Labels are for soup cans, not humans.

I am a human, not a soup can wrap.  Please don’t label me.

“Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight”, was my first real interaction with human labels. From there, the progression escalated in less than loving titles and comparisons.

Some that were less than desirable were attached to me. Names such as “dogface” due to my terrible issues with too many teeth in a mouth not designed for large glaring teeth. Or how about “Bertha” due to my prominent derriere. Then there were labels such as “depressive”, “anxious”, “crazy”. Wow, those really make a person feel cared about and part of.

I did have some positive labels atrributed to me over the years. Labels such as “hard worker”, “high intelligence”, “care-taker”. These labels, while often viewed as positive labels, were hard to live up to when I was struggling with a multitude of health issues that no longer allowed me to feel confident in these roles. Some days I couldn’t live up to them.

I recall when a dear neighbor of mine who was often a role model for my children called one of the neighbor kids “nigger”. I recoiled. I actually arm punched this 80 something year old. I exclaimed, “I do NOT want my children subjected to ANY names towards ANY humanity EVER! If you cannot respect my wishes you will no longer be part of our extended family and friends”. We eventually came to an agreement, but I would NOT be dissuaded on my stance!

I have had so many labels attached to my person, it would be hard to figure out who I really am if I was prone to molding my life based on others perceptions and views and labels.

How about just taking me as I am. I’m Debbie. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a nurse. I am human. I care. I make mistakes. I do great things . I love! I give! I am caring! What I do is so much more about who I am than any label anyone could conceive to attach to me. Additionally there are labels that used to fit and no longer do.

How about “Dog Face”. I got my teeth fixed. I have been told over my lifetime that I am beautiful and have a wonderful smile. I am no longer a “dogface” person with a messed up mouth. That was fixable.

How about the label of “Depressive”? I currently am not depressed. In fact I am really enjoying my hopefulness for a brighter future.

I highly suggest each of us be very cautious when using labels. Those labels may not be accurate, they might not be appropriate, and they might not be any where near correct! How about we just meet one another with open-ness and respect. Leave the labels to soup cans!

 

 

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18 months since I jumped: An update on healing

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I am able to recognize my blessings each day and be grateful for all I have and have hope for continued blessings in my future!

Greetings from a highly improved me!   It has been eighteen months since I jumped (abruptly discontinued) from taking Ativan 1mg daily after tapering from taking Ativan 3mg daily. I tapered over the duration of two years. My severe detox and withdrawals period was exacerbated by the fact that I had jumped off Oxycodone 10mg only two months prior to stopping the Ativan.  I had tapered off a daily dose of 45mg-90mg over a 2 year period.   What had started in 2010 as a prescription for Percocet 5/325 one every 6 hours as needed for pain, grew until it became a monster in my life that ate all the goodness up. It was just one of the numerous medications that I was prescribed over two and a half decades.

From my records dating 2010 until the fall of 2017 I had 19 pharmaceuticals prescribed to take on a daily basis. Many of them for longer than the recommendations written in those little tiny informational packets you get sometimes with a bottle of pills. Many of them were also prescribed for things other than what they were originally created to treat. Off label uses.  My PCP (Primary Care Providor) also had recommended numerous over the counter medications and supplements as well.

 

                                                                I can smile so much easier these days 
I had been quite aware of the perils of addiction as I have personally witnessed and experienced it in my life in many forms and throughout many experiences.  My own addiction (maladaptive coping mechanism for suffering) was gambling. I knew what it felt like to not only crave something, but would go to great lengths to have that need fulfilled.

That is NOT how the medications were for me. I was dependent upon them. I took them as prescribed. I was trying to check IN to life. I was trying to find a way around the pain (both physical and emotional) so that I could participate in life. Yet the conditions continued to mount until the amount of medications my PCP prescribed became toxic! They didn’t work anymore.  In fact, some of them created a paradoxical effect, causing the exact symptom they were meant to treat.

