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Friday, July 30, 2010


Do You Believe in Fate? Have things happened in your life that are inexplicable... except if you believe in predestiny? Is there a master plan? Have our lives been written? Do we have soul mates? Do souls choose their paths before they are born onto Mother Earth? What is kismet?

I wasn't able to write last night because of an overwhelming experience that I had... that is one of many that is far more than a coincidence in my mind. It was Universe' way of telling me... something. And I need another night to process the events. It was that trippy.

Please enjoy
this evening... and contemplate the questions that I have voiced. I will write more tomorrow, for I would love to share... but not yet. I would love to hear your ideas about the topics at hand... Please write! It would be great to share your words on the blog.

I hope that your Friday is filled with great things!

Namaste... 'till tomorrow -
Amanda xo
Download of the Day - "Garden State Soundtrack"

Please Check Out the AMAZING film "Garden State" (perfect for the subject matter at hand) and the Song of the Day in the Upper Right margin.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I Love film; it is a most remarkable medium. One of my dreams has always been to write something great and see it interpreted by other artists on film. Everything I write I visualize as such... set to the greatest soundtrack ever (in my humble opinion).

Tonight... I have been completely humbled by a visual that shredded my heartstrings and left me in gaping awe. "Precious (2009)," Directed by Lee Daniels, Screenplay Written by Geoffrey Fletcher, based on the novel "Push," by Sapphire is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece, braided with social commentary and viscous, sanguine realism. WOW! It has been a very long time since I have been so smitten with a film like this; I had to share it with you, because this film needs to be experienced. I realize that the it is old news as far as awards and the red carpet is concerned, but I have never been one to be contemporary in my film choices; I don't have a television by choice. Dark Ages...
I know. No comment.

As far as the film is concerned... PLEASE rent it, order it, download it ... something. I am at a loss for words other than these; The brutal reality of this images in this masterpiece are necessary to understand truth, humanity, and compassion. "Precious" is an impeccable example of how we must travel to the darkest, most evil depths in order to truly appreciate innate goodness. There is a balance. There is hope.

The following excerpt is from a review by writer John Anderson of "Variety Magazine" online edition, January 18, 2009. it is the best I've read:

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

Director Lee Daniels brings to life a harrowing tale of abuse in 'Push: Based on a Novel by Sapphire,' which unspooled at Sundance.

Claireece "Precious" Jones - Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe
Mary - Mo'Nique
Ms. Rain - Paula Patton
Nurse John - Lenny Kravitz
Ms. Weiss - Mariah Carey
Cornrows - Sherri Shepherd

"An urban nightmare with a surfeit of soul, “Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire” is like a diamond -- clear, bright, but oh so hard. To simply call it harrowing or unsparing doesn’t quite cut it; “Precious” is also courageous and uncompromising, a shaken cocktail of debasement and elation, despair and hope. Everyone involved deserves credit for creating a movie so dangerous, problematic and ultimately elevating. Marketing will be a problem because the shorthand description is so unpalatable. But this is, for all its scorched-earth emotion, a film to be loved.

Adapted by Damien Paul from the work by one-time Harlem teacher and poet Sapphire, the pic tells the story of Claireece “Precious” Jones (newcomer Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe), a character who might have sprung from the collective brain of Charles Dickens, Toni Morrison and whoever carved the heads on Easter Island. With a jutting jaw and barely visible eyes, Claireece’s face is a monument to the racial crimes of the past 400 years (that this miserable child of 16 can look in the mirror and fantasize seeing a blonde white girl is pungent shorthand for a raft of evils).

Mute and mountainous, a stolid outsider who can barely read, Claireece is pregnant -- again -- by her father and on the verge of being kicked out of school. She’s also cruelly oppressed by her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique), whose daily routine consists of watching daytime TV, smoking cigarettes and treating her daughter like a slave (any historical parallels are not an accident). The situation is so dire that you almost have to laugh -- the way you might laugh, nervously, during the darkest moments of a horror movie.

“Precious” is a horror movie, of course, and Mary is a monster, whose one glimmer of humanity -- which Mo’Nique, who is utterly brilliant, reveals in a tour de force soliloquy at the finale -- only makes her more horrible.

Second-time helmer Daniels (“Shadowboxer”) demonstrates a remarkable, balletic ability to juggle emotional extremes. Claireece has her fantasies, and their visualizations -- of the girl as satin-clad pop star, movie star or supermodel -- work as relief valves. They’re never funny, but they do humanize a character who has been reduced, by those who are supposed to love her, to a piece of meat, and who presents herself to the world as a very different, far less attractive creature than the Claireece we hear in voiceover.

Daniels never allows the film, however gothic and nightmarish, to lose its footing in the real world, and that world includes a certain amount of hope: Despite her mother’s hostility, Claireece enrolls in an alternative school where a teacher named Blu Rain (Paula Patton) prepares young women for their GEDs. Patton is terrific, beautiful but carrying the weight of the world in her eyes. And Claireece’s classmates, with their street-smart banter, give the film some needed levity.

Among the many delightful surprises in the film is Mariah Carey, who is pitch-perfect as a welfare counselor and serves as this demi-tragedy’s Greek chorus. It’s possible that many viewers won’t recognize her until the final credits, but like so many things about “Precious,” the performance is disarming."

Download of the Day... and the only album to do this subject matter and film with such depth any justice :




Please check out "Push" by Sapphire in the top right margin, along with the Song of the Day "Hurt" by Johnny Cash (originally by NIN)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Who is THAT in the mirror?

Although I "claim" that vanity is not something I am fueled by, my current physical state is proving me otherwise: pregnant and growing. It feels
and looks like I swallowed a 25 lb. bag of kitty litter and looking in
the mirror from the neck down is a bit shocking (especially in a bikini).
My abdomen has morphed into something bulbous... sort of ripe and fruit-like. My logical mind understands, and my illogical one is fascinated by the jutting neck and curved lower back that supports the bubble in batter. But my physical self, the one that lacks energy and craves sleep and solitude, still struggles with this metamorphosis: my self-esteem is floundering. I'm sure that you can relate on some level or another.

Granted, physical activity has helped tremendously. Let me rephrase that... anything in water has helped. But in 90 Degree weather,a walk in the park is not too enticing. And if I may be frank, neither is a shower,
a change of clothes, a pretty dress, a swipe of mascara, or a new shade of lipstick. Believe it or not, a shopping trip isn't even doing it for me.
I feel like Eeyore when I stare at the summer dresses on the rack..."oh bother... why would I even try on that frock. It couldn't possibly fit over this belly."

In my self-deprecating state, I decided to research universal self-esteem boosters, pregnant or not. Besides the hundreds of articles that recommend a new haircut, a shopping trip, travel, or a massage which are all wonderful suggestions, but not always feasible, I found one with
a more "mindful" approach that I found most appealing that I'd like to share with you. At, there is a brief and super-informative article that has peaked my interest. The following is taken from "Self-Esteem Boosters For Women":

"Women have learned all the secrets and little tricks that can make their faces glow, their bodies firm and their skin and hair flawless. But there's one area where we still have much to learn. And it has a lot of bearing on how we look as well. It is in taking care of our self-esteem.

We all know that when we're feeling down, inferior or unworthy, our faces sag and our overall features look tired and defeated. Some may even argue that have strong self-esteem is more attractive than having the right physical attributes, and they may have a point. Following are a few simple tips that can help women boost their self-esteem.

1. Press The Magic Button

Most of us need to boost our self-confidence every now and then. One of the best ways to do this is to recall exactly who we are and why we should feel good about ourselves. Create a Magic Button -- a mental image of three things that make you feel good -- and press on it once in a while. These things could include images of your biggest achievements, the smiling faces of people who matter to you or something as simple as
a piece of music.

This Magic Button is especially important when we down and things aren't going our way. We have to remember that whatever setbacks we've faced are temporary. We've overcome them before to reach success. Press that magic button.

2. Overcome self-consciousness

Yes, self-consciousness is probably the biggest enemy of self-confidence. We tend to look at ourselves too harshly and focus on our perceived faults and shortcomings. To overcome self-consciousness, you should try focusing on others: try to put other people at ease, check the room for people who you might learn to like, make a mental note of possible business contacts.

Sometimes, if focusing on other people proves difficult, we can ease our self-consciousness by looking intently at our surroundings -- examining paintings, admiring furniture and decor, anything that will take our minds off ourselves.

