Like I was “eating” in Memphis…

After a brief hiatus, I returned to the Foodie Pen Pal fold for another month of care packages in flat rate boxes to people in various corners of the country. The program was created about a year ago by a soon to be Registered Dietician, Lindsay. Instead of sending letters to your randomly selected pen pal, you send a package of treats created by you within a budget of $15. Along with your package you include something handwritten that lets them know a little about you and/or why you chose what you did for them. In return, you also receive a package from a totally different foodie pen pal filled with treats and notes. Each month the cycle begins again with new pairings, so you have the opportunity to share and get to know people from all corners of the US and Canada.

I love her penmanship…and how cute is her business card/bookmark combo??

This month I was paired with the Sweetie Petitti a.k.a. Susie P. Tilton – blogger, baker, crafter and cook. On top of the heaps of creations, culinary and cloth, featured on her blogs are her famous sugar cookies. The note she included in my care package expressed her regret at not being able to send a batch to me due to the INSANE heat we have been experiencing. They would have been destroyed in transit. When we were paired, I sent her an email expressing how I had missed food. The heat and activities of daily life had rendered my sustenance to watermelon, gallons of water and yogurts. I craved savory and sweet, hearty and homey. What arrived was like a mother’s love wrapped in red tissue paper sent from Tennessee.

She works for William Sonoma, which is like a chef/baker’s Mecca.

Inside was included a Granola Cookie Bar Mix, which I could bake into bars or use in other recipes – say muffins, pancakes or a crumble. The pot holder was an unexpected perk. I recently tore my kitchen apart in an epic cleanse and was in need of a good pot holder. Thank you Susie for protecting my hands from the tiny burns I normally get using a ratty ass kitchen towel. The jelly beans and dark chocolate were a sweet afterthought, pocket sized and perfect for a random late night craving for sugar. It happens. Sometimes watermelon just doesn’t cut it.

‘Chopped’ mystery basket ingredients of your dreams…

The most special part of the package came in the form of the above two ingredients. The Rendezvous is one of Memphis, TN most famous BBQ spots, as Susie wrote in her note to me. Their famous seasoning can be “rubbed” on meat, seafood and veggies bringing a taste of Memphis to any table. She mentioned how good their grilled shrimp rubbed in this stuff were, which inspired me to cook in spite of the recent 100 degree temps. Heat wave be damned. I’m turning on my oven. The other ingredient is organic brown rice from a family friend’s farm. Grilled shrimp pilaf ala Memphis anyone?

Thank you for the love you put in this package, my Sweetie Petitti. Perfect timing.

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Mantra Mcconaughey style

A mantra  is a sound, syllable, word or phrase that is considered capable of spiritual transformation when focused on. Although its origins are from the Hindu faith, Westerners have adopted the mantra as part of their non-secular meditative practices.

Speaking with a friend last night about many an agitating topic, she enlightened me as to what she does to bring peace to her mind and even a smile in the most stressful of moments. She channels actor Matthew Mcconaughey’s voice saying, “Alright, alright” in his laid back Texan drawl and immediately steps into a happier, calmer state. The words themselves are the abbreviated version of a much drawn out “Alriiiiiiiiiight” repeated 3 times by Mcconaughey in the iconic movie “Dazed and Confused” (1993). When she first told me, I didn’t take her seriously. Determined to prove to me how this man’s catch phrase had become her mantra, she demonstrated it. We even did it together. After a few times, I was both laughing and completely relaxed about what I had been previously angry about.

Much later at home, I thought about the words, “Alright, alright” and the soothing quality of his voice and it made sense. Imagine yourself in a whirlwind and then someone, Matthew, comes through the chaos and simply says it’s alright. It kind of lulls you when you repeat it a few times in your mind. Or for those unfamiliar, a video below featuring the origins of this mantra:

The profession of FIXING

The therapeutic relationship between client and therapist can get tricky when there is transference. This is a psychological phenomenon where an unconscious redirection of feelings occurs between people. These feelings are usually rooted in a relationship pattern from childhood yet unresolved. Some level of transference is normal and quite common. For instance, a client might pick a therapist who reminds them of their mother, transferring that role of nurturer onto them. However, when transference gets in the way of the therapeutic work it can put professional ethics and boundaries into question.