When I recognized that the use of all these chemicals was harming me more than they were helping, I knew it was time to make radical changes in how I was managing (or letting my PCP manage) my health. I took back the reigns and sought a different path
It wasn’t really a conscious choice, embarking on the journey through the hell I have been through.  It was simply the act of starting a forward movement towards change by doing just one thing differently. Then it grew to more things differently. Things like spending a lot more time outdoors. Activities such as interacting with animals and being creative with a camera. Making very conscious choices in what I put into my body. Eliminating as much negativity as I could. Yet, there were still struggles as I didn’t know all that I would face along this journey.

No one had warned me that there was a possibility that I could have psychotic episodes coming off these medications. No one had warned me that I could reach tolerance and have paradoxical effects like a severe case of insomnia that lasted for 20 years. Only now, after being off every single medication for 40 days, am I beginning to have occasional bouts of normal sleep. No one told me about excruciating bone pain that left me curled up and rocking and crying on my mattress. No one told me of the incessant need to move, the rocking and bouncing legs and full body restlessness that was exhausting and robbed me of any rest for my ravaged body and brain. No one prepared me for how shunned I would feel and how that would further the crippling agoraphobia and paranoia so that I could not tell who I could or could not trust. This further complicated the entire process.
No one else knew how bad this would be either. I know now that there was NO one in my life anywhere close to prepared for the wild and horrifying symptoms and behaviors this would create.  It was terrifying to go through and I can imagine it was scary as hell to watch! In fact, knowing many others who have endured the hell I have, some even worse, I know that very few people in the world have been prepared to be of any assistance for someone going through this type of severe and lengthy mental and physical anguish.
That first year was a doozy! Fraught with the loss of health and home and any stability I believed I had, pretty much everything was gone in my life! Friends, family, belongings, any sense of dignity was gone.  I was robbed of all hope by the Benzodiazepine demons that lived in my head. All I did was bounce where the winds took me, trying to protect myself from me, and from others who were ill-equipped to be of any help.

Unfortunately, sometimes due to their lack of understanding or skill, those I most hoped would help were only able to add to the pain and suffering by their responses and reactions to me.   Those that truly care would have done different if they had known how.  I believe this is true for all of us suffering from this.  Yet they are the ones who just mostly stood by and watched and felt helpless. They had nothing to offer except recognizing the pain was there.  Today I can feel bad for their experience in watching all of this hell.

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This last 6 months I have turned a corner. I can feel it internally and others have commented on it externally. I have been more focused on myself and finding healing and seeking the path to wellness than ever before in my entire life.  The tools and skills and interactions and experiences I have participated in have helped me have a sense of acceptance and peace.  I truly feel more equipped to deal with whatever life may bring to me from here on forward.   More than ever before in my life I have a sense of direction and purpose.
I still have much work to do. Both of my current therapists are recommending intensive treatment for Complex PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) including modalities such as ACT (Acceptance and Commitment therapy), CBT (cognitive behavior therapy), and EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). Both of them say it is imperative for me to do this work for complete healing and the ability to get past the things that haunt me regardless how much I try to not let them.
I personally have taken it upon myself to learn life skills that I have found are helping me tremendously. I have adopted the practice of meditation. I meditate at least once daily, but usually twice a day. MY meditation is very much connected to my spiritual practice and prayer time. I also do Conscious breathing, utilizing a timer to just stop and breath once an hour. These skills have reduced my anxiety tremendously and are excellent for staying in the moment which is so necessary for those with PTSD.  I eat at least an 80/20 whole foods diet, primarily organic in nature and from sources as local as possible.

Since the New Year I also have been working on having the habits of movement (exercise) and drinking more water daily. I have also begun light jogging. This I am doing still with living under the fact of pain is in my life. I have nerve pain in my feet that is non-stop 24/7. I also have pretty severe back and neck pain. Yet after a 10 week-long session at a pain clinic, I have learned some wonderful new ways of looking at pain and living with it. This is why I now am more encouraged and hopeful than I have been in an extremely long time. I feel very empowered.