3. Don't Stand For Undue Criticism

Sometimes our self-esteem suffers because we allow others to treat us like rags and walk all over us. This is something we should never allow, even if we have made a mistake or come up wanting in a situation. We should bear in mind that even top-notch people make mistakes.

So think about these tips when you’re feeling down and unworthy. Make
sure to remember how fabulous YOU really are!"

And most importantly... in my case, I need to get over myself and realize that there is a beautiful pollywog swimming in that bulbous abdominal protrusion.

...doing the best that I can -
Amanda xo

Please Check out the Read of the Day and the Download of the Day in the top right margin.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Please Could You Stop the Noise I'm Trying to Get Some Rest..."

Probably one of the most difficult struggles of my life has been that with social phobia. I have cowered in corners at the thought of having to attend a family gathering or an unerving setting that includes people who I consider my closest friends and loved ones... whereas strangers don't affect me. In fact, when in a room of strangers, I have always shined... one of the many facets of my personality has anyway. Generally it was a "just add alcohol or a substance du jour" and I would be fine; the life of the party...on stage.

Strange that family and loved ones would scare me into submission, right? Family... unconditional acceptance and all that jazz. Well, my mind... when it is overcome with this fog, feels that everyone is judging me...
a looming paranoid energy is everpresent and all-encompassing. It is miserable, and has led me into some very dark places. I don't like that "me," and even in my adulthood, pollywog in womb, still struggle with it on a daily basis.

Another manifestation of this "affliction" is phone paranoia. A ringing telephone, or the imnpending fear of hearing a reaction that I misconstrue as negative judgement or the like on the other end of the line submits me into this state, too. THIS has been the bane of my existence, for communication has become pretty limited. I have VERY patient friends and family who have learned to "accept" this about me, much to their chagrin. Text messaging and emailing have made distant communication possible.

This has been a major embarrassment for me for years; I feel it contradicts my independent nature... because it does! To me, it feels peculiar, nonsensical, and completely unjustifiable... because it is! But it is still there, like a bad, recurring dream. I have made progress (if you can call it that); I used to fabricate outlandish reasons as to why
I missed the party or the phone call, but this aspect has changed. I am honest with my family and loved ones now, which takes away some of the tension that my mind creates, but I am still trying, desperately, to overcome this debilitating entity (because to is tangible...and very REAL). Can you relate to this?

In my case, communicating this via writing is key, and an integral part of my struggle to overcome it. But for many, social phobia is as REAL as the nose on your face. It manifests itself in many different ways, and is detrimental to her/his psychi. Please, if you or someone you know may suffer from this affliction, look for warning signs before it spirals even further.

I'd like to share with you an informative and lengthy article published by The Mayo Clinic on Social Phobia. Please take the time to read this, and turn on your awareness:

"Social anxiety disorder — Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, treatments and coping skills.
It's normal to feel nervous in some social situations. Going on a date or giving a presentation may give you that feeling of having butterflies in your stomach, for instance. This isn't social anxiety disorder.

In social anxiety disorder, everyday interactions cause extreme fear and self-consciousness. It may become impossible for you to eat with acquaintances or write a check in public, let alone go to a party with lots of strangers. If your life is disrupted by this kind of fear, you may have social anxiety disorder.

If you or a loved one has social anxiety disorder, take heart. Effective treatment — often with cognitive behavioral therapy, medication and positive coping skills — can improve the symptoms of social anxiety disorder and open up new opportunities.

Social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition that causes an irrational anxiety or fear of activities or situations in which you believe that others are watching you or judging you. You also fear that you'll embarrass or humiliate yourself.

Social anxiety disorder can have emotional, behavioral and physical signs and symptoms.

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

Intense fear of being in situations in which you don't know people
Fear of situations in which you may be judged
Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
Physical signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

Profuse sweating
Trembling or shaking
Stomach upset
Difficulty talking
Shaky voice
Muscle tension
Cold, clammy hands
Difficulty making eye contact
You may also be affected by:

Low self-esteem
Trouble being assertive
Negative self-talk
Hypersensitivity to criticism
Poor social skills
Worrying about having symptoms

When you have social anxiety disorder, you realize that your anxiety or fear is out of proportion to the situation. Yet you're so worried about developing social anxiety disorder symptoms that you avoid situations that may trigger them. And indeed, just worrying about having any symptoms can cause them or make them worse.

When to see a doctor

If your fears or anxieties don't really bother you, you may not need treatment. For instance, you may not like making speeches but you do so anyway without being overwhelmed by anxiety.

What sets social anxiety disorder apart from everyday nervousness is that its symptoms are much more severe and last much longer. If social anxiety disorder disrupts your life, causes you distress and affects your daily activities, call your doctor.

Common, everyday experiences that may be difficult to endure when you have social anxiety disorder include:

Using a public restroom or telephone
Returning items to a store
Interacting with strangers
Writing in front of others
Making eye contact
Entering a room in which people are already seated
Ordering food in a restaurant
Being introduced to strangers
Initiating conversations

Social anxiety disorder symptoms can change over time. They may flare up if you're facing a lot of stress or demands. Or if you completely avoid situations that would usually make you anxious, you may not have symptoms. Although avoidance may allow you to feel better in the short term, your anxiety is likely to persist over the long term if you don't get treatment.

Like many other mental health conditions, social anxiety disorder likely arises from a complex interaction of environment and genes. Researchers continue to study possible causes, including:

Genes. Researchers are seeking specific genes that play a role in anxiety and fear. Social anxiety disorder seems to run in families. But evidence suggests that the hereditary component of this condition is due at least in part to anxious behavior learned from other family members.

Biochemistry. Researchers are exploring the idea that natural chemicals in your body may play a role in social anxiety disorder. For instance, an imbalance in the brain chemical serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) could be a factor. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, helps regulate mood and emotions, among other things. People with social anxiety disorder may be extra-sensitive to the effects of serotonin.

Fear responses. Some research suggests that a structure in the brain called the amygdala (uh-MIG-duh-luh) may play a role in controlling the fear response. People who have an overactive amygdala may have a heightened fear response, causing increased anxiety in social situations.

Risk factors
Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common of all mental disorders. Between 3 and 13 percent of people in Western countries experience social anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Social anxiety disorder usually begins in the early to midteens, although it can sometimes begin earlier in childhood or in adulthood.

A number of factors can increase the risk of developing social anxiety disorder, including:

Your sex. Women are more likely to have social anxiety disorder.
Family history. Some research indicates that you're more likely to develop social anxiety disorder if your biological parents or siblings have the condition.

Environment. Some experts theorize that social anxiety disorder is a learned behavior. That is, you may develop the condition after witnessing the anxious behavior of others. In addition, there may be an association between social anxiety disorder and parents who are more controlling or protective of their children.

Negative experiences. Children who experience teasing, bullying, rejection, ridicule or humiliation may be more prone to social anxiety disorder. In addition, other negative events in life, such as family conflict or sexual abuse, may be associated with social anxiety disorder.

Temperament. Children who are shy, timid, withdrawn or restrained when facing new situations or people may be at greater risk.
New social or work demands. Meeting new people, giving a speech in public or making an important work presentation may trigger social anxiety disorder symptoms for the first time. These symptoms usually have their roots in adolescence, however.

Left untreated, social anxiety disorder can be debilitating. Your anxieties may run your life. They can interfere with work, school, relationships or enjoyment of life. You may be considered an "underachiever," when in reality it's your fears holding you back from excelling. In severe cases, you may drop out of school, quit work or lose friendships.

Social anxiety disorder can also lead to other health problems, such as:

Substance abuse
Excessive drinking
Preparing for your appointment
If common social or public activities cause extreme fear of embarrassing or humiliating yourself, call your doctor. After your initial appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider who can help make a firm diagnosis and create the right treatment plan for you.

Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long. Social anxiety disorder often first appears in your teens. Your doctor will be interested to hear how your symptoms may have waxed or waned since they began.

Write down your key personal information, especially any significant events or changes in your life shortly before your symptoms appeared. For example, your doctor will want to know if your social anxiety seemed to be triggered by a promotion, meeting new people, or another new work or social demand.

Write down all of your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed. Also write down the names of any medications you're taking.

Ask a trusted family member or friend to be present for your appointment, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.

Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor at your initial appointment include:

What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
Are there any other possible causes?
How will you determine my diagnosis?
Should I see a mental health specialist?
Questions to ask if you are referred to a mental health provider include:

Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
Are effective treatments available for this condition?
With treatment, could I eventually be comfortable in the situations that make me so anxious now?
Am I at increased risk of other mental health problems?
Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What Web sites do you recommend visiting?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared in advance, don't hesitate to ask for more information at any time that you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor
A doctor or mental health provider who sees you for possible social anxiety disorder may ask:

Does fear of embarrassment cause you to avoid doing things or speaking to people?
Do you avoid activities in which you are the center of attention?
Would you say that being embarrassed or looking stupid is among your worst fears?
When did you first notice these symptoms?
When are your symptoms most likely to occur?
Does anything seem to make your symptoms better or worse?
How are your symptoms affecting your life, including your work and personal relationships?
Do you ever have symptoms when you're not being observed by others?
Have any of your close relatives had similar symptoms?
Have you been diagnosed with any medical conditions?
Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most beneficial?
Have you ever thought about harming yourself or others?
Do you drink alcohol or use illicit drugs? If so, how often?
Tests and diagnosis
When you decide to seek treatment for symptoms of possible social anxiety disorder, you may have both a physical and psychological evaluation. The physical exam can determine if there may be any physical causes triggering your symptoms.

There's no laboratory test to diagnose social anxiety disorder, however. Your doctor or mental health provider will ask you to describe your signs and symptoms, how often they occur and in what situations. He or she may review a list of situations to see if they make you anxious or have you fill out psychological questionnaires or self-assessments to help pinpoint a diagnosis.

To be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, a person must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

Criteria for social anxiety disorder to be diagnosed include:

A persistent fear of social situations in which you believe you may be scrutinized or act in a way that's embarrassing or humiliating
These social situations cause you a great deal of anxiety
You recognize that your anxiety level is excessive or out of proportion for the situation
You avoid anxiety-producing social situations
Your anxiety or distress interferes with your daily living
Treatments and drugs
Social anxiety disorder typically persists for life, often waxing and waning. But don't lose hope. Treatment can help you control symptoms and become more confident and relaxed in social situations.

The two most effective types of treatment are medications and a form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy. These two approaches are often used in combination.

Cognitive behavioral therapy improves symptoms in up to 75 percent of people with social anxiety disorder. This type of therapy is based on the idea that your own thoughts — not other people or situations — determine how you behave or react. Even if an unwanted situation won't change — you still have to give a presentation to management, for instance — you can change the way you think and behave in a positive way. In therapy, you learn how to recognize and change negative thoughts about yourself.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may also include exposure therapy. In this type of therapy, you gradually work up to facing the situations you fear most. This allows you to become better skilled at coping with these anxiety-inducing situations and to develop the confidence to face them. You may also participate in skills training or role-playing to practice your social skills and gain comfort and confidence relating to others. Relaxation or stress management techniques may be included in your treatment plan.

First choices in medications
Several types of medications are used to treat social anxiety disorder. However, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are generally considered the safest and most effective treatment for persistent symptoms of social anxiety. SSRIs your doctor may prescribe include:

Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR)
Sertraline (Zoloft)
Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, others)
The serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) drug venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR) also may be used as a first-line therapy for social anxiety disorder.

To reduce the risk of side effects, your doctor will start you at a low dose of medication and gradually increase your prescription to a full dose. It may take up to three months of treatment for your symptoms to noticeably improve.

Other medication options
Your doctor or mental health provider may also prescribe other medications for symptoms of social anxiety, including:

Other antidepressants. You may have to try several different antidepressants to find which one is the most effective and has the fewest unpleasant side effects.
Anti-anxiety medications. A type of anti-anxiety medication called benzodiazepines (ben-zo-di-AZ-uh-penes) may reduce your level of anxiety. Although they often work quickly, they can be habit-forming. Because of that, they're often prescribed for only short-term use. They may also be sedating.
Beta blockers. These medications work by blocking the stimulating effect of epinephrine (adrenaline). They may reduce heart rate, blood pressure, pounding of the heart, and shaking voice and limbs. Because of that, they may work best when used infrequently to control symptoms for a particular situation, such as giving a speech. They're not recommended for general treatment of social anxiety disorder.
Stick with it
Don't give up if treatment doesn't work quickly. You can continue to make strides in therapy over several weeks or months. And remember that finding the right medication for your situation can take some trial and error.

For some people, the symptoms of social anxiety disorder may fade over time, and medication can be discontinued. Others may need to take medication for years to prevent a relapse.

Lifestyle and home remedies
Although social anxiety disorder generally requires help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, you can try some self-help techniques to handle situations likely to trigger social anxiety disorder symptoms.

First, assess your fears to identify what situations cause the most anxiety. Then gradually practice these activities until they cause you less anxiety. You may need to begin with small steps in situations that aren't overwhelming.

Situations to practice may include:

Eating with a close relative, friend or acquaintance in a public setting.
Making eye contact and returning greetings from others, or being the first to say hello.
Giving someone a compliment.
Asking a retail clerk to help you find an item.
Getting directions from a stranger.
Showing an interest in others. Ask about their homes, children, grandchildren, hobbies or travels, for instance.
Calling a friend to make plans.
At first being social when you are feeling anxious is challenging. As difficult or painful as it may seem initially, don't avoid situations that trigger your symptoms. By regularly facing these kinds of situations, you'll continue to build and reinforce your coping skills.

The following techniques can help you begin to face situations that make you nervous. Practicing these techniques regularly can help you manage or reduce your anxiety.

Prepare for conversation. For instance, read the newspaper to identify an interesting story you can talk about.
Focus on personal qualities you like about yourself.
Practice relaxation exercises.
Adopt stress management techniques.
Set realistic goals.
Pay attention to how often the embarrassing situations you're afraid of actually take place. You may notice that the scenarios you fear usually don't come to pass.
When embarrassing situations do happen, remind yourself that your feelings will pass, and you can handle them until they do.
In addition, be sure to keep your medical or therapy appointments, take medications as directed, and talk to your doctor about any changes in your condition.

Coping and support
Coping with social anxiety disorder can be challenging. Having social anxiety disorder can make it difficult for you to go to work or school, to interact with other people, or even to visit the doctor. But maintaining connections and building relationships are key ways to help cope with any mental disorder.

Over time, treatment can help you feel more comfortable, relaxed and confident in the presence of others. In the meantime, don't use alcohol or illicit drugs to try to get through an event or situation that makes you anxious.

Some positive coping methods include:

Reaching out to people with whom you feel comfortable
Joining a support group
Engaging in pleasurable activities, such as exercise or hobbies, when you feel anxious
Getting enough sleep
Eating a well-balanced diet
Over time, doing this can help control your symptoms and prevent a relapse. Remind yourself that you can get through anxious moments, that your anxiety is short-lived, and that the negative consequences you worry about so much rarely come to pass."

Download of the Day - "OK Computer" - RADIOHEAD (The album in its entirety.)

The First time I hear "Paranoid Android"... I felt a remarkable kinship; it is a symphony! (If you look closely at the collage on the front of "Dear Prudence," my debut novel... you will see a "dedication" to RADIOHEAD, their genius... and "Paranoid Android.")
(Check out the self-help read that I recommend, top right margin... and please don't forget to check out
"...from all the unborn chicken voices in my head."
xo Amanda

Friday, July 23, 2010

On Steamy Nights Like This...

To be introspective in 100 Degrees... and the humidity has got to be about the same %, is just not in my repetoire this evening. A cold shower and a snooze in front of a fan is the remedy that I am looking for. The pollywog concurs, judging by the discomfort in my lower abdomen. But alas, I do have some remarkably delectable recommendations to leave you with that will please your palate until this Northeastern United States wave of heat and humidity subsides (and will satisfy your sweet tooth without refined sugars, preservatives, and all of the other yucky stuff that is not good for you). Try these heat-beating palate pleasers; all they will require is a visit to your local farmstand or produce market!

1. Frozen Bananas (You will swear that this dessert is not healthy because it is soooooooo tasty!)
Throw a bunch (however many you'd like) of ripe bananas in the freezer for an hour. Remove them, peel them, and throw them in the blender on puree until the consistency looks like baby food. Spoon the contents into ceramic dishes, ramikins... (whatever works and can withstand 1/2 hour in the freezer) and freeze for 1/2 hour. Remove, and dig in!!!

