Friday, November 30, 2012

Some thoughts on The Emotional Eater's Repair Manual, by Julie Simon.

I recently read and reviewed The Emotional Eater's Repair Manual, by Julie Simon.  It hits stands tomorrow (December 1, 2012) and I highly recommend it to anyone who ... eats.  Or doesn't, as the case may be.

You can go here for my full review and a brief description of the book.

Happy reading!
~~ Hasky

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NYPD Officer Lawrence Deprimo's lesson on giving.

This morning started like every other morning as I rushed to get ready for work with The Today Show blaring in the background.  I rarely even listen to their actual stories anymore, both because I simply don't have time and because the "news" is always the same: tragedy, death, violence, celebrity gossip.  Like so many people, I've become desensitized to most of it, not because I don't care, but because I just don't see solutions to the problems that so often generate the news stories themselves, and I find it all too overwhelming to dissect day after day with no hope in sight.

But this morning, as I dashed from washer to dryer with an armload of laundry and my whining puppy glued to my heels in search of his daily treat, my eyes caught an image on the television, of a cop kneeling beside what looked to be a homeless man. The homeless man, who sat hunched on a sidewalk with a small backpack beside him, was bare from foot to mid-calf. He wore neither socks nor shoes, only a thin jacket and what looked to be a lightweight pair of pants that fell to just below the knee. Unlike other similar images that often appear on the morning news, however, the cop in this scene was not standing over the homeless man with an air of authority. Instead, he was crouched beside the homeless man, looking directly at him, his hands folded, his left knee resting on the sidewalk mere inches from where the homeless man sat.

The picture of these two unlikely men, side by side on what I later found out was a New York City street, so surprised me that I dropped my laundry on the couch, tossed my dog his longed-for cookie, and tuned in to the story attached to the visual incongruity.  And I am glad I did.  Because had I prioritized the routine tasks and breathless hurry from room to room before flying out the door, I wouldn't have started my day learning that earlier this month, NYPD officer Lawrence Deprimo "bought a pair of boots for a barefooted homeless man."  Officer Deprimo hadn't stopped to charge the man with loitering or to tell him he had to leave the premises, nor had he simply looked the other way while working his beat that night.  In an act of pure compassion and a generosity for which there is no monetary compensation, Officer Deprimo knelt beside this man, asked him his shoe size, purchased the warmest boots (and socks) he could find, then gave them to a fellow human being.

As I think about giving, and about what it means to truly give, I am struck not only by Officer Deprimo's actions, but also by the countless opportunities like this that present themselves every single day.  While a new pair of boots for every human who needs them may not be within our own individual financial means, this story is - at least for me - about so much more than the pair of boots.  It is about one human being engaging with another.  It is about breaking down barriers of inequality on every level.  It is about asking someone what he needs and doing whatever possible to give him that.  More than anything, it is about two people connecting as people - not as police officer and homeless man, but as two men who both needed a pair of boots on a cold winter night.

I thought this might inspire some of you who are considering the 25 Days of Giving Challenge to think outside the box a little.  To imagine all that is possible in the world outside your front door.  Given the goal of spending no more than $25.00 throughout this Challenge, a new pair of boots may not  - and probably is not - feasible.  But are there other ways to help people get what they need?  Donations?  Fundraisers?  Even more important, how can we truly see those who may feel invisible in the world?  How can we let them know that they are not anonymous, that we care about them, that they matter, and that they are one of us?

Just some things to ponder as Day 1 of our Challenge approaches.

Til next time,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The 25 Days of Giving Challenge - Information and Guidelines

Welcome to The Challenge!  Twenty-five days. Think you can do it?  I know you can.  And I suspect that  on Day 26, at least some of you just may decide to keep on giving.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. So let's just begin at the beginning, shall we?

I still don't know that I love the word "challenge" to describe what we are doing here, since I honestly think that giving, like any healthy habit, is most often its own reward.  Less a challenge than the development of a regular practice, giving is something we learn to do over time, mindfully, planfully, and selflessly (hopefully!).  So this challenge, while probably less an effort than a reminder to take time out of our busy lives for just a few minutes a day, is really a community effort - giving of ourselves to others, and giving of ourselves with others.

Hopefully you have watched my video explanation already (Lighten Up: The 25 Days of Giving Challenge) since it is not quite as dry as my writing.  But in case you prefer the written documentation approach over the "talk it through" vlog (which, by the way, will be the primary method of communication over the next 25 days, so get used to a lot of me, talking, in poorly lit rooms, at strange, shaky camera angles, cinéma vérité style), I have decided to bullet point the most important aspects of the Challenge here, for ease of reference over the next 25 days.  So use them whenever you need them, but don't rely on them at the expense of your own creativity, either.  Give from your heart, even if you have to break a "guideline" because (just between you and me and the cyberverse, nothing bad will happen to you if you, say, spend $26 instead of $25.)  It is most important that you give, and that you personally invest in the process and the people to whom you are giving.

