Jack-o-lantern Pie and Other Experiments

pumpkin-201956_150When my kids were still kids, we’d carve a jack-0- lantern on Halloween, saving the cut outs of eyes, nose and mouth for the pie.

The pungent scent of raw pumpkin innards still conjures up memories of fairy costumes, scary face paint and getting candy ready for that first knock at the door.

With a little patience, you can separate the slippery seeds from the stringy stuff, and roast the seeds in the oven with olive oil and salt until they start to turn brown. They’re not bad and they’re full of fiber!  If you roast thin layers of the stringy stuff too, it caramelizes into a semi sweet, crispy treat.  The stem is generally compost, though there might be something you could make out of it. Nothing is wasted!

I’d usually cut up the rest of Old Jack after the Trick-0r-Treating was over, and keep the pieces in the frig til the weekend, unless I was really tired, then I’d put Jack in the frig whole to save for later.

At first, I followed a recipe from a tattered old cookbook that said to cut up the pumpkin, remove the skin, and boil the pieces until soft.  Next you drain the water off, and mash the pumpkin, like making mashed potatoes. But the filling was  still pretty soupy, especially after we added the milk and/or eggs. So I’d add less liquid, but it was still soupy. Once I added oatmeal as a thickener. It was, um……interesting.

After a couple years I tried a tip I heard from a wise old lady who said they used to just put the whole pumpkin in the oven and bake it, then cut it up, mash it and add the other ingredients. That worked okay. The filling was not so soupy, but it took a long time to cook the whole pumpkin.

This year, I think I’ll cut up the pumpkin and roast the pieces in the oven. Roasted pumpkin, brushed with olive oil or butter, sprinkled with a little brown sugar and cinnamon might be good even without the pie crust. But I’m still making a pie.

Who needs a recipe anyway.




Coping with Pain

sunset w bird soft

Pain just spilled out of  Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post and  got me thinking about my frustration with prescription pain meds. I know some people legitimately need Rx pain medication at times, but after 27 + years as a substance abuse counselor, I’ve watched addiction to pain pills torment more people than addiction to any other drug, except maybe alcohol.

Add to that my experience of every time I’ve had  minor surgery or an injury, I’ve been given way more Rx pain medication than I needed. The last time, I didn’t even bother to get the prescription filled and did fine with ibuprofen.

Now, before you start thinking I have a high pain tolerance, think again. I wanted to birth my babies naturally, with no pain medications, but after twelve hours of labor with my firstborn, I was asking for a second shot of stadol. They said, no, it was too close to delivery. I moaned in acceptance, but would have gladly taken a second shot, even though I hate needles. With my second delivery, I made a feeble attempt to forgo pain meds, and caved again.

My second born, now an adult, also has no special tolerance for pain, but only used one third of the pain meds prescribed after her oral surgery. I waited for months to take the leftover 20 pills to the bi-annual Rx drop off.

So why are all these extra pain meds being prescribed, and why are the extras so hard to get rid of?  Why are we so quick to want to take a pill, rather than try alternatives? Part of the problem is that alternative therapies, like acupuncture and massage, are rarely covered by insurance.

If you’re prescribed pain medication, take it as prescribed, for you, and ask your doctor if you have questions. For example:

  •  Can I take less than what it says on the bottle?”
  • What else might help besides the pills?
  •  Can I try a heating pad, or ice pack?”
  • What alternative therapy can we try, like physical therapy or massage?
  •  Do you know people who’ve handled this with over the counter medicine?
  • I have a family history of addiction, is there something else we can try?

If a person takes opiate (sometimes  called narcotic) pain medications long enough, tolerance develops and the medication doesn’t work as well. Withdrawal happens when the body stops making natural endorphins because the pain meds tell the body it doesn’t need to make the endorphins. The receptors are full. And that’s just the physical explanation.

Addiction is sneaky.

I’ve seen it in action.

Most people have no idea how much work it takes to fight it.

Here are some things that have helped me and others cope with pain, both physical and emotional:

1. What’s the message?  What is your pain trying to tell you? Go to the doctor? Get some rest? Stop eating junk? Pain exists to let us know something needs our attention.  About thirteen years ago, the post-divorce relationship I was in was stressful (to put it mildly).  This showed up with increased heartburn, abdominal pain, and mysterious female ailments. My body was trying to tell me to ditch the person who was making me sick.

