The Pain Goddess (Or, What a Slipped Disc Taught Me)

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A year and a half ago, I slipped a disc in my lower back.

I was in constant pain for two weeks. My husband and kids had to help me walk to the bathroom. I was stuck at a 90 degree angle, like a human protractor.

While sorting through notes today, I discovered this piece I wrote on scrap paper in August 2014, just 11 days after that pesky disc slipped out of its rightful place. I called it “The Pain Goddess”:

I have not been writing. I create all kinds of excuses to avoid writing.  It hurts to write the truth, to see it on the page.

Pain – in my case, a slipped disc at L5/S1 – does strange things to this mama’s mind.

I have new empathy for the chronic pain sufferers I treat regularly. 

I had two kids at home and the pain of pushing out a wriggling ham can’t hold a candle to the pain of a teeny tiny bit of tissue slipping between vertebral body and nerve.  Constant, unrelenting, gripping pain without any of the fun serotonin birthy hormones.

I’ve been CrankyPissy with the kids, especially yesterday after driving for an hour and a half in acute pain to get them from schools on the other side of town.  Damn LA traffic, 200 Suburbs in Search of a City.

I think I called my son a Twit.

I said, sotto voce, I wish you were more like your little sister.  Why can’t you follow directions?  You’re SIX. (He didn’t hear me, but still.)

I threatened an early bedtime if they didn’t stop biting each other and get out of the car already, get into the house and take off their shoes, Mama’s in pain and it’s hot and WHY ARE YOU STILL IN THE CAR, I PARKED 5 MINUTES AGO?!

Please listen to me. I want to be heard.

They need to blow off steam after a full day of school, and they do this, understandably, by yanking the lid off a boiling teapot right in my face. 

But I am not a Mama who calls her son a Twit.  I am not a Mama who yells, cajoles, threatens or punishes. 

I am a grounded, empathetic, loving Mama who birthed her kids in the kitchen and nursed for 6 years straight…come to think of it, until 3 weeks ago, when it seems L weaned just a few days after her 4th birthday.  Have I written about that yet? No.  WTF?! 

Why can’t I be GROUNDEDLOVINGEMPATHETICNICE Mama all the time?

I know Pain is a cruel Master and he has thrown me into the DisposAll in the kitchen sink, where the meat scraps go. But that is no excuse for not writing.

So today, after two hours of responding to work emails while standing at my laptop perched on a  bookshelf (it hurts too damn much to sit), I said No to work. 

I said No to the calls of patients, employees, driving-kids-duties, meetings…even to the chiropractor and acupuncturist who are here to help. 

I said Yes! to a day in bed on the heating pad, stepping carefully through my garden, and napping. 

I am pushing the Pause button.  Making time to write.  (Because “finding time to write” is a fallacy.)

I am making Pain my goddess instead of my master.

I am listening to her message: “Slow the Fuck Down, Doctor Mama. Heal Thyself.”

I had completely forgotten about writing this, a year and a half ago, until I stumbled upon it today by accident, when I was procrastinating (doing admin work on my business) instead of working on the book I’m writing about my experience with postpartum anxiety.

Thankfully, the relentless and searing pain I described on that shard of paper is gone. I was able to heal from the acute pain in about 4 weeks. After 3 months, the little aftershocks stopped coming.

Now, I can exercise, treat patients, do laundry, shop, cook, clean, get acupuncture, garden, sit and write, drive – all without pain, most of the time.

I still deal with low-grade, achy lower back pain from time to time, but I’m able to treat it with acupuncture, massage and exercise.

I realize that my recovery from a slipped disc is not a typical one, and that I am fortunate, as a Licensed Acupuncturist, to have been able get the care I needed to heal from other care providers, without invasive treatment or pain medication. (What worked for me was a combination of acupuncture, chiropractic, CranioSacral Therapy, myofascial release massage, gentle yoga, meditation and rest.)

Finding “The Pain Goddess” now, I feel gratitude for that injury, as awful as it was.

The hardest part, during the acute phase of a slipped disc, was resting. Doing nothing. (I know I’m not alone as a mother of two who has a hard time slowing down, let alone doing nothing.)

