Healthy Holidays — Slow Down

stock image by sakhorn38 from
stock image by sakhorn38 from

I’m writing this and I don’t even fully know how to tell you to do it because, the very deepest truth is, I’m learning how to do this myself. I like movement. I like commotion. I like getting caught up in the shuffle. It’s exciting and invigorating. Even as frustrating as it can be, it’s a little electrifying and fun. And that’s okay. We all need fun.

But it’s also distracting.

When my body and mind are too busy, (which I slip into way too easily this time of year), I miss the really GOOD stuff. Like my son’s new hand mannerisms that appeared overnight, or my husband’s introverted co-worker who often gets overlooked at company Christmas parties but is delightful to talk to once engaged.

One of my very wise teachers told me she had a serious problem slowing down when she was a girl. At one point, it was so bad that she was almost expelled from school because she couldn’t stay focused on any task that required repetition. Her father decided to help her find a way to connect to methodical tasks that required her full attention. Her family ate rice at every dinner, and he gave her the job of washing the rice. She hated it. She had to stand still, be patient, sift the rice through the water. Fill, sift, wash, dump, repeat, until the water ran clear. She couldn’t leave her task in the middle of it and go do something else. When she took shortcuts, dinner was ruined and her family got angry. Doing this simple task brought her pride when done well, and the important life skill of learning how to slow down. Later, when she went to medical school, she told us how the simple act of washing rice, submerging her hands in water, doing this methodical task, would bring her back from her frazzled, over-stimulated state of being in a matter of 10 minutes.  It carried her through her partner’s heath crisis later, and her son’s teen years. It even helped her build a thriving medical practice.

She told me this as I sifted my own rice to make a slow-cooked curry dish. And as I stood there, listening to her story, I let the water run into my bowl and I felt each grain of rice, each gentle rush of water, and found my brain slowing down. She kept talking and I kept listening (kind of) but I was lost in the simple act of doing something slowly, consciously, and enjoying it.  I was shocked how much I allowed myself to find meaningful connection in a mundane task.

So, can we all slow down just a little? Find our awareness through small, everyday acts of service to those we love. Hell, you don’t even have to do anything more than what you’re doing now, just do them differently.  Do them with intention.  Do them with loving connectedness.

Here are a handful of places to start:

Watch your children. And I mean WATCH them. See how they move, find joy in their play.

Touch your partner with intention. A hand on the back, or a thumb swiped gently across a wrist.

Write a note to your parents. Express gratitude for something positive they did that shaped you. And if you don’t have those kinds of parents, send one to someone who helped bridge that gap. A phone call would work, too.

Wash dishes. Yep, washing dishes engages both hands in concerted movement, which means both sides of your brain are working together. This is excellent for your mental acuity and you have the added bonus of a clean kitchen when you’re finished.

Make slow food. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. In fact, simple is better. But there is something so satisfying about crafting a tasty meal from just a few ingredients and SITTING DOWN to eat it. Yep, that’s part of the deal. Sit down to eat.

So, in the spirit of slowing down, here is my favorite slow-food recipe, Korean Barbeque Beef. I’m sure it’s a far cry from authentic Korean food, but it’s rich, warm, satisfying, and makes excellent leftovers. It also goes well with rice. :)

2-3 lbs grass-fed chuck roast
1 onion, thinly sliced
5-7 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
I cup Braggs Amino Acids
1/4 cup rice vinegar (I use organic and unsweetened, but you might be able to use 1/8 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar instead.)
1/4 cup organic black strap molasses
3 Tbsp Siracha or other hot sauce
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
20-30 drops liquid stevia, or three Tbsp raw honey
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes for extra heat

1) In a medium bowl, whisk everything together except for the onion and chuck roast.
2) Grease your crockpot using some toasted sesame oil.  It adds extra flavor and makes cleaning easy.
3) Put your chuck roast in the crockpot and add the onions around the sides of the roast.
4) Pour your marinade over the roast and onions.  You can add a little water if you’d like,  1/2 cup should do it.
5) Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  I think 7 hrs is perfect, but it’s up to you!

Korean Beef

A Seat at the Table

Candlestick TableThe ideal meal. We all have an idea of what that looks like for our families. For my family the perfect meal includes wide variety, vibrant colors, and plenty of fresh ingredients. An abundance of luscious green leafies, healthy fats, a modest portion of high-quality protein, maybe another green vegetable with a side of…vegetables. You know, super healthy and Pinterest-worthy. I am in love with the idea of setting a beautiful table, eating delicious food, engaging in stimulating conversation, and creating a complete experience.

Sometimes we eat around a clean table with cloth napkins, real silverware and nice dishes. We might even light a candle if we are feeling really fancy. But this happens maybe four times a year. In a good year.

The reality is, I’m just grateful for the days I manage to get a hot meal on the table by 6:00pm. Sometimes, it looks like a crockpot meal, other times it looks like a take-out burrito bowl from that chain restaurant down the street. The table is often strewn with stray bottles, papers and half-eaten bags of my son’s favorite fruit snack. We push it to the side and sit down to enjoy whatever is in front of us. My husband and I fight the exhaustion from our individual days apart to engage in meaningful conversation together while my toddler refuses everything we offer, with the exception of the fruit snack he wants to eat exclusively.

The ideal meal and the real meal often feel worlds apart. So, I’m determined to close that gap by focusing on the things that matter. And here are four things that matter to me:

Eat at the table.

I eat in front of the TV, computer, or on my feet more often than I want to admit. I can’t tell you what I ate yesterday for lunch because I forgot to sit down and taste it. The act of pulling up a chair changes my experience of eating. I taste my food. I enjoy it. I remember to eat, and I remember what I ate.

Banish Pinterest from the table.

I really enjoy setting a beautiful table. But I enjoy the people around the table much more than the dishes we use or candles we light. A beautiful table is full of food my family likes, meaningful conversation, and making an effort to really see one another. Artful table arrangements are fun and can add a sense of warmth, creativity, and elegance. But my family and friends effortlessly bring those qualities in spades. I don’t need to fixate on creating a perfect table setting. Anyone who sits at my table is a bearer of beauty, and that is what matters.

Everyone has a voice at the table.

My husband has had a long day working for The Man, my toddler has had a long day learning how to be a tiny human in this world, I have had a long day juggling my responsibilities at home and work, which happen to be under the same roof. We all have needs. All of us want to be heard. In our joy, laughter, exuberance, heartache, and doubts. We all have a voice at this table, even when the voice is rusty or thin, because what we share with each other is important and leaves the door open for bigger, deeper conversations. Conversation doesn’t have to sparkle, it just has to hit home. We can speak about our whole experience, not just the nice stuff, and I want to hear it all.

Everyone has a seat at the table.

Age, race, gender, physical or mental limitations, differing political or religious views, past experiences, current socio-economic challenges… All are welcome. All have a seat this table. No qualifiers, no apologies, just a desire to nourish and be nourished here. There is Love at this table and everyone deserves to feast and drink deeply in a place where there is safety and abundance to share. It might be served on a paper plate, and it might come from a white carton with chopsticks and packets of soy sauce on the side, but it’s yours if you want it. If you will have us, we will gladly have you. 

You, dear friend, are always welcome at our table.