How To Grieve With Challah Bread by Ellabell Risbridger

“How to Grieve with Challah Bread” struck me as a perfect expression of the complexities of family life. Grief and loss. Rituals and remembrances. New loaves braided and baked and broken at the table. All these are emblems and occasions of belonging to the tribes of our birth. — MAB

Eating With My Fingers

My grandfather is dead: I do not know how to grieve. So I make bread.

In the Bible they call bread the staff of life (my grandfather might have liked this: he liked religion), but really it’s the staff of grief. And rage, and guilt. I do not know how to grieve. I am twenty-two: my grandparents had children young, and I thought they would all die old. Older. I do not know how to grieve. I do not know how to grieve my grandfather’s passing, because I barely knew my grandfather. I tried to tell someone “he was like this-” and I came up short: who was my grandfather?

dough challah

He let me eat apple pie for breakfast. He was my father’s father. He was bald. He liked to garden. He was a teacher, and some kind of occasional preacher. He came from a village called something like Jacksondale, which…

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Self-Care Diary: Saturday, 11/23/2013

Retro 49This is Day Six of my experimental series, Self-Care Diary. For seven days, I’m sharing the things I’m doing to maintain my health and well-being. Then, at the end of the week — tomorrow! — I’ll offer some observations on how things went. Now that the weekend is here, do you have plans for rest and renewal? Thanks to all of you who have been commenting (click on Comments, above) or emailing me: mabarton01 [at] verizon [dot] net.

Saturday, 11/23/2013

Breakfast: The usual brown rice with soy milk and spices; 3 c coffee.

Social and spiritual support: I called my Overeaters Anonymous sponsor for our twice-weekly check-in. OA is the 12-step group that has been so helpful to me in coming face-to-face with my worst fears of public rejection, and moving through them into moments of relief and grace. “I know this rose will open,” says Mary Grigolia in one of her beautiful songs, “I know my fears will burn away.” As I learned on her web site, she had in mind a song for her own memorial service; the result, like my happiness today, is exquisite.

Singing: 15 minutes of chanted prayer in the tub. Later in the day, I made a test recording of my chant on mindfulness, “In This Moment, with This Breath.” I’m using a Zoom Q3HD pocket camcorder, and plan to post a video when I’ve got the image and sound quality up to a reasonable level.

Meditation: 30 minutes of my own version of a body-scan meditation. I visualize drawing my breath from deep in the core of the earth, up into the soles of my feet. One breath after another, I draw the breath up into my ankles, into my calves, thighs, hips, torso, my back and shoulders. I’m breathing all the way up into my neck and my head. I visualize breathing in from deep in the core of the earth below me, all the way up through my body, and then breathing out through the top of my head. My whole body is filled with breath. Then I visualize reaching way up above me with my breath, breathing rich, refreshing air in through the top of my head and down all the way through my body, and finally out through the soles of my feet. It feels very restorative. For a sample of an outstanding body-scan meditation by a famous teacher, visit this Sounds True page: Guided Mindfulness Meditation – Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Lunch: My husband Steve’s Enhanced Spaghetti Sauce on whole-wheat ziti. He sautes ground turkey, onions, mushrooms, poblano peppers, and plenty of garlic, and then adds a jar of bottled sauce (today it was Newman’s Own Sausage and Pepper) plus Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle seasoning. Simmer to blend the flavors.

Companion-animal love: Petting, brushing, talking with, and just watching my cat Ginsberg are all ways to deepen and prolong the good feelings that come from being with a beloved animal.

Dinner: 5-cup Big Bright Salad with minor variations, as usual. (See Monday’s diary for details.)

Planning self-care for the holidays: On Monday, 11/25/2013, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson — one of my heroes — is giving a free video talk on Truly Happy Holidays. Rick is very pragmatic as well as deeply inspiring. Sign up by clicking here. Time: 5 pm PT/ 8 pm ET.

Self-Care Diary: Thursday, 11/21/2013

Retro 40This is Day Four of my experimental series, Self-Care Diary. For seven days, I’m sharing the things I’m doing to maintain my health and well-being. Then, at the end of the week, I’ll offer some observations on how things went. What are your favorite self-care activities? Share them in the comments!

Thursday, 11/21/2013

Breakfast: The usual brown rice with soy milk and spices; 3 c coffee.

Exercise: Swimming at Beede Swim & Fitness Center, Concord, MA. I did three sets of four laps for a total of 600 meters (3/8 of a mile). I alternate breast stroke and back stroke, and today I wore my new, bright magenta swimsuit, one of the Tugless Tank suits from Lands End.

Lunch: My husband Steve’s amazing pork stir fry over two slices of Trader Joe’s polenta. The stir fry included 3 ounces of pork plus mushrooms, onions, bok choy, poblano peppers, and red bell pepper, seasoned with Penzey’s Spanish Smoked Paprika and their Sweet Curry Powder.

