

And speaking of emotional baggage, how often do we find ourselves on the wrong end of an insult or mean-spirited comment? We spend so much time nursing our hurt feelings, reliving the experience over and over in our minds, while anger and resentment start to fester. Rather than holding on to toxic emotions, simply Let it go!  And steer clear from people who are mean and negative.  There are a lot of haters out there. Let them form their own club. Misery loves company.

And finally, a word to those  who are too hard on themselves. Don’t dwell on past failures or mistakes. That’s simply counterproductive. Learn from them, but don’t let them drag you down. Let it go!

It’s a new year. It’s a new day. Look forward to a fresh start.

I’ll close this post with the lyrics to  (yes, you saw this coming, didn’t you?)….  Let It Go!  If you click on the title below, you can sing along with Idina Menzel as she belts out this Disney blockbuster song.

Let It Go  (from Disney’s “Frozen“)
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I’m the Queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried
Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!
Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway!

Song Written by: Robert Lopez Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Emanuel Kiriakou
Song Published by: Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Walt Disney Music Company

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 2 of 7: Walk the walk

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“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
— Edith Lovejoy Pierce, American Poet & Pacifist

When Opportunity knocks, by all means open the door. But what happens if it doesn’t knock, or ring, or fall down from the sky right into your lap? And you keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting…

The reality is that we create our own destiny. I know this is a cliché, but it’s worth repeating. If we keep waiting for good things to happen to us, we may be sorely disappointed when they don’t. When you work long and hard on something – be it a passion or a project – you will likely see a return on your investment. By investment, I mean your time. And time is precious.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”
Michael Altshuler, Speaker & Trainer

So begin the new year by shelving anything and everything that simply didn’t yield anything for you. Then start fresh. Make a strategy, hatch a realistic plan and then see it through. By “seeing it through” I also mean spreading the word. Networking with people is a surefire way to create a domino effect of opportunity. If you ‘walk the walk’ (translation: work diligently and follow through), you will most likely be smiling like a Cheshire cat by the end of the year.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big…. as long as you’re not being delusional. For instance, if your big dream is to be a singer when, in reality, you’re kind of tone deaf… then you may want to rethink your strategy.  I have always been in awe of Barbra Streisand and dreamed of singing (with a voice like hers) in Carnegie Hall. But I’m a realist. I will never have That Voice. So I sing in the shower instead.

Don’t wait for Opportunity to knock. Steer your own ship. Make 2017 your flagship year and wake up each morning, excited about what you’re doing.  Keep at it and don’t let anyone dampen your spirits or weaken your resolve. Here’s to a great year – for all of us!

“Sow a thought and you reap an act;
Sow an act and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit and you reap a character;
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson