Sunday, April 23, 2017

Five Senses of Anxiety

Anxiety tastes of
chamomile tea with a hint of inadequacy
salty tears and a churned up stomach
lined with indigestion
from every herbal remedy on earth

Anxiety smells of
molding echinacea tea
forgotten on the bedside table
topped with insomnia and fear

Anxiety sounds of
beating, pounding, whirring
machines, trains, and dogs
mixed with the tinnitus
the never-ending internal
beating, pounding, whirring
heart, mind, eyes, ears, throat

Anxiety feels
electric with indecision
biting lips and grinding teeth
every minute movement
simultaneously feeling
too much and yet not enough
stuck on fire

Anxiety looks through
blurred vision torn
by chemical imbalance
fighting, fleeing, freezing
constantly, always alert
surviving barely
blinded, paralyzed

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

American Humanist Association

I've been writing, presenting, and meeting frequently with people interested in learning more about the philosophy of humanism, including details about the American Humanist Association, and the Humanists of Utah.

Speaking about and promoting humanist thought and philosophy is a cause near and dear to my heart, since I co-founded a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Utah in May, 2009, called SHIFT - Secular Humanism, Inquiry, and Freethought.

I've also been a Certified Humanist Minister, through The Humanist Society in Washington, D.C., since 2011. You can see my work at Secular Weddings Utah.

In a nutshell, humanists believe in the power of people to do and be good, without supernatural inspiration. To me, atheism is a description of what I don't believe, while humanism describes what I do believe. In a bit more detail -- inspired by the Humanist Manifesto III -- here's what humanists believe:

  • We have the ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring to the greater good of humanity
  • Guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience, we believe life should be lived well, and fully
  • Values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance
  • Science is the best method for determining knowledge of our world, which knowledge is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis
  • Human life is part of all nature, and is enough -- we are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known, and we welcome future challenges
  • Our values are grounded in human need and welfare, which extend to the global ecosystem and beyond
  • Every human being has inherent worth and dignity, and we are committed to treating all human beings accordingly
  • We rely on the rich heritage of human culture to provide comfort in times of want, and generosity in times of plenty
  • We find wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence and its challenges and tragedies, including the inevitability and finality of death
  • We strive for an interconnected world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively, and without violence
  • We work to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival, to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community

Please, peruse the website of the American Humanist Association in detail, to learn more about the many causes they work on, and to become involved in a local chapter if you are interested in meeting with other humanists in your area!

Monday, February 13, 2017

ACLU of Utah

The American Civil Liberties Union has been featured prominently in national news recently, for example, in this Washington Post article stating that "This weekend alone, the civil liberties group received more than $24 million in online donations from 356,306 people ... a total that supersedes its annual online donations by six times."

In case you missed it, that "one weekend" was the weekend of January 27-30, when the 45th President of the United States (hereafter referred to only as '45') attempted to implement a travel ban on refugees and immigrants from seven countries with predominantly Muslim populations, sparking airport protests and welcoming committees from Americans across the country.

In this post, however, I would like to specifically give you more information about the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. The work they do here is so instrumental -- year in and year out, they do everything they can to protect the civil liberties constantly under attack by our state's ultra-conservative legislature and government.

Since 1958, the ACLU of Utah has been championing racial equality, free speech protections, and the separation of church and state in Utah. Learn more about their history and amazing successes despite astounding odds stacked against them here.

With a paid staff of only 9, and a stalwart team of 16 volunteer Board Members, the ACLU of Utah is consistently in need of dedicated interns and volunteers in Utah -- sign up to volunteer to staff booths and tables at community events, or to check people in at fundraisers, or to be a legal or paralegal intern.

If you don't have the money to join the 356,306 who donated $24 million in one weekend (not to mention the donations that have been pouring in since the news came that 45 would be sworn in as the next president, from as early as November 2016) -- then please, give just a couple of hours of your time each week, or even just 5 hours a month on a Saturday or two or three evenings. You can make a powerful difference in your community by volunteering here, and you will meet some of the most fascinating, hard-working, devoted people in our community!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Alliance for a Better Utah

I'd like to take more time this year to write about organizations I follow, support, and admire. Many are listed here at The Perfect Time under "Links I Love," so I've decided to highlight one each week.

The Alliance for a Better Utah, which you can follow on Twitter here, or on Facebook here, "works to improve the lives of all Utahns by ensuring balance, transparency, and accountability in Utah politics, policy, and government."

Their founder, Josh Kanter, spoke with the Humanists of Utah on July 9, 2016, which inspired me to follow their work more closely. A wonderfully comprehensive timeline of the group's achievements, from the time they were a mere twinkle in their founder's eye in 2010, can be found here.

Better Utah's creation was inspired by the one-sided nature of political leadership and representation in Utah, and so they have a decidedly liberal bent to their work, since the state of Utah has a decidedly conservative one -- however they are dedicated to openness and transparency, as well as fairness and balance in representation, for all Utahns regardless of political ideology.

Also, if you sign up to receive their newsletter updates, or follow their blog, you may stumble across great content like this opportunity to "Escape the Inversion," with a chance to win a four-night trip to Blanchard, Idaho for yourself and up to three guests. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Chocolate is good for my heart, my mind, and would certainly be good for my soul if I believed I had one! This afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of savoring a single nugget of dark chocolate, which is a pleasure I've not enjoyed since the beginning of the new year. Upon reflection, this seems an unreasonable amount of time to have gone without the savoring of quality chocolate.

Since I have been slowly reintroducing food groups (such as legumes, non-gluten grains, gluten grains, dairy products, and added sugars) since completing my Whole30 Challenge, I have thoroughly enjoyed tasting edamame, peanut butter, oats, and quinoa after nearly two months without them (I spent most of December eating mostly Whole30 compliant, in preparation for my strict Whole30 during the month of January).

They truly pale in comparison, however, with those purely simple two bites of dark chocolate. It's not the sort of chocolate that could be over-consumed or abused. I didn't want the first chocolate I enjoyed post-Whole30 to be something like M&Ms, as fond as I typically am of those. This was the type of tiny morsel that one might enjoy with a quality glass of wine periodically - not something you want in your daily diet, because it's just too rich and delicious.

When I was young, my older sister and younger brother and I would love to watch our favorite VHS tapes over and over, sometimes even playing them again directly after rewinding them. One day, our father came home with a new movie that he personally loved, called 'Hook,' and he set down an immediate rule that this film, unlike others that we loved, could only be watched once every year. This way, he was sure to never get sick of it (and we were doomed to age in ever-increasing anticipation of the next time we could watch 'Hook'). I think often of this great life-lesson he gave us, that some of life's pleasures should not be daily occurrences - they lose their value.

When I treasure something now, such as a warm bath with lavender scrub, I remember that I'll enjoy it even more if it's a reward following a difficult work-out session or particularly grueling day of teaching. And now that my Whole30 Challenge is complete, I'll consider setting up a little side table with wine and chocolate!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Whole30 Reintroduction Week 1

I haven't been doing the re-introduction phase exactly the way outlined in "It Starts With Food," but I have been following their general idea of introducing one type of food at a time, and then taking a couple of days to eat strictly Whole30, as I determine how that particular group of foods react in my body.

I began with legumes, because I missed them the most! Even up to a couple of weeks into January, I still thought I would miss dairy products and added sugars the most, but as the month went on and I noticed how great I felt without them, I wanted them less and less. Hooray for that! My doctor was very pleased with this, as well as the 15 pounds total I lost that month - wow! More than I anticipated losing, for sure. She recommended waiting to reintroduce dairy products in small amounts for at least a couple more weeks, as she thinks they could be contributing to my ongoing headaches, and I am in this unique position currently where I haven't had them in my system for over a month. So I only reintroduced legumes - mmmmm! Edamame! Peanut butter with my apples and hummus with my veggies were amazing additions to my meals, as well.

Instead of having a bit of legumes with each meal for one day, then going back to the strict Whole30 for two, I included small amounts of legumes with my meals for two and a half/three days, then did the strict Whole30 for two. After the first day, I hadn't noticed anything different, so I wanted to lengthen that reintroduction phase, without going overboard on quantity. So I only included a little bit, but with each meal, and after a couple of days I felt more aware of how that addition was affecting me. Really - it only gave me a bit of gas, and doesn't that happen any time anyone eats beans? I don't really mind that, as long as I don't eat them right before an important social event! I did notice I broke out with one tiny zit near my nose (when I hadn't had any breakouts during the Whole30 at all - amazing, btw), so maybe I'll limit soy products, but not too strictly.

The next group I've reintroduced so far has been non-gluten grains (corn, oats, quinoa, rice). This one I did only reintroduce for 1 night and one day (4 meals total) because by the end of the full day, I was noticing some slightly painful indigestion. I had a can of corn split between two meals, 1/2 a can in the evening then the other half for lunch the next day. Also a bowl of steel-cut oats with ghee, raisins, and cinnamon for breakfast. So by the end of that day I felt like the gas/indigestion was different than it had been with the legumes, but it mostly seemed to be because my body was saying, "Oh, I haven't eaten these things in a while. It's going to take me a minute to process them." I do think I will keep oats, quinoa, rice, and corn in my diet, but again, like soy, maybe in smaller quantities. They didn't bother me enough to cut them out entirely, that's for sure! None of the sharp stomach pains lasted long at all, and I didn't break out either.

