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Going Raw: Part One

(My Life-Long Love Affair With Food)

I don’t normally put sub-titles to my postings, but I felt this one deserved one.  There is no way I can share my “adventure” at going raw without giving some background as to my relationship with food.  And it is a love affair.

I have had an intimate relationship with food ever since I can remember.  Some of my earliest memories of food are:

– sitting under the dining room table in the middle of the night eating rice paper (don’t even ask!!)

– sitting for what seemed like hours on the garden gate or at the front room window waiting for Aunty Polly to arrive with ice cream and candy

– going to Aunty Peggy’s to have wonderful four course dinners that included incredible appetizers, cheese and crackers, dessert with coffee (like in a “grown 
   up’s” restaurant)

– going down to the kid’s secret den to eat as many candies as I had been able to take from the pantry without it looking as though someone had taken them
   (I’m sure my mother realized!)

– finger-swiping the frosting off a freshly baked “chocolate horror” cake (bliss!)

– sneaking teaspoonful’s of Fry’s chocolate spread (pure paradise!!)

– biting into the crusty heel of a fresh loaf of country bread slathered in real butter

– English cheddar cheese and crunchy pickled onions

So as you can see I was pretty much addicted to food from an early age.  I could describe in detail, and still can, the sensations of different foods hitting the different taste buds in the various areas of my mouth just the way someone can describe the details in a picture.  I think God proved that He really, really loved us when he gave us taste buds.

I discovered “ethnic” restaurants in my mid to upper teens and a whole new world of tastes and flavors opened up to me.  English food is usually so bland and much of it, particularly vegetables, is simply boiled into oblivion and mush.  Indian curry and crisp Chinese vegetables were like heaven, and the awesome blend of herbs in authentic, freshly cooked, Italian cuisine can still send me into a swoon today. I think you get the picture.

Moving to Sardinia, Italy in 1979 was a dream come true for this foodaholic.  The Sardinian cuisine is unique and is as beautiful as the island itself.  Home-made pasta was the norm in a Sardinian home in those days and if you have never eaten fresh home-made pasta you need to before you die.  Roast lamb, kid, and pig are nothing like anything over here.  I have eaten some of the best bar-b-q pork since coming to the States but nothing touches a succulent roast-in-the-ground pig in Sardinia. 

From Sardinia I returned to London in 1978.  It was mainly a “big mistake” but forms part of my life journey so it was important.  During the five years I remained in the UK back then the only time that I ate well was when I cooked Italian pasta or I ate ethnic.  I missed Italy badly, not just the food but the whole culture.  So it was with a happy heart that I returned in 1983 to live in Naples, Italy.

Naples, rather like Sicily, gets a bad rap in some tourist books, but I fell in love with Naples very quickly.  There’s an Italian saying that goes, “see Naples and die”.  There’s a Neapolitan saying that goes, “Napoli ti prende per la gola” – Naples grabs you by the throat.  The people are warm-hearted and friendly and the food, well I’m not sure anything I could say about Neapolitan food would do it justice.  There are amazing pasta dishes with incredible sauces and fresh seafood cooked in the simplest but most divinely-tasting ways. “Dolce” (cakes) are out of this world and the pizza, oh the pizza!!!!!  You have not eaten real pizza until you eat pizza prepared and baked in Naples.  Not even the pizza in other parts of Italy is as sublime as Neapolitan pizza. 

And then there’s REAL mozzarella cheese freshly dripping in its own liquid.  This is an absolute delicacy that is only made in Naples, Italy.  There is only one place over here that I know of where you can find real, fresh Mozzarella cheese and that is at the Fratelli La Buffala restaurant in the beaches area of Miami.  They have it flown in fresh from Naples two or three times per week.  

So, with all this love of marvelously prepared and served food, how do I get to going raw?  With great difficulty let me tell you!  I guess with age comes some sort of wisdom, and my brain began to tell my body that two hundred pounds on a five foot four inch frame was not so healthy.  And, as usually happens with the fat accumulation, my blood pressure had risen and my cholesterol was fast following it.

Thankfully, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.  Back in 2005, about eighteen months after getting to Jacksonville, Florida, my church hosted a series of classes on the vegetarian diet.  I was interested not only because I thought it would help me lose weight, combat the BP and cholesterol issue, and improve my overall wellness, but also because the classes were offered by the Cancer Society as a way to help people prevent cancer or live cancer free once they were in remission.  Because there is a history of cancer in my family I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns.

I’ll leave the “vegetarian experiment” for my next posting in this series.  

Journaling: A Way To Heal

I have been “off the grid” for a couple of weeks.  This does not mean I have not been writing.  The fact of the matter is that I have been writing a lot, just not publicly.  Normally, I am a very “open” person.  Those of you who read my postings regularly know that I share quite freely about my emotions and the circumstances and events that take place in my life.

However, there are some things that come along that I need to deal with on a more private level.  I have several networks of friends whom I can turn to on occasions such as these.  I also have my intimate relationship with the God of my understanding and even when friends are not available, He is always ready to help me bear my burdens.  And, of course, I have my best friend, my husband.

But, perhaps because of my deep connection to the written word, I also use the tool of writing to help me in such times.  I find that journaling about a problem or an issue helps me to put things into perspective a little easier.  And just the fact that words appear on paper is already a balm to my troubled spirit.

When I journal I always use pen and paper rather than the computer.  I love the old-fashioned way of expressing my thoughts by manually writing them out.  There’s something more personal, more intimate, about hand-writing.  And, of course, it’s my handwriting, which brings the subject matter even closer to home.

So when I am heart-burdened, writing out the problem, the pain, the confusion, in long-hand is very therapeutic.  I can sometimes find the courage to put some words down on paper that I might not be able to express verbally.  And even though it’s subjective, there is also that sense of it being someone else’s problem.  In fact, sometimes I write in the third person singular, as though I were writing about another person.