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Yet I still need help. I am still homeless. I still have no vehicle.  I am still awaiting a determination on my most recent filing for Social Security Disability. I still have a couple of years ahead of me doing some really difficult personal therapies. I still have limited energy and endurance.
After careful consideration, counseling with others, and making efforts to find stability and a place to live and work both where I am and where I last came from, I have decided to go back to S. Oregon.  I have more work I can do there than I have been able to find here.  I ran an ad and I have already booked 3 house-sitting gigs. I also have a couple of clients that want me to do periodic light work around their properties (gardening and housekeeping type chores). I have a friend who has offered me the use of her trailer for 11 months, and I have a couple of possibility of places to put it in exchange for helping on a person’s property either with care taking or with farm type chores.  I am willing and able to do this. It won’t be enough to get ahead, but I will have a roof over my head and some security for at least that time period.

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I have been offered a trailer like this to use for about 11 months if I can get a secure place to park it! High living for a modest gal like me!

What I need more than anything right now is a vehicle and maybe the first 6 months of insurance paid.  Or even the first 3 months. Then I can get to the house sitting jobs and the clients who have other chores to do. Then I can earn a few pesos each month. My goal is $600, which is 30 hours a month. I will most likely have to do that many hours again where ever I end up parking the trailer in exchange for rent.  That works out to about fifteen hours weekly of being up and moving and doing some sort of physical activity.  15 hours a week is about all I can do without being where I can lie down and rest intermittently.
I know I will keep improving as I continue to do the habits I’ve created and use the tools I have obtained. I know my energy will increase as I continue to lower the stress of dealing with PTSD through the time invested in treatment and as my body continues to heal from the damages done by the medications I took for too long!


I also am involved with Vocational Rehabilitation.   They are going to help me pursue the reinstatement of my nursing license. It is my short-term goal to utilize my nursing license in creating a health and wellness mentor and coaching business. I believe I have a vast amount of knowledge and experience that can be used to help many others who live with physical and emotional pain. I believe my new-found enthusiasm and gratitude for a new opportunity can encourage and inspire others to pursue their truest selves! I have been a helper and have had a healing nature throughout my life. Now that my true self (not drugged by pharmaceuticals) is re-emerging stronger than ever, I trust that God and the Universe will allow my best self to help others possibly find their way out of suffering too!

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Participating in an online Health and Wellness coaching program. It is self directed and self paced. Perfect for me right now. As well as it is FREE!!!

I am so grateful I am still here on earth and alive. I am so grateful the benzodiazepine (and other pharmaceutical) demons did not completely destroy me. It felt like I was destroyed at times, yet here I am smiling and grateful and caring for myself….and others!

After such a dark and seemingly endless foray into the depths of psychological pain so deep I felt life wasn’t worth living, I now have hope!!!  I also am able to develop goals.  It is the first time in many years I have felt capable of even thinking of having a goal, let alone taking the necessary steps to get there.  One of my goals is to  jog/run in a 5K event the weekend of my 56th birthday.   My new walking habit inspired that goal.  I have never enjoyed running or jogging, even as a child.  Yet now, when pushing through the chronic pain, I find that I reach a point of some real clean current pain and it is a desirable experience.  Pushing past the pain to get going is worth it.  The daily steps I am taking are to keep me focused and to build my skill and strength level to reach that place of being able to complete the race.  After the race,  if I still feel it is something that is adding value to my health and life and wellness, I may try for a 10K.  It is a measurable success.  There are other goals as well so each day I purposefully do actions to bring me closer to the prize…..WELLNESS and HEALING!

I also have a great aspiration to help others like me!!! I have a big dream of someday creating a healing place (long term inpatient facility) for those like me who have suffered in their lives with DIS-ease of any kind.   People wanting to come off pharmaceuticals that have become toxic to them, especially opiates and benzodiazepines; those who suffer the consequences of addiction; those who have emotional pain that requires that they be loved on and guided and encouraged to health! I envision a place of many woods and streams and much beauty where people can rest their tired minds and bodies and take a few deep breaths for a period of time. I see gardens and animals, some of them providing companionship, others there for their food source to provide healthy nutritious meals. It will be a place where there is patience and tolerance and gentle trauma-informed guidance. People will have a time and place to explore their suffering and learn skills for finding peace and acceptance of what is.  I dream of it being a place they will also find a sense of purpose and the ability to create goals and plans for achieving them. It is a big dream. It will require a big tribe to create it. That will be a huge focus on the next portion of my journey. Creating a healing caring loving tribe that can share this vision! 🙂
oh….btw….it feels great to be able to write a bit! That is one skill that has suffered during this time and it is another sign of my healing!

