Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oscar Pistorius: Neither Innocent, Nor Guilty

AFP/AFP/File - South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius appears on February 20, 2013 at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria

By now, most everybody knows who Oscar Pistorius is. We know without a doubt that he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on February 14, 2013. Many people have strong opinions and beliefs about the case as the world waits to see whether it will be proven that he shot his gun with full intent to kill Reeva (knowing it was her behind the bathroom door), or he fired his fatal gun with the intent to kill an intruder. What will the verdict be?

I've followed this disturbing story closely because I have my own underlying curiosity about it that comes from my deep interest in the study of "Body Memory." I have read so much recently about how the mammalian body has a completely separate memory system from the mind, that it's given me a whole new perspective on human responses and a complete paradigm shift in how I respond to people's personalities and circumstances.

When the details of the crime began to surface and as the trial began to unfold, I was deeply repulsed by Pistorius  because I have a strong feeling in my heart that he knowingly shot and targeted Reeva. But as I started to make connections from what I've been recently learning about childhood experiences and body memory, I began to see things differently in this case. Heck, I began to see everyone I know differently!  I feel like I've had a major breakthrough in my understanding of people. Everything about the theory of Body Memory makes so much logical sense that I'm really astonished that there has been very little serious interest and research on this science in the psychological and medical fields that closed-mindedly continue to insist on its pseudo-status.

According to the short and limited Wikipedia description:

"Body memory is a hypothesis that the body itself is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. This is used to explain having memories for events where the brain was not in a position to store memories and is sometimes a catalyst for repressed memory recovery. These memories are often characterized with phantom pain in a part or parts of the body – the body appearing to remember the past trauma. The idea of body memory is a belief frequently associated with the idea of repressed memories, in which memories of incest or sexual abuse can be retained and recovered through physical sensations.[1] The idea is pseudoscientific as there are no hypothesized means by which tissues other than the brain are capable of storing memories."

When humans are in infancy and before verbal expression develops, body memory is most dominant because there is no verbal memory yet. That is, experiences can't be stored in words, but they may very well be stored in our living cells. Thus, negative experiences in childhood often manifest themselves into adult physical symptoms or mysterious psychological struggles.

As I researched Oscar Pistorius' childhood and particularly the circumstances surrounding his amputation, my verdict on him changed. And if I was his defending attorney, I would seriously look into a completely different strategy for his defense, because even though I believe Pistorius committed this crime in full mental knowledge, there might be enough to prove that it was actually his body memory's response which took over and made him knowingly pull the trigger. I would argue that this physical memory of violence and trauma triggered a REFLEX in him which is completely not in his mental control.

The story goes that when Oscar was born, he was missing the fibula bones in both legs. He had feet and two toes on each foot, but his shins below the knee were congenitally deformed. This beautiful baby boy was not "perfect" enough, so his parents quickly set out to "fix" him.

After an obsessive search for expert doctor opinions by his parents (bordering on the Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, if you ask me!), the decision was made to amputate his legs below the knee sooner than later. The reasoning behind the urgency had nothing to do with any danger of deterioration of his health, he could have lived with this deformity for the rest of his life. The reason the parents and surgeons decided to amputate in infancy is to give him neat stumps and no chance to experience anything but prosthesis legs to walk on from the beginning. I recognize this flawed mentality. In modern education speak, they call this impulsiveness to act on human imperfections BEFORE problems arise "early intervention." The child will learn better if we try to fix him sooner. In my opinion, this rush to "fix" Oscar was a tragic mistake and an injustice.  The amputation could have been, and should have been, postponed until this baby had the verbal ability to decide what he wanted to do with his body, and a verbal ability to express physical pain and understand its source and purpose. In his autobiography Blade Runner (published before the crime) Pistorius writes:

"Basically if I had a double-amputation before I learned to walk, I would never know what it was like to walk on my own feet and so would not suffer from the trauma for having lost them."

And so his legs were amputated at the age of 11 months.

But trauma he did suffer at this most tender and impressionable age. His body must recall this operation as a gross act of violence against it.   In the first chapter of the book Pisorius tells us that his father (the same father who traveled the globe to collect dozens of expert opinions) was out of town on a business meeting when the amputation surgery took place. When he returned early, feeling  guilty for being away, he found infant Oscar alone in a cold recovery room in the hospital "wailing in agony," because no effective pain medication was administered to him. Just imagine this infant's terror and pain. Where does this horrific memory get stored if it doesn't verbally get stored in the mind?