During those days of rest, when it hurt just to sit and pee on the toilet, I heard a message from my Inner Physician (as the late, great Dr. John Upledger used to call it). My Inner Physician reminded me that I had no choice but to slow down in order to heal.

When I slow down, take a deep breath and respond calmly, I can stay present in the moment instead of spinning out and saying something bitchy to my kids. Now, if I start feeling lower back pain, I know it’s time to Do Less. When I slow down and do less, my body doesn’t seize up with armoring, the way it does when I’m in pain. I still feel guilty when I slow down, because really, can’t I handle this?, but I force myself to listen to the advice I give my patients. Slow Down.

I am reminded that the best remedy for procrastination about writing is to write. To simply pick up a pen and start free writing, wherever I am, even if I’m flat on my back in pain with only a Peppa Pig pen and a scrap of paper within arm’s reach. To not judge what I’m writing, but just get it out on the page and worry about it later.

And I am reminded to accept what I’m feeling in the present moment, whether that be pain, anxiety, irritability, or self-hatred for procrastinating.

In the wise words of an Anonymous Buddhist:

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

Copyright Abigail Morgan, 2016. 

Acupuncture & Massage During Labor and Birth: Jody’s Story

Today’s guest post is a testimonial offered by Jody, whose baby Soren was born on October 15, 2013-  two years ago today. (Happy birthday, Soren!) Jody generously shares her abbreviated birth story with you here, explaining why she found acupuncture support to be so helpful during her long and intense natural birth, which was expertly attended by her partner, Licensed Midwives, a Certified Birth Doula, a professional birth and family photographer, her sister and several close friends. All photographs are by Little LA Photography, and may not be shared or reproduced without express permission by the photographer.

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Abigail has been my acupuncturist for over four years. She supported me at my birth in three interrelated ways, each of which was invaluable and integral to my empowering birth experience.

First, during the long early stages of labor (which felt like active labor because my contractions were so close together!), Abigail drew on her experience as a massage therapist.

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Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

She provided soothing massage, effective counter-pressure, and strong, supportive touch to help me through difficult contractions.

My birth team created an incredible backyard birthing garden for me, complete with an inflatable kiddie pool!

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Abigail’s intuitive sense of what I needed and her willingness to do the work to support me in this way for hours was amazing. I would not choose to labor without Abigail at my side.

My birth team also included two phenomenal midwives, an excellent doula, and my loving partner.

Second, when my labor stalled and my midwife determined it was time to get it rolling again, Abigail was able to make that happen: after spending an entire night at my house, she used acupuncture in the wee hours of the morning to jump-start active labor.

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

I sat on the birth ball while she put acupuncture needles in my hands, feet and back. I felt so grateful to be able to DO SOMETHING to get labor going (or, really, to have something done to me).

And it worked! I started contracting regularly again, just as the sun was coming up on the second day of my labor.

Third, as the contractions started to get intense again, I was tired, concerned about conserving energy, and focused on being as comfortable as possible.

Soren's Mamas. Photo Copyright Little LA Photography.

Soren’s Mamas. Photo Copyright Little LA Photography.

At this point, Abigail did something really important: she spoke to me in an honest way, while holding space for how I was feeling.

She leaned right down to meet me eye-to-eye as I sat in the birth tub.  She told me that, in her experience, at a certain point in labor, it’s no longer about getting through the contractions and just waiting for the baby to make an appearance.

Abigail told me that eventually you have to go INTO the experience — INTO the intensity and pain — and get focused on bringing the baby down and out.

I remember looking at her, all innocence, and saying, “do you think this is that time?”

She looked me square in the eyes and unequivocally said, “yes.”

I heard her.

This was a turning point for me.

I felt strong and empowered.

I trusted Abigail implicitly, so now I knew what I had to do.

Now that I saw clearly that it was time to go INTO the intensity, I geared up to do what I had to do to get my baby out!  I gave birth to Soren ten hours of lunging, walking stairs, squatting, and pushing — ten hours of going INTO the experience — later.