Self love is selfish

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The river runs fast and with power, 

carrying with it all the debris of the things gone wrong with it – away!

Though dark and gray the afternoon sky

There is a fresh new hope building,

as I know that after the darkness light follows!

Today was a long, enlightening, fulfilling day.  The entire day was filled with doing things to take care of myself.  The entire day.  I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned, I prepared and enjoyed healthy foods, I went to Pain Clinic (which is 3 hours of intense therapy) and then had my first visit with the psychologist and my first EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) session.  I also came home and did an online  SMART Recovery meeting.  All for me.

For the last year or so pretty much everything I have done has been an concentrated effort to love myself and take care of myself.  Many view selfishness as a negative thing.  I know I used to.  Today,  I know that to love myself is the only way I am going to heal, and that is the only way I am going to have the life I deserve and desire.

It feels good.  I don’t do it perfectly.  I have probably said and done many things in ways that were less than ideal during this time.  Yet, I am evaluating it all and making every attempt to learn from it.

So what things are included in my selfish life?  What are the activities of self love?

  1.  Caring for my body by being mindful of what I put it in.  Plenty of hydration, the best food I can get with the resources I have available, resting, being mindful of anything that isn’t food or water and is it going to cause any damage.  It takes time and energy to create healthy foods to eat.
  2. Meditating has been a lifesaver.  I spend at least 10 minutes in the morning and fall asleep each night while meditating.  I purposefully choose to meditate to sleeping meditations due to a long history of insomnia.
  3. Getting fresh air has helped in so many ways.  Getting out, even if only for a 5 or 10 minute sojourn to the front porch connects me with nature.  Nature is a natural anti-depressant.
  4. Exercise.  See above.  Getting in touch with building my body back to health and connecting with the knowledge that I have a part in my health gets my mind straight.  I have begun walking 4 out of 5 days for at least one mile distance.  However long that takes is how long it takes.  I also have been doing an exercise program for 10 days now.  It also is 4 out of 5 days taking approximately 15 minutes.
  5. Mental health therapy is allowing me to process some extremely difficult situations, thought patterns and coping mechanisms as well as teaching me new tools to manage physical and emotional pain.  I currently have 2 therapists and am getting filled up with new understanding.
  6. Community.  Finding folks to hang out with and then spending time with them takes courage and time and energy.  I need to connect with others who can show me that I am not alone, that can help me with things that I can’t manage on my own and bring me a sense of belonging.
  7. Reading and learning.  I spend 30 minutes a day at the minimum to learn about something I am interested in and that will improve my lot in life or the life of another.
  8. Being of service.  Ha ha.  How is that selfish?  It is selfish in that it gives me so much joy and satisfaction that the more I do, the more I want to do.  Sharing encouraging words, finding the answer to a health question, giving support to someone struggling make me feel a part of.
  9. GRATITUDE:  Spending time each day being grateful for what is in my life at the moment is so selfish.  It is realizing what has been provided for ME!

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7 tips for managing symptoms while coming off mind altering pharmaceuticals

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This is a list of a few positive helps I’ve noticed that seem to be helping myself and others. Observing those in the groups that are coming off various medications, including Benzodiazepines, Opiates, anti-depressants and anti-psychotic has helped me learn. These observations are not scientific in nature and I have nothing to back them up except from what I’ve observed and experienced myself.
This list is not comprehensive in nature. Each individual observed may have been doing one or many of the listed actions in helping themselves manage their symptoms through detox and withdrawal.
These are the actions that folks are taking that seem to help them MANAGE their symptoms better. WE are unable to control them and time is a big factor. This list is things you can do NOW to help yourselves.