I haven't read Pistorius' entire autobiography, but believe me, I will soon. These are just little clues I found by looking at the book's preview on Amazon.  Predictably, Oscar must have spent the rest of his life hearing messages of "you can achieve whatever you want," and that is likely why he achieved his athletic successes. But he also must have heard over and over, that his legs were amputated because his parents loved him so much and wanted him to be perfect.

I have read biography after biography of historical figures, criminals, artists, and all kinds of people with tragic life endings. In all these lives--all of them-- an injured childhood is unquestionably the root of the violence. The body memory is separate from, and uncontrolled by, the mind, yet it probably defines half of our life's responses. A more serious study of this human phenomenon is overdue and it has the potential of breaking ground in the way we view everything, from medicine to education to criminal law.

I'm not a judge, witness, or lawyer, but I don't believe Pistorius' recent emotional breakdowns in the courtroom are an act. I think what we are seeing instead is the image of a baby trapped in his injured body who cries for the lonely violence he endured in the name of love, and lost in his confusion by his own fatal reaction to his girlfriend. I also don't think that Oscar believes his own story. He simply cannot verbally explain what happened to him in that insane moment, but he knows it was wrong,  and no other defense is available to save his life except to convince everyone (including himself) that he meant to kill an intruder. In the mind and heart of Oscar, he didm't intend to kill Reeva. Only in his BODY,  did he intend to. The person on trial here is the injured infant inside Oscar, not the adult Oscar. Hard to prove in a court of law, but personally, I rest my opinion.

So there's your doze of Pistorius during the recess. Until court resumes on May 5,

Keep your ears on...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Alternative Tabbouleh!

I was just complaining to my husband about how a lot of the blogs I follow are flooding my mailbox with recipes lately. So this gave me the idea to share a recipe. Ha, ha, hypocrisy! But it's true, I've been meaning to share this for a while, and being waaay behind on posting (because I've been working on a rather long one for Mother's Day), I'm seizing the moment.

This isn't a new recipe, but something that's been gaining popularity because it's one of those new twists on something old. Some of you may have tried quinoa tabbouleh, substituting it for the burghul, but I doubt you've tried it with kale! Ever since a friend introduced me to it, I haven't gone back to parsley. Friends who've tried it at our home were delightfully astonished with the authentic taste. Everything about it is the same, but instead of parsley, substitute with a bunch of well-chopped kale. The difference is almost unnoticeable, and the added bonus is that kale has a better refrigerator life than parsley in tabbouleh. Unlike day-old wilted parsley tabbouleh, the kale version tastes just as crunchy and fresh the next day and even the day after.

So, if you're looking for new ways to eat kale, you might find this recipe a fun and familiar addition to your diet.

Many variations are available on the internet. Here's one recipe from the NY Times that has cumin (ick!) and radishes in it (?). Here's mine, based on the tabbouleh recipe passed on to me from my mom, and her mom before her, etc:


1 large bunch curly kale -- finely chopped.
2 large ripe tomatoes-- diced.
5 scallions - chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint -- finely chopped
1/3 cup bulgur ---washed, pre-soaked, and strained
1 1/2 lemons --juiced.
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon sea salt
dash of pepper

Remove the stems from the kale and chop the leaves finely- by hand or food processor. Be careful not to over process. In a large bowl, thoroughly toss all the ingredients together. Taste. Add lemon, salt, or oil if needed. Serve.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Unwanted Facial Hair Solution (Maybe)


Genetically, I don't think I inherited the hirsute gene from my lineage, as I went through my entire puberty and teens without sprouting a single hair in my armpits. Unlike Julia Roberts, today I have about twenty hairs there in total. I also never tweezed my eyebrows. They were always the right shape and thickness for my face. My arms and thighs?  Not much hair growth there, either. But being born Mediterranean, in an area of the world where the hairiest women proudly cluster and boast sugaring hair-removal techniques (halawa) which were probably invented by Cleopatra, I was nonetheless trapped in the feminist battlefields of the centuries-old Hair Wars.