We didn’t know until he was born that Soren was all wrapped up in the cord and that I was going to have to help him move down and out so much.  But I learned that I needed get INTO it to get him OUT! And I did it.

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Photo Copyright Little LA Photography

Hello, Soren! Thank you, Abigail!

This guest post was written by Jody, and published on MamaFloat with permission. No part of this post may be reproduced in any way, shape or form. 

If you would like more information about finding a Licensed Midwife to support you during pregnancy and planned homebirth, contact the North American Registry of Midwives. For a list of homebirth midwives in the Los Angeles area, contact me at abigail at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com. For information on finding a certified doula to attend your homebirth, birth center birth or hospital birth in Southern California, contact the Doulas Association of Southern California

Tummy Trouble

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My 6-year-old is having some big feelings about school.

Today he came home from 1st grade complaining of a stomach ache.  He said his pain was a 1,110 out of 10.

“Wow, that’s pretty high,” I said.

“You don’t sound very worried!” he said.

I wrapped him up in a hug.  “Tell me what’s wrong, baby.”

We talked, he debriefed about his day.  Some diarrhea this morning, but he ate all of his lunch and snack.  No desire for dinner tonight, and lots of dramatic statements about the quality of pain.  I checked his tongue and pulse.  No fever, sweat or rapid heartbeat.  His eyes were bright and complexion normal.  This was not a stomach virus brewing, but a clear case of Liver Overacting on the Spleen.  In other words, Anxious Tummy Syndrome.

After a nice hot bath (sans little sister) and some chamomile tea, he got an acupuncture treatment from me in his top bunk.  I needle him the way I needle all kids: “1, 2, 3…you say go.”  Once he says “go,” I insert the needle.

“That one didn’t hurt!”  (He says this about each needle, as if surprised.)

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Fifteen minutes later, he reported that his tummy ache was only a 5, instead of 1,110.

Not bad, with some room for improvement.

Does your child suffer from Anxious Tummy Syndrome?  Here are some things you can try at home (obviously, please don’t needle your child unless you are a Licensed Acupuncturist!):

  • Weak ginger, chamomile or barley tea with honey
  • Rest and limited stimulation (no screens, early bedtime if possible)
  • Don’t push food – aversion to food may mean your child is not digesting well, and may need rest more than food
  • Avoid cold foods and ice
  • Gentle parent-massage to the tummy: place one hand gently under your child’s back at the level of the navel, and the other hand over the navel.  Hold, without applying any pressure, for a minute or two.  Repeat as needed.
  • Acupuncture, Moxibustion and/or Tui-Na from a Licensed Acupuncturist
  • Talk it out: often the Tummy Trouble symptoms indicate your child is working something out, and may need extra parent support and empathetic listening
  • When your child is ready to eat again, offer naturally fermented foods such as pickles or saurkraut.  (Once they get used to the unusual taste, kids often love fermented foods.)
  • Soak 1 c. of organic hulled barley in a glass bowl, cover with plenty of water, stir in 1 T apple cider vinegar; cover; soak 8-12 hours (overnight); drain and rinse well; cook barley in fresh water, like rice, about 45 minutes or until tender.  Eat like rice or oatmeal.  Barley is a Spleen tonic, and helps us recover from digestive upset.

If your child continues to have trouble, call your pediatrician.  If you would like to find a Licensed Acupuncturist in your area, check acufinder.com by zip code and look for a L.Ac. with lots of experience treating children.  (Or if you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can bring your child to see me.)

Photos by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., all rights reserved. 

Family Meditation

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Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.

I am always telling my patients, “Really, you can meditate anywhere.”

This picture is proof!  (Messy house, jammies and all.)

The back story…

Earlier tonight, I had a fierce headache.  I don’t get headaches very often, but this one was bad.  It sent me into a dark room with a tall glass of water and earplugs, determined to take a power nap and needle myself before launching into the bedtime routine with my 4- and 6-year olds.  It gave me new empathy for all the migraine sufferers I treat.  (Acupuncture is awesome for headaches, but it is more than challenging to needle oneself while in pain, and there aren’t any other Licensed Acupuncturists in my immediate family.)

