When I think of the word food, it evokes liquid memories of love.
Memories of wonderful days with my sister and my cousins at grandma’s house.
Food represented love.
Each Saturday my grandmother would prepare to bake fresh bread, pastries, and other treats.
I, along with my sister and cousins would gather at our grandmother’s table. We knew there would be laughter, food, and fun.
Golden rays of sunlight streaming in through the muslin fabric added magic to the dance of grandmother’s hands as she wrestled with the dough. Next, she patted and covered it on a large wooden tray to rest and rise.
The heady fragrance set our taste buds alight with the promise of joy.
Our shiny sun-kissed faces marveled with the wonder of youth as the doughy mixture seemed to come alive before our very eyes.
Later, grandma would set the dough into rolls and loaves. We would get small pieces of the raw dough to play with as an artful form of learning.
We would try to make each tiny bread look like my grandmother’s, but ours never seemed to come out quite right.
Next came preparing the oven for baking.
Earlier that day, we ran around collecting bits of old wood and dead branches from the trees. Coconut shells and fiber make wonderful kindling for the fire.
The oven is located in the yard and is a structure made of mud, cow patties (dried cow poop), and water mixed together in a manner reminiscent of an adobe-like structure.
My grandma would artfully light the oven using the bits and pieces we had collected until they formed red hot bits of coal.
The dough is then placed in the oven and the real magic begins. The intoxicating scent of fermented yeast explodes as heat invigorates the fungi causing its energy to dissipate overpowering the palate of the waiting children.
We eagerly await the opening of the oven door, a signal for the salivary glands to let it all hang out — literally.
The golden goodness is freed from the ovens bowels and presented to the salivating kids.
The heat emanating from the too-hot rolls causes us to change hands constantly, like a clown juggling way too many balls in the air.
We love it warm from the oven as the heat causes the fresh cheese or salty butter to dribble down our fingers as we enjoy this yeasty goodness with some freshly made lime drinks.
Afterward, we would rest in the shade of the veranda, now replete.
The older kids would tell us scary stories until one by one we doze off dreaming of playing hide and seek in the coming moonlight.
I remember gazing upon these soft umbrella like plants nestled upon a rotting log in the front corner of our yard. They boasted differing colors, shapes and sizes.
They seemed to appear on damp days, after a night of heavy rains this strange plant would appear.
To a child they were enchanting. Though they evoked the tiniest of fear. They were reminiscent of images we had seen in our story books. usually of a leprechaun or a toad in close proximity to one.
The oldfolks said the spirits used it to shelter from the rain.
Jumbie umbrella as they were called, usually found a home on old logs, under trees and in the dark underbrush of our gardens. The logs were so old that they were well into their process of natural disintegration. If one took hold a piece of the decaying log in your hand and if you rubbed your fingers together, it became dust.
The folk lore told that the jumbies’, ghosts or spirits (words used interchangeably), use the ‘umbrellas’ to hide under during the rain. The reasoning behind why they came out after a night of heavy rains.
Kids will believe anything. The absurdity in retrospect is laughable.
I do not know the names of the mushroom species that grew so abundantly everywhere back then. They were pretty much taboo in our part of the world.
No one I knew ate mushrooms, they were undesirable and the word on the street was that “they ate these things in other parts of the world”. They went on to tell us they were poisonous.
So we would play with them. They were so delicate that it was easy to crush them under our feet.
Years later, I began travelling and was introduced to edible mushrooms. I immediately fell in love with their musty taste and meat-like texture.
An edible fungi
Mushrooms according to Wikipedia are the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground, on soil, or on its food source.
Mushrooms are a low-calorie food rich in nutritional value. Loaded with many health-boosting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they can be an important addition to your diet.
Note, their particular circumstance of growth impacts their nutritional components, for eg., mushrooms grown with exposure to ultraviolet light are a good source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important component for optimum health.
Mushrooms, according to the FDA, contain, sodium, potassium, fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamin C, iron and various trace elements.
Benefits of eating mushrooms
Aids weight loss
Lowers blood pressure
Nutritional value and trace elements
Though my first encounter with mushrooms were negative ones. I am glad I kept an open mind when it came to trying new things.
In making a decision to try something new, I found a new low calorie food that I now love.
It is important to take some time and see another perspective, to give new experiences, new places a change, new things a try.
There are over two billion smartphone users in the world.
Using a cellular phone while driving is illegal in forty-eight states. In 2001 New York became the first state to ban the use of cellular phones while driving. Technology continues to tighten its grip.
Today, much of our time is spent using technology.
I am by no means exempt. Some days I immediately reach for my phone as soon as my eyelids separate.
I often take no thought to first giving God praise for waking me up. Sometimes I do not take a moment to plan my day before I reach out and touch technology.
Much of the projects I procrastinate on are due to the distractions of social media.
Some days I arise with a post already mentally written, only to become distracted by one ding from my phone. Or, I go to my email for some small detail and remain there for some time. Worse still it leads me to a ‘browsing’ spree.
More valuable time lost. Time I can never replace.