Companion-animal love: How to be a hero in my household? Feed the kitty! Tonight, I was Ginsberg’s dinner hero.

Dinner: 5-cup Big Bright Salad with minor variations, as usual. (See Monday’s diary for details.)

Singing: 15 minutes of chanted prayer in the tub; 20 minutes of my driving-around song in the car. I also went to the 90-minute rehearsal of the pastoral choir I belong to at my church, By Your Side Singers. We gather twice a month to sing peaceful songs and chants. Then from time to time, three or four of us go to sing at the bedside of a parishioner who requests it. Sometimes we sing for people in hospice care and sometimes for those who are recovering from surgery or otherwise in need of comfort. At rehearsal we take turns sitting in a reclining chair and being sung to. Tonight I lay back in the chair as the choir sang the exquisite hymn “Winds Be Still.” You can hear the melody at the Internet Archive’s Community Audio page by clicking here.

Self-Care Diary: Monday, 11/18/2013

Writing Classes by Albert AnkerI’m experimenting with a new feature in the Joyous Paradox blog this week, Self-Care Diary. For seven days, I’ll share the things I’m doing to maintain my health and well-being. Then, at the end of the week, I’ll offer some observations on how things went.

There are two reasons why I’m doing this now:

  1. Thanksgiving is next week, and I want to encourage myself to stick with my healthy food plan. I’ve lost 53 pounds over the last two and a half years, and I’m enjoying the feeling.
  2. I think self-care is essential for healthy aging as well as mindful caregiving. These are small steps, but taking small steps from day to day can make a big difference.

Here’s the caveat: These small steps are just what works for me. The information presented here is intended solely for the purposes of education and discussion and is not a substitute for medical care. I urge you to consult your own health practitioner regarding any concerns you have.

Monday, 11/18/2013

Breakfast: 1 c brown rice with 1 c soy milk seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg; 2 c coffee. (This is what I have almost every day, so I won’t repeat it.)

Singing: 15 minutes of my usual chanted prayer in the tub; 15 minutes of my usual driving-around song in the car.

Exercise: 45-minute walk with a client at Walden Pond.

Lunch: Small roasted chicken leg and thigh, roasted whole baby potatoes, 1/2 small roasted acorn squash, 2 c coffee with cream.

Art: 15 minutes of Zentangle drawing exercise with a client.

Rest: 1 hour dozing on the sofa.

Dinner: 5-cup Big Bright Salad with 1 c canned black beans, rinsed and drained, 1/4 c edamame (cooked green soybeans), 1/3 c walnuts, 3 radishes, 1 large Golden Delicious apple, 2 Tb fresh green peas, 2 green onions, 2 Tb corn and black bean salsa, 4 grape tomatoes, 1/4 c sliced red bell pepper, 1 c mixed organic Spring greens, 4 Tb Trader Joe’s salsa verde, 2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil, 2 Tb white balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, about 1/4 tsp each of ground cumin and coriander, and a few shakes of Penzey’s Forward seasoning.

Companion animal love: Lots of petting for my cat Ginsberg. Fed her dinner and gave her the weekly eye drops.

Things I forgot: Calling my sponsor in the 12-step program I follow for people with emotional eating issues. I sent her a text message instead.

Things I should probably do differently: Drink less coffee. Shorten that nap. Do my physical therapy exercises. Call a friend.

Food: Today’s Big Salad

Tomato WedgesAs the name implies, Today’s Big Salad is intended more as a method than a recipe. I use a variety of ingredients in each category, sometimes omitting the grains and adding an ounce or two of reduced-fat cheese or 2 to 3 ounces of cooked chicken or beef. The result serves 2-4 people, though I eat a whole salad most days for lunch.

Beans and grain:
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa

Vegetables and fruit:
1/2 cup cucumber, unpeeled, sliced thin
1/2 cup yellow summer squash, unpeeled, sliced thin
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1 large tomato, cut in small chunks
1 Tablespoon chopped red onion
1 cup mixed fruit, cut up (apples, blueberries, grapes, etc.)

2 cups (packed) mixed salad greens

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle seasoning
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place beans and grain in a large bowl. Add dressing ingredients and stir. Prepare vegetables and fruit, adding each item to the bowl as you go, and stir to combine. Add greens and toss gently. Serves 2 to 4.

Nutrition facts: serving size, 2; calories per serving, 338; calories from fat, 130
total fat, 15g; saturated fat, 2g; trans fat, 0g
cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 234mg
total carbohydrate, 46g; dietary fiber, 9g; sugars, 20g
protein, 8g
vitamin A, 46%; vitamin C, 73%; vitamin D, 0%; calcium, 5%; iron, 5%