#3 A snack for your “nervous” stomach

Once upon a time there was a little boy whose pediatrician diagnosed him with a “nervous” stomach. This was especially strange given the fact that this laid-back kid wasn’t the type to get worked up easily.  Being nine, his stress levels were not exactly sky high and he wasn’t prone to tantrums or screaming fits like his bratty little sisters.  His home life was not particularly bizarre or tragic which made it tricky to pinpoint the root of this mysterious condition.  The doctor felt that a recent move to a new state caused this cat to lose his cool.

The little boy thought that this was preposterous and said so because he was a smarty pants that loved to use every new big word that he ever learned. Not to show off mind you. That would make him a jerk which he most definitely was not. He just couldn’t help it that he thought learning new vocabulary was the most awesome thing on the planet, which hello…kind of made him a fan of school.  He tried to explain this to everyone but they all thought he was just putting on a brave face.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery had it right in The Little Prince when he explains that adults forget how to understand what they once knew intuitively as children.

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Everyday before school, he would wake up and eat breakfast with his family ready for another day of awesome learning. I was going to say cheerily eat his breakfast but not being much of a morning guy, that would be a gross exaggeration of the truth. I am not however exaggerating about how much he loved to learn new stuff.  Once he actually woke up, he was totally eager to get to school.  However, almost as soon as the big yellow school bus came into view, he would develop a wicked stomach ache and scurry off to the loo. These days, he would have surely been diagnosed as school phobic. He would be in counseling to help him deal with his feelings.  He would be assessed to determine if he was being bullied.  He would be given serious meds to help him “cope”.  But back then he just had to figure it out for himself.

For years he struggled with his wretched nervous stomach. It was constantly out to get him. “I am not nervous!” he would shout to anyone who would listen including his stupid stomach.  And then his unruly intestines would betray him yet again. For the life of him, he could not figure out why this kept happening.  Everyone kept telling him that he just needed to relax and try not to be so anxious but nothing worked.  No breathing exercises or yoga poses were powerful enough to end the ongoing battle he and his stomach were continuously waging.

And to make matters worse, it didn’t just happen before school. His family traveled almost every weekend and he was a terrible car rider, the kind of kid you have to either leave at home or strap to the roof in order to enjoy the journey.  He was constantly getting car sick and needing to find a bathroom stat. You have not truly lived as a parent until you find your spouse propping your slightly green, sick-to-his-stomach child over a guard rail while you root around in the glove compartment for some sort of makeshift TP.  Here you go kiddo: one Wendy’s napkin, an unpaid parking ticket and an expired vehicle registration.  God Speed!

It would take a few more years of serious detective work before anyone would be able to solve this kid’s health conundrum. Turns out our mother had been poisoning my brother for years. The situation was practically one step away from Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy! He really wasn’t nervous after all.  All that wailing and gnashing of teeth about not being nervous?  Turns out he was telling the truth. He was however extremely lactose intolerant unbeknownst to my poor mom who made sure to feed him a steady diet of milk and cereal.  Change that to Munchhausen Syndrome by complete and total accident.

You see in our house besides being a Monday through Saturday breakfast staple, cereal was also a cure for whatever else might be ailing you. Extra Hungry? Bedtime Snack? Feeling queasy? A touch crabby? WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A LITTLE BOWL OF CEREAL? Broken heart? Feeling blue? Can’t find your favorite matchbox car? Hole in your sock? SOME CEREAL WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER.  And for those rare things that could not be patched up with a big ole bowl of crispy crunchies swimming in milk, we relied on Mercurochrome and a little white jar of a secret concoction referred to as the “the black salve”.  I still don’t know what the hell is in that shit!

Obviously, the doc botched the diagnosis, but this was back in olden times, before the Internet, when people actually relied on medical professionals to diagnose them. Unfortunately, the incident predated the rampant suing of healthcare providers for malpractice so no fat payday either. It was also way before food allergy awareness swept the nation and peanuts became the new dirty word on the playground.  While I do feel a bit bad that my brother had to suffer needlessly all that time, I have to say that I am really glad that we do not share this genetic glitch as I can eat ice cream all day and night without barfing.  On the other hand, my ass would probably be much smaller if eating such creamy confections had catastrophic consequences.

To make up for such an insensitive statement, I am sharing directions for all you lactose intolerant folks out there to whip up a delightful dairy free dessert. I was originally going to share the secret to whipping bananas into pseudo ice cream but savvy chef that he is, my brother was already wise to the ways of this frozen frappéed fruit wonder. In case you are wondering, the banana technique really works, it is super yummy, and you don’t need a special, overpriced, fancy appliance to make it unless you consider a food processor to be special, overpriced, and fancy.  In that case, unfortunately  you are out of luck for both desserts.