So here, in no particular order, are The 25 Days of Giving Challenge Guidelines:

1.  Challenge dates: December 1, 2012-December 25, 2012

2. What can you give?  What should you give?  Well, since there are no "cans" or "shoulds" involved here, the broad answer is: "Anything you want."   Sometimes, sitting and talking - really talking - and listening to - really listening to - someone can mean the world to that person.  Other people need help with various tasks, projects, challenges.  I'm sure there are some people in your life - as there are in mine - who are going through particularly difficult times at the moment, while others are looking to celebrate some great achievement(s) that deserve notice.  You can't "give" wrong, so whatever you do will be "right."  When else and where else will you get to say that on any given day?  Seems like a little more incentive to participate, if you ask me!

3.  Spending cap: $25.00.  You don't have to spend any money at all (and in fact it would be amazing to spend no money while still giving something to someone every day for 25 days).  However, you may spend up to $25, either all at once, on a single person, or spread over the 25 days, in any way(s) you wish.

4. You can devote the 25 days of giving to a single person, or to as many people as you want. These can be family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances in whatever groups or programs you belong to, and/or complete strangers.

5. This should be something you do above and beyond your every day life - outside of your job, your regular family obligations, etc. That doesn't mean you can't do something extra special for a family member or colleague, just that it should be unexpected, out of the ordinary, and nothing for which you expect to be compensated.  (Here's a hint: An "I love you" note inside the lunch bag of the loved one whose lunch you make every day would go a long way toward meeting the goal of an unexpected, out of the norm gesture done solely for the purpose of positively impacting someone else's day. Unless said loved one is one's teenager, in which case ... no.)

6. You can do this anonymously, meaning you can leave things for people or engage with them without telling them you are part of this challenge, or you can tell them you are working on paying your own gratitude forward and want to do something for them "just because," as a way of showing your own gratitude. It's up to you.

7. Finally, I would like you to journal your experiences each day. Nothing fancy or wordy (unless you would like to be fancy and wordy - that would be pretty cool, too!).  But no pressure to do more than jot down (or vlog, which is what I will mostly be doing) what you did/gave each day, a little about the recipient (relationship to you, why you chose him/her for your giving that day, and his/her behavior both before and after the giving). Also, how did you feel both before and after the giving?  Did someone else's gratitude affect your mood at all?  Did someone else's gratitude toward you impact your feelings, behavior, and eagerness to give again?  

I would LOVE to post anything you would be willing to send - your journal entries, vlogs you would be willing to create and send, links to your own blogs about this challenge (which I hope you will share as widely as possible on your Facebook and Twitter pages), so PLEASE go to the "Contact Me" page and send whatever you have and comment, comment, comment here, too.  And remember, the more you share here, the more ideas others will take from you about similar ways to give.  So think of your willingness to share as one more way to give.

So welcome ... and let the giving begin!

Only three days to go! Are you up for the Challenge?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Everything I am thankful for ... I learned from my Schnoodle

As Thanksgiving approaches this week, I have been thinking a lot about gratitude.  What it means to me.  Where it shows up in my life.  How I express it.  I realize that I am grateful for so many people and so many things, and that my life is blessed in more ways than I can count.  Though it is often easy to focus on the things I am trying to fix or the relationships I would like to improve, I think Thanksgiving is a perfect time to sit back and simply reflect on what feels good and brings me joy and peace.

By now you are well acquainted with Beckett, my Wonder Schnoodle, so no shock that he rises to the very top of my gratitude list this year (as he will, I imagine, every year from this point on).  But I realized, as I watched him eat his way through his latest chew toy last night, that everything I have learned from him has made my gratitude list this year.  Some of the lessons he has taught me are simple, and some are so complex that I have a hard time wrapping my head around them or putting them into words.  But either way, his presence in my life is a daily reminder of just how wonderful the unexpected can be, and of how blessings can occasionally appear in the most unlikely places - even in a rescue shelter.

So, here is this year's gratitude list with a unique twist.  I like to call it "Everything I am thankful for I learned from my Schnoodle":

1.  Life should be all about fun!  What's wrong with that?  Why should I have to schedule it or time it or ration it?  Why can't I just have it?  After all, FUN is everywhere!  In a stray sock, a new bone, a fluttering leaf, a loud squeaky toy.  All I have to do is walk a few feet and fun will be waiting in some form or other.  How easy and awesome is that?