2. Strawberry Soup (This recipe is from the Food Network and is DELIGHTFUL and easy)
2 cups hulled and sliced fresh or (thawed) frozen strawberries
1 cup orange juice(
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped topping, as needed
Fresh mint sprigs, optional
In a blender, combine all the ingredients but the whipped topping and mint and process until smooth.(chill for 1/2 hour) Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a dollop of whipped topping. Garnish with mint, if desired

3. Summer Fruit Soup (BAM... and Emeril Lagasse Recipe that I have doctored to make it without refined sugars)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3 cups chopped strawberries
2 cups chopped pineapple
1 1/2 cups chopped mango
2 pieces lemon peel
2 pieces lime peel
2 pieces orange peel
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups raw, unrefined sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup blueberries
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Saute the ginger in a medium pot over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes (no oil is necessary.) Add 2 cups strawberries, 1 cup pineapple, 3/4 cup mango and the lemon, lime and orange peels; cook for another 2 minutes. Add water, sugar and fruit juices and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Allow mixture to cool slightly and then transfer in batches to a blender or food processor. Puree and strain into a large bowl. Add remaining 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup pineapple, 3/4 cup mango and blueberries. Stir to combine, cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Serve with mint sprigs for garnish.

4. Cold Cucumber Soup (Soooo refreshing!)
3 cups plain nonfat yogurt( iprefer the Nonfat Greek Yogurt variety)
1 English cucumber (about 1 pound), cut into chunks
1 scallion, white and green parts, coarsely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus sprigs for garnish
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato (about 5 ounces), seeded and diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a blender, combine the yogurt, cucumber, scallion and dill. Pulse until pureed. Season, to taste, with sea salt and pepper. Ladle into individual bowls. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of diced tomato, drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and garnish with a dill sprig.

5. Aqua Fresca di Frutta (So yummy and so easy!)

1 large cantaloupe or 1/2 a watermelon, seeded and diced (about 3 cups)

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup raw, unrefined sugar, plus more to taste

2 to 3 limes, juiced

Pinch sea salt

Puree cantaloupe or watermelon in a food processor and pour through a fine sieve to eliminate pulp. In a pitcher, mix strained fruit puree with water and add raw sugar, lime juice, and sea salt, to taste.

Chef's Note: This and other similar fruit drinks, which translate literally as "fresh water," are served all over Mexico and they're a cinch to replicate at home. The key is to strain the pulpy fruit to make a clearer liquid. Instead of melon, you could use strawberries, pineapple, mango, or any fruit that is soft enough to puree.

...and what better music to cradle a hot July afternoons and evenings, sipping on cool beverages and eating cold delicacies than the ever-sultry and perfect Lady Day aka Billie Holiday... a tortured comrade with a gift beyond recognition.

Download of the Day - "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday

In addition to listening to her, read about her; she'll bring you to your knees. (Upper Right Margin)

Stay Cool -
Amanda xo
p.s. - Don't forget to dive into Ana Guida's world, captured in waterlogged letters at the bottom of her highly-unfashionable backpack- DAILY:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cravings... What a Peculiar Thing!

Yesterday, before the Jack episode (previous blog entry today... and consequently, he is doing much better!) I had a good 30 minutes of time in the early evening where I sat feeling sorry for myself... for no reason, ofcourse. I am sure that you can empathize with this emotional state, for I think it is part of the human condition. In this moment of unadulterated and unjustifiable misery, I stared out of the billowing curtains into a stormy sky and dreamed of the whipped cream that I had tasted atop of a mocha latte that franks had enjoyed the prior evening. It wasn't the run-of-the-mill whippet variety whipped cream from a canister, it was something FAR more special. I truly think it was REAL whipped cream...heavy whipping cream...sweet, delicious perfection only enjoyed on Thanksgiving or the like(sigh). It was that moment that I waddled to my car, angsty as a teenager, wallet in hand, on a mission for the most divine whipped-cream topped iced mocha latte that the universe had to offer.

Alas, CitiSpot Coffee Shop in Clinton, NJ...a mere ten minutes from my home, fulfilled my dream, and even enticed me to indulge in one of their ethereal chocolate chip cookies, too (not much arm twisting was necessary).
Mission accomplished. While I crunched the remaining ice and licked the melted chocolate chips off of my lips and watched a passing storm go over the little town of Clinton, I pondered the existence of cravings. Where do they come from? I hardly think that my body had a deficiency in whipped cream and chocolate... and needed a fix to rid itself of unnecessary anger and frustration. The old dead days beyond recall of incessant cigarette smoking are certainly a thing of the past, and I cannot recall ever craving nicotine as passionately as I wanted that delectable whipped cream.

A writer by the name of Susan Brody wrote an article that delved into the craving phenomenonin an online issue of "Parent Magazine" that I thought was worthy of sharing:

"What is it about pregnancy that can turn a meat-eater against beef or make a vegetarian crave steak? How can it make one woman gaga for guacamole and another barf at the sight of broccoli? Some of it is hormone-related, says Janet Pope, PhD, an associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. Just as women have cravings at various stages of their menstrual cycle due to hormones, the same thing happens during pregnancy.

Some theories hold that there is also a wisdom of the body. A craving for milk might mean you need calcium; a craving for fruit may signal a need for vitamin C. In fact, fruit, milk, and milk products (as well as chocolate and salty snacks) are the most common pregnancy cravings, says Dr. Pope.

One thing we do know is that a woman's taste preferences change throughout pregnancy and these changes may affect what she chooses to eat. For example, moms-to-be tend to have a greater affinity for sweet foods (hello, chocolate!). Scientists think this could be caused by an increased need for calories during pregnancy.

Research conducted by Valerie Duffy, PhD, an associate professor in the School of Allied Health at the University of Connecticut in Storrs showed that women:

Liked sour tastes more in the second and third trimesters than in the first trimester or before pregnancy. Like a preference for sweet tastes, a sour preference helps women get a more varied diet later in pregnancy so they can get enough calories, says Dr. Duffy. A yen for sour foods also seems to explain the classic pickle craving. And since fruit is typically a combination of sweet and sour tastes, it also explains why fruit is the most common pregnancy craving.
Showed an increased preference for salty tastes -- which would include foods like potato chips and pickles (again!) -- as their pregnancy went along. During pregnancy, a woman's blood volume increases, so this taste change may be tied to her greater need for sodium.
Had an intensified perception of bitterness during the first trimester. Scientists suspect that being able to isolate bitter tastes during pregnancy is an evolutionary protection, because many toxic plants and fruits taste bitter. This taste change helps warn pregnant women against consuming poisons, such as alcohol, during critical phases of fetal development, agrees Dr. Duffy. Interestingly, the aversion to bitter tastes typically lessens by the third trimester, when the crucial phases of fetal development have ended."

Aha! A moment of clarity! But let's delve into cravings at a deeper level. In the February 21, 2010 supplement of "Psychology Today," definitely one of my favorite mags, a young writer by the name of Adi Jaffe who is a doctoral student going for his PHD in Psychology at UCLA examines cravings in a broader sense. Read on:

"In my studies of addiction, the concept of cravings comes up often. Researchers talk of 'wanting' versus 'liking' of drugs and of the idea that cravings are a programmed response to environmental signals that have been connected to drug use through experience.

What are drug-use cravings?

I agree with these descriptions and the idea that cravings are strong memories that are linked to the effect of drugs on the brain's neurochemistry.Indeed, imaging studies have shown some intense brain activation when pictures that are linked to drug use (like a pipe, or a white powdery substance resembling cocaine) are shown to addicts.

The immense neurotransmitter release that is often brought on by the ingestion of drugs is responsible both for the experience and the lasting effects on learning. When it comes down to it, memories are really the brain re-experiencing an event, so it makes sense that reliving a drug, sex, or other past-compulsive experience would cause a serious emotional reaction. When one remembers, cortical areas associated with the sights, sounds, smells, and thoughts related to the event are activated in a manner very similar to the initial experience.

Still, aside from all the research, I know very well what cravings feel like.

I know the intoxication you feel the moment that memory hits you and your entire body tingles with anticipation. It's as if your whole being is crying out saying 'This is what we've been waiting for. Give it to me!!!' I never know to expect it, but when they hit, there's no questioning - I know that a craving has just taken over me. It's no wonder that people go out over these things, especially early on in recovery.

