3 Simple Breathing Techniques for ‘Weathering the Storm’

A few days ago I wrote 5 Steps to BEing Calm. In it I emphasized the importance of practicing meditation as a method for stress reduction. Meditation is simply being still for a period of time while focusing on one’s breath. What is the point of that? Isn’t breathing kind of . . . normal?

What if I forget to breathe?

I remember a time my elderly father asked me, “Deb, what happens if a person forgets to breathe?” We both laughed at the silliness of the question and I teased him saying he needn’t worry because he would pass out and begin to breath again, if he forgot. As I think back on those days when Dad lived with me, he worried a lot. He worried about dying, about having his daughter care for him, about being a burden. Apparently, he even worried about breathing.

Breathing: It’s good for our health

Worry is something I’m familiar with. I often say I come from a long line of worriers. The thing about habitual worriers is we aren’t consciously aware of our breathing. We are breathing, of course, but we are not doing the best job of it. I am certain my dad would catch himself either holding his breath or taking shallow quick breaths, perhaps to the point of an anxiety attack, like so many others, including me. Which is probably why he came to me to ask the question about breathing.

So what’s the big deal about breathing? Aren’t we all doing it all the time? We are. However, it’s amazing what we can learn about ourselves if we start paying attention to things like our breath.


3 breathing techniques to ‘weather the storm’:

  1. Awareness: Pay attention to your breath throughout the day. Is your breathing generally shallow? Fast or slow? Of course this will depend on activity level. Becoming aware of how we breath in various circumstances is the very first step. Think about your breathing throughout the day.
  2. Deep Breathing Exercise: Sit down in a comfortable position (commit to 5 minutes). Take a deep breath in through the nose and release it through your mouth with a sigh. Inhale slowly, feeling the breath go in through the nostrils and follow it into your chest, belly, or deeper. Now slowly exhale through the nose, completely and fully, emptying your lungs. Repeat, slowly inhaling deeper, if possible, pause, then exhale slowly and deeply. Pause briefly before inhaling again. Now breath normally, however it feels natural to you. How do you feel? Tense? Nervous? Calm? Silly? There’s no right answer, this is about how you being aware of how you feel.
  3. Counting Breath Exercise: Find a comfortable place to sit quietly (commit to 5 minutes). Close your eyes if you wish. Take a deep breath in through the nose and release it with an open mouth audible sigh. Now do it again. Close your eyes and breathe normally – inhale, exhale, however it feels natural to you for a few breaths. gradually inhale through the nose deeper, feel the breath entering the nostrils, flowing into the throat and deeper, into your belly if that feels comfortable. Exhale slowly and purposely through the nose. Next inhale while counting 1, 2, 3, pause. Exhale for a count of 3. Continue this for five or six additional breaths. Then allow yourself to breath normally and evaluate how you feel.

These techniques are simple and easy. While breathing is something we all do all the time, without thinking, I believe if we put some thought and focus into practicing and paying attention, it can help us to weather any storm life deals us.

May we all breathe easier – with practice.

Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie

Do you love chicken pot pie like I do? It’s not that hard to make from scratch. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Dutch oven, it can be done in any oven safe pot, you’ll just have to use option #2 to cook your crust. And don’t worry if you are not a pie crust maker, also like me. I’ve gotcha covered. PS: It’s got a quarter cup of heavy cream – not a lot in a recipe this size, but feel free to modify with whole milk instead (I’m sure reduced fat milk would also work).

Dutch Oven Pot Pie (Print Recipe)

Note: This recipe calls for frozen puff pastry. I could not find it in my local grocery store so I substituted a rolled fresh pie crust from the refrigerator section, near the refrigerator biscuits. I provide both options below.

1 (9 ½ by 9 inch) sheet puff pastry, thawed OR **store bought pie crust (see note below)

4 tablespoons butter

3 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and cut into ½ inch pieces, washed thoroughly

4 carrots, cut into ½ inch pieces

Salt and pepper

½ cup all-purpose flour

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 – 2 teaspoons tomato paste

3 cups chicken broth, or more as needed

¼ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 bay leaves

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 egg lightly beaten

1 pound asparagus, cut on bias into 1 inch lengths or broccoli as preferred

1 cup of riced cauliflower (optional)

1 cup frozen baby peas

Hot sauce

**Note for Option 2 Ready-made Pie Crust:

Pie crust for pot pie

I used rolled fresh pie dough from the refrigerated section of grocery store. The one I found had no hydrogenated fats and was made from real ingredients – if you prefer to whip up your own favorite pie crust that would work great too. **My cast iron Dutch oven lid was not the right setup for what this recipe called for, so as an alternative, I simply placed my pie dough into a glass pie plate, poked a few holes in it with a fork and baked it alongside my Dutch oven for about 15 minutes.

Instructions for Puff Pastry:

Cut sheet of parchment paper to match outline of Dutch oven lid and place on flat surface. Roll puff pastry sheet into 15 by 11 inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. With either a pizza cutter or knife, cut pastry widthwise into 10 strips 1 ½ inches wide.