Today was the first time I let transference affect my work. I ended up resenting a client over something that had absolutely nothing to do with me. Here is what happened.

My client had literally no range of motion in his neck. He could neither actively nor passively turn or flex his neck any way but straight forward. I had never encountered this level of rigidity before, but I was inspired by the challenge. During our intake, he told me he had a stiff neck more years than I had been alive. With a slight sarcasm he said, “Let’s see what you can do.” In that moment, my client became my father, a man I had attempted to please my entire life to no avail. The emotions surrounding being constantly not good enough followed with that transference. His statement became a dare to see if I could FIX him. An affront to my skills set and experience. A sign that I was being set up for dismissal. Of course, I accepted the challenge determined to prove him wrong.

See daddy, I know something; lots of somethings.

I dug into my tool box of techniques and, while manually supporting the weight of his head with one hand, I used the strength of my fingers and fist to try and “melt” the cement strips that were his neck muscles. I worked methodically and repetitively on every muscle I could access in the posterior and anterior neck. With each little glimmer of movement, I became hopeful that his range would improve. By the time the massage ended though, I had only been able to get limited improvement. I didn’t FIX his problem. FAIL.

The thing is, the dare he posed to me was probably based on a presumption that the massage was not going to do anything for him. He arrived closed off to the work and with an unwillingness for change. When one is not open to change, nothing changes. Case in point, his stiff neck stayed as rigid as ever. As I gave him advice on aftercare, he kind of grunted and waved his hand in the air at me. It’s unfortunate that he disregarded my expertise, but I didn’t have to take it so personally.

The resentment bubbled up as the rest of the day progressed and like a good little masochist, I started to feel guilty about my transference. My more experienced colleague reminded me that our job as massage therapists is not to FIX people, despite our innermost desire at times to see an outcome immediate; a change enacted from our work in the flesh, so that we can feel a sense of accomplishment. I have that glitch within my matrix. I love it when a client says to me, “Oh my god, I feel like I have a new body” and other things to that affect after coming to me in some state of restriction/imbalance/rickety-ness. I should have derived my sense of accomplishment from the sheer fact that I gave him the best care possible despite his limitations. I’m taking today as a humbling reminder that I am not in the profession of FIXING. All I can do is invite them into a therapeutic environment, where they can feel safe to let go. Beyond that, I can only FIX myself.

Scrubs beyond skin deep

One of the most common body treatments offered at spas is the body scrub. It consists of a head to toe exfoliation followed by a shower and moisturizer application. Outside of the spa setting, body scrubs are available EVERYWHERE. Just walk down the bath-and-beauty isle of any drugstore and you will see numerous brands of scrubs for the body and face (remember St. Ives Apricot Scrub…available since forever). Specialty shops like The Body Shop or Bath and Body Works also carry them in a variety of flavors and consistencies. With all this choice, how does one pick the right scrub and how can you tell the difference between them all?

Universally speaking, body scrubs will improve circulation by way of the tiny capillary networks that feed the skin. The friction of rubbing the scrub into the surface of the skin causes these networks to flood the surrounding tissues, making you turn a little red. The boost of “nutrition” helps the fresh skin cells in the deepest layer of skin known as the dermis to migrate to the surface. The lifetime of a skin cell is 30 days. Once it migrates to the surface it officially “dies” and becomes saturated with keratin, a protein whose fibers coil and bind to form a protective layer over the skin to keep the outside elements from damaging it. Keratin does the same thing for hair and nails. Age and hormones (for women) will change how the cells turnover, making skin uneven and rough.  The scrub itself is exfoliating away the surface layer of dead cells, helping along the natural order of things. In addition, it can unclog pores, helping skin to breathe as well as keep the naturally acidic pH in check, so you will smell fresh.