Ah, a cool pillow, dark room, soft bed…but after seventeen interruptions by my kids within a ten minute period, I ditched the earplugs and emerged into the bright light of the living room.

My first grader was doing homework, and my preschooler was battling Daddy over how to de-knot-ify her wet, post-bath hair.

The bright light of the living room pierced my temples.  This headache wasn’t going anywhere.

I moved the coffee table aside, providing me with enough space to do a little bit of yoga.

My 4-year-old threw her comb aside and joined me in a few sun salutations.  Before I knew it, she was showing me yoga postures I didn’t know she could do.  If you want to be humbled, watch the effortless movement of a Gumby-like preschooler on a hard wood floor.

My 6-year-old ran up to us, shoved his assignment in my face and said, “Look, Mama, I’m done!”

The three of us moved around, scooped up the moon, poured it onto our heads, and rolled on the floor like snakes and cobras.

The headache was gone before I got to savasana.

I kept going, because I like to end each day with a brief seated meditation.  Usually do this after the kids are asleep; they usually only see me meditating in the early mornings, if they’re up before they’re supposed to be.

We sat in a semi-circle in perfect quiet for about a minute.

My husband grabbed his camera.

4-year-old moved into my lap because everything good is even better in Mama’s lap.

Husband snapped the photo above before 6-year-old climbed into HIS lap.

Then the four of us sat in perfect silence for at least three minutes.

Which as you know if you’re a parent, never happens.

So, yeah, I think I’ll stop saving meditation for myself and continue sharing it with my family.

What do you do for stress relief? What helps your family unwind after a long day?

Copyright Abigail Morgan, 2015.

Kicking Off the NELA Fertility Support Group

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Supporting women who are struggling to conceive is not easy.

As an acupuncturist specializing in Reproductive Health, I see and hear it all.

Primary infertility, secondary infertility, recurrent miscarriage, failed IVF’s, premature ovarian failure, tubal defects, “unexplained” infertility…it takes a toll on a woman’s mental health.

Whether she’s married to a man, a woman, partnering with her gay friend, using a surrogate, a live egg donor, or is a Single Mom By Choice, she most likely feels alone, isolated, and struggles with the shame of not being able to set her mind to getting pregnant and make it happen when she’s ready.

It seems as though every single other woman she knows got pregnant on her honeymoon, or as soon as the first kid was out of diapers, or the first cycle back post-pregnancy.  The baby shower invites, Facebook ultrasound pictures and blossoming bumps conspire to make her feel like a total failure.  Her sex life has become utilitarian.  She’s tired of hearing the questions from her Mom at Thanksgiving (“when are you gonna make me a Grandma?!”), not to mention her 4-year-old (if she’s trying to conceive #2): “Mama, I want a SISTER!”

It sucks.

I hear stories of shame, sadness, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness every single day.  Stories that would break your heart.  I am not a therapist, but I do a lot of listening and giving empathy.

Daily meditation keeps me grounded, positive, and allows me to stay present for each story and each person I work with.

I want my patients to know they are not alone.  If only they knew how many other women are going through a similar journey!  But I can’t open to the door to each treatment room and say “hey, talk to the woman in room 2, she’s in the same boat!”

Thankfully for my patients, I am bound by federal privacy laws to keep my mouth shut, and not introduce Sally A. to Jane Z.

Quite often, I ache to normalize their experience, to let them know they’re not alone.

Today I had lunch with Robin Starkey Harpster, LMFT, my co-host and co-founder of the Northeast L.A. Fertility Support Group, which starts in a week at my acupuncture clinic, FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  (Sign up here!)

Robin is awesome.  A fellow mom of two and small business owner, she and I were introduced by our birth doula, Elena Vogel, about six years ago.  We’ve been referring patients to each other, running into each other at birth community events and sharing the occasional brainstorming lunch for several years, but last summer we started collaborating on this idea…

What if all these women we treat, who are struggling to feel sane in the process of trying to get and stay pregnant, had a place to go and share their stories?  What if we could create a safe space for them to vent, learn mindfulness techniques, and be moderated by a psychotherapist and an acupuncturist, both of whom are moms on the other side of the TTC journey?

