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You do WHAT with corn silk?

July 31st, 2015

Corn in a basketNothing says summer like fresh corn! Most people throw out the silk—the long soft yellow threads that grow out of the top of an ear of corn—but corn silk has been used like a folk remedy for hundreds of years. Corn silk extract has long been used as a treatment for diabetes. It is also helpful to address conditions including:

• Bladder infections
• Fluid retention
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Hyperglycemia
• Kidney stones
• Urinary tract infections

A natural source of vitamin K and potassium, corn silk is regarded as a safe dietary supplement. There are no known side effects when taken as directed. The proper dose varies from person to person and is impacted by age, weight, height and any medications being taken. Because corn silk tea is a diuretic, you will want to avoid drinking it before bedtime or it could interrupt your sleep.

To harvest corn silk: When shucking fresh sweet corn, simply pull the golden strands off of the ears, and spread them out on a paper towel to dry. Fresh corn silk is best, but dried silk works, too. Be sure to use homegrown or organic corn. The silk from conventional corn, in addition to likely being genetically modified, likely contains pesticides.

CORN SILK TEA
A great remedy for incontinence or urinary discomfort—or just drink it because you enjoy the pleasant taste!
Yield: 2 servings

INGREDIENTS
2 cups purified water
2 tablespoons fresh corn silk, chopped

Put water and silk into a pot and bring to a boil with the lid on the pot. Cover and let this steep for fifteen to twenty minutes or until cool enough to drink. Strain. Sweeten with raw honey to taste, if desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to three days.

CORN SILK SUMMER SUN TEA
Yield: 4 servings

4 cups purified water
4 tablespoons fresh corn silk, chopped

Put silk and water in half-gallon glass jar. Cover with a lid and place in the sun for 4-6 hours. Strain. Add honey and lemon or lime to taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

For an alcohol tincture
Corn silk may also be taken as a tincture. To make an alcohol-based tincture, fill a small jar about 1/4 full of fresh, chopped corn silk. Top off the rest of the jar with a high proof, preferably organic, alcohol such as vodka. Allow mixture to infuse in a cool, dark place for six weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain and take 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon, several times a day (reduce amount for children). May be mixed with a spoonful of raw honey for a sweeter taste. Will keep for one year or longer in a cool, dark place.

Pets
Corn silk can be used to treat many pet conditions. Tea made with fresh silk seems to work best, particularly for the urinary tract. A suggested dose is 1/4 cup of tea per 20 lbs of body weight, twice per day. Not recommended for pregnant animals. Please check with a veterinarian for guidance on your pet’s individual situation.

Watch me get corny in a related YouTube segment here.

And…If you have an allergy to corn or are taking a prescription diuretic, do not take corn silk. Corn silk may decrease the level of potassium in your blood. If you have other medical conditions, are pregnant or nursing, have severe pollen or other allergies, or any general concerns, it’s a good idea to check with a qualified professional before use.

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Unparalleled Lessons

June 30th, 2015

SC w: VW-1974, croppedLast month I took—and passed—a test that was very important to me. I practice Adamantine® Yoga, and part of the practice includes an opportunity to “test up” to different levels. It’s not considered certification and it’s not required, it’s simply there as a structured way to deepen your personal practice if you desire. The rank I have achieved—the highest level of individual practice without taking teacher training—is called Advanced Practitioner (AP).

The AP exam involves no physical skill or yogic moves (I took it wearing a dress)—it’s completely cognitive work, most of it memorization. The test is challenging. Actually, for me, it was harder than hell. Memory work does not come easily to me; in fact, I find it to be the most difficult part of hosting a television show. When I am asked to do a promotion or something that requires me to remember things in a particular order, we often have to do several takes and sometimes even edit them together.

I studied off and on for months before taking the AP test. When my exam day finally came, I scheduled nothing else. I wanted to be 100% present and focused. As I had expected, the test was a challenge, and some of my answers, although accurate, felt rather bumbling. After an hour of questioning my teacher deemed that I had passed and I promptly broke into a sweat, I was so excited. And once I got to my car, I cried. Happy tears!

Upon achieving AP status, you get an adhesive-backed patch to put on your yoga mat. At home, I made a little ceremony out of cleaning my mat and applying the new patch.

I didn’t tell anyone I had passed, partly because I had barely told anyone I was studying. A few days later Kristin, one of my close friends, noticed the patch on my mat and exclaimed, “You tested up! Why didn’t you tell me you were going for it?” She seemed genuinely happy for me but I detected something else, a reaction I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I stammered something about it not being a big deal. But the truth is that I have an aversion for telling people when I have a goal. It’s been a “thing” for me since, well, since I learned how to drive.

Driving home the point

The day I turned 16 I got my New York State driver’s license permit. My Dad accompanied me to take the written test, which I sailed through. He also taught me to drive in his stick shift BWM 2002. My father was especially suited to teaching someone how to drive: He owned a bus company—which his father before him had owned. Daddy was patient, skilled and deliberative in his teaching methodology, both with me and with drivers he hired who had not yet secured a commercial license.

When the day arrived for me to take the driving portion of the test, my Dad took me to that event too. I was sent off with well wishes from all of the drivers and employees who worked for my father. They teased me about keeping my driving record clean, and one of them even gave me an atlas, acknowledging my legendary impaired sense of direction. I was ready to bring back that shiny new license!

At the exam site, I got in the driver’s seat and did everything right. My Dad’s lessons had paid off: I was rocking the test. Even the final required maneuver, the parallel park, didn’t faze me—I had practiced a dozen different techniques with my Dad’s guidance. But somehow, when I began to glide the car backwards into the spot, I abruptly ended up over the curb. I don’t mean I bumped it with my tires. I’m saying that the entire ass-end of the 1972 Chrysler New Yorker I was commandeering was now up over the curb and up well onto the sidewalk.