2. Prayer: Ask God to  show you the reason for your pain and to help ease it. For me, the answer doesn’t always come right away, but it comes in one way or another.

3. Positive Distraction: It’s probably not going to make the pain go away completely, but it will decrease your focus on it. Be aware of  things that don’t hurt. Watch funny movies, do puzzles, listen to music, or color in a coloring book. Focus on something other than the pain. My dad seems to feel better when he’s telling a story about his youth.

4. Meditation and/or Guided Imagery. This is not a substitute for medical care, and generally takes practice. I’ve had clients come to my group with a headache and tell me it was gone after practicing relaxation skills with guided imagery. It tends to work better for stress induced symptoms if we catch them early. I usually start with mindful breathing, focusing my awareness on the breath, without judgement.

For example, see:  Jon  Kabat-Zinn:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5Fa50oj45s        

Then, I move into muscle relaxation by imagining a soft wave of healing light starting at my head and moving slowly down my body, releasing tension with each breath. I imagine the breath softening the tension (or pain) to help it dissolve, allowing it to become easier to release. I repeat this wave as many times as feels right. Sometimes I imagine breathing in healing energy or God’s love and letting it flow throughout my body with the exhale.

Belleruth Naparstek is one of my favorites when it comes to guided imagery. Here’s one of her exercises for stress management :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhTSaNwnip8

Thanks for reading this longer than usual post. I hope it helps somebody. Do you have other ways of coping with pain?

It’s Never Too Late

JoAnne Silvia:

It’s possible to make time for what you are called to do, to make time for what you love.

Originally posted on Loving Me, Too:

“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”  George Eliot

Delivering the Baby

Angels on Scrap Wood, by JoAnne Silvia 10/23/14

If my husband had not needed our laptop, I might not have painted Thursday, though I would have painted eventually.

For years, I’ve been saying I want to get back to art.  I’m supposed to be painting angels, says the voice in my head over and over.

I was good at art in high school, but it seemed like an impractical career, so I aimed for biology to save the planet. But the math scared me, and I ended up with  a degree in psychology to help a few people (and myself) while working as a counselor for almost 30 years.

After my first marriage ended, I painted therapeutically for a year or so, but not much since then, because of the excuses:

“I don’t have time.”  “I…

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Pain, Gratitude, and Faith


Here’s my Stream of Consciousness Saturday Post on the prompt: degree/degrees.

The first thing that popped up for me was the degree of pain my Dad and a girl named Lily have been feeling recently. Dad has been having a lot of pain in his back near his ribs. When I asked him how much pain he’s been having on a 1 to 10 scale, he said it ranges from 5 to 8. He’s had this pain for at least two weeks, and after his third visit to the ER Thursday, he finally got some muscle relaxers to go with the other pain meds, and he got some good bedside manner from a lady doctor who explained things, like there’s a lot of calcium around his spine. Sometimes it helps to have a little more information. The thing is, my Dad was a marine for 20 years, and he has a lot of leg pain from war wounds in Korea. He’s had a lot of experience with high level pain, and he doesn’t complain too much, and he’s not normally on addictive pain meds. So I know he was really hurting. Thankfully, the muscle relaxers seem to be helping. He had lots of tests, X-rays, blood work, and scans, and they couldn’t find anything wrong except a lot of calcium around his spine.

The other person is Lily, part of our family who lives far from me. She’s a lively girl approaching adolescence who woke up in the middle of the night yelling with intense head pain. She was taken to the ER and lots of test were run, but, like with Dad, they couldn’t find anything wrong on the tests. But Lily was still having an intense degree of head pain. She’s getting better now, but she’s still very weak after a few days and still vomiting. They think it’s an infection or she had a seizure, but still don’t really know.

Pain can be mysterious and frustrating. The examples above quiet my complaints today about a relatively low degree of back pain. Like at a 2 maybe, at most. Part of being almost 59 and not enough exercise, I guess. I’m thankful it’s something I can do something about and that there are exercises, both physical and mental, that can help in addition to the good ol’ Bengay-type rubs and OTC meds.

I’m thankful that Dad and Lily’s pain is easing, and that I can pray for them. I’m thankful to have a degree of faith that is growing every day. There will be pain. Pain lets us know there is something wrong that needs our attention.

