Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy, Joyous and Stress Free: A Holiday Plan

The winter holidays are a magical time of gift-giving and celebrating spiritual miracles. Movies such as A Christmas Carol teach moral lessons about the value of love and generosity that are applicable during all four seasons.

But it is also a time of "more."

We are urged to spend more than we can afford, eat more than is healthy and drink more alcoholic beverages than we normally consume.

All three activities -- although designed to make us happy -- take a heavy toll on our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being during the holiday season.

What's your plan to have a healthy, balanced holiday season? Here's mine.

Listen to Our Bodies
I am a diabetic. Increased stress instantly raises my blood-sugar level. For other people, stress manifests as headaches, back pain, stomach ailments, fatigue, insomnia or excessive sleeping.

Becoming aware of "H.A.L.T" feelings -- being hungry, angry, lonely and tired -- and taking immediate action to address them is critical. Eating healthy foods on a regular basis, pounding angry feelings on a punching bag or pillow, helping those less fortunate and getting enough sleep are invaluable insurance policies against both physical and emotional stress.

Taking time out on a regular basis to listen to quiet music, practice deep breathing and/or exercise aerobically reminds our body how good non-stress feels.

Ignore the Ghosts of Holidays Past
The perfect "Hallmark" holiday celebration involves a close-knit family exchanging meaningful gifts, warm hugs and loving words of encouragement.

Unfortunately, these expectations are rarely met in real life.

What can we do when we can't change the negative character of certain loved ones? How can we cope, when bickering and dissatisfaction dominate the holiday feast and some family members drink to excess and/or become obnoxious?

Noted psychotherapist Mark Sichel suggests simply that we change our expectations and focus on ourselves rather than our loved ones. He shares:

"When I wrote Healing From Family Rifts, I discovered that we all have, within ourselves, the key to having a wonderful holiday season. If we keep the 'expectation ball' in our court, keep ourselves focused on what we can control, and act in a way that makes us feel proud of and pleased with ourselves, even the most dysfunctional family scenario can be coped with.

"Remember the Golden Rule of holiday happiness and health: Be responsible for how you behave, not for the behavior of your family, your boss or your co-workers."

Remember the Spiritual
At its heart, Christmas involves the miracle of the birth of a baby into a very poor family. It is about the God-consciousness or goodness that is in each of us and how important it is to foster this quality.

Similarly, Chanukah also is the story of a miracle -- how a tiny jug of oil, enough for only one day, kept the candle lit for eight days. The light in the temple is symbolic of the light of goodness within each of us, of our connection with God and the importance of living this connection in all our relationships.

I find keeping a daily journal of personal miracles during the holiday season heightens awareness of -- and gratitude for -- what is truly important in my life. I list the ongoing miracles that are my children and grandchildren, the love surrounding me from friends and family, the serenity that always has been mine to choose, and my personal relationship with the divine.

I also list items such as specific kindness of strangers, unexpected gifts, avoided accidents and the opportunity to share my writing with others.

Whatever your strategy for reducing holiday-induced stress is, just remember to use it.

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at

Copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Hi, my name is Judy and I am an addict.

My brain chemistry dictates that if something is good that more must be better. All I need for my "fix" is the opportunity to get more and/or a crisis to prime the adrenalin pump.

One Thanksgiving I got both.

Our local supermarket was giving away free turkeys. All I had to do was spend $150 and a free small turkey (12-16 lbs.) was mine. If I spent $250, my reward was a large turkey (18-22 lbs.).

You have to understand -- no one in my family is wild about turkey. My weighed-and-measured meal plan doesn't allow more than 8 oz. per day (12 oz., if I ate it for breakfast, too).

Besides, I don't even like turkey.

But mesmerized by the free offer, I earned my first prize a week-and-a-half before Thanksgiving. It was a lovely freshly-killed 14 lb. bird that we fed off for a week.

I am an addict; an addict who accumulated enough register tapes to get an additional 18-22 lb. bird. In fact, I could have gotten a large bird and another small one, if there was room in our small refrigerator.