Space half the strips evenly across the parchment circle. To weave strips: Fold back every other strip almost completely. Lay additional strips in opposite direction, repeat with remaining strips to create lattice pattern. Or layer the strips however you like – get creative! Trim edges around circle. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare filling.

Filling:

Adjust oven rack to accommodate your Dutch oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On top of stove, melt butter in Dutch oven. Add leeks, carrots, and about a half teaspoonful of salt and cook for approximately 5 minutes.

Pot Pie Veggies

Stir in flour, garlic, and tomato paste.

Slowly stir in broth while stirring to smooth out lumps. Stir in cream, soy sauce, and bay leaves. Stir in raw chicken (cut into 1 inch pieces), return to simmer, turn off heat.

For Option 1 Puff Pastry Crust:

Cover Dutch oven with inverted lid and place parchment paper with pastry on lid. Brush with egg and sprinkle with salt.

Transfer pot to oven and bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes, rotating pot halfway through baking.

Remove pot from oven. Transfer parchment with pastry to wire rack. Remove lid and discard bay leaves. Stir your desired vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) into filling and return to oven for 5 minutes. Stir in frozen peas right before serving.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Set pastry on top of filling and serve with hot sauce to taste.

For Option 2 Pie Crust:

Chicken pot pie

Unroll pie crust and place in glass pie dish, brush with egg, sprinkle with salt, and bake alongside filling for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove and cut wedges using a knife or pizza cutter. Set wedges on top of filling in serving bowls. Enjoy!

Print Recipe

Indian Summer: a Christmas Letter

The calendar tells me it is indeed December, even though my brain cannot comprehend how fast the year has gone. We are content with the warmish temperatures lately – highs in the 40s – in our corner of Michigan. It’s like an Indian summer around here, finally. By the way, I discovered Indian summer has two meanings:

  1. a period of unusually dry, warm weather occurring in late autumn.
  2. a period of happiness or success occurring late in life.

As I write this we are mere minutes away from waving good-bye to autumn and welcoming (with mostly open arms) the official start of winter. The second definition of Indian summer reminds me that periods of happiness and success are something to be cherished. The trick is what we do with those moments in between.

We are having a lot of fun living this farm adventure. I’ve taken to sharing pictures of our animals on social media because they’re funny creatures – all of them. There’s a lot we can learn from watching animal behavior, whether in nature or in our back yards. The way they interact with each other and with us can be comical and it can be frightening too.

That ‘pecking order’ thing – it’s real, and not just with chickens. Rusty, the cat, is in charge of the other cats. Dixie, (our Black Beauty) is the boss of Zima. Lily, the lamb, is mostly in charge of her three siblings. While Rika, the wonder dog, is the boss of all the animals except the young rooster (who is currently undergoing ‘training’ to become a gentlemen, or else). It’s fascinating how they figure out their place in the flock or herd and they never worry about tomorrow. Animals know how to live in the moment.

To the casual observer it may appear to be complete peace on earth over here, but we know better – there is conflict and chaos all around us. You probably know what I mean.

Caring for livestock brings us silly moments of happiness and occasional feelings of success. I’ll take it.  When all are fed and watered, we do feel successful. But a kink in the hose or an unexpected rooster attack can ruin the day if we let it. Which means we must grab hold of, and be thankful for, all those little Indian summer moments. Those moments in between though, we should really practice a little gratitude for them too. Without them we might take for granted the lovely Indian summer moments.

It’s nice when the grandkids visit because they all want to help with chores. Although Owen is 12 and more interested in driving the Kawasaki Mule than gathering eggs. Olivia is 9 and leaps, pirouettes, and splits her way from point A to point B. Morgan is also 9 and does back-bends, and flip-overs across the yard, while dribbling a basketball. Ella is 6 and is happy as can be to kick a soccer ball everywhere she goes. And Charlotte is 2 and . . . well, she tries ALL the above with gusto (except for the driving part, of course).

Come to think of it they don’t really help that much with chores on their visits, but those visits are definitely part of our Indian summer moments.

May all your moments be filled with love and joy and gratitude.

5 Steps to BEing Calm

For many of us the daily challenges we face can feel like too much to handle on some days. Modern medicine tells us we must learn to reduce the stress in our lives. We’re told to just calm down, relax, chill! If you’re like me those suggestions are not helpful. So how do we start?

I recently started a daily practice of meditating for ten minutes. Only ten minutes, y’all! And it’s helping my overall emotional and physical well-being. It may seem daunting to BEgin but that’s all it takes. And in the end, learning to just BE is one of the most important things we can do for self-care.