How to deal with cravings
I'm now at the point where no matter how strong the craving, I'm not about to throw everything I've worked for out the window for another hit. But still, it's just so damn tempting.

When you have a craving, recognize it for what it is. You might as well enjoy the rush, it's like a freebie you don't get to control. By being scared of the feeling, you induce more anxiety and shame that may lead you to act out. Instead, recognize your lack of control over the craving, let the experience happen, and go on with your life.

If the experience is overwhelming, make sure there's someone you can talk to about it (a therapist, partner, parent, or 12 step sponsor). As time passes your cravings will become less and less frequent, though without specific treatment, their intensity will likely not go away. Cravings are a part os the reality of addiction - knowing what to do with them is a key to success."

For now, I will chalk it up to the pollywog brewing in my womb, and I will...simply enjoy the REAL whipped cream.

Here are a few great reads to check out:

And two things that I (ironically...or is it coincidentally) crave or haved craved and different points in my life, Iron and Wine, happens to be the name of my Download-of-the-day.

This album has some of the most beautiful tunes - Feast Your Ears!
xo Amanda

Fairies Wear Boots

Patience, coincidentally, was my lesson du jour yesterday. And I must have asked the Universe umpteen (if that is a number) times for her assistance. Alas... it is noon, and it is the first I have been able to write. It was a very...longggggg...night for me, but a much more difficult eve for my cat, the cat of all cats... Jack... who I am convinced is on life # 5 and is not even three-years-old (he survived being hit by a garbage truck at 1 1/2, and is now a one-eyed ginger). Perhaps the fates are preparing me for what is to come after the pollywog arrives on the scene.

Here is the story.

In my current living situation, jack is one of five cats, and four large dogs... two of which are very slow in the process of learning to accept felines into their world. As adorable as Willy and Olive are (newfoundland/labrador mixes) they are a bit brutish when it comes to bullying; cats are their target when the spirit strikes them. There are seven acres of forest, grass a pond, etc. for the pets to romp about, but like most... they would much rather linger around the homestead, near the food bowl. In the month that I have resided here, I have found it a real challenge to understand this lack of canine/feline comraderie as my two lumps, Sherman and Thomas that I have introduced into the mix sleep with and bath the cats. I think that the pictur is clear.

About a week ago, jack arrived after a night of exploring with a limp, and as is the case with any animal (us included) when I instinctively tried to touch the hidden wound, jack cried bloody murder, and that was that! I wasn't able to even venture near his lame leg after that unless he was sleeping; even that was a challenge. As jack is a survivor, like all of his battle wounds, I thought that with time it would heal.

Jack made himself more scarce as the week progressed until I heard a horrific noise yesterday, and the dogs (my Thomas included) going ballistic! I ran (more like wobbled) to the side of the house and looked up at the spiral staircase leading to a balcony outside of our apartment. Hanging from the top step by his front paws was one-eyed jack with the gorilla dogs, Willy and Olive, barking incessantly in his maimed face! And not a second later... Jack fell from the top step as the dogs went careening down the spiral staircase to accost him as I watched helplessly in horror, spewing countless expletives at the gorillas! Jack, ofcourse, landed on all fours and let out a cry that resonated from the fiery abyss; his poor leg.

So... last evening was spent at an 24/7 animal emergency center with a very hurt, very angry little jack who I carried there in a plastic storage bin lined with towels that franks (my partner-in-crime) poked holes in for ventilation;you'd think that someone with an arsenal of pets such as I would invest in a handy-dandy cat carrier such as this:

And hours later after countless x-rays and blood tests, all eight pounds of little jackie was donned in an Elizabethan collar, a white scarf that looks like an ascot, and a tube sticking out of a bulbous, shaved abcess on his right hip, but no broken bones. The poor little guy just needs some serious nursing, antibiotics, and assistance with eating, for the collar makes it a bit taxing.

Alas... patience and compassion. Thank you Siddhartha.

'till this evening...
Amanda xo
Download-of-the-Day - "Fairies Wear Boots" - Black Sabbath... just because.
It needs to played LOUD.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Franz Kafka, undoubtedly one of my favorite surrealist novelists of the 20th Century once wrote "There art two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness." A winning duo, don't you think? And I am guilty of both of these ... especially impatience. I feel that it is the root of many of my whims and inconsistencies; I just don't allow enough time for things to come to fruition.

Oh... and the hypocrisy of it all... when I vow that animals are far more important to me than the majority of humans, but then I turn and yell at the pups when they bark incessantly at an innocent passer-by or the wind. They are simply communicating...warning...protecting... but the excessive noise doesn't fit into MY plan, and impatience kicks in. Have you ever experienced this?

I struggle with this, feel I am a walking contradiction, and have spent the majority of my 37 years beating myself up for my impatience and inconsistency; it has been the bane of my existence, and I am fed up! How am I to be a mother if my patience flounders like my moods? I realize that both impatience and inconsistency are synonymous with "the dreaded mental affliction" (shhhhhhh), yet I refuse to allow myself to be labeled as such... or to be victimized!

I believe that patience takes practice, and the only path to REAL patience is nestled gently within the words of Siddhartha Gotama ... aka Buddha. To Buddha, it is simple, and goes WAY beyond religion. It is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom.' I once read that In Buddhism, patience is said to be the greatest prayer. Choosing the path of patience, gratitude and non-attachment (whether we describe our spiritual nature as that of Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Agnostic or Atheist) has the capacity to transform suffering and uplift our energies into collective forces for good in this crazy world. The Buddhist path can be summed up as:

(1) to lead a moral life
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding

There is no religious attachment, and that is refreshing! Anyone can practice Buddhism. It is a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions, agreeing with the moral teachings of other religions. Although, it goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought. And I say ... "right on!"

In my search for Buddhist meditation exercises, I happened upon a wonderful website that I would like to share with you. It is called "Basic Buddhism: A Five Minute Introduction" - are you chuckling at the irony, too? To teach the impatient to have the patience of the enlightened one, they had to resort to the instant gratification approach that we all have become accustomed to in our painfully fast-paced world... like "Buddhism for Dummies" or something. Regardless, it is great... and I'd like to share its explanation of 'The Four Noble Truths' to entice you to also delve into some Buddhist readings and ideas:

"What did the Buddha Teach?

The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

• What is the First Noble Truth?

The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

• What is the Second Noble Truth?

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

• What is the Third Noble Truth?

The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

• What is the Fourth Noble Truth?

The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

• What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?

In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

• What are the 5 Precepts?

The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

• What is Karma?

Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.

• What is Wisdom?

Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.

• What is Compassion?

Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

• How do I Become a Buddhist?

Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way."

Here are links to two books that I have been immersing myself in to further my practice in patience:

The Download-of-the-Day that I highly recommend is a song entitled "Breathe" by Telepopmusik - My BEAUTIFUL cousin and soul sister Katie played this for me...said it reminded her of the main character in my book "Dear Prudence"... Ana Guida - This song resonates, capturing the Beauty of the Buddhist Principles - and so does KATIE, her husband Joe, her sister Jenifer, and My Beloved Aunt Kath and Bobalou... Enjoy!

I close with a most appropriate quote:
"You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience."
Stanislaw J. Lec

Amanda xo

Monday, July 19, 2010

"I See A Red Door and I Want It Painted..." (Fill-in-the-blank) Thank You "Rolling Stones" - Color Therapy

As of late, well aware that I have a little girl pollywog brewing in my womb, I have been having pastel pink nightmares, braided with powdery blue trim and buttery yellow terry cloth lacy stuff. Pastel colors are without a doubt my LEAST favorite to look at in the large scheme of things, and I have never understood why they are synonymous with babies. I find them dull and soulless... everything that a baby is not! I have always felt that a nursery should resonate with primary colors that exude life and stimulate the senses. Wouldn't it be more apropos to wrap an infant in rich velvety-shaded swaddling clothing, as opposed to washed out shades, reminiscent of outdated convalescent home wallpaper? Yuck. Okay... I get it...I get it. Pastels are soft... like babies? I guess that is the logic; the sentiment is sweet. To each her own.