Now that the science behind exfoliation has been explained, let’s take into account what is going on with your skin. Are you prone to oiliness? Do you shed like a lizard? Do you have sensitive, reactive skin prone to breakouts? Do you want to prevent ingrown hairs and bumps? These are all important factors in choosing a scrub. Here is how I would break down your decision.

SUGAR OR SALT

Most scrubs on the market are either sugar or sea-salt based. Sugar based scrubs are more moisturizing than salt based because sugar molecules bind to water, thus retaining moisture in whatever state they are present in. The sugar exfoliates and holds moisture, so that skin will feel hydrated post scrub. This molecular action enhances the job of the moisturizer, helping to keep the skin properly hydrated. If your skin is the type that flakes off when the seasons change or has a tendency to remain dry no matter what the weather, sugar based it the route to go. Sugar is also best with skin that is highly sensitive, as it is not as abrasive in texture as salt.

Salt based scrubs, aside from being the most aggressive texture for exfoliating, draw everything out of the skin, including water. These types of scrubs can effectively address rough patches and clogged pores because the properties in sea salt ionically bond to positively charged impurities that would be found on the surface of the skin and lodged in pores. Reference my post on DETOX treatments  for a more in depth chemistry lesson. Often, the salt based scrubs will have eucalyptus essential oil added to them, which acts as an antiseptic and antimicrobial agent on the skin. Salt based scrubs are potent; therefore skin absolutely needs to be moisturized well post treatment in order to ensure hydration.

Addendum: Other scrub bases can consist of fruit seeds, ground nut shells and oatmeal (St. Ives anyone). People with allergies, especially nut based ones should be wary of the seed and nut shell varieties, dependent on their level of reactivity. The oatmeal based scrubs are super gentle and not very abrasive at all. They are often used to relieve the itch and discomfort of chicken pox, mosquito bites, hives, sunburn and for a gentle exfoliation of the face.

SCENTS and FLAVORS

Marketing, marketing and more marketing. Flavors and scents of various scrubs on the market are designed with the buyers’ eyes and noses in mind. However, certain essential oils, as the aforementioned eucalyptus oil described above, can have therapeutic affects on the exterior and interior of one’s body. Scrubs with lavender, vanilla or chamomile essential oils are soothing to the skin, helping to neutralize redness, prevent bacterial growth and tone down the itch and irritation of such conditions as dermatitis, eczema and acne. Also great for congested skin are lemon and orange scented scrubs, as the essential oils of both help the lymphatic system do its job of clearing out toxins. They also control excess oil production and aid mature skin to retain moisture. Lastly, mint oils like spearmint and peppermint have similar therapeutic qualities as the eucalyptus oil. They boost circulation to the skin through the menthol component that cools on contact and then vasodilates those little capillary networks. Best of all, they stimulate the nervous system, which can leave you feeling completely invigorated.

With the above in mind, you can now expertly peruse your spa menu and/or drugstore beauty aisle armed with the therapeutic knowledge of a beauty practice that is beyond skin deep. You can also make your own scrub, using the information above to tailor it for your specific need. Some recipes for homemade scrubs can be found here:

http://www.fromnaturewithlove.com/recipe/recipes.asp?category=16

http://wellnessmama.com/3628/luxurious-sugar-scrub-recipe-easy/

Here are some of my favorite Over-The-Counter Scrubs:

Ignore the marketing label. This scrub smells amazing and has been a godsend in the heat and humidity of Summer thus far. I don’t use a moisturizer after because the sugar and oils in its recipes do the work effectively.
Another one that is super hydrating, even though it is salt based. It has an extremely clean after-feel on the skin and the scent is not overwhelming, just fresh.

and lastly,

Forget the product description. This scrub is saturated with essential oil of eucalyptus and super effective at removing heaps of dead skin, especially near the bikini area. Goodbye ingrowns.

SOURCES:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exfoliation_%28cosmetology%29

Worwood, “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Over 600 Natural, Non-Toxic and Fragrant Recipes to Create Health – Beauty – a Safe Home Environment” (1991)