Here are my 5 steps to BEing calm:

  1. BEgin today. Don’t wait any longer. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. It’s basically sitting still and breathing. You are already breathing so now all you have to do is sit still and just BE for ten minutes. It can be anywhere, preferably where you can BE alone but even if you can’t, you can still BE still and breathe, anywhere. Sitting in a chair, on the floor, with legs crossed or straight out in front, are all perfectly fine. BE comfortable.
  2. Use a phone app if you can. I am using one called Calm and another called HeadSpace. I tried both with free trials and ended up purchasing a subscription to each. These are great tools to help us get started because they guide us through the ten minutes, reminding us to focus on our breath and walk us through relaxing and just BEing. These apps also have tools for helping us sleep with relaxing sounds in the background. You don’t NEED an app to meditate but I have found it excellent for a beginner like me. 
  3. Light a candle or incense if you are so inclined. These are not mandatory but I find it helpful to set the mood relaxation relaxation.
  4. Set reminders to practice at whatever time of day works best for you. Experts say first thing in the morning is best, but I grab my ten minutes when it’s convenient for me – usually in the middle of the day. 
  5. BEgin. There’s no better time than now. The benefits of this short daily practice are immense and cannot be denied. Just ten minutes a day of BEing still, calming the mind, and breathing deeply with awareness of the breath, can reap huge health benefits both physically and emotionally. Now keep it up because before long this new habit will be something you look forward to every single day.

Experiencing Daily Joy

About a month ago something triggered my need for renewed self-care. That something was awareness. It was an awareness, an opening of my heart, knowing I can do better and feel better for a more healthful, relaxing and joyful life. But how?

I’ve never practiced yoga or meditation on a regular basis even though I have had a clear understanding of their benefits, both physically and emotionally for a very long while. I’m no expert. Which is exactly why I now believe this is a perfect time to share my new journey into this self-care adventure. Continue reading

Harmony at Our Fingertips

If you’re like me you may be asking (or screaming to no one in particular), “What is happening?” The division, the spewing of hateful words back and forth, the widening tribal gap, the alternative reality that our president lives in, the openly outright lies and gas-lighting – it’s too much to take some days. But the ugliness that happened because of a man named Kavanaugh, that has sent many women (in particular) spiraling into a deep sadness and grief, or for many more, spurred an enraged feeling of knowing enough is enough. 

Thankfully harmony is at our fingertips. For some of us it is found in prayer, in meditation or on the yoga mat. Harmony opens up to us when we seek it. I needed this reminder this week. Continue reading

A Supreme Matter

The date was January 27, 2016. The presidential primaries were well under way to putting Donald Trump, self-made billionaire extraordinaire, in the White House. I posted this picture on Facebook and wrote the following on that date:

Most of you know I steer clear of political posts because I prefer to appear neutral and would rather not get into heated discussions on SM. But I fear we are headed in a most frightening direction. I have not ‘heard’ one person support the Donald, yet we are told they’re out there. I find it odd that those who support him are quietly doing so, as if even *they* know how absurd the man is. These quiet supporters somehow admire the man for his audacity. I can see it now, if he gets into the White House, there will be a Presidential Reality TV show called: You’re Fired! And hey, why not vote for the wacko — how refreshing it will be to have someone completely out of control IN control. <Sarcasm.

I captioned the image with: Rolling over in their graves. Continue reading

Chicks and Lambs Live in Denial – So Should We

Blossom the Lamb

If the leader of the free world keeps repeating, “The enemy of the people is the media,” the goal can only be one thing — to convince the people to believe all news is fake news and believe only what he says. Unless of course the media reports flattering news about him, then it’s right on. But here’s the thing:Chicks Pix

The Chicks Don’t Care

We all know he lies blatantly and chronically, sometimes about the most ridiculous things. His form of ‘negotiating’ is to bully and create conspiracy theories about his ‘enemies.’ An enemy equates to anyone who disagrees with him or those who refuse to be bullied, or those who investigate and report facts. These facts can be something he said on camera or tweeted. The most dangerous thing about his lying is it feels normal and acceptable. We read reports that have tried to track the number of his lies and we aren’t surprised, because we all know he lies, but the chicks don’t care. Continue reading

Winter – No Sissies Allowed

There’s no denying winter is brutal. A month ago there was a chill in the air. Today that air has been treated with an arctic blast of frigid cold that can be downright dangerous to living things. At fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, now is not the time to be outside prepping for the cold weather, so I’m happy to report we took care of it back in November. I’m filled with gratitude, to be sure. Along with the extreme chill we have also been gifted with far more than a foot of snow on the ground and covering every horizontal surface. It is a stunning wintery painting everywhere one looks.

Folks who have never had the opportunity to live in a cold climate, on a farm, might be interested to see what it takes to get through a long, cold and snowy Michigan winter. So here are some highlights of our fall preparation: Continue reading

The Good Distraction

Distractions are sometimes a good thing unless those distractions are a ploy from the man in charge with a sole purpose of keeping the masses divided and angry.

Sometimes a furry distraction (like the orange tabby kitten who recently adopted us) is just a few feet away but we need a teeny reminder that these things bring us joy like no other. They love us and count on us for their well-being. Have you ever noticed how the act of caring for a pet or even a plant, can make us feel whole and satisfied? It’s better than sex, I tell you, and it lasts longer. Continue reading