Am I hypersensitive? Yes. Cynical? A little. Is this part of my affliction? Perhaps. Regardless, color has always been an integral part of my emotional health, and I have never been able to fully adapt to a situation or room that didn't have something to focus on that was aesthetically pleasing to my eye. Like words, people, animals, and sound, color is an energy, and gives off an aura (metaphysically and biorhythmically speaking); the absence of color can have a deleterious effect on a person's demeanor or situation. This is nothing new. I am sure that you can relate to this on many levels; it is the beauty of individualized taste, and we are all entitled to whatever makes us feel good!

In fact, according to "Color Therapy: Letting Color Heal You" by Cricket Demarais for "" a holistic healing supplement, the Ancient Egyptians built healing temples of light four thousand years ago,"...bathing patients in specific colors of light to produce different effects." Demarais continues, "Research shows that a blindfolded person will experience physiological reactions under different colored rays. In other words, the skin sees in technicolor. Noted Neuropsychologist Kurt Goldstein confirmed this information in his modern classic 'The Organism,' where he notes that stimulation of the skin by different colors creates different effects."

Interesting... but certainly not surprising, lack of color has been directly correlated as a cause of depression. More specifically, lack of color and light causes millions to suffer each winter from a mild depression (sometimes severe) known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to Cricket Demarais, "Because of the complex way in which exposure to various colors acts via the brain upon the autonomic nervous system, exposure to a specific color can even alter physiological measurements such as blood pressure, electrical skin resistance and glandular functions in your body. And they most certainly can affect how you feel on a day-to-day basis." All the more reason to again... get outside and soak up the sunshine!

Demarais recommends learning about color's qualities and putting it to use to enhance your spirit, improve your health, and expand your consciousness. Color Therapy, also known as chromotherapy has been used by alternative health practitioners who use color to balance energy wherever our bodies are lacking: physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental. I have practiced REIKI (Light energy intuitive healing)for many years, something I will write about in much more detail later. Although, I will note that REIKI concentrates on the seven main chakras (energy fields) in the body to heal: cognition (crown chakra), intuition (third eye), communication (throat chakra), love (heart chakra), stability (solar plexus), Kundalini (sexuality), and the root chakra (stability). Each of the chakras has a correlating color that resonates its energy. When an intuitive healer scans your aura, she/he can read where to focus their healing by studying the color energy that you lack.

I conclude with the following advice to further improve your quality of life; surround yourself with colors that make you feel good. It is amazing what a coat of paint, a few new inexpensive throw pillows or blankets and/or a wall-hanging, painting or tapestry can do for the energy in a space that you call your own (even if pastels are your color scheme of choice).

I recommend a few books that delve into color therapy in more detail that may interest you, and provide more insight.

Download-of-the-Day - "Blue" by Joni Mitchell - The entire classic album, of the same name, resonates color - Stunning!

Until we meet again...
Amanda xo

Biorhythms ... and The Clinton Book Shop, NJ! What do they have in common?

If you are anything like me, sometimes (more often than not) immersing yourself in something (ANYTHING for that matter) other than sleep becomes a forced issue when you are consumed with self-deprecating thoughts. In fact, simply leaving my bed to start the day as of late has been taxing, and most unwelcome. The promise of a delicious cup of coffee or six used to be enough incentive for me to swing my legs over the side of the bed, but the ton of bricks that I feel like I've swallowed is making this small gesture seemingly unpleasant. My bladder is my only catalyst lately. In fact, I am pretty sure that the polywog in my womb tap dances on mine simply to assist me with the wake up process; I don't really have a choice. For that, I am grateful; they are a dynamic duo.

Alas, after a cup of coffee, a yogurt, a handful of prenatal vitamins and almonds, I waited ...patiently... for a surge of energy to draw me outdoors into the sunlight, to no avail. My energy was at an all time low. Historically, that lackluster feeling would send me into a tailspin of guilt, feeling as if I was worthless and accomplishing nothing, but not today. There is an answer to the energy conundrum, and I had to remind myself of it by opening a book and reading in my slump: Biorhythms.

What exactly are Biorhythms?
According to Natural Health Therapy Dictionary:

"The principle of Biorhythms, life is a series of progressive 'ups' and 'downs'.

The physical cycle includes resistance to disease, strength, and coordination.

The emotional includes sensitivity, mood, perceptions, and mental balance,

The intellectual affects memory, alertness, and logic.

Because the cycles are of varying length, they rarely overlap. For example, while the intellectual cycle may be peaking, the emotional cycle may be in decline, and the physical cycle a variant somewhere in between. The 'highs' of the cycles are times of maximum effectiveness, and tend to produce positive thoughts and moods, while the 'lows' are times of negativity and possible risk--because one is prone at these times to make errors of judgment."

Interesting stuff, eh? Read on! At the close, I will provide you with a link to calculate your own Biorhythm. See if it correlates to your mood and/or state of mind today; I know that mine certainly did -(while my emotional and intellectual were at 90% and 91% on a scale of 100%, my physical was at 40%.

Natural Health Therapy Dictionary continues:

"Biorhythm: scientific method developed separately by Viennese psychology professor Dr. Herman Swoboda (1873-1963) and Berlin physician William Fliess (1859-1928). It is a means of predicting human conditions and susceptibilities. Its principle is that three fundamental biological cycles (Biorhythms) are calculable from the date of one's birth.

Swoboda and Fliess posited two cycles:

(1) a physical cycle of 23 days, predictive of one's level of strength, coordination, immunity, and self-confidence; and

(2) a sensitivity cycle of 28 days, predictive of emotional changes.

In the 1920s, Austrian engineer Dr. Alfred Teltscher posited a third cycle: 33 days long and predictive of intellectual performance.

According to proponents, vital energy is high on positive days and relatively low on negative days. George S. Thommen popularized biorhythm in 'Is This Your Day?' (1973)."

To learn more about Biorhythms and to calculate yours, go to:

May I close today with a book recommendation that is OFF THE CHARTS!!! I read it in two days, and I think the writer and the premise are exceptional! I cannot wait to read her next book! "The Dust of 100 Dogs" by A.S. King is enchanting, innovative, entertaining, and eloquently-versed! It is the PERFECT companion to those dreaded low...cannot get out of bed (physical) biorhythm days! (Read the synopsis and/or purchase it at the Indiebound Books link on this Blog.)

My friends at The Clinton Book Shop, my favorite independent book shop in NJ recommended it to me. Their beautiful store is located in the Old Clinton Library on Main Street in Clinton, NJ - Clinton Book Shop, 12 E. Main Street, Clinton, NJ 08809 908-735-8811 Please visit -

So what do they have in common? Regardless of what your Biorhythm calculator says... it is a great independent store to visit, and you can feel GREAT about purchasing from them and supporting local commerce!
Ask for Harvey and/or Rob!

Download-of-the-Day - "Pictures of Matchstick Men and You" - by Camper Van Beethoven (originally a "Strawberry Alarm Clock" tune) I kept hearing this song in my head while I was reading A.S. King's Novel.

'till next time -
Amanda xo

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Weekend...

Office was being moved from point A to Point B yesterday... I haven't any new fangle devices to speak of to write from (phone access, etc) therefore... stay tuned for the next installment of PENDULUM PREGNANCY (Picture an exciting font) Manana! I have read a GREAT (exciting font, again) book entitled "The Dust of 100 Dogs" by a remarkable writer A.S. King. A Gorgeous Read!!! I cannot wait to tell you about it!

Happy Weekend!


Download of the Weekend - "Over, Under, Sideways, Down" - The Yardbirds (in fact...the "Easy Rider" Soundtrack in its entirety is SWEET Perfection for this weekend!

Friday, July 16, 2010


Coincidentally, having discussed the importance of fluidity and weightlessness last evening, I was graced with the opportunity today to spend an hour and a half lounging in my most gracious neighbor and friend's pool; a much appreciated 90 minutes or so of pure bliss, as it was approaching 100 degrees and 100% humidity. It was so wonderful to dunk my bulbous belly into the water and enjoy conversation with my mother and her. As I listened to the two of them share stories about child rearing, and linear thinking husbands who seemingly find multitasking an impossibility... I began to drift off, and focus on something completely unrelated. My mind started to remind me that I had to take complete advantage of the late afternoon sunlight that I was graced with, as vitamin D is imperative! With that I made an interesting discovery; as I pulled my concrete belly out of the pool, and stretched to lay on my stomach to tan my hindquarters, I had the sour realization that I could no longer lay flat on my stomach! My mother and karen laughed at my expense, and my awkward arched position on the pavement, stressing that my bum would have to remain pasty this summer. I really am a weeble wobble.