2. I eat when I'm hungry.  I stop when I'm satisfied.  I see nothing wrong with eating a treat when I have done something well (or two treats when I have done something really well!).  I don't criticize my mom for rewarding me with food - I just do more of what she wants so I can have ... more rewards. (Don't have to be a math major to figure this one out, people.)  Food keeps me alive so I can have ... yup, you guessed it ... more fun.  (See #1 above for more details on this).

3. Breathing is important.  And not that hurried, shallow nonsense that most humans do because they're always so busy talking and yelling and worrying and rushing.  When I breathe, I breathe from my belly, deep, full breaths that fill my lungs and then slowly leave.  It's why I can run and chew and bark and jump for hours upon hours while my poor mom alternates between hyperventilating and barely breathing as she hurries through life looking at that time-telling thing on her wrist.  She looks at that a lot.

4. When I don't feel well, I nap.  When I am tired, I nap.  When I feel like napping, I nap.  Sleep restores me.  I need it.  So I take as much as I can, whenever and wherever I can.  It repairs my muscles and replenishes my energy and makes me a much happier, much more pleasant Schnoodle to be around.  If I loaded my plush bed up with lap tops and remote controls and books like my mom stacks on her bed, I'm pretty sure I'd suffer from chronic insomnia.  And while I'm at it, if the television is on, my brain is on, too.  Sleep.  It's what the body is supposed to do.

5. I love people!  Sometimes I bark at them, sometimes I lunge at them, sometimes I size them up, sometimes I circle them.  Depends on the person.  Depends on how the person treats me.  But I always give people the benefit of the doubt, since I am usually pretty sure they show up because they are interested in getting to know me better.  And most people are kind.  The mean ones eventually go away, and if they don't, well, then I can growl and hide.  But why growl and hide before I know why they're there?  Maybe they just want to play fetch and give me a cookie.  Why would I bark away THAT opportunity?!

6. I don't speak English, so people need to show me they love me.

7. I appreciate people who are willing to sit on the floor so I can look into their eyes and who don't make me struggle and jump to reach their level.

8. Home is where I live and family is who I love and who loves me.  Even though my mom doesn't look like me, she chose me.

9. It's not good going through life following people.  It's good to be a leader, ahead of the crowd. Bold. Confident.  Even loud, when the situation calls for it.  My mom is a bit of a follower at times.  She once told me that "Neutering is just what good puppy parents do, Beckett."  What good parents?  I want to meet these so called "good parents"!  Followers, the whole lot of them.  And look how that ended up for me!

10. Money can't buy everything.  Sure, it bought me lots of medical care and toys and food and daycare, but  sometimes cuddling with my person is the most priceless part of my day.  (Sometimes.  Because I did just get a cool new bone, and it's perfectly ok to love that, too!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Til next time,
~ Hasky and Beckett

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

This week I saw a news article on about EDNOS.  Most likely unfamiliar to the general populations, EDNOS, or Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, is what I like to think of as Anorexia Nervosa's cousin. Or perhaps Bulimia's unpopular step-sister.  But EDNOS is actually an eating disorder all its own, and in fact has a higher death rate (at 5.2%) than anorexia and bulimia combined.  Shocking, when you realize that, despite how familiar we all are with self-starvation and the binge-purge disease, so few of us have heard of this hybrid condition.  Consequently, while millions suffer, we fail to respond to what we are not seeing.  Or not understanding.  Or both.

After decades of living with an anorexia/bulimia combo of my own, I feel incredibly sad to think that so many are suffering without the qualified, professional help I was blessed enough to find before my own body completely shut down. Wheras the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) clearly defines and distinguishes between anorexia and bulimia, EDNOS tends to fall into a broad, yet nonspecific category just outside the "eating disorder" umbrella and into a vague sort of "disordered eating" category all its own.  The problems with this are too numerous to count, but one of the most critical that comes to mind is, of course, the cost of healthcare to treat individuals with EDNOS, given that even patients whose anorexia and bulimia diagnoses who meet all the DSM IV criteria must fight for even partial coverage.  Individuals who suffer from EDNOS often maintain above average body weight and appear fully functional, such that their actual medical conditions are labelled as character flaws and the solutions to their very deep and pervasive problems are generally summed up in a one-size-fits-all "eat right and exercise" recommendation by doctors, friends, family, media, society.