At the time, even bumping the curb during the parallel park was an automatic “fail” of the test. There was no opportunity for a second attempt. The examiner looked over at me and said, matter-of-factly, “Miss Clark, that maneuver was insufficient and you have failed the test.”

I was aghast. Crushed. Embarrassed. I was in tears.

In spite of my emotional condition, my father insisted that I drive us back. (Of course, it was his way of making me get back on the horse that had thrown me). Back we went, to the bus garage to drop him off. Back to where all his drivers were. Where of course they would all ask, and I would have to admit, I had failed the test.

To my surprise, all the drivers were really kind. Supportive. Encouraging, even. “You can just take it again,” they said, “No big deal.” “You’re a great driver.”

So I did take it again, the very next day. And guess what? I failed the test a second time. My performance was practically a replica of the day prior. I was mortified, not merely because I knew I could out park any of my friends and maybe even the damned instructor, but because of the public-ness of my (now second) failure!

Well, on the third attempt I finally passed. I got to drive home and tell all the drivers that I had joined their ranks… I was a license holder. But the feeling of humiliation was ingrained in my sixteen-year-old brain, and had left a permanent mark. I concluded that if no one knew I was attempting to do something, no one would know if I fell short of the goal.

A shift in thinking

So back to Kristin, and her response to not knowing I had been working toward taking the advanced yoga test. I asked her afterward about her reaction, hoping to get a perspective on what had felt left unsaid. She didn’t hesitate. “Oh, I’m happy for you. And so proud of you, too. But I admit I felt a little sad. I would have liked to have been there for you, to help you study or to send you off to the test with a lucky charm, or to, I dunno, drive you to the test or something.”

As soon as she said it, I understood.

And the truth is, I think the test would’ve been easier if I had support going into it. In the end, it’s not really just about passing or failing (there are do-overs for most tests, thank goodness!), it’s about the process. The progression of setting a goal, of working to achieve it. And of sharing the journey with others who care about you. I have plenty of friends who have missed a mark at one time or another. Those who have failed the bar, didn’t get the job, messed up the tryout. I sure as hell did not judge or think any less of them.

So my next test is whether or not I can apply that lesson. Maybe—by saying out loud that it’s something I am working on—I already have.

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Anniversary Gifts

June 2nd, 2015

Gift (free)If you have ever endured a loss—of a loved one, a relationship, your health—you have one: An Anniversary. You might even call it The Anniversary if you have a really big one. It is the unforgettable date etched into your brain that marks when you made the decision, got the news, knew it was over or received the diagnosis.

One of mine is today.

Thirty years ago, on June 1, 1985, I became an entrepreneur. I joined forces with someone I also had a romantic relationship with and we became, by every measure, very successful. I ultimately chronicled the painful decision for that relationship—and the business—to end in another post, but my thoughts today are not about the actual closing of Sayles Graphic Design. Today I am thinking more about how the process of closure—of letting go and moving on—is indeed, a process. And it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

My former life and business partner John and I have remained cool-but-cordial over the past five years since the business split. We are friendly and respectful but don’t go out of our way to see each other. That’s part of why what happened last night—on the eve of today’s Anniversary—was particularly hard. Here’s the story:

I was outside on my second floor deck reading a book. My Maine coon kitten, Lotus, was at my side. I decided that it was a good time to perform the final chore on my weekend list, so I went inside to clean the bathroom. I let Lotus stay out on the deck.

Then I heard it. The thud. The I-know-that-sound noise made by a cat leaping onto a spot on my rooftop that is humanly inaccessible, except by an extension ladder. I knew the sound because while we lived together, John had retrieved three previous felines from the same exact place. My heart dropped as I raced to the deck for a confirmation. Sure enough, there was Lotus, a good six feet from my grasp, and two stories above the concrete driveway.

So I called John, and I’ll admit that in the back of my head I was thinking about what I would do when he turned down my request to come over and help. But he didn’t turn me down. He was there in less than five minutes.

Lotus had never met John, and while the cat was not afraid, he was nonetheless aloof. When John got to the top of the ladder, Lotus was not convinced he wanted to join the descent. Long story short: John took Lotus’ carrier up to the rooftop ledge and left it there. It was then up to me to climb the ladder and corral the cat into the carrier, which I did. But my not-so-great upper body strength, combined with a lack of ladder confidence, meant John needed to re-ascend and actually bring Lotus down. He did it and I was—am—grateful, although not happy to feel indebted to an ex.

After John left and I had Lotus cleaned up (and scolded!), I sat down on the sofa and began to cry. As any Mom (cat or otherwise) knows, once the sheer adrenalin-fueled terror of the moment has passed, a wave of relief, tinged with every other emotion from anger to guilt sets in. And my emotional furnace was already stoked by the timing of the event and the fact that, the very day prior, I had cleaned out all the old photographs and records I had remaining from the now-closed business. So, honestly, the tears were about 15% because of the cat. The rest was the all other stuff.

My usual method of handling this sort of a situation would have been to suck it up and get back to work. Finish cleaning the bathroom. “Forget it, ignore it, get over it,” I’d likely have said to myself as recently as last year. Instead I honored The Anniversary and that important part of my life and my history. I let myself have a good cry and then I cleaned the bathroom. And then I took a long, lavender-infused soak. I stayed with it: the pain, the memories. I asked myself if I was romanticizing the past. And in that process, I realized that much of my anxiety from the experience was rooted in the past—and as a result I was missing the joy of the present.

By the end of the bath I had concluded that An Anniversary doesn’t have to mark a negative chapter or event in your life. It can also commemorate the beginning of something new: Something as simple as a new way of framing or experiencing emotions. Something you don’t have to wait a whole year to do again.

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