Alas, the combination of sun and water, even for a short time in the large scheme of things, really brightened my grumpy disposition and calmed me. This has always been the case, as I have been a sun worshipper since I was a little girl because it seemingly lifted my spirits. Even in winter as a child, I would hike out into the middle of a snowy cornfield where we used to go sledding and I would lay down and absorb as much sunlight on my face as I could; it instantly changed my mood, even when I wasn't aware of any diagnosed imbalance.

May I emphasize the importance of sunlight to Vitamin D production in your body, and how regardless of the warnings... we need some sunlight to penetrate our skin for this chemical process to take place, sans sunblock. That doesn't mean bake for four hours in a pool of baby oil, but moderation is key! Ofcourse skin care is imperative, but we must find a balance so that our bodies do not suffer, mentally and physically, from a Vitamin D deficiency.

Dr. Frank Lipman M.D writes in the July 16, 2010 Huffington Post (online)
"For about the last 25 years, doctors (dermatologists in particular) have demonized sun exposure and repeatedly told us it is bad for you and causes cancer. But is that true? In the last few years, numerous studies have shown that modest exposure to sunlight may actually be good for you, helping the body produce the vitamin D it needs to keep bones healthy and protect against cancer, including skin cancer. Though repeated sunburns--in children and very fair-skinned people--have been linked to melanoma, there is no credible scientific evidence that moderate sun exposure causes it. Since it's almost impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food alone (including fortified milk and fatty wild fish), the sun is your best source. I'm not suggesting you go bake in the sun with your suntan oil or go to tanning salons. But getting some sun without getting sunburned makes healthy sense."

Lipman continues "We evolved in the sun; we were made to get some sun, not to live our lives indoors and slather on sunscreen every time we go outside. If the sun is shining where you are today, get out and enjoy it, talk about a free natural treatment! All you need is a little common sense when heading outdoors, do it gradually and always avoid sunburn. 

Special Note: Remember to take antioxidants when you sit in the sun, as these can help prevent skin cells from sun damage."

...get outside!

xo Amanda

Download-Of-The-Day - "Saturday Sun" - Nick Drake ...beautiful! He was a true poet. Nick Drake suffered from depression and insomnia and overdosed on depression meds at the age of 26. He was yet another amazing artist, who contributed so much in his short stint on Mother Earth. Check out his music and his Biography (top right... next to this eve's blog entry).

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I open this evening with advice from a truly transcendent, modern philosopher. "The Solutions all are simple... after you've already arrived at them. But they're simple only when you already know what they are." - Robert M. Pirsig from "Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Think about it. It rings true with me on a daily basis, if I just stop to listen, rather than speak or think.

For instance, it is 10:30 pm, and I am winding down. Amazing... after writing about insomnia last evening and its overwhelming presence in my life as of late, my method worked: MMM. If you didn't read yesterday's entry (see below), MMM stands for mindfulness, music and no particular order. As I lay in front of the fan, cradled by Sherman, my big, brown, painfully-musty and loveable labrador, I had a good half hour of anxiousness, pondering the fact that I couldn't sleep, and thought about the deleterious effect it would have on my coming day. And then... enlightenment! I got up and took a long swig from the milk jug (shhhhh... didn't use a glass...), closed my eyes and listened to "How To Disappear Completely" - RADIOHEAD, and revisited my bed in complete darkness. I listened intently to the fan, I felt the air, and I tasted the beach in my mind... and that is as far as my senses took me. The next thing I knew, the morning birds were singing - magic! The solution was right there, waiting to be touched.

A most exceptional Mama of two, with a third on the way (14 weeks and counting), Nicole Deemer Sypniewski too has been suffering from insomnia and daily exhaustion and wrote today with some awesome advice. "I have been using yoga techniques to calm myself to sleep and it has been working well. If you are really in a bind, Benadryl is safe to take as well(during pregnancy). The active ingredient in Benadryl is the sleep aid used in Tylenol PM." Thank you so much Nicole!

Something that I would like to share that will not only benefit those coping with mental illness, pregnancy (or both), but will benefit EVERYONE is fluidity of motion. Perhaps I should simply speak for myself, but I think it is safe to say that when we feel like a blundering, clumsy skipping film on a reel, everything seems to crumble.

May I emphasize the importance of movement... and what better place to feel fluid than in a pool of water. Immersing myself in water is instant relaxation, whether it is a river, a lake, a pool, the ocean, or even a bath. The physical weightlessness is undoubtedly a catharsis in and of itself. Especially now... (as it feels as if I swallowed a bag of concrete mix, and chased it down with a watermelon) swimming is truly the only exercise that makes me feel content. In water, I feel free from the confines of my lethargic shell.

According to a well-rounded health site that I enjoy reading on occasion, "Better Health Channel" out of Australia, swimming is a great workout because you need to move your whole body against the resistance of the water. Swimming is a good all-round activity because it:
"Keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off your body
Builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness
Helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs
Tones muscles and builds strength
Provides an all-over body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming."

"Better Health Channel" experts continue "Swimming has many other benefits including:
Being a relaxing and peaceful form of exercise
Alleviating stress
Improving coordination, balance and posture
Improving flexibility
Providing good low-impact therapy for some injuries and conditions
Providing a pleasant way to cool down on a hot day
Being available in many places – you can swim in swimming pools, beaches, lakes, dams and rivers. Make sure that the environment you choose to swim in is safe."

Enjoy the water...another great place to practice mindfulness (and weightlessness). You will feel like a dancer -

...'till next time Mermaids and Mermen -
Amanda xo

Download-of-the-day - "Winter-A-Go-Go" - by Yo La Tengo (Always reminds me of the ocean)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


A mildly-unpleasant physical manifestation of something has been happening as of late: insomnia. I am not sure if this a pregnancy thing, or if this is yet another bipolar (yuck)... as I have so aptly referred to some of the quirky symptoms the go along with the existence of a mental ailment. But alas... it is frustrating.

Insomnia was not an issue ten, even five years ago, when I would simply use the time to imbibe copious amounts of self-medication, and explore the saltier side of whatever town I graced. Needless to say, those are the old, dead days beyond recall and I have been forced to move on. Much to my chagrin, I do use the wee hours of the morning to my advantage... reading and writing and feeding the polywog in my womb, but as my partner-in-crime rises to begin his work day, I suddenly become sleepy. Something is not right; my clock is off.

According to The Mayo, "Insomnia is a widespread condition that's characterized by a difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep or getting restful sleep. Like many people who experience insomnia, you may have turned to sleeping pills for relief." Never mind sleeping meds and pregnancy, as we all know mixing sleep aids with antidepressants, seratonin reuptake inhibitors, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, etc., can be toxic.

The Mayo Clinic continues "There are times — such as during periods of pain or grief — when sleeping pills may help those who experience sleep deprivation. In addition, several hypnotics are now approved by the Food and Drug Administration for indefinite use.

However, many sleeping pills shouldn't be taken for more than a few days to a few weeks. Because they can be habit-forming, some people take these drugs far longer. Others may increase their dosage as the pills become less effective over time. Sleeping pills can also:

Mask the real causes of poor sleep, such as depression, heart trouble, asthma and Parkinson's disease, and delay treatment of these disorders
Interact with other medications or alcohol, often with serious, even deadly, results.

Cause next-day grogginess or rebound insomnia — an inability to sleep that's worse than the original problem
Lead to high blood pressure, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, short-term amnesia

Cause bizarre behavior that goes beyond traditional sleepwalking to include "sleep binge eating," "sleep shoplifting" and "sleep driving" — none of which the person remembers."

The Mayo Clinic suggests CBT (a.k.a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)as a successful alternative treatment for insomnia, sans medication. CBT is a relatively simple, short-term treatment that has long been used to treat a range of conditions, including depression, panic attacks, anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse.

Studies have shown that psychological and behavioral factors play an important role in insomnia and that CBT can be effective in treating insomnia. A 2006 review of insomnia treatment studies conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that CBT can help improve sleep and that benefits can be sustained over a long period of time.

The Mayo Clinic states, "CBT can benefit nearly everyone, including older adults who have been taking sleep medications for years, people with physical problems such as restless legs syndrome, and those with primary insomnia, a lifelong inability to get enough rest. What's more, the effects seem to last — a year after CBT, most people still show benefits from the therapy and sleep more soundly than before. And there is no evidence that CBT has adverse effects."