Despite the urging of my daughter to "cease and desist this turkey thing," I continued to focus on the words "more," "free," and "deadline" (the free turkey had to be picked up by close of business on Thanksgiving Day).

A plan emerged. I would buy the big turkey on Wednesday, cook it Wednesday night, cut it up, freeze it, and on Thursday, get our third free turkey.

The "more" part of my addictive thinking was satisfied. Now for the crisis part. Every good junkie needs adrenalin. I am no exception.

Between the crowds, jockeying for a parking place, finding the biggest bird, and wrestling with a sea of hands all after that same free turkey, there was plenty of excitement!

But more was to come.

First, I must confess that it's been a real long time since I cooked a 20 lb. bird.

I dutifully placed Tom in the roasting pan, popped him in the oven, and planned to go about my business for the next six hours as he cooked.

Four hours later, I hosted an Internet conference on "Food Addiction." While listening and talking with folks about addictive food issues and resisting the temptations of the holiday season, I smelled something burning.

As I approached the oven I heard the sound of grease hitting hot surface. The juices from this over-sized turkey had splattered over the sides of the pan and were burning on the floor of the oven.

Being a curious addict, I opened the door to my gas oven. Flames shot up at me.

Whether it was reflex, or having heard the "The Three Little Pigs" one too many times, I tried to huff and puff and blow the fire out. It seemed like a great idea but until I thought to turn off the gas, it kept burning!

I had the image of our local fire company hosing down the charred remnants of my house. Fortunately, the flames died down and, being a good co-dependent, I returned to hosting the Food Addiction conference.

I shared my crisis with my co-host who gave me wonderful hints on how to cook the remaining parts of the turkey by microwave, toaster oven, and by making soup.

Oh -- and I got a really good tip on how to clean an oven.

I didn't go back on Thanksgiving Day for that third turkey. I think I hit my "more" and "free" bottoms simultaneously.

I was sure I was powerless over offers for free turkey and our house was turkey-free for the rest of the year.

But this year is different. I mean, my supermarket is offering free hams. I am sure I can handle free hams without losing control. Anyone can handle ham.

Like I say, I am an addict.

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at

Copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle


Nov 22, 1963 is forever etched into my memory.

I had just started graduate school at SUNY Binghamton in upstate NY and had recently moved from a room in the local Y to a studio about a mile away. The apartment was very small with a Murphy bed taking up most of the room when operational and a "kitchen" the size of a closet

All of my possessions fit into two suitcases (including a stovetop coffee percolator, a white enamel cooking pot, and one set of serving dishes and utensils). I didn't have a television, just a small plug in radio.

I heard about the JFK shooting from a professor who had a studio across from mine. We watched the same video of the Dallas motorcade and the fatal shots with Jackie trying protect her husband over and over.

Each time the shots rang out, I jumped. I don't know how many times we watched that tape but I remember hoping each time it would end differently.

Eventually, I went back to my apartment, flipped on the radio and continued to listen and prayed that his wounds were not fatal. My heart skipped several beats when the announcement was made that JFK was dead. My own father had died less than two years before and I felt the same sense of intense grief.

The next thing I remember was watching the endless parade of mourners at the Capital.

I spent that time with a total stranger who had another studio in that apartment building. To this day, I don't remember his name or if I ever talked to him again.

We sat next to each other on his couch staring at the television screen and cried. I remember he wore a bathrobe and was a salesman and that we never thought to eat or drink.

Neither of us wanted to be alone and yet we had no need to talk.

It isn't my pattern to seek out the silent company of strangers in an emotionally traumatic situation. But the shooting of JFK was different.

It was one of the few historical times when our country experienced a collective grief. The only other national event with this intensity was the way strangers talked to and cried with strangers during 9-11.

Even the shooting of RFK didn't produce this extreme reaction for me.

Do you remember where you were and what you felt?

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at

Copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle

Monday, November 17, 2008


Bill Ayers has emerged from silence.

In a typical interview he addresses his (small "r") relationship with President-Elect Barack Obama and discusses his path from Weather Underground activist to college professor (e.g., "Bill Ayers Talks Back" at

But his message is more about a generation than about a single man and his actions. And it is more about what we must do in 2008 than the activities of a small defunct radical group.

