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September 2011 Archives

Wangari Maathai PRESENTE!!

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Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, 1940-2011

We have lost one of the most important voices of our time.  The loss is great at this critical moment in history. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and political activist was the first East and Central African to receive a doctorate.  Her degrees are in biology and anatomy. 


Two of Maathai's books I've read, Unbowed:  A Memoir (2007) and Repleneshing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World (2010) describe a passionate, brilliant woman who disobeyed the law in order to make significant changes in the environment and significant changes in society for women. And she gives us such innovative and powerful suggestions to replenish the earth, to heal ourselves. In 2010, she was in Mexico for the UN Climate Summit and said the following:

"[G]overnments must do what they have promised: take concrete action to reduce their emissions; deliver finance and work together to make low-carbon development a reality; and protect those least able to cope with the impact of climate change . . . 
If we truly want to tackle climate change, poverty, and conflict, we need to think holistically.  We need to, as Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the UN global sustainability panel, "think big, connecting the dots between poverty, energy, food, water, environmental pressure and climate change."  

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During the UN''s 3rd global women's conference in Nairobi in 1985, Maathai introduced her organization, The Green Belt Movement and this connection greatly aided her efforts in setting up countless programs in various countries (including Mexico) to combat deforestation, water crises, rural hunger.  May her efforts continue even though she is no longer with us!  Que Viva The Green Belt Movimiento!!  Que Viva la Profesora Wangari Maathai!

There is a wonderful award-winning documentary about Professor Maathai's life and environmental work.  It is entitled, Taking Root:  The Vision of Wangari Maathai.  I strongly recommend seeing it!  And you can order it from The Green Belt Movement website (just click on the title above).  

Gracias Profesora Maathai, for your courage, your tireless work, your constant smile in the face of adversity, your willingness to stand up and question, to stand up and disobey. Dissent!  Gracias.  Your efforts will not be forgotten.  Wangari Maathai:  PRESENTE!

Energy, Community, and Diabetes

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I write for La Bloga every other Sunday.  On September 18, 2011, my piece on ire'ne lara silva will be featured. ire'ne is a Chicana poet who lives in Austin, Texas. ire'ne's most recent publication is her collection of poetry, furia which received an honorable mention at the 2011 International Latino Book Awards in Poetry. Currently, she is writing a novel, Naci, and is also writing another poetry collection she is calling, blood/sugar/canto.  


In La Bloga, I posted a Q&A regarding ire'ne's new poems in blood/sugar/canto which as she says, "look at diabetes from many different angles:" nutritional connections to diabetes, ire'ne's own personal history and experiences with the disease.  She talks about fear, the need for education, and hopes that the newly diagnosed will learn to forgive themselves.  "What's important is to work on your health from this point on."  And I agree.  No need to criticize and blame yourself (although this was indeed my own reaction when first diagnosed).  Shame is another unnecessary impulse.  

How can we avoid feelings of blame and shame when people ask, "How did you get it?  What did you do?"  In my case, they remark that I'm not overweight, I don't smoke, and they've never seen me eat a whole tub of ice cream.  How can I have diabetes?  Such questions do not help. If you are reading this entry, it means that you have some kind of access to computers and computer searching.  I encourage you to read David Mendosa's massive and comprehensive website on Diabetes.  I dare say that if not all-- most questions you have will be answered there!

In my Q&A with ire'ne, I ask how she felt when she was first diagnosed.  She said:  "I was incredibly depressed.  It isn't an exaggeration to say that I wanted to die.  It's not that I thought it was an automatic death sentence--after all, my father was diabetic for 24 years before he passed away in 2010.  I think it was more that I didn't have the capacity at the time to handle the news or process what it meant for me.  When the diagnosis came, I was working two jobs, taking care of my brother who is also dealing with diabetes, and was experiencing a lot of pain on a daily basis--I was overwhelmed.  Since then, I've had time to come to terms with being diabetic--at turns fighting it, denying it, accepting it, working around it . . . now trying to work with it."  

It took me (as it does most people with Diabetes) a long time to accept I had it.  We go through all the stages of grief not just once but over and over again.  We'll be doing well and suddenly we catch a cold, miss just one day of exercise, experience sudden stress, jet lag, have a  sleepless night, or for some reason we miss a meal or eat a little too much, and the glucose numbers either jump or creep up and we have to begin again all the while knowing that uncontrolled numbers are red flags for possible complications down the road.  