Individual therapy is awesome, and often an integral part of the journey to parenthood.  Chinese Medicine is amazing for addressing the mental and physiologic aspects of infertility.  But sometimes a woman needs group support surrounded by other women who are going through the same struggle.  Sometimes she just needs to talk, be heard, and SEE that she is not alone.

For years, I’ve tried to refer my fertility patients to a support group on this side of town.  There isn’t one.

So Robin and I are starting one.  A Mind-Body-Spirit approach to support for infertility and miscarriage…bring it on!

The Northeast LA Fertility Support Group will be meeting once a month starting on Sunday, September 28th from 11am-12:30pm, at FLOAT.  More Info/Sign Up here.

If you or someone you know/love/support is struggling to get and stay pregnant, please let them know about our group.  It’s free (suggested donation $20), and we will have tea and yummy snacks.

We will explore grief and loss, shame and guilt, sadness, anger and fear.  You will learn creative, holistic techniques and resources for becoming more mindful and less overwhelmed by this journey, and share your story.  Topics will include: Expectations, Sex, Radical Acceptance, Trauma, Dealing With Family, and anything else the group wants to bring up.

I can’t wait!

(Copyright 2014 Abigail Morgan, L.Ac., Photo by Dave Clark, all rights reserved.) 

Skype Consultations Now Available with Abigail Morgan, L.Ac.

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I am now offering Skype Consultations for patients who live outside of the Los Angeles area or cannot get to our office, or those who would like to have a longer conversation with me than I can offer on a quick phone call.

The cost is $150 for a 60 minute one-on-one session, which includes one brief follow-up email exchange.  (All credit cards accepted.)  Obviously, I can’t do acupuncture through the phone or computer (darn!), but what I do offer via Skype is this:

Initial Consultation: a conversation about your health history, current concern(s), current plan of care (if you have one)

Discussion about how acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can help you with your health concerns

Brief nutritional consultation

To set up your Skype Consultation, email us at frontdesk at floatchinesemedicalarts dot com, or call our clinic: 818-392-8797.

I look forward to meeting you virtually if you’re not able to come to our office!

-Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, Owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts

Photographic Tour of Our Clinic: FLOAT Chinese Medical Arts

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About a year and a half ago, we moved my acupuncture practice, FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts (which I started in early 2007), to a modern medical office building in downtown Glendale.  The 1960’s building we used to occupy was going to be demolished to make room for luxury condos, and I, along with all of the other physician tenants, was given 6 weeks to find a new clinic.  At the time, my kids were 1.5 and 3.5 years old.  Finding a new space felt like finding out I was suddenly 8 months pregnant with a third child.  Thankfully, my associate acupuncturist Jacqueline has a spidy sense for commercial real estate, and she found our new place within a week. I signed a three-year lease.

It ended up being a blessing in disguise: our current clinic is twice as big, super clean, and has plenty of room for my staff as well as the extra family members our patients often bring with them.

Our third floor office has a beautiful view of Griffith Park, super comfortable and quiet treatment rooms, lots of free parking, and an elevator.

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Some of our patients hang out in the waiting room after their treatment just to read the magazines, sip tea and listen to the Chinese fountain.

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We even have toys and crayons for the kids!  Babies don’t wanna leave.

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Have I mentioned how much I love my work?

We are in the midst of a major website overhaul to our clinic website, but before it launches, I wanted to share with you these beautiful photographs taken by my brother Samuel Morgan, who is a professional architectural photographer.  I feel so lucky to have had him shoot photos of my 1st baby (I incorporated before I became a mom): FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts!  Thanks, little bro.

Abigail's kids checking out the view of Griffith Park from the new office windows

Abigail’s kids checking out the view of Griffith Park from the new office windows

First 3 photos, copyright Samuel Morgan Photography, all rights reserved.  Fourth and fifth photos, copyright Abigail Morgan, all rights reserved.