You see when I was 13-years-old, my family moved to Greece, home to some of the hairiest of them all; and one of my first friends was our landlord's daughter who lived in the same building. When I met her, she had some noticeable upper lip hair, but one day, it was gone along with all the other hair on her body! Of course, I wanted to try this waxing thing that the pubescent Greek goddesses were doing, even though I had no upper lip hair at the time. My dear friend obliged in giving me instructions, and the rest is history. I've been paying for this mistake all my life. Ever since that one time, the more I waxed, the more hairs came out, and they were more determined to be fruitful and to multiply with each plucking. It was a vicious cycle, and I was doomed.

So throughout my adult life, I've had to do this monthly routine of waxing my upper lip, until it became a bi-monthly routine, and eventually become a weekly routine. So as I tired of constantly waxing and tired of the the fear of being away from my tweezers for more than 24 hours, I decided to try electrolysis. I tried it at a dermatologist and I tried it at home. It was daunting and didn't work. Then when laser hair removal was introduced in the 1990s, I tried that too. It didn't work, was expensive, and each session gave me unsightly blisters and dark spots. Additionally,  because of the requirement to SHAVE before each session, the hairs on my upper lip got stronger and increased in number. This was bad, so I quit the laser and went back to waxing and tweezing. By then, I had to wax or tweeze almost every other day to keep up with the rapid hair growth.

After exhausting many options and in desperation for a solution, I turned to history in search of the early traditions used for hair removal. Posted on my favorite folk medicine website, Earthclinic.com, I found information about the use of ALUM by Asian women to stop hair growth. This made me extremely curious and led to deeper research. It's claimed that when a mixture of alum and rosewater solution is applied to freshly removed hair pores, eventually hair will stop growing in that area. Apparently in India, this is done to girls early in puberty, and by the time they reach their teens, they would be hair-free in all the right places. So, I decided to give it a try for a year and see what happens. Being in my late-forties already, I knew I was getting a very late start on this, but I had nothing to lose, and I had tried everything else (except this new product I just found, which is used in a similar way).  And now that it's been exactly a year since I started using alum,  I'm going to report the results of this personal experiment here on the Broo.


1/2 teaspoon of alum (I got mine at Amazon)
1 teaspoon high quality pure rose water
(quantity needed for upper lip area)

In a sake-sized cup, mix the two ingredients thoroughly until most of the alum is dissolved. It's hard to dissolve it completely, so do your best. You can use an art paintbrush to mix and apply the solution to the skin. After about ten minutes, the alum will dry and grain. Reactivate it by spraying some rosewater on the skin and leaving it on for an additional 10 minutes. Wash all the alum off under running water and pat the skin dry with a towel. The epilated area must be washed very well, especially if it's on the face or near the eyes. Alum can sting and damage eyes. I found alum to also have a nice post-waxing cooling effect. The Executive Shaving Company even sells it in the form of an after shave balm.

Finally, moisturize the skin with coconut oil.

I did this for 6 months, then I decided to add another step to the method to encourage the alum to more efficiently go into the hair pores. To get this effect,  I wiped the skin with a cotton round saturated with hydrogen peroxide before applying the alum solution.  It bubbles and cleans the pores deeply, making them more open to receive the alum solution. Hydrogen peroxide not only made a wonderful sterilizing agent for the pores, but I feel like it might have helped the alum solution to further slow my hair growth in the second 6 months of this trial.


  • I have 70% less hair on my upper lip today than I did a year ago.
  • I only need to wax about once every ten days, as opposed to every other day.
  • I can easily skip the magna mirror and tweezing routine a couple of days a week.
  • The hairs that remain are much thinner and no longer have dark strong roots.  
  • I have much less ingrown hair problems in the area. 
  • It didn't cost time or much money ($15 total)
  • I see less wrinkling on my smoker's upper lip. I don't know if this is from the alum-- since it's also known for it's tautening effect, or from the fact that I'm less frequently waxing and yanking at my skin, but I definitely see less wear and tear on my upper lip. In some African and Middle Eastern countries, alum is used to restore female virginity by tightening the vagina! So who knows? 
Since I haven't yet reached the point where I can throw away my tweezers, I plan to keep this up for another six months and see what happens. Until then,

Keep your ears on...