So what does this have to do with Lighten Up?  Well, the obvious physical message is pretty clear, I think - in our weight-obsessed, thin-obsessed world, we are more willing to look the other way while people starve and over-exercise themselves to death. And diets have become so ubiquitous that children as young as five are afraid of "getting fat" and regularly refuse to eat "bad" foods.  Yet despite all that, obesity in America is at an all-time high and the financial and emotional cost of obesity related illness continues incapacitate sufferers in ways we still aren't acknowledging on a larger level.  There is a lightening up that needs to happen if we are ever to get to the root causes of what is really going on and begin to treat the myriad people who are needlessly suffering with an actual illness and not a series of poor lifestyle choices or laziness or what is generically referred to as "stress eating."  We need to loosen the boundaries on how we define eating disorders and appeal to health insurance companies to recognize the very real and long-lasting damage that these illnesses cause.  We need to contact our legislators and insist that they pass bills like Senate Bill 481 and H.R. Bill 2677, 2007.  And most of all, we need to lighten up on each other.  And on ourselves.  We need to embrace health, enjoy food, and value our bodies for all they can do, not punish them for all they can not.

What is one thing you can do today to help yourself and your community embrace healthy body image, healthy bodies, healthy lives?  Go do it.

Til next time,
~ Hasky

Monday, November 12, 2012

Beckett - Year One.

My first glimpse of Beckett on

A year ago today, I did one of the craziest, most anxiety-provoking, most uncharacteristically spontaneous things I’ve ever done -- perhaps that is why it has turned out to be the most rewarding. I adopted my beautiful, brilliant Beckett.  Known to some as “the Wonder Schnoodle” and to some as “The Beckett Man,” this little guy landed in my life and filled it with a level of need I never thought myself capable of meeting, and filled me with a range of emotions I never thought myself capable of feeling.  He was a seven-pound runt with chronic giardia, severe anxiety, and a shoe addiction that would put Amelda Marcos to shame (mainly because Beckett’s addiction revolved around EATING the shoes, rather than just collecting them). And yet, I loved him from the moment I first saw him on  Then, of course, once I met and held and talked to him, I was hooked.  He was mine.  And nothing  - absolutely nothing – makes me happier than the knowledge that he still is.  What’s more, I am his, it seems, and that is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

This was the day "neuter" became a 4-letter word. 
While this year’s Beckett journey has been bumpy at times and filled with potholes and detours and roadblocks at others, I can’t imagine my life without him at its center.  And I wouldn’t ever want to.  Yes, I thought I was going to lighten up with Beckett, that we were going to share a life of running through fields and chilling in front of the fireplace and basically create our own Norman Rockwell life without a single stressful moment or health crisis or potty training “accident” (because, after all, I had read all the books, so what could go wrong?). But Beckett quickly became my teacher as well as my closest companion, always reminding me that there are simply some things that I cannot control … and that losing control is not the end of the world.  It’s just a mess on the floor.  Or one more antibiotic.  Or a lost shoe or two.  
Despite my best efforts, Giardia won this round too.
So in the end, I have lightened up - so subtly and slowly (and often with such resistance) that it has taken all this time for me to be able to look back at myself  a year ago today and admit that yes, I am a lighter, happier, more peaceful, more content version of the tightly wound, isolated, singularly focused control freak I used to be.   
So thank you, to my beautiful little boy, for having faith in me when I had none in myself, for sitting on my lap while I cried over my perceived puppy parenting failures, and for jumping at my feet when I celebrated the small victories we have shared together.  I have no idea where we will be a year from now, but I know one thing for sure:  We will be together, moving forward, open to whatever awaits us on this path we share.  I’m your person, after all, and you are the little guy who made opening my heart so worth it. 

Until next time,
~ Hasky

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And speaking of healthy diets -- don't forget your pets!

Yesterday's post about Chinese food therapy has me thinking about Beckett's diet, too. After some research, I am considering the alternative dog food recipe below. Even though I buy him the healthiest "bagged food" I can find, I still don't like that I either have to choose minimal ingredients (and therefore minimal nutrients) or lots of nutrients with the added ingredients I don't want him ingesting.  And, bonus:  he likes every ingredient in this!

Bella's Alternative Dog Food

YIELD: 20 Servings   PREP: 10 mins COOK: 60 mins READY IN: 1 hr 10 mins
6 Cups Water
3 Cups Brown rice
4 Stalks Celery Chopped
3 Large carrots Chopped
1/4 Cup Olive oil
1 Pack Chicken gizzards Find these in the deli
1 Pack Chicken hearts Find these in the deli
2 Bone marrow bones Find these in the deli
In a large pot, bring water to boil.
Add rice and turn down to simmer. Cook for 35 minutes.
Add gizzards, hearts, celery, and carrots into pot. Add a cup of water. Cover and cook for an additional 25 minutes, or until carrots are soft.

I can't imagine handing anything chicken-adjacent, but I also don't think it's healthy to inflict my vegetarianism on my puppy, who needs the protein. Even so, I would LOVE a chicken gizzard/heart alternative (for oh so many reasons!) that would be just as healthy for him, so please share away.

Bon appetit - to you and your canines!

~ Hasky