This afternoon I was lucky enough to have lunch with a wonderful friend who has been so supportive of my Whole30, even though she wasn't doing the program - she's one of the few people who made me breakfast (eggs & veggies & tea) one of the mornings during the month I was on it! So this was the first time I've eaten at a restaurant while trying to follow the plan, and it went really well! We went to Mimi's Cafe and I ordered the "Bacon & Blue Cheese Salad" - with no bacon or blue cheese! - which really made me laugh with the irony. It was a mixed green salad with walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes, and sliced strawberries, which didn't make me feel deprived at all without the meat (because I don't know from where they source their bacon) or dairy (because I'm not ready to reintroduce that yet). I asked for the "balsamic vinaigrette" on the side, and did allow myself to add a small drizzle of that, even though there were likely added sugars in it. So far this month, I don't think I've had anything with added sugars, but the Whole30 plan says that some added sugars will likely be in some of the things you start reintroducing, in small amounts, and that's alright. 

The next item I reintroduce will be one that the Whole30 plan says is optional - and it certainly will have some added sugar content - alcohol! I'm planning to have just one glass of red wine on Thursday evening, at an event with the Humanists of Utah, and one more on Friday evening, at an event with the Unitarians. I haven't had even a sip of alcohol this entire year so far! And really, I only had wine once or twice during December, as well. So I am looking forward to it, since I really enjoy having a bit to drink socially.

And there you have it! Overall I'm guessing I will still continue losing weight this month, because I have added 10,000 daily steps of walking & running to my daily routine, which I wasn't consistently doing while on the Whole30. I'm still keeping up the good habits of planning my meals, and taking time to prepare and eat them mindfully.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Whole30 Done!

Well, today was Day 30 of my Whole30 Challenge ... and I made it! Compliant the whole way through. I didn't have the "magic" kick in until just this past week (extra energy & less severe headaches), which felt a bit discouraging - but the food was delicious and nutritious the whole way through, so it was worth the wait! Between the third and fourth week, I noticed my wedding ring was feeling looser and sliding around on my ring finger, and then the fourth and final week was when I finally noticed the most changes in how my clothes are fitting, and in the girth of my legs! They seem so much thinner.

I am feeling very excited to take my "after-photos," and step onto the scale, in the morning! I'm guessing that I'm back to the weight I was at when I met my lovely wife ... which makes me feel about 8 years younger, since I met her that long ago. Isn't it strange how so many of us tend to gain weight while in stable relationships? Then, there comes a time in said relationships when we realize we're just going to go on gaining like this indefinitely, or we can team up together to encourage each other to be more healthy and active again! I'm feeling very grateful to have come to the latter conclusion with my girl.

This coming month will be one of focused daily exercise for us, as we try to build on the habits we have been implementing of cooking healthy food for ourselves three times a day. Kristen's got a head start on walking/running 10,000+ steps every day for the past week or two, while I have just been trying to make it past 5,000 a day ... today is actually the very first day over 10,000 for me! So as February begins, I'm going to be aiming for 10,000 a day as well.

Tomorrow is the first day of my reintroduction phase, which is the day I reintroduce legumes & beans! I purchased some delicious hummus from Laziz at this morning's Winter Market at the Rio Grande Depot downtown, and I'm looking forward to having edamame as well, and perhaps a vegetarian chile for dinner. Then it's back to Whole30 compliance for two days, then on February 3rd I'll be reintroducing some dairy products ... yogurt, possibly cheese, and sour cream. After that, I'll probably reintroduce grains, but for most of the month I'll be eating Whole30 compliant except with the vegetarian recommendations (which include legumes and some dairy).

It has honestly been a major challenge for me to consume as much animal protein as I have been every day during this challenge. I typically eat a mostly vegetarian diet, and this way of eating is expensive for me, because I can only consume animal proteins that are as 'clean' (clear of antibiotics, added hormones, etc), grass-fed, organic, cage-free, free-range, and/or as ethically raised and killed as possible. I have seen too many documentaries about how animals are typically treated prior to slaughter in America, and I just can't bring myself to consume anything that unethically handled - to financially support that kind of behavior on the part of the companies that engage in those practices.

I do consider myself an omnivore ... I do truly enjoy a high-quality cut of steak once in a while, and even bacon ... but I just have a really hard time consuming meat (even the wide variety I've had this past month) every single day! So I am really looking forward to seeing if I can get to my target weight goal within the next few months by continuing some of what I've learned on this Whole30, and implementing a few other things that are going to be great for me personally. It's all about listening to your body! And I think the Whole30 has actually done a great job, for me, of helping me to get into that listening mode.

Thanks for following this journey with me! I'd love to hear about your health-related plans for this coming month (and year), as well!