We have become so dependent on technology. Many of us spend more one-to-one time online than with our families.
This was not always so. Being a woman of a certain age, I did not grow up with a cellular phone in one hand.
How did this necessity become such an obsession? From the smallest child to the oldest adult, technology is all the rave.
I really never leave home without it.
Some time ago a video circulated of an older woman in New York, she was so engrossed in her cell phone she walked into an open manhole suffering severe injuries.
There are reports of persons walking into oncoming traffic and into the arms of death, all as a result of our fascination with social media. Each is trying to one-up the other with the perfect image or post for increased likes or follows.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, approximately 76,000 persons have suffered injuries due to cellular phones use. For each 100,000 cell phone users, at least two injuries are reported.
You can do the math.
The National Library of Medicine posits that cellular phone injuries of the head and neck have drastically increased over the past 20 years, with the majority of injuries among those aged 13 to 29 years.
Text neck syndrome
Text neck syndrome is a fairly new diagnosis characterized by pain and headache, soreness to the neck, arms, and upper back.
The cervical spine is an amazing and efficient part of our bodies. It is the pathway for nourishment, provides support, protection and allows for 180° movement.
Widespread use of technology, texting, and computers have allowed for a steep increase in injuries of the neck and upper back.
A human head weighs approximately 12 pounds and, in its correct anatomical position, the weight is evenly distributed. But as we extend our necks forward and downward, the weight on the cervical spine increases.
At a 15-degree angle, the weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s about 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds.
Imagine toting 40 to 60 pounds hanging on your neck each day!
Ways to prevent injuries
Technology is here to stay, and I would predict that the time spent on our devices may actually increase. Since prevention is not an option, let’s see how we can cure some of the pitfalls before they start: —
Avoid using your device for greater than 20-minutes at any one time. Take short breaks. For every 20 minutes of screen time, take 20 seconds and look 20 feet ahead.
Alternate your fingers to reduce repetitive injury. Keep your wrists as relaxed and straight as possible.
Reduce injury by placing your device on a hard surface, in this way you won’t have to ‘grip’ with the other hand for prolonged periods.
Be mindful of your posture and keep your device at your chest, chin, or eye level, this reduces the bend and strain to your neck and upper back. If you must have your phone below eye level, try to look down using your eyes rather than your neck, (very difficult to remember and do).
Blink your eyes often to keep them moisturized.
During breaks, walk away from your phone and perform a few stretches.
Without a doubt, the web, cellular phones, and technology have revolutionized our world. It is a thing of beauty. It has made it possible to communicate, share information, and trade goods and services in real-time.
Our world is better for it. But we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and each other so that we can master its use safely.
Irresponsible use of handheld devices is not only an error of the young, the older adults fall prey to its charms as well.
There is an urgent need for consumers to be educated about the dangers of the irresponsible use of technology, and on injury prevention while using these devices.
Remain mindful as you go about your life, practice helpful body mechanics so that you may be able to enjoy browsing the world wide web for a long time to come.
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” — Louisa May Alcott
Practical ways to cope with the fear and panic
Fear is a predator! If it senses any chink in the armor it will pounce!
Claustrophobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is characterized by the fear of and avoidance of confined spaces.
As a person who knows what it feels like to wrestle with this dreaded evil, I utilize some practical ways of subduing this beast without the use of medicine.
In many of my day-to-day activities, I am forced to use the elevator at my place of work. The thought of having to use an elevator causes my heart rate to accelerate and beads of sweat on my brow. If there is someone else in the elevator with me I can handle the anxiety better.
When I find myself alone in that elevator fear begins to unfurl on the inside creating a tornado of anxiety, with the potential to leave nothing but debris in its wake.
It feels like a tomb and I fear the doors will never reopen.
I imagine my co-workers finding me in a whimpering heap on the floor of the elevator. Not a comforting thought in my position.
I will go to any lengths to avoid the triggers unless there is no other recourse.
Phobias generally develop during childhood or our teenage years and manifest by the avoidance of small and confined spaces. Phobias create the belief that ‘something awful’ will happen if you remain in that situation. Your flight or fight response is activated with physical symptoms such as: —
Pressure in the head
Getting hot or cold
The feeling of dread or terror
Your thinking becomes clouded and you are consumed with one thought — ‘I’ve got to get out!’.
Emotionally, the person feels great fear and trepidation and has a sense of dread and doom.
How is it diagnosed?
Claustrophobia is characterized in one of four ways.
Though a definitive cause is not known, many people who experience claustrophobia may find its origins stem from a single incident or trauma. They may experience symptoms from getting trapped in an elevator, locked in a cupboard by a sibling, etc., which triggered their anxiety. Some other etiologies may be:-
My mom recalls mine was a long and difficult labor. Perhaps being stuck in the birth canal could be a possible cause of the anxiety disorder.
Whatever its origins, one option is to try to recognize the triggers and manage them before they become a full-blown issue. Employ the above strategies and try to calm yourself as much as you can. Have your cellular device with you at all times and try to engage yourself in something interesting.