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1. Get outdoors!!! Even if it’s only to sit on your front porch and feel the sunbeams on your face or smell the fresh rain that just dropped or to shiver in the snow. Increase the duration over time. Maybe after successfully sitting on the porch for a week, you can walk to the mailbox the next week and then complete the activity by still sitting on the porch for 5 minutes. My personal experience with this was that, over time, I went further and further and felt so much better each time I got out to walk! Fresh air is crucial and this activity will also give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

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2. Exercise. As noted above, it starts small. Walking back and forth to the mailbox. Then walk to the end of the block and back. Then around the block. You get the idea. Mild exercise is excellent for boosting mood and for helping break the trail of lies our mind tells us that we are too sick. Yes, we are sick, but nearly every person is capable of doing something to stretch and strengthen their body! I personally have been trying Yoga and Qi-Gong and find them very helpful for me.

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3. Eat clean and stay away from sugars, gluten (I eliminated all grains), processed foods and many are sensitive to dairy. I personally eat a diet consisting of local and organicially grown meats and eggs and vegetables. When folks say they can’t afford to eat organic I remind them, I don’t do Starbucks, sodas, fast food, and I have no vices. Food is fuel for my body and it ranks high on the budget. Eat nutrient dense foods and you will feel better. Check out the book “It starts with Food”.

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4. Find a support group or a supportive group of folks you can talk with and be authentic with. This is probably the hardest, as our minds tell us we aren’t worth anything and we feel so brain damaged. Yet, those who are most functional have peeps! I go to a variety of support groups and have found a family that way. I highly recommend Refuge Recovery. It is a Buddhist based recovery program for ANYONE who is suffering. While many of us do not in any way fit the description of addict, we were dependent on our medication and not having it anymore creates huge anxiety within us. These supportive groups can be a place to learn coping mechanisms and learn tools at managing emotions.

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5. Don’t take supplements or OTC remedies. Each pharmaceutical that is touted to help one symptom has at least 2 if not more toxic potentials. I personally am not completely against all pharmaceuticals, but reaching for one every time something doesn’t feel good is not a healthy solution.

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6. Learn coping mechanisms. Regardless the reason you were started on one of the medications I listed above, it has left you with a state of anxiety and various other symptoms. Those who are practicing meditation, working with a therapist, reading books on emotional regulation or some sort of personal responsibility for managing their emotions seem to fair better over time. While it may not eliminate the symptoms, it will alleviate them.

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7. Find acceptance for the situation and have patience. The days and weeks will pass (for some months and years) but we can’t change that. Accepting it lessens the fight. There is much to be said for time. It does heal so much.

I truly hope for each that these tips are encouraging. They are things you can DO to make yourself feel better. They are things that YOU can do for YOU! We must be kind to ourselves through this process. We didn’t ask for it, but we still have to learn to maneuver it. We can’t control it either, but we can manage some of the symptoms. That is what this list is for, some management tools that I have seen helping those who are healing and moving forward.
Peace and Namaste

 

There is LIGHT and HOPE!

If you have never experienced a depressive disorder, I would imagine you really believe a person can cheer themselves up and get over it by doing things such as “open the drapes”, or “go for a walk”, or “let go, let God”. I used to think that too. If someone was a sad sack I would tell them to get outside themselves and do something for someone else, or to get out in the sunshine (or even to do tanning in very moderate/light levels), Over the second half of my life I have found that if it feels dark internally, it doesn’t matter what you do, except that you do something. It’s when you do nothing that you are turning into the hole of darkness. Even if you still are struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it still seems completely dark and not worthwhile. Do something!!! I know from experience…you will eventually see a ray of light that will give you hope to keep going. But sometimes…you have to just keep moving in the dark, doing something, going completely on faith in the darkest of dark.

I am so grateful that I kept on sharing with my friends and a couple family members and my readers when I was struggling. I was doing something. I was reaching out and sharing and being present in the moment. With depression, sometimes that is so difficult.