For me, the Ayers interview is a vivid reminder of how my generation responded to a moral issue that got too big to ignore and how important it is to understand the climate of protest in the Sixties.

It is also a compass for personal responsibility with regard to social change.

As one who participated fully and nonviolently in the 1960s anti-war movement, I can only say that the extreme Weather Underground response was understandable given the nature of the times.

Violence was woven into the fabric of the peace movement. It was an ever present risk of participating in any anti-war protest.

History remembers Grant Park in 1968 during the Democratic Convention and mounted police trampling on protestors. But I also remember being part of a peaceful draft card burning event in New York's Central Park and being smacked on the head by a large video camera seeking close-ups of the participants.

To this day I don't know whether my injury was inflicted by a television cameraman or FBI agent that was recording participants. But I do remember that it hurt.

The possibility of physical pain was not only the only generational stressor.

Emotionally, it was a time of deep collective frustration as the death count of peers serving in Vietnam increased daily.

Practically, it was a time of life-altering decisions. I had friends who fled to Canada rather than be drafted. And other friends burned draft cards as part of the draft resistance movement and did hard time (five years in prison was the penalty for refusing the draft).

Realistically, it was a time when simply appearing at an anti-war rally or speaking out publically on a college campus earned an FBI dossier.

Naively, it was a time when we truly believed that putting our bodies on the line would result in the insanity of an unjust war being ended by our government.

And, ironically, the war in Vietnam did end with politicians citing the same reasons protestors did (that it was wrong and unwinnable). Unfortunately, there were major casualties on both protestor and participant sides before it was halted.

Bill Ayers was one of those casualties and we are graced by his evolution into a talented college professor and thoughtful spokesman.

He reminds me that my generation has learned much from our anti-war struggles; particularly that personal change is the key to social change. That, as some groups have said, "we must become the bomb that we throw" (rather than throw actual bombs).

If we want peace, we must learn to cultivate peace within. If we want equality, we must learn to treat all people as equal in our day-to-day interactions. If we want a healthy economy then we must be willing to demonstrate sound judgment in balancing our own checkbook.

Bill Ayers speaks to this issue in the above cited Salon article:

"…this is where we need to move in the future -- that we cannot believe that presidents save us. They cannot save our lives. We have to do for ourselves the important work of transformation, the important work of reframing the last eight years, the last several decades, into something more hopeful."

Hopefully, this piece of wisdom will receive as much press coverage as speculation about his relationship with the next president.

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at Copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle

Friday, November 14, 2008

REBEL MILES (a poem)

(I'd like to share this poetic work in progress. It's been "progressing" for about five years. JSB)

I have walked rebel miles
to arrive exactly here
Creator's hands
caress gray locks
stir sensuous longing
amid embedded doubts

Woven from tattered roots
mutant forms

Lower East Side Jew
Westchester Goyem
Brooklyn Hassid
Queens middle class
School, job, babies
Eastern insight
Native wisdom
Pagan nature
Crone wisdom
Buddha smile

all of me


all of me

becomes Power
higher Powered Power
with one more chance
to get it right.

copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Powerless Over Palin: A Plan

It has become clear during these post-election days that Sarah Palin is not going away. While we have heard relatively little from John McCain, it is impossible to ignore the governor's constant reinvention of herself as the heroic victim of the media and future bearer of Republican Party colors.

The new "unleashed by election handlers" Palin has an opinion on everything and a knack for revisionism with regard to the campaign. This ability is both exceptionally creative and highly disturbing.

Her accusatory style, particularly with regard to campaign advisors "being jerks," gives me flashbacks of driving a carpool of preschoolers when the kids would call each other names like "poopy pants" and "stupid head."

But most scary is that unburdened with knowledge of history, geography, political protocol, or reality Palin has announced her readiness to run for the presidency in 2012, saying that if divine forces open that door but a crack she will push her way through.

Gosh, Governor, isn't that what you are doing now?