I feel that having my cell with me enables me to at least call for help and not feel so helpless or alone.
I employ these strategies, pray that the elevator ride goes quickly, and breathe a sigh of relief as the door begins to open.
Please feel free to share any tips you use in coping with fear and panic.
How the Incas keep a 500-yeartradition of communication and community alive
This year the Q’eswachaka bridge in Peru, a mind-blowing invention of the Inca peoples was rebuilt. This is the work of highly trained and skilled workers that honor their tradition for the greater part of half a century.
The bridge which is traditionally re-braided each year was not repaired last year due to the COVID pandemic. It fell into some disrepair and actually fell down into the river below. This year the urgency to upkeep the traditional was at an all time high.
Once per year, usually in the month of June, the Quechua-speaking peoples gather at the gorge of the Apurimac River located in the Southern Andes.
The ropes will subsequently be braided into cables which are then raised on each side of the gorge to serve as the ‘bones’ of the bridge.
Expert craftsmen will then go to work weaving the many ropes into the new bridge. The craftsmen begin their arduous task by starting from opposite ends and will meet in the middle.
This bridge is a marvel of ingenuity, is made using grass, straw (hemp) and sticks. It spans an impressive expansive 2.3 miles above the river. It is approximately 118 feet long and will be strong enough to support the needs of a bustling community of people and their animals as it had been for greater than 500 years.
Historically the craftspeople will begin learning this craft from an early age. The tradition is passed from generation to generation and embraced with much pride.
Each household from the four surrounding communities will contribute approximately 230 feet of rope to the bridge project. A true labor of love and community spirit.
Although there is a ‘modern’ bridge nearby, the proud Incas continue to use, upkeep and renew their tradition each year.
It was close to midnight on New Year’s eve when my phone rang. Zenita, the name of my good friend flashed across the screen. I excitedly answered and in surprise realized that the voice on the other end was not one I knew.
The caller identified themselves as her sister and stated she was sorry to tell me that my friend had lost her battle with cancer earlier that day.
Just as my phone rang my then six-month-old baby had suddenly cried out very loudly, seemingly for no reason I couth fathom.
I was immediately overcome with sadness … my friend had died. She had lost her battle with cancer.
I met the woman who would become my friend in college. We were working our way through nursing school. Both of us were adults with families at this time.
I would later find out that she was stricken with cancer and had been going through this process for some time. She had had bilateral mastectomies and breast reconstruction and a few other forms of treatments by the time we met.
If one was not made aware of her illness, she appeared to be the picture of health.
She would start her coursework, become ill, and be forced to hit the pause button. She would then gain some respite, return to school only to have to leave again. Through it all, she remained steadfast.
Zenita was a soft-spoken and beautiful human being. I would often parallel park her car. She was a good driver though parallel parking proved to be her undoing. So each time we had classes together I would park her car.
Our friendship continued through the years. I went on ahead as she took time out for another round with cancer.
Time marched on and we stayed in touch. I graduated nursing school and began working while my friend continued to fight in between bouts of schooling.
Sometime later we met for breakfast and I told her of my plans to move. She put me in contact with her sister’s friend through whom I could make inquiries about employment.
Even though her life was complicated, she still took time out to care about mine and offer her assistance. My friend had been in the fight for her life for years. I never heard her complain about her circumstances.
She fought a good fight.
Life continued. We spoke regularly and by this time, cancer had given her some reprieve. She had finally graduated from nursing school and was planning to move my way as well.
She flew down for our mutual friend’s wedding and she looked well and healthy.
If you met her and did not know her history, one would never guess at the battle raging beneath.
She remained hopeful.
She looked healthy and beautiful and we had a blast at the wedding reception. We partied and danced the night away. Though for some reason we did not take a picture together. I have never had a picture of her, though I still see her so clearly and hear her voice.
We said our goodbyes and anticipated the promised relocation a few months later.
Soon it was in November, Thanksgiving Day. I received a call from Zenita, but I was at work. We chatted for a short while, then she told me that her family was visiting and asked me to call her later. I promised I would call her on my way home from work.
I did not make the call!
Soon Christmas came around and life was hectic. I had given birth in June of that year and found myself juggling many balls in the air.
Next came the eve of the New Year and a phone call showing the name Zenita across the screen. At the same time, my baby yelped out loudly for no reason I could identify.
I answered happily and the voice on the line informed me my friend had suddenly taken a turn for the worse earlier that day and had passed away.
I was shocked and saddened and when I hung up the phone I knew an invaluable jewel had been stolen from us.
My friend had succumbed to a final jab from the evil known as cancer.
Cancer — How I hate that word!
My friend epitomized the meanings of grace, determination, beauty, and hope throughout.
No doubt a journey fraught with pain, fear, and at times despair.
I never heard her complain with bitterness or anger, she remained stalwart. I do know that one of her greatest regrets was that she may not be around for her children.
I will forever regret the call I did not make.
I think of her often and if I listen keenly, I can still hear her gentle tone saying my name.
She was truly a lovely person. And I miss her every day.