The Lunch Break: Parenthood’s Most Underrated Hour

IMG_0764 When I became a mother, I had no idea how many things I had previously taken for granted. Like my lunch break. That simple hour in the middle of the day during which you sit, eat, talk, read a magazine, catch up on phone calls…maybe you even DO LUNCH with friends once in a while. That hour which, before becoming a parent, did not require you to wear noise-canceling headphones to preserve what hearing you still have left. Five and a half years into motherhood (a month or so ago), I realized I had not taken a proper lunch break in over half a decade. WTF? How could things get this bad? Don’t get me wrong-  it’s not that I don’t eat lunch.  It’s not that I don’t take breaks.  I eat.  I take breaks.  Just not in the middle of the day.  Not when I’m at work or at home with my kids.  That midday break is darn near impossible to make happen when you have young children.  It gets last place.  Well, last place right before Mom herself. The lunch break of the typical working parent I know goes like this: grab a sandwich.  Eat it while returning 6 text messages about carpools, permission slips, groceries, the strep outbreak at preschool, and maybe, if you’re nursing, while also balancing the flanges attached to bottles into which you are pumping fresh milk.  Errands to run?  Totally out of pull-ups back at home?  Don’t wanna hit Target at 5pm with two toddlers?  Most working moms and dads I know will choose to squeeze this errand into the “lunch break” whenever possible, if they are lucky enough to get one. The lunch break of the Stay-At-Home-Parent?  What lunch break? At work or at home, where is the “break” in this Lunch Break of the modern American parent? There isn’t one. Why have we all forgotten how important it is? I love my kids, and I love my work.  I feel fortunate to have healthy, loving, fascinating children (who sometimes give each other massages), and work that is fulfilling and exciting. GnLmassage Really, I shouldn’t be complaining.  But I know I’m not alone as a parent in feeling overwhelmed and wishing I had a Pause button. Right? Two books I’ve read and loved recently, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink” by Katrina Alcorn and “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood,” speak to this core issue. Our culture does not support parents well enough. Whether a parent is working for pay or not (we all know parenting is hard work!), most American moms and dads feel stretched thin. Time that is BOTH kid-free and work-free is hard to come by.  Sure, there is the blessed 90 minutes (2 hours on a good night!) after they’re asleep before my own bedtime, but I have found that kid-free time when I’m brain-dead from a long day is just not the same as when I’m sharp and the sun is still shining. In an effort to make positive change in my own life, I’ve decided to start taking a lunch break every single day. I’m trying to emphasize the “break” part. Whether I’m home with my kids or at my place of work, I am trying (*trying*) to protect one hour a day during which I’m not doing work and also not doing mundane household or child-related tasks. When I am home with my children for lunch, I look at the lunch break as a time to eat together and then have Quiet Time.  My daughter still naps, and my son loves having sister-free time with me and/or his Dad.  We eat.  We talk.  We play Footsie. When I’m at work, I try to spend an hour taking an actual break from work. It’s amazing how the simple act of putting my feet up on the couch or desk tells my brain We’re Resting Now. Also amazing is how hard it is to stop myself from puttering around the house picking up stray toys, dirty socks, bills, or from starting to prep dinner, fold laundry, note how dirty the bathroom floor is and choose to be irritated by it yet also ignore it…Daughter napping, son happy crafting?  House quiet?  Hurry, go balance the checkbook! This is what I’m trying to resist. It’s been shockingly hard to break out of my pattern of rushing to Get Shit Done during the one hour a day when I’m not treating patients, running my clinic on an administrative level, or home with my kids. But I know it’s important for my mental, emotional and physical health to take that lunch break.  It’s also important for my children to see me taking that break, and to share it with me, when we’re home together. If I’m at the office, my new “lunch break” might include any of the following: Walk around the block of my office building.  The jacarandas are blooming, and birds never fail to take their lunch hour loudly, which is lovely to hear during a solo walk. Visit the farmer’s market, which is a mere one mile from my office building, every Thursday. IMG_0919 Sit and meditate for 20 minutes, then write in my journal. Catch up on one of the books I’m reading.  (I feel like an overachiever if I get to read more than two pages a day before being interrupted or falling asleep.) Sit down and eat my lunch with both feet on the floor.  Resist the urge to do something else simultaneously. Once I took a hike.  Not rest, per se, but a different, invigorating kind of break. If I’m at home for my lunch break, that usually means there’s kids with me.  Sometimes we take our lunch break at one of the local gardens. IMG_0943 Sometimes we all sit around the table and light candles and for about 3 minutes, it’s nice and quiet. IMG_0461 According to the classical texts in Chinese Medicine, it is said that when eating, you should not do anything else. Just eat; chew your food well.  Don’t watch TV, read, check your phone, Facebook, catch up on patient charts (who, me?), or drive a car. That’s a tall order for most Westerners.  Just eat?  How boring! Let me explain. In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen and Stomach organ systems are the center of our digestive system, and the Liver organ system helps out with digestion in its role as Traffic Cop of Qi (maintaining the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body).  When we are thinking too much (reading, staring at a screen), the Stomach Qi goes up instead of down (leading to heartburn, acid regurgitation, after-meal headaches).  If we are stressed out while eating, the Liver can’t keep the Qi in check – in addition to being the Traffic Cop of Qi Flow, the Liver is also in charge of metabolizing Stress – and so digestion goes haywire. I have understood this intellectually for about 14 years, but the New Yorker in me, who is used to doing 143 things at once, has always found it hard to JUST EAT.  Until now, when I am forcing myself to take a one hour lunch break, every single day, for the sake of my sanity. I will admit to you: it doesn’t happen every day.  There are days when I’m home with my kids and we all just bicker and screech until we collapse into bed. Or someone throws an entire container of raw milk down the steps to the backyard.  Followed by a water balloon. IMG_0802 You know those days, right? There are days at work when I am so behind on paperwork that I plow right through my lunch break, catching up on patient emails, phone calls, charts, pausing only to heat up my leftovers in the toaster oven and grab a fork. But I’m getting better. More days than not, I’m taking that break, even if it involves cranky children demanding water/milk/spoons/a pickle/more napkins every time I sit down. On those days, I take a deep breath, send it down to my Stomach/Spleen, and plant both feet on the floor.  I remind myself that I am modeling the value of slowing down, honoring mealtime, making a ritual out of taking a break. Eventually, it will become habit, and I’ll forget I ever went half a decade without a proper lunch break. (Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, acupuncturist and owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts.  Photo Credits: all photographs by Abigail Morgan, all rights reserved.)