It's all a mind game.  Support groups, internet chat groups, blogs really help with maintaining sanity and realizing you are not alone.  Ever since I've "come out" on diabetes on the internet and in the community with my Diabetes Support Book Group, people I've known for years have either quietly and tentatively or very enthusiastically approached me about their chronic disease when all this time I never knew!  People are afraid to talk about their struggle with diabetes for many reasons.  Admitting you have diabetes-- especially if you grew up watching parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, go blind, lose limbs, die early and painful deaths is very difficult. Also, this chronic disease moves differently within each body because our chemical make-up is so very individual and this causes much frustration making people want to just turn off and pretend it doesn't exist.  

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Those of us with Diabetes have a real opportunity to make changes in everyone's diet because even individuals who do not have this chronic disease suffer effects from an overabundance of carbohydrates in the North American diet.  Case in point is a student who walked into my office one day wondering if I could help him improve his concentration skills. He told me he was suffering from headaches, fatigue, even sometimes depression.  As he spoke, I noticed he was carrying a 12 oz. can of Mountain Dew.  I immediately asked him, "Tell me how many carbohydrates are in that can of soda-- look at the "nutritional facts" label and tell me."  He seemed confused at my response to his question, but he dutifully put his backpack down and looked for the information on the can.  "46 carbohydrates," he said.  

46 carbohydrates is a huge dose of sugar in ones' system.  All the physical symptoms he was describing sounded very much like someone with hyperglycemia.  I showed him how to look at a nutritional facts label by ignoring the "sugar" content and instead noticing the "carbohydrate" number.  I said, "I'm not a doctor--but try this:  No sodas for two weeks.  Try some kind of exercise at least four times a week.  Drink a lot of water-- just water.  See what happens and come back and let me know."  

About a month later he didn't just walk into my office, he bounded in all smiley and energetic.  He said he did what I suggested and he was amazed at the difference.  He didn't have any more headaches, he could sleep better, he could concentrate, he was finally getting his work done and had so much energy!  

Mountain Dew is one of countless soda companies who profit from making us sick.  If you take a look at their website, they are marketing to children and young adults-- cool, slick formats (and they have a Facebook page as well) that even include dates for their "Mountain Dew Tour" with flashy pictures of popular singers and athletes. When you walk into any grocery store, don't you feel overwhelmed with food product marketing?  When you look carefully at these products, most contain high amounts of carbohydrates.  

I say let's change and challenge the nutritional status quo of fast food, processed meals, and the idea that "fat" is bad and non-fat eating (meaning high carbs, low fat content) is best.  Energize your life with delicious and amazing recipes!  Here are two:

1. For those of you who love mashed potatoes:  try Mashed Cauliflower!  
a.  cut up raw cauliflower
b. steam until "al dente" (you don't want it soupy)
c. place in food processor and add a pinch of salt or even a TBLSP of cream or soymilk.  

2. Here is a delicious recipe for a cold evening-- "Celeriac Soup"
Celeriac is celery root.  It is not very starchy and therefore is a low carb root vegetable. 
a. peel two heads of celeriac and then chop into squares
b. chop two or three shallots (shallots have much less carbs than an onion)
c. chop two cloves of garlic (or more if you like garlic)
d. heat the shallots and garlic in 2 TBLSP's of olive oil
e. add in 1 TBLSP (or more--depending on your taste) of curry powder
f. add in 1 tsp of cumin
g. a pinch of salt and pepper
h. cook the celeriac in the sauce for a few minutes
i. add 6 cups of either chicken or vegetable stock (try making your own stock without carrots because store-bought veggie stock can have a high carb content due to the carrots)
j. cook for 20 minutes
k. Puree it all in a food processor when the celeriac is soft
l. reheat and add either one cup of cream or unsweetened soymilk
m. add cilantro and/or parsley or basil

Enjoy and share!  Have a great week everyone!  I also want to thank ire'ne lara silva for her words and her courage.  Check out La Bloga and also check out ire'ne's website:
ire'ne's information: