“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How are you feeling?

Several posts ago, I told you that I have a better time expressing myself in pictures than in words. I’ve found that other artistic people are like me. That’s why I often recommend visual journaling exercises to my counseling clients for homework. Malchiodi (2003, p. 19) explains why art is useful in therapy,
Images and image formation, whether mental images or those drawn on paper, are important in all art therapy practice because through art making clients are invited to reframe how they feel, respond to an event or experience, and work on emotional and behavioral change. In contrast to mental images, however, art making allows an individual to actively try out, experiment with, or rehearse a desired change through drawing, painting, or collage; that is, it involves a tangible object that can be physically altered.

One of the exercises, I recommend is called “How do I feel?” I adapted it from the book, The Creative Journal (which I don’t exactly recommend-I’ll write more about that at a later time). It is a good exercise to sort through emotions and explore what is going on internally. For the last few days (maybe weeks), I’ve been fighting with several emotions. I have had a hard time figuring out what is at the source, so I decided to pull out my visual journal and do the “How do I feel?” exercise. Here’s my drawing. 
I couldn’t figure out why I was seeing an asterisk. Weird, huh? Then I looked up that an asterisk is to indicate to a writer that there is more information or clarification given in the footnote. I guess that’s how I’m feeling…there is more information in the footnote. As you can see in my drawing, I used words like “intense,” “overwhelmed,” and “restless,” which I am. But what about that asterisk? Then I was reading “Radical” by Platt (2010) and this sentence stood out for me, “So the challenge for us is to live in such a way that we are radically dependent on and desperate for the power that only God can provide” (p. 45). At that moment, I thought, “That’s the asterisk. I am feeling all those emotions, but I am also totally desperate for the power that only God can provide.” 

Now, you try- Get out some paper, pencils, crayons or whatever and try it. You may be surprised at what you discover…
Close your eyes and think about how you feel. Notice what’s going on physically as well as emotionally. While your eyes are closed, do you see any images, shapes, colors etc.? Open your eyes and draw, doodle or scribble it down on your paper (don’t worry if you can’t draw worth beans). Now, look at what you did. Does anything stand out (like my asterisk)? On a separate sheet of paper, write down your reactions.

1 John 4:18-24 (the Message) My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
And friends, once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God! We're able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we're doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God's command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

Platt, D. (2010). Radical. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.
Malchiodi, C. A. (2003). Art therapy and the brain. In C. A. Malchiodi (Ed.), Handbook of art therapy (16-24). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The faces of low self-esteem

I was going over the lecture on self-esteem in my counseling women class today (reviewing for an exam). These "three faces of low self-esteem" stood out for me. I hate to admit it but I have struggled with number one. Do you struggle with any of them? Read on...

"According to the University of Texas, there seem to be three “faces of low self-esteem”. These include first, the imposter. The Imposter acts happy and successful, but is really terrified of failure. She lives with the constant fear that she will be "found out" and needs continuous successes to maintain the mask of positive self-esteem. This leads to problems with perfectionism, procrastination, competition, and burn-out.

The Rebel acts like the opinions or good will of others (especially people who are important or powerful) don't matter. She lives with constant anger about not feeling "good enough" and continuously needs to prove that others' judgments and criticisms don't hurt. This leads to problems like blaming others excessively, breaking rules or laws, or fighting authority.

The loser acts helpless and unable to cope with the world and waits for someone to come to the rescue. She uses self-pity or indifference as a shield against fear of taking responsibility for changing her life and looks constantly to others for guidance. This leads to such problems as lack of assertiveness skills, under-achievement, and excessive reliance on others in relationships."

Thankfully our worth comes from God. Psalm 139:16-18 (the Message) says:
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chicken Marbella...yum!

I thought I would post some pictures of tonight's dinner. I told you I was going to bake the Chicken Marbella today. I roughly mashed some potatoes with the skin on a la Jamie Oliver (he recommends not peeling the potatoes) with garlic, sour cream and a little parmesan cheese to serve with the chicken. The combination of the sauce with mashed potatoes is incredible.

Well, here's the chicken before baking. Remember bake for about an hour:
Here's the chicken plated with the potatoes:

Nutrition and Depression

In my counseling women class, we had a lecture on nutrition and depression. I copied the notes to share with you on this topic because I think it will be helpful to many. This is one area that I sometimes forget to ask about in sessions with clients. I am going to make sure I do from now on. I hope you find this information insightful and practical. -Carissa

"While dietary change is probably not going to be – in and of itself and in the majority of cases – the lone key to healing depression, we know that certain poor eating habits and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can contribute to feelings of depression. In contrast, a healthy, balanced diet - rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources (like turkey, chicken, and fish) and low in sugar, salt, alcohol and saturated fats - can play a critical role in mood elevation. There are several common dieting mistakes that lead to depressive symptoms. The first of these is the practice of skipping meals which contributes to depressed mood by causing low blood sugar and inadequate energy supply as well as deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals. Following a low-carb diet can also contribute to depression by depriving the body of carbohydrates which are necessary for the creation of serotonin and tryptophan, two chemicals clearly linked to positive mood. Finally, diets that don't include enough omega-3 fatty acids can also lead to symptoms of depression. While saturated fats can be safely and significantly decreased from the diet, the body critically needs dietary sources of unsaturated fats. To get more omega-3 in one’s diet, a woman can eat more fish, eggs, and flax seed.

Deficiencies in B vitamins, particularly B-6, B-12 and Folic Acid, have been linked to depressed mood, where the deficiency of B-6 in the diet specifically contributes to depression by way of affecting serotonin levels. B-6 is required for production of serotonin and without it, sufficient serotonin cannot be produced. This is a particular problem for women because certain drugs, such as hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and anti-tuberculosis medication can interfere with the body's use of B6, creating a borderline deficiency. Mineral deficiencies similarly play a role in the development of depression, irritability, and mood swings, and some key minerals involved in the process include calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Finally, Amino acid deficiencies can likewise result in depressive symptoms. Tryptophan and SAMe are two important amino acids that have been found to be low in some depressed people. SAMe and/or 5-HTP supplements have been successfully used to treat depression in those whose symptoms are caused by lowered levels of these amino acids.

For women who struggle with depression and/or mood swings, some foods that should be eliminated or significantly reduced from the diet include sugar and sugary foods (like refined, simple carbohydrates), alcohol and caffeine. Women should eat at least three times at regular intervals throughout the day, including breakfast, to keep their blood sugar levels stable. They should replace sugar and simple carbohydrates with fruit and whole grain carbohydrates as well as eat lean sources of protein (like lean cuts of chicken, turkey, and fish) at each meal throughout the day. They should also make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Overall, it is advised that women focus on a well-balanced diet.

Daily diets should include plenty of leafy greens for folic acid, and bananas, avocado, chicken, greens, and whole grains for B6. Nuts (particularly walnuts and almonds), fatty fishes (like salmon), and flax seed or flax oil should be included to get omega-3 fatty acids and supplements of SAMe and/or 5-HTP may be considered. If women are concerned about getting enough of some of the key nutrients discussed above (or are unsure of how to go about changing their diets), they should consult their physicians and/or local dietitians and talk to them about a diet plan and/or vitamin/mineral/amino acid supplement.

The therapist can also encourage the client to follow a healthy diet; participate in religious, social, and other activities; and expect her mood to improve gradually, rather than immediately. She should postpone important decisions until the depression has lifted; think positively; let her family and friends help her; and see her doctor regularly. She should take her medications as directed as well as continually and patiently seek the most suitable medication or medications for her changing needs and physiology. She should also participate in normal activities and not isolate herself; get the right amount of sleep and avoid alcohol and recreational drugs."

Friday, June 11, 2010

This Saturday's Meal...Chicken Marbella

Years ago, my mom and I were invited to my friend Cathy's house for dinner. Her niece Tina (also my friend and wonderful cook) made Chicken Marbella. We all oooed and awwed and cooed with pleasure. We asked for the recipe and I've carried her dot-matrix printed recipe with me all these years. Not too long ago, I found out that the recipe came from the Silver Palate Cookbook...and I thought Tina made up the recipe!