I believe that most depression is brought about by things of the past (unless you live in a combat zone or 3rd world country and face starvation constantly). For some, a combat zone can look like the chaotic interactions of families, the fightingt that occurs in some relationships, or the dysfunction of many households. Sometimes those are battlefields of their own. If you live in that kind of constant state of anxiousness about what has happened in the past as well as being worried and struggling with what is in the moment, in my opinion, as well as the various definitions I have read, that would be labeled as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Depression occurs frequently with PTSD. http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/tc/ptsd-and-depression-overview It is my experience that if one of them are triggered, then the other disorder also gets triggers. If I have a new traumatic event, or a flashback of a traumatic event combined with increase in daily stressors, then it is likely that depression will get triggered as well, The feelings of depression, that dark place, become an escape as well as a prison.

It is very possible to get stuck in depression. That is why and how suicide occurs. It becomes too unbearable to live another day or another moment in the darkness. Or, if you are trying to escape the ongoing trauma of living in a combat zone or under extreme stress, the darkness of depression can at times become a retreat from reality. There is a very fine line between the two. Escape and prison are but one step away from another.

Today, I am grateful that somehow, by God’s grace, I was able to not become consumed with the darkness and was able to hold on through that dark time until I finally saw and felt the light of God’s love and peace and assurance. It’s always just around the corner.

I think I was able to hold on due to the ties with my support group, my willingness to reach out, and my desire to always do The Next Right Thing in life.

If you are feeling that darkness of depression, or if you have PTSD and the depression is creeping in too, be sure to reach out. Help really is always there. And there is light, just around the bend!

Contact you physician, a mental health provider, a member of clergy, a friend, or a family member and tell them you are struggling and need some help. Let others’ into your life and know you are not alone. Depression doesn’t have to mean darkness for eternity.

Pauline’s Oriental Green Beans

Yesterday I roasted a chicken and was going to take it as part of my Barter Basket to my physical therapist appointment.  My appointment was cancelled so it became part of our dinner at home.  I had seen this recipe for Forbidden rice and veggie stir-fry on one of the blogs I like to follow and decided that I would make it, with a few changes, for a side dish.  I left out the tofu because I know my guys would not even consider eating that.  They are meat and tater men!  Also, I didn’t have any of the Forbidden rice so I  used brown rice instead.  I felt bad about making changes on a first run through it but I was using what I had.  The final addition to my meal was Pauline’s Oriental Green Beans.

Pauline was a lovely woman I met and became friends with when I live in Washington.  I met her and her husband Chuck at the church I attended.  She was one of those ladies you can’t help but love.  A second grade teacher, petite, quiet spoken, and so loving all the time with a smile that made you want to smile back at her.  She served this green bean dish at a dinner party she had for my ex and myself and our pastor and his family.    I loved it.  When I asked her for the recipe, she gave it to me along with the short story of how she had come to learn to make them.  In a nutshell…she had been taught by her blind Asian lady friend that she had met from church.  And now, she was telling me how to make them.

It is a simple dish with a real punch of flavor.  It also adds a nice bit of color to a plate.    You start out by using about 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil.  Heat over med-high heat and throw in 4 or 5 cloves of garlic.  Cook the garlic until it is soft enough to smash into the oil.   Don’t worry if some of the garlic gets a little crispy…in my opinion those little crispy bits are delicious.

After the garlic is smashed up, throw in a pound of washed trimmed green beans and turn the heat down to medium.  Cook, stirring often, about 5-6 minutes.  Add 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy-sauce and cook another 4-5 minutes with the lid on, stirring every minute or so.  When I have them available I will throw in a handful of slivered or sliced almonds.  I didn’t have them this time.

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I think it made for a pretty plate of food and everyone ate their fill.  The rice dish was quite yummy and I have lots of the peanut sauce left over so I need to figure out another use for it.  It was wonderful to make this and spend a few minutes remembering my dear friend.  She passed away in July of 2005 after a very short (only about a month) fight with pancreatic cancer.   I am grateful for the recipe…but more grateful for the memories of a fine woman who shared more than the recipe with me…she shared her heart and her love and most importantly, she shared her faith in God with me.  Thank you Pauline, for showing me God through your eyes.

Roasted chicken, Forbidden Rice Veggie Stir-fry and Pauline's Oriental Green Beans.

Roasted chicken, Forbidden Rice Veggie Stir-fry and Pauline’s Oriental Green Beans.