There will also be joy. I hope I always have a high degree of gratitude.

Dang, I’m having a hard time not editing this thing.  It’s a mess.

Gratitude, JoAnne, gratitude.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday is inspired by Linda, at http://lindaghill.com/2014/10/24/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-october-2514/

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!

It’s Okay to Marry Your Soul Mate.

1972 b&w kiss

Warnings not to marry your soul mate are trying to grab our attention lately.


I let it go at first, but then said, “Wait a minute. It’s okay to marry your soul mate.” There are plenty of people who marry their soul mates and end up with long lasting, romantic relationships. It’s quite possible to be happily married to your soul mate, especially with some groundwork:

1. Look before you Leap. Unless you’ve known each other for a really long time, take the time to investigate your potential mate. When David and I started dating again, (thirty-nine years later) I told him a friend of mine was doing a background check on him. It was a promise I’d made to myself. He said he wanted to help me keep that promise and immediately offered to give me his social security number and anything else I needed. It takes time to find out what someone’s really like. It’s okay to follow your heart, but take your brain with you.

2. Develop and practice good communication skills. We have two ears and one mouth suggesting we should listen twice as much as we talk. Listen with objectivity, ask open questions, be assertive (not aggressive), and look for win-win solutions whenever possible.

3. Don’t expect perfection. A friend’s mother told her to “find a set of faults you can live with,” so she never got married. I can understand that. It’s okay not to get married. But if you do want to marry someone, know your deal breakers. Discuss your deal breakers.  Do your best to make sure you each talk about the things you want to work on.

4. Respect and support each other as individuals. I’ve never liked that expression about your “better half.” I’m not a half of a person, and neither is my husband.  We like sharing our hopes and dreams with each other, whether they’re dreams we have in common or as individuals. David is not that interested in creative arts or singing, and I’m not that interested in aqua-ponics or airplanes, but we support and encourage each other’s goals.

If you know my “About Me” story,  you might be thinking: she’s practically a newlywed. So, how does she know?

I know because I’ve seen true soul mate love last for other couples.  I know because I learned a few things after being married 20 years the first time, not to mention 20 something years as a counselor. I know, because of how my soul mate came back to me when the time was perfect.

The idea is that we  can have lots of “soul mates” who teach us what we need to learn seems to water down the meaning of the term. Those other people were teachers and guides. To me the term soul mate means more than that. Maybe we can have more than one, but not a whole slew of them.

What do you think?

The Last Mile

The Last Mile

JoAnne Silvia:

“Sometimes that last mile seems impossible, but it is during that last mile where you have to push the hardest.”

Originally posted on Me - Who am I?:

A few years ago, I climbed a nearby mountain with an elevation of over 14k feet. It was a challenge, but a very enjoyable one. The day started out at 3:30 in the morning, with the climb beginning at 6am. I was excited, ready, and full of energy.

The beginning of the climb was not what I had expected. It was very steep, with loose rocks that made the climb rather difficult. The shoes I chose to wear didn’t help matters, as they were typical running shoes, instead of hiking boots.

I pulled myself along, grabbing onto anything within arms reach, and finally made it through that first rough patch.

After that, although it was still a steady incline, the trail evened out and became easier. The view was stunning, and became even more beautiful as the elevation grew higher. It’s amazing to look out and be able to see…

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Hunger: Seeking to Fill the Void

JoAnne Silvia:

I didn’t want to believe that I was using food to cope with my feelings. But the moodiness, when I stopped eating compulsively, made it obvious. Thankfully, we can learn other ways to cope.

Originally posted on Loving Me, Too:

Pie with lattice crust

With the start cooler weather, and holidays on the horizon, I’ve caught myself getting excited about pie. Warm home made pie filled with healthy fruit or pumpkin with lots of cinnamon. But I have to be careful. Eating more than is good for me has been an issue off and on since adolescence. In the early 90’s I lost over 70 pounds with diet and exercise and a spiritual program. You know, the kind with steps. It worked like nothing else ever had. I guess I was ready. The first couple months I followed my food plan I was moody, almost depressed, confirming that I really had been using food to deal with my feelings. I think it was the spirituality that helped fill the void. A power greater than myself helped me meet my goal to eat only nutrient dense foods (no empty calories like soda, candy and alcohol.)

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