A close second with regard to fright factor is watching mainstream television line up like crowds at a Macy's one-day sale to interview her. Matt Lauer of NBC traveled from New York to Alaska to gaze adoringly across the table as she opined. It is just a matter of time until a ghosted "instant book" on her election campaign experience hits the bookstores.

I am not faulting her desire to extend her Warholian fifteen minutes. One can only imagine the adrenaline rush resulting from talking in front of crowds, everyone knowing your name, getting to wear designer clothes and having your own makeup artist.

So it's no surprise that Sarah Palin has all the signs of being a political junkie.

There is no mistaking her wide eyes and breathlessness when she is hurling accusations as anything other than a power rush high. It is eerily similar to an addict finding cocaine on the table or an alcoholic hearing the sound of a case of Jim Beam being delivered.

So, I'm not puzzled why Palin doesn't want to ruin her public spotlight high.

The real question is why is she succeeding?

I think the answer is that we as a country get a free buzz by simply being near her.

It is easy to be mesmerized by the way Sarah Palin breaks rules, bends the truth, and offers us an alternative reality that is sexy and enticing. Her wink draws us into false intimacy and promises that while she lies, she will never lie to us.

Soon after we begin to feel the contact high and reality starts to fade. Intoxication distracts us from economic and financial realities that are definite downers and the drug refill is available anywhere for free.

Seen in the above light, the solution becomes clear.

As the 12-Step recovery folks say, the first step is to accept that we are powerless over the attraction to Sarah Palin. The second is to detach with courtesy from the governor.

That means going cold turkey and declaring abstinence from network shows and commentaries about her antics du jour. It means ceasing talking about her or sharing endless YouTube emails with her gaffs.

Yes, our personal and collective detox may be uncomfortable. And it won't be fun having to face reality, tighten our belts and embrace the sacrifices necessary to turn this country around.

But is there really another way?

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at

Copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Raking Leaves on a Fall Morning

I just topped the wine-colored mesh bucket with freshly raked leaves and lugged it curbside for our township's recycling effort. It's the third bucket of the morning and I have come inside to rest and regain my breath.

Raking leaves in the dawn hours has become my fall morning ritual. I go outside while the frost is glistening and I can see my breath with every exhale.

I am not alone. My two dogs – Rusty and Clio – use this time to chase each other around the evergreen bush on the side of the patio. They run, wait, pounce on each other and are exhausted by the time I am ready to go in and get a hot mug of tea.

There just is something so incredibly organic and beautiful about the fall.

Don't get me wrong, I feel awe seeing newly emerging buds and hearing bird symphonies at 5 AM on a spring morning. The starkness of winter is breathtaking. And the imprint of the sun on my face during summer's dawn is delightful.

But fall owns my heart.

Maybe it's the myriad of browns and reds and gold competing for my eye. Or maybe it's how gracefully the leaves yield to gravity's law and their own end-of-life stage.

For whatever reason, time stands still for me in these wee morning hours and I am aware of how much I love solitude.

But this musing is short lived.

A gray-striped squirrel who has made my back yard home (along with many relatives) appears and Clio quivers with eagerness to begin the chase. Of course she loses! But she stands her Boxer ground and barks vigorously at the base of the maple the squirrel has climbed.

Rusty could care less about the squirrel but dutifully joins Clio in barking. Golden Retrievers are so saintly and supportive. He is my role model.

I wish both of them could learn to rake.

Even after filling and dumping a few dozen buckets, a ton of unfallen leaves remain. The township recycling truck will be by tomorrow and then two weeks later for the final pickup. I suspect I will be raking leaves every non-rainy day until then.

Just for today, it seems like a perfect way to spend my mornings.

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at

Copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle

Monday, November 10, 2008

Today I Meditate (a poem)

Today I meditate
child perceives
adult conceives and
joy births

Seeking nothing cerebral
soul illuminates inner terrain
endless meadows undulate
myriad colors generate
awareness without markers

Well-worn memories merge
with unknown tomorrows
and flirt seductive. Reluctant
I smile, bow and release all
image, all attraction and

without body

at every point eternity
with every breath immortal
in each moment whole.