Journaling my sorrow allows me to get what’s inside, outside.  It is yet another way to nurture myself.  I refuse to be bogged down by pain, and I surely do not want the pain to fester into anything like resentment or anger!!  Those are two cancers of the soul that I will not allow to hang around.

And so my pen travels across the pages of my journal, and as it leaves its inky trail my heart lightens and everything seems more bearable.  I always have a handful of pretty journals on hand for such writing.  Wrapping those dark feelings between two beautifully designed covers somehow lessens their hold on my heart and turns my journaling into another level of spiritual growth.    

Spiritual Growth: Friendship & Prayer

I am going to share a very intimate and personal story about a recent situation in my life.  This story involves a friend who, for privacy reasons, I will choose to call “Pat”.  I have known Pat for the six years since coming here to the States.  In that short period of time she has faced some severe trials and tribulations.

The month before I arrived in Jacksonville, Pat lost of her then 8 year-old daughter.  Three years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation during which she lost her hair but not her sense of humor nor her faith.  Last December she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, has had surgery and now faces chemo and radiation – again.  She still has her sense of humor and incredibly strong faith.

Ten days ago, after seeing Pat in church just a few days after her brain surgery, which was a miracle in and of itself, I received the following email from her:

“It was good to see you last night.  I didn’t get the chance to talk to you after Mass and really it wasn’t the place, but I wanted to let you know how much you have been with me through this whole thing.  When they told me about the tumor and having to get the PET scan to see about other possible places, I sort of let my imagination get away from me.  It was really scary not knowing how involved the rest of my body might be with cancer. Of course, I started praying, but you were in my head also.  You, to me, are such a spiritual, faithful, prayerful person with such a great understanding and insight to our faith.  Yet, I know you have struggled with letting go of control of things.  That is where I found myself before my scan, praying and still trying to control the outcome.  Stupid.  So there you are in my head trying to convince me to give it up.  You got me to visualize a totally clear scan (neck down) have FAITH and TRUST.  So during the scan that’s what I did.  I prayed for it and you told me to trust God and let Him take care of me. In times of doubt and panic it calmed me to continuously turn it back over to God, let Him take it from me and TRUST He would, put my hands up and let go.

I feel so blessed that you came into my life when you did and are still here for me.  You have planted so many seeds in people’s hearts and minds, I just wanted to let you know that something beautiful grew from one of those many, many seeds.  Thank you and I love you!”

The following is my response to this email:

“It has taken me a while to get my emotions and my thoughts sorted out since receiving your email.  After reading it I wept.  It just touched my heart so deeply.  And I went back to one of the reflection books that I had read that morning which quoted: ‘During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears …..’  Hebrews 5:7.  The reflection went on to say: ‘Praying is no light and trivial exercise.  It engages all the powers of man’s moral and spiritual nature as is evident in the scripture verse above………. It takes only a moment’s thought to see how such praying drew mightily upon all the powers of God …….. This is the kind of praying that brings the soul close to God, and that brings God down to earth.’ 

These are the kinds of prayers that I have had to make recourse to in my “letting go struggles”.  I live a very happy and joy-filled life in many ways  and I am truly grateful for all the blessings that I have and continue to receive.  However, I have never been brought to my knees as I have over my daughter.  And, although it was for very different reasons in your case, I know that you too have been brought to your knees over your daughter – so you understand that kind of struggle. 

The very next morning, in the same reflection book, I found this scripture, ‘I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.’  Romans 15:30.  And the reflection then went on to talk about the effort that Paul put into praying: ‘It is like a great battle.  Like a soldier, the praying Christian fights a life-and-death battle.  His honor and eternal life are all at stake.  Everything depends on the strength he puts in it………  This kind of praying engages our undivided hearts, our full consent to be the Lord’s’.  And I know that if I redouble my prayer effort I will benefit in the long run.

So then I read the next reflection book (I read 4 or 5 each morning), and here is what I found: ‘Your journey through life is often not easy, and you may experience times when you awaken to find yourself battered and bruised, lost and forsaken, lying helpless along the side of life’s road.  Your resources gone and your strength spent, you may wonder if there is hope for you.  Will anyone come along to help?  God has promised that there is no circumstance from which He cannot rescue you.  If you call out to Him, He will help you to your feet and provide comfort and support until your wounds heal and you are able to continue on your way.  Though the circumstance that caused your fall may still be present, He has promised to walk with you, steadying your feet and filling you heart with hope until you reach your final destination.’

Pat, we are so blessed to have our faith, to have our loving God.  We are also so blessed to have all the friends that make up our parish family who will add their prayers to ours in times of difficulty and struggle.  And at that moment I was reminded of yet another reading that I had done the previous day which reminded me, ‘The grace of God sustains me in every moment……Whatever lies before me, I can be sure that God is in the midst of it…….. I trust the grace of God to guide me.  I live calmly and confidently, and I walk my path in peace.  I have absolute assurance that the grace of God is equally present in the lives of those I care about.’

And right there I found yet another degree of inner peace.  Your email opened my heart and my eyes on another level and let me read deeply into these reflections and led me back to reread them and take them more fully into my heart and mind.  I am always so humbled and so grateful that God loves me enough to send me messengers over and over again to remind me of His message of love.  So let us both take heart in our “struggles” knowing that we have an awesome God.  Thank you for being my messenger.  You remain as always in my prayers.”

And so the circle ripples out, when friends support each other with prayers and love and compassion.  One seemingly small act by one person is received as such a huge blessing by another which, when verbally acknowledged to the first person then becomes an even bigger blessing to them.  And in my case, it opened me to further blessings as I went back over my spiritual reflections and took the lessons even deeper into my heart.