Cooking with Kids: Slow-Cooker Chicken Drumsticks with Vegetables

Cooking with Kids

As a mother of two young kids and a small business owner, I struggle with Work/Life balance.  Don’t we all?  Whether a parent is working outside the home or not, finding balance is a challenge for most of us.  How do we find time to thrive in the work of being an adult as well as the work of parenting?  (Let’s face it, as joyous as parenting can be, it’s also fucking hard!)

The balance of Work and Life is never perfect.

I’ve stopped expecting it to be.

I wear a lot of hats: Worker (owner of a busy acupuncture clinic), Mother (two kids, 3 and 5), Wife (partnered for over 13 years with an amazing man), Daughter, Sister, Friend, and – most importantly – a Self who needs self-care and time alone.  (I’ll be blogging more about THAT topic soon.)

Whew, that’s a lot of hats.  And a lot of time.

We all have them, right? – those various Identity Hats.  But when you become a parent, Time gets sucked into a vortex.  Where, oh where, does it go?  Since I haven’t yet figured out an acupuncture treatment that will create an 8th day in the week, I look for quality over quantity of time.  There are only so many hours in a day.  The more practice I get in being a parent, the more I continue to learn (and learn, and learn) to be gentle with myself, and not try to do so many darn things each day.  If I can satisfy a need for each of my roles each day, in some small way, I feel happy.

Today I’m thinking about one of the needs I have as a busy mom – in particular the need to find one-on-one time with each kid.