Option 2 – Faux Chocolate Mousse made with a sneaky secret ingredient…avocado. I must admit the ingredient list sounds a bit weird. In fact, due to a major kitchen disaster involving cucumbers and ice cream which is still laughed about at holiday get-togethers, it took me a really long time to get up the nerve to actually try it.  Besides being quick and easy, the luscious silky texture is truly divine.  My cocoa powder wasn’t raw and I do not dabble in stevia so I used *gasp* good old Hershey’s and a few spoonfuls of honey instead.  I also forgot to add the vanilla on my trial run which may be important because the dish did finish with an extremely faint taste of green, but the texture was so smooth and creamy that I would definitely make it again. If the slight aftertaste remained with the addition of vanilla, I would simply avoid it by scarfing the mousse down faster. As a bonus it is chock full of healthy ingredients especially if you are trying to get past a late-night-post-work Sheetz Shmuffin habit. Here is the recipe from Mind Body Green.  Happy Healthy Milk Free Snacking, Bro!

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#2 Hey bro, I saw a coyote…what does that mean?

True story.  One frosty morning in the middle of suburbia, I had a surprising encounter with a fellow suburbanite.  I was on the way to my car which was hanging out in its little assigned space at the condo where my husband and I used to reside.  Mind you this was way back in the day when he was still just “the man with whom I live.”   Anyway, as I cheerily scurried towards my vehicle, steaming hot coffee in one hand, satchel of essential materials in the other, I noticed something odd.  Directly in front of me, trotting across the grassy area near my car, I saw a really large scruffy looking dog.  It was not on a leash which is rare in these parts.  Every town in a fifty mile radius requires hounds to be fastened to their owners at all times.  This rogue canine experiencing the joy of freedom made me a bit uncomfortable.  I scanned the area for a possible owner but no one was there to claim him.  In fact, there was not a single other person in sight.  It was at this point that I came to the eerie realization that I was not in fact looking at a dog, out for a good time without its human; rather, I was staring down a freaking coyote.  In the greyish light of early wintery mornings, you may question whether or not what you are actually seeing is indeed a coyote.  Trust me, my centuries old, rarely used cave woman senses literally made all the hair on the back of my neck stand on end ridding me of any such doubt.  In order to get into my car, I had to actually move towards the little beastie which was somewhat terrifying.  However, being ridiculously far from the building entrance, it beat actually staying outside of the vehicle to hang out with the coyote some more.  As soon as it was a reasonable hour to do so, I contacted my brother on speed dial to find out the meaning of this coyote.  He was able to share with me some insight based on his experiences with the Native American community and their beliefs about animal sightings and what the creatures of the world may have to teach us.  You can find more information about what lessons or messages an animal might be bringing to your attention here.  The list even includes obscure animals and birds like the armadillo or the ibis.  Here is an excerpt about coyotes from the same website Animal Totems: Dictionary of Animals by StarStuffs:

Coyote

Wisdom, jokester, having fun, stimulates cooperation and tasks, adaptations, balances knowledge and laughter into teaching, shows us how to learn from our mistakes with wisdom and a sense of humor, sense of family and children, demonstrating and communicating along with balancing risk and safety, trust and connection to the Spirit to find answers. Are you taking yourself too seriously? Too uptight and stressed? Are you trusting enough right now? Coyote will teach resourcefulness and adapting to new situations and how humor can be a useful tool in any situation.

#1 Musical Brainwashing

I do believe that I was the only little girl in my elementary school who counted Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck among her favorite musicians.  This was a wildly unpopular choice among a sea of musical zombies dedicated to the likes of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany.  Even my music teacher found it to be an unlikely choice for a nine year old.  While a formal investigation by child protective services was never conducted, if it had been they would have discovered that I was being musically brainwashed.  While conservative parents were trying to stop their children from listening to “satanic”  heavy metal music and requiring any type of music with explicit lyrics to be labeled with parental advisory stickers, my big brother was teaching me that eighties pop music was the devil.

Instead, he spent the greater part of the decade following famous blues musicians around the Greater Cleveland and Pittsburgh metro areas.  While I was too young to attend the concerts with him and his rowdy crew of hard core blues groupies, the music that he heard live and brought back home on CD made up ninety percent of the soundtrack to my childhood.  I passed this love of the blues on to my own son while he was in utero.  Stevie Ray Vaughan’s instrumentals  Lenny and Riviera Paradise would become my son’s womb music that he listened to on repeat every day during my hour long commute to work.  After he was born, we found that both songs have the ability to magically soothe him.  Of course he also loves to break it down to the pop songs Timber and Roar.  Since his toddler dance moves are absolutely hilarious, we’ll save the musical shaping until he gets a little bit older.