I just recently (like the last 5 years- yes, that IS recent for me) pulled it out and started making it. It is a great recipe to impress guests--it tastes complicated and time intensive...that's probably why I hadn't made it. However, it is really easy. Plus, you can use pretty much any cut of chicken. I bought chicken thighs on sale and decided to use them. I made the marinade today and poured it over the chicken. I'll bake it tomorrow. By the way, it is easy to half the recipe. In fact, I quartered the recipe for Anthony and me. There's no way we could eat 4 chickens before they go bad.

Chicken Marbella
from Tina Duclos (and The Silver Palate Cookbook)

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 12 or more hours
Cooking time: approximately 1 hour
Yield: 12-14 servings


4 chickens, 2-1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


1. Arrange each piece of chicken in a casserole pan close together. Mix marinade together and pour over chicken. Marinate over night.

2. On the next day, sprinkle chicken with brown sugar.

3. Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Tina recommends browning the chicken at a higher heat and then putting foil over the top and baking. I'll probably skip that part...too much work.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sharing God's Vision

I wanted to share this thought with you from John Piper. Isn't it true that when sharing any vision in the Bible, we must let people know the Word is valuable and pertinent to their lives instead of just saying, "Do it because the Bible says so!"

"Third, experience has taught me that there are two ways to commend a vision of manhood and womanhood. One way has to do with rational argumentation concerning factual evidences. For example, an evangelical Christian wants to know, Does the Bible really teach this vision of manhood and womanhood? So one way of commending the vision is by patient, detailed, careful exegetical argumentation. But there is another way to commend the vision. A person also wants to know, Is the vision beautiful and satisfying and fulfilling? Can I live with it? This is not a bad question. Commending Biblical truth involves more than saying, “Do it because the Bible says so.” That sort of commendation may result in a kind of obedience that is so begrudging and so empty of delight and hearty affirmation that the Lord is not pleased with it at all.

So there is a second task needed in winning people over to a vision of manhood and womanhood. Not only must there be thorough exegesis, there must also be a portrayal of the vision that satisfies the heart as well as the head. Or to put it another way: we must commend the beauty as well as the truth of the vision. We must show that something is not only right but also good. It is not only valid but also valuable, not only accurate but also admirable."

Piper, J. (1991). A vision of biblical complementarity: Manhood and womanhood defined according to the Bible. In J. Piper & W. Gruden (Eds.), Recovering biblical manhood and womanhood. (pp. 25-55). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fish Tacos

I made fish tacos for Anthony today. Last weekend, we went to a local place at the beach for fish tacos. Although they were tasty, they were not West Coast Baja Style good. For one thing, I'm not sure why they used blackening seasoning on the fish. My favorite place to eat fish tacos is in Mexico. I mean, what is better than sitting at the edge of the pool and having a plate of fresh fish tacos served to you. Oh, heaven! Anyway, I occasionally make them at home but change the way I make them every time. I'm going to try and give you the basics so you can make them at home yourself. Here are the main staples---white fish, corn tortillas, cabbage, lime and a white sauce. Any variation from these basics misses the spot according to my book. Anyway, here's my recipe:

Grilled Fish Tacos
1 white fish fillet per person (I've used tillapia, cod, and even mahi mahi)
Lime juice or fresh limes
Salt & pepper to taste

Corn Tortillas

Shredded Cabbage
Diced Tomatoes
Cheese (optional)
Salsa (your choice)
White sauce

White sauce ingredients:
sour cream
tarter sauce
lime juice

Heat up grill or grill pan. Mix oil, lime juice, salt and pepper together in small bowl. Brush the fish fillets with the oil mixture. (You can even use taco seasoning, jerk seasoning or whatever spice you like). Cook fillets until opaque. This will take 2-5 minutes each side, maybe a few minutes longer if the fillets are thick. Cut the fish in pieces (2" x 4" or 5"). I usually cut the fillet in half and half again.

While the grill is heating and the fish is cooking, mix one part sour cream, one part tarter sauce and lime juice to taste. For the tortillas, heat up a pan with a couple tablespoons oil and heat the tortilla 'til slightly crispy on each side.

To assemble each taco, slather guacamole on a tortilla (if using) then add cabbage. Top with a piece of fish, a few tomato slices and a large spoonful the white sauce and a squirt of lime. Serve with your best salsa, lime wedges and cilantro.

Here's a few good salsa recipes:
Mango Salsa
Restaurant Salsa