My boy and girl are close in age, play like twins, share a room, even shared my boobs for awhile (yay, tandem nursing!).  Time with both of them is wonderful (if LOUD), but we all get a little punchy if we don’t have at least a little bit of one-on-one time every week.  (Mama/Daughter Time, Mama/Son Time, Mama/Daddy Time, etc.)

Cooking with my kids is one of the ways I create Special Time while also creating the organic, homemade meals that keep us all healthy and happy.  Recently, I’ve started finding time to prepare dinner with just ONE kid.  It’s pretty awesome.

Today, my daughter and I made up a recipe together using the fresh veggies we had bought this morning, organic chicken drumsticks, and some herbs from our garden.  (If it weren’t January, we’d have more vegetables from our own backyard garden to choose from too, but how lucky we are to have year-round farmer’s markets every day of the week in SoCal!)

We chose rosemary and thyme because she can easily identify them, and gets great pleasure out of cutting them “all by myself!” with kitchen shears.  Rosemary and thyme are wonderful herbs to bring out the flavor in chicken, and I like combining them with lemon, apple cider vinegar and bone broth for extra immune-boosting properties.

One tip: if you have not yet found peace in cooking with a kid or two, keep in mind the Triple-Time Rule: however long you think it’ll take to prepare a meal, multiply that by THREE.  Otherwise known as Lower Your Expectations.

Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken Drumsticks with Vegetables & Potatoes

Serves 4

Prep Time: 30 minutes (w/ a young child), 10 minutes (adult working solo)

Cooking Time: 3 hours on HIGH in a slow-cooker (we have the large oval 6.5 quart All-Clad, with ceramic insert, which is the workhorse of my kitchen)

1 pack of 6 organic chicken drumsticks (you could also use a whole chicken, cut-up)

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, small dice

4-6 small potatoes, quartered

1 lemon, quartered

1.5 c. bone broth (I used my homemade bison bone broth, but you can use chicken broth, or substitute water for the broth; just don’t use bouillion cubes, yuck!)

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1 T. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt (or substitute sea salt)

Black pepper, freshly ground to taste

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)

1. Wash the chicken and place on the bottom of the slow-cooker.  (You don’t need to grease it first.)

2. Place the potatoes (quartered) around the drumsticks.

3. Add the carrots, celery, and red bell pepper, sprinkling them over the chicken and potatoes.

4. Squeeze each lemon quarter all over the ingredients in the cooker.  (This is one of those “I DO IT MYSELF” steps for toddlers and preschoolers.)

5. Add the bone broth, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  You may want to drizzle additional olive oil over the entire dish after all ingredients have been added, depending on your taste.

6. Tuck the sprigs of rosemary and thyme between the drumsticks and vegetables.

7. Place the slow-cooker insert into the slow-cooker and set for 3.5 hours on HIGH.

8. Serve over rice or quinoa, or with some fresh sourdough bread on the side.  (Or just serve it in bowls on its own.  It will be slightly soupy, and we think it’s delicious over organic white basmati rice.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have young children in your family, please be mindful that small bones can come detached quite easily from chicken; be sure to check your child’s plate carefully for small bones, or remove all chicken from the bone before serving.

PREP-COOKING NOTES: I washed the chicken drumsticks by myself.  My daughter helped me wash the vegetables and potatoes, then sat in my lap and helped me cut them on a cutting board.  (Obviously, at 3.5, she’s not old enough to be left alone with my Sudoku knife.)  When I’m having Mama-Son cooking time, my 5-year-old will wash and peel vegetables by himself, and I allow him to cut them with a butter knife while I cut things like onions and garlic with a sharper knife.

One of the lovely things about the slow-cooker is you don’t have to be in the kitchen with an eye on the stove: once it’s on, you can safely leave the house!  Our slow-cooker automatically turns to “Warm” after the cooking time is finished, but I’ve found with this dish, it’s tastiest if it doesn’t sit on “warm” longer than 2 hours.

What slow-cooker recipes does YOUR family love?

Post by Abigail Morgan, L.Ac, owner of FLOAT: Chinese Medical Arts, all photographs by Abigail Morgan or Dave Clark, all rights reserved.)