Copyright 2008, Judy Shepps Battle

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Still Separate But Not Equal

The paradox of American society has never been clearer than after the 2008 elections.

There is no question that racial equality has taken a quantum leap forward. Approximately 53 percent of voters looked past skin color and voted for Barack Obama as the man best able to lead this country in the next four years.

But there is also no question that the rights of gay and lesbian citizens took a decided step backward during this election. The passing of Proposition 8 repealing the rights of gay couples to marry in California and similar action supported by the Mormon Church in Utah was matched by Arkansas banning the adoption of children by gay couples.

It is hard for me to reconcile this two-step.

It is hard for me as a sociologist to understand why many churches supported human rights with regard to war, torture of prisoners, and the election of Barak Obama yet vehemently refused to place the human right to marriage and to adopt children in the same category.

It is hard for me as a psychologist to understand why progress has been made in de-demonizing racial myths while the demon tales live on with regard to personal and institutionalized homophobia.

It is hard for me as a grandmother to accept this fatal value flaw in society as part of the air my three young grandchildren are breathing.

But it is hardest for me as a lesbian to accept the callous abridgement of my rights and those of my sisters and brothers and to be declared "less than" because of sexual preference.

Perhaps one day this country will no longer have a need to declare a sub-human class. But there is no denying our historical and current need for such a group.

Founded on principles of freedom and equality, the reality is that many caste system principles have always existed in America. The nature of the "outcasts" and the "unclean" have changed over the years, but the need to have a group of people in that category has not.

Classic examples are the historical treatment of Native Americans, slaves, and in anti-Semitism endured by Jews. America has always had – and left unprotected – groups subject to harsh and sometimes fatal economic, psychological and physical indignities.

And the marginalized class is still here. Many are still invisible. Many are still dying or depressed or impotently angry.

Just look at our poor, our migrant workers, the chronically sick, those without insurance, the elderly, the crazy, the incarcerated…the list goes on and on. Why is the dream still so deferred for these groups?

Don't get me wrong. I am really happy Barack Obama has been elected. It is definitely a positive step forward for our country.

But it's far from being enough.

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at 2008 Judy Shepps Battle

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Harnessing the Magic of Hope: The Work Begins

The magic is back.

For me, the election of Barack Obama brings forth a mosaic of intense personal feelings; the first a vibrant flashback to being a college student politically awakened to the magic of Camelot and President John Kennedy's eloquent call to service during the idealistic and turbulent ’60s.

Woven into this image is my enormous adult pride that we, as a country, have finally broke through historical barriers and actually elected a person of color to our highest office in 2008.

But most vivid is a visceral awareness of the healing process beginning deep within my own body as the gray and depressive smog-like environment choking the political and social air of the Bush years begins to lift. Just a short time after the Election Day and it is already easier to breathe, easier to see, easier to hope, and easier to envision participating in the life of the collective.

It is no coincidence that the beginning of my cellular healing coincides with the emergence of our country's racial value healing. The health of the whole can be no greater than the health of each part of the society.

The potential of harnessing the power of healthy personal and societal energies is mind boggling and limitless. But this process will take determined and innovative work for the magic of hope to manifest as action.

The right thing has happened in our country and Barack Obama's election is a concrete marker of a critical beginning. But, as he said so eloquently in his Grant Park address, the result of this election is not itself the change needed.

We must work hard to take advantage of this open door to make real change permanent.

In my lifetime, I have known the power generated by the words of JFK, MLK, RFK, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton and have seen how each dream stopped short of institutionalized effectiveness. I lived the charisma of the New Left and civil rights activism and know that identifying the next right action is vital but not sufficient.

Structures have to be built and tweaked and there has to be constant vigilance to make sure desired outcomes are being achieved for everyone in the society.

Perhaps the personal and global survival stakes of my youth were just not high enough to complete this noble task. But they certainly are now and we are blessed to be given another chance to do that elusive "it" thing right.

It is a good day to be alive. The magic is back…but we still have work to do.

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance writer. She can be reached by e-mail at Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at

Copyright 2008 Judy Shepps Battle