How does CBT work? The Mayo Clinic states "Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you change the thoughts and actions that interfere with your ability to get restful sleep. The approach is based on the idea that how you think (cognition) and act (behavior) affects the way you feel.

The cognitive portion of CBT teaches you to recognize and change false beliefs that affect your ability to sleep. For example, you may believe that you must get eight hours of sleep every night to function. In fact, seven hours of sleep may be adequate for you. Cognitive therapy also deals with misperceptions about the amount of time you actually spend sleeping. People with insomnia often sleep more than they realize.

The behavioral portion of CBT helps reprogram the part of your brain that governs the sleep-wake cycle. It targets specific behaviors — what sleep experts call "sleep hygiene" — that negatively affect your sleep. Such behaviors include failing to exercise or drinking beverages that contain caffeine just before bedtime.

When used as an insomnia treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy usually requires four to eight 30-minute sessions with a trained sleep therapist. The approach works on multiple levels and contains one or more of the following elements:

Cognitive control and psychotherapy. This type of therapy helps you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. It may also involve eliminating false or worrisome beliefs about sleep, such as the idea that a single restless night will make you sick.

Sleep restriction. This approach tries to match the time spent in bed with your actual sleep requirement. Reducing the amount of time you spend in bed without sleeping will actually increase your desire to sleep.
Remain passively awake. Called paradoxical intention, this involves avoiding any effort to fall asleep, with the goal of eliminating any anxiety you may feel about falling asleep easily.

Stimulus control. This method helps disassociate any negative cues you attach to the bedroom environment and condition a positive response with getting into bed. For example, you might be coached to use the bed only for sleep and sex.

Sleep hygiene. This method of therapy involves correcting basic lifestyle habits that influence sleep, such as smoking or drinking too much coffee or alcohol late in the day and failing to exercise regularly. It also includes tips that help you sleep better, such as winding down an hour or two before bedtime with a warm bath.

Relaxation training. This method helps you relax to reduce or eliminate the arousal that disturbs sleep. Approaches include meditation, hypnosis and muscle relaxation.

Biofeedback. This method measures certain physiological signs, such as muscle tension and brain wave frequency, with the intent of helping you control them.

The most effective treatment approach may combine a number of these methods. Realize that unlike sleep medications, CBT requires steady practice and that some approaches may cause you to lose sleep at first. Stick with it, and you should see results."

If the insomnia episode continues, I will certainly try the CBT route; it sounds promising! In the interim, I'm going to try MMM: mindfulness, music and warm milk. I will let you know how it unfolds.

I close with a download recommendation (pure genius in my humble opinion). Since the first time I listened to Radiohead "KID A" probably ten years ago, it has never ceased to seduce my senses with what I feel is its dream sequence-like perfection. Listen to it in it's entirety; I know you will concur on one level or another. It repeatedly becomes my subconscious. Perhaps it will inspire yours, too.
Sweet Dreams, Amanda xo

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


So we saw the little Bambino in all her 20 week glory today... and she is simply lovely! Everything is in its right place, and I feel a sense of calm. To enjoy this effervescence, I will simply escape into a book tonight. It feels...well... good! I have nothing profound to share but this; there is no better escape, in my very humble opinion, then to fall into a great read. Like music, books can be shared between all, regardless of taste, ethnicity, religious affiliation, etc.. In my darkest doldrums, escaping into stories always calms me... or diverts the annoying, unjustifiable self-loathing that accompanies many mental afflictions (or simply a bad day). It is yet another facet of the practice of mindfulness; use your senses to experience another world, locked between words. I am ten pages from the end of a book that has been a most remarkable read, and has taken me about a year to complete. It is a book that I pick up every once in a while when I am feeling the sense of calm that I feel tonight. It has been like Linus' blanket, and I have a feeling that it will be difficult for me to give it back to the rightful owner out of pure selfishness on my part. My dear friend and former student, Miss Mishelle Wilson (who also, may I add, took the 'Dear Prudence' photo that is the center of the collage front cover of my debut novel) gave me "The Fifth Sacred Thing" by Starhawk. " this. You will like it," is all she said. And yes... she was absolutely right... and that was an understatement. Published by Bantam books about 17 years ago, the novel is an epic tale the explores life in the not-so-distant future, 21st century California. It harnesses love and war, mind, body, spirit, freedom and slavery, and the human condition... braided in the lives of some of the richest characters that I have read in a very long time. In this world (The Northlands of California) the society is idyllic, communal living, everyone works and no one goes hungry. People heal each other with energy, and holistic medicine is the only way. Okay, I may be making it sound like a Marxian dream wrapped in metaphysics as opposed to what you will experience when you immerse yourself in the book but regardless... it is a lovely utopia. I leave you this eve with the book jacket description of this rare delight, and hope that in addition to perusing Amazon's website, you will visit your local independent bookstore to pick up a copy, your local library, or whatever outlet you choose. That is what keeps our towns alive! "Imagine a world without poverty, hunger or hatred, where a rich culture honors its diverse mix of races, religions, and heritages, and the Four Sacred Things that sustain life - earth, air, fire, and water - are valued unconditionally. Now imagine the opposite: a nightmare world in which an authoritarian regime polices an apartheid state, access to food and water is restricted to those who obey the corrupt official religion, women are the property of their husbands or the state, and children are bred for prostitution and war. The best and worst of our possible futures are poised to clash, and the outcome rests on the wisdom and courage of one clan caught in the conflict."

Good Evening! xo Amanda

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Monday, July 12, 2010


The Eve of July 12th (My late grandmother Kae's would have been 101st Birthday...just thought of that)

For the past few days I have been in the most irritable mood I have felt in months. Perhaps I can blame it on pregnancy, bipolar yuck (as I like to call that looming fog)… or perhaps I can blame it on ill-circumstance. Truly, nothing will justify the presence of the dark pit in my stomach and my inability to tolerate anything from conversation with family to the way the wind is blowing; it just is. I used to think that when I felt this extreme irritability that I could simply ostracize myself from the rest of the world and think my way out of it. I thought that the sour mood was just a problem to be solved. It has taken me 37 years to figure out that this behavior simply perpetuates the irritability. The mind begins to run rampant; a vicious cycle that leads to a deeper hole, unjustifiable anger and despair. And ignoring feelings… generally leads to the boomerang effect; they return, stronger than ever! I find relief in only one thing, and you will too: mindfulness. Mindfulness encourages you to be aware of your emotions, thoughts and bodily sensations without judging or interpreting them.
Zindel V. Segal, PhD, the Cameron Wilson Chair in Depression Studies in the psychology department at the University of Toronto discusses this concept in the latest Bottom Line Health periodical. Segal says, “Think about it this way: If someone told you not to think about a white bear, guess what you would do? You couldn’t help but think about a white bear or how you shouldn’t think about it. Suppressing thoughts or feelings doesn’t work.” Zindel continues “…take thoughts and feelings into the realm of mindfulness. Being aware of your thoughts and feelings without reacting to them is the key to keeping negative emotions from cascading.” He explains that in order to understand the concept of mindfulness, simply apply it to an everyday activity such as washing dishes. While washing them, fully focus on how the warm water feels, how your arms and hands feel as you turn a dish over to rinse… how the soap feels and smells. Simply use your senses and observe…don’t think! If your mind wanders, bring your focus back to the dishes.
Zindel advises that in order to practice this, “while sitting quietly, let your attention shift to your hearing. Open your mind to sounds from all directions, near and far, subtle as well as obvious sounds. Be aware of these auditory sensations without thinking about where they’re coming from or what they mean. Note the way they appear and fade. After trying this a few times with sounds, shift your awareness to your thoughts” … and so on and so forth, using all of the senses. Try it! According to Zindel, when you practice it regularly, it makes it easier to use when you need it most, like “when you are upset because you are stuck in traffic…are in the middle of a heated argument…or begin to feel a bout of depression coming on.”
I am going to make it my mission to try this technique faithfully… and report my findings! I find, once again, that MUSIC is a great way to escape the doldrums, and a great way to practice mindfulness. I highly recommend reaching for your MP3 player, IPOD … and just listen. (Download of the Day… “Rainy Day, Dream Away” – Jimi Hendrix –SWEEEEETTTTT Perfection!

Please share your tactics; communication is the key to “sanity.”